NZ First MP Ron Mark has been accused of racism after telling a National MP to “go back to Korea” during a parliamentary debate.
Mark’s comments have attracted criticism from MPs across the political spectrum.
His remarks came during debate on Tuesday about the Shop Trading Hours Amendment Bill, which would allow local councils to determine whether shops can trade on Easter Sunday.Mark took offence to a speech by Korean-born Lee in support of the bill, in which she said she had been surprised by New Zealand’s restricted shop hours having grown up overseas.
In response, he said: “Melissa Lee told the House in her rather condescending manner, which she is becoming renowned for, that we need to grow up in New Zealand.
“Well I have got a short message – if you do not like New Zealand, go back to Korea.”
Let’s have a look at the Hansard in which we see Ron Mark not just telling Melissa Lee to go back to Korea, but also getting it totally wrong on India when he has a go at MPs of Indian descent.
First what did Melissa Lee say:
MELISSA LEE: Exactly. Sometimes, as a migrant—well, not a new migrant; I have been here for nearly 30 years—it used to really surprise me, having grown up overseas and come to New Zealand, to see New Zealand shut down at a particular hour. That was really, really surprising. You know, we were closing shops at 5 o’clock when in other countries shops were open to 10 or midnight, or all night and 24/7. It is about choice. It is about people wanting to have that choice to either go and spend their money—go shopping and do touristy things—or to go and spend time with their family and have meals at a restaurant. Whatever it is, it is their choice.
Melissa is not alone in that observation. I recall the 1980s when shops closed at 5.30 pm four days a week and nothing was open on Saturday or Sunday. People visiting or new to NZ were always staggered by this.
RON MARK: Because, actually, Mr Hudson, you are like that old Hudson car—slow, smoky, rather rounded at the edges, and going nowhere fast—and no one buys the crap we just heard this evening, thank you. I want to go on to the other comments of Melissa Lee, one of these other wonderful National Party member, from Korea as Wikipedia says. Melissa Lee told the House in her rather condescending manner, which she is becoming renowned for, that we need to grow up in New Zealand. Well I have got a short message, if you do not like New Zealand go back to Korea.
A rather nasty contribution to the very reasonable observation Melissa Lee made. But he did not stop there:
RON MARK: Without any overtures of racism, let us look at the holidays in Korea that are public holidays that people do not work on. Coming to New Zealand and telling us we should grow up in our House, where we allow freedom of speech, is a little different to what we see. Buddha’s birthday, holy heck, so now we say that New Zealanders should have to work on a religious day but in Korea, where Miss Lee comes from, Buddha’s birthday on the eighth of the fourth lunar month is a public holiday where no one works. So let us look at another National Party member. Oh geebers, Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi. This gentleman also understands and respects the value of religious days and the need for public holidays but he sits in this House ready to take a call, I guess, to support this legislation. But let us have a look at India. There are so many, I just could not read them out in this time that I have available, but one of the religious holidays in India is Easter. where people do not have to work. And there is Good Friday, Easter Sunday, St Thomas the Apostle, the Blessed Virgin Mary, Feast of St Francis Xavier, Christmas Day. And let us have a look at a few others: Eid ul-Fitr, Eid ul-Adha, Eid ul-Ghadeer, and let us not forget Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday.
So Ron claimed there is no work in India on all those religious holidays. But he made it up.
KANWALJIT SINGH BAKSHI (National): Thank you for the opportunity to speak on the Shop Trading Hours Amendment Bill. First of all, I would like to clarify a few things that the previous speaker has raised. On any religious day in India, if there is a public holiday, every business is open and they pray. They do not—
Ron Mark: No.
KANWALJIT SINGH BAKSHI: Your knowledge is totally zero. The only two holidays—yes, I am from India, I lived over there for 35 years, and I can tell you that on every religious day, every shop is open, every shop is allowed to trade. The only 2 days when the whole of India is closed are not religious days; they are the Republic Day of India and Independence Day.
So, for your knowledge, clarify yourself before you speak, and do not try to be racist.
Nice slap down from Bakshi.