Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters can't be sure he hasn't been a bully

Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters says tempers can flare at Parliament and he can't be sure he hasn't been a bully in the past.

Following the announcement of an inquiry into bullying and harassment of staff at Parliament as well as accusations of mismanagement levelled at Retirement Commissioner Diane Maxwell, Mr Peters said on Tuesday it was important to understand Parliament was a robust environment.

"I've seen all sorts of behaviour in Parliament. Frankly, it's a tough and difficult place," he said.

But when asked by The AM Show's Duncan Garner if he could recall any experiences where he hadn't treated staff well, Mr Peters said he couldn't be sure.

"I can't say that I am innocent either, but it comes down to whether it is bullying," he said.

"If you've got a crisis on, that's a serious crisis on, and someone is not stepping up then tempers tend to be raised and people tend to react. But that's part and parcel of life. If you think we can have a tranquil, peaceful, calm life while you're trying to handle crisis after crisis, and difficulties and all sorts of tension then I think we're in dream land"

Yet, Mr Peters said he still expects there to be rules and that people treat each other with a level of respect.

He said he wasn't told in advance about the inquiry, which was announced last week by Speaker Trevor Mallard.

"It will have to be backed up by real genuine sincere attempts to resile and fix a problem that he perceived to be in existence at the time," said Mr Peters.

The inquiry, which will be carried out by independent external reviewer Debbie Francis, will establish whether bullying or harassment has occurred and then investigate the extent of the behaviour. It will cover both current and former members of staff.

Mr Peters said it was unfortunate that some people lost their jobs based on allegations that ended up baseless.

"It is a very unfortunate aspect where people can make allegations and they can be totally baseless, they may be meritless, we don't know. But, in the meantime, someone loses their job temporarily," he said.