Julia Gillard has forced Labor's chief parliamentary disciplinarian to apologise personally to Deputy Opposition Leader Julie Bishop for making a catcall, with the Prime Minister demanding both sides avoid sexist remarks.
Chief Government whip Joel Fitzgibbon "meowed" at Ms Bishop as she spoke in support of Tony Abbott's attempt to suspend Parliament yesterday to censure the Prime Minister over the carbon tax.
The noise, which echoed throughout the chamber, caused uproar on the Opposition benches, with Liberal MPs accusing Labor of hypocrisy. A similar catcall made to Finance Minister Penny Wong by Liberal Senator David Bushby last month was castigated by senior ministers for sexism.
Mr Fitzgibbon made an apology of sorts, claiming there had been a number of interjections, including one from him but he failed to admit the feline noise had passed his lips.
Ms Gillard later intervened, telling Parliament it was "clearly the wrong thing to do by the Member for Hunter".
"I will be requiring him to apologise personally to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition," she said.
Ms Gillard said conduct towards women in Parliament that was different to conduct towards men was "inappropriate and wrong and should not be done by any member".Mr Abbott thanked Ms Gillard for her "extremely gracious statement" in what was a rare moment of civility.