Māori prisons mix-up shows Labour not ready to govern - Paula Bennett

The Deputy Prime Minister has ripped into Labour over its mixed messages on Māori prisons.

The party's Corrections spokesperson Kelvin Davis proposed the idea on Monday, saying it was worth a shot since the existing system isn't working.

"Why don't we just try, have the courage to try one of those 18 prisons and run it along kaupapa Māori lines?" he suggested.

There are presently just over 10,000 prisoners, just over half of them Māori.

Mr Davis' proposal was welcomed by the Māori Party and even some in National, but leader Andrew Little later said it was not party policy.

"We're at the tail end of the policy formation and it's not there," Mr Little said on Tuesday.

Deputy Prime Minister Paula Bennett gleefully told The AM Show on Friday it was a bit late for Labour MPs to be spitballing ideas to the public.

"Four months out from an election you don't go out there hypothesising via the media on what Labour policy will be, not inform your leader, and have him on the hoof trying to backtrack."

Labour counterpart Jacinda Ardern said Ms Bennett was using "total spin" to shut down debate on the topic.

"It's good for us to be talking about different ideas. This one isn't entrenched in Labour policy, but we want to hear what people thing about it," she said.

"So the Government has never, ever floated ideas, only ever set out to the public things they are implementing the next day? That is rubbish. What kind of democracy is this?"

She says Mr Davis never meant for the media to report his idea as Labour policy.

"Even if you ask Kelvin, he would have acknowledged that it was his idea and something that he was canvassing. As Corrections spokesperson, [it is] absolutely his prerogative to bounce ideas."

"It's just not tidy, it doesn't look tidy," said Ms Bennett.

"And these are people that want to govern."


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