30 Jul 2020

Clare Curran says media culpable in toxic Parliament culture

5:30 pm on 30 July 2020

Warning: This story deals with the topic of suicide

Outgoing Labour MP Clare Curran has taken a swipe at the media when describing the "toxic" culture at Parliament.

Clare Curran

Photo: RNZ / Richard Tindiller

She was asked by reporters on her way to the House for her thoughts on outgoing National MP Sarah Dowie's valedictory speech last night.

Dowie used her speech to highlight her treatment following a police investigation last year into text messages she sent to former National MP Jami-Lee Ross, who she had an affair with.

She spoke about the difference in treatment women MPs receive and how other politicians are not as scrutinised by the media and "hide behind" mental health issues.

Curran, who is retiring from politics at the election, said there is a toxic culture at Parliament, which she believed was systemic problem and was not the fault of anyone in particular.

"Our media is part of the system and our media does reinforce and amplify those things," Curran said.

It is important and valid for journalists to report the facts, she said, but went on to criticise the "commentary and slurs that go alongside it."

Political reporting and commentary had become "destructive" and she feared it would take an MP committing suicide for that to change, Curran said.

"What is it going to take? Is it going to take someone to die? That's what I'm afraid of.

"Is that what it's going to take?" she said.

Politicians are starting to reflect on their behaviour and the media need to as well, she said.

"You guys need to turn the mirror on yourselves as well and take responsibility for how you report things and how you comment on us, because if you just go and ask anybody in the street they will be disgusted at some of the political reporting that is happening in our country," Curran said.

Curran was sacked as a Cabinet minister in 2018 after she failed to disclose two meetings - with RNZ's then head of news Carol Hirschfeld, and the other with tech entrepreneur Derek Handley.

She announced her retirement from Parliament in August last year.

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