National MP Erica Stanford has described remarks made by Defence Minister Peeni Henare in Parliament as "cat-calling" and says it was not appropriate.
Stanford was referring to earlier this week when she and Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi debated whether the Lion King cast and crew should have been given spaces in managed isolation, and Henare made a comment described as a cat-call.
"Why have 126 members of the Lion King production been allowed into New Zealand while nurses who arrived to meet our critical healthcare needs have been separated from their partners and children for a year?" Stanford asked Faafoi.
"While the member might like to focus on a small amount of entertainers I'd also note that the hotels, the bars and restaurants that would benefit from that particular production happening are desperately calling out for this kind of business," Faafoi replied.
As Stanford stood to respond, Henare could be heard saying: "Reow, reow."
"I actually didn't see them live - I saw them afterwards," Stanford said in response to Henare's remarks. "I wasn't offended - I was just more disappointed by the fact that they're not taking this issue of split migrant families more seriously."
Stanford described Henare as a "nice guy" and expected he would apologise to her when they next see each other, but she said his comments were not 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.
"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.
The incident sparked a debate on Twitter after National MP Chris Bishop published a clip of it.
"I'm just trying to imagine the reaction if a male National MP said 'reow, reow' to a female Labour Party MP," Bishop wrote.
National leader Judith Collins questioned if the "inappropriate and totally sexist behaviour" was appropriate of the Government.
Labour MP Kieran McAnulty tweeted in response: "The topic of discussion was the Lion King. And Bishop knows this."
Wellington artist Sarah Jane Parton went into bat for Henare and criticised Bishop.
"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."