No one cares about Phil Twyford's problems except National - Labour MP

The AM Show 01/11/2019

No one cares about Phil Twyford's memory lapses and public battles with officials except the National Party, says Labour MP Willie Jackson.

Twyford, who's already lost the housing portfolio after struggling to get KiwiBuild off the ground, has been under fire in his ongoing role as Transport Minister. In recent weeks he's had to correct the record over claims he made regarding the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) board, and disputed evidence that suggests he was wrong to say NZTA didn't fully assess a proposal from the Super Fund to build Auckland's light rail system. 

But Jackson told The AM Show on Friday Aucklanders "don't care about who said what, where, when and whatever - they just want the roads decongested".

"Auckland is a total mess, so he's going out of his way to get a lovely little setup called light rail, going to the airport, at minimum expense. He's doing the business, and all these guys are worried about is what he said here, there and everywhere. Aucklanders don't want to know about it. This is Beltway politics."

The word 'Beltway' refers to a road that circles Washington DC, and is used to refer to topics that excite political insiders and journalists, but are of little interest to the wider public.

"You know this, I know this," Jackson told host Ryan Bridges. "The only people who are interested are Judith Collins and that chattering lot in the National Party."

Initial plans to have the light rail network under construction by September 2020 were reportedly thrown into disarray by a bid from Infra NZ - a joint venture from the Super Fund and Canadian company CDPQ Infra. 

National Party leader Simon Bridges has vowed to run down Auckland's lengthy Dominion Rd in his underwear if construction begins before the 2020 election - as initially promised - and last week suggested he may extend that deadline out to 2028. 

"It's not going to happen," Collins told The AM Show. "The problem really is Phil Twyford... The trouble with Phil is not that he's an evil, horrible person - it's just he's not up to the job. That's what we saw with KiwiBuild, and this is going to be KiwiBuild 2.0."

Collins said "completely selfishly" she hopes Twyford isn't sacked.

"Phil being there is a fabulous asset for us in Opposition, because nobody seriously believes Phil can do anything that he promises."

Collins and Twyford on The AM Show earlier this year.

Collins had similar views on Twyford when he was in charge of housing, telling The AM Show in May there was a side of her that feared "someone better might take over" if he was sacked. 

Jackson defended the Government's record on housing since taking over from National.

"So we were a few houses out on KiwiBuild, I mean, so what? I mean, so what, you know? What's a few houses out? We can't fix up nine years of neglect in just two years. We need probably another seven. We're on track - we're building more houses than they ever did."

Jackson wouldn't commit to running down Dominion Rd in his undies if construction on light rail didn't get underway by 2028.

"No, I'm not into nonsense. That's nonsense stuff... I'm getting older. I do trust Phil."

 The AM Show / Newshub reporter Dan Satherely