22 May 2019

Politicians respond to Parliament rape claims

5:19 pm on 22 May 2019

Political party leaders held a meeting with Speaker Trevor Mallard this afternoon, following his comments to RNZ this morning that he believed there was a rapist on the premises.

No caption

Speaker of the House Trevor Mallard Photo: VNP / Daniela Maoate-Cox

Mr Mallard said that was his impression from the report of Debbie Francis on bullying.

After the meeting, he announced that a Parliamentary service staffer had been stood down after historical sexual assault allegation. An employment investigation is underway.

Mr Mallard said: "I do not want to cut across any employment or possible police investigations, but I am satisfied that the Parliamentary Service has removed a threat to the safety of women working in the Parliamentary complex.

"Because the matter is now under investigation, no further comment will be made."

After the meeting, Jacinda Ardern said she was very concerned when she heard Mr Mallard's comments on Wednesday morning.

"We have to ensure that the people who work with us are working in a safe place," Ms Ardern said.

"Ultimately that's the job of the Speaker.

"At [the] meeting we were all given assurances by the Speaker that he was taking appropriate steps to ensure this is a safe place."

However, Ms Ardern urged caution over calls for the police to be involved.

Paula Bennett

Paula Bennett. Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

National Party deputy leader Paula Bennett was earlier calling on the Speaker to involve police.

If Mr Mallard and the external reviewer, Debbie Francis, who released yesterday's bullying report, didn't act then it was a case of harbouring a criminal, she said.

But Ms Ardern said the victims' wellbeing needed to be the priority.

"All of the advice that I've have over the years from people who are experts and work with victims is that we have to first ensure that victims have all the support they need," she said.

"But that everything actually needs to be decided by them, so the choice of reporting to police is ultimately for them.

"Then the responsibility, regardless of their decision, upon us is to make sure that this is a safe working environment."

A female staff member came forward and made a complaint to the Parliamentary Service general manager, Mr Mallard said.

Mr Mallard said it was not his role to refer it to the police - that was for the woman who came forward to do.

He said he stood by his comments that the sexual assault was tantamount to rape.

Labour MP Kiri Allan listening to evidence in Select Committee

Kiri Allan Photo: VNP / Phil Smith

But Labour MP and party whip Kiri Allan had said after the meeting if there were allegations of rape then police should be involved.

She said discussions were held between Labour female MPs and "there will be further action taken by our leadership''.

"There are processes that have been put in place,'' she said.

Police Minister Stuart Nash said if the allegations of rape were true then it was very serious.

"My understanding is the evidence given to Debbie Francis as part of the inquiry was done in a confidential manner. I'm not too sure those people who made those complaints would be happy with that information being divulged.''

Andrew Little at Pike River Mine re-entry delay announcement

Andrew Little Photo: RNZ / Ana Tovey

He said he "would hope" Parliament was a safe place for women, but after reading the Francis inquiry he was not so sure.

Justice Minister Andrew Little said if the allegation of rape was substantiated then "it's right for the appropriate action to be taken''.

Mr Little said he hadn't spoken directly to the women in his office about whether they were feeling safe, but he planned to raise it with them.

The Green Party co-leader James Shaw said he couldn't talk about the meeting with the Speaker and other party leaders but said Mr Mallard had assured them that he'd taken "immediate steps to secure the campus".

Mr Shaw said everything needed to be done to make sure Parliament was a safe place.

Where to get help:

For urgent help: Safe To Talk 0800044334.

If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs