National Party MP Paul Goldsmith has been reprimanded by deputy leader Nikki Kaye for saying the PM should "stick to her knitting" but does not think Jacinda Ardern would be bothered: "she's pretty tough."
Goldsmith made the comment to the NZ Herald when responding to Ardern saying she was "angry" about the Warehouse's move to lay off more than 1000 staff.
"I don't think it's helpful for the Prime Minister to be criticising struggling businesses, she should stick to her knitting," Goldsmith said.
The phrase prompted a backlash on social media and it is understood Goldsmith was reprimanded by Kaye for using the phrase.
Goldsmith has since conceded it was not the best choice of words because younger people, including his own children, did not understand the metaphor.
He told RNZ it was a phrase he used often and he meant no disrespect to the Prime Minister by it.
Asked if he was apologising, he said: "I can do. She's pretty tough. I'm sure she's not in the least bit worried about it ... we're in a robust political environment."
He said he would just as readily have directed it to Finance Minister Grant Robertson.
In fact, Goldsmith has used the same phrase before toward NZ First MP Shane Jones in Parliament.
"I use the phrase all the time. The point of it is to say: 'Stick to your task rather than meddling in somebody else's.'"
He maintained his core argument was valid.
"It is not for politicians to determine what business decisions should be made in terms of a private company trying to stay afloat at a difficult time.
The Prime Minister's focus should be on clearly articulating a credible growth plan to get us back on track as a country.
What we're seeing at the moment is a plan that consists of debt-fuelled government spending on a colossal scale and waiting for a vaccine. We need to do better than that."
Goldsmith told RNZ the wage subsidy and its extension made sense, but the country needed to focus on private investment, business confidence, and bringing back international students, rather than putting more restrictions on overseas investment.
Asked if National would have international students returning now, he said: "We are not privy to the official advice from health authorities."
National Party leader Todd Muller was in hospital having minor surgery on pre-cancerous moles before returning home to recover, leaving Kaye to deal with Goldsmith.
Goldsmith was defended by Act leader David Seymour, who said men also knitted and that Goldsmith's criticism of Ardern's comments was well-founded.