Green co-leader Metiria Turei took exception to criticisms of her, her clothes and her house/castle by National MP Anne Tolley in the opening speeches in Parliament this week.
She has claimed she has been targeted because she is Maori and female. She feels that it’s racist and sexist.
Has Turei been singled out?
On Parliament’s opening day on Tuesday National MPs to speak were John Key, Bill English, Steven Joyce, Hekia Parata, Nick Smith and Nathan Guy.
Key didn’t mention her at all in his opening speech, he criticised Russel once and David Cunliffe eight times. I don’t think either of them are female or Maori. (Hone Harawira was also named and criticised once).
None of the other National speakers mentioned Turei. Key’s mention of Norman was his sole mention. Cunliffe was named over thirty times.
Russel Norman also gave his speech that day and referred to Key six times.
Kevin Hague spoke and said:
It has been interesting to watch over the past 5 years National members’ tactics in the general debate each week, because it tells us what their smear tactics are going to be against us in any given week. The increasing desperation is instructive.
And Catherine Delahunty:
Today the Prime Minister’s statement was a little bit of a cheap shot.
We have a very positive and necessary vision that we offer to this country, and a very green Parliament is what we actually need. So when it comes to attacking the Green Party, as Kevin Hague just said, we have made many positive changes in this term of Government. Despite the disparagement, attacks, and opposition, we have worked with Ministers.
Key referred to the Greens four times.
Day two of the opening speeches on Wednesday 29 January included National speakers Gerry Brownlee, Jo Goodhew, Craig Foss, Tony Ryall, Simon Bridges and Nikki Kay.
Bridges followed Turei and mentioned her five times but there were no personal attacks. None of the other MPs mentioned Turei (or Norman).
Turei named Key five times:
Children just do not exist for John Key and for the National Party. And if we would like another example of that, after that miserable speech from John Key, I think we can see it in the answers that he gave to questions in the House today.
I note that John Key talked about how he was a child who grew up in poverty and how he was able to escape that poverty because of the support that he got from the State and the great, free public education that he received. When I asked him whether he will guarantee that all of today’s children will have access to exactly those same services, to secure State housing, to a universal benefit—remember the family benefit—and to a free public education, he said no. He said no and he sat down, because he will deliberately deny today’s children the same opportunities that he had as a child to escape poverty and to do well.
That is John Key, the Prime Minister. That is the National Party. That is the stark choice that New Zealanders have at this coming election: between John Key and the National Party, who say no to children, and the Green Party, which will put children at the heart of all of our policies and our political decisions.
That’s a strong attack on Key, especially related to children. Key has children of his own.
Personally I care little if someone criticises my clothes, but if someone accused me of not caring about children I’d indignantly challenge it.
Throughout day one and day two there were many personal attacks but none against Metiria.
Day three began with Anne Tolley’s speech when she said:
While we are on insults, I am actually rather insulted as a constituent MP. I serve an electorate day after day, week after week, meeting and talking with people in my home communities. I have to say that they are not well off. In my electorate, I represent some of the poorest communities in New Zealand. I am actually insulted to be lectured on how out of touch I am with average New Zealanders by a list MP who has no constituents, lives in a castle, and comes to the House dressed in $2,000 designer jackets and tells me that I am out of touch. Well, actually, I say to the Green MPs: “Come into my patch and have a look. Come into my patch.”
While that didn’t name Metiria it was obviously targeting her. This is what Metiria complained about and this led to the current conflagration.
Holly Walker’s speech followed and she addressed what Tolley said.
Well, it is great to see that children are at the heart of politics at the start of election year. It is about time, even if it means we have to listen to speeches like that one from the Hon Anne Tolley. It is good to hear her conclude that what we need for our kids is good kai, healthy homes, and good learning, or something to that effect. She is right; that is exactly what we need. But the vitriolic attack that she launched on the Green Party’s policy would do exactly the opposite.
The dismissive casual attitude of our Government towards children has never been more evident than in the comments of the Prime Minister in the House earlier this week when he said: “Give the odd kid a lunch—that is not actually going to solve the problem.”
