Barry Soper writes:
This was a story that could potentially have brought down Parliament’s Speaker.
The accusation came after the Debbie Francis report into bullying and sexual harassment at Parliament was made public in May last year. Mallard was commenting on serious sexual assaults identified in the report. He said what the staff member was claimed to have done to a colleague was tantamount to rape.
“We’re talking about serious sexual assault. Well that, for me, that’s rape,” Mallard said at the time.
But in fact, as far as I know, the complaints were about unwanted hugs. That doesn’t mean it isn’t still inappropriate workplace behaviour, but it certainly is well removed from rape.
On the day the Royal Commission on the mosque shootings was being made public, and on the eve of the Whakaari White Island eruption’s first anniversary, Mallard put out a statement which reads:
“On 22 May 2019, shortly after the publication and dissemination of the Francis Review into bullying and harassment in the New Zealand parliamentary workforce, the Speaker of the House the Rt Hon Trevor Mallard made a number of comments to the media about the findings of that report and in particular as they related to an individual working at Parliament.
“Some of Trevor Mallard’s comments gave the impression that allegations made against that individual in the context of the Francis Review amounted to rape.
“Trevor Mallard accepts that his understanding of the definition of rape at that time was incorrect and that the alleged conduct did not amount to rape (as that term is defined in the Crimes Act 1961) and that it was incorrect of him to suggest otherwise.
“Trevor Mallard apologises for the distress and humiliation his statements caused to the individual and his family.
“Trevor Mallard has provided a personal apology to the individual. Both parties consider the matter is now closed and no further comment will be made.”
Of course it won’t. There’s clearly been a settlement with the man who was maligned. I expect his legal expenses will no doubt be taken care of just as Trevor Mallard’s will be – by the taxpayer.
An apology and settlement is appropriate. But we should know how much the settlement was for, as we paid for it.