Green MP says media coverage of Turei 'strange'

What you need to know:

  • On Monday evening Green MPs Kennedy Graham and David Clendon announced they were stepping down from the party's list in protest over Metiria Turei's benefit fraud
  • Co-leader James Shaw said a few hours later that he wanted them out of the party as soon as possible, and that the rest of the caucus is backing Ms Turei
  • Metiria Turei said on Tuesday morning that she will not be stepping down as co-leader
  • At a Green party caucus meeting this morning, Mr Graham and Mr Clendon quit as caucus members but will remain MPs until the election

3:30: Green MP Julie Anne Genter says the media's focus on Ms Turei's benefit fraud and calls for her resignation are "completely disproportionate to what she actually did".

"I think the media's focus on what happened 25 years ago in a kind of punitive way is a distraction," she told media on Tuesday afternoon.

"Metiria told her story voluntarily in order to be able to raise this question of our welfare system and how it's broken and it hurts people who are living in poverty. That's what we should be talking about."

Ms Genter says she completely backs Ms Turei and doesn't think she should step down, and questioned media coverage of the issue.

"I just think it's very strange that the media have raised the issue of whether or not Metiria should resign when everyone who's currently in our caucus supports her, and our membership supports her, and it's clear that there are many voters who support her and what she's doing."

2:40: Former Green MP Sue Bradford said Ms Turei shouldn't resign, and she's been courageous in her admission of benefit fraud and has won the party new supporters.

"When Metiria first made this admission she probably didn't realise how precarious a position she would put herself in, but I really applaud her courage in coming out with that at the time of the launch of their welfare policy," she told Newshub.

Ms Bradford said Ms Turei's admission and their new policy will lead to gains that are greater than the criticisms. She said new support was coming "From unemployed people and beneficiaries who know what she's talking about. She's won support from people from the left who seen that the Greens are finally standing up with a really strong social justice policy."

She also said she's never seen political division within the Green party as publicly as it's being seen now, and it's unfortunate that it's happened so close to an election. She called Mr Graham and Mr Clendon's decision to step off the party's list "An ill-conceived move on their part which has broken the trust of the party."

2:20: This meme sums up the political revelations over the last week, with the Labour leadership shakeup and the resignation of two Green MPs.

1:00: Green co-leader Metiria Turei said she accepted the two MPs decision to step down, and said the party "are all really sad about that".

"I feel that they've taken a principled stand according to their own beliefs," Ms Turei said.

"I want to have a conversation in this country about poverty. I have opened up that conversation and I'm calling on New Zealanders to support compassionate welfare."

Ms Turei reiterated her previous statement that she will not condemn people who lie to WINZ, and said she wants to change the welfare system so that they don't have to.  

In response to voters who have said she was wrong to lie to WINZ, Ms Turei said "I've never asked them to agree with what I did, I've asked them to understand what poverty looks like for beneficiaries in this country."

She is staying on as leader, no matter what the polls say, and says she has the support of her caucus and party.

12:50: David Clendon and Kennedy Graham have withdrawn from the Green party caucus after their announcement last night that they'd withdraw from the list.

"That decision was supported by the other 12 Green Party MPs," said Green co-leader James Shaw.

They'll stay on as MPs until the election, but won't attend caucus or strategy meetings and won't be campaigning.

He says the rest of the caucus is completely backing Metiria Turei to continue on as co-leader. 

David Clendon, left, and Kennedy Graham, right, will stay on until the election but have quit the party's caucus.
David Clendon, left, and Kennedy Graham, right, will stay on until the election but have quit the party's caucus. Photo credit: Facebook

12:00: Green MPs Jan Logie and Denise Roche have emerged from the caucus meeting, they've both declined to comment. 

11:30: Gareth Morgan has paid tribute to Kennedy Graham and David Clendon, dropping a hint that they'd be welcome in The Opportunities Party.

"Any party interested in making genuine progress on environmental issues and social justice would be lucky to have them as part of their team. The issues these men have progressed remain important to many New Zealanders and area a central part of TOP's evidence based policy solutions."

11:00: Labour leader Jacinda Ardern has avoided talking about her MOU partner, saying it was an issue for the Greens and not for her.

Despite saying the focus should be on important issues like climate change, Ms Ardern didn't want to discuss the legacy of Parliament's biggest climate change expert Kennedy Graham.

