World

Mea culpa from Ardern’s sacked minister

By AAP Newswire

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has embraced Iain Lees-Galloway, a minister she sacked, on the floor of parliament after the outgoing MP's emotional valedictory speech.

Mr Lees-Galloway was immigration and workplace safety minister until last month, when the Labour leader axed her Palmerston North MP for an affair with a departmental staffer at one of his portfolios.

The 41-year-old apologised to his family and announced he was not standing at September's election.

Most expected Mr Lees-Galloway not to return to parliament, although on Tuesday he made a surprise appearance to give an outgoing speech.

"I suspect that when I look back on my life, it will divide into two periods; before 2020 and after," he said.

"There was the near end of our marriage. The death of my father. And now the end of my political career.

"We even had to put the dog to sleep a few weeks ago. It's been a rough year.

"Two weeks ago I was not preparing to deliver my valedictory speech, but here I am, ready and happy to say goodbye."

With refreshing honesty, Mr Lees-Galloway took responsibility for his actions.

"I can no longer serve as a minister because some of my actions have not been congruent with the expectations," he said.

"We must recognise not only the imbalance of power involved, but also the impact such a relationship can have on a workplace.

"That's why I have to go. Anyone who thinks otherwise hasn't been paying attention. Just because it was tolerated in the past, doesn't mean it ought to be in 2020."

Mr Lees-Galloway showed no malice to Ms Ardern or Opposition Leader Judith Collins, who tipped off the PM about the inappropriate affair.

Instead, he turned his attention to intractable policy questions "from someone with the luxury of not seeking re-election".

As Ms Ardern stared into space and her finance minister, Grant Robertson, shook his head, Mr Lees-Galloway proposed means-testing superannuation and folding health into the country's ACC insurance system.

While Ms Ardern might find those ideas unpalatable, she was happy to give her colleague a bear hug as he ended his parliamentary career.

New Zealand's parliament rises on Thursday ahead of the September 19 election - one Ms Ardern is expected to win.