Scoop Election 08: edited by Gordon Campbell

Gordon Campbell on Lockwood Smith and other embarrassments

October 23rd, 2008


Lockwood Smith in happier days – mugging it up for his 2002 novelty calender

*****

In the last couple of days, Lockwood Smith and Maurice Williamson have provided a timely reminder that no matter how much the public may like John Key, there is some truly awful deadwood on the National front bench. Having the shadow Immigration Minister clumsily repeat gross racial stereotypes he has heard about the very people that he could soon be making eligibility decisions about is bad enough – but doing so when National is ardently trying to woo the Maori Party looks like the height of stupidity.

It has been an interesting exercise all round, though. Maori Party Co-Leader Tariana Turia says this morning that she has already moved on. Yesterday’s example of racism, it seems, has become today’s forgivable gaffe. Yes, Turia is that keen on a deal with National.

Certainly, Turia’s readiness to forgive, forget and move on must be leaving Key with his head spinning. In a ‘how high do I need to jump to satisfy the Maori Party’s hurt feelings’ initial response, Key had reportedly taking Smith aside, and told him he could forget about being Immigration Minister.

He should stick to that initial decision, and count his blessings. What Smith has done is give him an excuse to deal with a genuine problem – that there is younger, fresher talent within National’s ranks than the 1990s crew ( Smith, Maurice Williamson, Tony Ryall etc etc) who are expecting Cabinet status to be their due, now and well into the next decade. Through their own foolishness, Smith and Williamson have given their leader an excellent opportunity to show some leadership, and shunt them aside.

The public after all, deserve better. The Immigration Service is a shambles. It needs a capable, energetic minister at the helm who is capable of driving the department’s internal need for renewal – Smith, by contrast has been a pushover for his officials in the past – and who is sensitive to New Zealand’s role in the Pacific and in Asia. Because migration and tourism from Asia is down.

Do we really want to appoint a walking embarrassment like Smith to the job of putting things right? Moreover, one of the first pieces of major legislation that a National –led government will be inheriting is the passage of the contentious Immigration Bill. Does Key really think Smith is a safe pair of hands for that job ? Surely there is some safer pigeonhole – the Minister of Surf Lifesaving perhaps ? – where Smith can be hidden for the next three years ?

One final management hint. When Maurice Williamson opens his trap about road tolls being easily affordable, that certainly creates a campaign problem for National. Mainly because the weekly toll dollars that Williamson is so jaunty about, would exceed – even at $30 a week, down from his $50 estimate in August – the amounts that the vast bulk of the population stand to receive from National’s much vaunted tax cuts. National would prefer that Williamson did not draw attention to that point again, over the next three weeks.

Even so, if Key wants to silence Williamson, surely it is possible to take him quietly into a corner and sandbag him – rather than have him featuring the very next day in the Herald as a man who has been silenced by his party ? Silencing is supposed to ensure silence, not martyrdom. Again, if there is a silver lining to these clouds, Key has been provided with ample reason NOT to promote these ageing dunderheads to Cabinet rank. Offering the immigration ministry to the Maori Party – to Dr Pita Sharples, say – would be a much better idea.

Footnote: in some quarters, Smith has his defenders ie, he was only repeating what the Marlborough winegrowers were saying etc. On RNZ’s Checkpoint last night, there was even talk of well, what if its true ? Maybe Asians do have fine little hands, that make them intrinsically better for grape picking work ? ( But gosh, some of them also play the piano quite well. How do they manage that with their teeny tiny hands ? Etc Etc.) Interestingly, not too many defenders came forward to support the other half of Smith’s comments – about the alleged ignorance of flush toilets and showering among Pacific Islanders.

To repeat: New Zealand doesn’t want to become known in the Pacific and in Asia for basing its immigration criteria on crude racial stereotypes. That’s a 19th century approach. What’s the next logical step down the road that Smith has charted – bringing back phrenology as a basis for judging the intelligence and adaptability of migrant workers ? Now, that’s something that could appeal to the vintners of Marlborough.

ENDS

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    1. 10 Responses to “Gordon Campbell on Lockwood Smith and other embarrassments”

    2. By Ian MacKay on Oct 23, 2008 | Reply

      I too think that these two mis-speaks do give Key an excuse to refresh his front bench. And maybe Brownlie’s outburst re Labour letter-box drop and then later a similar accusation against Brownlie. There must be some old hands hoping for a place but to return all of the old hands would not be a good look.
      But why are there so few National spokesmen/women speaking out on their expertise? I expect it is to promote Key as an all-powerful leader, but why wouldn’t the population expect to hear from a wider range?

    3. By Malcolm Jackson on Oct 23, 2008 | Reply

      There is another immigration story coming out in the next 48 hours.
      Are you going to comment on that Gordon?

