6 Aug 2014

Whyte denies race policy stunt claim

8:38 pm on 6 August 2014

ACT leader Jamie Whyte has denied he talked about wanting to use the party's race relations policy as an election stunt.

Jamie Whyte.

ACT leader Jamie Whyte. Photo: RNZ

Guy McCallum, a member of the ACT board and Dunedin North candidate, has resigned from the party following the leader's controversial race relations speech last week.

Dr Whyte said Maori were legally privileged in New Zealand and that one of ACT's core principles has always been the law should be colour blind.

Race relations commissioner Dame Susan Devoy called the speech grotesque and inflammatory.

On Wednesday, Guy McCullum said Dr Whyte told him on 20 July that he was in search of a stunt to gain attention and then rolled out the unprepared race relations policy.

But Dr Whyte denies this, telling Radio New Zealand's Checkpoint programme the policy was flagged in early July.

"I don't, I just don't believe I did. And in any case, it's got nothing to do with this policy. This is a policy of incredible importance - it's a foundation principle of liberal democracy."

Mr McCallum said he was led to believe by Dr Whyte and ACT that the one law for all policy needed to be reviewed.

"I was given different indications along the way, so this has created a pinch-point for me. I heard Jamie say to me that he was in search of a stunt on the 20th of July - then about a week later we had the Hamilton conference speech, so I think those events may be linked."

Mr McCallum said there was an agreement among board members that the policy be left alone, but Dr Whyte said that's false.

"I've had no negative reaction from anybody in the party except Guy and I've had many, many positive reactions. So I don't know what he's talking about there."

Dr Whyte said his speech was long-standing policy and that Mr McCullum was on the board that confirmed it would be part of the policy platform.

Guy McCallum says he was concerned that ACT was focusing more on fear and prejudice in order to win votes and doesn't support the direction it's going in, so decided to leave the party.

He believed ACT is concentrating on scary imagery such as burglars turning up at people's homes and is not longer representing positive ideals of liberals and libertarians.