The long running tit-for-tat between Metiria Turei and senior Government ministers over her clothes has reignited again with claims of racism and hypocrisy being exchanged between the Greens co-leader and Police Minister Anne Tolley.

Mrs Turei yesterday said Ms Tolley was being racist when criticising her for wearing expensive clothing while attacking the Government response to poverty.

This morning Ms Tolley said Mrs Turei's accusation was "absolute nonsense".

"I was talking about the hypocrisy of coming to the House and lecturing us on poverty and saying how out of touch we were. I was talking about my own circumstances where I represent a lot of people that are really struggling that are not wealthy."


Attacks on Mrs Turei's choice of clothing began in April last year when Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson hit out at her for lecturing National on social justice "resplendent in her Adrienne Winkelmann jackets".

Justice Minister Judith Collins stepped up the attack a couple of months later tweeting that Mrs Turei's comments on the social networking service were "vile, wrong and ugly. Just like her jacket today".

Ms Collins quickly waded into the spat again this morning.

"Oh my goodness, isn't she a sensitive little sausage."

She laughed off Mrs Turei's accusation that Ms Tolley comments were racist. "They may be 'clothes-ist' and Anne Tolley may have been giving her some very good advice about being the hypocrite that we believe she is."

Asked whether there was anything wrong with a nicely-dressed politician championing issues around poverty, Ms Collins said: "Well they can, but she wasn't dressed nicely."

Mrs Turei told the Herald that while Ms Tolley and Ms Collins were "busy talking about my clothes, I am talking about children and families in poverty".

"It just proves that National does not prioritise the issues that are most important."


Mrs Turei said she was "shocked" that Ms Collins would spend her time making petty insults about the way another MP looked.

"It's unbecoming of her as a minister and it's unbecoming of the job we have as MPs. We need to be focused on what's important to New Zealanders not what MPs are wearing.'

Blogger Morgan Godfery this morning defended Mrs Turei for making the accusation of racism saying Ms Tolley's original attack was "loaded with social, political and racial assumptions".

"The unspoken context is that Metiria, a Maori woman who lives well and dresses better, is acting out of turn and out of step with her community. How can she be in touch with her community when she isn't living like them? The premise is that a Maori woman cannot dress well and claim to represent her people."

Prime Minister John Key said he didn't believe it was appropriate for Mrs Turei to play the race card over Ms Tolley's comments and he didn't believe his ministers were bullying her.

"If you want to have a look at Metiria's comments ... see who says the hardest and nastiest comments, they almost always come from the Greens."

Much of the time those comments were levelled at him, Mr Key said.

"They go hard, they go really hard ... I don't feel too bullied but they don't hold back."