Topic: Politics

National MPs address Bridges' race-based comments

By Moana Makapelu Lee

National MPs are standing by Simon Bridges despite race-based comments made by their leader in a leaked discussion between him and former National MP Jami-Lee Ross. 

However, others say it’s "unacceptable".

When asked if the leaked discussion between Ross and Bridges weighing up the quota for Chinese, Filipino and Indian MPs was racist, MP Melissa Lee says she believes it wasn’t.

"Have you ever said anything with your best friend about anybody?  If you haven't then you are a saint."

In a phone call recorded by Ross, Bridges is heard weighing up existing list MPs in National to make way for a candidacy request.  That reportedly being "a friend" of Yikun Zhang, the Chinese businessman who donated the party $100,000.

In the recording, Bridges says, "Two Chinese would be nice but then would it be one Chinese and one Filipino?  What do we do?"

Ross responds, "Two Chinese would be more valuable than two Indians I have to say."

National MP Mark Mitchell says the conversation was a “set up” and an “entrapment” by Ross, “It was probably just very generic off the cuff remarks."  

But Bridges says his comments were “pretty clear”.  

“For National, we are a party that wants to reflect the face of New Zealand and its multiculturalism.”

Lee says, "I think everybody that's in the National Party makes a huge contribution and it doesn't matter what race."

National MPs say they still back their leader “100 percent” but there was a mixed reaction on Wellington streets.

Some say there was no need for “racist” comments that are “totally unacceptable.”  Others still supported Bridges “even though his comments are off sometimes."

The Green Party is now calling for anonymity of donations to be removed with "constant risk of corruption" for parties accepting large donations from powerful vested interests.

Greens co-leader Marama Davidson says, "We want powerful vested interests out of politics and that would include removing anonymity for anything over $1,000 but actually putting a cap on individual donations of $35,000."

In regards to ethnic quota comments made by Bridges, Davidson says ethnic communities were feeling “unappreciated” and needed to be listened to.

National MPs are backing their leader for now but whether the party's Chinese and Indian demographic do the same, time will tell.