Acting Prime Minister Bill English has had to defend the absent Prime Minister for his ponytail pulling, saying Mr Key had "intensive interactions" with the public over several years "and observed, almost always, the highest standards of appropriate behaviour".
Mr English is filling in for Mr Key while he is overseas and was faced with questions about Mr Key's repeated pulling of the ponytail of a waitress in Parnell cafe frequented by the Keys, Rosie.
Labour's Annette King had quoted Mr Key's earlier warning to his Government about the risk of arrogance slipping in in a third term and asked whether Mr Key's actions met that bar.
Ms King also asked why Mr Key had attempted to minimise it, by describing it as "horseplay," "banter" and "joking around".
Mr English said Mr Key had not attempted to minimise it and had already acknowledged it was totally inappropriate. He had apologised as soon as the waitress made it clear she was offended and that was well before public attention was drawn to it.
"Part of the Prime Minister's disappointment at these events and the inappropriateness of his behaviour is that in almost every other respect his interaction with New Zealanders is positive."
Mr English said the case of Aaron Gilmore, a former National MP who left Parliament in 2013 after Mr Key criticised him for his treatment of a waiter at a Hanmer Springs restaurant, was different and had been dealt with appropriately.
Women's Affairs Minister Louise Upston also again refused to denounce Mr Key's actions specifically but said anybody subject to unwanted touching or words should speak up about it.
Ms Upston has come under fire from Opposition MPs for her response to a waitress' complaint that Mr Key had repeatedly pulled her ponytail despite her frustration, something Ms Upston had described as "light-hearted".
This morning Ms Upston repeated earlier statements that Mr Key had apologised "and that is the end of the matter".
Asked about it by Green MP Jan Logie in Parliament, Ms Upston said Mr Key had taken responsibility for his actions.
"I do want to take the opportunity to highlight that it is an issue anytime anyone, male or female, is subject to words, to texts, to messages, to touching that is unwelcome, absolutely they should stand up, they should comment, they should express that."
Ms Upston said it was also important for anybody witnessing such behaviour to speak up about it. Asked why she had not spoken out against it, Ms Upston said Mr Key had taken responsibility and she did not intend to comment on it.