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Labour Education Minister accused of misleading the House 

In brief
  • Education Minister Jan Tinetti’s accused of misleading the House with an answer about not being responsible for school attendance data. 
  • Tinetti is the first MP to be referred to the Privileges Committee since 2008. 
  • The minister took responsibility, but blamed her staff for the stuff up. 
  • Tinetti received police warning for campaign breaches in 2022. 

Possible contempt of Parliament

Despite the focus on embattled minister Michael Wood, Minister of Education Jan Tinetti is also in hot water.  

On Feb. 1, 2023, Tinetti said in Parliament she wasn’t responsible for releasing school attendance data. Later that same day her staff informed her she was mistaken. 

The Ministry of Education had the data ready from Dec. 2022, but delayed releasing it until after the announcement of a $74m truancy package

Tinetti failed to correct her mistake until May, this year – 14 sitting days after the truancy package was released, and only after speaker of the house, Adrian Rurawhe, raised the issue with her.

School attendance is at record lows in New Zealand and becoming a political hot potato. 

Rurawhe told Parliament the issue was referred to the Privileges Committee after a complaint had been filed. That Tinetti deliberately misled the House by failing to correct a misleading statement at the earliest opportunity.

If found guilty of contempt, the eight person committee (chaired by Labour MP David Parker, with deputy chair National MP Michael Woodhouse) can recommend a punishment to be voted on by the whole House. 

A simple majority determines whether or not punishment is imposed, which may include formal censure, an apology from Tinetti, a fine of up to $1000 and in rare cases (highly unlikely here), jail time. 

If the privileges committee is split in their vote on recommending punishment, Tinetti is off the hook. 

The committee privately sent a series of follow-up questions to Tinetti. The minister was asked to appear before the committee in an open session where they grilled her on the issue. Tinetti took responsibility, but blamed her staff saying they “overstepped the mark”. 

Tinetti told the committee that she accepts she should have corrected her answer “in the house” earlier. That she regrets this and made an error of judgement, but wishes to “underline to the committee that there was no intention to mislead the house.” 

It seems like a calculated “error”, designed to allow more favourable packaging, which is consistent with this government’s control of the narrative approach.

The last MP to face the Privileges Committee was Winston Peters, in 2008, over whether a $100,000 donation given, in 2005, by billionaire businessman Owen Glenn, towards legal costs, should have been declared. 

Labour Education Minister accused of misleading the House  - Centrist
Winston Peters was the last MP to be called before the Privileges Committee in 2008.

Police warning over electoral advertising

It was recently revealed that police issued Tinetti a formal warning, last year, over breaches of electoral advertising rules during the Tauranga byelection.

On the final day of voting, her social media post on Facebook read, “hashtag vote, hashtag Tinetti for Tauranga”.

Electoral law disallows campaigning on polling day.

Another headache for Hipkins

Since Chris Hipkins took over as Prime Minister the party has been plagued by ministerial mishaps. 

With the drama around Tinetti, Wood and several other recent Labour ministers, The NZ Herald writes “The question now is whether the Labour Government can pull things together to show the public that it still has enough stamina left to push through the election, and more importantly, another term in power.”

Is it about “stamina” or it about being straightforward and truthful? 

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