Advertisement
elections nz

For the Record: What Have NZ Politicians Done For Race Relations?

Is your fav MP... a racist? We've checked the voting records of New Zealand's politicians.

by Tess McClure
29 August 2017, 3:16am

Ashley Goodall

Of course we're not racist, our politicians collectively howl. And of course they aren't! Welcome to 2017: where racism is all around, but no-one knows an actual racist. Even Winston Peters, who has called immigrant New Zealanders everything from the 'Asian invasion' to 'imported criminals', vehemently denies he's anything resembling the term.

VICE's new For the Record election series is designed to look a little less at what politicians say and give you the receipts on what they do: which way they've voted, what laws they've drafted, and what they've pushed for in the hallowed halls of Parliament.

Since it's hard to reach deep into the hearts and minds of our noble public servants and measure their personal prejudice, we've opted instead to look how MPs have voted on the issues that are often litmus tests for racial inequality, especially those that disproportionately affect Māori, Pacific communities and people of colour in New Zealand. Here's a brief look of our MPs' records on race relations: immigration, Māori sovereignty, criminal justice reform. And, bending our own rules, we've added a rhetoric category to cover the good ol' racist dog-whistling that some MPs come to love around election time.

READ MORE: For The Record: Which NZ Politicians Care About Child Poverty

Obviously, there's no way we can conclusively say whether one MP is racist and another isn't—but if racial justice is an election issue you care about, we hope this provides some fodder to make an informed decision.

Jacinda Ardern, Labour

Immigration:
"Taking a breather on immigration" is one of Labour's running promises this year. Since taking over leadership, Ardern has maintained their policy of reducing overall visa numbers by 20-30,000.
Committed to raising the refugee quota to 1500.

Indigenous Rights:
It was before Ardern's time in Parliament, but Labour created and voted for the controversial Seabed and Foreshore Act in 2004, establishing the land was owned by the Crown and ruling out the possibility of Māori customary title.
Ardern said she is personally in favour of compulsory Te Reo in schools, but says "I agree with our education spokesperson that we have capacity issues". Compulsory Te Reo is not current Labour policy.

Prison reform:
Voted against the Sentencing and Parole Reform Act, known as the three strikes law, which imposes longer sentences and removed judicial discretion on three-time violent offenders.

Ngā Morehu/Abuse in State Care:
Ardern and Labour have committed to an inquiry into abuse of children in state care, challenging National's rejection of the idea. Ardern is also the only non-Māori MP to meet with victims.

Rhetoric:
Since becoming leader, Ardern has said she was "uncomfortable" with the Chinese-sounding names debacle, in which Labour released 'research' detailing house sales to those with Chinese-sounding names as evidence of high rates of foreign investment. "The impact of that was certainly not something I was comfortable with," Ardern said. She has not fully retracted the research, and did not go as far as saying it was racist.
"If anyone felt that it was, then of course we would apologise for that. But that was not our intent."

Bill English, National

Immigration:
English has talked about making "tweaks" to current immigration rates and categories, but has ruled out significant cuts to immigration. National policy is to keep current immigration levels stable.
National increased refugee quota from 750 to 1000 in 2016.

Indigenous Rights:
Voted against Labour's controversial Seabed and Foreshore Act in 2004, establishing the land was owned by the Crown and ruling out the possibility of Māori customary title. It was described by some Māori leaders as "the biggest theft of Māori land that there ever was in modern times" In 2005, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination ruled that the Act was discriminatory against Māori.
Was part of the Key-led National government which settled treaty claims with nearly 50 Māori tribal groups.

Prison reform:
Voted for the Sentencing and Parole Reform Act, known as the three strikes law, which imposes longer sentences and removed judicial discretion on three-time violent offenders.
English has ruled out the idea of a Tikanga Māori prison, saying "we just don't see the point of trying to designate a prison as a Māori prison."
Said in 2011 that prisons were a "moral and fiscal failure", and that he hoped Wiri would be the last new prison the government built—but last year committed to spending $1 billion increasing prison capacity by 1800 beds.

Ngā Morehu/Abuse in State Care:
English has rejected the possibility of an inquiry
into abuse of children in state care, saying we already know what happened, so there's no need for an inquiry.

