Police unconscious bias inquiry not necessary, says National's Judith Collins

National Party leader Judith Collins.
National Party leader Judith Collins. Photo credit: RNZ/ Dom Thomas

National Party leader Judith Collins says police's inquiry into unconscious bias is not necessary because she doesn't believe there is any systemic racism.

Speaking to Morning Report on the firearms protection order, Collins said if her party was in power, she would go further than those measures to ensure gang members and violent offenders did not have access to firearms.

The bill, which will be introduced into the House before the end of the year, aims to combat gang crime by preventing 'high-risk' people from accessing or using firearms.

"They're saying they would allow court to declare a firearm prohibition order after this gang member or violent offender has committed a serious violence offence - well it's a bit late, like shutting the gate after the bull has gone out," Collins said.

"It is important, we believe, that the police commissioner has the same powers that they do in New South Wales to actually issue these [orders] and we'd also have warrantless searches when they're in place."

On the other hand, Māori Party co-leader Rawiri Waititi said he had grave concerns the order would disproportionately affect Māori.

"We need to look at positive programmes and look at stopping that from happening, but also look at alternative plans for our whānau and stop the fishing expeditions that the police do with Māori," Waititi said.

However, Collins said it was "easy to throw around" claims of systemic racism within police.

"I trust the New Zealand police and I certainly trust them significantly more than I trust gang members, and I think that's the point.

"When we talk about gangs, people tend to forget that some of the more prolific gangs when it comes to methamphetamine, like say the Hells Angels or the Head Hunters, are predominantly Pākehā, so we're suddenly going to say that's okay?

"I mean they [the Māori Party] are very clear they don't trust police and well I do trust the police. I've been the minister of police for four years and I don't see the systemic racism."

In March, police announced they were launching a long-term research project to investigate whether they have unconscious bias against Māori. But they also would not say it is an inquiry into racism.

Asked if she believed that inquiry was necessary, Collins said it was not, adding that public trust and confidence in police was at "astronomical levels" when she was minister.

"I think that for people to say there is systemic racism, completely denigrates the hard-working men and women of New Zealand police and I'm going to stand up for them and law and order any day over patched gang members, who commit awful offences in this country, many of them against women and children."

Public sector pay freeze: 'It's important they don't get penalised'

Collins also spoke about the public sector pay freeze, which has come under fire from various sectors and unions. She said the National Party would not have taken such an action.

Teachers, nurses, and police and Corrections officers - who worked throughout the pandemic - were paying the cost of that policy, she said.

"It's important they don't get penalised and they do need to be able to get some assistance ... and I wouldn't have employed 10,000 more bureaucrats to write policy papers."

Australia, which has just announced its budget, was more likely to attract healthcare workers and teachers, she said.

But Collins said she would not be commenting further on the budget until its release next week.

She said the government needed to be careful about how taxpayer money and borrowed money was spent.

"Large debt levels are going to start a bit mattering more, and the reason is because interest rates are starting to move, and what we're seeing around the world is we're starting to see some inflation starting to come into the equation ... and it cannot be this constant printing of money without consequences.

"It is important that understand that if interest rates start to move - and we're starting to see certainly the stirrings of that, it hasn't gone crazy yet - someone has to pay.

"We're always very careful that whatever money we spend, whatever money we borrow, needs to be something we can justify to the New Zealand public."