Peters denies 'alternative facts' accusation was racist

8:03 am on 27 April 2017

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters has been accused of stooping to a new low in politics by using tactics straight out of the Donald Trump playbook.

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters.

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters Photo: RNZ

Mr Peters issued a statement on Wednesday claiming a New Zealand Herald report on the top-five source nations for work visas was propaganda written by two Asian immigrant reporters.

He said their analysis of the official data from arrival and departure cards was flawed analysis to provide misleading "alternative facts".

The article, by senior reporters Lincoln Tan and Harkanwal Singh, stated that Statistics New Zealand data indicated Asia was not the source of a rise in foreign workers.

It said the official figures showed the top five source countries for work last year were the United Kingdom, Germany, Australia, South Africa and America.

Race Relations Commissioner Dame Susan Devoy suggested Mr Peters focus on what journalists write, not their ethnicity or race. "Debate facts. Agree to disagree. But a journalist's ethnicity is not relevant."

Herald editor Murray Kirkness said Mr Peters' attack on the journalists was straight from the Donald Trump playbook.

He said his reference to "New Zealand Herald propaganda written by two Asian immigrant reporters" was a new low in political rhetoric in election year and the Herald condemned his comments.

"Mr Peters would best be advised to try to grasp the complexity of the issues, and make a useful contribution to the immigration debate, rather than playing the race card or taking a wildly desperate swing at the media."

But Mr Peters denied he was being racist.

"When you've got two immigrant reporters, who write a report like that, you've only got two conclusions you can come to. They're awfully uninformed and awfully unprofessional, or it's deliberate.

"They seek to justify their existence and that of mass immigration, coming mainly from Asia, into this country."

Mr Peters said the report took no account of the many people who change their visas while in New Zealand and that a lot of those who come here on student visas have work rights.

In a written response, the two reporters said it was their job to provide context to numbers being used by politicians.

They said they did mention foreign students.

"We highlighted that most Indian and Chinese students transition to graduate job search visas."

They said the data had been quoted by Labour leader Andrew Little and Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse in speeches on immigration and the work visa category.

But they have agreed with Winston Peters on one point - that being an election year, the public has a right to expect the facts - whether from the media, or from politicians vying for votes.

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