9 Jun 2020

Sticking to knitting 'not the best phrase to use' - Goldsmith

From Checkpoint, 6:06 pm on 9 June 2020

National MP Paul Goldsmith concedes it was not the best choice of words to tell Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to "stick to her knitting" after she expressed anger over job cuts at The Warehouse.

The Warehouse Group is planning to axe more than 1000 jobs in a restructure it says has been accelerated by Covid-19. The company claimed more than $65 million in government wage subsidies.

Ardern told RNZ's Morning Report today she was "angry" to hear about the potential job losses after the Warehouse Group had claimed wage subsidy money.

"At the moment I'm getting hundreds of letters from small-business owners who are giving up everything to try and keep their staff on.

"The government of course and taxpayers are taking a huge hit because we are prioritising trying to keep as many businesses and individuals employed and up and running as we can.

"I'd like to see the same attitude applied by some of our large organisations in New Zealand," Ardern said.

Goldsmith, National Party's finance spokesperson, told Checkpoint it was "not helpful" for the Prime Minister to criticise a struggling business.

"It's not for politicians to determine what business decisions should be made in terms of a company trying to stay afloat in a very difficult time.

"The only point I'm making is simply that the Prime Minister's focus should be on clearly articulating a credible growth plan to get us back on track as a country.

"If she focused on that, rather than criticising private businesses that are struggling to do their best I think there will be a better use of their time."

Earlier in the day he told NZ Herald Ardern should "stick to her knitting", and was apparently rebuked for it by National deputy leader Nikki Kaye after a social media backlash. 

Some commentators have argued that the phrase is sexist, as knitting is seen as a traditionally feminine activity.

Goldsmith told Checkpoint it was perhaps not the best phrase to use, "because particularly younger people aren't familiar with the metaphor" and some people would interpret it differently.

He said he didn't want to give the impression that he was disrespectful towards the prime minister.

"[Ardern's] pretty tough - I'm sure she's not in the least bit worried about it…  I use the phrase all the time, and the point of it is to say, stick to your task rather than meddling and somebody else's.

"I would just as easily have used the phrase for Grant [Robertson], but I didn't."

Asked when was the last time he used that phrase towards a man in a leadership position, Goldsmith said he used the phrase quite often.

After some research, Goldsmith even found an example of having told NZ First Minister Shane Jones to stick to his knitting.

ACT Party leader David Seymour also defended Goldsmith, saying it was not only women who knit, and he tried it when he was younger.