Paula hits the wine as 'awful' week finally ends

Paula Bennett - ready for wine
Paula Bennett - ready for wine

Social Housing Minister Paula Bennett is "rapt" the weekend is nigh, and is looking forward to a glass of wine tonight.

"I've lasted until Friday -- sometimes that's a good week," she told Paul Henry on Friday morning.

The Government has been under growing pressure for weeks over the twin homelessness and housing affordability crises, but for Ms Bennett things took a turn for the worse on Tuesday -- accused of deliberately leaking private information about the chairman of a marae that had opened its doors to the homeless.

Calls for Ms Bennett's resignation came quickly, with Labour's Phil Twyford calling her "unfit to be a minister".

"There's things that went wrong this week, and without a doubt," says Ms Bennett. "It's just been awful…  But what I've been accused of by Labour is that I'm a liar and that I've been running smear campaigns, and there's just no element of truth to that whatsoever."

Her version of events is that one of her staff mentioned to reporters that Te Puea Marae chairman Hurimoana Dennis was under police investigation, believing it was public knowledge.

"It is awful when you hear your own name on the news and you know it's not true," she says.

But Labour isn't buying it, saying Ms Bennett's staff had no reason to know about Mr Dennis' private life.

"Why was this bit of information given about a man when he is running a marae that is trying to help the homeless?" Labour deputy leader Annette King asked on Paul Henry. "Why was that important?"

Suspicions Ms Bennett was directly involved in the leak stem from past incidents in which the Upper Harbour MP has made private information public. The most notorious incident came in 2009, when she released the income details of two beneficiaries who'd criticised her.

Ms Bennett says the staff member who told reporters about Mr Dennis' background deeply regrets it.

"I have absolutely no doubt nothing like this will happen again."

Ms King says while she feels for Ms Bennett on a personal level, Labour MPs' job is to hold the Government to account.

"If the boot had been on the other foot, no quarter would have been given by a National opposition."

As for her job, Ms Bennett says the Prime Minister has no plans to sack her, nor has she considered stepping down.

"Not in any way, shape or form."

Newshub.

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