National MP Tim Macindoe apologises for joking about pushing women off a balcony

National MP Tim Macindoe has apologised for making a joke about pushing women off a balcony during a Facebook livestream of the Justice Select Committee.

At the beginning of the livestream before any submitters appeared, Macindoe could be heard saying: "I did push my two first wives off the balcony of our upper floor apartment," prompting laughter from some MPs.

National MP Nick Smith then said, "I think we are in public session."

Macindoe, MP for Hamilton West, told Newshub the joke was a reference to the 1990s British TV series House of Cards and how the main character, Chief Whip Francis Urquhart, pushed his lover off the roof of the House of Commons.

Macindoe was Chief Government Whip in the previous National-led Government.

"I'd suggest you listen to the context, because clearly we were having a bit of banter. You can see that all the MPs are laughing, and it was in reference to the fact I'd been a Whip," Macindoe said.

"You probably remember Francis Urquhart pushed someone off a balcony at the end of the series of House of Cards. That was the context and I was a Senior Whip.

"It was nothing remotely about domestic violence. I haven't had two previous wives. I'm very happily married to the same person, my only wife who I've been married to for 31 years."

Domestic violence advocate and survivor Jackie Clark of The Aunties was left in tears after watching the video. 

"It left me speechless and breathless with rage," she said. "There's a very large portion of New Zealand women who have lived in abuse who have survived abuse - physical, psychological, emotional abuse. 

"When they see somebody powerful make a joke, what it does to you is you think very much guys like him will always have the power, what's the point? I won't speak up there's no point. I won't say what happened to me no one will believe me."

Macindoe apologised if his comments had caused offence to domestic violence survivors.

"If anyone is offended by my remarks I apologise wholeheartedly."

But Clark says Macindoe's comments undermine prevention efforts. 

"You know they put all this money into preventing domestic violence and men like him make a joke of that." 

And she wants consequences. 

"We have such, such a bad problem with domestic violence in New Zealand that for someone to publicly talk like that it's so far beyond ok that he needs to be reprimanded.

"He should lose his job. But I know he won't. So, I would expect at the very least a rebuke." 

Finance Minister Grant Robertson responded to the remarks on Friday, saying: "It's certainly not something I would do... I think domestic violence is a scourge in our society... I don't think any New Zealander should take domestic violence lightly."

A 10-second clip of Macindoe making the joke was uploaded to Facebook by a meme page. Newshub was unable to watch the full footage because it had been deleted, but an MP on the committee confirmed the clip is legitimate.

The Justice Select Committee explained that when the Facebook livestream had finished, the beginning - when Macindoe made the joke - was trimmed down, because they only upload the submissions for people to watch back.

"It's just mischief by some trolls on social media," Macindoe said. "Clearly, I do not ever, in any way, condone domestic violence or a terrible crime. That's not me and anybody who knows me knows that's not me.

"You can see from the reaction of the people in the conversation that we were having yesterday that we were all just having a bit of a laugh."

Newshub asked Macindoe if he thinks making jokes about pushing women off balconies is acceptable.

"I wasn't making a joke about pushing women off balconies. I was effectively making a silly comparison between myself and Francis Urquhart, which is a scene in House of Cards.

"As I say, of course I don't think domestic violence or any form of violence is funny, but people have light-hearted conversations and that is what we were doing.

"I've heard people describe themselves as Hannibal Lecter in the past. Do I think that Hannibal Lecter is somebody we should worship and admire? Well, of course I don't. But nor do I take it seriously, and my comment wasn't meant to be taken seriously."

The National MP said he has not discussed it with National leader Simon Bridges.

"I don't think there will be any need to....I can assure you it was just a little bit of banter and this is making a real mountain out of a molehill."

Macindoe isn't the only MP to have remarks made during a livestream come back to bite.

Labour MP Deborah Russell came under fire earlier this week for comments she made about small businesses not preparing enough financial reserves to face a crisis like COVID-19. 

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