Kelvin Davis admits comments during Oranga Tamariki debate didn't reflect seriousness, Chris Hipkins says he got tone wrong

The Children's Minister acknowledges some of his comments during a speech on the allegations of inappropriate behaviour against two Oranga Tamariki staff members didn't reflect the seriousness of the situation.

In a speech in the House on Wednesday, Davis attacked the previous National-led Government and lashed out at Opposition leader Christopher Luxon as "Mr Tesla".

Speaking to reporters on Thursday, Davis said the House was a "robust place" and he made his controversial comments in the face of "robust heckling". 

"Maybe there's a few comments that I made that didn't reflect the seriousness with which I take the allegations. I did spell out in the best part of the speech, the steps Oranga Tamariki had taken to address the issues immediately."

When asked if he would apologise, Davis said he had withdrawn and apologised in the House after making the comments.

"I accept that some of the comments I made do not reflect the seriousness with which we've taken this," Davis said.

"But three-quarters of that speech was about how Oranga Tamariki immediately responded to the allegations and took, I think, very serious steps, in particular with the appointment of Mike Bush, it shows just how seriously Oranga Tamariki has taken these allegations.

"I think that's the part that everybody really needs to focus on."

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins said Davis took the situation seriously, but "probably got the tone a bit wrong on that".

"I think he was being subjected to quite a lot of, from what I gather, quite a lot of interjection at the time and was responding to some of that. I think in the process of doing that, he should have taken a more restrained tone."

National's deputy leader Nicola Willis said interjections weren't an excuse for getting the tone wrong. She said he should apologise.

"That was a really serious debate about the welfare of some of our most vulnerable children who it is the state's obligation to protect. He chose that moment where he could have shown great moral leadership to launch political attacks and get personal and it felt really inappropriate."

Oranga Tamariki chief executive Chappie Te Kani announced on Wednesday that two staff members had been removed from residences in relation to alleged inappropriate sexual behaviour. Mike Bush, the former Police Commissioner, will conduct a rapid review and take charge of Oranga Tamariki's youth justice and care residences.

Davis did spend most of his speech speaking about the steps Oranga Tamariki has taken to address the allegations before then accusing the previous Government of failing the agency.

"But that party over there had no answers when they were in Government—absolutely no answers. They changed the system, but it failed," he said.

Luxon interjected: "Going political on a day like today? No, not good enough."

Davis then said: "Mr Tesla there, Mr Tesla is pointing the finger."

He was referring to revelations made by Newshub on Tuesday night that Luxon's family appears to have benefited from the Clean Car Discount scheme that he has publicly opposed. It appears the family received a rebate for a Tesla.

Davis was told by Speaker Adrian Rurawhe he couldn't use nicknames in the House, leading the minister to withdraw and apologise. 

He went on to continue criticising National's time in power.

There were other emotional moments in the House.

ACT MP Karen Chhour, once a child of the state herself, was on the verge of tears. 

"I am so angry on behalf of these kids. We cannot take that harm back… We haven't even finished apologising for past abuse and the abuse is still happening. 

"Apologies mean nothing if it keeps happening. And nobody seems to want to stand up and take responsibility for this. These are children who rely on us."

National MP Louise Upston said: "I feel as though my heart has been ripped out, squashed and torn apart because not once did that minister take responsibility. Not once."