Labour accused of sexism

Labour has been accused of sexism for its failure to seriously consider Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei for a spot on a powerful intelligence committee.

During a debate in the House this afternoon on the membership of the Intelligence and Security Committee, Green MP Mojo Mathers said she was "dismayed" by comments made by Leader of the Opposition Andrew Little.

"He said that he did not invite our co-leader Metiria Turei to be on the committee because he wanted someone with ... 'skills, understanding and experience' ... implying that Metiria did not have these qualities, which is so far from the truth as to be farcical."

Mr Little angered the Greens by nominating his foreign affairs spokesman David Shearer for the committee without consultation with other parties -- a breach of the laws governing the committee.

Ms Mathers said it was hard to escape the feeling that "male privilege" played a role in Mr Little's dismissal of Ms Turei.

"I would like to be generous and give Little -- a privileged male who has been a Member of Parliament for just three years and a leader for just two months -- the benefit of doubt, and assume that he made these comments without thinking.

"But that makes these comments no less offensive to me and many other women."

She said similar "arrogant dismissals" of women's skills and expertise was "nothing new", and every day skilled women found themselves overlooked for jobs or promotion, or competing with men with far less experience and ability.

Ms Mathers added: "[Ms Turei] might well have brought to the committee some views that others do not want to hear, maybe a powerful understanding of what powerlessness and humiliation feels like, maybe a cautionary view of surveillance based on the experience of how prejudice and privilege excludes and labels the potentially spied upon."

Labour deputy leader Annette King later responded to Ms Mathers' comments in the House, saying she disagreed with her.

"This is not about whether it's a man or a woman or a bum on a seat or numbers. It's about the most competent person for the job."

As a deputy leader and a former police minister, Ms King said she could have taken the spot on the committee.

"But I do not believe that I have the skills that David Shearer has. When I look on balance as to who we would put on this committee, I could not go past the person who has had on-the-ground experience."

The committee was chaired by Prime Minister John Key, who has nominated GCSB Minister Chris Finlayson and Justice Minister Amy Adams for spots on the committee.

Mr Little was allocated one of the other places on the committee, and he is entitled to nominate one other MP from any non-government or coalition party.

By Isaac Davison of the New Zealand Herald

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