National Party leader Christopher Luxon has been grilled on a National Party candidate’s anti-fluoridation and anti-mandate position.
Ryan Hamilton, favoured to win the Hamilton East electorate, has voiced support for groups that spread misinformation about fluoridation.
Luxon said the comments were old and “utterly wrong,” and don’t reflect his current views.
“I think the comments are from maybe about a decade ago ... they were entirely inappropriate and he was wrong,” Luxon said.
“He subsequently apologised for those remarks and our position on fluoride is very much aligned with the Government, which is that we have supported the government moving fluoride management from local councils to the Director General [of Health].”
Hamilton has been contacted for a response. Luxon denied the party was hiding Hamilton from media, saying he would follow up on when Hamilton would be available to comment.
Luxon claimed Hamilton had since changed his views to align with the party’s. He also warned no one would go into Parliament if their past views were scrutinised in such a way.
In August, National issued a press release attacking Labour minister Dr Deborah Russell for public comments she made on tax that conflicted with the party’s current positions.
Challenged whether he was being hypocritical, Luxon disagreed and said Russell’s role as associate finance minister meant her former views on tax were more relevant.
“I would suggest he’s not an expert on fluoridation,” Luxon said of Hamilton, who had been a Hamilton City councillor since 2018.
Luxon said it was his understanding that Hamilton was fully vaccinated but had advocated for people who were not to be able to access council buildings at a time when that was not allowed under the mandates.
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Labour accuses Act of using Māori as political punching bag
It’s a claim Seymour strongly denies, while Luxon doesn’t “necessarily” think Seymour is stoking division between Māori and Pākehā with his public comments on co-governance.
Any messages Seymour hoped to impress upon the public were partially drowned out by the disruption caused by Vision NZ Panmure-Ōtāhuhu candidate Karl Mokaraka, who shouted at Seymour while the party leader was making his speech at the Civic Theatre in Auckland.
Mokaraka had to be forcibly removed, but during his protest, in which he urged Seymour not to forget about South Auckland, some Act supporters obstructed media from taking photos and videos, with one camera operator having his face pinched and being struck on the top of his head with a cardboard sign.
Seymour apologised for the behaviour and said the party would co-operate with any investigation into the incident. Any people found guilty of assault would be kicked out of the party, Seymour said.
He also said further questions would be asked regarding how Mokaraka entered the venue given the security precautions taken, and whether more security would be required at future events.
Mokaraka earned headlines when he popped up over a fence to disrupt one of Luxon’s media stand-ups recently.
Seymour’s disrupted speech to the roughly 800 people in attendance covered a range of topics, but one highlighted was the party’s opposition to co-governance and Act’s desire to define the principles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi.
Act intended to legislate the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi through a Treaty Principles Act before putting it to a binding referendum.
That’s despite Luxon earlier ruling out having such a referendum under a National-led government. Act is likely to be National’s support partner if the two parties gain enough support to form a government following the October 14 election.
The party wanted to repeal legislation that gave “different rights based on ethnicity”, including the Māori Health Authority and the Water Services legislation, formerly known as Three Waters.
Act would also “re-orientate the public service towards a focus on equal opportunity” by removing any “racial targeting”.
Seymour denied he was stoking fear and division through his comments on the topic, claiming it was an important issue for Kiwis.
In a media stand-up today, Luxon didn’t believe Seymour was directly inflaming the race relations debate and wouldn’t provide direct answers on his thoughts on Act’s co-governance policies.
However, he did state his belief that governments were obliged to explain the application of a country’s founding documents.
“There’s lots of different interpretations of the Treaty - I think that’s been some of the division, and I think as a government, it’s incumbent upon you to actually make the case for how, where we’re going.
“On co-governance, I haven’t observed that ... [Labour hasn’t] made the case for what they’re trying to do by bringing co-governance into the delivery of public services.
“If you’ve got a big mandate, make your case, take the New Zealand people with you on constitutional issues. When you don’t do it, you end up with division.”
Luxon, in Palmerston North today, visited a driving range and the Gurudwara Shri Fateh Sahib Sikh place of worship in Palmerston North with candidate Ankit Bansal.
He also spoke at a public meeting in central Palmerston North, an electorate held by Labour since 1975, but which is typically much closer with regard to party votes split between the two major parties.
About 250 people were present and Luxon was pressed on his party’s policies, including tertiary education funding, transport emissions and working with community housing providers.
Meanwhile, Labour on Sunday unveiled its Women’s Manifesto - a compilation of mostly already promised policies.
One of those was to extend the age of free breast cancer screening from 69 to 74 - a pledge first proposed by the party in 2017, and which it has faced criticism for not implementing. Labour has also already supported a Members’ Bill on the issue from National health spokesman Dr Shane Reti.
National had the same policy, announced last year.
Labour has previously said ICT issues and staffing were barriers to extending it.
The manifesto also included making cervical screening services free between the ages of 25 to 69 years, saving up to $100 in co-payments.
Labour is also pledging to implement a national endometriosis action plan, establish an innovation and entrepreneurship scholarship programme for low-middle income women, “modernise” consent laws and introduce gender pay gap reporting.
During his media stand-up, Hipkins confirmed he did consider Seymour’s comments akin to using Māori as a political punching bag, while continuing to highlight it was the 18th day National had refused to publish the costings of its foreign buyers’ tax.
Act was campaigning on scrapping the Ministry for Women. Senior Labour MP Jan Tinetti said she was “horrified” at Act’s stance and said it would be “catastrophic”, given the work staff had done informing the women’s health strategy and putting a gender lens to the programme designed to reduce family and sexual violence.