TWO forced ministerial resignations in the space of six months doesn’t necessarily drive a government from office. But in New Zealand’s case, the veteran politicians concerned are the leaders of the two minor parties whose support John Key needs for his National Party to stay in government. And despite the resignations, the colourful scandals plaguing the government haven’t gone away.
First to fall on his sword was Peter Dunne, leader of the centrist United Future, who resigned as revenue minister in June. Four months later, John Banks, leader of the libertarian ACT party (originally the Association of Consumers and Taxpayers), was forced to step down as regulatory reform and small business minister.
Dunne and Banks, who still sit in parliament, are fixtures on New Zealand’s political landscape. Dunne was first elected as a Labour MP nearly thirty years ago, and served in a Labour ministry before splitting with the party. Banks was a National MP during 1981–99 and police minister in Jim Bolger’s National government. But while the two MPs have high personal profiles, the parties they lead are barely visible. Between them, United Future and ACT won less than 2 per cent of the vote at the last election in 2011, and Dunne and Banks are their sole MPs…
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