Topics: Employment, Politics

Whaitiri “absolutely gutted” she was fired

By Talisa Kupenga

Former minister Meka Whaitiri has fronted at parliament for the first time since being sacked as a minister by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.  

Whaitiri’s return prompted urgent debate in-house with National’s Amy Adams taking aim.

"There is nothing about the removal of Meka Whaitiri that answers questions, there is everything about it that leaves more and more questions unanswered."

Labour deputy leader Kelvin Davis hit back.

“We just find it extremely disappointing that somebody can stand up on that side, point the finger at us.  The former National government, ministers disappeared without a trace and nobody is none the wiser."

The heat started this morning at caucus, with Whaitiri having to front for media.

The Ikaroa Rawhiti MP says, "I'm absolutely gutted but I accept the prime minister's decision and I'm going to work really hard and reflect on what I need to improve myself for the PM and the people who I represent.”

Labour's Māori Caucus backs Whaitiri unanimously, who remains it's co-chair alongside Willie Jackson.

Jackson says "100-percent support from our Māori caucus, so there's no problem there."

In response to questions about why she deserves to retain her co-chair position, Whaitiri says, "Obviously I have the support of the Māori caucus members.  I have something to contribute."

Jackson backs Whaitiri but admits he has not read the report details or talked with the former staffer to hear her side of the story.

He says "I've only talked with Meka and she is someone I've got faith in and she's spoken with our caucus and so we support her going forward."

Jackson, also Employment Minister, avoided questions from Te Kāea about what message this might send to employees about incidents in the workplace and what this stance says about the Māori caucus.

Jackson says, "it says that the caucus acknowledges the work that she's done, it also says we accept the PM's decision absolutely.”

Te Kāea then asked Jackson if this support for Whaitiri’s performance dismisses the fact that an incident did occur.

He says, "We don't have all the details, you don't have all the details of that incident."

Whaitiri contests details in the yet-to-be released report into the alleged incident between herself and a former staffer in Gisborne in August.

The former minister has committed to personal development at the request of the PM but would not give details about what areas she would focus on.