House Leader Chris Hipkins says he will meet with House Speaker Trevor Mallard after a divisive night in Parliament in which sexual assault allegations were raised.
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.
The Speaker apologised "unreservedly" for the accusation in December when speaking to the Governance and Administration Committee. He said he realised his mistake "probably within 24 hours" of making the original comments.
But on Tuesday night in Parliament he repeated sexual assault allegations under parliamentary privilege, pushing back on claims by National MP Chris Bishop he'd ruined the former staffer's life.
"That man's life was destroyed when he sexually assaulted a woman. That's what did it," Mallard said. "I will support the woman and what she said, I will support the investigation that found that he seriously assaulted her... and I will support the police and their investigation and the results of that."
Hipkins told reporters on Wednesday he plans to speak with Mallard.
"I sat through the debate last night. I don't think it reflected well on Parliament as a whole. I don't think it reflected well on pretty much anybody that was taking part in that debate," he said.
"I don't think the debating chamber of Parliament is the place to deal with these types of issues. I don't think that was a victim-centric approach. I don't think it was fair on the person who the allegations were against either."
Hipkins said Parliament needs to "step back" from the issue.
"I think continuing down this road isn't the appropriate course of action for anybody at Parliament."
He said Labour "continues to support the Speaker" but Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern intends to "make further comments on behalf" of Labour.
Opposition leader Judith Collins told The AM Show on Wednesday it was an "abhorrence" for Mallard to "continue down a path of utu against a former staff member".
"It was absolutely the worst, the most disgraceful display from Trevor Mallard that I have ever seen in Parliament in my almost 20 years. I've just never seen that behaviour, and he was doing this from his position as the minister as such in charge of parliamentary service."
She said it's time for Mallard to be replaced. National has repeatedly made this call recently, but Ardern has brushed it off, saying it's up to Parliament to remove him.
"It's really up to Jacinda Ardern," said Collins. "She's told people that it's really up to Parliament, well it's not. She's got 65 members of her caucus there, she controls Parliament, essentially. And she controls who is the Speaker."
Mallard told Newshub he's prevented by court suppression order and mediation agreement from commenting outside the parliamentary process.