Inside Parliament: Bombshell in the Bay, polls, policy and demotions

Fri, Mar 24
Parliament and the Beehive.

It’s election year baby, and 1News' political podcast Inside Parliament is back. It’s a regular catch up about the political stories we’ve been covering - your peek behind the scenes in the big House (of Representatives).

Listen here or read on below.

Political pits and peaks

1News political editor Jessica Mutch McKay’s political pit was the death of former MP and Carterton mayor Georgina Beyer.

“She was such a political, colourful, dominant and influential figure here in the corridors of power.

“It’s not until we took a moment to pause that you realise how influential she was and how much she changed Parliament,” Mutch McKay said.

Mutch McKay’s peak was Todd Muller’s “refreshingly honest” interview with 1News in the wake of his retirement from politics.

She said Muller was frank about how tough the parliamentary environment is.

National Party MP Todd Muller.

“I really appreciated his honesty and openness about how tough it is because we hardly ever hear that.”

Senior political reporter Benedict Collins’ peak was an RNZ investigation - which is ongoing - into lobbyists.

He said Guyon Espiner had “cast light on that shadowy world” and a “fascinating look” into the access and sway of lobbyists in New Zealand.

One of Collins’ highlights of that reporting was on lobbyists’ advice to Pharmac to look hurried coming out of select committees, in the hope it would dissuade waiting journalists’ questions.

“If there’s one thing that really makes me seethe, it’s public sector bosses doing runners after select committees, and treating the public with contempt.”

Political reporter Cushla Norman said hers was not so much a pit nor a peak but an intriguing insight into the political process from observing the Stuart Nash resignation saga last week.

Norman said that included ACT Party leader David Seymour listening to the Newstalk ZB interview, catching something the host Mike Hosking had failed to, then firing out a press release.

Then the fortunate (for political reporters, but unfortunate for Nash) timing of an unrelated announcement the same morning.

Nash was in the Beehive Theatrette announcing five NASA internships right after being on the radio. That gave reporters almost instant access to him following his foible - something Norman notes is not necessarily common.

Former Police Minister Stuart Nash.

“It was really ripe for the picking.”

1News digital political reporter Felix Desmarais’ peak was also Muller’s interview with 1News.

He said Muller appeared to understand the impact his openness about his struggles with mental health had had, but the impact was really “immeasurable”.

“Good on him and I’m sure most people wish him all the best.”

Desmarais’ pit was the National Party announcing an announcement on Wednesday.

The announcement flagged that a policy announcement would be made on Thursday.

“It’s an odd technique, I don’t know what they’re trying to achieve with it.”

New PM, old PM

Norman was in the room where it happened - when Jacinda Ardern resigned.

It was her first week on the job as a political reporter, covering the Labour and National summer caucus retreats in Napier.

“It was the bombshell of the Bay,” she said.

“Did I see some signs? Perhaps. There was a heavy police presence, the cameraman Matt - he said to me, “there’s a lot of cops around today, this feels a little bit more heightened”.”

Ardern’s fiance Clark Gayford was also present, which in hindsight suggested the significance of the moment, she said.

Norman said Ardern was clearly emotional and it was “just quite surreal”.

Jacinda Ardern.

“This all took place in a very hum-drum school hall… there wasn’t pomp or anything to it.”

Mutch McKay said politician “walkabouts” had been thrown out with the heightened security risks around Ardern, but with Hipkins as Labour leader, it would likely be a traditional campaign trail.

Mutch McKay said because the press gallery is within the orbit of the prime minister, some reporters - particularly women - got a bit of the abuse “reflected” from the prime minister.

“Since Chris Hipkins has come in, that’s really died away from my perspective.

“[It’s] so interesting and so telling that we [journalists] get a fraction of what the [former] prime minister was dealing with, and just how that has changed with a new leader and a male prime minister.”

Mutch McKay said it would be interesting if that continued as Hipkins’ honeymoon period came to an end.

“It’s going to be a tight race… it probably always was going to be but [the Labour leadership change] solidifies that.

“We’re going to see those presidential style campaigns coming out again.”

The 1News Kantar Public poll

The latest 1News Kantar Public Poll had shown Labour with a likely 36% share of the party vote, down 2% from the previous poll, and National on 34%, down 3%.

Chris Hipkins was the preferred PM for 27%, up 4%, while Christopher Luxon dipped 5% to 17%.

Mutch McKay said that was a fade for both major parties but “a real drop off” for Luxon.

“He’s been starved of oxygen and he just hasn’t been around a lot.”

National leader Christopher Luxon.

Collins said National deliberately went silent over the Cyclone Gabrielle period, having learned the lessons of getting the tone wrong in a national emergency from Simon Bridges’ ill-advised Facebook post in the early days of the pandemic.

The post preceded his dethroning as National leader in 2020.

Collins said National wouldn’t be too worried about the party vote because of that, but may be concerned about Luxon’s result in the preferred prime minister stakes, especially as Hipkins appeared to be on the rise.

Nash slashed from police portfolio, Cabinet rankings

The biggest political story of the last week was undoubtedly the resignation of Stuart Nash from the police portfolio, following a series of revelations where he’d been found not to be following rules - most notably calling the police commissioner to ask if he was going to appeal a case.

That’s against the Cabinet Manual.

Collins said he found it fascinating when Hipkins emerged before question time to announce Nash had resigned from the police portfolio.

Hipkins, the “confident and capable… smart and quick on his feet” MP held a piece of a paper and read the announcement “word for word”.

“I think he wanted to get it precisely right.”

Desmarais said it was a torrid week for Nash but a fascinating week for political reporters and watchers.

“How is it only March?” Mutch McKay said.

1News Inside Parliament is available on your favourite podcast app.