'I have reflected on my comments': Key admits 'murderers and rapists' outburst was wrong

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National and Labour have called a Christmas truce, with Prime Minister John Key apologising for accusing the opposition of backing "murderers and rapists".

Labour leader Andrew Little was also contrite, telling Speaker David Carter he was sorry for criticism from his MPs.

Mr Key offended Labour and Greens MPs last month over their support for Kiwis locked up in Australia’s Christmas Island detention centre. 

Some female MPs, who were victims of sexual assault, walked out in disgust, and a public petition collected more than 13,000 signatures.

"I have reflected on my comments and on this last sitting day of the year, so close to Christmas, I would like to withdraw and apologise for that response," Mr Key told Parliament today. 

He had previously refused to apologise.

Mr Little said complaints made by his MPs over Carter’s alleged bias towards National were “unparliamentary.” 

Chris Hipkins, Ruth Dyson and Mr Little have been referred to Parliament’s Privileges Committee, which disciplines MPs.

Parliament rises today for the summer break, returning on February 9.

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