Patrick Gower slams National leader Christopher Luxon's 'demeaning' handling of Maureen Pugh's climate comments

  • 22/02/2023

National leader Christopher Luxon's handling of controversial comments made about climate change by one of his MPs is "demeaning", Newshub's Patrick Gower believes.

West Coast-Tasman-based National list MP Maureen Pugh on Tuesday walked back the comments, after earlier saying she was awaiting evidence humans had contributed to climate change.

In an interview with AM on Wednesday, Luxon promised Pugh now understood how her comments came across. 

Her comments came in the wake of the devastating Cyclone Gabrielle and the disastrous Auckland flooding late last month.

Luxon said climate change was "real and happening" and had an in-person meeting with Pugh after she made the comments. 

But Gower, a Newshub journalist and former political editor, said this was "demeaning" towards Pugh.

"It's all for show," Gower said of Luxon's response, appearing on AM's panel.

Maureen Pugh and Christopher Luxon.
Maureen Pugh and Christopher Luxon. Photo credit: Newshub.

"I'm not going to come out on the side of Maureen. Obviously, I don't agree with what she said… but Maureen's had views like this for a long time - the National Party knows it.

"Christopher Luxon should let Maureen be Maureen. She's a good person, fundamentally.

"It's a free country - she's allowed to say what she wants.

"I just think there are bigger things to worry about in this country than piling on Maureen Pugh." 

Right-leaning political commentator Trish Sherson agreed with Gower on that point but thought Luxon handled the situation well.

Patrick Gower and Sherson.
Patrick Gower and Sherson. Photo credit: AM

"If she hasn't, in her time in Parliament, got across the science on climate change to be able to understand the human impact, then there's an issue there," Sherson said of Pugh.

"We need to be assured as the public and be able to trust that our politicians are focused on those big things.

"These very big issues; climate change, infrastructure, finally facing up to the really big mahi that we have to do as a country around that - I think that's where the real issues lie."

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins on Tuesday rejected Pugh's comments, saying he was "staggered the National Party is still having this debate".