John Key should be big enough to say sorry for overstepping the mark.

Opinion may be divided on whether the Prime Minister needs to apologise to women MPs deeply offended by his suggestion that the Opposition was supporting "rapists, child molesters and murderers" by urging him to protest more strongly to Australia after the riot at Christmas Island.

Labour MP Kelvin Davis had accused John Key of being "gutless" over the affair, which prompted the Prime Minister's retort in Parliament.

Juvenile hyperbole is all too common in heated exchanges in Parliament, and normally MPs let it pass, but several women MPs found the comments offensive because of experiences in their youth - experiences they were moved to share.

How hard would it be for the Prime Minister to apologise?

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If he needs a reason to change his mind, it is available in information since received about the crimes committed by the detainees. There is no mention of rape and murder, though the list does include instances of manslaughter, indecencies with children, armed robbery, aggravated assault and family violence.

Nobody is defending their crimes, as Mr Key well knows, because he will have made the same point to Australia's Prime Minister last month.

Tempers get short at Parliament near the end of a year, silly things can be said in the heat of a moment. How good it would be to find we have a Prime Minister who is big enough to acknowledge those who seem genuinely hurt and say simply, "I didn't mean it, I'm sorry"?

Debate on this article is now closed.