Senior Labour MP ordered to take down ‘inappropriate’ social media posts

Labour leader Chris Hipkins has ordered his senior MP Peeni Henare to remove posts on social media ridiculing government ministers including a cartoon image of ACT Leader David Seymour with faeces coming out of his eyes and an anus for a mouth.

Henare reposted images on Instagram which were a take on the 1980s classic collectable sticker trading cards ‘The Garbage Pail Kids’, which parodied Cabbage Patch Kid dolls as gruesome alter egos with humorous names.

The two images Henare posted from an artist called Michel Mulipola, known on Instagram as ‘Bloody Samoan’, were of Seymour, with the name “Seymour Shit”, and another of Transport Minister Simeon Brown, with the name “Simian Brown” and a cartoon of a baboon with Brown’s face on its rear.

Henare had added three crying laughing emojis to the Brown picture.

Hipkins was not impressed when asked by Stuff about the posts, saying in a statement:

“It’s not appropriate and doesn’t add to positive political discourse. Criticism of a politician’s policies and priorities is a legitimate part of the democratic process. Personal denigration is not.”

It follows Labour MP Willie Jackson, on Thursday, calling Media and Communications Minister Melissa Lee “stupid” and saying she “doesn’t know what she is doing”.

Henare was swiftly told to delete the posts and has.

“Free speech is important but it’s also important politicians show leadership on the kind of debate we want to see in politics and it’s not this. I have asked Peeni to remove these posts and he has indicated he will do that,” said Hipkins.

The sentiment was echoed by Seymour, “ACT’s a free speech party and he’s got every right to post what he wants, but everyone has the right to decide what they think of it, too.”

“My biggest worry is democracy needs a competent opposition, I just hope this post isn’t the best they can do,” said Seymour.

Brown opted not to comment on the substance of the image or Henare’s reposting of it, instead telling Stuff, “I’m focused on our Government’s plan to rebuild the economy, restore law & order, and deliver better health, education and infrastructure.”

Henare politely declined to comment, “no thanks”.

Mulipola told Stuff, “I had a laugh when I saw Peeni Henare share my GPK [Garbage Pale Kids] art but I was unaware of him being censured for it. TBH, I think it’s funny and the political sphere can be so stuck up, what’s the harm in sharing some funny (albeit gross) cartoons?”

Asked why he chose to draw the ministers as he did, Mulipola said, “with this current coalition of chaos’ gross display of abuse of power, it was only right I depict the politicians in the most gross way possible - through the creation of my Garbage Pale Kids satirical cartoons.”

During the election National accused Labour of running the “most negative campaign in history” after the Labour-aligned Council of Trade Unions took out ads calling Luxon out of touch.

“It’s disgraceful. They should be ashamed of themselves,” said National’s campaign chair Chris Bishop at the time.

He said Labour had no track record to stand on so it was resorting to “nasty, personal, petty, vindictive politics” that was based on “scurrilous lies”.