ZB

'Disappointed': MP disputes Mark Mitchell's version of cafe encounter

Author
NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Wed, 11 May 2022, 8:10pm
Mark Mitchell (Photo / NZ Herald)
Mark Mitchell (Photo / NZ Herald)

'Disappointed': MP disputes Mark Mitchell's version of cafe encounter

Author
NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Wed, 11 May 2022, 8:10pm

Labour MP Greg O'Connor has disputed National MP Mark Mitchell's version of events of a conversation involving Police Minister Poto Williams in Parliament's café, and says Mitchell should not have gone public with it. 

Mitchell tweeted last night that he had stopped to talk to Labour MP Greg O'Connor about the Parliamentary rugby team in Parliament's café, Copperfields. His tweet said Police Minister Poto Williams was sitting at the same table as O'Connor and O'Connor told him he could not sit down there. 

"He then told me the reason was they don't like me holding the Minister to account. Intense." 

O'Connor said his memory of events differed from Mitchell's but he did not want to go into details. 

He denied saying he had told Mitchell he could not sit down, but did admit he had suggested they move to a different table to continue their conversation about rugby. 

"I certainly didn't use those words or anything like them and anyone who knows me knows they are not words I would use. Mark's version of events is very different from my own." 

Labour MPs Greg O'Connor (left) and Kieran McAnulty in the Parliamentary Rugby Team. Photo / Christine McKay 

He also said Mitchell had breached the unwritten code of the café which is frequented by MPs of all parties as well as staff and journalists at Parliament: "There's a rugby and Copperfields rule that what happens stays there. I'm disappointed Mark chose to take it outside." 

However, he hoped to continue to play rugby alongside Mitchell. 

Mitchell was sticking by his version of events, and would not comment on whether Poto Williams had said anything in the exchange. 

It follows weeks of Mitchell tackling Williams over the portfolio in Parliament and repeatedly claiming she was "soft on crime" and not giving Police the powers and resources to tackle the gangs problem and gun violence. 

On Newstalk ZB's Mike Hosking Breakfast, Mitchell said he had left in disgust and texted O'Connor to ask for an apology. 

"It's disgraceful. I've got a job to do, I'm the opposition, Poto Williams is the minister. It's my job to hold her to account. When we leave the debating chamber and go into Copperfields, we are civil to each other, we are polite to each other, we have friendships across the House. 

"To be told I couldn't sit at a table and the reason is they don't like the way I'm holding the minister to account is outrageous. It's symptomatic of a Government that feels [they] have to control everything." 

Previous testy exchanges between Williams and Mitchell include Williams accusing Mitchell of using "gendered language" with the "soft on crime" accusation – although successive National MPs have accused Labour of being soft on crime, regardless of the gender of the police minister. 

On Sunday, Williams announced a $562 million spend-up on the police, the courts and corrections – the bulk of which was for police. She also announced that the Government was working on a package to help businesses protect themselves from ram raids after a surge in ram raids on shops in Auckland. The details for that are still being worked through. 

That included funding to keep police numbers at the level of at least one officer for every 480 people in the population and to provide more intensive training to police officers to deal with firearms incidents.