Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says she is disappointed with Speaker Trevor Mallard after his behaviour in Parliament last night.
Mallard used the legal immunity of parliamentary privilege to claim that a worker – who he apologised to for falsely accusing of rape – did commit sexual assault.
His rape claim previously led to a defamation payout of more than $300,000 to the worker.
In a debate in the House last night during the annual review of the Parliamentary Service, for which he is the responsible minister, Mallard sought to paint himself as on the side of victims and took aim at Opposition MPs.
This is despite admitting he has never spoken to the woman complainant at the centre of the saga.
Speaking to media before entering Parliament this afternoon, Ardern said it was her view that “neither side covered itself in glory” last night.
“I consider what happened in the debating chamber last night totally inappropriate.”
But she said she was not calling for anyone’s resignation, from any side.
That’s because as it was her view that Parliament’s obligation to the public, to victims and to people who worked in the precinct was to “come together as a Parliament and sort it out”.
“Resignations,” she said, “will not resolve that”.
Ardern said Mallard maintained the confidence of the Labour Party, and of the Government.
“However, that does not change my view that he did not conduct himself in Parliament appropriately yesterday – he did not meet my expectations, nor did he meet his own,” she said.
“No one last night crowned themselves in glory.”
PM's 'serious concerns'
In an earlier statement, Ardern said she was disappointed with Mallard for the way he handled the debate last night: “I have spoken with the Speaker this morning. He retains my overall confidence, however I have expressed serious concerns to him about the manner in which he conducted himself in the House last night. It did not meet the standards I expect,” she said.
“Nor do I consider it to have met the needs of the victim in this situation. The Speaker acknowledges he did not meet his own standards either.”
Ardern said the “serious issue”of alleged sexual assault and harassment at Parliament was “poorly managed and inappropriately politicised last night”.
“The tone of the debate did not reflect well on Parliament as a whole,” she said.
“Any investigation of claims of sexual assault should be in a manner that takes a victim-centric approach. It also needs to include principles of natural justice for the person allegations are made against.”
Ardern also took aim at the National Party MPs involved during fiery scenes last night: “I also believe the behaviour of opposition members was inappropriate. Issues of this serious nature should not be litigated in Parliament in such a manner. It was wrong.”
The Prime Minister has asked Mallard to reconvene a cross-party working group to consider how a code on behavioural standards could be given effect when MPs were dealing with sensitive staff conduct issues such as sexual assault.
“Parliament must continue to maintain its right to hold government ministers and the Speaker to account for actions. However, this can be done in a robust and respectful appropriate.
“I urge all parties and MPs to adopt a bipartisan approach to ensure Parliament is a good and safe place for staff to work,” Ardern said.
“Parliament rightly needs to set standards for others to follow. The Francis Review and its recommendations, including the introduction of specific Behavioural Standards for all who support the work of Parliament, offer a blueprint for best practice and I believe Parliament should be focused on that.”
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