Nikki Kaye explains how National's 'moral obligation' to win the election led to its Māori-free front bench

National has a "moral obligation" to win the upcoming election, says deputy leader Nikki Kaye - and that's why they chose the controversial front bench they did. 

National's shadow Cabinet is all-Pākehā, with the woman Kaye replaced - Paula Bennett - the highest-ranking Māori at #13. 

The party's new leader Todd Muller has been in Parliament for less than six years and has no ministerial experience. He outranks the vastly more-experienced Kaye, Amy Adams (3rd) and Judith Collins (4th) all of whom have been in Parliament for at least twice as long as he has, all with ministerial experience. 

Asked on Saturday why she and Muller rolled Bennett and former leader Simon Bridges - also Māori - Kaye told Newshub Nation they "have a moral obligation to do something because New Zealand needs a National Government".

She disputed host Tova O'Brien's assertion Muller was lacking in political experience, pointing out he worked in then-Prime Minister Jim Bolger's office for a few years in the 1990s. 

"Todd is extraordinary. He has got a huge amount of business experience, but he has also got a lot of political experience - he started off in Bolger's office... Judith and Amy are incredible, they have huge ministerial experience... You name another political lineup where you've got three out of four strong women who would be leading the country."

As for the Māori-free front bench, Kaye said there were "only a certain number of spots" and she was proud of National's caucus diversity, which includes Korean and Indian MPs. 

"We have a number of MPs representing different ethnic communities... the reality is there is only a certain number of spots that we have, and we accept as a leadership team we have to own that representation issue."

Nikki Kaye.
Nikki Kaye. Photo credit: Newshub Nation

Kaye last week mistakenly identified finance spokesperson Paul Goldsmith as being Māori, which was news to Goldsmith. 

"My great-grandfather had European wives and Māori wives and so I've got lots of relatives across the Ngāti Porou - I don't claim to be Māori myself," he said.

Kaye said the wrong information came from 'someone reasonably reliable in the building".

"I made a mistake. The reality is we do need to do more as a country in terms of diversity and representation, but we have been very clear that we need to have the most competent group of people, and we have made decisions on that... We are fighting hard to win an election, and we have to have the best team put forward on that." 

As for LGBTQ+ representation, Kaye said there was "no one who has identified themselves at this point" as being from that community, which Statistics NZ says makes up about 3.5 percent of adults.