Alanah Eriksen

Alanah Eriksen is the New Zealand Herald's property reporter, and assistant chief reporter.

'White supremacy' view draws most complaints

Professor Margaret Mutu accused white immigrants of bringing racist attitudes. Photo / APN
Professor Margaret Mutu accused white immigrants of bringing racist attitudes. Photo / APN

Auckland University academic Margaret Mutu's comments that white immigrants bring with them attitudes of white supremacy sparked the most complaints to the Human Rights Commission in the past year by a landslide.

A draft copy of the commission's annual report shows complaints about race issues outnumbered gripes about any other type of discrimination - and the number is rising.

Maori leader David Rankin called for Professor Mutu's resignation in September after she said the Government should restrict the number of immigrants from countries such as South Africa, Britain and the United States.

"They do bring with them, as much as they deny it, an attitude of white supremacy, and that is fostered by the country," Professor Mutu said.

The comments followed a leaked Labour Department report, which found Maori are more likely to be against immigration than any other ethnic group.

The commission's chief mediator, Cara Takitimu, said Professor Mutu's comment had sparked about 90 complaints, but the agency had decided not to take any action against her as the Bill of Rights allowed people to speak their mind.

"It's just about really providing information because when someone's expressing an opinion, obviously the freedom of expression is high in New Zealand, as it should be, and we would support that," Ms Takitimu said.

"It's just about acknowledging that it was offensive to many people and whether there are avenues in which they can complain ... there wasn't a lot that we could do with that."

Ms Takitimu said comments in the media about Europeans always sparked an "outrageous" number of complaints compared with those made about Maori or Pacific Islanders.

Just over 34 per cent of complaints this year were race-related, 2 per cent more than the previous year.

Disability complaints made up 30.8 per cent of the tally, followed by sex (13.6 per cent), age (10.9 per cent), family status (5.8 per cent), sexual harassment (4.7 per cent), religious belief (4.2 per cent) and marital status (2.3 per cent).

"I think it would be wrong to say we are getting more racist as a nation," Ms Takitimu said.

"Ninety-two per cent of the issues are resolved within three days. What that tells me is that there is a real willingness with parties to take on board information and to try and resolve things quickly."

One person missing from the report is Paul Henry, following his move to Australia. The broadcaster sparked the highest number of complaints in 2010 - 185 - after he asked Prime Minister John Key if the Governor-General at the time, Sir Anand Satyanand, was "even a New Zealander", and said of possible candidates to replace him as the Queen's representative: "Are we going to go for someone who is more like a New Zealander this time?"

The year before, the commission received 308 complaints after Henry called Scottish singer Susan Boyle "a retard". The Broadcasting Standards Authority also received some.

TOP OFFENDERS

* 90 complaints over Auckland University academic Margaret Mutu's claims that white immigrants "bring with them ... an attitude of white supremacy, and that is fostered by the country".

* 10 complaints over Act MP John Banks saying that the country should stop paying "young Polynesian, young Maori" men the dole "to sit in front of TV, smoke marijuana, watch pornography and plan more drug offending, more burglaries".

* 10 complaints over Act Party donor Louis Crimp's claims that Maori were "either in jail or on welfare".

- NZ Herald

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