22 Mar 2013

Minister stands behind race relations appointment

12:16 pm on 22 March 2013

Justice Minister Judith Collins is standing firm behind her decision to appoint Dame Susan Devoy as Race Relations Commissioner.

Some politicians have called for Dame Susan to be sacked - even though she has not started the five-year job officially - because of opinion pieces she has written about Waitangi Day.

In a newspaper article in 2012, Dame Susan was critical of what she called the "political shenanigans" of Waitangi Day.

In another piece, she wrote that she found the burqa disconcerting, and Muslim women should accept that they would sometimes have to take the garment off to allow identification.

Ms Collins said the comments about Waitangi Day are just what many people think, but expects Dame Susan will tone down her comments now she is Race Relations Commissioner.

Senior government Minister Gerry Brownlee has told Parliament it is appropriate that the commissioner talks about things that matter to New Zealanders.

But former Race Relations Conciliator Rajen Prasad says Dame Susan Devoy will have to be more careful about what she says.

Mr Prasad, now a Labour Party MP, said the newspaper comments would not be acceptable, given her appointment.

If Dame Susan was not more mindful about what she says, it will be a pretty uncomfortable five years, he said.

Dame Susan Devoy takes up the job on 1 April, replacing long-serving Joris de Bres, who has held the position for 10 years.