'If other people want to worry about those issues, that's up to them' - National MP Erica Stanford not into debate over paintings, Aotearoa

National MP Erica Stanford says it's "up to them" if her party's leaders want to talk about paintings, the name of the country and other things even Judith Collins herself doesn't rank as a priority. 

At the party's annual conference a week ago, Collins said to win in 2023 National would need to focus on seven key areas - such as public safety, lifting incomes, mental health, housing and transport.

Not on the list were the name of the country or where in Parliament a painting of British wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill should hang - but that's what has dominated headlines for the party lately. 

Many of her party's MPs have contributed to the off-topic debates; on Wednesday Tāmaki MP Simon O'Connor started a "petition to bring back Churchill", and on Friday former leader Simon Bridges told The AM Show he didn't want to be called an "Aotearoan".

Stanford doesn't want a bar of it. 

"My sole laser focus is on two things - the plight of migrants in New Zealand right now, and the plight of New Zealand businesses who can't get staff and who are losing those migrant workers, and also Kiwi workers. That is my sole focus," she told Newshub Nation on Saturday.

"I'm not distracted by any of that stuff, I don't even think about it, it doesn't worry me. Quite frankly, I haven't been paying attention… I'm not worried about paintings and all that other stuff. That is my job and that is my focus."

The painting fracas began when the Greens said they'd rather a painting of a New Zealander, by a New Zealander hung in the spot, near their offices. Collins said it was because they had an issue with Churchill himself, which Greens co-leader James Shaw denied. He said National MP Chris Bishop happily took the painting

Host Simon Shepherd asked Stanford if the National Party leadership was focusing on the right things.

"If other people want to worry about those issues, that's up to them," she said.

Elsewhere in the interview she spoke about how to fix the immigration backlog and the Government's Bill to ban conversion therapy. National voted against the Bill despite supporting a ban, saying it's concerned the present wording leaves parents open to prosecution. 

The Government has dismissed the concerns, Attorney-General David Parker saying he "can't ever envisage the Attorney-General's approval would be given for such a prosecution", as the Bill would require. 

Stanford said it was a poorly worded Bill. 

"It's the same thing with this Government as it always is… They're really good on the announcement, and they are disastrous on the detail. The detail on that Bill matters. 

"I don't want to sit by and see maybe parents might be prosecuted for stopping their kids from taking hormone blockers. If that's the case, that's got to be sorted out. That's a big issue. We're not going to let that pass on through."

She said she is confident Bridges, the party's justice spokesperson, would get it fixed.

"I have no doubt that at the select committee, Simon Bridges is going to do a really good job to get that tidied up, to get us to a position where we're happy with the Bill and that we will vote for it. Gay conversion therapy is appalling and it's torture."

Justice Minister Kris Faafoi declined Newshub Nation's request for an interview. 

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