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Brownlee apologises for Finland remarks

New Zealand Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee has apologised for his caustic comments about Finland, reports Radio New Zealand. Brownlee says that his remarks were an attempt at humour. New Zealand’s Prime Minister John Key had already apologised for the comments to Finnish president Sauli Niinistö in South Korea.

Hon Gerry Brownlee
Image: New Zealand Government

Brownlee had said during a debate that Finland “has worse unemployment than us, has less economic growth than us, can hardly feed the people who live there, has a terrible homicide rate, hardly educates its people, and has no respect for women."

He defended his actions as an attempt at humour, and hinted that his compatriots are themselves well used to inaccurate stereotyping.

"I apologise for them taking offence, but it was meant to be humorous,” he told Radio New Zealand. ”I'm sure New Zealanders have been on the butt of all sorts of jokes at various times and not taken offence at such a thing."

He also said that his colourful language was part of an attempt to make a political point at the expense of the opposition Labour party.

No offence intended

"People have got to see it for what it was. It's a five-minute debate; this was 20 seconds or so in the debate. It wasn't intended to be offensive to Finland. It was pointing out that the sort of strange approach that we have from the Labour party, saying let's be more like them but then opposing the very policies that have got them into those positions that they like."

The comments have caused a stir in Finland, where talk show host Tuomas Enbuske launched into an English-language diatribe aimed at the minister on Monday evening.

"We have Kimi Räikkönen, you have sheep,” said Enbuske. ”We have Linus Torvalds, you have sheep. We have the Angry Birds game. You have sheep. We have Alvar Aalto, you have sheep. We have Nokia, you have sheep."

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