Election 2014

23 Oct 2008

Tariana Turia accepts apology over National MP's comments

11:38 am on 23 October 2008

Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia has now accepted an apology by National MP Lockwood Smith over comments she earlier described as racist.

The relationship between the Maori Party and National has been strained by comments by Dr Smith about migrant workers.

At the same time, the Maori Party announced its bottom line in any post-election talks is for the Maori seats to be entrenched.

Mrs Turia told Morning Report on Thursday she wanted an apology from Dr Smith, and she now had it.

She said everyone makes intemperate comments and she had moved on.

Mrs Turia reiterated that the Maori Party was keeping the door open to negotiations with all other parties after the election.

She said she was not aware of reported comments by party co-leader Pita Sharples that the party would prefer Labour got the higher share of the vote.

Lockwood Smith Smith issued a statement on on Wednesday saying he sincerely regretted causing offence with his remarks, which he said were simply reporting the strong concerns expressed to him by employers of migrant workers in the government scheme that brings people from the Pacific to fill labour shortages.

He had said that some Asian workers were more productive in vineyards, while employers were having to teach some Pacific workers how to use toilets or showers.

Implications

Radio New Zealand's political editor reports Mrs Turia now says Dr Smith's comments will have no impact on the relationship between the two parties.

She is keeping open the possibility of doing a deal with National after the election.

And National is continuing to woo the Maori Party despite big differences on policy.

Earlier in the week, the Green Party ruled National out as a potential coalition partner and National has ruled out doing a deal with New Zealand First.

Radio New Zealand's political editor says that leaves ACT and United Future as certain allies for National after the election, although neither is expected to win many seats.

Depending on National's final vote, the Maori Party's support could be crucial to whether it forms the next Government or not.