Some at Parliament 'very' frightened of others - Speaker Trevor Mallard

Speaker of the House Trevor Mallard says some people at Parliament are "very afraid" of others working in the building.

On Tuesday, Mr Mallard announced an independent external review into bullying and harassment of staff, which will establish whether bullying or harassment occurred and then investigate the extent of the behaviour.

While the Speaker said he believed the workplace wasn't as toxic as it previously was, he also said he wouldn't "recommend that my kids work there at the moment".

That's because he isn't "convinced that the required degree of safety is present at Parliament".

"I think we don't look after people well. I don't think a lot of the people involved in management there, including MPs... are trained to do the job," he said.

"I have not much doubt there are some people who are very afraid of particular individuals who work in the building. I have certainly heard concerns that some members of Parliament, some relatively junior, some relatively senior, are very hard to work with".

Bullying and harassment was likely rampant at all levels, according to Mr Mallard, including by MPs and their staff. Bullying by staff towards the media and vice versa also occasionally occurred, he said.

He said MPs and staff members have a lot of loyalty to their "teams" and making sure their beliefs and ideologies are promoted over others. As a result, there is often an acceptance of some behaviour "most workplaces wouldn't accept".

Mr Mallard said he couldn't comment on individual pay-outs or non-disclosure agreements as they are often dealt with internally within parties, but said he wanted to look at how the agreements potentially reinforce "the ability for bullies to be bullies".

In announcing the investigation, which will be led by independent external reviewer Debbie Francis, Mr Mallard said bullying and harassment was "unacceptable in any workplace".

"All of the agencies involved want their staff to feel safe and supported. We want to proactively find out what we can do to improve the parliamentary workplace".

No one's perfect


Mr Mallard discussed his own experience of three "relationship breakdowns", one of which he still had concerns about whether he had handled it correctly.

"I don't think there are many people that have been in the building for any period of time who have been absolutely perfect in their relationships," he said.

All data and information provided to the review, which will include current and former members of staff, will be held confidentially and destroyed afterwards. No indivdual who provides information to the review will be identified. 

Parliamentary staff can participate either via a secure online survey, 1-on-1 interviews with Ms Francis, focus groups or in writing via email or letter to a PO box.

Most focus groups and interviews will take place between December 2018 and February 2019.

Results will subsequently be published and analysed for trends and patterns that will help formulate recommendations to address issues and educate staff about management.

"The vast majority of us could do with some extra assistance and some extra training to make sure that we are good employers".