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Upset over Mallard comment

ANDREA VANCE
Last updated 16:49 13/10/2011

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Labour's Trevor Mallard says he shouldn't have called Attorney-General Chris Finlayson "Tinkerbell'' but denies there is problem with homophobia in the party.

ACT's Wellington central candidate Stephen Whittington yesterday accused openly gay Labour MPs Grant Robertson and Charles Chauvel of covering up prejudice among their caucus.

Hutt South MP Mr Mallard likened Mr Finlayson to the Peter Pan fairy during a parliamentary debate in October 2009. Waimakariri MP Clayton Cosgrove twice called Mr Finlayson Tinkerbell in the House in July 2009.

Mr Mallard said last night: ``I certainly don't think I'm homophobic. It's a comment that was probably unfortunate and if I'd thought carefully I wouldn't have made it.''

But he wouldn't apologise. ``It was part of a series of two way offensive comments and I got quite a lot more than I received.''

It was "ridiculous'' to suggest Mr Cosgrove was anti-gay, he said. Mr Cosgrove did not respond to a request for comment.

The allegations flew after a Rainbow meeting in Wellington on Wednesday night. Mr Whittington believes both Labour MPs were denying the Tinkerbell remarks were ever made.

"I felt that they had questioned my credibility in a public forum and denied there were aspects of their party who criticised and abused MPs for being homosexual,'' he said. "I didn't think that was acceptable.''

Both Mr Robertson and Mr Mallard believe Mr Whittington was trying to divert attention from homophobic comments made by ACT's Epsom candidate John Banks a number of years ago.

"He was asked a question about John Banks. In his response, he said there are homophobic Labour MPs,'' Mr Robertson said. ``I don't believe there are.''

He added: "Of course I don't think it's a good thing for Labour MPs to call Chris Finlayson Tinkerbell. It's silly statement...With all due respect, [to] Stephen, I suspect I know more about homophobia than he does.''

Green MP Kevin Hague, who was also at the meeting, backed Mr Whittington's version of events. "My sense was thatCharles and Grant were denying that Mallard and Cosgrove had abused Chris Finlayson in a homophobic way.

"The impression I had was that they were denying that he said it.''

The stoush comes in the same week that Mr Chauvel accused National's allies of trying to portray him as a ``devious, gay, rich prick'' because internal polling shows him ahead in the ahead in the Ohariu electorate. He did not comment yesterday.

Mr Finlayson said: "There's no point denying these things happen. It is important to acknowledge and confront that kind of behaviour, and learn from it.''

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Labour MP Damien O'Connor was forced to apologise to colleagues for remarking that his party's list for the November election is dominated by "unionists and a gaggle of gays".

- Fairfax NZ

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