Willie Jackson claims he 'attacked' Māori National MPs as they didn't support Nuk Korako

Willie Jackson has justified comments he made about Māori National Party members by saying he did so because they showed little support for their fellow MP Nuk Korako.

Last month, National MP Nuk Korako announced he was standing down from Parliament and planned to retire. He made his valedictory speed on Wednesday.

On the same day, Jackson, the Employment Minister, made comments in Parliament which National deputy leader Paula Bennett has labelled as "racist".

"The Māori in the National Party are useless," Jackson said on Wednesday.

"Paula Bennett, she doesn't know if she's a Māori - some days she does, some days she doesn't."

National MPs Dan Bidois and Jo Hayes also came under fire, with Jackson saying Bidois "needs to go back to Italy" and Hayes "wouldn't have a clue".

Bennett responded to his comments by saying she found them "racist, without a doubt".

"It's kind of like, if we're not like you and fully entrenched and able to speak the language, then in your mind we're lesser Māori."

She said she's being defined by whether or not she speaks Te Reo or whether Jackson thinks she's "brown enough".

But Jackson denied being racist and claimed Bennett had done little to advocate for Māori and is the one guilty of racism.

"She's talking nonsense. If I'm guilty of racism, then she must have been 20 times back in her career."

He's now hit out again, writing in a Facebook post that he decided to "attack" the MPs because they had showed "very little support for a fine man and good Māori advocate, Nuk Korako".

While Korako has said he wanted to step aside to let a new MP have time in the role before the next election, Jackson claims it was instead because "he was basically sick and tired of the zero support he would get for Māori issues."

But in his valedictory speech, Korako said National had "deep roots in Māori political representation" and was pleased with the approach the previous Government had taken on Treaty of Waitangi settlements.

"The Treaty reflected the instructions of Lord Normanby to Captain William Hobson, and I pay tribute to the honourable nature of the Crown's intent in that regard," he said.

"The subsequent betrayal of that intent by the colonial settler State is what we have all been engaged in repairing in our generation. In that task, this House and the National Party in particular have put ourselves on the right side of our nation's history."

Nuk Korako, Willie Jackson, Paula Bennett.
Nuk Korako, Willie Jackson, Paula Bennett. Photo credit: National Party / File / Newshub.

Jackson said he made "no apologies" for calling the MPs useless.

"When you're in the Chamber, particularly in the General Debate, it's all on and you take no prisoners. That's how it's always been and you can either handle it or not."

He said Bennett was now playing the "race card and the bully card" and trying to "spin the line that I don't think she Māori which is not what I said in my speech - I said some days she's Māori and some days she's not, and that's an undeniable fact."

"The reality is that Paula is Māori by virtue of her whakapapa and the argument isn't whether she is Māori or not, the argument is actually has she ever advocated for Māori; has she ever taken a pro-Māori stance or a Kaupapa Māori stance - and the answer to that is unequivocally no."

Newshub has attempted to contact Korako for comment.

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