David Seymour responds to Willie Jackson's 'attack' as more MPs pile in on 'disgrace' ACT leader

David Seymour has called Willie Jackson's "attack" on him "a shame" as other MPs pile into the ACT leader over his commitment to Māori.

The Māori Development Minister on Tuesday morning described Seymour, who is Māori with Ngapuhi iwi, as a "useless Māori" and "maybe the most useless advocate for Māori we have ever seen in Parliament".

ACT released its alternative budget on Monday, which included policies abolishing "demographic ministries", including the Ministry of Māori Development and Ministry for Women, as the party believes it replicates work that other ministries should be doing.

Seymour responded to Jackson's remarks in the afternoon by saying he was more interested in hearing from the minister about the effectiveness of the Ministry of Māori Development and Jackson's recent comments that "democracy has changed". 

"All the name-calling and all the rest I think is a shame. In that particular instance, [Jackson] had the opportunity to explain why Te Puni Kokiri does add value and should be kept. The fact he's not doing that confirms to me we should get rid of it."

He said every ministry should be serving every New Zealander and denied getting into "culture war politics". 

"I am interested in effectiveness for the taxpayer dollar. Every ministry should be thinking about every type of human. We shouldn't need whole ministries to represent types of humans. If we do, we have got much bigger problems and we need to go back to the drawing board and ask why our public services are not diverse and looking after everybody."

The ACT leader said he was "proud of my Māori whakapapa". 

"I am proud of all of my heritage and I am not going to stoop to getting involved with someone like that. Willie Jackson, he is good for a laugh, but he is also a good example of why we need more serious people in charge of our government and our country's future."

David Seymour.
David Seymour. Photo credit: Newshub.

But Jackson isn't the only MP piling into Seymour and his recent policies.

Greens co-leader Marama Davidson said it's quite clear David Seymour doesn't support the political aspirations for Māori communities or Māori leadership - and "for a modern New Zealand politician, that is completely unacceptable".

She claimed he was "whistling to the lowest forms of decency". 

"It is completely without decency. It is whistling to offensive racism."

The Māori Party co-leaders were both frank with their assessments when asked their thoughts on Jackson's view that Seymour is a "useless Māori".

"I wouldn't have called him that," said Debbie Ngarewa-Packer. "I would have called him, he's more of a non-Māori who happens to be Māori. He's a Pākehā who happens to be Māori, isn't he."

"What is David?" she asked her co-leader Rawiri Waititi.

He replied: "David is a disgrace, to be quite honest. You can't use your Māori whakapapa to weaponise against your own people. People have said is he the next Don Brash. No, he is not the next Don Brash, he is worse because he actually has Māori whakapapa."

Jackson was the one to raise Seymour's whakapapa on Tuesday.

Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson wouldn't say if he thought Jackson's comments were appropriate, but expects the Māori Development Minister will stand by them.

"I am totally going to leave those sorts of comments to Minister Jackson," Robertson said. "What I do believe is [Seymour] has put out a budget that is equal parts naive as it is dangerous, and the National Party will have to decide whether they want to work with that."

Davidson echoed Robertson by calling for National to say whether it supported ACT's policies, considering National will likely need ACT's seats in the future to form a government. 

"I would love to know what National's position is on the unacceptable wiping out of some of the most essential agencies and ministries that we need to enable community-led work to also happen," the Greens co-leader said. 

"It is simply unacceptable that David Seymour and the ACT Party want to get rid of some of the founding platforms for the work that needs to take us to a better Aotearoa for everybody, including Te Tiriti partners who is Tangata Whenua. It is lazy, lazy politics to be quite frank."

National leader Christopher Luxon resisted getting into ACT's policies on Tuesday, saying any potential discussions about future governing arrangements were a way off. But he said getting rid of ministries as ACT has proposed aren't National's policies.