Kate Hawkesby: Toxic Parliament needs to change

Newstalk ZB staff,
Publish Date
Mon, 27 Jul 2020, 10:07AM
Speaker Trevor Mallard. (Photo / Mark Mitchell)

Kate Hawkesby: Toxic Parliament needs to change

Newstalk ZB staff,
Publish Date
Mon, 27 Jul 2020, 10:07AM


I hope Speaker Trevor Mallard’s new Code of Conduct for MP’s at Parliament is more than just a pipe dream.

It’s a long road to hoe to shift the culture inside that place. It seems entrenched, and like any toxic environment, it takes more than a piece of paper to make wholesale change.

I hope they can, because if the past few weeks are anything to go by, it’s a very off putting place to want to be.

I’m not sure how you attract new and decent, worthwhile, smart talent, into an environment which reeks of negativity and mudslinging.

It was sad but perhaps not surprising the way some outgoing MP’s characterised Parliament. Their place of work, the place they devoted many hours and weeks of their lives.. the place they left homes and families for, the place they maybe entered with optimism and hope, and leave downcast and despondent.

It’s a brutal place that we know can suck the life out of you and spit you back out.

But perhaps they entered it thinking that wouldn’t happen to them, or that they could make a difference. Much like a love struck teenager thinks they can change a bad boyfriend .. but it’s never going to happen. It seems the machine is always bigger than them.

The scrutiny is worse than you think, the toll it takes, greater than you imagine.

National’s outgoing MP Maggie Barry called it a frustrating dehumanizing and brutal place.

That’s not exactly a ringing endorsement.

Anne Tolley spoke of a ‘tough environment’.. she said she knew of people scared to come to work, she talked about bullying and sexual harassment .. and people’s expectations that nothing would change.

Imagine your expectations being that low?

That your place of work is so broken, it can’t be fixed.

Well those inside it have to want to fix it I guess, and more than that they have to actively work towards doing that.

Can they?

Time will tell, some claim it’s a power imbalance, is it an arrogance?

Is it a delusion that you’re untouchable in there?

Is it just such a rite of passage now to be miserable in that environment that you accept it for what it is?

We need a place that’s thriving and bustling with ideas and energy, a Parliament that’s inclusive and robust, that attracts our best and brightest. But that’s just not going to happen for as long as it’s seen as a toxic brutal dehumanizing place.

A code of conduct is a small step in the right direction – a baby step.. it shows intent.

But it will take commitment determination and real leaps forward by all involved, to realise any wholesale change in that place.