Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is dismissing any claims that cracks are beginning to form in the Coalition Government.
But she is suggesting Justice Minister Andrew Little should not have announced the Government was planning to repeal the three-strikes law until it had been agreed by Cabinet.
On Monday morning, Little said his promise to repeal the policy would not come before Cabinet because of opposition from NZ First.
He said this is how coalition governments work.
Speaking at her weekly post-Cabinet press conference, Ardern echoed those comments.
“I do want to highlight that within a coalition government, there are always going to be issues that [members] might take different positions on.”
She says the fact that the only public disagreements between NZ First and Labour in the last eight months have been regarding the 90-day trial periods and the repealing of the three strikes law “speaks to the strength of the Coalition Government.”
Little had announced to Newshub he would be taking the plan to repeal the law to Cabinet on June 11.
Ardern says it would have been better for him to wait until Cabinet had decided its course of action, before he announced anything.
“It’s always much tidier to wait until Cabinet,” she says.
Justice Minister Andrew Little has been forced to back down from a promised repeal of the three-strikes policy because New Zealand First won’t play ball.
The Opposition says this is evidence of “underlined cracks in the Government” starting to form.
In a statement on Monday morning, Little said the repealing of the policy, made law by the previous Government in 2010, would not come before Cabinet because of reservations from its Coalition partners.
Speaking to media, Little admitted it was a backdown but justified it by saying “this is coalition government.”
“When you have genuine coalition government of a variety of parties with a span of views, you take on board all those views and that’s what we’re doing.”
Little announced late last month that the three strikes law was going before Cabinet to receive an endorsement to be repealed.
But he, and the Prime Minister, decided on Friday it would be better for this stand-alone repeal to be taken off the table.
“We got to a point at the end of last week where it was clear we weren’t going to get the support and there wasn’t any point in going ahead.”
The repeal was just one part of a wider crime reform policy, but Labour wanted this part to be axed before the wider bill went before the House.
Evidently, this did not play well with NZ First.
Little says the party would rather see a full, well-rounded package of changes rather than a “piecemeal approach” to reforms.
When asked if he had consulted the party on the three strikes repeal, Little said: “Nothing gets before cabinet without getting through a variety of hoops beforehand. But the reason why you have a variety of hoops is that people take time to pause and reflect and that happens.”
So, did NZ First renege on any undertakings it had given Little on regarding the repeal?
“This is coalition government,” Little said, not directly answering the question.
“The parties have their ways of operating, in the end, what’s important is you maintain the confidence of the parties.”
Asked if he was embarrassed about the backdown, he said no.
“I’ve backed down from things before.”
Cracks starting to form
National Leader Simon Bridges says the backdown shows “just how little thought is going into decisions which directly affect the lives of New Zealanders.”
“Just days after defiantly promising to repeal the Three Strikes law, Justice Minister Andrew Little has been hauled into line and revealed to have been making promises he simply hadn’t done the work to be able to keep.”
He says Monday’s backdown reveals the original announcement was “policy on the hoof,” and shows the Governing parties are “not even talking to each other.”