A heated debate broke out in parliament this afternoon as two of the country's most prominent female politicians went head to head, with one telling the other to "zip it, sweetie".
Social Development Minister Paula Bennett made the quip at Auckland Labour MP and the party's social development spokeswoman Jacinda Ardern.
More than 50 per cent of youth who have completed a Limited Service Volunteer Training course were still on a benefit, and Ardern asked the minister whether that was a sign her government wasn't making a difference, "and that the jobs just aren't there".
Bennett attempted to answer but her voice was faded out by the interjections of opposition members, including Ardern.
"If you want to listen to the answer," she said before adding "zip it, sweetie," a remark directed at Ardern.
At age 32, Ardern is one of the youngest female MPs and number four on the Labour list.
She was about to stand from her chair to object to the comment, but her colleague Trevor Mallard beat her to it.
Defending Ardern, Mallard told speaker Lockwood Smith that "zip it" might have been okay but "sweetie" wasn't.
"If that term was used to a member who was not a younger woman member, in that sort of approach, I think you would find it offensive"," he said to Smith.
Smith admitted his hearing wasn't the best and he hadn't heard the comment over all the background noise.
"The level of objection was so high I didn't hear what the minister said," Smith said.
However, he didn't view it as a highly offensive remark.
"If members interject in a rude manner they may get a less than perfect reaction from the minister," Smith said.
Ardern said that out of 1300 young people who had gone through the training, more than 1000 had failed to complete it and were still on a benefit.
Bennett said some of the participants had dropped out of the training due to medical reasons and homesickness.
"It's quite an active and quite an intense course."
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