Joanne Hayes did nothing wrong by accepting a petition against teaching gender diversity in schools, her boss Simon Bridges says.
Labour's youth wing claimed at the weekend Hayes, a National list MP ranked 52nd on the party list, was giving a "megaphone to intolerance" by accepting the petition on behalf of Parliament.
More than 40,000 people signed the petition, 'Stop transgender teaching in New Zealand schools', which calls on the Ministry of Education to "remove learning intentions for teaching gender diversity in the sexuality education guide".
"I believe that endorsing gender discordance as normal via public education and legal policies will confuse children and parents," petition starter Helen Houghton wrote.
Bridges said on Monday he hasn't read the petition's demands, but backed his MP's decision to accept it.
It doesn't mean you necessarily agree or disagree with it
"Without fear or favour, we should receive petitions and put them up. And here's a petition with 40,000 signatures. Well I believe in free speech - they've got a right to be heard."
Asked if he thought teaching of gender diversity in schools had gone too far, he called it a "delicate issue".
"I think where there are issues, and you know, there may be someone in the classroom, these sort of issues, you want to make sure that you're dealing with it right and sensitively and explaining it."
I don't know that we need to necessarily, you know from the age of five, be out there proactively doing it though.
According to the Ministry of Education website, in classes for students from year 1 to 3 (five- to eight-year-olds) "gender stereotypes and norms will be questioned and discussed".
From years 7 and 8 (intermediate school), students are taught to "question and discuss gender norms".
"Let's be frank about this," said Bridges. "This is always going to be controversial."