Fair Pay Agreements: Workplace Relations Minister Brooke van Velden defends decision to ignore leaked Treasury advice

An investigation has been launched into how secret Cabinet papers about Fair Pay Agreements were leaked to Newshub.   

Workplace Relations Minister Brooke van Velden is attempting to brush off the leak and is defending her decision to ignore Treasury's advice that their removal would disproportionately affect women, young people, Māori and Pasifika.  

Prime Minister Christopher Luxon confirmed the investigation on Tuesday morning.  

"I have every confidence in my Cabinet. What I have been informed is that MBIE, on their own volition, started up an investigation. That is good they are taking it seriously and they are acting swiftly about it."  

The papers from one of Cabinet's very first discussions about their plan to scrap Fair Pay Agreements were leaked to Newshub on Monday.   

Senior minister Chris Bishop laughed when asked about the leak on Tuesday.  

"There's an inquiry underway," he said.  

Is it a laughing matter?  

"Well, no. I just think there are bigger issues than leaks of Cabinet papers about Fair Pay Agreements. It is hardly a secret that the Government was going to repeal the fair pay legislation"  

It's no laughing matter for the chief executive of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE).  

She told Newshub in a statement she was taking it very seriously and had commissioned an investigation into the possible source of the leak. The ministry will ask all agencies who had access to the Cabinet paper to participate.  

"Look it is disappointing but I'm not going to speculate on how it's happened," said van Velden.   

The two leaked documents revealed the minister is ignoring Treasury advice that because women, young people, Māori and Pacific peoples overwhelmingly work in low wage jobs with poor conditions they would be disproportionately affected by the repeal of fair pay agreements.   

"Advice is advice, the Government is the Government and I am here to do what the people voted for," said van Velden.   

Asked if his Government respected official advice, Luxon said: "We take advice, we don't have to follow that advice."  

But Labour's workplace relations spokesperson Camilla Belich said the FPAs would help Kiwis in a cost of living crisis.   

"Christopher Luxon needs to justify to New Zealand why he's repealing them," she said.   

The documents also were at odds with each other.  

The minister told Cabinet there had been consultation, but Treasury said there hadn't.  

"I met with BusinessNZ and the Council of Trade Unions three days after being sworn into government," she said.  

But Richard Wagstaff, the CTU President, said at "no point were we asked what were the pros and cons of FPAs"  

"We were simply asked 'what are FPAs?'"   

Asked if that was proper consultation, van Velden said: "I don't think that's a true and accurate representation of that meeting."