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Lee implodes

Written By: - Date published: 7:30 am, May 14th, 2009 - 72 comments
Categories: mt albert, racism - Tags:

And the ticking timebomb goes off. From Not PC on last night’s Mt Albert candidates’ debate:

Most of what every mainstream candidate had to say on the night was both instantly forgettable and intended only for short-term political advantage.  But there was one thing one candidate said that is now going to dog her through the rest of the campaign. Maybe longer. It will probably be the meeting’s headline tomorrow morning.  I say “her” because the foot in the mouth belonged to Melissa Lee.

Asked to explain how the new motorway would most help the good people of Mt Albert, she expained that it would stop the bad people of South Auckland driving to Mt Albert to burgle people’s homes.  Asked to clarify by a questioner, she repeated the claim.  Showing she’s truly not one to stop digging when she creates a big hole for herself — a hole as big as the number of open mouths in the room — she insisted that the local police commander had told her this very morning that the biggest issue with which he has to deal is the number of South Aucklanders driving to Mt Albert to burgle people’s homes.

I swear I am not making this up.  It’s true that the likely winner of the by-election, David Shearer, grew up in South Auckland . . .  and in being Labour’s “machine candidate” he could be said to be burgling the seat . . . but what the hell she was talking about, only Melissa Lee herself would know.  Probably.

It was as incongruous and frankly ludicrous as Jenny Shipley’s comment in Parliament several years ago (apropos of nothing relevant) that Polynesians tend “to climb in the windows of other New Zealanders at night.”  And it deserves to be treated with equal contempt.

We predicted something like this would happen but I’m still shocked it’s happened so quickly. From a credible performance on Q+A last Sunday to a political career in tatters by Wednesday.

The funny thing about shocking events is sometimes it’s the little details that stand out. I keep thinking – but won’t a motorway make it easier for South Aucklanders to get to Mt Albert?

72 comments on “Lee implodes”

  1. I am not surprised. If only tories would say what they are thinking more often.

    Lee will probably be sent to a Crosby Textor reeducation camp for a while so do not be surprised if she disappears for a couple of days.

  2. Tim Ellis 2

    I went to the debate, too. Shearer said motorways cause congestion, and he said he was opposed to building motorways. He dropped a clanger when an interjector asked him why he was supporting a $3 billion tunnel.

    Lee performed pretty well in the debate. Labour activists turned up in force and tried to shout her down, but she held her own. Shearer got a bit of a surprise. I don’t think he expected to be heckled. He was certainly rattled by the evening and didn’t cope well.

    Norman made one clanger when he advocated civil disobedience and protesting outside John Key’s home, but got more support than any of the candidates.

    The Libertarianz guy got up and spoke bafflingly how individuals should build their own motorways without government intervention.

    It was a fun night. If you were there, Eddie, it would be disingenuous to claim that anybody other than Norman was the winner on points.

    • andy 2.1

      Why did you go to the meeting Tim?

      • Tim Ellis 2.1.1

        Because it was a public meeting and I thought it would be entertaining. It was.

        • andy

          Tim, you are working so hard defending Lee (and National) you out to get paid for your hard work, I am impressed with your dedication to National and your ability to mirror the official party line with your personal comments..

    • Pascal's bookie 2.2

      So did Lee say the things in the post or not Tim? How was the reaction to that from the floor.

      And how can you tell the difference between Labour activists turning up in force and trying to shout someone down, and a politician getting bollocked for saying unpopular things? Just wondering.

      • gingercrush 2.2.1

        Its all over National Radio. Its frankly embarrassing.

      • Tim Ellis 2.2.2

        There was some discussion about crime being committed by people from South Auckland, yes, PB. It wasn’t signficant and the reaction wasn’t major. Lee was reporting a discussion she had with a police officer earlier in the day as I recall.

        “And how can you tell the difference between Labour activists turning up in force and trying to shout someone down, and a politician getting bollocked for saying unpopular things? Just wondering.”

        I guess the difference is, the Labour activists hold up Labour Party signs and chant “pay the money back” and yelling corruption in unison. That’s a good indication.

