13 Sep 2016

'New Zealand women deserve a minister who gives a damn'

8:01 pm on 13 September 2016

Opposition MPs are calling for the Minister for Women to resign after she repeatedly refused to comment on the Chiefs stripper scandal.

The Chiefs are investigating allegations of misconduct during end-of-year celebrations near Matamata.

A woman who performed at the Chiefs' function said some players abused her. A New Zealand Rugby investigation found the allegations were unsubstantiated. Photo: PHOTOSPORT / RNZ

Louise Upston, who has previously said she is not a feminist, has held the ministerial role since the 2014 election.

But opposition parties said she needed to ask herself if she was in the right job, and said she was failing to advocate for women.

A woman, known as Scarlette, said some Chiefs players groped her, threw gravel and swore at her while she performed at the rugby team's end-of-season function last month at the Ōkoroire Hot Pools, near Matamata.

Prime Minister John Key said last week the Chiefs players that were involved acted inappropriately, and that what happened was disappointing, however Ms Upston said today she would not comment on the specifics of any individual case.

"But in no way, shape or form am I accepting any kind of behaviour that degrades women, and doesn't treat them with respect or treat them equally," she said.

Louise Upston

Minister for Women Louise Upston Photo: RNZ / Chris Bramwell

Despite her refusal, many of her colleagues were happy to comment further.

Judith Collins said, because she was from the Waikato, she was a long-time Chiefs supporter.

"I'm really disappointed in them and I think it's time that they stopped that stupid behaviour, grew up and got onto rugby."

Paula Bennett was also not impressed.

"It just doesn't feel right the way they've done the inquiry; for me it should be about respect."

Green Party MP Jan Logie said Ms Upston's refusal to comment effectively let the rugby team off the hook.

"If the minister cannot support women who are challenging our culture of violence then she needs to stand down.

"New Zealand women deserve a minister who gives a damn."

Labour's women's affairs spokesperson, Poto Williams, said Ms Upston had completely missed the opportunity to advocate for women, which was her job.

"I would be calling on the minister to look closely at her role and her attitude to this, and I think all women in New Zealand are expecting more of her.

Ms Logie said Ms Upston was simply not fit to hold the title Minister for Women.

"We have the highest rates of intimate partner violence in the OECD and this is the minister's best opportunity to change that culture, to get engaged and get involved and challenge that culture of violence.

"Her absence is a dereliction of duty."

Mr Key supported Ms Upston and said she was doing a good job.

As the minister she could not make direct statements about a case that she was not party to the facts of, he said.

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