Adam is a political reporter for the New Zealand Herald.

Laying it out in black and Whyte

Leader says Act’s stance on legal privilege enjoyed by Maori should not have surprised candidate who quit

ACT Party Leader Jamie Whyte. Photo / Dean Purcell
ACT Party Leader Jamie Whyte. Photo / Dean Purcell

Act leader Jamie Whyte says his speech outlining his party's opposition to the legal privilege it claims Maori enjoy should have come as no surprise to anybody, least of all Dunedin North candidate Guy McCallum, who has quit over the matter.

Mr McCallum yesterday confirmed Otago University student magazine Critic's report he had resigned from Act's board and as Dunedin North candidate over the speech and was considering resigning his membership. He also told the Herald others in the party were uncomfortable with the "one-law-for-all" policy articulated by Dr Whyte.

"Some of them are board members, some of them are younger people some are more moderate older ones. I've talked to them, I've seen them face-to-face and agreed on principles and agreed that Act needs to take a different tack on this, such as including tangata whenua in the actual discussion."

Mr McCallum said his objections were known and the board had agreed to keep the policy "on the backburner" during the election campaign, rather than promoting it.

However, he said, Dr Whyte had told him he was looking for "a stunt" to revive flagging poll results in the days before his speech and a week later "rolled out a controversial and obviously unprepared race relations policy". That surprised him as Dr Whyte had early this year said he was not interested in "Maori bashing".

He said Dr Whyte's subsequent performance in interviews, including on Maori Television's Native Affairs this week when he revealed he was unaware of the Maori Party's flagship Whanau Ora policy, "reflects the little detail or discussion that was ever gotten into about the subject".

Dr Whyte told the Herald he was "honestly bewildered" by Mr McCallum's response. "It is our policy, it has been our policy for years, the board votes on what the policy is, Guy's on the board, that happened some time ago. We sent out a press release on July 4 reiterating that's one of the policies we're going to campaign on."

The press release states: "Act believes thinking New Zealanders are concerned at the divisive effect of race-based laws. Act is going to campaign on the slogan of 'One country, one law'."

He dismissed the significance of the fact that he was unaware of Whanau Ora policy this week.

"I just had to bone up on it. It isn't really relevant which is why I wasn't briefed on it."

He did not believe Mr McCallum's views on him and the policy were widely shared by others in the party.

"Apart from Guy, there's complete unity. I've had not a single other negative comment from somebody within the party and I've had lots of positive ones."

Jamie Whyte on race-based law
January: "[I have] no interest in Maori-bashing as a political game."
July 4: "Act believes thinking New Zealanders are concerned at the divisive effect of race-based laws. Act is going to campaign on the slogan of 'One country, one law'."
July 26: "There is no place for race in the law."
August 6: "I haven't indulged in Maori bashing."

- NZ Herald

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