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Labour removes social media post describing Police Minister as ‘Mercenary Man’

Editor Written by Editor · 1 min read >

Labour has removed a social media post made by one of the party’s accounts endorsing the characterisation of Police Minister Mark Mitchell as “Mercenary Man” in a criticism of Mitchell’s past working as a private security contractor in the Middle East.

It follows the controversy sparked by Labour MP Ginny Andersen, who made a public apology for claiming Mitchell was “paid to kill people” during an interview in which she also asked how many people he’d shot during his time working overseas.

Earlier today, the Papakura Labour Facebook account posted a Substack article that used an artificially generated image of Mitchell and was titled, “Mark Mitchell – Mercenary Man”.

The article sided with Andersen and criticised Mitchell for requesting that Andersen apologise publicly instead of via the text she sent shortly after the pair’s exchange on Newstalk ZB on February 21.

The Labour post said: “This is the background of a current minister in our government?”

After Andersen’s comments, Labour leader Chris Hipkins said he didn’t agree with all of her comments and believed she had gone too far.

The Herald contacted Labour for comment on the post, which was deleted before party general secretary Rob Salmond supplied a statement saying that the post, made by a “party volunteer”, didn’t reflect Labour’s position and had been removed.

Hipkins was unable to respond as he was attending the funeral for Green MP Fa’anānā Efeso Collins in Auckland today.

In a statement, Mitchell said it was an issue for Labour but added: “It fits with a pattern of atrocious behaviour from that party recently.”

The Papakura Labour Facebook account has removed the post.
The Papakura Labour Facebook account has removed the post.

Mitchell’s roughly eight years working overseas included doing hostage negotiation work, delivering aid and logistics. He said there was only one instance in which he was forced to use a weapon – during a five-day siege on a compound he was charged to protect. Mitchell has said he didn’t know whether he killed anyone during the attack.

In 2017, Mitchell told the Herald the label of mercenary frustrated him.

“I wouldn’t change anything I’ve done. I’m … quietly proud, I’m not someone that shouts it from the rooftops — I’m a Kiwi after all. But I’m proud of the difference we made in people’s lives in terms of their security and ability to get on with their lives.”

He pointed to work he had done such as opening mass graves with scientists from The Hague gathering evidence for the war crimes trial of Saddam Hussein.

“When you’re opening mass graves and you’re finding the remains of babies clinging to mums, it’s a pretty clear reminder of the atrocities which were taking place. That was a very, very tough job for everyone involved. Instead of questioning why we were there, all it does is provide more resolve in terms of knowing there had to be changes made.”

Adam Pearse is a political reporter in the NZ Herald Press Gallery team, based at Parliament. He has worked for NZME since 2018, covering sport and health for the Northern Advocate in Whangārei before moving to the NZ Herald in Auckland, covering Covid-19 and crime.

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