“New acting Police Minister Megan Woods has an immediate task of confirming whether Stuart Nash’s indiscretion was a one-off, or whether other Labour Ministers have tried to interfere in Police matters,” says ACT’s Police spokesperson Chris Baillie.

“Woods needs to ask the Police Commissioner Andrew Coster to confirm whether any other Ministers have called him or other personnel to comment on police matters, or if Nash has done it on any other occasions?  

“Coster needs to clear this up quickly. Nash breached s16 of the Policing Act (2008), which states “The Commissioner is not responsible to, and must act independently of, any Minister of the Crown (including any person acting on the instruction of a Minister of the Crown).”

“Coster’s initial reaction that Nash was just “venting” is not good enough. Nash broke the law and if any other Minister has done the same then the Commissioner must report it.

“The rules exist to ensure that Police remain totally independent of any political interference, even the slightest perception that politicians are telling them what to do harms the trust Kiwis have with those who are meant to keep them safe.

“The fact that Chris Hipkins is keeping Nash as a Minister of anything shows that Labour don’t see this as the serious offence it really is, which raises the question, has it happened on other occasions?

“I have asked the acting Police Minister Written Parliamentary Questions and submitted OIAs to try and find this information. What would be even better for regaining the public’s trust would be if she and the Police Commissioner came out publicly and confirmed any other incidents, or if Nash really was just a one-off.

“Labour’s Ministers don’t appear to have read the Cabinet manual, so there’s a reasonable chance that other Ministers have broken constitutional conventions while thinking they were “chewing the fat with a mate.”

“This matters. The Cabinet manual is the authoritative guide to what they can and can’t do as a Minister of the Crown. If Ministers can’t be bothered reading it, or even worse choose to ignore it, then they’re not competent enough or don’t have the integrity to be a Minister.  

“Chris Hipkins has shown how low his standards are, much lower than John Key’s and David Cunliffe’s back when Maurice Williamson resigned for a lesser offence nine years ago.

“Under his watch a Minister can show complete disregard for the Cabinet manual, boast about it on primetime radio, double down on it and laugh it off, and still remain a Minister.

“Labour needs to show New Zealanders that they don’t accept cowboy Ministers who breach constitutional conventions and damage the public’s trust. That starts with getting rid of Nash altogether, but also ensuring there are no other culprits within the executive. That’s the job Megan Woods needs to do.”  

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