National MP Chris Bishop says Speaker Trevor Mallard still has a lot of questions to answer after a dramatic night in Parliament over Mallard’s defamation settlement for describing a man as a rapist.
Mallard last night used the legal immunity of parliamentary privilege to say that a worker – who he had apologised to for falsely accusing of rape – did commit sexual assault.
Mallard had apologised to the man for earlier describing his actions as “rape” under a settlement for a defamation suit which cost the taxpayer $330,000.
Under questioning from National MPs in Parliament last night, a visibly angry Mallard sought to paint himself as on the side of victims and the Opposition as not.
He said while he acknowledged the man in question had not committed rape, he had committed sexual assault and National dragging out the saga was causing stress for the victims.
It was the first time Mallard had been able to address the issue in full in Parliament -he was being questioned as part of the annual review of Parliamentary Service as the minister in charge.
Mallard later justified using parliamentary privilege to make his statements by saying he was prevented by a court suppression order and mediation agreement from making comments outside the parliamentary process.
This morning, shadow leader of the house Chris Bishop said Mallard’s performance showed he was “unfit to be Speaker” and he had left a number of critical questions about the case unanswered.
“The big question Trevor Mallard repeatedly dodged is: why did he not just apologise once he knew he had wrongly accused the parliamentary staffer of rape, which in his own words was within 24 hours, rather than letting this drag for 18 months at taxpayers’ expense?
“Taxpayers are also still in the dark as to how much more Mr Mallard’s subsequent behaviour, including his refusal to apologise and the ‘threats’ that followed, has cost them in damages.”
Bishop reiterated his call for the Speaker to be sacked over the incident, claiming he had acted in a “bullying” fashion.
“The Prime Minister might like to reflect on the fact that if Trevor Mallard was a National MP, she would be the first in line to call for his resignation.”
The Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, and Labour’s Leader of the House, Chris Hipkins, will be asked about the case later today.
On Newstalk ZB this morning, Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson said he had not seen Mallard’s appearance in Parliament and so did not want to comment on it.
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