Nicky Wagner gets handed a reality check

The wheelchair I use often attracts awkward questions from people who intrude upon my day – well intentioned and curious – to ask what happened, and often to tell me they can’t imagine living my life. I joke to friends, that it is “part of the cripple job description” to explain that I am ok and not pining after a body and life I’ve never known.

By the same token, being repeatedly confronted by a world that has not been designed with me and my needs in mind can wear me down. It is not always smooth sailing. It is also not something I can walk away from.

When Nicky Wagner flippantly tweeted that she would rather be out on Auckland Habour than in meetings in her capacity as Minister for Disability Issues, I did not see the supposed sense of humour in her comments. I saw a disregard for the significance of her role and its importance for the community she represents.

Wagner has since been quick to tweet her apologies, stating she did not mean to cause offence.

It was probably just thoughtless.  But those things do matter.  What if a minister for Corrections complained about being cooped up in meetings all week?   These are just stupid, stupid things that you do not expect from experienced ministers.

Apologising, she said she should “think before I tweet”, and it was a shame people “shone light on her silly words” rather than the work being done. It [is] still unclear if she has seriously considered the implications of her words.

When questioned, the Prime Minister could have taken the opportunity to engage with how and why Wagner’s comments may have offended us. He could have been ready to underline the importance of respecting people with disabilities a people and our lives. His response was inadequate.

His belief that the disability community was not offended is not well supported. His dismissal of our “outrage” on the grounds it took place on the internet is simplistic. For people with disabilities, who face barriers to their access to wider society the internet can play a huge part in how they interact with the world and stay politically involved.

Bill just can’t win lately.   The John Key afterglow has worn off, and Bill’s shortcomings are on display almost weekly.


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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.

To read Cam’s previous articles click on his name in blue.