The newly sacked chair of Te Whatu Ora has made stunning accusations of a witch hunt by the Government.
Rob Campbell lost one of his public sector jobs on Tuesday for calling the National Party’s Three Waters policy “thinly disguised dog whistling”.
Newshub understands he’s also about to be fired again.
Meet the thorn in the Government’s side.
“Rob Campbell. Title’s ‘former chair Te Whatu Ora’, how’s that?” he told Newshub ahead of a sit-down interview on Wednesday.
He’s the former chair because ministers lost confidence in his political neutrality – and sacked him.
He took to LinkedIn to question National’s Three Water’s policy, saying: “What on earth would make anyone think this was a sensible idea” and “I can only describe this as a thin disguise for a dog whistle on co-governance.”
“The bit I probably regret most about that is the term ‘thinly disguised’,” said Campbell. “I don’t think it was very disguised. I think it was a clear message that they would be eliminating any element of co-governance.”
He has no regrets, but some apologies. One went to the National leader.
“Yeah look I do stand by the comments I made. As I said to Chris Luxon, I do regret any personal attack he felt in that.”
Luxon has confirmed the apology was made.
“He said, ‘I’m sorry for causing offence and I’m sorry for what I said’,” Luxon said. “And I said look, I appreciate the call, really we should focus on the outcomes for New Zealanders.”
And another sorry – of sorts – to the Health Minister.
“I opened the conversation by apologising for any difficulty I caused her and might have caused the Government,” said Campbell.
Then came the ultimatum
“There wasn’t really a conversation, to be frank. The response was I had to either resign or be sacked.”
He said it was the Public Service Commissioner’s advice that sealed his deal that he’d breached the code of conduct about political impartiality and not eroding public trust.
“I’m told that the Commissioner’s advice was that I’d breached and I had to go.”
Campbell is also chair of the Environmental Protection Authority.
“I don’t see any reason why I shouldn’t stay.”
Environment Minister David Parker wrote to Rob Campbell on Wednesday and Newshub understands he was given a similar ‘quit or you’re fired ultimatum’. It’s now a matter of time.
Because Parker is also the Attorney-General, his process had to be much more thorough than the Health Minister’s.
Prime Minister Chris Hipkins said: “I understand he’s having conversations with the Minister for the Environment today as he had conversations with the Minister of Health yesterday. Clearly, there are processes that need to be followed.”
“It feels even a little bit like a witch hunt, which is again a dramatic phrase,” said Campbell.
A dramatic phrase for a very dramatic exit.