Top 10 Gerry Brownlee gaffes

SIOBHAN DOWNES
Last updated 16:24 24/07/2014
Brownlee
ANDY JACKSON/Fairfax NZ Zoom
Gerry Brownlee, Kaumatua Rangikotuku Rukuwai and MP Jonathan Young turn the first sod for the Vickers to City Waiwhakaiho upgrade in Taranaki in July.

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Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee has been left red-faced after breaching aviation security rules. We look through the baggage of Brownlee's political career and come up with the top 10 cringeworthy moments.

1. Brownlee seemed to be heading for the departure lounge literally and metaphorically after today's gaffe. He said he was running late for a plane at Christchurch Airport and "without thought breached airline and airline security rules by entering the gate lounge through a door usually used for exit only". He offered his resignation as minister, but Prime Minister John Key did not accept it. 

2. In 1999, Brownlee was prosecuted and fined $8000 for assaulting an environmental activist at a National Party conference. Neil Abel, 58, a sympathiser of the Native Forest Action Group, said Brownlee grabbed him by the belt, thrust his knee "up my backside", and manhandled him from the venue. He said Brownlee then threatened to throw him down a staircase, and that he feared for his life during the scuffle.

3. In 2012, Brownlee outraged Finnish people by describing them as uneducated and disrespectful to women. He was responding to a speech by then Labour Leader David Shearer, which called for New Zealand to follow in Finland's footsteps. Brownlee said, "It's unbelievable isn't it. That you'd actually get someone to go out there and make a speech saying I want New Zealand to be like Finland which has worse unemployment than us, can hardly feed the people who live there, has a terrible homicide rate, hardly educates their people and has no respect for women." Brownlee later expressed his regret. 

4. As Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Minister, Brownlee has landed himself in hot water more than once. In 2012, he had to apologise to then Christchurch mayor Bob Parker after he labelled him a clown. Later that year, he was forced to issue another apology after he hit out at earthquake-hit residents who were "carping and moaning" about their situation.

5. Immediately after the earthquake, Brownlee courted controversy with his comment that, if he had it his way, some of Christchurch's older buildings would be "down tomorrow". He later defended his commitment to heritage buildings, saying he had "no desire to bring out the bulldozers and take Christchurch to the ground".

6. Brownlee is notorious for his opinions on Maori issues. When Maori leader Sir Graham Latimer suggested Maori should receive superannuation earlier than Pakeha because they die younger, Brownlee dismissed the idea as "typical of the old-style handout mentality of Maori leaders of the past". In 1999, he put forth the view that the Maori Language Commission should be abolished: "Just try walking down the street of any major city in the country. No one is speaking Maori."

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7. In another embarrassing race-related scrap, in 2004 Brownlee had to apologise after he referred to Labour's John Tamihere as a "black fella". Tamihere had teased Brownlee by calling him a "big fella" in Parliament. A furious Brownlee quickly retorted, "In future contributions to this House, would it be all right for me to refer to Mr Tamihere as 'the black fella'?"

8. When answering questions on funding options for Auckland transport development in 2012, Brownlee attempted to make a joke from TV show The Simpsons. He said, "I would consider hiring Lyle Langley and Associates to do a scoping study for us on the city rail link. "I know they have done some very good work on similar projects in Brockway, Ogdenville and North Haverbrook and if [Labour] think this stacks up we'll give it some consideration further." The line was a reference to a Simpsons episode where the residents of Springfield are duped into spending newfound money on a faulty monorail network by conman Lyle Langley. Unfortunately, no one laughed at Brownlee's efforts.

9. During 2009's final Question Time of the year, Brownlee put forth a gem of a sound bite when invited to go tramping with Labour MP David Parker in Mt Aspiring National Park over the holidays. "On the one hand I am deeply touched that the member wants to spend so much quality time in the high country alone with me," Brownlee replied. "But on the other I notice that all I am required to do is bring a pair of boots, and I think to myself, Mr Speaker, I've seen that film Brokeback Mountain so I'm afraid I remain unavailable."

10. Even though this gaffe is not exactly his fault, it is worth noting that Brownlee was the first MP in more than a 100 years to be sworn into Parliament under the wrong name. Parliament called him "Gerald", but his birth name is actually "Gerard".

- Stuff

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