Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Racist Comments Inflame New Zealand Election Campaign

National Party spokesman on Immigration, Lockwood Smith, made the following remarks to the Marlborough Express about Asian and Pasifika immigrant farm workers:

“There are some skills in the vineyard that some people are perhaps better at, for example some of the pruning … some of the Asian workers have been more productive … because their hands are smaller. Some of them [employers] are having to teach them [Pasifika seasonal workers] things like how to use a toilet or shower.”

Smith has been charged with racism by his political opponents and has been required by his leader, John Key, to issue a public apology. The Maori Party, likely to be vital to National to form a voting block to form a majority in the new parliament, has criticised the comments as racist and questioned whether Smith is fit to serve as a Minister of Immigration in a new cabinet.

No doubt Lockwood thinks 5 year olds are suitable orchard workers too since they have small hands compared to adults. Will National be repealing child labour laws if elected? Is horticultural work "women's work" because women generally have smaller hands than men? And what's the fascination with showers and toilets? Surely, employers are not incapable of assisting employees to adapt technologically and culturally? Perhaps they need to adapt too.

The remarks rekindle memories of the Muldoon National government of the 1970s - early 1980s in which a number of Cabinet ministers uttered fatuous, racist comments without much political consequence. Hopefully, New Zealand society has evolved sufficiently since then to no longer tolerate such nonsense.

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