New Zealand First's "political games" are a disservice to the Government and its political partners, National MP Paula Bennett said today as she faced off - and, to an extent, agreed - with Green Party MP Chlöe Swarbrick on TVNZ1's Breakfast.
Her comments come following the derailment of Auckland’s $6 billion light rail project yesterday.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has denied her coalition Government is falling apart, but it's not the only policy that's been halted - this week rent relief and the Sexual Violence Legislation Bill were also given the NZ First treatment.
This morning, Ms Bennett criticised the Labour Party, though, for not negotiating better with NZ First.
"They're not managing them and they kind of haven't managed them well, I would argue, for the last 18 months, two years, otherwise they would be kind of at this point now where they're three months out from an election and trying to push through some pretty major, important pieces," she said.
"I mean the light rail debacle is exactly that. It's cost millions of dollars for no result whatsoever because they've got to pull the plug at the last minute."
When asked by Breakfast host John Campbell whose fault it was, Ms Bennett said, "I believe that Labour should be negotiating better with New Zealand First in the last two years and not leaving it to this crunch point".
"I think it's done a disservice to [fellow coalition parter] the Greens," she added. "They are very upfront about what they stand for. I may not always agree with what they're saying, but by crickey you know what they stand for and they're very clear in it.
"They've been a very fair coalition partner. They've held their nose a few times, I'm sure, and voted for things that wouldn't have gone for them, and yet New Zealand First play these political games and that's not fair."
Ms Swarbrick agreed that New Zealand First is "getting difficult" and said it is something voters should consider in September. But she also made it a priority to defend the coalition between her party, Labour and NZ First.
"I think that there is always going to be differences, when you look back retrospectively and say what could've, would've, should've been done. But I think ultimately the major distinction between this Government and the last Government is that we dare to aspire to change things," she said.
"It seems as though the biggest kind of critique that the National Party can throw at us right now is, 'Oh, you didn't quite manage to meet your aspirations', but boy George we are trying."
However, Ms Bennett shot back: "This is not sort of tiddly winks, you can't sort of go, 'We're giving it our best shot.' This is running the country.
"The aspirations of 100,000 Kiwibuild houses, the aspirations of light rail with no plan as to how they would implement it and an inability to do it is, quite frankly, disgraceful."
In talking specifically about the Government's leading party, Labour, Ms Bennett added: "I don't think they have negotiated, particularly with Winston Peters, well because they haven't wanted to have any conflict. They've been slightly scared of him, you know. He is unpredictable at best.
"Their way of doing it is to avoid him and that's wrong and the Greens deserve better.
"I do agree that you aspire," she told Ms Swarbrick. "And I agree that a minor party can, but quite frankly it is up to the main party - Labour - to have pulled this together and they haven't."
Ms Swarbrick responded: "There is a distinction between aspiring and getting it done and when you have three parties in Government that you have to negotiate, though, not everybody gets what they want."