National's Chris Bishop accuses Grant Robertson of 'double standards' in criticism of Israel Adesanya rape remark

Warning: This article discusses sexual assault and rape. 

National MP Chris Bishop has accused the Deputy Prime Minister of "double standards" after he criticised Sportsman of the Year Israel Adesanya for a facetious comment about rape.

Grant Robertson condemned the MMA fighter on Thursday after he threatened to 'rape' fellow UFC middleweight Kevin Holland in a video posted to his Instagram story this week.

The Sports and Recreation Minister said nobody should be making "jokes or flippant comments" about such a topic. 

"I'm sure Israel understands that, I believe he has deleted the tweet in question. It will be up to the UFC as to what they do," he told Radio New Zealand.

"But I would certainly be making clear to him, and to anybody actually, that we have to take rape seriously. It's not an issue that anyone should be making jokes or flippant comments about at all."

However Robertson's comments have angered Bishop, who accused him of having "double standards", citing Labour's support of Speaker Trevor Mallard after a misguided rape remark of his own in 2019.

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 a defamation legal battle with a former parliamentary staffer accused of sexual assault.

The Speaker incorrectly described the staffer's actions as tantamount to rape. He has since apologised "unreservedly" for the remark and admitted was wrong. 

Bishop said it was "a bit rich" for Robertson to continue to support Mallard while criticising Adesanya. 

"Labour has shown it has a double standard when it comes to 'flippant' comments about sexual assault," he said in a statement.

"It's a bit rich for Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson to publicly chastise UFC fighter Israel Adesanya for his 'rape' comment while Labour continues to back Trevor Mallard." 

Bishop called on Roberton to publicly rebuke Mallard's comments, saying he agreed rape is an issue "people should not be making 'flippant' comments about". 

The National MP also took issue with Chris Hipkins' defence of Mallard on the AM Show on Thursday morning. 

Hipkins, who is 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."

"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."

This was not well received by Bishop, who accused Labour of finding ways to defend the indefensible. 

"This beggars belief. Mallard has accepted he was wrong. Is Labour now saying he was right?"

"The Prime Minister's comments also show she has her blinkers up with regard to this new information. She either doesn't know about it, or she doesn't want to know."

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern refused to back calls for Mallard's resignation, saying "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." 

The renewed criticism comes after Bishop on Wednesday 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".

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

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