National Party MP Paul Goldsmith has been accused of racialising the housing crisis after making a bizarre statement to a man who questioned him about National's lack of a capital gains tax.
Thomas Maharaj, 25, told Newshub that after a Saturday night debate in Auckland finished, he asked Tertiary Education Minister Paul Goldsmith if National Party MPs' property portfolios were preventing them from passing a capital gains tax.
"I said 'Collectively, MPs own about 295 houses. If I was to average that out to per MP per party per house… every National MP would own about three houses each."
Mr Maharaj asked Mr Goldmsith where he sits on the capital gains tax and whether he thinks special interests are affecting the policy legislation process.
The answer he got was "waffle", he says, so he pushed the minister, naming three National Party MPs who own at least seven houses each, including Amy Adams and Dr Parmjeet Parmar.
Mr Maharaj said Mr Goldsmith interrupted at that point, saying "Yeah, well, you're [Indian] and she [Ms Parmar] is Indian. You just need to accept it. That's the way it is."
Mr Maharaj said he was left in shock.
"I was really disappointed that you could bring up race in a housing crisis when there are 26,000 people in Auckland alone that are homeless."
"Just because you're Indian has got nothing to do with it."
"It's irrelevant to the issue I was trying to raise and the concerns I had, which was about National putting a two-year band aid over a capital gains tax with the bright-line test and prolonging a problem."
Mr Maharaj said the statement was confusing and wondered what Mr Goldsmith was implying. He went back up to the minister to ask what he meant, and was told he "didn't mean it like that."
"It wasn't an apology. It was nothing of the sort. I was so disappointed."
"We've got to make sure we don't have racism in our politics," Mr Maharaj said. "It just turns young people off politics."
He has the backing of Migrant and Refugee Rights Campaign spokesperson Gayaal Iddamalgoda, who says the comments continue "an alarming trend where the causes of the housing crisis are racialised, whether by blaming Chinese or Indian buyers."
"If we're serious about addressing the problem, we need to understand it's a problem caused by slumlords and other profiteers, regardless of their surnames or the colour of their skin."
In a statement provided to Newshub, Mr Goldsmith said there must have been a miscommunication.
"It is possible that Mr Maharaj and I misheard each other as I remember the conversation differently. Regardless, I am deeply distressed at the thought I may have offended Mr Maharaj, it was not my intention," he said in an email.
Mr Maharaj says he "doesn't understand how [Mr Goldsmith] could feel misheard. That's exactly what he said. Those words came out of his mouth. There are other people that heard it as well."