National says Meka Whaitiri investigation result 'predetermined'

Author
Lucy Bennett, NZ Herald,
Section
Politics,
Publish Date
Thursday, 13 September 2018, 4:07p.m.
Meka Whaitiri is under investigation over allegations of shoving an employee. (Photo / NZ Herald)
Meka Whaitiri is under investigation over allegations of shoving an employee. (Photo / NZ Herald)

Suspended Government minister Meka Whaitiri returned to Parliament today after spending almost two weeks in her electorate.

Whaitiri took her seat in the debating chamber for question time this afternoon.

Whaitiri was suspended as a minister on August 31 by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern while an investigation was carried out into allegations she was involved in a fracas with a new staff member.

That investigation, by Ministerial Services, is ongoing, but National MP Paula Bennett claimed today that the outcome had been predetermined, and implied it was because of pressure from Labour's Maōri MPs.

"I've just heard from sources pretty close to the Māori caucus that they already know what the outcome is going to be, that she is going to be safe, that they weren't going to allow anything but that to happen and that there is strength in their numbers," Bennett told reporters.

Whaitiri remains the co-chair of Labour's Māori caucus.

Her co-chair, Willie Jackson, said: "We don't leak nothing, and all this rubbish that Paula Bennett has been putting out is just nonsensical because there is a process in place and we respect that process and that's that."

Jackson said he was not aware of any outcome from the inquiry yet, but Whaitiri maintained the support of the Māori caucus.

"We've been clear that she is the co-chair, we've said that from the start and we're standing by that," he said.

Rino Tirikatene said the Maori caucus understood there was a process to go through.

"For the time-being we've always been working together as a Māori caucus."

He had no knowledge of any leak to National and said he wouldn't expect that to occur.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has previously said the inquiry was expected to take between two to three weeks.

Whaitiri stood aside from her portfolios of Customs, Associate Agriculture, Associate Crown Maori Relations, Associate Forestry and Associate Local Government after the alleged incident.

 

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