2 Aug 2015

Peters defends embattled Corrections Minister

9:58 pm on 2 August 2015

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters has defended the embattled Corrections Minister Sam Lotu-liga saying he has been left in the lurch by his colleagues.

Winston Peters

Winston Peters Photo: RNZ / Conan Young

At the party's annual conference in Rotorua Mr Peters said he could not sit back while people were unfairly picked on, and that the Minister's Polynesian background made him suitable for the role.

Sam Lotu-liga ignored the Labour Party's allegations of violence in the privately run Mt Eden prison for a month - describing them as hearsay and made-up.

But Labour was right - and the Government has since had to take control of the prison.

But Winston Peters said Sam Lotu-liga inherited a mess from the former Corrections Ministers Anne Tolley and Judith Collins, that was not of his making.

"Sam never put this policy in place - people like Tolley and Collins did that and now they're leaving Sam to take all the consequences.

I've come public and said don't blame Sam, blame those people who put him in this invidious situation."

Mr Peters said the Minister's Polynesian background meant he could better relate to the prison population.

"Well I think Sam's got a greater understanding of some the conditions, some of the psychology of a lot of the prisoners in New Zealand who happen to be Polynesian and Maori - he's got a better understanding than perhaps many people think," he said.

Mr Peters told party members at the conference that they need to prepare for a three way fight in the 2017 General Election - and they need more members and money to do so.

And it was a challenge MPs and party members said they were up for.

New Zealand First's youth affairs spokesperson, Darroch Ball, said one in five young New Zealanders were unemployed and his party would give them hope and a reason to vote.

"Well young people want to be engaged, they desperately do, but political parties currently are failing them.

We need to ensure that they've got someone there that they can follow, that they know has their best interests at heart, and can see the real struggles that they go through," Mr Ball said.

MP Tracey Martin aims to attract more women to the party.

"For me the next challenge is to get women to look at the policies of New Zealand First - they haven't done that a lot in the last 20 years.

How can I, in my role, get them to have a look at our policies - make sure our policies are relevant for them," Mrs Martin said.

A party member from Wairarapa, Cynthia Melville, agreed members needed to do more.

"Basically it's people getting off their bum in electorates and working out fundraisers - hey even if the next door neighbour has a garage sale for New Zealand First it's something," she said.

At the conference party members were also encouraged to raise funds by flogging off thousands of unsold copies of the MP Richard Prosser's book "Uncommon Dissent".

But some might say it was an unusual party fundraising tool, given in the book Mr Prosser has a crack at Mr Peters "for climbing into bed" with Labour's Helen Clark after the 2005 election "after vehemently denying that he had any such intention".

Mr Prosser writes the public was neither pleased nor surprised at the deception.

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