Parliament 'serial sex offender' won't be immediately identified


Speaker Trevor Mallard says a "serial sex offender" and other alleged bullies won't be immediately identified on the back of a review into Parliamentary bullying.

On Tuesday, the review into bullying and harassment in Parliament, launched in November 2018 by Mallard, was released by inquirer Debbie Francis.

It revealed a toxic workplace and highlighted instances of sexual harassment and assault, abusive texts, frequent shouting at staff, character assassination and overall disrespectful conduct.

"You can't do anything about it. You feel completely helpless," one respondent said. "You've got a job you enjoy; you don't want to raise it in case no one takes your side."

I feel that the whole time. I just want to get out.

Mallard said Parliament was getting better, but the report highlighted there was still much more to do.

He said there was a "serial sexual offender", but the report didn't make clear the number of complaints against some individuals or if they still worked in the building.

"I am not surprised by it, I think there is some stuff there about a serial sex offender which has surprised me, but the general theme of it, the extent of the bullying, the way senior staff and some MPs act inappropriately is not a surprise to anyone who has worked here for anytime," he told The AM Show.

Trevor Mallard and Debbie Francis. Photo credit: Newshub.

The report also didn't identify who the accused bullies and sexual offenders were - which Mallard said was integral to the review.

"The basis of this report was that people were free to come and talk to Debbie Francis in the absolute knowledge that their positions would be secure, they wouldn't be reported and that they would be supported where appropriate to take complaints to the police, or to their management, or to their party leaders."

Not even he knows the identity of some of the bullies and it's unlikely he will unless victims go to police. All records of the inquiry will be destroyed to protect those who have given evidence.

"Debbie Francis has acted absolutely properly and has not passed on any names to me, and in fact the records will be destroyed because that was the undertaking given to the people who were giving evidence.

"If people want to make complaints, and they will be really supported if they do make complaints… then the people can be identified that way, but they are not going to be identified out of a process where they were guaranteed confidentiality because if we did that people would have never have come forward.

The police will be involved if the people who have been assaulted are prepared to have them involved.

On RNZ on Wednesday, Mallard said the assault could constitute rape.

"We're talking about serious sexual assault, well that, for me, that's rape... that is the impression I get from the report, yes."

Photo credit: Getty

Effect of the review

He said the inquiry wasn't about catching the perpetrators but putting a spotlight on the issues in Parliament.

One of the new mechanisms recommended is that if someone is complained about with sufficient proof to the Speaker's office, the office of the Clerk, the Parliamentary service or Ministerial services, then the MP's party leader would be informed.

He hopes that would lead to that MP not being selected by the party to return to Parliament.

The review revealed 50 people reported unwanted touching and 54 people reported unwanted sexual advances, with sexual messages via text a problem.

But extremely worrying was the revelation that there were 14 reports of sexual assault - 11 made by current staff members.

Newshub's Political Editor, Tova O'Brien, said that was extremely disturbing.

"One of the big takeaways from that report yesterday was the sexual assault and sexual harassment stuff, she told The AM Show.

The fact that 14 people reported sexual assault, that makes for extremely uncomfortable reading.

"The report needed to be anonymous, for the report to be this fulsome it needed to be anonymous, and it needed to have those alleged victims at the heart of it."

Allan Halse. Photo credit: The AM Show.

Culture Safe NZ director Allan Halse said the review would hopefully be a catalyst for looking at a wider issue across New Zealand.

We have been trying for years to get Government to take some action to support the hundreds of thousands of New Zealander workers who are bullied and sexually harassed."

"To date, they have not responded terribly well."

Because the spotlight has gone on them, we will finally see some change.

There were 85 recommendations made by Francis, including a parliamentary code of conduct. Francis said she wants everyone to sign it, including MPs, staff and the media.

Support services are a big part of it, including psychologists with sexual harm experience on site, and an anonymous tip line will be set up.

Party leaders will also be forced to take more responsibility for their MPs.

She recommended staff contracts be changed, the use of hush money minimised, and alcohol consumption be addressed.

If you have witnessed or experienced sexual harassment or assault and would like to speak to someone, you could call the HELP support service.

The AM Show / Newshub reporter Jamie Ensor