New Zealanders feel "shut down" and are accused of being a racist or a 'Karen' if they say something, Judith Collins says as she celebrates National's new 'Demand the Debate' campaign.
The opposition party on Sunday launched the campaign, which it says comes in response to policy announcements by the Government which it never campaigned on, such as the electric car rebate scheme. It wants the country to have a conversation about these issues, saying Labour's "parliamentary majority is not a mandate for Labour to promote their ideological wish list".
The controversial He Puapua document is the first issue National wants a national discussion around. Commissioned in 2019, it sets out ideas on how to respond to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which the former National Government signed up to in 2010.
The Government has begun consulting with Māori, but the report is not formal Government policy and ministers have already ruled out some of its recommendations, such as establishing a separate Māori Parliament.
"Kiwis were never told about it at the time and it was never campaigned on by Labour," Collins said on Sunday. "It has recently been considered by Cabinet and is being consulted on with a select few New Zealanders."
Speaking to The AM Show on Wednesday, Collins said some Kiwis feel silenced.
"It's an opportunity for New Zealanders to demand the debate... we are highlighting particular issues that the Government did not campaign on but which they are pushing through," she said.
"At the moment, people feel very shut down if they say anything. They are either accused of being a racist or they are apparently a 'Karen'… I think it's a way of shutting down people who don't necessarily have your own view. It is a legitimate debate and New Zealanders deserve that.
"We are also saying to people it is okay to actually question, you don't have to go along with everything."
Collins herself has been accused of engaging in "racist propaganda and rhetoric", as Māori Party co-leader Rawiri Waititi put it in May, by raising questions about He Puapua. The National leader said at the time she wouldn't back down.
"I'd like all Māori to know this is not talking about Māori. This is talking about constitutional arrangements that the Government is clearly talking to Māori about, and my question to the Prime Minister is: does she want to have a conversation with every other New Zealander?"
It's also been suggested Collins is a 'Karen'- by the Prime Minister no less. The term "Karen" typically refers to a white, entitled, middle-aged woman who gets upset and aggressive when things don't go their way.
That came as Collins questioned Jacinda Ardern in Parliament over proposed hate speech law changes. Collins had asked on Twitter earlier if calling a woman a 'Karen' may become a crime under the proposals.
"That is absolutely incorrect, and I apologise that means these laws will not protect the member from such a claim," Ardern said.
That moment went viral, covered across the world by the likes of The Guardian, CNN, the Daily Mail, Unilad, and the Daily Beast. But one lawyer said the 'Karen' insult could lead to prosecution under the planned changes.
Collins on Wednesday said her MPs were having conversations with Kiwis and will be out in force at the Groundswell Howl of a Protest event on Friday. That's been organised for people to show support to growers, farmers and ute owners "fed up with increasing Government interference".
"There has even been a suggestion that I will be on a tractor. Given that I learnt to drive first on a tractor before I learnt to drive a car, why not? Although, they are a lot bigger tractors now then they were when I was a kid."