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Ugly race debate ahead, says Smith

Ugly race debate ahead, says Smith

New Zealand is on the verge of an ugly and extremely divisive race debate thanks to unprincipled Opposition opportunism and the Government's lack of vision, United Future Maori Affairs spokesman Murray Smith said today.

At a time when the National Party is attacking Maori, and the Labour Party attacking one of its own for questioning its approach to Maori, the country is entering dangerous waters, he said.

"The Government is forever talking about its 'partnership' with Maori but refuses to define what it means by that; whether it is to be a 50/50 partnership, a 15% say (reflecting the percentage of 'Maori' seats it has now provided for within local authorities), or something else." he said.

"John Tamihere did the Government a service with his recent speech slamming Government welfare treatment of Maori, but frankly, a lot more needs to be said.

"Rather than rushing to hush him up, as the Prime Minister has done, there should be more open and genuine questioning of how we are moving in this country," Mr Smith said.

"The Nats have simply got desperate and will say whatever they think it will take to distinguish themselves from Labour - unfortunately this country will be further divided as a result.

"Frankly their march back into the colonial past is as reprehensible and crude an example of short-sighted political self-interest as we've seen in recent times," he said.

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