24 Aug 2022

Gaurav Sharma hijacks Speaker ceremony to accuse Trevor Mallard

4:05 pm on 24 August 2022

Newly independent MP Gaurav Sharma has used the election of the new Speaker to level new accusations against outgoing Speaker Trevor Mallard.

Dr Gaurav Sharma occupies his new seat in the debating chamber as an independent MP

Dr Gaurav Sharma occupies his new seat in the debating chamber as an independent MP Photo: Phil Smith

After the House rose, a visibly angry Mallard denied the accusations.

Most of the usual Parliament business of the day was suspended this afternoon for the election of the new Speaker, Adrian Rurawhe, who was supported in the debating chamber with a waiata from his family members.

Following the music, Sharma rose and - using Parliamentary Privilege - accused now-former Speaker Mallard of ignoring concerns he raised about bullying within Labour.

Parliamentary Privilege gives MPs speaking in the debating chamber legal immunity from prosecution - including on things like defamation - to ensure members are not limited too much in having a robust debate.

Sharma was removed from Labour's caucus yesterday for repeated breaches of caucus confidentiality and bringing the party into disrepute.

Rising in the House this afternoon, he praised the words of Rurawhe.

"It was really refreshing to hear about fairness, about bringing value to the house, and changing some of the issues that are present in the House. It almost seems like you should be an independent rather than aligned to any side."

He told the gathered MPs he acknowledged the outgoing Speaker, who had previously held the Hamilton West seat Sharma now holds, before launching into his accusations.

"Two weeks ago, I contacted the ... former Speaker and I went to talk to him about some of the issues I was having and whether I could get legal support in my case.

"The Speaker said 'If you raise anything about a Labour colleague, any challenges, it would be the end of your career'. And then the Speaker ended up going to the whips office, the Labour whips office, right after that to tell them that I had actually laid a complaint against the party and the whips," Sharma said in Parliament.

He was interrupted by Rurawhe, who said the matter was not relevant to the debate.

"I encourage the member, I will interrupt him again if he goes off track. This is about the newly elected Speaker."

Speaker of the House Adrian Rurawhe

Newly elected Speaker of the House Adrian Rurawhe. Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

Sharma gave some final comments to say he hoped Rurawhe "would be a neutral person as a Speaker of the House and would show the fairness that you've talked about and would listen to members from all sides".

"And I just want to congratulate you on your new role as the Speaker-elect."

Several senior Labour ministers criticised Sharma's conduct saying today was the day to honour and welcome Rurawhe as the new Speaker.

Speaking to media outside the chamber after the session ended, they took a dim view of Sharma's behaviour.

Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson said it was an occasion to acknowledge Rurawhe's election as Speaker.

"He's too humble to say 'today was meant to be about me' but that's what he meant. Most of the people who spoke certainly acknowledged that this was Adrian's day and that's what I want to focus on ... most people managed to respect that."

Emergency Management Minister Kieran McAnulty was the subject of many of Sharma's claims of bullying. He said he did not think it was appropriate but he did not "want to get into it".

"Look, I have no comment to add to that. I'm sure he'll be able to explain himself ... I don't even know what he was on about to be honest, so I can't really give you an honest answer.

"I don't want to speculate on what he was on about because I genuinely don't know and I don't want to pass any comment other than what I've said."

Minister of Health Andrew Little said Sharma seemed to think the day was more about himself, and he thought the House had called him out for it.

"It's certainly unbecoming of the occasion and if he's got those issues, there's other ways of dealing with them. This was a day about the new speaker, Adrian Rurawhe, and this was the time to celebrate his achievement and him being the Speaker of the House."

He said Sharma had "some issues".

"He's got to find a way to deal with them that is not going to be disruptive to Parliament and that actually is going to help him because I don't see the way he's approaching his issues is helping him at this point."

Parliament stands to welcome the incoming Speaker of the House. Departing Speaker Trevor Mallard and Independent MP Gaurav Sharma can be seen next to one another in the back of the room.

Parliament stands to welcome Speaker-elect Adrian Rurawhe. Departing Speaker Trevor Mallard and Independent MP Gaurav Sharma can be seen next to one another in the back of the room. Photo: RNZ / Jane Patterson

Minister of Transport Michael Wood described Sharma's performance as solipsistic, meaning self-centred and egotistical.

"We were there to to acknowledge a very fine man, Adrian Rurawhe, and nearly every other member found the ability to do that and not talk about themselves, so I thought it was a shame."

Chris Hipkins admitted he had not been listening to what Sharma had to say, but thought the election of a new Speaker was a moment for "some humility and grace".

  • Party People | Season 2 | Episode 20: 23rd August 2022
  • MP Gaurav Sharma - expelled not excluded
  • PM's Office responds to accusations over Official Information Act