National renews calls for Speaker Trevor Mallard's resignation amid new revelations over 'rape' comments

National is renewing calls for House Speaker Trevor Mallard to resign amid new revelations he repeated an allegation against a former staffer in public after having been advised it was false. 

Mallard came under fire in December last year after more than $300,000 in taxpayer money was spent to settle his legal battle with a former parliamentary staffer accused of sexual assault, which Mallard had described as tantamount to "rape". 

Mallard made the comment after the Debbie Francis report into bullying and harassment at Parliament was made public in May 2019. He was commenting on the report's disclosure of sexual assault accusations in the report.

Mallard apologised "unreservedly" for the accusation in December speaking to the Governance and Administration Committee. He said he realised his mistake "probably within 24 hours" of making the original comments. 

But National has received the statement of claim by the plaintiff, lodged in the High Court as part of defamation proceedings, which claims Mallard repeated his allegation against the staffer in public even after he was told by Parliamentary Service it was incorrect. 

The statement of claim says after Mallard's morning media interviews on May 22 - when he spoke of "rape" - his staff advised him the claim was wrong. 

He then repeated the claim on the afternoon of May 22 speaking to media, when asked about whether he stood by his earlier statements. He said "yes", and "anyone who's been involved in looking at the rape law would be aware of the definition of rape" in New Zealand. 

"That is appalling," National MP and Shadow Leader of the House Chris Bishop said in Parliament on Wednesday. "He said it anyway."

House Speaker Trevor Mallard.
House Speaker Trevor Mallard. Photo credit: Getty

The court documents also show the plaintiff wrote to Mallard seeking an apology. He asked for the apology to be read by Mallard to the House, for payment of damages, and for an assurance Mallard would not make any more defamatory statements. 

Mallard wrote back on June 24, refusing the requests, the documents show. He refused to pay damages and claimed his statements were either "truth, honest opinion or made on an occasion of qualified privilege". 

Mallard said he would defend any claim "vigorously", according to the documents. It 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". 

"This is a gross and disgraceful abuse of power," Bishop said in Parliament on Wednesday, reading out the claims against the Speaker in a speech. 

When Bishop finished, Mallard said he let Bishop read out the revelations in Parliament because it would have looked bad if he killed off the speech when it was about him and considering it breached a Speaker's ruling. 

"Because I was involved I thought it was not appropriate to stop the speech," he said. "I will say I look forward to the hearing of the estimates where the truth will be told."

Mallard was referring to a parliamentary select committee where he will make an appearance. 

National MP Chris Bishop.
National MP Chris Bishop. Photo credit: Newshub

National leader Judith Collins has written to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern seeking her support as National calls for Mallard to be removed as Speaker. 

"I call on you, as both Prime Minister, and as Leader of the New Zealand Labour Party, to support a vote of No Confidence in Mr Mallard as Speaker," Collins wrote. 

"If you were to advise Mr Mallard that he no longer has your confidence in the role of Speaker, then he would either have to resign or be unseated."

But Ardern says the matter has been settled and she won't be calling for Mallard's resignation. 

"The issues that are being raised today are issues that have already been traversed," she told reporters. "He has rightly acknowledged the errors that have been made, apologised, and of course the proceedings have been settled." 

There is still an outstanding employment claim against the Parliamentary Service by the plaintiff, so National says the amount could rise that taxpayers will have to fork out. 

The head of Parliamentary Services, chief executive Rafael Gonzalez-Montero, told a parliamentary committee earlier this month the Parliamentary Service will not settle with the alleged offender.

Ardern said she doesn't consider Mallard a bully. 

"No, not in my view of course," she said. "But in this case he has done wrong and he has apologised for that."