12 Nov 2009

Harawira may be required to pay partial refund

3:06 pm on 12 November 2009

Parliament's Speaker has indicated that a partial refund for Maori Party MP Hone Harawira's personal trip to Paris while in Europe on Parliamentary business may be required.

It's likely to be about $1000.

The Te Tai Tokerau MP has been under pressure for skipping a day of official business to visit Paris with his wife, and a tirade in a subsequent email exchange with former Waitangi Tribunal director Buddy Mikaere last week.

Mr Harawira has apologised for the racially-charged and explicit language he used about white people in the email.

The Speaker, Lockwood Smith, has sent a letter to Mr Harawira, asking him to confirm the trip took place.

The letter says if it did, Mr Harawira should repay a proportion of the cost of the trip to Europe.

Record complaints

The email has sparked a record number of complaints to the Race Relations Commissioner.

Joris de Bres says he's received between 250 and 300 complaints and they are still coming in.

He says the number has surpassed the "cheeky darky" comments by broadcaster Paul Holmes six years ago about the then head of the United Nations, Kofi Annan.

Mr de Bres says the feeling of outrage expressed about the two incidents is similar.

"It's certainly, in terms of the temperature, people are very, very concerned about the issue and something still needs to be done to address that concern," he says.

He says he would like to see the Maori Party take some action on the comments but would not be drawn on what that should be.

Earlier this week, the commissioner said the comments do not breach the Human Rights Act because Mr Harawira is entitled to freedom of expression.

But he says the email was racially offensive and he is not soft or relaxed on the issue.

Mr de Bres says if there's no outcome from the Maori Party he will continue to engage on the issue.