There were scenes of tension and unease within Parliament this morning, as Deputy Prime Minister Winston clashed with the Deputy Speaker and senior National MPs over political donations.

Speaking during the second reading of the Electoral Amendment bill – which is being rushed through the House under urgency – Peters took aim at a plethora of people.

"I decided I would make a speech here this morning because I've sat in my office, and in other committee meetings, hearing these attacks on a party called New Zealand First from the biggest bunch of you-know-whats this Parliament has ever seen," he said.

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Peters, protected from defamation because of Parliamentary privilege, accused National of having $100 million worth of donations that the party had never declared.

"They have the gall and the audacity to rise in this Parliament and condemn with attempts of innuendo and slight, a party [NZ First] that has behaved within the law and will be proven to be so."

Previous speakers, such as veteran National MP Nick Smith, had been critical of the New Zealand First Foundation, amid claims the foundation appeared to have hidden political donations worth almost half a million dollars between April 2017 and March this year.

Many of these apparent donations to the foundation do not appear on the party's electoral returns. The Electoral Commission is investigating and Peters has insisted that the party is in the clear.

"In respect to NZ First Foundation, this matter is being examined by the very authorities qualified to do so," Peters said in the House.

"But they don't include the biased media; they don't include a bias and prejudice and deceitful members of the Opposition."

In fact, he said there have been senior National Party members contacting NZ First saying: "why on earth are they [National MPs] starting this attack because it's going to rebound on us".

The National Party also has a foundation, but according to party president Peter Goodfellow, National discloses all donations over $15,000 to the foundation as though it were to the party.

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National MP Nick Smith, left, has rallied against NZ First in the House
National MP Nick Smith, left, has rallied against NZ First in the House

At a number of times during Peters' speech, he clashed with Deputy Speaker and National MP Anne Tolley - at one point she forced him to apologise for implying that Smith had deliberately misled the House.

"Just follow the script, Madam Speaker. Even you should be able to do that," Peters snapped at Tolley at one point.

After Peters' speech, Smith attempted to table a letter from the former president of NZ First and the treasurer.

Smith said the letter showed the pair seeking to be heard at the Justice Select Committee inquiry to talk about "inappropriate financial dealings within NZ First".

Peters objected to the letter being tabled, meaning it was not made public.