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Ardern defends performance of Twyford, Davis as 'solid', following widespread criticism

Labour leader Jacinda Ardern has rejected claims that there’s a lack of talent in her Cabinet, calling deputy leader Kelvin Davis and former Housing Minister Phil Twyford “solid”.

Jacinda Ardern. Source: Getty

Speaking on Newstalk ZB's this morning, host Mike Hosking challenged Ardern on her Government’s record on housing, with their major policy KiwiBuild failing to meet its target of 100,000 affordable homes. 

After Hosking asked Ardern what she saw in Davis and Twyford given their record in Government, she said: "They're both solid contributors to my Cabinet."

Ardern said Twyford had done “solid” work as a Transport Minister, which saw the upgrade of Auckland’s Puhinui Station and the continuation of work on the Eastern Busway in the city’s eastern suburbs. 

She said there was also “significant investment” in regional roading. 

However, Twyford’s time as a Transport Minister also saw light rail in Auckland halted. Despite extensive cross-party consultation, Government parties were unable to reach agreement on a preferred proposal.

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“On Kelvin, the work that he’s done in Corrections - we have safely seen a decrease in our Corrections population, which was one of our goals,” Ardern said.

“And the work he’s done on Māori-Crown relations is taking us into a new era. I’ll defend my team.”

Corrections data shows a decline in the total prison population from more than 10,600 in March 2018 to about 9500 in June this year.

Davis, as Tourism Minister, faced criticism this year for not doing enough to help the sector badly impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic.

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Arden then made mention of National’s recent spate of resignations, which saw senior MPs like Paula Bennett and Nikki Kaye not stand for re-election. 

Hosking then raised NZ First’s criticism that Labour had a number of changes to ministers, like in health and housing. 

Any Government would always have issues to deal with, and the way it was dealt with is what mattered, Ardern replied.

Hosking pointed to Chris Hipkins’ large health and education portfolios, and said it was a sign of “a lack of talent” in Labour.

Ardern rejected the idea, and said for someone to make it into Cabinet, they had to meet a standard. 

She said throughout the pandemic, the public was able to see more of her ministers, like Chris Hipkins, Grant Robertson and Megan Woods.

“You’ve named the ones I would’ve named,” Hosking replied.

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Ardern then mentioned Damien O’Connor’s work which saw New Zealand almost eradicating mycoplasma bovis. The near-eradication of the disease that affects cattle is expected to save as much as $1.3 billion in economic losses. 

She also said she didn’t regret KiwiBuild, but said there were “design errors” in the plan. 

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The PM said the previous National government left the country in a housing crisis. Source: 1 NEWS

“Scale was also an issue.”

She said KiwiBuild had an impact on the residential housing market because it was an “extra trigger” for developers to build affordable housing. 

National leader Judith Collins was asked about Ardern's comments this afternoon.

"Aww, really?" Collins said in response to a reporter's question. 

"That's very generous of her. I think Phil Twyford and Kelvin Davis, at number four and two [on Labour's party list] respectively, I think that says an awful lot about what else she thinks she's got there in terms of her ammunition.

"I've got to say, they wouldn't be top of the pops in our [party list]."