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. Continue reading “Mallard looks like a sitting duck but the Nats may prefer to wait to bag the PM as well”

A helping hand from the State for a range of causes, from the tourist industry (some operators, anyway) to Pasifika festivals

A bundle of statements and speeches has emerged from the Beehive in the past 24 hours.

We can’t closely examine all of them but suggest public servants whose pay is being frozen or subject to a stiff test before it is increased might take a look at some of the Government’s spending decisions.

Spending on cultural festivals, for example.

Here’s our attempt at giving readers a record of what has been done with their money or to improve their wellbeing … Continue reading “A helping hand from the State for a range of causes, from the tourist industry (some operators, anyway) to Pasifika festivals”

Free speech in Parliament challenged: Maori Party MPs press the Speaker to bar questions they regard as “racist”

The Speaker was reprimanded by the PM yesterday, in the aftermath of the furore generated when he accused a former parliamentary staffer – to whom he had previously apologised for claiming he was a rapist – of sexual assault.

Then he was chided by Maori Party co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer for failing to stop “racist” questions being asked in Parliament.

Other than Hansard, the only account of this attempt to curb MPs’ right to speak freely in Parliament was a Newshub report headed Rawiri Waititi lashes out at ‘Māori bashing’ in Parliament as Jacinda Ardern challenges Judith Collins to say ‘partnership’

But to whom – we wonder – is the Speaker accountable?

To Members of Parliament, we would have thought, because they vote to elect the Speaker at the start of each new Parliament (after every general election).

 This is the first task of every new Parliament once members have been sworn in.
Candidates are nominated by another member and, after the election vote, the Speaker-Elect visits the Governor-General to be confirmed in office.
Continue reading “Free speech in Parliament challenged: Maori Party MPs press the Speaker to bar questions they regard as “racist””

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.

Salesa advises struggling companies to check out the govt help available – but maybe they should move into movie-making

Nelson MP Nick Smith raised good questions in Parliament the other day around the Government’s policy to refuse entry to vessels for engineering and maintenance work.

According to one businessman in Smith’s home patch, this is costing jobs and millions of dollars in work.

Customs Minister Jenny Salesa’s responses highlighted a double standard:  yes, many businesses are being hurt by the closed-border policy but the government has got to be tough to protect our health and wellbeing.

The trouble with this defence of the border policy is that we all know the government can be persuaded to make an exemption in the case of the film industry and workers coming here from Covid-plagued Trumpland. Continue reading “Salesa advises struggling companies to check out the govt help available – but maybe they should move into movie-making”

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”

Seymour should consult some American judges to avoid being denounced as a bully who speaks in inflammatory code

In case you missed it, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Trevor Mallard, reckons Act  leader David Seymour is a bully.

The Speaker spoke on TV One’s Breakfast yesterday after publication of the review which found bullying is widespread in Parliament.

Interviewer John Campbell couldn’t resist dragging Seymour into considerations:  he asked if it had been bullying or robustness, when Seymour described Green MP Golriz Ghahraman as “a real menace to freedom in this country.”  

Mallard replied:

“In my opinion it did step over the line.  Its not a breach of privilege because it didn’t happen in the House. It’s not a criminal offence but I think it showed poor judgement….”

Campbell:  “Do you think it was bullying?”

Mallard:  “Ah, yes…” Continue reading “Seymour should consult some American judges to avoid being denounced as a bully who speaks in inflammatory code”

Hurrah – three MPs are sent to bat for democracy (but they will be doing it in Doha)

Just a few days after the Hastings District Council voted to change its governance system, the Speaker of the NZ House of Representatives, Trevor Mallard, announced the despatch of three members of Parliament to champion democracy.

No, they aren’t headed for the Hawke’s Bay to remonstrate with the Mayor and councillors who voted to attenuate their democratic system by appointing four members of the Maori Joint Committee to the council’s four standing committees.

Rather, as the heading on the press statement tells us, they are headed for Doha, Qatar, to participate in a “global forum for democracy” from 5 to 10 April .

The statement says:

New Zealand MPs participate in global forum to advance democracy, human rights, and peace

Three Members of Parliament will represent New Zealand at the 140th Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) Assembly, where democracy, human rights, and peace will be on the agenda.

Continue reading “Hurrah – three MPs are sent to bat for democracy (but they will be doing it in Doha)”

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”

Our flyaway MPs should grab the opportunity to promote the welfare of a runaway Saudi teeneager

If they are not hard at work in their Beehive offices, as we regularly observe at Point of Order, our Ministers will be busy with engagements here and there around the country – or engaged in very important business overseas.

But the Point of Order monitor of Beehive press statements over the past week or so suggests ministerial globetrotting has been on hold during the Christmas-New Year holiday period.

This doesn’t mean taxpayers are being spared the cost of political jet-setting. Look what we found in a statement from the office of the Speaker, Trevor Mallard.

Yep.  Mallard has announced a junket for a select few back-benchers. Continue reading “Our flyaway MPs should grab the opportunity to promote the welfare of a runaway Saudi teeneager”