Rhetoric:
Opted to not attend ceremonies at Te Tii Marae on his first Waitangi Day as Prime Minister, saying Kiwis "cringe a bit" at protests by Māori.
In 2005, he wrote that Middle Eastern asylum seekers were "leftovers from Middle East terrorist regimes". "If you turn up to the border with an apple, you get done. If you turn up with an Iraqi passport and references from Saddam Hussein, you get in."

Winston Peters, NZ First

Immigration:
Winston has run on an anti-immigration platform since time began.
Says refugee quota should be increased, but only if other immigration goes down.
Said in 2015 that NZ should only accept "women and children refugees from Syria and tell the men to return home and fight".

Indigenous Rights:
Winston supported Labour and voted for the controversial Seabed and Foreshore Act in 2004, establishing the land was owned by the Crown and ruling out the possibility of Māori customary title. It was described by some Māori leaders as "the biggest theft of Māori land that there ever was in modern times". In 2005, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination ruled that the Act was discriminatory against Māori.
Winston has long railed against what he calls "Māori separatism," saying while Te Tiriti "should be a source of national pride and unity" and it should "not be used to expand the separate rights of Māori".

Prison reform:
Voted against the Sentencing and Parole Reform Act, known as the three strikes law, which imposes longer sentences and removed judicial discretion on three-time violent offenders.
Supports the Modernisation of Courts legislation that is currently before Parliament which will streamline the court system.

Ngā Morehu/Abuse in State Care:
Peters and NZ First support an inquiry into abuse in state care.

Rhetoric:
Since 2005 he's described Asian immigration as "imported criminal activity", and dubbed New Zealand the "last Asian colony". Then there was his announcement framing himself as a lone knight against "Asian dog farmers". He's claimed that refugees come "carrying HIV and all sorts of third-world diseases." Of the Islamic community, he says "the moderate and militant, fit hand and glove. Underneath it all the agenda is to promote fundamentalist Islam—indeed these groups are like the mythical Hydra, a serpent underbelly with multiple heads, capable of striking at any time and in any direction."
In 2014 he refused to apologise for his comment that "two wongs don't make a white". This year, he's attacked the ethnicity of two top NZ Herald data journalists, saying they were spreading misinformation, "seek[ing] to justify their existence and that of mass immigration, coming mainly from Asia"; and argued that the difference between New Zealanders and Filipinos is the latter don't know how to change a tyre or fix a fence. His rhetoric is certainly hitting the mark with some audiences—a recent undercover investigation into New Zealand's alt-right and and white supremacist groups found the members proclaiming that Winston was "our guy" and "Winnie has my undying respect".

Paula Bennett, National

Immigration:
National policy is to keep current immigration levels stable.
National increased refugee quota from 750 to 1000 in 2016.

Indigenous Rights:
It was a year before Bennett entered Parliament, but National voted against Labour's controversial Seabed and Foreshore Act in 2004, establishing the land was owned by the Crown and ruling out the possibility of Māori customary title. It was described by some Māori leaders as "the biggest theft of Māori land that there ever was in modern times" In 2005, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination ruled that the Act was discriminatory against Māori.
Was part of the Key-led National government which settled treaty claims with nearly 50 Māori tribal groups.

Prison reform:
Voted for the Sentencing and Parole Reform Act, known as the three strikes law, which imposes longer sentences and removed judicial discretion on three-time violent offenders.
In 2017 announced $10 million to "improve Māori outcomes in the justice system".

Ngā Morehu/Abuse in State Care:
National does not support the inquiry into abuse in state care. Bennett has rejected petitions from victims for an enquiry, saying many of them had received personal apologies, and a personal apology was more valuable that a general one.

Rhetoric:
We can't find any record of racially-charged rhetoric from Paula Bennett.

Kelvin Davis, Labour

Immigration:
"Taking a breather on immigration" is one of Labour's running promises this year. Since taking over deputy leadership alongside Jacinda Ardern, has maintained their policy of reducing overall visa numbers by 20-30,000.
Committed to raising the refugee quota to 1500.

Indigenous Rights:
Davis is the first Labour deputy leader of Māori descent.
Backed the legal challenge to the Kermadec Marine Reserve, which he said would impact Māori fishing rights.
Came out against the TPPA and called on National not to sign until it was clear Māori sovereignty and Treaty settlements were protected.

