NZ leader stands by his 'fat lady' insult

WELLINGTON (AFP) - New Zealand's Prime Minister, Jim Bolger, yesterday refused to apologise for calling Australia's Victoria state Premier, Joan Kirner, 'the fat lady'. He agreed that he, too, was overweight, and said he did not want to make 'an international incident' out of it.

Mr Bolger made the remark in a weekend speech to the National Party, in which he criticised a series of television advertisements, run by Ms Kirner's Labor Party, seeking to discredit its Liberal rivals in elections later this year. The ads claim that New Zealand's economy is in deep depression, and that the Australian Liberals would institute the same policies that had driven New Zealand to despair.

'You know, they say that the show's never over until the fat lady sings,' Mr Bolger said. 'Well, I think it was her we heard warming up in the wings this week.'

The remark has angered women within his own National Party, whose women's vice-president, Colleen Singleton, said several people she had spoken to felt 'almost incensed'. It was a 'subtle put-down of women'.

(Photograph omitted)