Lloyd Burr: Alfred Ngaro's threat to Willie Jackson was worse than just a brain fart

OPINION: Alfred Ngaro's threat that non-government organisations shouldn't bite the hand that feeds is extraordinary.  

Not just because of his complete lack of judgement, or the fact he did it on stage in front of hundreds of National Party members, or because it shows cracks in the party's extreme culture of discipline.

It's extraordinary because he didn't back down from his comments until he was forced to.

It was much more than just a brain fart or a case of misspeaking.

On Sunday, Newshub interviewed Mr Ngaro at National's northern region conference about the sentiments in his Saturday speech, and the threat to dissenting NGOs was still there.

First though, a quick recap: the Associate Housing Minister was giving a presentation at the Auckland conference when he said NGOs like the Salvation Army and Willie Jackson's Urban Māori Authority shouldn't "take with one hand and fight with the other".

In other words, he was saying if NGOs who receive government funding criticise the Government's housing approach, they risk losing that funding.

Prime Minister Bill English and National's campaign manager Steven Joyce were quick to activate damage control, downplaying the comments as "naive from a new minister".

But before they could both get their hands on him and before the storm of bad PR hit, Mr Ngaro was still unapologetic when Newshub asked him to explain.  

"It was actually about saying 'look let's be mindful about the working relationship we have'," he told Newshub at the conference.  

"It's the context of saying that on the one hand we're working together, and on the other hand too, if people are criticising, we just need to be mindful of that type of relationship, yep," said Mr Ngaro.

NGOs being "mindful" of criticising the Government sounds strikingly similar to threatening them to watch what they say.

And he didn't stop there.

"If we're going to have a positive partnership of working together, then it's around having that, it's talking about wider context but also all the things we are doing and working collectively together," said Mr Ngaro.

"My comments was (sic) just to be mindful of the fact that if we are going to be able to have these partnerships, we've just got to be political, what you call sensitive, in that context, yep."

Since saying this, Mr Ngaro has issued a statement saying he "absolutely regrets" what he said in his speech, which he admits was "poorly worded".

It begs the question - why did he repeat the sentiment in an interview on camera after the speech if he regretted saying them?

My guess - he didn't regret it until he was told to.

Lloyd Burr is a Newshub political reporter.

Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to Email
Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to Viber Share to WhatsApp Share to Email