National lodges notice of no-confidence motion in Speaker Trevor Mallard after sprinkler, speaker tactics against protesters

The National Party has lodged a notice of a no-confidence motion in Speaker Trevor Mallard following his use of sprinklers and speakers to deter protesters over the weekend.

In a statement, Chris Bishop, the shadow Leader of the House, said Mallard's behaviour in recent days has been "unedifying, embarrassing and childish" and said it had "appalled" New Zealanders. 

"Actions like crowd-sourcing songs for a Spotify playlist to play to protesters and turning on the sprinklers have made people wonder what on earth Mr Mallard was doing," Bishop said.

"You can disagree with people without disrespecting them, and Mr Mallard’s petulant behaviour has only inflamed an already tense situation."

Bishop said the step wasn't taken lightly, but "it is clear Mr Mallard's actions have made the situation worse, not better". The MP said it was important to note that Mallard's actions "were done without the support of the New Zealand Police".

The motion reads:

"That the House has no confidence in the Rt Hon Trevor Mallard as Speaker of the House of Representatives due to his childish, provocative and embarrassing behaviour during the occupation of and protest at Parliament grounds in February 2022, which was counterproductive to resolving the situation and done without the support of the New Zealand Police."

Newshub has contacted the Speaker's office for comment. He told NZHerald in an interview that he had no qualms about using sprinklers and only regretted using recorder music as it gave police officers present headaches.

Protesters travelled from across New Zealand to Parliament's front lawn last Tuesday as part of a series of convoys rallying against COVID-19 restrictions, including vaccination mandates on certain workforces.

Hundreds remain, having set up tents, ignoring trespass notices and refusing to heed calls from police to move their vehicles which are blocking surrounding streets. 

Police arrested more than 120 protesters last week after they were trespassed from the grounds. Many of those at Parliament have been hurling abuse at staff, members of the public, journalists and nearby businesses, while also disrupting locals' ability to move around freely.

In an attempt to cause the protesters discomfort, Mallard on Friday night ordered that Parliament's sprinklers be turned on in the hope it would cause them discomfort. Protesters covered them with cones and dug trenches to divert the water, but the grounds have become a muddy mess. Hay has since been brought in and now covers what was once a green lawn.

On Saturday, large speakers were placed on a parliamentary balcony facing the protesters, blasting loud music - including the children's song 'Baby Shark' and Frozen's 'Let It Go' - and vaccination messages overnight and into Sunday. Mallard posted on Twitter asking people what they thought of different songs people had suggested he play. 

Police have distanced themselves from the Speaker's actions, saying they weren't tactics they'd encourage, but "it is what it is". 

Mallard has been criticised by Opposition MPs for his actions, with National leader Christopher Luxon calling them unhelpful and ACT's David Seymour saying they were "pathetic". 

"Not only are Mallard's antics immature, not only are they ineffective, they have made a serious situation much worse. His petty behaviour has only encouraged the protesters further. Mallard needs to tell us whether he sought police advice before taking these actions."

Bishop on Wednesday also took aim at Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern for refusing to voice an opinion on Mallard's behaviour.

"The fact that Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will not express a view on Mr Mallard’s actions should speak volumes. She should now drop her support of him and replace him with a new Speaker who can command respect across the Parliament but also among the wider public."

Ardern has repeatedly said it would be wrong for her to give a view on how the protest is being managed. 

"I am not going to get into the way of managing a protest in its totality. Those, ultimately, very clear distinctions. I am going to be careful to make sure that I am not making judgements around the way we deal with protests at Parliament. It is a dangerous place to be when politicians dictate the way that police might choose to deal with them."

It's not the first time National has tried to have a motion of no-confidence in Mallard debated in Parliament. Last year, National tried to introduce a motion over the Speaker's conduct and comments he made about a staffer