Former Australia Prime Minister John Howard was at Parliament for a visit today sitting in the debating chamber for Question Time.

It piqued the interest of New Zealand MPs - but possibly also some awkward moments.

When former Prime Minister John Key resigned last December, Howard was one of the world leaders Key named as an example of others who had clung on for too long.

Howard was Australia's Prime Minister from 1996 to 2007 when Howard's Liberal government lost to Labor and Howard lost his electorate seat - the ultimate humiliation and a fate Key wanted to avoid.

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While Howard had a strong relationship with former PM Helen Clark, in 2001 he stripped back the social security rights of New Zealanders living in Australia - rights successive New Zealand Governments have since unsuccessfully tried to restore.

That might explain Howard's reluctance to speak to media after Question Time, saying only that he was "off duty" but it was great to be in New Zealand.​

Howard is in New Zealand to speak at an annual Trans Tasman black tie event hosted by the Australian High Commission. He was also due to have a quick catch up with Prime Minister Bill English.


National Party's Judith Collins tweeted that it was great to see him, but Labour's Clare Curran recalled that the last time she had been in the same room as Howard was in 1996 when she worked for a union and there was a massive protest outside Australia's Parliament.

"In 1996 he tried to take out unions. He failed."