Adam Bennett

Adam is a political reporter for the New Zealand Herald.

Prosser vows to stay in Parliament

NZ First MP Richard Prosser claims his comments were the result of a "brain explosion''. Photo / Mark Mitchell
NZ First MP Richard Prosser claims his comments were the result of a "brain explosion''. Photo / Mark Mitchell

New Zealand First's Richard Prosser says he won't resign from Parliament for his anti-Muslim "brain explosion" in spite of the growing consensus that he is not fit to be an MP.

Mr Prosser yesterday apologised for comments made in a magazine column that young Muslim men from "Wogistan" should be banned from flying on Western airlines.

With Mr Prosser's comments being reported around the world, Parliament yesterday unanimously backed a Green Party call for religious and racial tolerance in a bid to limit damage to New Zealand's reputation.

Jason Kennedy's open letter to Richard Prosser

But Mr Prosser's attempt to limit damage to his own political prospects failed to gain traction as he was blocked from apologising to Parliament for his remarks.

Mr Prosser was back in Parliament yesterday for the first time since the controversy erupted and sought permission to make a personal statement. But Mana Party Leader Hone Harawira objected.

Mr Harawira said he opposed Mr Prosser's request because "if he has an apology to make for his offensive remarks to the Muslim community, then he can make his way to the nearest mosque and ask forgiveness there".

"I do not accept that he should be able to make such remarks and then simply wash away his venom via an unchallenged explanation in the House," Mr Harawira said.

Immediately afterwards the Green Party moved that Parliament affirm "that all New Zealanders, regardless of their religious faith or ethnicity, should be treated equally before the law and that the rights and dignity of all people, in particular of Muslims, should be upheld, and that the House acknowledge the responsibility of all New Zealanders to care for one another, to honour the sanctity of each and every one of us, and act with justice, equity and respect in all that we say and do".

Mr Prosser said he supported the Greens' motion despite the fact he had called for different treatment under the law for Muslim men.

"I had a brain explosion there, I called for a blanket ban and I shouldn't have. I'm happy to fess up that that was the wrong thing to think, the wrong thing to say, the wrong thing to call for, and I apologise for that."

He said he would "probably" do as Mr Harawira suggested and contact Muslim leaders to discuss the matter.

The Herald gave Mr Prosser the cellphone number of Anwar Ghani, president of the Federation of Islamic Associations and Mr Prosser said he would make contact that night. However, he said he would not resign.

"I've issued the statement, I've made the apology and I think that's probably where I'm going to let it lie. I've made some mistakes and for those I've apologised and moved on and I think that's where I'm going to leave it."

But while some, including Dr Ghani, said they accepted the apology at face value, others, including Prime Minister John Key and Race Relations Commissioner Joris de Bres, were doubtful.

"While Mr Prosser has sort of apologised ... we'd suggest that there are still questions for journalist standards for Investigate magazine and political standards that New Zealand First should consider," said Mr de Bres.

He said the commission had received six complaints about the "ignorant, inaccurate and bigoted" comments Mr Prosser made.

Mr Key said he assumed Mr Prosser believed in what he wrote when the column went to print, "so if he's apologised he's just doing that to move on".

Labour leader David Shearer said what New Zealand First Leader Winston Peters did with his MPs was up to him, "But I don't think anyone who holds those sort of views should be an MP".

Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei said Mr Prosser should leave Parliament. "This is hate speech, I'm concerned that NZ First continues to support him."

Act Party leader John Banks said while he'd probably made more mistakes than Mr Prosser, "he needs to fall on his sword". United Future Leader Peter Dunne also said Mr Prosser's comments marked him as unfit to serve in Parliament.

- NZ Herald

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