Greens co-leader Marama Davidson reacts to National leader Judith Collins' 'bizarre' diversity theory

Judith Collins' theory that "the biggest diversity of all is diversity of thought" - in defence of National's white middle aged supporters - has been described as "bizarre" by Greens co-leader Marama Davidson.

Collins made the remarks in an interview with Magic Talk's Peter Williams, who said photos he saw of delegates at National's AGM over the weekend depicted "a hell of a lot of sameness" and lots of middle aged white men. 

In National's defence, Collins said there is "nothing wrong with middle aged white people" and complained that the media "gave almost no coverage" of the Pacific delegates who attended the annual general meeting. 

"You know what? People are middle aged white people. You can't help who you are - you just are who you are and actually, I think the biggest diversity of all is diversity of thought. That's far more important," Collins said. 

National lost much of its diversity after a crushing election defeat. After securing 56 seats in 2017, it now has just 33 MPs and only three of them - deputy leader Shane Reti, former leader Simon Bridges and Melissa Lee - are not white.

"I understand that the National Party has more members who are middle aged white people. There's nothing wrong with middle aged white people, it's just we also need to be able to reach out to people who aren't," Collins said. 

"We have a lot of support from the Indian and Chinese communities as well as from Māori and Pasifika but we need to have more."

Davidson, who co-leads the Green Party's caucus of 10 - half of whom are not white - described Collins' comments as "bizarre".  

"There's diversity of thought in diversity of experience. It's quite a bizarre comment for her to make and I think it's a bit of a cover-up for the lack of all-around diversity in her own caucus."

National had to farewell Māori female MPs such as Jo Hayes and Harete Hipango, as well as Indian-born born MP Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi, and Filipino MP Paulo Garcia, among others, after scoring just 26.8 percent of the party vote and losing 14 electorates to Labour. 

Labour by comparison to National has a female party president and Williams questioned Collins on whether more diversity should have been sought as the party seeks to rebuild its image.  

"I suppose you could change people for change's sake but the point is the party president of the National Party, like the Labour Party, is not the person out leading debate," Collins said. "I can't even tell you who the Labour Party president is and I bet you can't either."

"Claire Szabó's her name, Judith," Williams shot back. 

Collins replied: "Oh right, okay, well you're better than me on that."

Goodfellow, the longest-serving president in National's history, led a tirade against the Labour Government in his speech to more than 550 delegates who turned out at Te Papa in Wellington to support the party. 

He characterised the daily COVID-19 updates by the Government as being "televangelistic" and attacked Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's "celebrity leadership". 

Collins said Goodfellow was "simply stating how he felt" to the delegates. 

"I thought it was reasonably well received by the delegates. There was tremendous support given at the conference for all the speeches there. The other thing is, we have 550 delegates in a year when we had a terrible loss like that and a really hard year. It was an enormous support for the National Party and I think it was an outstanding AGM, frankly."

Former National leader Sir John Key, who served as Prime Minister from 2008 to 2016, said the party needs to take responsibility for the election defeat and loss of support. 

"We have a chance to control what the media say about us and if we have unity, and we're on message and we start talking about the things we want to do, eventually all the other stories drown out," he told The AM Show. 

"Take responsibility - we're the party of personal responsibility - that would be a great step forward to winning in '23."

Key said he has "lots of confidence" in Collins and described her as a "good operator". But he emphasised the need for National to unite and plug the leak of supporters abandoning it for Labour. 

Newshub-Reid Research data from before the election showed 21 percent of people who voted National in 2017 planned to ditch it for Labour. 

Key's theory is that some young voters liked Ardern while some older voters felt the Prime Minister protected them from COVID-19. He also thinks Kiwis voted for Labour to avoid the Greens getting their wealth tax policy across the line.  

"We have to go back and win Labour's votes."