by Lushington D. Brady on the BFD
Jacinda Ardern is used to coverage from the Australian media. What she isn’t used to is anything other than fawning adulation from the luvvy-left. I’ve recently been reporting, for the delectation of BFD readers, the growing instances of Australian media sitting up and actually taking notice of just how venal, incompetent and just plain vile the Ardern government really is.
In the latest installment, a stench is getting so overpowering, we can smell it clear across the Tasman – and it’s not Mahuta’s armpits.
A mysterious Twitter user who goes by the name “Thomas Cranmer” has been tweeting since early May about apparent conflicts of interest in the appointments of relatives of New Zealand’s Minister of Local Government, Nanaia Mahuta, to taxpayer-funded positions.
Of course, Cranmer or the Australian aren’t alleging anything actually illegal, but there’s often [not] a huge gap between illegal and improper. As even the government’s own ‘standards’ emphasise:
The cabinet manual suggests various ways ministers should handle such conflicts but warns: “Public perception is a very important factor” and: “Appearances and propriety can be as important as actual conflicts of interest.”
When it comes to the Mahuta family, there’s a whole lotta “appearances” going on.
Cranmer’s primary focus has been on the appointment of the minister’s younger sister, Tipa Mahuta, to the chair of Te Puna – the Maori advisory group, which advises the new water regulator Taumata Arowai.
There’s no need to cover the nuts and bolts of Three Waters for BFD readers, of course. All you need to know – which you probably already do – is what it all adds up to.
In short, according to Cranmer, Tipa Mahuta will have an enormous amount of power in the complete remaking of the nation’s water management being driven by her sibling.
But it doesn’t end there, not by a long shot.
Tipa Mahuta’s appointment is not the only family connection, however, that has raised eyebrows. Nanaia Mahuta’s husband and members of her extended family also received public funding for roles in waste management and suicide prevention when Mahuta held related associate ministerial roles. Some commentators have queried their qualifications and experience and the process by which they were appointed.
The cabinet manual recommends that in the instance of a possible conflict of interest, the minister – with the PM’s permission – should hand responsibility for that issue to another minister. In this case, the ‘hand off’ was done with almost ludicrous brevity.
Tipa Mahuta was made chair of the Maori Advisory Group in May 2021 after her sister had handed the power of appointment to Kelvin Davis, Minister for Maori Crown Relations, in February. That power was handed back to Nanaia Mahuta in June 2021.
Even if that were enough to inspire confidence, as Cranmer points out, the fact is that the conflict of interest is ongoing: the minister and her sister will continue to have a close working relationship over Three Waters for the foreseeable future.
Imagine if any other minister had no less than four of their close family getting handed plum, taxpayer-funded jobs?
Gladys Berejiklian was forced to resign simply for concealing her relationship with a dodgy fellow politician. Barry O’Farrell was booted for accepting a bottle of wine, for which the ICAC investigation concluded, “there was no intention on Mr O’Farrell’s part to mislead”. Current NSW premier Dominic Perrottet is embroiled in scandal over the appointment of former minister John Barilaro to a lucrative New York-based role.
But they’re conservatives: they have to play by the rules that the Left blithely ignore.