Key Points:

An angry Auckland Issues Minister, Judith Tizard, demanded an apology in Parliament yesterday after taking exception to being referred to indirectly as a witch.

Nelson National MP Nick Smith suggested she get back on her "broomstick" after she interjected continuously during his speech on the Budget.

Ms Tizard objected and sought an apology.

But Deputy Speaker Anne Hartley refused to order Nick Smith to say sorry, saying it was a "robust debate".

Ms Tizard, on the verge of tears, then explained why she took such strong exception to the comment.

"A witch has been used as a term of insult to women - women who were burned because they spoke out - and I deeply, deeply resent the sexist language and the insult to every woman in this Parliament and every woman in New Zealand."

Nick Smith apologised but did so begrudgingly, saying Ms Tizard constantly interjected but had got all "super-sensitive" when he talked about her getting on a broomstick.

The "broomstick" has become a favoured tool of torment for National. Labour list MP Jill Pettis was also told yesterday to "get on your broomstick" when she interjected in question time.

The online reference Wikipedia says that despite the association of broomsticks with female witches, the first known case of claiming to have flown on a broomstick was recorded in 1453 by the male witch Guillaume Edelin.