Senior cabinet Minister Trevor Mallard says the punch he threw at National MP Tau Henare is "one of the most stupid things I've ever done in my life".
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From Taupo, where he is now on leave, Mr Mallard said he should not have punched Mr Henare and what he did was "absolutely wrong".
Asked if he was going to resign over the incident, Mr Mallard did not directly answer, responding instead:
"I think what's happening as far as the Cabinet reshuffle is a matter for the Prime Minister."
The scuffle broke out in the parliamentary lobbies last night after Mr Mallard took offence at comments by Mr Henare referring to his personal life.
Mr Mallard and Deputy Prime Minister Michael Cullen later visited Mr Henare and apologised for the incident.
Prime Minister Helen Clark said today Mr Mallard had delivered her an "abject apology".
She did not know what possessed her senior minister.
Meanwhile, Mr Henare has said Mr Mallard "lost his rag" during the altercation.
Mr Henare said he was punched by Mr Mallard during a heated discussion about comments Mr Henare threw across the chamber yesterday afternoon.
"He just said to me 'come outside', and I went outside and, in the lobby, we had a bit of a talk and he lost his rag."
He said Mr Mallard punched him, and he defended himself, but would not say whether he hit Mr Mallard in return. However, he confirmed the pair had to be separated.
He would not say who stepped in, but it is understood to have been a Parliamentary staffer, though not a security officer.
Neither Mr Henare nor Mr Mallard will say what the comments in the House were, but they are understood to have referred to Mr Mallard's private life. He has recently separated from his wife.
Mr Henare said the comments were "edgy", but he would not back down from baiting Labour MPs. He suggested that if Mr Mallard could not handle it, he should consider another career.
"I said something that was rather edgy. I'm not going to say what I said. Suffice to say that that's a robust place where things are said that are edgy, but you don't expect to get punched for it. He's a minister. He's a front bench man. If people can't handle it, then maybe they need to have a look at their career.
"It's Parliament, for God's sake ... people say things in the heat of the moment. They don't expect to get hit for it."
Mr Henare's comments came despite him saying he considered the matter closed after he received an apology from Mr Mallard last night.
"He's seen the error of his ways, he's apologised and I thank him for that and as far as I'm concerned, that's where the matter lies between him and I."
National leader John Key said he spoke with Mr Henare this morning, and "expressed disappointment that the incident happened".
"I'm pleased Mr Mallard has apologised to Mr Henare for his actions. There is no place for physical violence in New Zealand politics."
Prime Minister Helen Clark said through a spokesman that both men should "look in the mirror". The spokesman would not say whether she intended to take the matter further.
Mr Mallard has so far refused to comment on the issue.
Last year, he was himself at the centre of a row over remarks made in the Chamber after he taunted then-National leader Don Brash with claims that Dr Brash was having an affair.
- The Dominion Post
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