Ron Mark. PHOTO/FILE
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has given Veterans Affairs Minister Ron Mark a mild dressing down for appearing to push veterans to support New Zealand First at an event he attended as a Minister.
But she rejected a suggestion that Mark, a NZ First MP, had threatened them with withdrawing government funding if they didn’t vote for New Zealand First.
Mark, who is also Minister of Defence, spoke at an event in December last year hosted by No Duff, a charity that provides support for current and former Defence Force personnel.
“When I look at the polling results of my political party New Zealand First, then the veterans, the Defence base, you guys haven’t supported us . . . At all,” Mark said in his speech.
Mark also said in his speech that the $25,000 in Government funding No Duff received last year was “courtesy of me”.
“So, I’d like to think you recognise that, and I’d like to think you recognise the responsibility that comes with it.”
Mark said the comments about funding and about New Zealand First were “quite separate” and had been spliced together in a way that lacked context.
“I didn’t say vote for New Zealand First . . . If you listen to everything I said in that 25 minutes, I think I was being pretty candid and up front that the prospects of me being in the job were not high [because of low polling].”
During Question Time in Parliament yesterday, Ardern backed Mark’s assertion that he was not making threats.
But she said he should not have been talking about New Zealand First at an event he attended as the Minister.
“Of course, I have shared with him my view that when speaking in a ministerial capacity, references of a party political nature should be left at the door.”
Opposition leader Simon Bridges was scathing.
“The NZ First Ministers are learning something this week. They can do anything and Jacinda Ardern won’t act.”