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A challenge to Helen Clark

Monday 8 Jul 2002

ACT Leader Richard Prebble, at ACT's daily press conference, said that there is a new issue in the election campaign - where does Helen Clark stand on the possibility of a coalition with New Zealand First and Mr Peters.

"The Leader of New Zealand First is running an openly racist campaign. It is a Le Pen style campaign.

"On the TV3 Leader's Debate Mr Peters said he didn't care whether his campaign was racist. On the Sky Leaders Debate he attacked immigrants from Bangladesh.

"On the Radio New Zealand Leaders Debate on the weekend, Mr Peters widened his attack to be all Asian immigration, claiming that New Zealand couldn't assimilate these people.

"Every New Zealand politician knows that in our multi-racial country a desperate politician can always play the race card.

"Everyone including Helen Clark knows that is what Mr Peters is doing.

"Ms Clark, who has been quite prepared to attack the Greens policy unacceptable has not only been silent about Mr Peters but has let it be known that Labour would consider a coalition with New Zealand First.,

"Helen Clark by her actions and her silence is condoning Mr Peters' campaign.

"The only politician who has been willing to speak out against Mr Peters has been myself. I have taken the opportunity in each debate to disassociate my party from Mr Peters' statements and to express my opposition to his inflammatory language. Whatever good points Mr Peters may have, they are outweighed by his inflammatory and blatantly racist statements.

"While Mr Peters was asleep in the last three years it has been the ACT Party and myself who have questioned the wisdom of the Labour Government's immigration policies. With careful research and reasoned arguments we have pointed out that Labour has lowered the criteria for immigrants and that last year's new immigrants have the lowest qualifications since the points system was introduced.

"The ACT Party has also been a strong critic of the Government's refugee policy, saying it lacks intellectual integrity. We have also criticised the Government taking queue jumpers ahead of refugees in the United Nations refugee camps.

"So, ACT does not say that immigration is not a legitimate and important issue. What we do say is that discussions must be factual and careful.

"Mr Peters' statements are reckless and irresponsible. Let me give just one example. A very large proportion of Chinese in New Zealand are students paying full fees - a fact Mr Peters never acknowledges. His attack on Bangladeshis is extraordinary as there are very few in the country.

"Helen Clark is failing in the most important test of leadership, moral leadership and courage. It took no courage to criticise Jeanette Fitzsimons and whether the GE moratorium should be extended by 18 months.

"It does take courage and moral leadership to speak out against Mr Peters' racism.

"This is an issue that is to me personally a bottom line one. I have refused to go into a coalition with Mr Peters. When National needed our votes in 1998, ACT made it clear that we would not join a Cabinet that contained New Zealand First MPs.

"My wife is from the Pacific. Rodney Hide's wife is Chinese. In a Winston Peters' New Zealand our children have no future. The question is whether they have a future in Helen Clark's New Zealand," Richard Prebble said.


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