Audrey Young: Is Simeon Brown National’s most hated MP?

Simeon Brown draws more abuse and threats than most other MPs. Senior political correspondent Audrey Young talks to him about what makes him tick.

Simeon Brown is a conservative young National MP who clearly gets under people’s skins.

The Mongrel Mob has started a petition calling on Judith Collins to sack him as National’s police spokesman, saying he has incited racial division.

Brown condemned the mob after a Stuff photo showed them hogging the whole road on motorcycles during a tangi for a member in Hawke’s Bay, Joseph “Triple J” Morrell.

“This should not be tolerated,” he declared and he also criticised a kura which shut for two days to hold the tangi.

Brown says “If gangs are trying to get me sacked, I must be doing something right.”

Brown is often mocked on social media particularly with the label “a rare misstep for Simeon Brown.”

It began last year after a confidential leak of Covid patient information which Brown blamed on”another border bungle by an incompetent Govt”.

It turns out the “leak” was the result of unethical behaviour by National Party luminaries.

“A rare misstep for Simeon Brown” former Labour chief of staff Neale Jones tweeted with irony, and it stuck.

Brown isn’t bothered. “They’re known rabid lefties,” he said. “They are apologists for Jacinda [Ardern] and the Government regardless of what they do and I don’t expect much more. You’ve got to have a chuckle though.”

More seriously, two people are facing police charges for threatening to kill Brown.

A man was arrested in Christchurch last week and another person was arrested earlier in May in Lower Hutt after complaints to the police by Brown.

About that, Brown won’t say much because both cases are ongoing.

So does he worry about his safety?

“Yes there are concerns but mainly for my family, my wife and two children.”

He has his own views about why he attracts such attention.

“Maybe they don’t like what I have to say and maybe they don’t like the fact that I’m effective at getting my point across,” he said.

“I’m very clear on the view that people should be equal under the law and one of the great things about New Zealand is that we are a safe country. Personal security is important to everybody.

“I’m very clear about what I stand for.”

From first appearances, Brown is an unlikely target for hate. He is a slightly built young man, aged 30 but looks half his age and is such a traditionalist that he has a picture of the Queen and Prince Phillip on his office wall.

In his maiden speech in 2017, he paid tribute to the Queen and declared New Zealand’s constitutional framework to be the finest anywhere in the world.

“For me I am a bit of a monarchist. I love the Queen, love the royalty. It is part of our tradition as a country and isn’t the Queen just a fabulous person?”

He also has his wedding photo on the wall.

Brown and his wife Rebecca, brought up in Sydney after her parents immigrated from Lebanon, have two daughters, one aged 2 and another 4 months.

His eternally youthful looks could be a real disadvantage for an MP who wants to be taken seriously but Brown says it has never been an issue in his Pakuranga electorate.

“I’m old enough to vote,” he says in a well-worn joke.

His electoral results are impressive. He holds the largest majority of any National MP from the 2020 election, 10,050.

And when he first stood in the electorate in 2017, when the Jacindamania wave was sweeping the country, he increased the majority held by the previous MP Maurice Williamson.

It is one of the quirks of politics that Williamson, world famous for his support of gay marriage through his “Big Gay Rainbow”speech was succeeded by Brown, a conservative Christian who, as a university student,made his own submission against the gay marriage bill to the parliamentary committee.

Brown says he sees Williamson regularly, in fact this week at an electorate meeting.

“He’s in fine form old Maurice. He’s a good man.”

Brown was raised in Manurewa and went to Manurewa High School before doing law and commerce degrees at Auckland. He has high praise for his old school and its teachers and for south Auckland generally. At the time of his selection for National, he was working for the BNZ.

As a 15-year-old, there was no wagging school and getting up to no good.

Brown was enlisted by his mother to become secretary of the Clendon Residents Association which specialised in raising funds for people who couldn’t afford baby seats, planting trees, and cleaning up rubbish.

He chaired the Manurewa Youth Council in 2012 and was elected to the Manurewa Local Board in 2013.

He was also intrigued by political war stories of his grandfather, Peter Best, who had served on the Eketahuna Borough Council.

Brown attends church regularly and says he would call himself Protestant Baptist.

“I guess for me my faith is personal for me in terms of how I practice it.

“I don’t go out there and talk to people about my faith but obviously your faith has an impact on who you are and how you live.”

He is one of several active conservative Christian MPs in National who were more visible last term during debates over euthanasia, the cannabis referendum, and decriminalising abortion, during which he choked up.

Leading liberals such as Nikki Kaye, Amy Adams and Paula Bennett departed last term. But Brown does not believe the National Party is in danger of being seen as overly conservative.

“Not at all. Many New Zealanders are conservative. Many New Zealanders are religious and come from a variety of different faiths and that is something we respect in the National Party.

“We are a very broad church of a variety of interests.”

His job was to work hard to represent Pakuranga, no matter who they were “and I think my results speak for themselves.”

His achievements in his first term was to get the law on penalties for supplying psychoactive substances changed.

He introduced member’s bill increasing the maximum penalty for supply of psychoactive substances from two years to eight years, which was voted down by the Government but replaced by their own bill which did the same thing.

He has a bill before Parliament now which would ban members from 37 specified gangs from holding a firearms licence; and it would allow the Police Commissioner to declare certain gang members with convictions for serious offences to be subject to a Firearms Prohibition Order (FPO) with up to 14 years’ jail for breaches.

It is about to fail at its second reading and the Government has declared its intention to introduce its own bill which Brown describes as “toothless.” Police Minister Poto Williams says it will allow prohibition orders to be issued against people convicted of serious crimes.

Brown rejects a suggestion that he is playing on people’s fears and talking up their fears.

“Not at all. I am pointing out the fact there is a significant problem in New Zealand.

“There are almost as many gang members as police officers and we’ve got surveys which say almost 50 per cent of New Zealanders are worried about gang presence and that is making them concerned about their own safety.”

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