MP Harawira brands Australian PM 'racist bastard'

Maori Party MP Hone Harawira has labelled Australian Prime Minister John Howard a "racist bastard" for his radical intervention aimed at stopping child abuse in Aboriginal communities.

Mr Harawira's comments screened on One News tonight.

"If I was an Aboriginal man in the Northern Territory I would feel like absolute s*** right now," Mr Harawira told AAP today.

"I would have the leader of my country saying I am an alcoholic, I am into pornography, I am into sexual abuse. All I would want to do is go out and smash someone."

Mr Howard last month announced radical measures to tackle problems including abuse against children and women, and poverty in remote Aboriginal communities.

They include bans on alcohol and pornography, quarantining welfare payments, abolishing a permit system that limits access to remote communities, and mobilising extra police and troops to help address abuse and other problems.

"All Howard has done is generate more anger and bitterness in the Aboriginal community, a lot of which is going to be internalised," Mr Harawira said.

"I said John Howard is a racist bastard trying to impose racist policies on a people who can't fight back," he said, adding that he stood by those comments to air tonight.

Mr Harawira likened Howard's plan to the US invasion of Iraq, and said it was ill thought out and was clearly aimed at helping him win the next election.

"The report that he is basing his recommendations on is already 10 years old. Why didn't he do something about it back then?" he said.

"He never sat down with the land councils. He never said to them 'there is a problem here but we recognise that the best people to sort it out are ourselves, and here are all the resources'," he said.

Mr Harawira is known for his blunt language and came to Parliament in 2005 with a background in radical protest over issues affecting Maori.

Maori Party Co-Leader Pita Sharples appeared to back his MP by issuing a press release with the title: "Hone or John: who to believe?

While the press release only indirectly addressed Mr Harawira's comments, Mr Sharples said they had to be seen in the context of the furore surrounding the release of the report on sexual abuse in Australia's Northern Territory.

He said the party was carefully considering the report of the Inquiry into the Protection of Aboriginal Children from Sexual Abuse which focuses on the safety of Aboriginal Children in the Northern Territory of Australia.

"We welcome the first recommendation which emphasises that 'government commit to genuine consultation with Aboriginal people' and the over-riding emphasis throughout the 97 recommendations on child protection, community justice, and community involvement," Dr Sharples said.

"Given the scope of this report, it is, of course, of concern to learn of the growing concerns from Australia and at home, at the way in which the Howard Government has responded to it."

Dr Sharples questioned whether "military intervention" was appropriate and Mr Howard's statements had been met with considerable anger and alarm from Aboriginal communities, non-Aboriginal social service groups and politicians across the Tasman.

The ACT Chief Minister, Jon Stanhope, has branded the Aboriginal community measures "racist" Dr Sharples said.

"In this context, the comments by our own member, Hone Harawira, reflect the level of concern that this situation has generated.

"We will be talking further as a caucus before we release any further response of our own to the report of the Northern Territory Board of Inquiry into the Protection of Aboriginal Children from Sexual Abuse."

- NZPA

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