New Zealand First MP Tracey Martin denies she works in a 'dictatorship'

Tracey Martin has denied she "works in a dictatorship" after she appeared to be left in the dark over her party's decision to call for a referendum on abortion law reform. 

Martin, the Internal Affairs Minister and MP for New Zealand First, used her speech in Parliament at the proposed abortion law's first reading to "provide some clarity". 

Her comments follow deputy Prime Minister and New Zealand First leader Winston Peters suggesting earlier this week that the proposed reforms should be put to a referendum - appearing to blindside Martin. 

"There are some who believe I work in a dictatorship, but they could not be further from the truth," Martin said in her speech. 

"In recent days there have been some questions in the public domain around the timeframes of New Zealand First's actions and who knew what and when and I would like to provide some clarity around that now."

The minister said "at no time" during her negotiations with Little did the NZ First caucus raise the issue of a referendum clause or instruct her to raise that topic with Justice Minister Andrew Little, whose Bill it is. 

Martin explained how she did a pre-recorded interview with RNZ on Monday and the reporter asked her about the process followed by the minister and the NZ First caucus.

"She posed a question regarding a referendum clause and I answered honestly. That interview was played the following morning."

Martin said just after the interview ran, NZ First MP Darroch Ball requested at the NZ First caucus meeting on Tuesday that the party put forward a supplementary paper to insert a referendum clause into the legislation. 

"He received majority support - this is how democracy works," Martin said. 

It was after that meeting when Peters revealed the party would seek a referendum on abortion, which fuelled speculation NZ First had blindsided the Justice Minister and Martin. 

But Martin insists any NZ First MP can at any time raise an issue at the caucus and seek majority support for a position on that issue. It's a similar explanation the Prime Minister has given. 

"NZ First concluded it would put forward nine votes in favour of the legislation at both the first reading and the second reading and introduce a supplementary order in the name of Darroch Ball," Martin said. 

She said she apologised to the Justice Minister and informed the Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, of NZ First's position. 

"I did my best to ensure that I removed my personal view and followed the instruction of my caucus," Martin said.

"I reported back to the New Zealand First caucus a number of times over those months around progress."

Martin stressed that for "close to a decade now, my New Zealand First colleagues have been happy with my representing them around issues that affect predominantly women or women only". 

"Despite their diversity of views on this issue, my colleagues delegated me to work with Andrew Little to produce a Cabinet paper and the Bill that has come into this House."