Key on media pressure: 'It doesn't matter what you say'

Paula Bennett (file)
Paula Bennett (file)

Prime Minister John Key says embattled Social Housing Minister Paula Bennett has been victim of a media frenzy.

She came under fire last week, accused of trying to smear the reputation of the chairperson of a marae that helps the homeless.

Ms Bennett denied deliberately leaking details of a police investigation into Hurimoana Dennis, blaming it on a member of her staff.

The Prime Minister has full confidence in her, regardless.

"She's in some difficult areas, but she's handled that before. She was an outstanding Minister of Social Development. I'm totally confident in her," Mr Key told Paul Henry on Monday.

He admits his minister's under a lot of pressure.

"If you get a minister that's under a bit of pressure, sometimes you get a lot more pressure. It's nothing to do with the person, it's just that all of the media focus, all of the Opposition focus goes on that and you get to the point sometimes where it doesn't matter what you say, it's not right. Someone will just criticise you for it."

As for whether it's derailed Ms Bennett's hopes to one day succeed him as leader of the National Party, Mr Key declined to speculate.

"I don't pick the successor and I'm not looking for one at the moment."

The Government, and Ms Bennett as Social Housing Minister, have come under increasing pressure over Auckland's growing homelessness and housing affordability problems.

"There is no question that the pressure on the Auckland housing market puts some pressure on the most vulnerable," says Mr Key. "You've always had homeless people, but that adds to that. You've got different things happening."

Mr Key is still refusing to call it a crisis, sticking to the "challenging" line.