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New Zealand Minister attacks Finns as uneducated, unemployed

New Zealand's Transport Minister and Leader of the House Gerry Brownlee poured scorn on Finland during a recent debate, calling Finns a nation of uneducated, unemployed people with a high murder rate and little respect for women.

Gerry Brownlee.
Gerry Brownlee. Image: Stringer / EPA

Brownlee was speaking during a parliamentary debate, in which he strongly rejected a proposal by the opposition Labour Party that New Zealand should model its economy on the Finnish example.

Brownlee claimed 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 also referred to former prime minister and current Nokia VP Esko Aho as a "right-wing leader". Aho was chair of the Centre Party from 1990 to 2002.

Brownlee later said that his comments were intended to be satirical, although spiked with a grain of truth. He added that Finns should not be offended by the debate, and according to local press, conceded that "there were some aspects of Finland's economic policy that you'd have to say are admirable".

Ari Hallenberg, the Finnish Consul in Auckland, said that Brownlee’s comments would have been better left unsaid, adding that the statements were likely to cause a storm once reported in Finland.

Radio New Zealand says that the Finnish embassy in Canberra asked for a clarification of his comments on Monday.

Brownlee’s comments and the reaction of the Finnish consul were first reported in Finland by the tabloid Iltalehti.

Elsewhere on the web:

Finns fuming at Brownlee's comments

Video of Gerry Brownlee's comments in Parliament

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