John Key apologises for 'backing rapists' comment

By Isaac Davison, Nicholas Jones

A long-sought apology from the Prime Minister and a dramatic security breach by protesters has marked the final day of Parliament for the year.

Four protesters have been issued with two-year trespass notices after interrupting question time and throwing paper onto Government MPs.

Afterwards, they told the Herald that they were protesting against the signing of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

John Key had earlier apologised for and withdrew controversial comments he made last month during a debate on Kiwi detainees at Christmas Island.

The Prime Minister had previously refused to apologise for saying the Opposition was "backing the rapists", as well as murderers and child molesters.

"I have reflected on my comments, and on this last sitting day of the year, so close to Christmas, I'd like to withdraw and apologise for that response," Mr Key said today, to applause.

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After Mr Key's apology, Labour leader Andrew Little announced that the party had today written to the privileges committee to say that comments made by some Labour MPs were unparliamentary, and expressing regret for them.

"All of which demonstrates that this House is capable of acting, if not in the spirit of Christmas, in the spirit of the bloody Red Baron."

Speaker David Carter thanked Mr Little sincerely.

There was a rowdy last-day-of-school feeling to subsequent questioning, before four people in the public gallery showered paper with the words "No TPPA" on to Government MPs.

Security questioned the protesters, before releasing them with trespass notices.

Rowan Brooks, 26, said he and Renee Gerlich, 31, Elli Yates, 24, and Ben Rosamond, 22, were members of the activist group Real Choice.

The group's own "people's referendum" showed 97 per cent of respondents opposed the TPP, Mr Brooks said, and the protest was the best way to let politicians know about that opposition.

The protest was condemned by MPs from both main parties, with Labour MP Iain Lees-Galloway writing on Twitter that, "Chucking things on MPs heads will only result in more restrictions on who gets into the gallery. Not clever and not going to persuade anyone".

Asked if they had tried to present the referendum results in another manner, Mr Brooks said there had been press releases, but Real Choice felt Parliament was ignoring the issue and discrediting opposition.

"There wasn't a security issue with what we did, we took pieces of paper in. We didn't have anything metal which was a threat to security."

Meanwhile, Leader of the House Gerry Brownlee has released figures on Parliament's year - with 120 bills becoming law this year, with the House sitting for 88 days.

Mr Brownlee said Parliament's business committee had enabled extended hours on six occasions this year, some of which were used to progress Treaty Legislation.

"I want to commend the parties and members across the House for support of this procedure. Six settlement bills passed their third reading into law, including the completion of the Te Hiku Claims Settlement Bill."

A year in parliament

2015
• 120 bills passed
• Sat for 30 weeks (88 days)
• 87 question times, with 1044 oral questions answered
• 16,180 written questions asked

2014
• 73 bills passed
•Sat for 23 weeks (70 days)
•65 question times, with 788 oral questions answered
•9695 written questions asked

2013
• 145 bills passed
•Sat for 31 weeks (93 days)
•90 question times, with 1059 oral questions answered
•16,946 written questions asked

- NZ Herald

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