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Palmer takes a swipe at Peta Credlin

Clive Palmer has refused to apologise on Tuesday after making a statement in the House about the PM's chief-of-staff Monday evening.

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Clive Palmer is refusing to apologise for comments he made about Tony Abbott's chief-of-staff Peta Credlin and the paid parental leave scheme and has rejected the suggestion the remarks were sexist.

The Fairfax MP has come under fire after accusing the government in Parliament on Monday of designing its paid parental leave scheme ''just so that the Prime Minister's chief-of-staff can receive a massive benefit when she gets pregnant''.

Clive Palmer has denied that his party is to blame for a Tasmanian election ad that has come under scrutiny.

Clive Palmer has refused to apologise for linking the paid parental leave scheme with Tony Abbott's chief-of-staff Peta Credlin. Photo: Andrew Meares

Leader of the House Christopher Pyne immediately demanded an apology from Mr Palmer but the Palmer United Party leader was unrepentant on Tuesday, issuing a further attack on Ms Credlin as having "undue" influence on the government.

Government MPs who have swooped on the comments have highlighted their insensitivity given Ms Credlin’s highly publicised struggle to have a child through IVF.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said on Tuesday the remarks were ''particularly hurtful'' and said Mr Palmer should think twice before making such personal attacks.

Paid parental leave became a rallying point against Tony Abbott and his chief of staff Peta Credlin.

Tony Abbott with Peta Credlin.

''I hope Mr Palmer reflects on what he says,'' she told Sky News.

''Of course he can debate policy but he shouldn't debate staff members in doing so.''

Labor has also chimed in on the criticism, with leader Bill Shorten describing Mr Palmer's attack on Ms Credlin as ''unwarranted and wrong''.

''Our arguments should be about the issues,'' Mr Shorten said.

''There is more than enough wrong with Tony Abbott’s unfair and unaffordable paid parental leave scheme for politicians to focus on, just ask any Liberal or National Party MP.''

Labor's deputy leader Tanya Plibersek said: ''Members of Parliament should not make personal attacks, especially on staff.

''The Abbott government's paid parental leave scheme is bad policy – it's extravagant and unfair, and it's on that basis my colleagues and I have made the case against it – on the policy, not the personal.''

Labor's education spokeswoman Kate Ellis also condemned Mr Palmer's remarks saying she thought they were ''wrong, inappropriate, unnecessary and low''.

Mr Palmer on Tuesday stood by his comments and said that he was not aware of Ms Credlin’s personal struggles.

He also denied that he was being sexist by singling Ms Credlin out before the parliament during a debate over paid parental leave.

''I'm not going to apologise because that's my position,'' he said.

''Being elected to parliament carries a lot of different privileges in relation to raising certain issues.

''If people don't agree with me that’s fine.''

Later on Tuesday morning Mr Palmer softened his stance somewhat, while still not issuing an apology, tweeting:

And then:

Mr Palmer said anyone who did not think Ms Credlin influenced ''the so-called ideas of the Liberal Party'' was ''naïve''.

''She's the top enchilada. She's the top dog - oh, I shouldn't say that. She's the boss. She's chief of staff. She's the top person.

''I'm saying that I'm concerned that she has been able to exercise that influence on the PM and I believe as chief of staff, regardless of whether she is a woman or man, she exercises undue influence on government policy to the detriment of many of the elected members of Parliament,'' he said.

Nationals MP Darren Chester said he was disgusted with Mr Palmer's comments, and said he worried about the tone of parliamentary debate when unelected staffers were drawn in and ''personally vilified''.

''It was unnecessary for Mr Palmer to be so personally vindictive in the comments he made,'' he told reporters on Tuesday. ''He should apologise.''

Liberal MP Dennis Jensen said staffers were not ''fair game'' in parliament.

''The people who to a certain extent are fair game are us as politicians, but once again it shouldn't get down to personal invective,'' Dr Jensen said.

''You should deal with issues, not with personalities.''

Nationals MP Andrew Broad, who tweeted his disapproval of the ''gutter politics'' after Mr Palmer made the statement, added that the comments were hurtful for couples like he and his wife who had also struggled with fertility.

''People expect better of members of parliament,'' he said.

Australian Greens deputy leader Adam Bandt said that politics should be ''about more than fast cars and personal attacks''.

with Judith Ireland

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