Race Relations Commissioner Meng Foon puts politicians on notice over 'racist' comments

Politicians have been put on notice not to be racist and bigoted this election year. 

Race Relations Commissioner Meng Foon told Newshub Nation on Saturday he'll be writing to every party asking them to avoid using issues of race, sexual orientation or disability to get votes.

"I'm going to... write an open letter to the presidents and the leaders of all political parties when the election campaign starts and give them the opportunity to read that first, and then publish it in the newspaper so that it is transparent of the values that my office expects from the politicians."

Foon's comments come two weeks after New Zealand First MP Shane Jones told Newshub Nation too many people "from New Delhi" are being allowed to settle in New Zealand. He was discussing the possibility of New Zealand having a maximum population policy at the time.

"If you want another million, 2 million, 3 million people, we should debate it and there should be a mandate, rather than opening up the options, unfettered, and everyone comes here from New Delhi," Jones told host Simon Shepherd. 

"I don't like that idea at all. I think the number of students that have come from India have ruined many of those institutions."

The comments resulted in outrage, but Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern - his boss in the coalition Government - stopped short of calling them racist, instead, she asked not to be judged on comments made by a member of a different party. 

Winston Peters, head of Jones' party NZ First, said they were not racist. 

Foon said they were definitely racist comments.

"It's very important that people in leadership actually show some good values and actually choose the issue of the day, rather than choosing the people, 'cause that's being mean."

Shane Jones and Meng Foon.
Shane Jones and Meng Foon. Photo credit: Getty/Newshub Nation

He said Ardern should have been tougher with Jones, and if she isn't, he will be.

"I will call you out," he warned, adding disabilities and LGBTQ to the list of off-limits subjects.

Sunday is the first anniversary of the Christchurch mosque attacks, by far New Zealand's worst-ever hate crime, which left 51 people dead. They were allegedly carried out by a white nationalist from Australia.

Foon said in the year since then, the number of complaints his office has received has been consistent with previous years.

"Yeah, yeah, there's around about 5000 complaints regarding racial discrimination, and there's a few hundred in Islamophobia, and so it's been fairly consistent."

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