28 Apr 2015

English faces music over ponytail pulling

4:27 pm on 28 April 2015

Acting Prime Minister Bill English has been left to defend the actions of the Prime Minister John Key and his ponytail pulling antics in Parliament this afternoon.

Amanda Bailey / John Key

Amanda Bailey / John Key Photo: Facebook / RNZ

Mr Key has apologised to Amanda Bailey for pulling her hair over several months whenever he visited Rosie cafe near his Parnell home.

He was due to arrive in Saudi Arabia for a trade mission this afternoon, leaving Mr English to face questions from the opposition back home.

When the controversy broke, the Prime Minister said his actions were intended to be light-hearted, it was never his intention to make the waitress feel uncomfortable and he has since apologised.

In Parliament this afternoon, Labour's acting leader Annette King asked Bill English about promises Mr Key made after the election - not to lead an arrogant, third term Government.

"Was pulling the hair of a woman worker in a cafe arrogant, veering off into a space he hadn't been before, or just totally inappropriate behaviour?"

Speaking on behalf of the Prime Minister, Mr English told the House Mr Key has acknowledged his behaviour was totally inappropriate, for which he has apologised.

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters asked Mr English about television footage that subsequently emerged.

"How does the acting Prime Minister explain the countless photographs of Mr Key stroking young girls' hair and what psychological condition is that?

Mr English said he rejected all the imputations of that question.

Bill English during caucas run this morning.

Bill English Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

''The Prime Minister has a track record which I know the opposition parties resent, that is of very positive interaction with the whole range of the New Zealand community."

Minister for Women Louise Upston came under fire for her response to the controversy.

She issued a two sentence statement last week noting the Prime Minister had apologised, and until question time this afternoon, was unwilling to to say anything further.

In Parliament, Ms Upston responded to a question from the Green MP, Jan Logie, about her response so far.

"Anytime, anyone, male or female is subject to words, to texts, to messages, to touching that is unwelcome, absolutely they should stand up, they should comment, they should express that.

"But also Mr Speaker it is also important for anyone who sees that or is around that behaviour whether it is in a workplace, a home or in the community should speak up."

Which prompted Jan Logie to ask why she as the minister did not speak up last week, or again when asked by the media to make a statement in defence of the safety of women in workplaces.

Ms Upston told Parliament the Prime Minister took responsibility for his actions, and she "wasn't going to comment on his statement".

Private prosecutor Graeme McCready will file documents in the Auckland District Court tomorrow morning, in an attempt to start assault proceedings against Mr Key, for a single representative charge of Assault Male on Female.

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