Government's messy day in Parliament as Police Minister Mark Mitchell flip-flops, Christopher Luxon delivers own mea culpa

The Government had a messy day in Parliament as the Police Minister flip-flopped on how long it would take to make good on his promise of 500 extra police.    

Mark Mitchell wanted three years to meet the goal, but New Zealand First - citing its coalition deal - quickly pulled him into line.   

Then the Prime Minister was forced to come back to the house to correct the record over his comments on the war in Gaza.    

Mitchell looked mighty relaxed for someone who was about to pull off a political backflip and correct an answer he made in Parliament on Tuesday.    

He was forced to back down on slyly stretching his 500 extra police target to three years.   

"The Government's policy is to deliver 500 new police in the first two years of the term. I was reflecting the significant challenges the police face to drive that recruitment, but the Government is firmly committed to delivering on this target." 

In a number of interviews and in Parliament, Mitchell had moved the goalposts to three years - essentially to make it more achievable after reading his briefings.   

"That was me explaining in my own way the fact we have got some challenges," said Mitchell.   

But call the cops - a coalition crime has been committed - 500 extra police in two years is inked into the coalition deal.   

"It's in the coalition agreement," said New Zealand First leader Winston Peters.  

No one messes with that on Peters' watch.   

"There was a mistake in the communication. I will put it down to that."   

So cue a please explain. The National and NZ First chiefs of staff met on Tuesday night and it was decided Mitchell would correct himself.   

Mitchell denies he was told off.    

His concern that he'd struggle to meet the deadline was due to an aging force and an aggressive Aussie campaign to recruit Kiwi cops - all long-standing issues.    

He said he was aware of the Australian campaign, but not about the struggle filling police wings. 

National is quickly learning the coalition deal is the bible.   

"That is our commitment. We have to work towards that now. We have set the goal and that is what we have to work towards," said Mitchell.   

Peters said it would be a tidy coalition.   

Prime Minister Christopher Luxon said the Government would go after its targets hard.   

"We may fall short from time to time. That's okay. I would sooner die trying to do it rather than not try at all."   

But just an hour after he'd ordered his minister to, the Prime Minister was delivering his own mea culpa after mischaracterising the ICJ finding that there was a plausible risk of genocide in Gaza. 

In response to questions in the House from outgoing Greens co-leader James Shaw about what New Zealand was doing in response to the ICJ ruling, which he said found a "plausible risk of genocide against Palestinians in Gaza", Luxon said it was a "provisional finding" and "it wasn't a plausible risk".         

Later, Luxon returned to the House to "correct an answer".      

"I said that there wasn't a plausible risk. What I should have said is that the court was not required to determine whether Israel had actually breached its obligations under the Genocide Convention," he said.     

"Therefore, the court did not make any findings that Israel has actually engaged in genocidal conduct. However, the court found there is a plausible case that Israel's conduct in Gaza may breach its obligations under the Genocide Convention.      

"That will be the subject of a full and a substantive hearing in the ICJ."      

Avoidable mistakes creating a perception the Government still has a lot to learn.