OPINION: As a proud wahine toa who sits in Parliament, I want to make it really clear that Te Pāti Māori doesn’t speak for me when it tries to shut down debate about race-based policies.
When Rawiri Waititi was kicked out of Parliament this week for what he described as “racist rhetoric”, I was actually a bit embarrassed. It’s lazy to call discussions about race-based policies racism. There is a clear line between talking about racial policies and racism.
Rawiri claimed that over the past two weeks there has been “racist propaganda and rhetoric towards tangata whenua."
There are significant race-based policies on the table at the moment. We didn’t put them there. Jacinda Ardern and her Government did. We need to have a decent korero about what’s happening.
It was ACT who first identified that the He Puapua report which represents a significant and serious departure from the idea that all New Zealanders are equal before the law.
As a strong Opposition Party it’s up to us to ensure we hold the Government accountable for those race-based policies that they’ve put out. We are unapologetic for encouraging debate about these important issues that matter to quiet Kiwis.
Parliament is the appropriate place and this is the appropriate time to have this debate. It’s why we were elected. To have the important conversations, to scrutinise laws and represent the people who elected us to these privileged positions.
ACT stands for freedom of speech and Rawiri needs to be able to speak his mind. That should be through discussion, debate and honest korero. For Te Pāti Māori to walk out of parliament means they’re not there representing the people who put them there and that’s something they need to weigh up.
For ACT’s part, we will continue to lead the conversation. We are listening. We will continue to challenge Jacinda Ardern and her government to be open and honest about what they’re proposing. ACT is for all New Zealanders and exists to have honest conversations about difficult issues like this and to unite New Zealanders behind good ideas.
Nicole McKee is number three on the ACT List. She is a mother of four, has a background in law, and is passionate about justice reform and freedom of speech.