National MP Maggie Barry accused of 'bullying', 'physically challenging' behaviour in Parliament

National MP Maggie Barry has been forced to apologise for behaviour in Parliament described as "bullying" and "physically challenging". 

Newshub has obtained a letter to the Speaker by Labour MP Kieran McAnulty in which he described Barry's actions in Parliament last week towards Assistant Speaker Ruth Dyson as "bullying". 

"I consider the manner in which Hon Maggie Barry addressed Hon Ruth Dyson was an attempt to intimidate and amounted to bullying," McAnulty wrote. 

The exchange happened during the Committee of the Whole House stage of ACT leader David Seymour's End of Life Choice Bill late last Wednesday.  

Barry is denying the accusations of bullying and aggression.

She told Newshub it was just "part of the argy-bargy of dealing with people in politics who don't agree with the position that you take".

McAnulty said Barry stood and projected "outrageous" towards Dyson in response to the Assistant Speaker putting a motion of closure to the House. 

He said after the House voted to accept the motion, Barry walked towards the desk where officials were seated, and "proceeded to confront and challenge in an imposing manner Hon Ruth Dyson over her decision". 

He said at one point, Barry accused Dyson of being smug, while addressing her by her first name, "in clear defiance of the courtesy otherwise accorded to presiding officers". 

It was after that when Barry sent a tweet saying: "Shut down - an (sic) terrible injustice in the End of Life debate tonight. With 20 SOPs not allowed to be addressed as it was closed down. Unfair to the vulnerable."

McAnulty said in his view, by "openly and aggressively verbally and physically challenging" the decision of Dyson, Barry "reflected on the character and conduct of the House, in breach of Standing Order 409". 

Standing Order 409 is 'Contempt of House', in which the actions of an MP "obstructs or impedes any member or officer of the House". 

McAnulty said Barry's actions were "intentionally taken to obstruct or impede the House in performance of its functions", which he said breached Standing Order 410. 

Barry, MP for North Shore, sought leave in Parliament on Tuesday night to make a "personal explanation relating to a matter in the House last week". 

"I apologise to the Hon Ruth Dyson for my actions during the debate and the voting on the End of Life Choice Bill last Wednesday night," Barry said. 

"For me, it was a highly emotionally charged situation, and I acknowledge now that I was overzealous in expressing my disappointment with the way things were progressing."

Ruth Dyson.
Ruth Dyson. Photo credit: File

Dyson said Barry's behaviour "certainly had an edge of bullying" and was "entirely inappropriate".

"I know there have also been complaints about her in terms of her behaviour at select committee," Dyson said.

"I do think there are a lot of really emotional issues in Parliament, but we have to discipline ourselves to show our respect to people."

MPs voted late into the night last Wednesday on a series of proposed amendments to the End of Life Choice Bill.  

As it is being treated as a conscience vote, MPs have to vote individually on each proposal, requiring them to leave the debating chamber to cast their ballot. 

Barry has been a vocal critic of euthanasia, and was accused by Seymour last week of purposefully trying to slow down the process of the legislation going through Parliament. 

The legislation passed its second reading in June.

It isn't the first time Barry has been accused of bullying. Last year she was accused of bullying her staff - allegations she denied

She was also accused of asking a staff member to carry out political party work during work hours, but the Parliamentary Service cleared her of the accusations last month.