ACT's David Seymour rejects racist rhetoric allegations in heated AM clash with Te Pāti Māori co-leader Rawiri Waititi

  • 09/02/2023

ACT leader David Seymour and Te Pāti Māori's Rawiri Waititi have clashed in a tense debate about co-governance during what was supposed to be an interview about Labour's policy dump.

It comes after Prime Minister Chris Hipkins on Wednesday put several unpopular policies on the burn pile including the RNZ-TVNZ merger, hate speech reforms and the income insurance scheme. 

The Government is also considering changes to the controversial Three Waters reforms.

But the policy dump was met with more questions from Opposition parties. Seymour said it showed how "hare-brained" the ideas were in the first place while the Green Party called for "bolder solutions". 

Māori Party co-leader Waititi also called for more forward-thinking.

"Chris Hipkins is now the driver of this Labour vehicle and he's going very, very fast in reverse," Waititi told AM on Thursday. "He has succumbed to the pressure from the likes of National and ACT who have emboldened that type of narrative out there in the public - social media - around words like 'co-governance'... policies around Three Waters and all those types of things.

Rawiri Waititi.
Rawiri Waititi. Photo credit: Getty Images

"The ACT and National parties have both been pushing a fear-mongering campaign against co-governance which actually puts a lot more pressure on."

Things quickly got tense when Seymour, who was due to appear in AM's studio but got stuck in traffic, joined the discussion via phone. 

Seymour, who has promised a referendum on co-governance if ACT helps to form the next Government, asked Waititi: "What specifically is that we have said that you think is racist rhetoric?" 

David Seymour.
David Seymour. Photo credit: Newshub.

"Oh, look, I'm not going to get into the nitty… of that, David - you can work that out," Waititi responded.

"Those of us that are out there trying to push for a more equal, equitable, fair and just society based on Te Tiriti o Waitangi has had to do this because there is a big pushback."

Waititi, whose party wants to establish a Māori Parliament, entrench Māori electorates, make Waitangi Tribunal recommendations binding on the Crown and overhaul the Te Tiriti settlement process, said the Government was now backtracking on policies because of "the pressure from those who are pushing that type of rhetoric". 

When Seymour again tried to ask what type of rhetoric ACT was pushing, Waititi said: "David, I gave you an opportunity to speak - be quiet, please."

Watch the full exchange above.