Prosser condemns himself to wilderness

VERNON SMALL
Last updated 08:30 14/02/2013

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OPINION: NZ First list MP for Wogistan Richard Prosser, apart from making a dick of himself, has helpfully given the media a new blood sport.

Will Labour/National/Greens/or any minor party of your choice, work with NZ First after Prosser's anti-Muslim rant? Would it be a game-breaker? Could he be a Cabinet minister in a coalition government? Is his exclusion a bottom line for you as leader?

Entertaining as it is, it is essentially a series of academic questions.

Because by writing that column - and what is it about Investigate magazine that repeatedly jams politicians' risk antenna? - he must have written himself off NZ First's party list in 2014. If not, he can hope for nothing better than a place so lowly he will not be back in the House to face the reluctance of any other party's MPs to come within a barge pole of him.

Soundings from within NZ First suggest leader Winston Peters and the rest of his caucus are furious at his lack of judgment. That includes the impossibility of being a print shock-jock and an MP at the same time.

They accept that he is genuinely contrite, but his comments since the article hit the headlines suggest he has not resiled from the thinking behind his arguments.

As offensive as his call was - to ban from Western airlines all Muslims, people who look like Muslims and people who come from Muslim countries - it was not the only transgression.

"Wogistan" was a fictional country invented by a business columnist some years ago for an allegory about New Zealand - and it was named after "Wog", the nickname of the late newspaper editor Warren Berryman.

But in the context, Prosser could hardly have missed the potential for offence. Perhaps he thinks it was a rejection of "political correctness" to attack "excessive tolerance coupled with the twin evils of diversity and multiculturalism". It is not a long stride from advocating homogeneity and monoculturalism to racism and separatism.

Nor are some of his more extravagant opinions (that he was known for before coming to Parliament but which he has kept in check since) supported either by logic or fact.

Even his claim that his much-loved pocket knife, given to him by an aunt and uncle so many years ago, was "confiscated" turns out to be a bit of a smokescreen. According to aviation security records, when it was discovered on him by security staff at Christchurch Airport they helped him to go back to the Air New Zealand counter so he could try to check it in to the aircraft's hold.

Of course, Peters is no stranger to controversy when it comes to comments about Muslims. In 2005 he rarked up a Grey Power audience in Kaitaia with dire warnings about the threat to this country's history of religious tolerance and free speech by Muslim migrants who "do not share our traditions". Moderates and militants fitted hand and glove.

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"Indeed these groups are like the mythical Hydra, a serpent underbelly with multiple heads, capable of striking at any time and in any direction."

But that was then, and this is now. Peters has moved on and mellowed to the point where he has started building bridges - now undermined at the approaches - with ethnic and religious groups as he moves his party closer to the mainstream.

But if his inclination is to discipline Prosser more, Peters' options are limited because he has already lost one MP in Brendan Horan. As they say, to lose one MP may be unfortunate . . .

There is no sense in NZ First that Prosser's transgressions are anywhere near as bad as Horan's anyway. But from a New Zealand Inc point of view - and from the point of view of Peters' hopes of another senior job such as foreign affairs minister - Prosser's comments are potentially far more damaging.

At this stage Peters is treating his error as a serious mistake that Prosser must learn from. But even with a perfect record from here to 2014, Prosser is on notice to find a new career after the next election.

The sustained and united attack on Finance Minister Bill English at yesterday's finance and expenditure committee by Peters, Green co-leader Russel Norman and Labour MPs David Parker and Clayton Cosgrove showed how far the new coalition of the Left, forged in the opposition's manufacturing inquiry, has come.

Prosser will be thrown overboard if there is any danger of disrupting that.

- The Press

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