Chris Hipkins retains confidence in Trevor Mallard as Speaker amid fresh calls for resignation

Chris Hipkins says he still has confidence in Trevor Mallard as Speaker of the House amid renewed calls for him to step down from the prestigious role. 

Mallard has been under fire from the National Party since last December when it was revealed more than $300,000 in taxpayer money was spent to settle his defamation legal battle with a former parliamentary staffer accused of sexual assault, which the Speaker described as tantamount to rape

He has since apologised "unreservedly" for the remark - which he has admitted was wrong - made on the morning of May 22, 2019 when commenting on the Debbie Francis report into bullying and harassment at Parliament, which raised allegations of sexual assault. 

In the House on Wednesday, National's shadow Leader of the House Chris Bishop revealed the statement of claim by the plaintiff lodged in the Wellington High Court during the defamation proceedings.

It claims the Speaker repeated his allegation against the staffer on the afternoon of May 22, despite having been told earlier by Parliamentary Services that he was wrong. 

The court document also says that on June 24, Mallard wrote to the plaintiff refusing requests for an apology and payment of damages. The document shows Mallard claimed his remarks were either "truth, honest opinion or made on an occasion of qualified privilege". 

He said he would defend any claim "vigorously", according to the statement, which also says the Speaker "threatened" the plaintiff that should he pursue litigation, "the question of his reputation and his conduct will be very much the centrepiece of any public proceeding".

Speaking to the Governance and Administration Committee in December, after apologising and accepting the alleged conduct didn't amount to rape, Mallard claimed he had realised his mistake "probably within 24 hours" of making the original comment.

National is now again wanting Mallard to step down, with leader Judith Collins writing to Prime Minister and Labour leader Jacinda Ardern seeking her support to remove him. 

Addressing the controversy on The AM Show on Thursday, Hipkins - the Leader of the House and a minister - said he continues to have confidence in Mallard as Speaker.

"There have been some allegations made in the House. We have only heard one side of that story," Hipkins said. "The Speaker will have the opportunity to present his version of things and his side of the story. We should reserve judgement until he has had the opportunity to do that."

Hipkins said he doesn't know Mallard's side of the story and hadn't spoken to Mallard about it.

"He is doing a good job as Speaker. I think Trevor Mallard made a mistake and he apologised for that. We don't know all of the facts around that case because not all of those have become public."

He also said we haven't heard the version of events put forward by the individual who made the original complaint. 

After Bishop revealed details of the statement of claim on Wednesday, Mallard told Parliament he looked forward to speaking to a select committee "where the truth will be told". 

Ardern is refusing to back calls for Mallard's resignation, saying on Wednesday that "the issues that are being raised today are issues that have already been traversed".

"He has rightly acknowledged the errors that have been made, apologised, and of course the proceedings have been settled." 

There is an outstanding employment claim against Parliamentary Services by the former staffer.