Commentators say Cabinet minister Kiri Allan will have some serious questions to answer upon her return to Parliament as concerns arise over her treatment of staff.
Allan returned to the Beehive on Thursday after a week off, citing stress and mental health reasons.
That came as the Department of Conservation confirmed a staffer seconded to Allan’s office chose to leave amid concerns about working relationships there more than a year ago.
On Wednesday, Allan said as in many offices and workplaces, there “are sometimes challenges with working relationships and the Beehive is no different”. She added she values “my crew and I have always been clear that I have high expectations of senior public servants, as I do myself”.
Right-leaning political commentator and lawyer Brigitte Morten told AM the latest Labour stir demonstrates how much “chaos” the Government is in.
“It’s really obvious that the Prime Minister is struggling,” said Morten, a former National Party ministerial advisor.
“He loaded up a lot of portfolios on Kiritapu Allan, he… gave a lot of responsibility to clean up from other ministers that have had to leave,” Morten said of Prime Minister Chris Hipkins.
However, Morten acknowledged there could be more to the story.
“But that is the Prime Minister’s responsibility to make sure… everyone, in all of his ministers’ offices, are appropriately supported,” she said.
Overall, Morten said Beehive offices are high-pressured and intimate environments. Therefore, not every working relationship was going to work out.
Bryce Edwards, a political scientist at Victoria University, said many will see this as “another week, another ministerial drama”.
“It does feel, for a lot of people, that the wheels are falling off this Government,” Edwards told AM host Ryan Bridge. “For Kiri Allan, of course, this is potentially her third strike – there have been other integrity issues raised about her in recent months.”
Last month, Allan faced scrutiny after she criticised RNZ’s culture and treatment of Māori staff at a farewell event for her fiancée, Māni Dunlop. She later apologised and said while she was there in a personal capacity, her comment could have been interpreted as her telling RNZ how to manage the company, which is independent.
Edwards also pointed to donations to Allan from then-Race Relations Commissioner Meng Foon.
Hipkins, who’s in China for a trade delegation, said he’d received no formal complaints about Allan.
“From time to time, a minister’s office will come under a lot of pressure if their minister is under pressure,” Hipkins told reporters. “There have been instances, as there are with almost every minister, where Minister Allan has experienced more pressure in recent times.”
The Prime Minister’s Office had worked hard to address those pressures, he said.