'Always prefer your backbenchers say less': Helen Clark opens up on Labour MP Louisa Wall's tough anti-China stance

A former Prime Minister thinks Jacinda Ardern will be hoping rogue backbencher Louisa Wall tones down her criticism of China. 

Wall, formerly the MP for Manurewa but now a list MP without any ministerial portfolios, has accused the Chinese authorities of organ harvesting and called for a boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympic Games, to be held in Beijing. 

Since signing a free trade agreement in 2008, China has become New Zealand's biggest trading partner. That agreement, which was upgraded in 2019, was set up when Helen Clark was Prime Minister. 

She told Newshub Nation on Saturday that Wall could say things Ardern couldn't.

"Backbenchers always have more leeway. They can say things that Prime Ministers couldn't because of the impact on relationships," said Clark. 

Asked if Ardern would see that as a good thing, Clark laughed.

"As leader you'd always prefer your backbenchers say less rather than more obviously, having dealt with a lot in my time." 

Ardern distanced herself from Wall's organ harvesting claims, saying Wall was speaking as chair of the New Zealand branch of the Inter-Parliamentary Union - an international group which "facilitates parliamentary diplomacy and empowers parliaments and parliamentarians to promote peace, democracy and sustainable development around the world".

This latest 'extraordinary' APEC meeting focused on the COVID-19 pandemic was held in addition to the scheduled one in November. China announced a US$3 billion aid fund to help developing countries fight and recover from the pandemic. 

"There are many countries around the world where the health workforce isn't covered yet, yet they're dealing with COVID patients who are very ill. It all helps," said Clark.

The November meeting will mostly focus on the usual trade issues, she said, but COVID-19 will be an unavoidable topic since the "pandemic will still be raging" then. 

"I remember once at APEC leading a discussion on HIV; people might say 'why were you discussing that at APEC?' It impacts on economies. If you have runaway pandemics, obviously as we know it impacts on economies." 

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