MP defends drunk girls comments

National MP Paul Quinn, who said ''there is a real issue with young ladies getting drunk'' during a debate about rape, is defending his comments by claiming he misunderstood the question.

On last night's TVNZ 7 show Backbenches, panellist Quinn was responding to a minute-long presentation by a Slutwalk march organiser about rape.

The protest follows a Canadian police officer's remarks about how women should dress to avoid sexual assaults.

Presenter Wallace Chapman asked list MP Quinn for his reaction, saying ''Going down Courtenay Place at night there's a lot of girls wearing short skirts.''

Quinn answered: ''What do you mean? They're there when I'm on my way to the swimming pool at six in the morning.''

To which Chapman responded: ''Do you think there is something to this idea that girls ask for it...they'll be saying that?''

Quinn replied: ''I think there is a real issue with young ladies getting drunk. That's the real issue. In Courtenay Place at 2am and 3am in the morning.'' The answer was met with loud booing from the crowd.

''So it's about the drunken behaviour. It's not about what they're wearing?'' Chapman clarified.

Quinn answered: ''No, it's about drink and behaviour''.

The show is filmed in front of a live audience in a noisy central Wellington pub.

Today Quinn said he hadn't heard the presentation and didn't understand why he was being asked the question. He ''absolutely regretted'' the misinterpretation.

''I couldn't hear the speaker's presentation and I didn't know what she said. Wallace asked me what did I think of girls wearing short skirts at 2am in the morning in Courtenay [Place]. I looked at him and thought 'what the hell is he asking me that for?'

''Clearly rape is not justified for anything.

''I thought the question was around drunkeness on Courtenay Place at 2am. That's what I thought the discussion was initially about. Others started talking about rape and I thought what the hell are they talking about.''

He added: ''The mis-interpretation was around the fact that I hadn't heard what the discussion was about. I explained that to them afterwards.''

Labour MP Chris Hipkins was in the audience.

''I thought they [the remarks] were pretty appalling, actually. I was almost choking when I heard the first words out of his mouth.

''It would be fair to say that I don't think there was a single person in the room that thought that what he said was the right thing to say.

''All of us who are in leadership positions of any sort have a responsibility to say when asked about this stuff that sexual violence is never OK and there is never any excuse that condones it.

''That has to the first response to any question like that.''

However, Hipkins agreed the bar was often noisy.

''I have been on Backbenches before and been in a position when you can't necessarily hear what's going on so I have some sympathy for that. ''Having said that, it's still not really much of an excuse.''

Labour MP Trevor Mallard, who was a fellow panelist, angrily challenged Quinn. Today he said the attitude came from the 1940s and 1950s.