As politicians seek the limelight in the run-up to the general election, Race Relations Commissioner Dame Susan Devoy has hit out at ACT attacks on Maori.
Devoy is urging politicians to "do the right thing and stick to those major issues that will help make New Zealand a better place for all our children to grow up in".
She labelled comments by ACT leader Jamie Whyte that Maori enjoyed legal privilege "grotesque and inflammatory".
Whyte particularly upset Devoy when he asserted Maori enjoyed a degree of legal privilege comparable to that of the pre-revolutionary French aristocracy.
"Equating Maori New Zealanders to French aristocrats who were murdered because of their privilege is a grotesque and inflammatory statement," she said.
"Accusations of Maori privilege are not borne out by Maori socioeconomic statistics.
"Whether we like it or not the reality is that ethnicity and disadvantage are connected and found in damning statistics that on average sees Maori New Zealanders' life expectancy, education and health outcomes lagging behind non-Maori New Zealanders'."
A connection between ethnicity and disadvantage did not appear overnight, she said.
"Treating everyone exactly the same will not necessarily make everyone exactly the same and anyone who thinks so is incredibly naive."
The United Nations in its latest review of human rights had recommended New Zealand do better in a range of areas, including the socioeconomic outcomes for Maori New Zealanders, Devoy said.
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