Outspoken radio host Alan Jones has backtracked after calling Jacinda Ardern a "complete clown" and urged Scott Morrison to "shove a sock down her throat".
Australia's Prime Minister has rushed to condemn Jones' controversial comments, with Morrison telling reporters they were "way out of line".
Yesterday, Alan Jones levelled a raft of criticism at Ardern, taking umbrage after he believed she had taken a sideswipe at Australia's commitment to climate change.
Jones suggested Morrison "shove a sock down the throat" of Ardern - and called her a clown.
Although Ardern told Kiwi media she would not dignify the comments with a response, Morrison was ready to defend his transtasman counterpart.
He said the comments were "very disappointing".
"I have two daughters, so you can expect that's how I would feel personally about it. I'll leave others to explain what they've said and how they've said it," Morrison told media after a 12-hour Pacific Islands Forum meeting yesterday.
Asked about the comments, Ardern said: "I don't think I will give that comment the light of day – I think I'll just leave it where it is."
However, she did say that Australian media coverage accusing her of "blasting" the Morrison Government was mischaracterised. Morrison agreed.
Alan Jones feeling the heat
In a statement yesterday, Jones - an outspoken broadcaster and former Wallabies coach - said he had "noted some concern" about his comments earlier in the day.
"Of course what I meant to say was that Scott Morrison should tell Ms Ardern to 'put a sock in it'," he said.
"There are many people who would relish the opportunity to misinterpret things that I have said as we have seen online this afternoon. Of course I would not wish any harm to Jacinda Ardern.
"This wilful misinterpretation distracts from my point that she was wrong about climate change and wrong about Australia's contribution to carbon dioxide levels."
Former Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull was one of the loudest voices to call out Jones, urging the radio host to apologise for his "misogynistic rant".
Turnbull had praised a comment from Fiji's Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama, who said it was "easy to tell someone to shove a sock down a throat when you're sitting in the comfort of a studio".
The hashtag, #SackAlanJones, was also trending on Twitter this afternoon as thousands of people called for the host to be fired from 2GB.
Earlier, New Zealand found itself caught in the middle of simmering tensions between Australia and other Pacific nations after some pointed comments from Ardern yesterday.
The New Zealand PM and Morrison both landed in Tuvalu for the Pacific Islands Forum, where Australia is facing pressure to take greater action on climate change.
She immediately added to that pressure, saying Australia would have to "answer to" the rest of the Pacific.
"We will continue to say that New Zealand will do its bit. And we have an expectation that everyone else will as well. We have to. Every single little bit matters," Ardern said.
"That is why New Zealand has joined that international call. That is why we speak, I believe, strongly on the international stage around these issues. But ultimately we have to take responsibility for ourselves.
"Australia has to answer to the Pacific. That is a matter for them."
Ardern and Morrison came together for a bilateral meeting later in the day.
Her comments came after she disembarked her plane in Tuvalu's capital, Funafuti, to hear a group of local children singing: Save Tuvalu, save the world.
The assertion that Australia would answer to other Pacific nations sparked some pushback from the Australian media.
No one was harsher Jones, who said: "Here she is preaching on global warming and saying that we've got to do something about climate change," Jones said on his show this morning.
"The fact is New Zealand's carbon dioxide has grown by 10.8 per cent per capita since 1990. Ours has grown by 1.8 per cent.
"I just wonder whether Scott Morrison is going to be fully briefed to shove a sock down her throat.
"She is a joke, this woman, an absolute and utter lightweight.
"These people are an absolute joke and Jacinda Ardern is the biggest joke."
The Australian's environment editor Graham Lloyd was more restrained.
"Demanding Australia abandon its coal production and exports for the good of the climate in the Pacific is akin to asking New Zealand to give up its love affair with sheep," Lloyd wrote.
"Ardern is naive if she believes such moves would be economically feasible or in the best interests of regional stability."
The Daily Telegraph's Tim Blair, meanwhile, made the point a bit more facetiously.
"New Zealand's 'luttle but' of carbon dioxide output doesn't make the slightest bit of difference to the fate of Pacific Islands or anything else. Does Wellington even have factories?" he wrote.
Meanwhile, back in Tuvalu, Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama sent a message of his own backing up Ardern.
This morning Deputy PM and Foreign Minister Winston Peters walked back her comments and even defended Australia during an interview on ABC radio.
"Let's make no bones about it, Australia has been a great neighbour in the Pacific. They've put a lot of effort and a lot of care and a lot of attention and a lot of sound foreign policy over decades in the Pacific. Before people rush to judgment they should remember that," Peters said.
He said every nation at the Pacific forum needed to outline its response to the challenge of climate change.
"The Australians have provided their response. The rest of us have provided ours. And to my knowledge it's not been the New Zealand Prime Minister who's raised the questions about the Australian response, it's been other members at the forum. But not our Prime Minister."
Australia's response has been to redirect $500 million from its foreign aid budget to help the Pacific nations mitigate the effects of climate change.
But that has not been enough to satisfy all the other leaders.
Yesterday Tuvalu Prime Minister Enele Sopoaga said the situation was "dire" for his country, whose highest point is just 4m above sea level, and the $500 million funding package would not make him "shut up" about climate change.
Peters suggested criticism of Australia did not take in the full picture, and China needed to be brought into the conversation as well.
"You need to look at everybody, not just Australia, but also who is getting that coal and what things they are doing with it.
"What I'm sadly hearing is variations on a theme that [Pacific leaders are] all attacking the Australian Prime Minister, or that they've all taken the view, including New Zealand's Prime Minister, that the Australians are somehow acting incorrectly when that is not the proper picture or the real picture at all.
"There's a bit of a paradox here.
"There are many Pacific countries that are seeking cheap loans from China. Now those loans are on the backs of coal-fired everything in mainland China, as we well know. So you know, there's a big picture we've got to contemplate here, and we've got to ensure we act in this big picture, we act with consistency and integrity.
"You've got to look at everybody. Not just — for example, Australia's got coal and you're selling it. The next question is OK, who is getting that coal and what are they doing with it? We should keep our eyes on all the details."
Today Ardern announced New Zealand would dedicate $150 million to a climate change support programme in the Pacific.
She said she expected frank but constructive discussions on the subject behind closed doors.
"It is a place where we are able to talk frankly with one another, and I would expect that to occur on a range of issues," Ardern said.
"But it is clear that climate change is the centrepiece of this, and I think what our Pacific Island leaders want to see is a transition. They want to see progress."
The behind-the-scenes negotiations will focus on the wording of a communique all leaders are expected to sign at the end of the forum.
Morrison is expected to push back on attempts to include tougher language on climate change or the use of coal in that communique.