I won't apologise to Howard' - Hone Harawira
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Maori Party MP Hone Harawira isn't retracting the "racist bastard" comment he aimed at Australian Prime Minister John Howard, despite a reprimand from his caucus colleagues.
"That's how I felt about it. Quite frankly that's still how I feel about it," he said at a press conference today after a caucus meeting called to discuss the issue.
Mr Harawira made the comment yesterday during a Maori Television discussion about the radical measures the Australian government has announced to deal with abuse and alcoholism in Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory.
"John Howard is a racist bastard imposing racist policies on a people who are not in a position to fight back," Mr Harawira said on Maori TV's Native Affairs programme last night.
He compared Mr Howard's move in the Northern Territory, with its mineral wealth, to United States President George Bush's invasion of Iraq, allegedly to control oil. A similar move in New Zealand would be met with violence from the Maori community.
"If they tried this up north, we'd be out with guns. It wouldn't happen."
He told Australian press agency AAP he stood by his comments: "If I was an Aboriginal man in the Northern Territory I would feel like absolute shit right now.
"I would have the leader of my country saying I am an alcoholic, I am into pornography, I am into sexual abuse. All I would want to do is go out and smash someone."
He was commenting on Mr Howard's plans for fighting abuse and poverty in remote Aboriginal communities, including bans on alcohol and pornography, tight controls on welfare payments, and extra police and troops.
Those measures were announced in response to a report by the Northern Territory board of inquiry into the protection of Aboriginal children from sexual abuse.
"All Howard has done is generate more anger and bitterness in the Aboriginal community, a lot of which is going to be internalised," Mr Harawira, the MP for Te Tai Tokerau, said.
The plan was ill thought out and aimed at helping Mr Howard to win an election later this year. His Liberal-National coalition was well behind the Labor Party in recent polls.
"The report that he is basing his recommendations on is already 10 years old. Why didn't he do something about it back then?" Mr Harawira said.
A spokeswoman for Prime Minister Helen Clark said Mr Harawira's comments were "most regrettable".
"John Howard has been a good friend to New Zealand and it concerns her that any MP from any party would lash out in this way."
She would not say whether Mr Harawira's attack would damage trans-Tasman relations.
Mr Howard declined to comment.
Earlier he angrily rejected a claim from Australian Capital Territory chief minister John Stanhope that the policy was racist and heavy-handed.
Mr Harawira also discussed sending a Maori delegation to support protests in Australia next week and called on iwi leaders to speak out on attacks by the Australian Government on Aborigines.
Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples appeared to support Mr Harawira's sentiments, saying that in context they reflected the level of concern the situation had generated in Australia.
"From our initial analysis, we would not have thought military intervention to be at all appropriate in dealing with the sensitive nature of the situation outlined in the report."
The Maori Party welcomed, however, a commitment by the Howard government to genuine consultation with Aboriginal people and the over-riding emphasis on child protection, community justice and community involvement.
Dr Sharples tried to water down the impact of Mr Harawira's criticisms, saying the party caucus would discuss the issue before making any further response.
"It is critical that careful analysis is undertaken of all of the information to hand about the focus of the report before any further comment is made."
A party spokeswoman said Mr Harawira was not available for further comment.