Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Heather du Plessis-Allan: Trevor Mallard has made things worse


If Trevor Mallard was hoping that appearing before the select committee today was going to make things better for himself, he misjudged that horribly. 

He has just made things a whole lot worse.

It turns out $330,000 is not the end of the Mallard clean-up bill us taxpayers are paying. We are in the gun for more. 

As we know, the $330,000 is for Mallard’s legal bills and an ex-gratia payment to the man he accused of rape.

But the man might yet also be paid out by Parliamentary Services, his employer at the time of Mallard’s allegation.

He’s taken a claim – perhaps a personal grievance for the circumstances under which his employment ended 

Now already the taxpayer legal bill for dealing with THAT claim is $37,500.  We don’t know if that’s the end of the legal costs there.  So add that to the $330,000. 

Then there could be a pay out as well.  And the chances of that are high given that it is now in the public domain that Mallard has admitted to defaming the man.  The man’s original claim was for $450,000, so this bill could be high. 

Again, add that to the $330,000. 

But what makes this worse, if that’s even possible, is that Mallard did not admit there was more money due when he was asked about it. 

In my opinion, he misled the public with his answer. 

He was asked by Chris Bishop if there was “any further money to be paid”, and Mallard answered “there is no further money to be paid”. 

But then, just over a minute later, the chief executive of parliamentary services, Rafael Gonzalez-Montero admits “there is still a claim against the Parliamentary Service”. 

Michael Woodhouse asks: “Is the committee now hearing that $330,000 is not necessarily the end of the matter in terms of cost to the taxpayer?”

Gonzalez-Montero answers “yes”.

So, not only has the speaker used our money to tidy up his mistakes, but he’s not been totally transparent about exactly how much money it’s costing us. 

Mallard tried his hardest today to frame this as just a mistake, one that he is very sorry for and trying to make right, and tried to convince the public that he needs to stay in the job to finish his project of making parliament a safer place to work. 

Well, he should then lead by example and leave the building, because he is consistently exhibiting the exact kind of behaviour he claims to want to clear out.

We can now add to his list of transgressions: attempting to mislead the public. 

He will continue to be problem for Labour, because now that the opposition and taxpayers know there is more of our money to be spent, we will be asking about it next year. 

So, as much as he’s tried to kill off this story before Christmas, it now almost certainly will drag into the next year unless he does the dignified thing and leaves the job.

Heather du Plessis-Allan is a journalist and commentator who hosts Newstalk ZB's Drive show.

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