        Like I say, Lee handled herself pretty well. Shearer got much more of a bollocking than he expected, and was visibly pretty shaken by it. Norman carried on regardless, ignoring interjections. There was one amusing exchange when Norman claimed that a motorway wouldn’t be built through rich neighbourhoods King’s college… somebody shouted out that King’s is in South Auckland.

        There were lots of laughs on all sides.

        • gingercrush


          I have no doubt she performed well in other areas. But that is all meaningless when the headlines are screaming, “what Melissa Lee said at candidate’s meeting”.

        • Pascal's bookie

          Thanks. You have an interesting perspective.

        • Philonz

          Unfortunately Tim it doesn’t really matter how anyone was percieved at the actual meeting. It only matters how they will be percieved today by the undecided of Mt Albert who are reading their Herald over their cornflakes. I doubt there will be a headline screaming “Norman probably best performer, Lee’s comments not racist, Shearer rattled”. If you give the media a sniff of a controversial statement they will tear you to shreds and it seems Lee has made the mistake of dangling a beauty right in front of them.

    • bilbo 2.3


      If Lee is so pathetically naive to make the comment as quoted by Eddie she clearly is pretty lightweight – apart from the partisan junkies on blogs and the idiots who turn up to these debates to heckle and cheer like it’s a rugby game I can’t see why most people in the electorate wouldn’t be happy with Shearer who from this non-lefties perspective is clearly the best candidate.

    • IrishBill 2.4

      Lee performed pretty well in the debate.

      You have to be kidding.

    • Eddie 2.5

      Tim. The above is a quote from Not PC. I wasn’t there. If you think Russel Norman ‘won’ that’s great but the most significant thing is surely Lee’s racist comments..

      Did you hear them? Did it go down like Not PC describes?

      • Tim Ellis 2.5.1

        Eddie, you can try and beat this up all you like, but I was there. There was no racist element to what Lee said, and it wasn’t interpreted as racist. As far as I know, “people from South Auckland” is not racist. Mount Albert has a high Pacific Island population as well. Lee was reporting that a police officer had told her that much of the crime committed was by people who didn’t live locally, and in fact lived in South Auckland.

        • Eddie

          Tim. You and I know the colour of the skin of the people Lee imagines drive to Mt Albert to burgle it. The racism is implicit and inherent.

          Also, you please explain how a motorway makes driving to Mt Albert to go a burglerin’ harder? Or was Lee’s idea that they would drive through Mt Albert and burgle elsewhere?

          • Tim Ellis

            Nonsense, Eddie. Mount Albert has a high proportion of Pacific Islanders as well. The point was specifically about crime being committed by people from outside the area. Nobody at the meeting as far as I know interpreted it as a racist exchange. Keep beating it up as such, though.

            I was perplexed by the comment from Lee and its relationship to the motorway. Somebody yelled out that south Auckland criminals would be able to drive to Mount Albert faster if there was a motorway, which was pretty funny.

        • Lew

          Tim, without prompting, you’ve mentioned `Pacific Islanders’ in your last two comments. If that’s not a demonstration of the racism being implicit and inherent, I don’t know what is. Or is there some other reason you decided to talk about Pacific Islanders in particular?


          • Tim Ellis

            There certainly was prompting, Lew. It was Eddie’s claim that the reference from Lee was racist, and Eddie making the comparison with an earlier comment by Jenny Shipley:

            It was as incongruous and frankly ludicrous as Jenny Shipley’s comment in Parliament several years ago (apropos of nothing relevant) that Polynesians tend “to climb in the windows of other New Zealanders at night.’ And it deserves to be treated with equal contempt.

            Lee’s comments weren’t racist. She didn’t refer to Pacific Islanders. I only made reference to it because Eddie did.

          • Lew


            That’s PC, in relation to a totally different statement more than a decade ago by a different person. You’ve picked it up and run with it as though that was what was meant all along – and I agree that it was.


