Labour earnestly talked about child poverty and unemployment and National talked seriously about the economy. But it was an Oscar-winning screen romance between two cowboys that really grabbed Parliament's attention yesterday.

In the hands of Leading Wit of the House Gerry Brownlee, the normal hostilities of question time dissolved.

Before question time, Labour's David Parker had issued a press statement headed "Let's Walk and Talk Gerry".

It was a tongue-in-cheek invitation to Energy and Resources Minister Gerry Brownlee to go tramping with him.

Mr Brownlee is responsible for undertaking a stocktake of the conservation estate to see what minerals and other valuables might lie beneath.

Mr Parker, a camper and tramper, particularly wanted to show him some parts of the Mt Aspiring National Park.

"I have assured Mr Brownlee that all he needs is a pair of walking shoes. I am happy to provide all other tramping gear he requires," said Mr Parker's statement. In the House he followed it up, asking Mr Brownlee if he had received his invitation.

Mr Brownlee: "I have received that invitation, and I say to the member that I think the itinerary that he has put together, for he and I to traipse through the backblocks of New Zealand, is truly splendid.

"So, on the one hand, I am deeply touched that the member wants to spend so much quality time in the high country alone with me, but on the other hand, I notice that all I am required to do is bring a pair of boots. I have seen that film Brokeback Mountain, so I am afraid that I will remain unavailable."

Mr Parker: Will the minister reconsider if I offer to carry his pack?

Mr Brownlee: Given the circumstances, not even if hell freezes over.

Mr Parker pleaded with him in the spirit of Christmas goodwill "and once and for all, throw off that epithet of Minister of Stationary Energy".

Mr Brownlee, who traditionally holidays at his family retreat in the Marlborough Sounds, assured Mr Parker he would experience some of the pristine parts of New Zealand.

Mr Brownlee had also set up colleague Chris Finlayson to pose his own patsy question to him, in order to poke fun at Labour leadership aspirant David Cunliffe and Shane Jones.

Was he expecting any other invitations from Opposition MPs, Mr Finlayson dutifully asked.

Mr Brownlee: "Yes, I do. I live in great hope that I will receive an invitation from the Hon David Cunliffe, the man of the people, to enjoy champagne and oysters at his Herne Bay residence, where I understand the theme of the function will be 'My Future; Your Best Interests'.

"Further, I expect to receive a tramping invitation from the Hon Shane Jones to tramp up and down Queen St and drop into McDonald's, where we will have lunch with Parekura Horomia" - a reference to a pit-stop by the pair in May during a protest march on Super City representation.

"I also anticipate an invitation from the Hon Phil Goff, but I understand that it will be a 'Bring Your Own Vote' party, and that not many will be going."

Mr Horomia rose to his feet to object.

"I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I would not like Mr Brownlee to go away ill-informed. It was Burger King, not McDonald's."

Parliament resumes on what can only be a more serious note on February 9.