I want to conclude with the words of the New Zealand Principals’ Federation president, Philip Harding, whom I trust a lot more than the Prime Minister.
Walker otherwise argued the Green case without personal attacks.
Eugenie Sage followed, sticking to the issues and not getting personal.
Next was National’s Paula Bennett. She attacked Labour’s Best Start policy, promoted National and ignored Metiria and the Greens.
Also speaking from National was Tim Groser, no mention of Turei or the Greens.
Later there was a split call for Greens. Jan Logie was very critical of Judith Collins regarding domestic violence and sexual violence and concluded:
This is what this Government’s commitment is to the safety of women and children. This year the country will have a choice of how to vote. Vote to protect us, or vote to undermine our safety.
Then Stephan Browning attacked issues only concentrating on GE.
Chester Borrows was next for National. He took a few swipes at Labour and Greens generally but nothing personal and named no one.
Next came Denis O’Rourke from NZ First who focussed on immigration, especially targeting Chinese, mentioning them eleven times. That would have been the most racial speech of the week. But it wasn’t targeting Maori or women.
Michael Woodhouse followed for National and he hit back.
I think we could set our watches by the first speech from New Zealand First—the yellow peril is back. That was the most disgraceful intervention I have ever heard in this House, and that member, Denis O’Rourke, should be ashamed of himself. Every New Zealand First member should tell Denis O’Rourke to pipe down.
I don’t know what the Greens have said about this.
Woodhouse mentioned Greens in relation to gas exploration but only named Gareth Hughes.
Then Dr Kennedy Graham spoke for Greens, targeting climate change and the Government and the Prime Minister.
And in a split call Denise Roche also spoke, about wage rates and industrial relations. She attacked the Government, the Prime Minister and the deputy Prime Minister, “this Government has fostered a low-wage economy, and today’s workers are not getting a decent pay rate that will enable them to live on what they earn”.
So in three days of speeches Metiria was criticised on one, by Anne Tolley. And her own speech was addressed by the following speaker. Otherwise she was ignored. There certainly doesn’t seem to be any singling out here at all, let alone because she is Maori or female.
There was also a direct debate between Metiria and John Key, in question time on Wednesday.
3. Inequality, Economic and Social—Prime Minister’s Statements
[Sitting date: 29 January 2014. Volume:696;Page:4. Text is subject to correction.]
3. METIRIA TUREI (Co-Leader—Green) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by his statement yesterday that “giving the odd kid a lunch. That is not actually going to fix the problem. What will fix the problem is paying $50,000 to a world-class principal to go in and fix up a school that is failing those kids”?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister) : I stand by my full statement, which began with: “When it comes to education, we will not say the answer to fixing the whole problem of the education system is giving the odd kid a lunch.”
Metiria Turei: Is the Prime Minister saying, with his statement to the country, that he believes that the main cause of underachievement is that the principals and teachers in lower-decile schools, where underachievement is concentrated, are no good at their job and are failing their pupils?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: What I am saying is that the single-biggest thing we can do to help young New Zealanders of all backgrounds is have a world-class education system. What I am also saying is that it is actually quite difficult sometimes to attract the very best principals to small underperforming schools, and one of the biggest changes we can make is to pay a premium of $50,000 to attract one of those world-class principals to those schools. I personally happen to think that if you can put a fabulous principal in charge of a school and fantastic teachers in front of those children, that you are much more likely to make a big difference to them than giving them lunch.
Metiria Turei: Does the Prime Minister accept the Programme for International Student Assessment finding that family and out-of-school factors, like being well fed and well housed, accounts for more than 75 percent of the difference between high and low-performing New Zealand schools?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: What I prefer to rely on Andreas Schleicher, who is actually the architect of the Programme for International Student Assessment. This is his exact quote, when he spoke to the New Zealand media not so long ago, onNine to Noon, when he said: “Another part of the education that is actually underperformance in New Zealand isn’t actually all about poor kids in poor neighbourhoods. You know, there are actually many kids in more advantaged neighbourhoods where you can see performance challenges.” I think the reality is that there are two factors that make a big difference to children’s ability to learn at school. One is the home they come from, and the second is ultimately the teachers and the principals who are in front of those kids. We cannot always potentially change one of those factors, but we can certainly heavily influence the other. Secondly, the Government provides enormous support to those at-risk families. That included this Government borrowing tens of billions of dollars through the worst of the recession to support the most at-risk families in New Zealand.