          • Tim Ellis


            That’s PC, in relation to a totally different statement more than a decade ago by a different person. You’ve picked it up and run with it as though that was what was meant all along – and I agree that it was.

            So it was from PC. My apologies for attributing that to Eddie. I was at the meeting, however, and in my view there was no racist element to what Lee was saying. She wasn’t referring to Pacific Islanders. She was referring to criminals from outside Mount Albert, primarily from South Auckland. She has since apologised for any offence she may have caused South Auckland residents.

  3. bilbo 3

    I’ve just read not PC’s overview – perhaps you’d like him to write a guest post every now and then – outstanding, non-partisan and a good laugh.

    • Eddie 3.1

      yeah it is well written, not sure that I would call it non-partisan though. It’s a staunchly libertarian blog.

      • bilbo 3.1.1

        True but he’s up front about that and tends to gloss over the lib candidate and have a bit of fun with the rest of them.

      • Lew 3.1.2

        PC is non-partisan in that the only party he can support in good conscience is the Libertarianz, and they’re an irrelevancy. He seems to hate all the other parties more or less equally.


        • bilbo

          “He seems to hate all the other parties more or less equally.”

          Clearly a sensible chap.

  4. outofbed 4


    Tim maybe you went to the Gents and missed the comment
    After all why could you have such a widely different interpretation of events?

    I think lee said it to divert attention from her misuse of public funds 🙂

  5. andy 5

    Lee on nat radio.

    Clarification: “the motorway is going to help catch the criminals”

    More motorways=less crime, WTF??

    I cringe every time a politician uses the line “the police have told me…”

  6. wibblewithoutapause 6

    perhaps National should ask for “voluntary” tunnelling services from Ms Lee – she appears to be pretty good at digging holes. Perhaps with some National direction she could continue to dig under Mt Albert and make the tunnel for them and put the publicity video of it on youtube and facebook for free too.

  7. gobsmacked 7

    The Standard must stop beating up these stories and controlling all the media coverage from … um … TVNZ, Radio NZ, Herald, Stuff, pretty much everyone … heck, even blogs with no love for the Left. I don’t know how you guys do it, but you are clearly too powerful, and it’s just not fair.

    And at the end of all this, what say we have a whip-round and get Tim Ellis a medal? He’s courageously answered his party’s call, but the generals forgot to tell him it was a one-man suicide mission.

    PS Nominations for Mt Albert are still open. Has John Key got Ravi’s phone number?

  8. Putting this on context: Melissa Lee was the person deemed most likely to succeed by the people in the National Party with the power to make that determination. Her nomination and all that flows from it reflects on THEIR judgement.

    I wonder if any of them will pause to reflect, even for a moment, what this implies about their capacity for correctly assessing evidence and making sound judgements.

    Most of National’s intended policy program suggests they operate more on belief than on evidence and they, in turn, represent people who also operate on belief rather than evidence.

    Over the last 8 years we saw where that took the United States. It has been my contention that the National Party here in NZ demonstrated all of the same qualities and would – therefore – make all of the same mistakes. What is fascinating is their near total lack of insight into the both the mistakes themselves and their roots in unfounded belief……as manifestly demonstrated by the example of the US Republican Party.

    The metaphor that comes to mind is lemmings over a cliff….and lemmings aren’t actually that stupid…as the metaphor is based on a myth. Apparently, National and its supporters – or enough of them – are that stupid.

    As an aside, I doubt Ms Lee will be getting any special consideration from the police in future. She can’t keep a confidence, either. In one exchange we see two critical political failings.

  9. r0b 9

    My isn’t a week a long time in politics. The implosion of his handpicked candidate does not reflect well on the judgement of John Key:

    “We’re delighted with the selection of Melissa Lee we think she is a top class candidate, she’s already marked herself out as an MP that’s going places and we are now going to put up the best contest we can in Mt Albert,” Mr Key told reporters

    Shoulda stuck with Ravi John.

  10. sparky 10

    Maybe she can see South Auckland from her house?