    4. By Sam Hill on Oct 23, 2008 | Reply

      You seem to forget that Maori intolerance towards Asian immigration is probably higher on a whole than Pakeha. The last few days have only further entrenched my belief that a National/ACT/Maori Party co-alition on one side will have to do battle with Labour/Anderton/Greens on the other, with possible NZ First and United Future deciding the outcome.

    5. By brian marshall on Oct 23, 2008 | Reply

      Lockwoods retelling of what he heard is an appauling lack of judgment.
      But then Maori party is a racially based party, with many racist policies so why not work together. It could also sort of go with Labours anti Christian predudices and NZ Firsts anti asian in a nice big bucket of politicial muck.

    6. By StephenDoyle on Oct 23, 2008 | Reply

      Hang on a moment. I am involved in Surf Lifesaving and do NOT want Mr L Smith thank you very much:)

    7. By Emma Gordon on Oct 24, 2008 | Reply

      I can not see how wishing to do things ones own way is a “racist party”, Mr Marshall. Such are the things we take for granted and the ridiculous assumption that “same” somehow equates with “equal”. Maori are not asking to encroach upon other cultures but simply to repair their own using their own methods. As for our dear buddy Lockwood: surely this is indicative of the underlying problems with Keys leadership in general. Far too busy concentrating on delightful sounding promises with no means to back it up.

    8. By James on Oct 24, 2008 | Reply

      Labour goes on a lot about how terrible the National govt of the 90s was, and rightly so. Those who think they should stop harping on about it would do well to shut the hell up tho, given that National’s front bench is largely unchanged from the 90s. We should all be wary of what happened then, and the fallout from that, including the wealth gap, which continues to this day.

      The least that Key should do is shunt Smith, Williamson and Brownlie off the front bench. It would be most helpful too if he did the same to Mr English. All of them are responsible for what happened in the 90s and none of us should have any confidence in them now.

    9. By manontherise on Oct 24, 2008 | Reply

      Unless you actually know the context of the 90′s, the Asian economic crisis, the stalling agricultural economy; rural flight and so on, don’t make knee jerk comments about the National govt of the day and it’s decisions. The wealth gap has grown under Labour, ponder that.

      Where do you think 9 years of largely squandered growth came from for Labour; Cullens Arse? Their government was timely in that it capatilised on the painful groundwork laid by another party just as it was bearing fruit. If you think Health is a mess now, you shouldve seen it before the nats came in the 90′s. It was rusty, dilapidated, decrepit, and absolutely out of date where people judged the number of beds in useless yellowing hospitals as the barometer for quality of care.

      Smith and Williamson are stupid, incompetent, useless, racist, bitchy and arrogant without requisite talent. They should be fired. Ryall, and Smith are still effective, but they will not be particularly senior. Brownlie is fat and lazy and too concerned with personal advancement, and is sneaky, he should go too.

      But Bill English is the diamond in the rough. He saved the Health system, he is compassionate, experienced and extremely intelligent, he put up with all kinds of shit from both sides of the House as Leader and took on the burden for the good of his party. Then he stayed on for the good of the party, and has been the major instrument of the National party’s current success. He has helped Key tremendously and even helped Brash after Williamson and CO undermined him for months on Brashes behalf. English likes Maori and they like him, he understands the economy, he has 6 kids so he has a major stake in the countries future, and he has been thru more then any other MP in Parliament.

    10. By brian marshall on Oct 24, 2008 | Reply

      Emma, If having national superannuation for Maori only at age 60 for example is not racist, please explain???

      Racist is where one “race” is discriminated against by another. The above is just one example. Quite frankly I’d rather not have special privelages given to my nephews if my daughter doesn’t get them, as much as the other way.

    11. By lindsey dawson on Oct 24, 2008 | Reply

      Smith may have been politically careless in saying what he did (and it was quite a slip-up, given the length of time he’s been in the job) but the need to give plumbing advice to new arrivals is no big deal. I’ve needed it myself…such as at Kuala Lumpur International Airport last year when I mused on what to do with the hose in the women’s loo. It was attached to the wall, alongside the standard toilet. There was loo paper available, but the locals prefer not to use such an unclean western method, preferring a water wash instead. But how to do that when you’re a visitor wearing jeans? I had no clue. If the locals could have seen my indecision they’d have sniggered.
      And how many ‘sophisticated’ New Zealanders are adept at using a bidet? The last time I was in a French hotel I found it very useful for washing socks and knickers. The French would sneer at that barbarian behaviour, too.
      And then I remember being pretty bamboozled by a washing machine in an Italian apartment. It took about two hours to achieve what my trusty F & P machine does in 20 minutes. Or maybe I just pressed the wrong buttons.
      PI people aren’t the only ones to be baffled by foreign bathroom/laundry gizmos.

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