Prison reform:
Voted against the Sentencing and Parole Reform Act, known as the three strikes law, which imposes longer sentences and removed judicial discretion on three-time violent offenders. Davis has been a staunch supporter of prison reform, saying "our Corrections system is the closest we get to building a bonfire and unquestioningly throwing tax-payer cash into it, to keep it burning indefinitely." Called for a cross-party agreement to reduce the prison population.
Was a key figure in debates about violence at the privately run Mt Eden prison: in Parliament, Davis alleged an inmate had died after being thrown over a balcony onto the concrete. Private company Serco was subsequently removed from running the prison.
Campaigned against the detention of New Zealanders with previous criminal convictions in Australia.

Ngā Morehu/Abuse in State Care:
Supports an inquiry into abuse in state care.

Rhetoric:
We can't find any record of racially charged rhetoric from Davis.

James Shaw, Green

Immigration:
Last year, the Greens proposed capping migration at one per cent of population growth. They've since u-turned on that, and said the party prides itself on being the most pro-migrant party in Parliament and will not be capping migrant numbers. Committed to increasing the refugee quota to 4,000 over the next six years, plus an additional 1,000 places to be sponsored by church or community groups

Indigenous Rights:
It was before Shaw's time in Parliament, but the Greens voted against Labour's controversial Seabed and Foreshore Act in 2004, which gave ownership of the land to the Crown and ruled out the possibility of Māori customary title. Ex-Greens co-leader Metiria Turei said at the time: "This legislation is racist. I know that is uncomfortable for people to hear; none the less, it is the truth."
The Greens have launched a policy for teaching compulsory Te Reo in schools for Years 1-10.

Prison reform:
It was before Shaw's time in Parliament, but the Greens voted against the Sentencing and Parole Reform Act, known as the three strikes law, which imposes longer sentences and removed judicial discretion on three-time violent offenders. Committed to Māori tikanga and Te Reo programmes in both prisons and youth justice facilities. Called on government to rule out using Serco to administer prisons after reports of fight clubs.

Ngā Morehu/Abuse in State Care:
The Green Party supports the call for an inquiry into abuse in state care.

Rhetoric:
Shaw recently apologised for allowing the party to be linked to anti-migrant rhetoric, saying "terms of the debate are now so dominated by anti-immigrant rhetoric, when I dived into numbers and data, a lot of people interpreted that as pandering to the rhetoric".

Marama Fox, Māori Party

Immigration:
Committed to not reducing current immigration numbers. Committed to establish a partial amnesty for overstayers. Committed to prioritising the introduction of a climate change refugee category. Says focus on immigration was a red herring and that the issues of housing and congestion would not be helped by cutting New Zealand's intake of immigrants. "We should treat all people with respect and manaakitanga and this story is blowing up and those immigrants, particularly Asian and Indian immigrants, are feeling the backlash of the over-hyped situation that we have."

Indigenous Rights:
It was before Fox's time in Parliament, but the Māori party was created partly to oppose Labour's controversial Seabed and Foreshore Act in 2004, establishing the land was owned by the Crown and ruling out the possibility of Māori customary title. Threatened to walk away from National-led coalition over the Kermadecs sanctuary, which they said would violate Māori fishing rights. The legislation is currently delayed. Also before Fox's time but in 2010, the Māori Party successfully signed New Zealand up to the United Nations declaration on indigenous rights, despite previous Labour and National governments refusing to do so.

Prison reform:
Fox only entered Parliament in 2014, but the Māori Party voted against the Sentencing and Parole Reform Act 2010, known as the three strikes law, which imposes longer sentences and removed judicial discretion on three-time violent offenders. In 2011 they set up Whare Oranga Ake, a rehabilitation unit based on tikanga principles. Fox has repeatedly pushed for the idea of Tikanga Māori prisons, and said "Eventually, in the future, this is going to be inevitable."

Ngā Morehu/Abuse in State Care:
As leader of the Māori Party, she received the open letter written and signed by 10,000 people pleading for an inquiry into the abuse of children in state care in early July. Fox, along with the rest of the Māori Party, are calling for a Royal Inquiry. Blocked proposed National policy that would allow the removal of at-risk Māori children from their whānau, hapū and iwi.

