Speaker Trevor Mallard reveals he knew he made mistake within 24 hours of making false accusation

House Speaker Trevor Mallard has apologised to all New Zealanders for mistakenly implying a parliamentary staff member was guilty of rape.

He revealed on Wednesday he knew he made a mistake within 24 hours of making the comments, but the case took 18 months to settle, and cost $333,000 and counting.

"I made a mistake, and for that I unreservedly apologise to the House and to New Zealanders," Mallard told the Governance and Administration Select Committee in Parliament. 

It was also an apology for creating a distraction from the most serious of issues - people who came forward about sexual assault at Parliament. 

"My error has diverted attention away from their stories," Mallard said. 

Those stories included 14 allegations of sexual assault uncovered in the Debbie Francis Review into culture at Parliament unveiled in May 2019. 

The apology was made with yet another diversion in the background - a Taxpayers Union mascot saying 'Taxpayer Invoice', which was swiftly ejected from the select committee room. 

Speaker Trevor Mallard reveals he knew he made mistake within 24 hours of making false accusation
Photo credit: Newshub

It is extraordinary for the Speaker to be hauled before a parliamentary select committee but Mallard was even after Parliament wrapped for the year following a pay-out to a former staff member, after Mallard equated accusations of sexual assaults to rape. 

Later that day Mallard revealed a staffer had been stood down. 

"One of the key dangers is no longer in the building," Mallard told reporters at the time. 

Almost immediately he realised his error.

"Probably within 24 hours," Mallard told the committee, after he was asked when he realized he had made an error.

But it wasn't over in a day, or a month. It took 18 months and $333,000 in legal fees to finally settle.

"He had it within his power to apologise and move on so that we could focus on what matters and his arrogance has got in the way of doing that," said National MP Michael Woodhouse. 

Parliamentary Services revealed it's still not over. 

"There is still a claim against the Parliamentary Service," chief executive Rafael Gonzalez-Montero told the committee. 

So far that's cost another $37,000 and counting. 

Mallard was right to apologise for the distraction his defamation case has caused - the Debbie Francie Review warned of some extremely serious incidents at Parliament, saying some were part of a multi-year pattern of predatory behaviour.

Mallard has created one heck of a distraction from it.