Metiria Turei: What then is his response to the Principals’ Federation, some of whose members would benefit from his policy, who have praised the Greens school hub plan, saying that out-of-school influences, like decent food, have by far the biggest influence on underachievement?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I suppose the way to respond to that is to quote the Principals’ Federation, which said: “It’s hard for me to say but it’s a pretty damned impressive amount. It’s a huge amount of new money, and I’ve never seen such a transformation of ideas and discussion into policy and money in my life.” Sounds to me like they are backing the National Party.
Metiria Turei: Does the Prime Minister not understand that it is impossible to fix “underperformance” simply by helicoptering in 20 high-paid principals when he knows that 75 percent of the influence on underachievement is family background and out of those principals’ control?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: First, I think the member is just plain wrong. Second, I think the member is not doing justice to that very fine policy from the National Party. It is not 20 change principals; it is actually 100 over a period of time—5 years—and it is also 5,000 lead teachers. It is a large number of executive principals and expert teachers. It is $150 million dollars per year to lift the performance of all of our schools and principals across the country. Let us be blunt. I came from a State house and a solo mother. I happened to go to a world-class school with world-class teachers, and I am now the Prime Minister of New Zealand. Frankly, I think that made a bigger difference—
Metiria Turei: If the 1970s welfare State was so good to the Prime Minister when he was a child, will he consider reviving some of the core policies that were in place at that time, such as secure State housing, a universal child benefit, and genuinely free public education to every child now; if he will not, why does he believe that today’s kids are not entitled to the same support he had when he was a child?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No.
Metiria Turei: Is the Prime Minister concerned that the chance of people like him escaping poverty and doing well has become close to impossible under his watch, when the percentage of poorer children who are achieving at the highest levels has now dropped from 6 percent in 2009 to just 4 percent in 2012?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I am pleased that yesterday I described the Opposition as deluded, because the member has absolutely demonstrated that. Over the course of the last 5 years of this National Government, we have poured enormous resources into supporting the most at need. We have lifted, I think, the resources going into education, which is the single biggest factor to help young New Zealanders. To make the case that somebody could go to school today—somebody, say, 15 years of age, in year 11, who has spent the last 5 years at school under a National-led Government—and be condemned to never doing well because they grew up in a poor household shows how out of touch that member is.
Metiria Turei: When will the Prime Minister drop his inequality denial and admit that his policies are creating a growing class of people who sit at the bottom of the most unequal education system in the developed world?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Again, the member is just completely and utterly wrong. She wants to be in denial, but the penultimate findings in this area, done by the Ministry of Social Development—they are basically the findings of Mr Perry—have shown that actually income inequality has not been widening in the last 10 years; it has been very consistent over the last 10 years. If the member wants to cut and paste information so that she can mislead her supporters, she is welcome to do so, but, in fact, income inequality is not growing in New Zealand.
That is simply Parliamentary jousting with both parties giving and taking. It was instigated very specifically by Metiria there can be no claim of targeting there.
There is no doubt some history behind all this, but so far this year Metiria does not appear to have been singled out by National.
“I’m shocked that the National Party would attack me and my home and my appearance. I think it is a racist attack. I think they seem to think it is all right for them to wear perfectly good suits for their professional job but that a Maori woman from a working-class background is not entitled to do the same. I think it is pure racism.”
It seems to be drawing a long bow claiming she is being targeted solely because she is Maori and a woman, and an extremely long bow claiming racism and sexism.
In fact Metiria looks to have been left out of the debates more than included.
Was her indignation spontaneous taking of offence?
Or is it contrived attention seeking?
3 News have their first poll out tonight, it’s not unknown for politicians to attention seek during the polling period.
Metiria doth protest too much methinks.