  11. Pat 11

    A Mt Albert resident just phoned Radio Live to say they went to a seminar organised by the community board about 3 weeks ago in which the Police made a presentation. Apparently they spoke about Mt Albert being targeted by criminals outside the area and the motorway would divert some of this criminal activity.

    This seems to back Lee’s story up, but certainly her message has got lost in the translation.

    • bilbo 11.1

      Pat – if that’s true it’s rather depressing – I mean how on earth is a motorway going to divert criminal activity, are the criminals too thick to take an off ramp.

      FFS at times you have to wonder if this country is solely populated with morons.

      • Pat 11.1.1

        Yeah I can’t figure it out, but to be fair you would probably need to hear the whole Police presentation to get it in context. Looks like Radio Live producers are following up on it.

    • Chris 11.2

      I was at that same meeting.

      The Police had some slides which showed criminal activity in the Mt Albert area (and no surprise, St Lukes Westfield Mall is tops for breaking and entering cars/stealing cars/petty theft/assult).

      The Police at no stage said that motorways helps/hinders crime, and it would be foolish to for the police to state that. What they did point out is crime is opportunistic/environmental in nature i.e. it’s the surrounding environment that helps criminals do crime – bushes hide criminals, or lack of lighting etc.

      The only time that the Police gave indication of where the criminals were coming from, they said West – i.e. Avondale/New Lynn/Waitakere.

      Melissa Lee was not at this meeting, or if she was I didn’t see her at all.

      • Pat 11.2.1

        Chris – you should phone Michael Laws on Radio Live since it is a continuing story.

        Their earlier caller confirmed Lee wasn’t at the meeting.

  12. Maynard J 12

    10/10 Sparky!!!!!!

  13. Bill 13


    On the basis that escaping poverty is a well nigh impossible proposition under National maybe they had nightmare visions of a tunnel leading to scenarios from ‘The Great Escape’ ;dirty poor people from S. Auckland popping up out the ground all over the show spreading their nasty poverty virus.

    As the Nats ideology just wont allow for an understanding of poverty (coming soon, to a neighbourhood near you!) spreading from system to person and not person to person, I wonder how Melissa feels about a wall as a containment strategy?

    Or then, perhaps punitive road tolls could be a more cost effective back up plan?

  14. gobsmacked 14


    According to Radio Live news, John Key has described Lee’s comments as “stupid”.

    • exbrethren 14.1

      Tim, stop helping Melissa dig that hole, Shonkey and Joyce have condemned her comments. Now all that leaves is for the police to deny they put the words into her mouth…

      • Pat 14.1.1

        Michael Laws at 10.28am Radio Live claims they have confirmed that the Avondale Senior Sergeant has said that the motoway will act as a physical barrier to criminals.

        • gobsmacked

          Unfortunately for Melissa Lee, rebuttal witnesses only keep the story going, when she (and definitely her party) wants to shut it down. It’s a fight they want to avoid, not win.

          That may not be fair, but it is politics.

    • Eddie 14.2

      So he’s labelling his MPs stupid at the rate of one a month. Makes you wonder why they were selected.

      • Tim Ellis 14.2.1

        It’s quite a refreshing change from a leader who denied any wrongdoing by any MPs until they became politically hazardous and then dumping on them big time though, isn’t it Eddie?

        • r0b

          It’s quite a refreshing change from a leader who denied any wrongdoing by any MPs

          Hah! Stupidest spin ever. As long as Key shields Worth and his multiple conflicts of interest that line is utterly doomed Tim. Here’s the list of MPs that Clark sacked for various indiscretions…

          Key is doing damage control. He’s cut Lee adrift, and he’s trying to limit damage to his party.

          • Tim Ellis

            Oh, right r0b. Like how Clark defended Field for many months, spinning an official inquiry to saying he was guilty of doing nothing more than helping people. Or the “I didn’t ask Mr Peters and took him at his word”.

            Or the David Benson-Pope saga.

            Great examples.

          • r0b

            Like how Clark defended Field for many months, spinning an official inquiry to saying he was guilty of doing nothing more than helping people

            That’s yet another big fat lie from you Tim!