Asked whether Dr Graham's departure is a loss for Parliament, Ms Ardern tried changing tack.

"These are all matters for the Greens and I have no further comment on them," she said.

"We need to champion climate change in Parliament, and the best way we can do that is legislate our targets.

"I deliver stability as leader of the Labur for the rest that is internal and up to them to manage."

10:00: Climate Change Minister Paula Bennett says that the loss of Kennedy Graham will affect the entire Parliament. 

While the Green Party says Kennedy Graham has been underperforming as an MP, Ms Bennett is full of praises.

She says Dr Graham has been the driving force behind uniting MPs from all parties to come up with a plan to tackle climate change.

He formed a cross-party committee called GLOBE (Global Legislators Organization for a Balanced Environment), which is gaining momentum within Parliament.

"Kennedy Graham has actually done an outstanding job in pulling together GLOBE NZ. He was the one who got National involved in it," says Ms Bennett.

"I think he’ll be a loss to the Greens, but I also think he'll be a loss to Parliament.

"He had the gravitas and understanding of the climate change issue, and didn't play the party politics in it."

9:45: Green MPs Marama Davidson, Catherine Delahunty, and Julie Anne Genter all say they're backing Ms Turei when questioned by Newshub.

"I completely back Metiria on what she's doing, I think it's important and I think that most New Zealanders are going to see the Green movement as a long term movement for positive change in this country," Ms Genter said.

However, she refused to be drawn on whether she would step up to be co-leader.

Ms Delahunty said "I don't support any view that our co-leader has been anything but courageous about her past and honest about who she represents. Metiria has been a wonderful MP for 15 years."

Ms Davidson said she's glad Ms Turei hasn't stepped down and she's going to stick beside her. "This has been an incredible brave stand against poverty that we haven't seen ever really.

"We're pretty staunch that we have to end meanness against low-income people and beneficiaries. We've got to combat poverty, we're going to keep doing this."

9:30: David Clendon says the Green co-conveyor's message that he wasn't campaigning and was asked not to stand for re-election is "untrue".

"It's unfortunate Sarah told untruths...I'm disappointed that a senior party employee should resort to telling basically lies. That's very unfortunate."

Kennedy Graham says "It's important not to inflame things further and keep cool and calm."

8:30: Metiria Turei said she will not be stepping down as co-leader of the party. "I spoke to my caucus last night. All of them but those two have asked me to stay on, and so that's what I'll do," Ms Turei told media as she arrived at Wellington Airport.

7:30: Greens co-leader James Shaw says he tried to talk two senior MPs out of quitting in protest, and that one had expressed his dissatisfaction several times over the past few weeks.

The response from leadership was to immediately suspend the pair from Green Party caucus and to seek advice about removing them from Green Party membership and the list.

Mr Shaw told Duncan Garner on The AM Show Kennedy Graham had expressed his dissatisfaction "a number of times" over the past few weeks but he thought they were resolving those issues.

When the pair took an ultimatum to leadership at about 1.30pm yesterday, Mr Shaw said "you bet" he tried to talk them out of it.

"I said that I thought that they ought to stick with the process. I said I thought they were being unfair because they were only giving us a couple of hours' notice," he said.

"It's really disappointing they were going to media rather than trying to work it through with their caucus colleagues first."

Mr Shaw said he has "deep respect" for both men, who he considers friends.

But he said he's disappointed in the position they've taken.

"They are taking a very black and white position, and I find it very difficult to condemn the actions of a young mother 25 years ago," he said.

Mr Shaw said it's not been his "greatest week in politics" and that it's a rollercoaster of a job.

Mr Shaw said he fully supports Ms Turei and every decision she's made throughout the campaign.

7:00: Labour leader Jacinda Ardern downplayed the shock challenge to the Green Party leadership, telling The AM Show it's the kind of thing parties deal with from time to time.

She repeatedly said her focus was on what she can control - her own party. But she said the issues were not unique to the Green Party.

"Our focus on changing the government hasn't changed. At the moment, if you look around the political landscape, each of us have had issues to deal with in the last week.

"National has their own issues they are dealing with right now. Ours was last week.

"This happens to political parties from time to time. No one would want this happening to their political party this close to an election, but... I'm controlling what's within my power, which is to lead Labour."