Barry Soper: Why House Speaker Trevor Mallard should resign

OPINION:

Trevor Mallard should resign from The Speaker’s job, I believe, before he faces a vote of no confidence when Parliament resumes sitting in February.

National’s lost confidence in him and Labour, the party that preaches wellbeing and kindness, surely will have no choice but to vote against his continuing in the role.

It’s been confirmed that the almost $334,000 in legal costs have been paid out by the taxpayer. Why? Well Mallard had the rules changed after he made his outrageous comment to protect him from having to pay the bill for something he should have known would go against him.

The tragedy in all of this is that the man he accused of a terrible crime, who spoke exclusively to me after the Mallard allegation last year, has suffered serious health issues since he was sent packing and it looks as though he will get nothing from the settlement.

The $158,000 made to him is for the payment of his legal bills and $171,000 has been paid to Mallard’s lawyers at Dentons Kensington Swan. A further $4641 went to Crown Law for advice to Parliament’s then Deputy Speaker Anne Tolley, who Mallard delegated to have the rules changed to protect him.

Mallard slapped down any attempt on the final day of Parliament by National MPs to have him make a statement to the House on the issue, hopefully at the very least an apology for the way he had behaved. He used the excuse that confidentiality was part of the legal settlement even though he’s on record as saying that when it comes to taxpayers’ money there should be no secrecy.

He did apologise to the devastated Parliamentary staffer for the distress and humiliation his statements caused to the man and his family.

Mallard used what I would say was a lame excuse – he didn’t understand the definition of rape when he used the term, now saying the accused’s behaviour didn’t amount to rape.

In reality he’s alleged to have cuddled a female colleague from behind. She laid a complaint two years after the incident, after their relationship soured.A Parliamentary Services inquiry into the incident found it was unsubstantiated.

As to his lack of understanding about rape, it runs counter to a comment he made 10 years ago about rape reform legislation and what it was meant to achieve.

This whole issue has been a travesty on so many fronts.

Mallard must have known his rape claim was false last year, but waited until after the election and much litigation, to apologise. If he’d done it last year he would have faced a no confidence vote in Parliament and would likely be gone, as New Zealand First was unlikely to support him.

It’s difficult to fathom why he unsuccessfully demanded the man’s name be made public, other than to cause embarrassment.

It demeans the inquiry into bullying and harassment Parliament launched with great fanfare by Mallard and consultant Debbie Francis. The silence of Francis was deafening, when a claim of rape was made.

It shows how the powerful can ride roughshod over the powerless. If the Parliamentary staffer hadn’t spoken to me, this would have been swept under the carpet.

It shows how manipulative the Speaker, ranked as the third most important role in the country after the Governor-General and the Prime Minister, can be in releasing his apology late on the day of the Royal Commission on the mosque shootings and on the eve of the first anniversary of the Whakaari / White Island eruption.

It seemed to work; the media were more concentrated on those stories than they were on this travesty, until today.

Jacinda Ardern, who is close to Mallard, has so far kept the issue at arm’s length.

She was asked in what other workplace in New Zealand would someone be able to falsely accuse a person of being a rapist and keep his job.

Ardern simply referred the questioner to the apologetic statement Mallard had made.

She may not be able to remove him from office, that’s Parliament’s job. But she at least should say whether the Speaker’s behaviour is acceptable to her.

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