            What Clark actually said, she said on Sept 14 2005, before the first enquiry, before any of the facts of the case were known. What she actually said was: “I think the only thing he is probably guilty of is trying to be helpful to someone”. Later (around June 14 2006, again before the report) she was challenged on this opinion and confirmed: “Indeed I think he was, but I am awaiting a full report.” So there we go – “I think” and “probably” and awaiting the full report – a perfectly reasonable position before the facts were known. The Tory lie machine has turned this into the “Clark ignoring Field’s heinous crimes” version that Tim and the other Nat apologists push so hard on the blogs.

  15. GFraser 15

    Message From: Labour Party HQ

    To: Special Agent Lee

    Message begins………….return to base…..mission accomplished……..Message ends.

  16. Pascal's bookie 16

    The image of Lee’s ministerial mentor Jonathan Coleman silently mouthing instructions for her to say “I don’t know’ at last night’s election meeting, and then to have Lee dutifully repeating “I don’t know’ to a questioner only seconds later, was an example of political post-modernism to treasure for the ages


    read the rest, as they say.

    • Tim Ellis 16.1

      PB, I was at the meeting. Coleman was sitting two rows behind me, in front of the young nats who were standing up next to young labour. I was ten rows back from the candidates, in elevated seating. There’s no way Lee could have lip-read from Coleman. I don’t know what Campbell looks like, so I don’t know if he was there, but there was no way Coleman was prompting Lee.

      • Pascal's bookie 16.1.1

        So were you behind him, like you said at Gordon’s, or was he behind you? Or were you doing the do-se-do and spinning like a top?

        • r0b

          Perhaps there is more than one Tim Ellis? That would explain both how he can be in two places at once, and how he has time to run about on every blog in NZ full time running National Party lines.

          • felix

            No, no, no. He’s just a lowly auditor, working in a bank, with no party affiliation. You’re just imagining that he spends all day, every day commenting on blogs, non stop. And runs all the Nat lines word for word, sometimes before the Nats do. Regardless of the issue.

            Nothing to see here.

          • Tim Ellis

            I didn’t say I have no party affiliation, Felix. I said I’m not a member of the National Party and that I’m not an activist. I did vote National for the last couple of elections, but I voted Labour the two elections before that and national and labour in roughly equal measures before 1999.

          • felix

            Get back to work Tim. Oh that’s right. As you were.

  17. Paul Robeson 17

    I was gunna say it but Sparky beat me to it with wit and class.

    Lee= a symbol of the Nats. Their MPs are pretty faces for the technocrats of Rogernomics who are appointed in shady positions with no public accountability.

  18. gobsmacked 18

    So anyway, where are we at with Melissa Lee and her apology? It’s hard to keep up.

    Morning Report: She (sort of) apologises.

    John Key criticises her comments, accepts her apology.

    Radio Live (with Michael Laws): she stands by her comments.

    The media are currently reporting, simultaneously, that Lee regrets and defends what she said. Which one is it, and who will write it for her?

  19. felix 19

    Wow. She went full retard.

    You never go full retard.

  20. Irascible 20

    I’ve said it on other stories about Lee. She will be running the campaign on the same prejudices that underpinned the NACT joint campaign in Botany 2008.
    Pansy & Kenneth were quite prepared to use similar race fears as reasons to support NACT.
    Any reason is a good one – especially if Lee can paint herself as a victim. Her excuse now will be the native English speaking journalist misrepresented her English as a second language clumsy explanation.
    The fear of South Auckland was an under-pinner for the Asian Anti-crime campaign in Manukau last year.

  21. Not only did M. Lee foul things up in Mt Albert / leaving the imcompetent Key wordless but , we allso
    have been told that the ghastly Rankin is one again going to be paid a good wage for litle work out of taxpayers money . What a lot and weve got them for another 2 1/2 years ,

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  • Supporting stranded seasonal workers to keep working with more flexible options
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  • Appointment of Judge of the High Court
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  • Govt launches bold primary sector plan to boost economic recovery
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  • Speech to Labour Party Congress 2020
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