MP's sheep joke sparks uproar in Parliament

By AUDREY YOUNG political reporter

The Speaker, Jonathan Hunt, is pressing for further action from Alliance whip Grant Gillon to make amends for his comments in Parliament yesterday about sheep.

National MPs took grave offence at implications in a question Mr Gillon asked.

"I want to ask the minister whether, no pun intended, it's appropriate in this case for a woman's body parts to be inserted into a sheep when that has normally been the domain of Tory males?"

The question was a follow-up to a serious question to the Health Minister by the Greens about whether the consent of blood donors should be sought before their DNA is inserted into animals.

Mr Hunt did not hear the question but asked that Mr Gillon withdraw and apologise because of the offence taken and asked a second time more loudly.

A few minutes later he was informed of the comments and said that had he heard them, he would have demanded Mr Gillon leave the chamber.

Mr Hunt has written to Alliance leader Jim Anderton asking to meet him and Mr Gillon to further discuss the matter.

And he has written to the Leader of the House, Michael Cullen, saying he believed some further action should be taken.

"A motion of censure is one approach. The other approach is for Mr Gillon to get up in the House [today] and ask for leave to make a personal statement and make an absolutely abject apology and agree that he was very foolish in what he said."

It is understood National is considering advancing a motion to send it to the privileges committee.

Its MPs are suggesting that if John Carter had to lose his whip's job impersonating a Maori on talkback radio, Mr Gillon should lose his.

National's shadow leader of the House, Roger Sowry, has called for Mr Gillon to be sacked.

"He has stepped way over the line. His behaviour is simply unparliamentary and unprofessional."

Labour's chief whip, Rick Barker, said he would be gone from his post had he said it.

But Mr Anderton said it was "inappropriate" and it would not happen again.

Mr Gillon said last night: "I think in hindsight it was inappropriate."

Mr Hunt said Mr Gillon would not get a supplementary question for a long time.

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