Peters: Lotu-Iiga qualified for Corrections job

Peters: Lotu-Iiga qualified for Corrections job

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters says Sam Lotu-Iiga is qualified to run our prisons because he's a Polynesian and therefore can relate to most prisoners.

The Corrections Minister said he didn't want to respond to the comments made by Mr Peters at the party's annual conference in Rotorua, and Mr Peters is adamant he's said nothing wrong.

Mr Peters sure knows how to make an entry, and in his speech to the party faithful attacked what he says are "unqualified National ministers", singling out the likes of former Education Minister Anne Tolley.

"When she was asked you what qualifies you to be the Minister of Education, she replied, 'Well, I've had two children,'" says Mr Peters.

But Mr Peters wouldn't criticise embattled Corrections Minister Mr Lotu-Iiga, saying he's qualified to do his job because he's a Pacific Islander.

"I think Sam's got a greater understanding of some of the conditions and some of the phycology of a majority of prisoners in New Zealand who happen to be Polynesian and Maori," says Mr Peters.

Mr Peters refused to criticise Mr Lotu-Iiga, who is a lawyer, despite the minister struggling in the face of the fight club controversy. 

"If you come from the biggest population group in the prisons you might have a rough idea of some of their concerns or aspirations are."

Mr Peters brushed off any suggestion his statement was racist.

"Well anyone that said that is an ignoramus with the greatest respect; there's nothing racist about it."

Mr Peters often uses his party conference to pull the race card. In fact, he talked at length about immigration today.

But this time he's sparked a race debate of another kind and is unrepentant because it gets him what he's ultimately after – a headline.

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