NZ workplace relations minister sacked over relationship with former staffer

Sydney, Australia, July 22 (efe-epa).- New Zealand’s workplace relations and safety minister has been sacked from Cabinet over a relationship with a former staffer, the prime minister announced on Wednesday.

Iain Lees-Galloway, who was also the country’s immigration minister and Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) minister, “has shown a lack of judgment over a period of 12 months,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said in a statement.

“In undertaking this relationship he has opened himself up to accusations of improperly using his office,” she said.

“He has not modeled the behavior I expect as a minister that is in charge of setting a standard and culture in workplaces.”

On Tuesday, Ardern said the leader of the opposition National Party, Judith Collins, had advised her of an email she had received that related to Lees-Galloway, and that evening the PM and then-minister had met.

“He confirmed that a consensual relationship had occurred, that it involved someone who had previously worked in his office and had been based in one of his agencies,” she said.

“Over the course of the conversation with the minister, it became clear to me that his position as a minister was untenable. I advised him of that at the time,” Ardern added.

The actions of 41-year-old Lees-Galloway led her to “lose confidence” in him, she said.

In a short statement, the former minister said he accepted the decision and apologized “absolutely.”

“I have acted completely inappropriately in my position and can not continue as a minister. I have apologized to my family for letting them down,” he said, apparently referring to his wife and three children.

“I also apologize to anyone who has been hurt by my actions.”

Lees-Galloway has decided not to stand at the Sep. 19 general election.

Carmel Sepuloni will become the new Minister for ACC, Andrew Little will become the Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety and Kris Faafoi will become Minister for Immigration.

The firing comes a day after the opposition National Party became embroiled in more controversy when 37-year-old MP Andrew Falloon resigned amid allegations he had sent an explicit image to a 19-year-old woman, followed by more women coming forward accusing him of the same.

The incident follows a tumultuous past week for National with party leader Todd Muller stepping down after 53 days in charge, as well as several high-profile resignations.

According to the latest polls published by the local media, Ardern’s Labour Party has a considerable advantage ahead of the election, in which for the second time two women will compete for the country’s top job as leaders of the main political parties. EFE-EPA


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