11 Dec 2020

Trevor Mallard's legal dispute cost more than $330,000, National reveals

1:59 pm on 11 December 2020

Taxpayers have had stump up more than $330,000 on a legal dispute sparked by Parliament's Speaker Trevor Mallard falsely accusing a staffer of rape.

Judith Collins and Trevor Mallard.

Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone / Dom Thomas

The bill has prompted the National Party to withdraw its support for the Speaker, saying Mallard is no longer fit for the job.

Mallard made a public apology this week for comments he made last year falsely claiming a rapist was working on Parliament's premises.

The apology put an end to defamation proceedings lodged by a former staffer.

National has now revealed the total cost to the taxpayer, including a $158,000 ex-gratia payment to the worker.

A further $171,000 was racked up in fees to law firm Dentons Kensington Swan. Crown Law was also paid $4641.70 for providing advice to the former Deputy Speaker Anne Tolley.

The Speaker's office provided the information to National in response to written parliamentary questions.

In a statement, National Party leader Judith Collins said the opposition party had lost confidence in the Speaker due to his "unacceptable behaviour".

"It is the Speaker's job to set the standard of behaviour for everyone at Parliament but he has been reckless with his words, resulting in taxpayers footing a bill of more than $330,000 to clean up this mess.

"There has been no formal apology to Parliament for this, despite the National Party encouraging the Speaker to do so on the final sitting day this year.

"Because Mr Mallard has not lived up to the high standards of behaviour that he has set for Parliament, we believe he is no longer fit to hold the role of Speaker."

The case goes back to 2018 when Mallard ordered an independent report into Parliamentary conduct following several high profile examples of bad behaviour.

The report, by reviewer Debbie Francis, was scathing in its denouncement of Parliament's culture, detailing accounts of serious bullying and sexist behaviour.

The most serious accusations included allegations of sexual harassment, including three cases of serious sexual assault.

Speaking to RNZ the day after the report's release, Mallard said he believed one person was responsible for the three offences.

"We're talking about serious sexual assault. Well that, for me, that's rape," he said. "That is the impression I get from the report."

Mallard told RNZ's Morning Report he did not know who the individual was.

"Reading the report carefully, I get the sense that the man is still on the premises," he said.

"I don't know who it is. If I knew... I would tell the police."

Later that afternoon, Mallard told reporters a female staff member had lodged a complaint about a historical incident and that a worker had been stood down.

In a statement released on Tuesday, Mallard said it was "incorrect" of him to suggest the man had been accused of rape "as that term is defined in the Crimes Act 1961".

Mallard had provided a personal apology to the man for the "distress and humiliation" caused to the worker and his family, the statement said.

"Both parties consider this matter is now closed and no further comment will be made."