Matthew Backhouse

Matthew Backhouse is an APNZ news reporter based in Wellington.

Dame Susan's talking nonsense: Peters

Race Commissioner says she'll be forced to get involved if MP continues his tirade against Chinese community.

Winston Peters says he will send a copy of his speech to Dame Susan Devoy. Photo / Mark Mitchell, Brett Phibbs
Winston Peters says he will send a copy of his speech to Dame Susan Devoy. Photo / Mark Mitchell, Brett Phibbs

NZ First leader Winston Peters has accused Race Relations Commissioner Dame Susan Devoy of "talking nonsense" about his "Super City of Sin" speech on the growing Chinese influence in Auckland.

Dame Susan yesterday said she would be forced to get involved if Mr Peters continued his "tirade" against the Chinese community.

Her comments come after she declined to comment last month on Mr Peters' speech, in which he accused parts of the Chinese community in Auckland of importing corruption and being heavily involved in the sex industry and student cheating rings.

Yesterday Dame Susan told TVNZ's Q+A programme there was "a broader human rights issue" if Mr Peters continued "to stigmatise one population" to win votes.

"Winston has carried on this tirade for a long time and I don't think that anything that I'm going to say is actually going to make a leopard change his spots, to be perfectly honest," she said.

Dame Susan said she had previously declined to speak on the topic because "I wasn't going to give him any oxygen".

"But I'm sure the occasion [to get involved] will arise leading up to the next election," she said.

Mr Peters said Dame Susan was "talking nonsense".

"I'm going to send her a copy of my speech because she clearly didn't read it and preferred to take the view of others who have sought to distort what I said," he said.

"Carrying along in blissful ignorance, as though there's some merit in those statements about my speech, won't do."

Asked if he was drumming up the race card to get votes, Mr Peters said: "Those sorts of careless comments do not do the race relations office any service whatsoever."

Mr Peters pointed to media reports of people trafficking and people being brought in to New Zealand under false pretences to work in prostitution. "This is stuff that's right before the race relations conciliator's and anyone else's eyes if they care to pay any attention to it."

Dame Susan also said she had changed her views on cartoons printed in two South Island newspapers depicting Maori and Pacific Island stereotypes, which she had previously said were offensive but not racist.

"In my opinion, yes it was [racist]. But it doesn't meet the threshold and the limits of freedom of speech," Dame Susan said.

"What we're saying here is that the law is not the be-all and end-all of everything. We can't hide behind it and we can't always use it to its best effect but what we can do is exercise some civil responsibility," she said.

"Sometimes we have to make personal choices, we have to look at our own behaviours and attitudes ... sometimes we have to look and say 'that is not right'."

- APNZ

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