Rhetoric:
Condemned Labour's focus on immigration a "despicable" approach which plays on "irrational fears".


Judith Collins, National

Immigration:
National policy is to keep current immigration levels stable.
National increased refugee quota from 750 to 1000 in 2016.

Indigenous Rights:
Voted against Labour's controversial Seabed and Foreshore Act in 2004, establishing the land was owned by the Crown and ruling out the possibility of Māori customary title.

Prison reform:
Voted for the Sentencing and Parole Reform Act, known as the three strikes law, which imposes longer sentences and removed judicial discretion on three-time violent offenders. Supported Corrections' bid to increase numbers of double bunked cells in NZ prisons to house a growing prison population. Fifteen prisoners have made formal complaints of rape or sexual assault by cellmates in double-bunked cells.

Ngā Morehu/Abuse in State Care:
National does not support an inquiry into abuse in state care.

Rhetoric:
We can't find any record of racially charged rhetoric from Judith Collins.

Andrew Little, Labour

Immigration:
Little made "taking a breather on immigration" one of Labour's running promises this year. Their policies include reducing overall visa numbers by 20-30,000.
Committed to raising the refugee quota to 1500.

Indigenous Rights:
It was before his time, but Little has called Labour's controversial Seabed and Foreshore Act in 2004 "a mistake". Little said in 2016 he supports compulsory teaching of Te Reo in schools, but in 2017 said compulsory Te Reo would not be Labour party policy in the party's first term.

Prison reform:
Little has neither committed to nor ruled out the idea of a Māori-run prison to try and combat high rates of Māori incarceration—a possibility advocated by his party's Māori-affairs spokesperson.

Ngā Morehu/Abuse in State Care:
Little stated back in March that if Labour formed government, they would commit to an inquiry into the abuse experienced by children in state care.

Rhetoric:
In 2015, Labour released a half-baked 'study' that attempted to prove high rates of foreign home ownership by targeting those with "Chinese sounding names". The research worked on the premise that those with Chinese-sounding names were foreign investors, disregarding the many New Zealanders of Asian descent who have held citizenship for generations. Little acknowledged the research was "crude," but said: "The issue isn't about being Chinese. It's about non-resident foreign buyers." He went on to say that too many restaurants were hiring foreign chefs, rather than local workers: "Let's just turn the tap down a bit. Let's just moderate the flow then when things are sorted out then let's open the gates again," he said.

Gerry Brownlee, National

Immigration:
National policy is to keep current immigration levels stable.
National increased refugee quota from 750 to 1000 in 2016.

Indigenous Rights:
Voted against Labour's controversial Seabed and Foreshore Act in 2004, establishing the land was owned by the Crown and ruling out the possibility of Māori customary title.

Prison reform:
Voted for the Sentencing and Parole Reform Act, known as the three strikes law, which imposes longer sentences and removed judicial discretion on three-time violent offenders.

Ngā Morehu/Abuse in State Care:
National does not support an inquiry into abuse in state care.

Rhetoric:
In 2004, when he was spokesman for Māori affairs, Brownlee was forced to apologise for calling Labour's John Tamihere a "black fella".

Steven Joyce, National

Immigration:
National policy is to keep current immigration levels stable.
National increased refugee quota from 750 to 1000 in 2016.

Indigenous Rights:
Voted against Labour's controversial Seabed and Foreshore Act in 2004, establishing the land was owned by the Crown and ruling out the possibility of Māori customary title.

Prison reform:
Voted for the Sentencing and Parole Reform Act, known as the three strikes law, which imposes longer sentences and removed judicial discretion on three-time violent offenders.

Ngā Morehu/Abuse in State Care:
National does not support an inquiry into abuse in state care.

Rhetoric:
We can't find a record of racially charged rhetoric from Stephen Joyce.

Got an election issue you want VICE to investigate, something we've missed, or a tip on an MP's record you think we should mention? Email tess.mcclure@vice.com
Follow Tess on Twitter.

Additional reporting from Sophie Gray and Ryan Scott

READ MORE: For The Record: Which NZ Politicians Care About Child Poverty