The Dominion Post calls out Trevor Mallard over his vicious attack on Erin Leigh. Mallard has got off far too lightly over his actions, so it is good to see an editorial highlighting the issue:
If nothing else, Environment Minister Trevor Mallard’s savage attack on the former government contractor who alleged political interference within his ministry has shown one thing. Mr Mallard’s contrition over his assault on National MP Tau Henare was not genuine, The Dominion Post writes.
If it was, he would not have lashed out so violently against a political non-combatant a few weeks later.
I think it is obvious Mallard has an anger problem. And I think his entire contrition line was an act – confirmed by Clark giving him far more senior portfolios.
True, the assault on Mr Henare was physical. He was punched on the jaw. Erin Leigh, the public relations consultant who resigned her job after a Labour Party activist was hired to rewrite her work, was subject only to a verbal assault.
But the verbal assault is likely to have longer-lasting consequences than the punch. It was nothing more nor less than a calculated attempt to damage Ms Leigh’s future earning power by destroying her professional reputation.
Yes. And it was a warning to all other public servants – this is what you will get if you speak out.
If the Madeleine Setchell affair is anything to go by, the less courageous of the public service’s bosses will have already drawn a mental black line through her name. But the reverberations go wider than that. Private sector employers will also think twice about hiring a woman a senior government minister says had “repeated competence issues”.
Think how much she could win in damages if he said it outside the House, and she successfully sued. This smear was covered in almost every media outlet in NZ.
It may be that Mr Mallard is right. It may be that Ms Leigh was so incompetent she had to be asked to fix the same piece of work six times.
But the comments of her former boss, Neal Cave, who has said she was “the best comms person I’ve ever worked with”, and of former ministry chief executive Barry Carbon, who has said he had no problem with her work, suggest otherwise.
And good references from three other Ministers, don’t forget.
So does Ms Leigh’s contention – yet to be denied – that it was Prime Minister Helen Clark’s chief of staff Heather Simpson who kept ordering alterations to a draft communications strategy. Put those things together and the suspicion must be that Ms Leigh’s true failing was not one of competence but a refusal to churn out Labour Party propaganda while employed by a government department.
The lack of denial has spoken volumes.
… in the meantime, Mr Mallard should accept Ms Leigh’s challenge to repeat outside Parliament the comments he made inside it about her.If he was right, he has nothing to fear. If he was wrong, Labour’s tough guy should not try to hide behind Parliament’s skirts.
Any bets on whether Trevor will do the right thing and repeat them outside?
It is one thing to make war on political opponents. It is another to use parliamentary privilege to trample over non-combatants.
Indeed. It exists to allow MPs to reveal wrong doing by powerful interests. It isn’t meant to be used to destroy the professional reputation of someone who reveals misconduct in Government.
Mr Mallard is a capable minister who for a long time enjoyed grudging respect from all sides of the House as a fierce opponent.
But he is in grave danger of being remembered not as the likeable larrikin he once was but as an unpleasant bully. He should think again about the way he is conducting himself. And Miss Clark should find him a different anger management course. The one he’s on is clearly not working.
Knowing Clark, she’ll give him even more powerful portfolios as a reward. Sure she’ll tut tut about it afterwards – but Mallard has achieved what he set out to do – fire a warning shot to scare off any other former public servants from speaking out.Tags: Labour