Mallard looks like a sitting duck but the Nats may prefer to wait to bag the PM as well

Back  in   March   the  NZ  Herald  carried  a  report  headlined  “Mallard mess  needs  sorting”.  It  was  written   by  Audrey  Young, then  the political  editor.

The  Labour Party  didn’t  heed the  warning  and  now  this failure is  leaving  a  bigger mess:  on Tuesday night Speaker Trevor Mallard  accused a former parliamentary staffer, to whom he had apologised for claiming he was a rapist, of sexual assault.

In the aftermath, National Party leader Judith Collins again called for Mallard to be removed as Speaker of the House, describing his behaviour as a disgrace and contending he was “temperamentally unfit” for the role

Meanwhile  Prime  Minister Jacinda Ardern  has  boxed  herself  into  a  corner.  She has expressed  “overall”  confidence   in  Mallard  as  Speaker  of the  House,   so  she  can’t sack  him.

But  the  longer  he  stays,  the  more  damage can be done to  Labour.

According   to  reliable  reports, senior  ministers  had  sat  down   with  Mallard  before  Tuesday’s  debacle in the House and rehearsed  how to  handle  the  debate,  but clearly  that  advice was  quickly  forgotten.

The  Prime  Minister  was  left  lamenting  the  next  day:

“The  serious issue of alleged sexual assault was  poorly  managed and and inappropriately politicised last night. The tone of the debate did not reflect well on Parliament as a whole.

“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.

“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. 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”.

With those words ringing  in one’s  ears, a  resignation  might  have been expected.

But  if  Ardern  expected  one, she  didn’t  get  it.  That  left  some  National MPs quietly rejoicing:  they  know  the  stain won’t  be  washed away  this term.

If you are told  by  the  Prime Minister  your  behaviour  is  “totally   inappropriate”,  isn’t that clear  enough?

Although, as one authority put it, it’s important to keep a healthy distance between the government and the impartiality of the Speaker’s office, Ardern is the only one who could have potentially stopped Mallard derailing.

As Ardern herself conceded:

“Parliament rightly needs to set the standard for others to follow”.

But if  the  Speaker doesn’t  lead  the  way,  who else can do it?

It  was  notable  on the  night  that   few  ministers   rose  to  their  feet  during   the  debate   and  have   been reticent  since,   whenever  questioned  about  Mallard’s  performance.

As Audrey Young wrote so pertinently  back in  March:

 “National  clearly  does not  see Mallard as  the  sole  target.  It sees  Ardern  as  a  dual  target  for her continued  support  of him.  It  believes it is  damaging to  both of them,  little  by  little.”

Let’s  see,  then,  if  Mallard  gets  a  diplomatic  post  (Ambassador to  Ireland  perhaps, although some would suggest he be despatched to Yemen).

But then a new  Speaker  would  have to  be  found,  and it seems  Labour  doesn’t  have  anyone  ready  to  step  into  Mallard’s shoes.

Meanwhile, good luck to the cross-party working group which is being   convened to consider “how the Behavioural Standards can be given practical effect when Members of Parliament are dealing with sensitive staff conduct matters such as sexual assault”.

One thought on “Mallard looks like a sitting duck but the Nats may prefer to wait to bag the PM as well

  1. Last Wednesday in the House, Ardern challenged Judith Collins to say the word “partnership.” Next Tuesday, Judith should challenge the PM to show where in the text of the Treaty or its preamble the word “partnership” actually appears.

    Terry Dunleavy

    Terence J. (Terry) Dunleavy terry@winezeal.co.nz +64 274836688 Carbon dioxide keeps New Zealand green.

    >

    Liked by 1 person

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