National leader Judith Collins says her speech to the party faithful suggesting the Government was introducing "separate systems of governance" for Māori has been well-received by members and the caucus.
Labour, meanwhile, is calling the speech delivered on Saturday at the first of National’s regional conferences “just embarrassing”.
Collins, in the weekend speech, accused Labour of sneaking through the recommendations of the He Puapua report, which she labelled a “divisive” document.
She said the document contemplates a separate system for Māori in Parliament, education, justice and resource management. Collins said He Puapua “spells out a clear vision for New Zealand in 2040 under a ‘two systems’ Treaty view”.
“The debate today has moved to: what is the role of the Treaty in our democracy going forward? Did the Treaty bring us together as one people, or split us apart as two?
“The Labour Government, in developing its proposed health restructure, has said that we have a Treaty obligation to have separate systems,” Collins said.
Her speech came after she criticised the Government’s plans to create a new Māori Health Authority, saying New Zealand should have one system based on need.
"As far as the National Party is concerned, segregation was an appalling idea last century and it remains an appalling idea in 2021," Collins said when speaking about the Māori Health Authority to NZME last week.
Statistically, Māori suffer from worse health outcomes than non-Māori.
Multiple commentators, including Politik's Richard Harman, said Collins over the past week had been trying to recall Don Brash's divisive Ōrewa speech about race relations, which delivered National a short-lived boost in the polls.
Today, Collins said she stood by her statements.
She said the reaction to her speech from members was “extremely good”, and the reaction from her caucus colleagues was “really good”.
The public, meanwhile, is “immensely trying to buoy me up against the commentators”, she added.
She said of the Prime Minister’s accusation she was playing the race card: “The personal attack from her I thought probably showed she was a bit concerned she couldn’t answer the questions in a straight manner.”
Jacinda Ardern yesterday said He Puapua hadn't gone to Cabinet and that it did not reflect the Government's views. He Puapua was a report produced by a working group in response to the previous National-led Government, which Collins was a part of, signing the UN Declaration on the Rights of the Indigenous Peoples.
"I see it as nothing more than pure politics,” Ardern said, adding it was "hugely disappointing" to have debates like this while National was at a "particular point in the polls".
Collins maintained she was simply asking questions about He Puapua and the Māori Health Authority.
National’s deputy leader Shane Reti, as well as Todd Muller, Chris Luxon, Simon Bridges and Chris Bishop, were among the MPs who expressed support for Collins’ speech at caucus today.
When asked whether they would call it “segregation”, Luxon, Bridges and Bishop avoided using the word.
Reti said he was concerned He Puapua indicated the Government could look into a “separate sort of governance” for Māori.
“I am concerned they are indicating some degree of separatism as the leader [Collins] has said.”
Bridges said Labour had an “emboldened” Māori caucus who could be pushing on the recommendations of He Puapua.
“I’m Maori. I presumably will get a choice,” he said of the Māori Health Authority, adding not everyone would get the choice about their health under the system, and that was why it should be based on need.
Bridges said he acknowledged Māori generally had poorer outcomes when it came to health.
Health Minister Andrew Little pushed back on Collins’ comments.
He said it was “just embarrassing in this day and age that a political leader of a major political party would talk in that way” because there were major equity concerns for Māori health, and that there were Treaty obligations to be met.
When asked by reporters if Collins was race baiting, he said: “It struck me as a very weird thing to go and do.”
Labour MP Willie Jackson said Collins was “just playing politics, looking for any way of getting out of the hole the National Party is in”.