Under fire New Zealand First MP Shane Jones has refused to "engage in a slanging match" with the Prime Minister after she urged voters to condemn the MP's comments about the number of Indian students coming to study in New Zealand.
But Jones spared no mercy for "Indian activists and radicals" in an interview with Newstalk ZB's Heather du Plessis Allan this afternoon.
"I'm not going to accept the Indian radicals shutting me down ... I'm surprised by the over-reaction … initially a lot of the pressure against me has come from the radicals in the Indian community."
However, he'd "never, ever engage in a slanging match with the Prime Minister".
"She's a brilliant politician and when the Prime Minister speaks she never says anything wrong, but there is a difference in perspective between what New Zealand First would like to see in terms of these dodgy language schools and the flow of immigration into New Zealand, and from our other two parties, and I accept that's just the MMP rub."
He understood the Prime Minister was disappointed.
"But hey I'm a 60-year-old generational style politician and I'm not going to accept that the Indian activists and the Indian radicals are going to close me down as a racist.
"My whakapapa in New Zealand goes back a thousand years and I'll be taking not one iota of difference from the Indian radicals."
Asked if the coalition agreement prevented Ardern from disciplining him, Jones said his comments "have nothing to do with the business of me being a regional development minister".
"This is an MMP environment. I've done nothing more than state something our party was elected to push forward, which was a more measured population policy."
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Earlier today Ardern delivered her strongest rebuke to Jones yet, suggesting that if he was a Labour MP, he would face demotion for his comments.
She also urged voters to condemn Jones' comments – which have been labelled "racist" and "irresponsible" by the Race Relations Commissioner Meng Foon – and to "act on their values when it comes to election time".
"We are in an election year and that has, I think, driven electioneering out of some of the different parties that are in Parliament – that includes parties in the Government," she told the Indian Weekender.
Jones told The Nation last weekend: "I think the number of students that have come from India have ruined many of those [educational] institutions."
Ardern said he was wrong and that she "totally disagreed" with him.
But, speaking to the Herald, Jones stood by what he said. His boss, NZ First Leader and Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters, also backed Jones, saying he didn't need to apologise.
Ardern told the Indian Weekender voters had an opportunity to stop Jones from making comments like these in the future.
"My message to voters is this: In election year, the power now sits with you. You determine who is able to form governments and you have it within your power to decide what you make of those remarks, as well."