Nikki Kaye tells Paul Goldsmith to watch his phrasing after Jacinda Ardern 'stick to her knitting' remark

National's deputy leader Nikki Kaye told Paul Goldsmith he could have used a better phrase after being blasted for telling the Prime Minister to "stick to her knitting".

Jacinda Ardern on Tuesday criticised The Warehouse Group after it announced more than 1000 jobs could be going across the company and six stores were proposed to close. She said small businesses were doing "everything to try and keep staff on" and wanted to see the same attitude from larger organisations. 

Goldsmith, National's Finance spokesperson, hit back at that, saying: "I don't think it's helpful for the Prime Minister to be criticising struggling businesses, she should stick to her knitting". 

That comment has been labelled "sexist" by some, and he's since told RNZ that it was perhaps not the best phrase to use as "young people aren't familiar with the metaphor". 

According to the Collins Dictionary, "stick to your knitting" is an idiom that means to "continue to do something that you are experienced at and not try to do something which you know very little about".

Kaye told The AM Show on Wednesday she had spoken to the number-five ranked National MP about his phrasing. 

"The main point here was that we were saying the Prime Minister needs to focus on creating jobs, not actually on getting angry with companies who are up against the wall.

"People are going to focus on the phrase and I said to him 'look, you could use your phrase better', but the reality is, the main point here is we are in an economic crisis, we need job creation, we need investment in infrastructure, we need to open up our economy where it makes sense because people are losing jobs all over the show in New Zealand."

She said Paul had previously used the phrase towards New Zealand First Minister Shane Jones.

"We are in a campaign now. People are going to focus on the small things. What we need to focus on is the huge number of New Zealanders who are losing their jobs."

Asked what National would be doing to help Kiwis, Kaye listed off carefully bringing international students back to New Zealand, doing something safe at the border, introducing an infrastructure plan and rolling out its JobStart package. 

More details about international students is expected to be released by the party later this week, but Kaye said there would be rules around health checks, testing and quarantining.

"We think it is possible to do that in the next couple of months."

The deputy leader said it "unreasonable" for Ardern to be taking a "potshot" at The Warehouse Group during an economic crisis. 

The Warehouse chief executive Nick Grayston said changes to the company were already planned, but COVID-19 accelerated the process. The company's sales are down with a post-lockdown surge not expected to continue, according to Grayston, who also told Newshub wage subsidies it received covered just over half of monthly staff overheads. 

Kaye also said the National Party could get behind a Pacific tourism bubble, which has been mooted by some commentators. Former Prime Minister Helen Clark on Tuesday noted that about two-thirds of tourists to the south Pacific nations are from Australia or New Zealand and we should consider how to include them in a travel bubble. 

"I am pretty sure the Government is doing work on Pacific bubbles. We know there is potentially a humanitarian situation if we don't help our Pacific neighbours," Kaye said. 

"The key thing again is which countries are safe and how can we do that in a very safe way. We have got to make sure whatever happens, it is safe. I do think that there is engagement happening in the Pacific and it is a reasonable plan to consider."