Mr Speaker wrongly cried “rape”, and then apologised – now let’s see if he becomes Sir Trevor

As  the political  year  comes   to an end, the  Labour  Party  has  much to celebrate, highlighted by  an electoral victory  that could lead to its longest term in power  under  its  most popular  leader  in history.  This was remarkable, in an era  when  governments  in  most Western  democracies    are  under  strain.

But  there  is   at  least one blot  on the Labour  escutcheon:  the Mallard  affair.

Despite  calls   for his  resignation, Trevor  Mallard has no intention of  stepping aside from  his  role as Speaker, the  third  highest  post  in  NZ’s constitutional  arrangements.

He  has offered  profuse  apologies for having defamed  a  person with  an accusation  of  attempted rape,    the  Prime  Minister  has accepted  he  made    a  “mistake”,  and  the  taxpayer   has picked  up  the  legal bill  of  $330,000 (and  counting) that is the price-tag on this “mistake”.

So  that’s  all  neat and  tidy,   it’s  history  now, and Parliament  can look forward to  another  year  of  his  judicial  guidance  in the  tradition  of   his  predecessors?

Well, not  quite.  Opposition  parties  have declared they have no  confidence  in him.

Hardened Labour  supporters  can  say  this is  just  the  Opposition  parties   playing  politics.  And  many  taxpayers  who  have to pay the legal price  of  the  Mallard “mistake”  may  yawn  at  what  they regard as nothing more than the  ugly side  of the political games played inside  the parliamentary  arena.

Yet  this  is  the  issue:  how  much judicial authority  can Mallard  exert in what  is  supposedly  the  highest  court in the  land?

Presiding  in Parliament  is  not  some  sort of game,  with the  referee  flourishing  a  red  card  now  and then.

Mallard  told a select committee  he almost immediately regretted describing the series of sexual assault complaints  in a review of parliamentary  culture  as  “rape”.  If this be so, why didn’t he offer  an apology earlier?   Is it because  a motion of  no confidence  may have been moved  long before the election?

Veteran  Press Gallery   journalist Barry Soper contends he withdrew  the rape claim just recently because, had he done so last year, chances  are he  would not have survived a no-confidence  vote  in his Speakership.  New Zealand First would not have supported him.

He may, of  course,  have been  bound  by legal advice.  But  meanwhile the  target  of  his  allegation  not  only  had had his employment  suspended  but  was suffering  from  mental stress.  And  if he had  not been tracked down  by a  journalist  and  aided  in finding  a  QC, he  could have   been  left the victim of  an unfounded calumny.

This means scant compassion  was shown  to  a  person  who (Point  of  Order  understands)  had  served  in the  parliamentary  precinct  for 20 years.

Those  who  support  Mallard  argue   he was motivated  by the  need  to  overhaul  the  once prevalent culture  in Parliament  of bullying  and other  unpleasant practices. And  who can be  critical  of  his championing  the  underdog, essentially  the tribal instinct of any  Labour  MP?

With  the  support  of the  Prime  Minister,  accordingly, it  seems  he  can  occupy  the Speaker’s chair  for  as  long as he  wishes.

But Point  of  Order  portends one delicate issue remaining  for the Prime Minister.  It’s the tradition of offering a knighthood to a Speaker  serving  a  second term.

The  dilemma  for Ardern  is that she will be accused of setting a new standard, if she offers Mallard a knighthood, and it will be the mark of disapproval  that  would rule out a  third term in the Speaker’s chair she if she doesn’t.

Soper throws some light on case of man “in a very dark place” over Parliamentary harassment report

Parliament is the place where laws are made. Justice is dispensed elsewhere, as the bloke stood down from Parliament after publication of the Francis report probably would attest.

Veteran Parliamentary reporter Barry Soper reports that the man

…  was stood down by the closed shop Parliamentary Service last week, which is exempt from the Official Information Act and will not have to release documents over the alleged incident.

The Francis report, dealing with bullying and harassment in Parliament, revealed three serious allegations of sexual harassment. Continue reading “Soper throws some light on case of man “in a very dark place” over Parliamentary harassment report”

It is much too easy to win headlines – and then be treated leniently – for assaulting MPs

It’s rare for a politician in New Zealand to be mugged while out walking, broadcaster Barry Soper observed after Green Party co-leader James was assaulted in Wellington last week, although many had got into “skirmishes” when out doing their job.

The attack on Shaw prompted the PM to say New Zealanders should be proud of the access New Zealanders have to their politicians, whose job is to serve the people, but this assault showed they can’t take that for granted.

Soper recalled National’s Lockwood Smith once being forced to take a back door out of a university rather than face angry students as Education Minister.

But the last time a politician had been “supposedly attacked” while out walking was Keith Allen, a Minister in the Muldoon Government in 1983. Continue reading “It is much too easy to win headlines – and then be treated leniently – for assaulting MPs”