Justice Minister Judith Collins has stepped by the war of words with Green co-leader Metiria Turei, saying she dresses badly and is a "sensitive wee sausage".
On Thursday Turei said National MPs were guilty of "pure racism" after Police Minister Anne Tolley called her a hypocrite for saying the Government was out of touch, while at the same time the Green co-leader wore expensive clothing.
Tolley said that in her East Coast electorate she worked daily with some constituents who were among the poorest in the country.
"I'm actually insulted to be lectured about how out of touch I am with average New Zealand by a list MP who has no constituents, lives in a castle, and comes to the House in $2000 designer jackets and tells me I'm out of touch," Tolley said.
It is not the first time National MPs have attacked Turei's choice of clothing.
Collins said last year on Twitter that a speech by Turei was "vile, wrong and ugly, just like her jacket today".
Turei said yesterday she was being bullied and the attacks were racist.
"I think they seem to think it is all right for them to wear perfectly good suits for their professional job but that a Maori woman from a working-class background is not entitled to do the same," she said.
"I think it is pure racism."
Today Collins dismissed the claims, saying if anything the comments were "clothes-ist" and that Tolley was giving Turei some much-needed advice.
"It would be hard to bully Metiria Turei," Collins said on the way into National's all day caucus at Premier House.
"Oh my goodness, isn't she a sensitive wee sausage?"
Collins denied there was bullying or racism behind the claims.
"I think, actually, Metiria Turei needs to - don't be so silly," she said.
"They [the comments] may be 'clothes-ist' and Anne Tolley may have been giving her some very good advice about being a hypocrite, that we believe she is.
"If she's going to stand there and talk about child poverty and how the National Party is out of touch with poverty when she is the one who spends a tremendous amount on clothes and talks to us about child poverty. I think she's a hypocrite."
She stood by her criticism of Turei's clothing, and someone had to raise it.
"Well it was a really ugly jacket. It was really bad," Collins said.
Dressing well did not preclude people from discussing child poverty.
"Well, they can, but she doesn't dress nicely."
Tolley denied her comments were racist, and that Turei was entitled to wear whatever she wanted to.
"She can wear whatever she likes," Tolley said.
"I don't have a problem, but don't come to the House and accuse someone who is an electorate MP for an electorate where there are some very poor [constituents] . . . and try to tell me I'm out of touch. That's what I'm objecting to."
Prime Minister John Key defended his female colleagues.
"Lots of members of Parliament, on both sides of the House live in actually, much better conditions than a lot of other New Zealanders, and buying much more expensive clothes, so it was a bit rich of Metiria Turei having a go at the minister," he said.
"But I don't think it's racism."
The Greens were often among the most personal in their attacks on the Government Key said, citing the number of times they called for ministers to be sacked.
"They go hard, they really go hard," Key said.
"I don't feel bullied but I'm just saying they don't hold back."
He did not know how much it was appropriate for women to wear on jackets, saying wife Bronagh did not consult him on how much she spent.
Turei could not immediately be reached for comment.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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