Most voters unconcerned about race debate, Sir John Key believes

Former Prime Minister Sir John Key says he can understand why people are concerned about the race debate - but he doesn't believe it's an issue many voters "get up and really worry about".  

Sir John has been doing the media rounds after announcing his retirement on Tuesday as chair of New Zealand's biggest bank ANZ.  

New Zealand's 38th Prime Minister joined AM on Wednesday to discuss everything from the state of the economy and the current political environment.  

Asked by AM host Melissa Chan-Green whether he'd been giving advice to current Prime Minister Christopher Luxon, Sir John responded: "Not really, he doesn't need advice."  

But Sir John said the pair do catch up regularly. 

"We're mates, we see each other a bit."  

He said he'd always reiterated to Luxon there were "only four issues people vote on: the economy, law and order, health, and education".  

"I know race has been a big part of this... whole campaign and the Coalition partners are pushing that issue and there's lots of interest in it but, actually, I don't think that many voters get up and really worry about that."  

He said while voters may have some concerns and there was a tension around the issue, "What they really think about is, do I have a job? Is my daughter safe when she goes out on Saturday night"?  

Sir John believed those were the issues that needed to be focused on.  

He said those subjects would be what Luxon and the Coalition Government would be judged on.  

Most of the race debate stems from ACT leader David Seymour's Treaty of Waitangi Principles Bill, sparking a focal point in Māori discontent with the Coalition Government. 

Labour leader Chris Hipkins earlier this month called Luxon's leadership on the Bill "confused" and "weak"

Luxon's National Party has ruled out supporting the Bill past the first reading, despite allowing it to go as far as a Select Committee for debate. 

According the latest Ipsos Issues Monitor, released in October and carried out before the election, race relations and racism was the most important issue facing New Zealand for 5 percent of those surveyed.