Speaker Trevor Mallard acknowledges his behaviour hasn't been perfect after bullying review

The AM Show 22/05/2019

Speaker Trevor Mallard admits his past behaviour in Parliament isn't perfect, but he's working on it.

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

Mallard has frequently been called a bully, and on Tuesday evening, former National MP Tau Henare said it was ironic that Mallard had called for the review since he was "the biggest schoolyard bully in the place".

"If there was a programme called 'The Biggest Bully', he would have won it ten years in a row," Henare told The Project.

When it was announced by him that he was going to do a report on bullying, I literally nearly wet myself.

But Mallard admits his behaviour hasn't been perfect and says it is a result of the generation he was brought up in.

When I was first here it was in the immediate post-Muldoon period.

"The system up until there had been run by Second World War veterans, it was very stratified, it was very structured, and as was our society," he told The AM Show.

I don't think there will be a person in the building who has been perfect.

"I am a man of my generation and have acted badly in the past. I have been trying to improve and I think I have improved significantly."

The Speaker said it's something he is working on and as he gets older he is reflecting on what is appropriate.

"I think as your own kids get older and you think about the sort of world that you want, you think about what is appropriate more and you adjust your behaviour accordingly.

I think most of us can do that and those that can't, there is pretty serious stuff happens.

Henare said there are a lot of "cockwombles" in Parliament and said the bullying stems from a power imbalance between MPs and staff.

MPs can't simply be fired or forced to step down as they are elected, while staff members don't have such privilege.

One of the new mechanisms recommended by the review 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.

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

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

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.

The AM Show / Newshub reporter Jamie Ensor