MP's clothes jibe leads to racism call

Last updated 17:24 30/01/2014
Fairfax NZ
METIRIA TUREI: Unimpressed by National MP Anne Tolley's comment.
Fairfax NZ
ANNE TOLLEY: Has described Metiria Turei's comments as "absolute nonsense".

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Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei is accusing National Party MPs of "pure racism" after comments in Parliament about her home and clothing.

East Coast MP and Police Minister Anne Tolley said today that Turei lived in a castle and wore designer clothes.

Speaking during the debate on the Prime Minister John Key's opening statement to Parliament, Tolley said she was insulted by Green Party claims that she was out of touch.

She said said her role as an electorate MP included meetings with 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. Justice Minister Judith Collins said last year on Twitter that a speech by Turei was "vile, wrong and ugly, just like her jacket today".

Asked about Tolley's comments, Turei said racism was behind the attack.

"I'm shocked that the National Party would attack me and my home and my appearance. I think it is a racist attack," she said.

"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. I think it is pure racism."

Ask how the attack was racist, Turei said she shopped at the same place some of her opponents did.

"They do not think that a professional Maori woman from a working-class background should be able to wear good suits to work," she said.

"I buy my clothes from some of the same shops they do. I think they find that they can't cope with that and I think it's because I'm a Maori woman from a working-class background."

Turei said it was unfair to attack her home.

"MPs' homes have always been outside of the acceptable realms of debate, and so this very personal, very explicit attack, I think, comes from their inability to cope with my work and the effectiveness of my work, and an inherent racism."

She said it was up to the public to judge the performance of her opponents.

"There are bullies in any workplace and this is just another example of that."

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Asked whether there was any irony in a Left-wing political leader wearing expensive clothing, she said: "Do you ask that question of David Cunliffe? Do you ask that question of any other political leader or any other politician?

"I'm simply not prepared to pander to that. This is a racist attack by National and I'm not prepared to pander to it."

Tolley described Turei's comments as "absolute nonsense".

"The Greens' co-leader is entitled to turn up in Parliament every day in expensive designer clothes, and good on her for doing just that," Tolley said.

"But don't then lecture everyone else about poverty."

- Stuff

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