Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern details how Parliament will respond to toxic culture revelations

Jacinda Ardern has announced she'll take two "practical steps" in response to an inquiry that found instances of sexual harassment and assault in Parliament. 

The Prime Minister said the findings of the report of the Independent Review into harmful behaviour in the Parliamentary Workplace are "being taken seriously". 

"Parliament, like any other workplace, should be free from bullying and harassment and we need to make improvements," she said on Monday. 

"While I acknowledge we work in an environment of long hours and pressure, excuses won't be tolerated. At Cabinet and Caucus, I have reiterated my expectation that we treat one another with dignity and respect."

Ardern said she has asked to receive regular reports from the Department of Internal Affairs and Parliamentary Services on the how offices in Parliament are working.  

She said she'll also share this information with the Labour Party to "ensure a joined-up approach in any action that may be taken as a result of these reports".

"I think people who come to work, regardless of where they work, should expect to be treated with dignity and respect."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in Parliament.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in Parliament. Photo credit: Newshub

On behalf of the Labour Party, MP Ruth Dyson said more attention is needed on the relationships between MPs and staff members. 

The review, launched in November 2018 and carried out by independent external reviewer Debbie Francis, came back on Tuesday with revelations that staff were concerned about a perceived power imbalance. 

It also came back with revelations around widespread sexual harassment or violent behaviours, ranging from unwanted touching to sexual assault - both for males and females.

Francis said she couldn't comment on any police investigations, but said number of respondents were given information about the various avenues that exist for them to lay complaints. 

"My job was to describe the theme and patterns across the workplace, rather than to investigate specific incidents or individuals."

House Speaker Trevor Mallard said: "I know that the managers of the various agencies are going to make it very clear that they want people to come forward to them or to the police if that's appropriate."

He said the review showed a "poor HR system where staff don't feel well-supported, where people are afraid to voice complaints, where there's a perception that senior staff and MPs are automatically protected, and pay-outs are commonplace". 

He said the biggest change that's needed is "one of attitude on the part of a relatively small group of MPs and senior staff". He said there will be regular reporting of staff turnover to agency managers and to party leaders. 

House Speaker Trevor Mallard and independent reviewer Debbie Francis at the release of the report.
House Speaker Trevor Mallard and independent reviewer Debbie Francis at the release of the report. Photo credit: Newshub

"That will mean that party leaders will be in full possession of information about the behaviour of their members and it is my expectation that they will use that information."

Mallard said he doesn't think Parliament should have the responsibility for overriding the wishes of people who make complaints as far as them being made public.

"But we do have a responsibility to stop it occurring and I think one of the best ways of doing that is putting the responsibilities back on the party leaders to make sure that selection committees are informed."

Francis said around 50 MPs were interviewed randomly selected by her. She said she found bullying between members, amongst staff, and from members of the public towards staff and MPs. 

She said it will take three to five years to improve the culture in Parliament. 

The Green Party, New Zealand First and National have all welcomed the findings of the review, with each party committing to endorse many of the recommendations. 

When asked if she had been bullied before, National MP Judith Collins said: "I think people have tried to but it's ultimately always failed."

Collins said the best revenge against a bully is to "do well". She said she's "definitely not" a bully, adding that politics can "get a bit too robust at times".