There are bigger issues at stake in Mt Albert – motorway developments, for example – than the ill-considered remarks of the pharmacist who told Melissa Lee he wouldn’t vote for her because he “didn’t think we need Asians in Parliament”.
Actually, there’s not much anyone can do about the opinions that people harbour.
One of Alf’s constituents wouldn’t vote for him because “we don’t need geriatrics in Parliament”, then moved to Sydenham and voted for Jim Anderton. It takes all sorts in a democracy.
Anyway, after raising a ruckus, the pharmacist has been gracious enough to apologise.
“I wish to apologise for the comments I made,” David Baird said in a letter to the Herald. “Unfortunately I allowed a few bad personal experiences by individuals to cloud my judgment. I realise that my remarks were out of line and have offended many people.”
The Herald is making much of the matter. Much too much, actually.
Mr Baird’s earlier statements have resulted in calls for people to boycott the pharmacy, but it was revealed yesterday that he was a locum, working there while the owners were on holiday.
“I’m semi-retired, so when people go on holidays, I do a day or two for them.”
Mr Baird had said his reasons for not wanting Asians in Parliament were because “they were difficult people to deal with, they don’t spend any money” and “their English is very bad”.
Yesterday, the former NZ First voter conceded that “all groups have the right to representation in Parliament as part of the democratic process”.
See. He’s a true democrat at heart (when he counts to 10 to think about things) who had a blond moment and let his mouth run ahead of his brain.
No doubt the furore has won something of a sympathy vote for Melissa in an electorate where there are plenty of Asians and many more are immigrants.
Nominations open today ahead of polling on June 13 for the byelection in the Mt Albert electorate, where 24 per cent of the 44,000 electors are Asian and 40 per cent born overseas.
But the much bigger question for voters in the by-election will be answered today when the Government announces its decision on the Waterview connection – a road or a tunnel.
The previous Labour government planned to dig a tunnel under Mt Eden, bowling over a few hundred houses in the process, but the present government reviewed that decision.
Both options cut through the electorate, one on the surface and the other underneath it, to link Auckland’s motorway systems.
Labour and the Greens, working on a comment yesterday by National’s candidate Melissa Lee, have assumed the Government has chosen the unpopular motorway option.
Melissa didn’t actually say the motorway option had been chosen, according to Alf’s information. But she did declare a preference for it, saying during a radio discussion, “it’s above ground for me”.
The hacks from the media seized on this, and next thing we know, The Boss is having to advise them not to jump to conclusions.
“That may be her preferred option, that’s not necessarily what the cabinet has recommended,” he said.
But Mr Key’s hints were confusing, because he emphasised the importance of the route that will be revealed in a separate announcement tomorrow.
In plain English, Key was non-committal and the bloody hacks were confused.
Naturally, the lefties are going for broke on the issue.
Labour transport spokesman Darren Hughes said Ms Lee’s preferred option meant about 500 houses would have to be demolished as well as the loss of schools, parks and businesses.
Labour candidate David Shearer said his position was clear – a tunnel should be built as soon as possible.
Green Party candidate Russel Norman also quoted Ms Lee in a media statement headed `National’s barbarian bulldozers at the gate of Mt Albert’.
ACT is getting good traction from the issue, too.
ACT candidate John Boscawen also assumed the Government had ditched the tunnel option and it pleased him.
“ACT has always favoured a surface route and has been upfront about it,” he said.
“A $2.77 billion tunnel is a luxury we can’t afford.”
Mr Boscawen said he was going to propose an alternative road route that would mean the removal of fewer than 50 houses.
That was less than the number that would have to be demolished for a tunnel, he said.
An option like that, knocking over only a few houses and saving taxpayers heaps of money, would do Melissa a lot of good.