The Maori Party is backing its troublesome MP Hone Harawira and says he made "an innocent mistake" when he submitted a bill which contravened its support agreement with the Government.
Mr Harawira caused a flurry of confusion yesterday when he submitted a member's bill seeking to entrench Maori seats, despite the agreement stating "the Maori Party and the National Party will not be pursuing the entrenchment of the Maori seats in the current parliamentary term".
Prime Minister John Key said he didn't know about it and Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia didn't seem to know what was in it.
It looked as though Mr Harawira, on Parliament's second day back from recess, was trying to stir something up but he insisted he wasn't.
"Honest, cross my heart, it was a mistake," he told reporters, explaining that the bill was drafted three years ago -- two years before the support agreement was signed -- and had been waiting to go into the ballot.
"As soon as it was pointed out to me I thought `holy hell, yeah, it was a mistake'," he said.
He quickly withdrew the bill from the ballot, which is used to decide which members' bills go onto Parliament's agenda for a first reading.
Mrs Turia later issued a statement saying the bill shouldn't have been in a batch of three which were submitted.
"The submission was an innocent error," she said.
"This was an oversight... we refute all accusations that Hone Harawira is flouting the confidence and supply agreement we have with the National Government."
Mr Harawira said making a gaffe on day two of Parliament's year was "par for the course".
He was in trouble late last year -- and sent on enforced leave from Parliament -- after making an unauthorised trip to Paris while on parliamentary business in Europe and a racially offensive email in defence of it.
Labour made the most of his latest blunder, which it thought was far from innocent.
"The party is now trying to excuse the exercise as another 'whoops' moment but given the trouble it is having with National over whanau ora, plans to raise GST and the foreshore and seabed, questions have to be raised about whether it was a deliberate attempt to try and flex its muscle," Labour leader Phil Goff said.
"It's not surprising there is extreme tension."