Prosser's sorry but backlash continues

ANDREA VANCE
Last updated 05:00 14/02/2013
KRISSY DWYER/Fairfax NZ

In the height of the Richard Prosser controversy, Stuff took to the streets to see what people think of the NZ First MP's remarks and whether his apology was truly genuine.

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The fallout from Richard Prosser's anti-Muslim rant continues, but the NZ First MP has steadfastly refused to quit.

Party leader Winston Peters rode out the storm yesterday, saying the furore would make Mr Prosser a better MP.

The Waimakariri-based list MP has vowed not to write any more inflammatory columns, saying: "It's what a shock jock does, and I'm not that any more."

He "unreservedly" apologised for his provocative Investigate magazine column, which said Muslims should be banned from Western airlines. He was blocked from making a personal statement to Parliament by Mana Party leader Hone Harawira, who said he should front up to the "the nearest mosque" to make an apology.

A day earlier Mr Prosser had stood by his diatribe, which also made reference to "Wogistan". Last night, he insisted his mea culpa was genuine. "I think you can learn from these things and not make the same mistake twice."

He added: "I suppose the disappointing thing is that you realise you have made some mistake and set out to make an apology and that doesn't get accepted, then that's a little bit on the nose."

The article was "not his best work", he admitted. "I shouldn't have allowed that to go out and tar them all with the same brush. Nor should I have gone down the line of calling for a blanket ban . . . it's not a political solution. It's an off-the-cuff, in-the-pub solution."

There would be no more Investigate columns, he said. But he still believes a discussion about airline security and the merits of profiling is necessary.

Despite his contrition, Islamic community leaders and Opposition MPs still called for his resignation.

"Stepping down would be an honourable thing to do," said Anwar Ghani, president of the Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand.

Ethnic Affairs Minister Judith Collins said Mr Prosser could not return to Parliament with any credibility.

He was also condemned by Prime Minister John Key and Labour leader David Shearer, but neither would rule out forming a coalition deal with NZ First in 2014.

Mr Peters said the NZ First caucus was "as disappointed as I". But Mr Prosser will face no disciplinary action.

"I think he's been given a kick where the sun don't shine and he'll probably be eating his meals off the mantelpiece for the next week," Mr Peters said.

Meanwhile, Mr Prosser's "trusty" swiss pocket knife, which inspired the 1700-word column, remains in a safe at Christchurch Airport.

Yesterday, security officials said they asked Mr Prosser to return to the Air New Zealand counter to deposit the knife into his checked luggage before a flight on December 3. But airline staff advised him it was too late and held on to the knife.

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