Accusations of racism, identifying 'as Māori conveniently' in tense day at Parliament

There were tense scenes in Parliament on Tuesday with Greens co-leader Marama Davidson kicked out of the House for accusing the ACT Party of racist questioning. 

Ngāpuhi's own David Seymour was attempting a question in Te Reo in Parliament.

"He Māori ahau mo nga kaupapa hauora," he said. 

But Te Pāti Māori's Rawiri Waititi said there's no question in there.

Seymour tried again, but Speaker Adrian Rurawhe said it still wasn't a question. 

The ACT leader later said he was trying to say, "Am I Māori for health purposes?"

The ACT Māori caucus pulled a parliamentary stunt by questioning the Government on why it introduced equity indicators prioritising Māori and Pasifika for surgery waitlists.

"Is it acceptable to him that my Cambodian husband could be placed lower on a surgical waitlist than me," asked Karen Chhour.

"As a Māori woman I could be placed higher on a surgical waitlist than someone of a different ethnicity," said Nicole McKee.

It was too much for the Greens' Marama Davidson.

"The nature of these questions are absolutely intended to raise racist opinions amongst the New Zealand public," said Davidson. 

But that was too much for Parliament. 

"That is a very serious accusation," said Rurawhe. "I'm contemplating sending you out."

He did - for Davidson failing to correctly apologise.

"Standing up for racism is worth anything," Davidson said afterwards.  

The Government is reviewing the policy which has seen surgeons in Auckland required to consider patients' ethnicity - alongside other factors - when deciding who gets operated on first.

"Where there is clear evidence that if someone is Māori, if someone is Pacific Island, if they are from a rural community or they are from a low-income background, they have been languishing for longer on the waitlists," said Prime Minister Chris Hipkins. 

ACT was unapologetic about its theatrics.

"It's getting to the crux, it's not beating around the bush: do I have the same rights as everybody else or am I put on a pedestal and treated differently?" said McKee.

It's unapologetic for only focussing only on race when the indicators also take into account rural communities and deprivation status. 

"There are two issues that we have with them using race," said Seymour. "One, is that it's actually quite a lazy way of targeting need. There are people who are Māori who are doing quite well thank you very much."

Debbie Ngarewa-Packer, Te Pāti Māori co-leader said: "I guess that we are used to seeing them identify as Māori conveniently."

The plan was to roll the equity requirements out nationwide but the Government is pumping the brakes on that.

"I've asked the Minister of Health to look at that. She's given me an assurance it's not going to be rolled out any further while that's happening," said Hipkins.

Politics trumping policy.