Video: Winston Peters lashes out again at media in Cabinet room, Luxon doesn't say if comments appropriate

Prime Minister Christopher Luxon is promising high standards from his new Cabinet.   

The new team had its first meeting on Tuesday where they signed off on Cabinet rules. 

But he is refusing to comment on his Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters' anti-media antics, after Peters' false claims on Monday that the media had been bribed.   

Starting with an awkward silence, new ministers in the Coalition Government got their feet under the big Cabinet desk on Tuesday.  

"We're looking forward to having a good meeting," Luxon said.  

They were straight down to a secret Cabinet agenda.  

Asked what the plan for the meeting was, Luxon said: "That stays in this room."  

What's said in Cabinet stays in Cabinet is one of the most sacred rules in the Cabinet Manual - AKA the ministers rulebook.   

Luxon said he is "absolutely sure" every Cabinet member would stick to the rules for the entire term.  

But already he's got one particular minister who's playing mischief.  

On Monday, just after he'd been officially sworn into the role, his Deputy Prime Minister took it upon himself to issue direction to state-owned broadcasters in response to a question about his policy about public agencies narrowing the use of te reo Māori.  

"Well we will see the speed in which TVNZ and RNZ, which are taxpayer-owned, understand this new message," Peters said.   

When it was put to Peters that they are independent, Peters said he had "never seen evidence" of that over the past three years.     

The independence of TVNZ and RNZ from political interference is spelled out in law.  

The Radio New Zealand Act 1995 states that no responsible minister or any other minister may give a direction to the public radio company in respect of the gathering or presentation of news or the preparation or presentation of current affairs programmes. TVNZ's Act has the same clause.  

Asked if he was comfortable with the comments Peters had made about the media, Luxon said: "Didn't see those comments."  

"I'm excited to get to work with this team here."  

For Luxon's benefit, here's more of what Peters said: "You cannot defend $55 million of bribery. You cannot defend $55 million of bribery. Get it very clear."  

He's talking about the Public Interest Journalism Fund, a contestable $55 million aimed at funding projects, journalism roles and training in New Zealand newsrooms.   

The fund overall had 5 goals it had to achieve: inform and engage the public, accurate, accountable and fair coverage reflecting all sectors of the community, promote the treaty principles, reflect New Zealand's cultural diversity and encourage a robust sustainable media.   

Some areas of reporting were specifically excluded from the fund, including, crucially, national political coverage.   

As the media were packing up to leave on Tuesday, Peters went in again.  

"Before you ask one more question, tell the public what you signed up to to get the money," he said.   

Asked if that was appropriate, Luxon just said: "Right ready to go, great thank you team."   

We'll take that as a no comment.