21 Feb 2024

Labour’s Ginny Andersen claims Police Minister was ‘paid to kill people’ while working in private security overseas

2:02 pm on 21 February 2024

By Adam Pearse of NZ Herald

Labour's Ginny Anderson (right) has said Police Minister Mark Mitchell (left) was "paid to kill people" while providing private military services in Iraq.

Labour's Ginny Anderson (right) has said Police Minister Mark Mitchell (left) was "paid to kill people" while providing private military services in Iraq. Photo: RNZ / VNP

Labour's police spokeswoman, Ginny Andersen, claims Police Minister Mark Mitchell was "paid to kill people" and has asked him whether he kept a "tally of how many you shot" while providing private military services in Iraq.

Mitchell said Andersen's comments were "outrageous" and she should apologise. Andersen refused.

In a statement released at midday, Andersen did not apologise but acknowledged she went too far.

"My comments this morning crossed a line, and I have spoken to Mark this morning to let him know that.

"Mark Mitchell and I have frequent robust conversations and I enjoy our debates."

The pair appeared on Newstalk ZB this morning for their usual politics slot and they began discussing how some police stations contained mould and how it was an issue ignored by successive governments.

They then discussed Grant Robertson's retirement before host Mike Hosking asked both Andersen and Mitchell what they had done before entering politics.

Mitchell referenced his time working in hospitality, as a police officer and working overseas.

Andersen then made a remark about the nature of work Mitchell had done overseas that led to her claim Mitchell had been "paid to kill people".

After leaving the police, Mitchell worked as a security contractor in Iraq, eventually setting up a private security company for the military and private interests, of which he was chief executive.

Mitchell said his work included tasks commissioned by the United Nations such as freeing up supplies at ports controlled by criminal gangs so they could reach communities.

He said he was proud of his efforts delivering aid in countries like Pakistan, Somalia, Afghanistan and Iraq.

Mitchell also noted how politicians on the left had repeatedly attacked him for his past.

"In my view, [the left] try to do these character assassinations, and that's what they're about."

She alleged Mitchell's company had earned $4 million a year through its work overseas.

Mitchell said the comments were outrageous and she should return and apologise.

"If that's alright with you, Mark, morally, and if that sits well with you, that's your choice."

She claimed Mitchell had profited from shooting people, saying: "Free speech Mark, I'm allowed to have a view."

Labour leader Chris Hipkins said he was aware of Andersen's comments, but had not yet heard the interview in full and wanted to speak to Andersen before making any comment.

In the past, Mitchell has defended the work he did in the Middle East after political opponents described him as a mercenary.

In 2017, he told the NZ Herald that label 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."

This story was first published by NZ Herald.

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