A Cabinet minister called a Labour MP "stupid" in Parliament as the Government hit back at claims it was manipulating statistics on child poverty.
Opposition parties have been lashing the Government over the Salvation Army's State of the Nation report, which questions changing government targets on key social issues.
Finance Minister Bill English led the counter-attack today.
"Any implication that government departments are using data and targets in a less than transparent way is completely incorrect," he said.
"Overall, the Salvation Army's State of the Nation report shows the Government is making good progress in key areas."
In Parliament, Labour's Carmel Sepuloni took on Social Development Minister Anne Tolley.
"Does she agree with her own ministry's report on household incomes that 305,000 kids are in poverty on her watch and this figure has gone up by 45,000 in one year alone," Ms Sepuloni said.
Mrs Tolley said the MP was misquoting the report in a mischievous way.
"It just shows how stupid the member is to quote that figure," she said.
Ms Sepuloni took offence at that and Ms Tolley had to withdraw her remark.
Mr English and Ms Tolley said opposition parties were misrepresenting the report and were trying to make it appear there had been deliberate manipulation of statistics.
Mr English said the statistics were top of the line, and Ms Tolley said the auditor-general would have had something to say if there were any problems with the data.
Labour leader Andrew Little says the report is a damning indictment of government policy while the Greens believe it will horrify New Zealanders.
The organisation's ninth annual report on social issues facing New Zealand, released today, says many families are teetering on the edge of poverty and severe social distress.
"These trends create an overall sense that little has changed over the most recent past and that as a country we are treading water," the report says.
Mr Little says the Government should hang its head in shame.
"The report is a damning indictment of a National government intent on hiding the true state of some of New Zealand's most vulnerable people," he said today.
"The report says there are constantly shifting targets around child poverty and crime designed to provide `reasons to celebrate success or progress' even when little has been achieved."
Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei says the report raises serious doubts about the Government's "much-trumpeted achievements" for children.