Chris Hipkins accuses Mark Mitchell of attacking him over growing numbers of women in police force after fiery on-air clash

Chris Hipkins is accusing National's Mark Mitchell of attacking "me on Newstalk ZB for talking about increased diversity in the police".

Police Minister Hipkins and Mitchell appeared on the radio station's Mike Hosking Breakfast show on Wednesday morning, when Mitchell raised the results of the latest NZ crime and victims survey and referred to the stabbing attacks in Christchurch and Auckland last week. 

Mitchell, the National Party's Police spokesperson, then criticised Hipkins for comments he made in Parliament on Tuesday - where the Police Minister responded to a question from fellow Labour MP Emily Henderson about women in the force.

"More good news: for the first time ever, one in four of our front-line police officers - a quarter of them - are women," Hipkins said in Parliament. "This represents a 50 percent increase over the last five years in the number of women in the police force." 

On Newstalk ZB, Mitchell told Hipkins he "came in with fire and brimstone last week as the new incoming minister at a time where police are almost at breaking point… and you're in the house giving yourself patsy questions about diversity.

"I don't think that's going to engender a lot of confidence in the police… talking about diversity in the House, mate, with patsy questions is not a good start," Mitchell said.

Hipkins responded to Mitchell by saying "the fact that you have a problem with the fact that a quarter of our police are women really speaks volumes about the National Party's position on policing".

"I'm absolutely staggered that you would take this opportunity to proactively attack that," Hipkins said on ZB. "I can't quite believe that."

Hipkins then took to Twitter saying Mitchell "attacked me" about the issue.

"He claimed it's undermining confidence," Hipkins wrote. "Wow!! National really do seem to have a problem with women at the moment!"

Former Police Minister Poto Williams, who was stripped of the portfolio in favour of Hipkins earlier this month, responded to Hipkins' post that Mitchell was announcing the "National Party diversity policy". At the same time, Labour's Hutt South MP Ginny Andersen said Mitchell's comments were "sad but not surprising". 

But other commenters accused Hipkins of being misleading.

"This is such a disingenuous interpretation of what happened," one said.

"Chris, I listened to that and you've completely misconstrued what he said and tried to deflect from the valid issues that were raised," another wrote. "I have had so much respect for you and your work but this tweet is disappointing and not like you at all."

Hipkins' accusations came after the National Party came under fire this week over where it stands on the controversial issue of abortion.

Following the US Supreme Court's decision to remove abortion as a constitutional right in the United States, Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson accused National leader Christopher Luxon of not being clear on his stance on abortion. Luxon, who's openly pro-life, said New Zealand's abortion laws wouldn't be changed under any future National Government. 

Luxon was forced to defend National's stance after one of his MPs, Simon O'Connor, celebrated the US Supreme Court decision on social media.