Barry Soper: Working in Parliament is a hazardous task

Author
Barry Soper,
Section
Opinion,
Publish Date
Wednesday, 22 May 2019, 6:32AM
 Having read the review of parliamentary behaviour, one is left with the feeling that you need to be paid dirt money to work here.
Having read the review of parliamentary behaviour, one is left with the feeling that you need to be paid dirt money to work here.

COMMENT:

Bullying and harassment takes many forms, and working in what has been described as a brutalising arena is a hazardous task.

Having read the review of parliamentary behaviour by the woman who was hired by Parliament's Speaker Trevor Mallard, one is left with the feeling that you need to be paid dirt money to work here.

It certainly makes you feel that at least you should forever be looking over your shoulder - everyone's under suspicion, no one can be trusted.

Sexual predators have stalked, or are still stalking, the corridors of power and 14 people have been sexually assaulted, with three assaults serious ones, Debbie Francis' review tells us.

She interviewed more than 200 people after receiving over a hundred submissions. All the interviews were anonymous and all the material gathered from them have been destroyed.

Mallard says they'll try to find out who the worst accused are, through parliamentary leaders' offices, but not from the reviewer who is sworn to secrecy.

Good luck with that.

Reading the report in a lock-up with the waft of sausage rolls permeating the air, it momentarily made you feel good to be working in such a generous place rather than the cesspit the review was about to reveal.

The first points got me thinking back to the Royal Commission of Inquiry finding into the Erebus air crash in 1979 and Justice Peter Mahon's wonderfully quotable quote, "orchestrated litany of lies".

That's not a reflection of what Francis was told, far from it, but the inclusion in the review of some of the claims from her interviews devalued it.

They were petty and hardly amounted to bullying or harassment. They crossed into the territory of accusations made by some interviewees about the parliamentary Press Gallery. They said journalists "cross the line into disrespect in pursuit of clickbait. Their behaviour can further fuel the overall environment of gossip and intrigue".

Ignore the views of some who said "some of the worst bullies are women trying to out-Alpha the guys", particularly if you agree with Speaker Mallard's view that the increased number of women around the place these days has improved behaviour.

He remembers the boarding school mentality of the RSA generation who occupied the place when he was a freshman, where they were out of control. Bulging Bellamys beer bellies were the order of the day, every day, in those days, but the bullying cut both ways.

The leader of the pack was Prime Minister Rob Muldoon, who ruled with an iron trotter, which on at least one occasion he had clipped by a member of his staff. One night as Muldoon was imbibing, the staffer snuck down to the Beehive garage and let down the tyres of his boss' Triumph 2000, thankfully for once preventing the PM from wending his way home to Vogel House in Lower Hutt.

Mallard's right, things are better these days. But there's certainly room for improvement - as there is in most large work places.

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