Andrew Dickens: Ardern's response to Parliament rape allegation was spot on

Author
Andrew Dickens,
Section
Opinion,
Publish Date
Tuesday, 28 May 2019, 12:33PM
The Prime Minister infuriated many by refusing to comment on the schemozzle. In her defence that was the only professional response in the affair so far. Photo / Getty Images.

COMMENT:

What a mess. The report into bullying at Parliament and the Speaker's behaviour after it's release.

This morning, the Prime Minister infuriated many by refusing to comment on the schemozzle. In her defence, that was the only professional response in the affair so far. Here's why.

The report was only meant to determine whether there was a culture of bullying and harassment in Parliament. There is, and that's all it was for. All submissions were confidential and anonymous and were destroyed after the report was written. It was commissioned for the Speaker. Its purpose was to convince the Speaker whether a review of the processes in Parliament for dealing with bad behaviour was necessary. Which it obviously is.

The allegations of sexual impropriety were all without identity. It was not an investigation to root out therapists and bullies in Bowen Street. It was not a naming and shaming.

And there it ends.

But in the hours after receiving the report, which detailed anonymous behaviour famously described as tantamount to rape by the Speaker, Trevor Mallard went and suspended some guy who had been investigated before. Only Mallard can tell us why he did that and now he's not talking.

Now whether by design or by stupidity, Mallard's actions have tainted the man currently under investigation. Presumed guilty in public opinion before proven innocent or not, and that's just not on.

My only guess is that having hyped up and blabbed about a confidential report, the Speaker needed a scapegoat to prevent the whole of Parliament being under suspicion. If that is the case, having made a mistake he then went and doubled down and made an even bigger one.

So what should happen next?

Well firstly, Trevor Mallard has to come out and explain his actions. If not, Chris Hipkins and Paula Bennett, the respective leaders of the house, might want to get together and discuss a vote of confidence in the Speaker.

When the Prime Minister was asked whether the Speaker should go she couldn't answer that question. It's a decision for the whole house.

Meanwhile, the investigation into the man needs to continue. While he contends that he's been investigated before that does not negate the current investigation. It should continue confidentially.

This affair was in response to a report that contained confidential and anonymous allegations, and they should have stayed that way until concrete allegations can be made through the correct process.

While she drove Mike and the audience bonkers this morning, the Prime Minister was bang on.

What a pity the Speaker didn't get that before blundering in.

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