Social media vitriol: Luxon blames Labor policies for anti-Maori comments on Facebook after Joe Hawke tribute

Policy

Cabinet Minister Peeni Henare has blocked more than 1,000 people from his accounts. Video / Mark Mitchell

Christopher Luxon blamed the government and failed to condemn anti-Maori comments after his Te Reo tribute to Joe Hawke provoked a backlash.

The National Party leader has been asked about remarks Facebook users made on his page after writing about the late Maori land rights campaigner and former MP.

Some people praised Luxon’s respect for Te Reo but others disparaged him.

Luxon was repeatedly questioned about the derogatory remarks and the state of race relations in the country.

He said he hadn’t read the comments.

“My assessment is…we have broader challenges around a government that doesn’t prepare what it talks about in terms of co-governance.”

National Party leader Christopher Luxon said government approaches to co-governance could be at the root of social divisions such as anti-Maori sentiment among some Facebook users.  Photo/Mark Mitchell
National Party leader Christopher Luxon said government approaches to co-governance could be at the root of social divisions such as anti-Maori sentiment among some Facebook users. Photo/Mark Mitchell

He added: “I actually think it’s causing some of this division here.”

Luxon then spoke about constitutional issues, political capital and treaty negotiations, and more about co-governance.

He added: “For me personally, I want to learn Te Reo Māori. I have a lesson every Monday because I want to do it, I choose to do it.”

User comments on his page today included some demanding Luxons who only used English and another saying Maori ‘didn’t even have an alphabet so how could they have a language’.

Hawke died on May 22 at the age of 82.

Joe Hawke at Bastion Point in 1981. Photo/NZ Herald
Joe Hawke at Bastion Point in 1981. Photo/NZ Herald

Meanwhile, a Cabinet minister says he has been called a ‘n***er’ and has blocked more than 1,000 social media accounts after taking a zero-tolerance approach to online abuse.

Defense Minister and Whānau Ora Peeni Henare said some of the abuse he received was racist, some came from conspiracy theorists and some appeared to be a combination of the two.

He was speaking today after his colleague Nanaia Mahuta was also allegedly harassed online and called the n-word.

“I sat over the weekend just looking at the number of people I’ve blocked on my social media and it’s over 1,000 people,” Henare said.

“And I remember some of them. It’s a mix of people. Some of them are just anonymous pages.”

He added: “Covid has certainly compounded a lot of these issues…I’ve been called an ***er. I’ve been called by our own people kūpapa and traitors.”

Kūpapa in this context usually means a person deemed to have sided with the Crown or a non-Maori against Maori.

“All these types of insults and other things that I have zero tolerance for,” Henare said.

He said the abuse escalated during the Covid-19 pandemic and a lot of racist and conspiracy theorist vitriol seemed linked.

“Then they tend to coalesce into one big insult.”

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