Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is expected to face questions at a parliamentary protest and a Labour caucus meeting tomorrow to consider whether to oust MP Gaurav Sharma at a weekly press conference.Video / Mark Mitchell
Labour MP Gaurav Sharma shared what he claimed was a text message sent by a government minister to the party’s caucus – urging members not to share written letters before speaking to senior members.
Sharma, who will be invited to address the caucus at tomorrow morning’s meeting ahead of the vote on whether to expel him, sent the Herald a screenshot of what he said was cabinet minister Kiri Allen (Kiri Allan) in a February message to a group chat that included all MPs, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and some senior members of the party.
When asked in what context the message was sent, Sharma said it was a one-off message and the topic had not been discussed before or after it was sent.
Sharma claims the information contradicts Ardern’s recent comments about how his government is committed to respecting the spirit of the Official Information Act (OIA).
“There are issues of accountability and transparency here,” Sharma told the Herald.
Sharma was suspended last week after making a series of public statements accusing Labour of bullying over personnel management issues.
He was warned that if he continued to attack, he would be fired.
The purported source from Allen said it was “less than ideal” to share written communications without first discussing the issue.
“Hey Team – Reminder to chat with your ministerial colleagues before sending your letter.
“All communications can be OIA, and if we’re being lobbied on a colleague’s issue, especially if we don’t have any leads, things unfolding through the OIA process are less than ideal [sic].
We are a team and you can talk to us directly (read: you should talk to us directly before sending a letter). cheers! “
The vote on the expulsion began after Sharma released a recording of his conversation with another Labour MP about a secret meeting with other caucus members last Monday night.
Sharma also gave more media interviews over the weekend, including claims that members of Congress were being instructed on how to bypass OIA requirements.
He has repeatedly called for an investigation into his allegations against employees, his treatment by the party and the allegations against him – but Ardern said there was not enough evidence to support such an inquiry.
Sharma, who did not attend last week’s online meeting, was suspended by a unanimous vote, which he later said was because he feared the outcome had been predetermined at a secret meeting of Labour MPs about him the night before.
PM confronts issues at post-Cabinet meeting
Ardern is expected to face questions about Sharma’s latest statement, as well as a protest in Parliament tomorrow at 4pm.
Ardern and Treasurer Grant Robertson will attend a post-Cabinet press conference this morning following Ardern’s visit to flood-affected areas of Nelson.
A spokesman for the prime minister confirmed that Sharma will be invited to speak at a caucus meeting tomorrow morning before a vote on whether to expel him – although Sharma told the Herald today he did not know if he was Will attend Tuesday’s caucus meeting — or if he’s invited, will he.
Ardern may also be asked about tomorrow’s protests, as parliamentary security and police bolster defences around parliament ahead of tomorrow’s protest led by the Alliance for Freedom and Rights – including closing roads and placing concrete blocks at entrances to stop vehicle enters.
Brian Tamaki told the New Zealand Herald today that his group had no intention of taking over parliament, which he expected to end around 2pm, and that he and his supporters did not want any violence. However, he said he could not be held responsible for what other groups involved in the protest might have done – members of Freedom Voice and others who attended earlier protests were also in Wellington.
The protest will begin at 10am along Lambton Quay.
Ardern and Robertson are also expected to discuss Robertson’s announcement of the government’s proposed $2.1 billion takeover of KiwiBank, a 100 per cent stake in Kiwi Group Holdings, the parent company of Kiwibank and NZ Home Loans.
The deal first needs approval from the Reserve Bank – KGH is currently 53% owned by NZ Post, 25% by the New Zealand Pension Fund and 22% by the Accident Compensation Corporation.