Andrew Falloon says he will resign immediately.
The news came minutes after Stuff revealed Falloon, the National Party MP for Rangitata, is alleged to have sent sexually explicit photos to more than one young woman.
Stuff has seen screenshots of Falloon, who had announced he would step down at the election, sending sexually explicit material to a young woman. The screenshots indicate the material was sent to the person more than once. The photos did not appear to be of Falloon himself.
His resignation follows calls from National Party Leader Judith Collins on Tuesday morning, who said she wanted to see him go.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told RNZ that if Falloon was her MP, that would be her expectation too
Collins told TVNZ she had heard there may be other instances, and she urged people to come forward.
”I do not want to see any other young women, or anyone else go through the same.”
This is the right outcome.
Falloon appears to have made the fatal mistake of not being upfront with the leadership about what actually occurred. That makes carrying on until the election untenable.
A National Party source told Stuff on Tuesday that Falloon’s explanations had not been consistent and continued to change, which raised further alarm bells among the leadership and senior staff.
When asked what she no longer trusted about his story, Collins told RNZ it was clear to her yesterday that he was admitting what had been alleged.
She had now been advised that he had changed his story.
Following this, Collins told RNZ and the AM Show on Tuesday she wanted him to resign.
He sat in her office and advised her that he was receiving professional medical mental health help and had been for some time, and that he had a significant mental health issue, she said.
“I believed him because I’m not a medical health practitioner, I’m certainly not an expert in mental health, and if someone tells me that they have a significant mental health issue, and they’ve been receiving assistance then I will believe them. I will take them at his word,” she told the AM Show.
“The story has now changed from Andrew Falloon and I have reached the view this morning that it would be in his best interests, the best interests of the young woman who is my first priority, and for his family if he were to resign from Parliament immediately.”
My understanding is that Falloon is currently in very poor mental health, which is perhaps not surprising as his career has just come to a very public and sudden halt. It is less clear whether the poor judgment caused the poor mental health or vice-versa or a mixture of both.
Anyway I think the way Collins has dealt with this has been excellent. She got notified on Saturday, and on the basis of the information she received over the weekend decided that Falloon had to retire at the election and this was announced on Monday, around 48 hours after she was first notified. Then when it became clear Falloon had not been upfront on what happened, she said this morning she wants him gone now, and within minutes he was.
Her focus on the young woman or young women involved is very appropriate too, and she has reached out to them and offered support.
Judith Collins isn’t the sort of leader who will take three weeks to decide if a Minister should go after a staff member alleges they were assaulted, or keep a staffer employed in her office for months after multiple staff complain of bullying behaviour or worse. She has pretty close to zero tolerance for this sort of behaviour.
Of course this doesn’t negate the fact that of course this whole issue has been bad for National. It has crowded out the focus on their excellent infrastructure package on Friday.