Willie Jackson, Paula Bennett locked in fierce racism row

National Party deputy leader Paula Bennett has accused Minister Willie Jackson of racism, saying he questioned whether she's Māori enough.

But Jackson, the Employment Minister, is making no apologies for his comments - and even suggested that Bennett is 20 times more racist than he is.

"The Māori in the National Party are useless," Jackson said in Parliament on Wednesday. "Paula Bennett, she doesn't know if she's a Māori - some days she does, some days she doesn't."

Bennett wasn't the only Māori MP from National he singled out in a tirade. He called out Dan Bidois, saying he "needs to go back to Italy", and Jo Hayes "wouldn't have a clue".

Bennett told Newshub she "found it 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."

When asked if he'd been racist to Bennett, Jackson told Newshub: "Never, absolutely not."

Jackson then suggested Bennett herself is racist, saying: "She's talking nonsense. If I'm guilty of racism, then she must have been 20 times back in her career."

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

But Jackson said he would never question Bennett's "Māori-side". However in terms of her advocating for Māori, it's "basically zero", he said.

Jackson's Labour Māori caucus colleague Peeni Henare went further, actually questioning whether Bennett is Māori enough.

"I haven't seen her contribution to the community for Māori kaupapa, I haven't seen her on the marae, I haven't seen her dry dishes, I haven't seen her do a karanga - therefore, it should be raising the question," he said.

Bennett said she's "pretty robust" and "doesn't particularly care too much" - but said she does worry about the message it sends to others.

And no matter which side you're on, it's an ugly row. Racism, whether it's actual or perceived, has no place in Parliament - or New Zealand.