Labour MP Phil Twyford has apologised on Twitter after Social Housing Minister Paula Bennett bailed him up as sexist for making a cat claw gesture at her in Parliament.

Mr Twyford made the gesture indicating Ms Bennett was catty after Ms Bennett said he appeared to be struggling to understand her answers to his questions about housing.

Ms Bennett immediately reacted, saying she hoped it was on tape "because that was really nice towards the women in the House."

She added sarcastically "I'm sure you'd do that to a man, wouldn't you?"


The exchange then moved to Twitter, Mr Twyford was initially unrepentant, tweeting in response to one questioner that it was "entirely appropriate."

"Entirely appropriate, to someone who wears so much leopard print, and is quick to show her claws."

However, after several tweets criticised him Mr Twyford issued an apology: "Alright @paulabennettmp I plead guilty in the court of twitter. Sorry for the claws."

Ms Bennett said in reply to a tweet about it that another Opposition MP had called out 'meow."

"What is the male equiv? I remember an aus politician having to publicly apologise."

When another tweeter asked if she was guilty of similar behaviour, Ms Bennett replied "labour like to stand of a staunch platform of women's rights but don't then practice them."

Ms Bennett has made a claw gesture and meowed herself in Parliament herself although in a different context. In 2012 Ms Bennett was wearing a leopard-skin pattern jacket and Labour MP Jacinda Ardern asked her if something was "all smoke, mirrors and camouflage." Ms Bennett responded by clawing the air and miaowing, and making an observation on Westie fashion.

On another occasion, she drew criticism for saying to Ms Ardern to "zip it sweetie."

It wasn't the only slight unusual exchange in Parliament.

NZ First leader Winston Peters was grilling Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee about whether the Army were doing pre-deployment training and Mr Brownlee replied that "it's simply speculation, much like the ferry touched the bottom."

That was a reference to Mr Peters' ongoing campaign over the Cook Strait ferries. Mr Peters replied "well, it touched your bottom, yeah."

He was not asked to explain.