Stuart Nash demoted, ‘on final warning’

Stuart Nash has been demoted to the bottom of the Cabinet rankings and is on his “final warning”, Prime Minister Chris Hipkins has confirmed this afternoon.

Hipkins said a third situation involving Nash had come to light.

In September last year, acting as the MP for Napier he contacted a senior official at MBIE to ask them to look at an immigration case of a health professional in his electorate, not using the established process.

“This latest instance though does demonstrate a pattern of behaviour which does not reach the standard that I expect from Ministers.”

Nash would move to the bottom of the Cabinet rankings, at number 20, Hipkins said.

“His actions reflect poor judgement but the specifics of each instance do not warrant dismissal from his ministerial post altogether,” Hipkins said.

“It’s clear from his pattern of behaviour that Stuart is not acting to achieve personal gain from his actions. The cases in questions represent his desire to get things done in his portfolios and on behalf of his communities.

“Stuart does on occasion speak in a more colloquial manner that reflects the sentiments of many people in the community but he does need to take greater care to ensure that what he says and how he says it uphold the standards of a Cabinet minister.”

Nash resigned from his police role on Wednesday after that morning revealing he had spoken to the Police Commissioner two years prior about a court case, and criticised the judge’s decision.

The move had breached the Cabinet Manual which requires MPs to avoid influencing – or perceptions of trying to influence – police prosecutorial decisions, or commenting on individual court judgments.

He initially refused to back down on his comments about the judicial decision and said the conversation with the commissioner was just him “chewing the fat” with a “mate”, but by the time Parliament began sitting at 2pm, Prime Minister Chris Hipkins announced Nash had resigned from the portfolio.

Hipkins said at the time that was proportional punishment, and Nash would be holding on to his other roles: Oceans and Fisheries, Forestry, and Economic Development.

The next day Nash was showing contrition – admitting he had “stuffed up” – but that evening more news came to light of a previous event in which he had been warned against commenting on court cases.

Hipkins had earlier said he had confidence in Nash to perform his other roles, and he had been assured the mistake would not be made again.