Stuff is reporting comments from Lockwood Smith that at best are stupid and at worst offensive:

“There are some skills in the vineyard that some people are perhaps better at,” Dr Smith was reported saying in the Marlborough Express newspaper.

“For example some of the pruning…some of the Asian workers have been more productive…because their hands are smaller.”

Dr Smith said employers should not be solely responsible for teaching or funding training that prepared workers for life in New Zealand.

“Some of them are having to teach them things like how to use a toilet or shower…I don’t think the employer should have to pay for that work.

The RSE scheme is 78% Pacific Island, so the latter comment is being seen as referring to Pacific Islanders.

Lockwood has apologised for his comments, which were repeating what employers had told him:

“My comments, regarding the extent to which employers, under the RSE scheme were being required to provide life skills training to RSE workers, were simply reporting the strong concerns expressed to me by many employers.

“These reported concerns have been expressed in the media previously, and there has been strong advocacy for future changes to the scheme to deal with them.

“Presented in the way they were, I can see that my reported comments may have caused offence. I sincerely regret that because it certainly was not my intention.

Lockwood should not have made the comments, regardless of what employers have told him. Firstly racial generalisations in public are rarely helpful – even if accurate that many Asians do have smaller hands.

The comments on some RSE workers needing teaching to use a toilet or shower are more unwise, in fact quite offensive. I am sure it is true that some workers have needed this teaching, but Lockwood’s mistake was to repeat this anecdotal evidence without any context at all – is it 1% of RSE workers, 10% or 50%? By just referring to anecdotal evidence, it allows people to assume it is a massive problem – something I suspect it not correct. Certainly I would be offended if I was an RSE workers by those comments as it tars them all with the same brush.

In an election campaign, the need for discipline is paramount. Especially in an election where there will be few being spending policy announcements, so stuff like this can end up as a big story for many days.

John Key I have no doubt is bloody angry with Lockwood – both for the comments per se, but also the timing. An option that will be in play is whether the comments merit sacking Lockwood – Roar Prawn certainly thinks this should happen.

I think it is a close call. It would be very sad for Lockwood’s career to end on such a stupidity. He has been a very hard working and diligent MP and Spokesperson – exposing many a wrong-doing in the Immigration Service. We do need to be careful not to demand MPs be without fault. I am not saying one should do a Helen and keep Winston with the baubles of office no matter what he says or does. But few MPs never ever stuff up.

On the other hand, not sacking Lockwood may cause the comments to be more than a one day issue, and sometimes you have to be pragmatic and just accept politics can be very harsh. Sacking Lockwood would also reinforce to National MPs the consequences of stupid utterances in election campaigns.

There are only 17 days left before the election. This means that what positive news National wanted to get out today, will be over-shadowed by this. Stupid indeed.

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