Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters has ridiculed the National Party "circus", with the politician saying it was in "chaos" after the resignation of another MP.
Rangitata MP Andrew Falloon announced on Monday he would retire from politics at the upcoming election, saying he had made numerous mistakes and needed to focus on his health. National leader Judith Collins said he had "significant mental health issues".
It later emerged Falloon allegedly sent inappropriate pornographic images to a young woman and, after pressure from Collins, Falloon stepped down from Parliament on Tuesday morning. Since then, more women have come forward and Collins says police are looking at relaunching an investigation into the former MP after previously deciding not to prosecute.
Early on Tuesday, following a speech to the Wellington Chamber of Commerce, deputy Prime Minister and New Zealand First leader Peters let rip on the National Party.
"It's chaos and 19 people have just signalled that they've got no confidence in them winning and my message to the audience today is why have you?" he told media.
"You know it was a circus. Four leaders in three years. You cannot walk out of a circumstance like that and say we've got a united team. Within 24 hours of making that statement, another one has bitten the dust, sad to say."
While 19 National MPs have either left Parliament or signalled their desire to do so, some did so shortly after losing the 2017 election, while others made their plans clear over the last two years. Collins became leader last week after the sudden resignation of Todd Muller, who said he was stepping down due to health reasons. Sir Bill English led the party after the last election, followed by Simon Bridges until May this year.
Falloon is alleged to have sent the images after heavy drinking and when questioned on whether Parliament had a culture problem in regard to alcohol and mental health, Peters said he believed that "is just magnified fiction in that context".
"Parliament has dramatically changed on that score from years ago. In that context, it has changed for the better," he said.
"You have a cacophony of collapse in the National Party that stretches out to the rest. You have frontbenchers coming and going, coming out of retirement, going back into retirement as though this is some sort of a career choice. It is meant to be a public service and they don't get it."
Amy Adams announced last week her intention to resign at the election. Last year, she said she was going to retire this September, but reneged on that after Muller became leader. When she wasn't offered the COVID-19 Recovery role by Collins, she decided again she would leave Parliament.
Peters' comments come after he gave a speech in which he attacked other political parties and the idea of a "Red-Green Government".
He said a Capital Gains Tax, which earlier this term had been up for discussion until it was ruled out by Jacinda Ardern, had been the "height of folly".
"You are not paying a Capital Gains Tax, guess why? Because a party called New Zealand says this is a stupid idea."
Similarly to remarks at the New Zealand First conference over the weekend, Peters referred to his party as an insurance policy, a political party in the middle which would provide balance to others on the left and right.
"You've got no idea how many things that we have stepped in for the better for this country's economy and the image of stability, how much it owes to a party called New Zealand First."
He said a "Red-Green Government" would know "how to spend your money" but not about "how to make some".
"They say they want to get close to you. They are right. So they can put their hand down the side of your body and into your wallet. Only one party is going to stop them doing that and you are looking at it," Peters said.
He said New Zealand First was a stabilising force.
"I have been in this game a long time and I have never had three years so difficult. Trying to manage circumstances when you are surrounded by plain inexperience. But I am proud of it. We made that choice because I saw nine years of total neglect."
The New Zealand First leader also spent time talking about and answering questions on the likes of COVID-19, "shovel-ready projects", jobs in Southland and leases.