Stuart Nash will remain a cabinet minister and hold onto his portfolios – at least for now.
The prime minister said he’s been made aware of a further situation involving the embattled Napier MP and as such as opted to demote him to the bottom of the cabinet rankings. He’s also been given a final warning for what now amounts to a third strike.
“In September last year, acting as the local MP for Napier, he contacted a senior official at MBIE to ask him to take a look at an immigration case of a health professional in his electorate,” Hipkins said in a statement.
“In doing so he did not use the established process for Ministers and MPs to advocate in an immigration case.
Minister Nash has assured me there is no personal or other connection between the person in his electorate and him, and he was only intervening to ensure his electorate did not lose a much needed health professional.”
Nevertheless, Hipkins said there is “a well-established process and channel for ministers and MPs to advocate on immigration cases and the Cabinet Manual is clear that ministers should bear in mind that they have the capacity to exercise considerable influence over the public service”.
He added: “I want to be clear that I think the public servants involved in these cases have acted appropriately. This latest instance demonstrates a pattern of behaviour which does not reach the standard I expect from ministers.”
However, Hipkins said it was clear Nash was not acting out of personal gain but instead because of his desire to “get things done” in his portfolios.
“Stuart also speaks in a colloquial manner that often reflects the sentiments of a significant proportion of the community, but he needs to take greater care to ensure that what he says and how he says in upholds the standards expected of a cabinet minister,” said Hipkins.
“We have processes and rules for a reason, and in part that is to avoid the sorts of questions Stuart is now facing.”
The demotion reflected Nash’s “poor judgement on process” along with his “failure to alert” the past instances. “I have repeated that point to him and made clear that any further lapses will result in his dismissal as a minister… As I have said his actions reflect poor judgment, but the specifics of each incident do not warrant dismissal.”
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