Labour's Peeni Henare apologises to National's Erica Stanford after 'cat-calling' incident

Labour MP Peeni Henare has apologised to National's Erica Stanford after "cat-calling" her in Parliament last week.

Stanford, the MP for the Auckland electorate of East Coast Bays and National's Immigration spokesperson, was questioning Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi last Tuesday over the decision to grant members of The Lion King cast and crew spaces in a managed isolation facility. 

After Faafoi responded to one of Stanford's questions, Henare, who was seated next to the Immigration Minister, could be heard saying "reow, reow". 

Stanford later said she wasn't offended by the comments and described Henare as a "nice guy", but didn't believe his remark was in good taste. 

"Cat-calling a woman in any circumstance is not appropriate. I don't think he was doing it maliciously, though - I think it was just lazy and a bit silly. I presume he'd apologise if we saw each other in the hall," she said at the time.

"I think had he thought about it more before he did it, he probably wouldn't have, because as I said, cat-calling a woman in any circumstance is not appropriate."

Henare's office declined to comment when contacted by Newshub last week, but the Defence Minister on Wednesday afternoon apologised to Stanford when speaking as part of the General Debate in the House. 

"I want to begin my contribution today first with an apology to the good member from East Coast Bays for causing any offence that I have. I want to apologise to her because I have huge respect for her."

Henare then went on to reveal something he wouldn't apologise for: Labour's recent housing announcement

"I want to be unapologetically proud of the housing policy that we have announced very recently."

Last week's incident in the House caused a stir online, with National's Chris Bishop questioning what the response may have been like if a male National MP had made the noises. National leader Judith Collins called them "inappropriate and totally sexist behaviour".

But some came to Henare's defence, suggesting the minister was just making a cat noise as the topic was The Lion King, in which the characters are cats. 

Labour Whip Kieran McAnulty tweeted: "The topic of discussion was The Lion King. And Bishop knows this."

Wellington artist Sarah Jane Parton said: "Chris. As you well know, Peeni Henare wasn't catcalling Erica Stanford, he was making a "Lion" noise re Kris Faafoi's discussion of The Lion King. Please, we don't pay you to waste your and our time cropping/editing videos of parliamentary debates to create fake narratives."

Bishop responded: "I guess all National MPs know in future then it's okay to make noises like that at female MPs if we're talking about an animated film. Got it, thanks for clarifying."