Judith Collins fires back at critics over 'white' comments

National's new leader has been challenged to explain what she meant in controversial comments about how she was "sick of being demonised" for her ethnicity. 

In a spirited interview with The Hui, Collins said she'll "never apologise" for being who she is.

The comments were made during a hearing of Parliament's Finance and Expenditure Committee in May, when she reacted to questions by Waiariki MP Tamati Coffey about Treaty partnership and Government procurement.

"Oh Jesus Christ, stupid questions," Collins said. 

The committee chair - Labour's Deborah Russell - called that "a 'white girl comment' - crikey".

"Oh no," replied Collins. "It's actually someone who is utterly sick of being demonised for my ethnicity, thank you very much."

The Hui host Mihingarangi Forbes asked Collins about it.

"I'm number one not a girl, and the fact I'm white is a fact - I can't do anything about it," Collins said.

"Just because someone has white skin doesn't mean to say that they don't actually feel, care about and have empathy for all New Zealanders." 

Forbes wasn't convinced.

"Give me some examples of how you're demonised. For example, are you apprehended, charged and convicted at a higher rate than non-Pakeha?"

"I have to say I don't generally commit crimes either, so that's why I'm not," Collins said.

"But in terms of things like this, I will never apologise for being who I am... I will not be told that because I happen to be white that I don't care, I don't empathise or anything else... I will not be told that I make white girl comments by someone who should be a lot better than that." 

Judith Collins.
Judith Collins. Photo credit: The Hui

After 18 years in Parliament and two runs at the top spot, Collins became just the second woman to lead National after the shock resignation of Todd Muller. 

Despite deputy leader Gerry Brownlee's claims about the difficulty of balancing diversity with competency, Collin's has promoted a number of her Māori MPs. 

Simon Bridges has become the highest-ranked Māori at number four, while beleaguered MP Michael Woodhouse has been dropped in favour of Dr Shane Reti, who takes over the health portfolio at number five. 

Whanganui MP Harete Hipango has had a meteoric rise, boosted 18 places to become the shadow Attorney-General. 

And despite National's long-standing desire to disestablish the Māori seats, Collins has not ruled out running candidates in the Māori electorates.

Collins told The Hui she has been approached by several would-be candidates who are keen to run in the Māori seats and is exploring the possibility.