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Henry Apology Falls Short

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Keith Locke
Keith Locke

TVNZ host Paul Henry's apology to Governor-General Sir Anand Satyanand falls short and should be extended to all those he as demeaned as not being true New Zealanders, Green MP Keith Locke says.

Henry asked Prime Minister John Key on the Breakfast programme yesterday about who he was looking at to replace Sir Anand when his five-year term ends next August.

"Is he even a New Zealander?" Henry asked about Sir Anand -- who was born and raised in New Zealand by his Fijian Indian parents.

"Are you going to choose a New Zealander who looks and sounds like a New Zealander this time... Are we going to go for someone who is more like a New Zealander this time?"

Mr Locke said the comments were an insult to all New Zealanders who were not of European or Maori ethnicity, and his apology to Sir Anand "for any offence I may have caused" fell well short of the mark.

"He has not recognised that his comments were deeply insulting. It was not good enough for him to simply say he regrets it 'if my comments have personally offended Sir Anand'," he said.

"Mr Henry needs to apologise to all those who he as demeaned as not being true New Zealanders -- firstly all people of Indian descent, and then all other ethnicities he holds don't 'look' like New Zealanders."

It was a source of great pride for many New Zealanders that our governor-general was of Indian ethnicity, Mr Locke said.

The comments prompted complaints to TVNZ, led to the resignation of a regular Breakfast presenter and were condemned by Race Relations Commissioner Joris de Bres as showing appalling ignorance.

Henry is no stranger to controversy but his relatively quick apology was unusual.

"I am aware that Sir Anand has made an outstanding contribution to New Zealand," he said in a statement.

"Anyone who knows anything about me will know I am a royalist, a constant defender of the monarchy and the role the Governor General plays in our society.

"If my comments have personally offended Sir Anand, I regret it deeply."

Mr Key said the comments were "just plain wrong" but said he still intended to appear on the show each Monday morning.

He had been taken aback by the comments, he said.

A TVNZ spokeswoman said the broadcaster had received "several dozen" complaints, and Mr Key said it was up to the Broadcasting Standards Authority (BSA) whether any action was taken.

TVNZ defended Henry, saying: "The audience tell us over and over again that one of the things they love about Paul Henry is that he's prepared to say the things we quietly think but are scared to say out loud."

Sir Anand is in India for the Commonwealth Games. His public affairs manager Antony Paltridge told NZPA he had spoken to Sir Anand, who acknowledged Henry's apology.

However, he would not dignify Henry's initial statements with a response.

Immigrant and union organiser Joe Carolan called on people to join him in picketing TVNZ's Auckland offices at 5pm tomorrow to demand Henry be sacked.

"Paul Henry is a racist. His large salary is paid for by us, the working taxpayers," Mr Carolan said.

"Public sector broadcasting should have zero tolerance for racism. It's time for TVNZ to sack Paul Henry."


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