Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Point of Order: As Mallard moves on with our good wishes (to become an ambassador),

Speaker of the House Trevor Mallard has formally resigned from the role and is being succeeded by the current deputy Speaker, Adrian Ruawhe, much to the relief of Opposition parties.

Mallard will be taking up a diplomatic post as New Zealand’s Ambassador in Ireland from January next year.

The Opposition hasn’t been a fan of Mallard’s refereeing of Parliament’s political theatre over recent years.

National MP and Shadow Leader of the House Chris Bishop put out a statement which recorded his response to the resignation in just one word: “Good”.

Suffice it to say that Bishop has been the victim of Mallard’s style of refereeing.

Bishop had more to say on Radio NZ, criticising Mallard for playing favourites and criticising him for rendering question time sterile.

But he wasn’t as bitter about Mallard as ACT leader David Seymour.

Here is Seymour’s assailing of Mallard, the PM and the ambassadorial appointment:

“Today’s announcement that disgraced Speaker of New Zealand Parliament Trevor Mallard will be taking up a cushy diplomatic posting in Ireland is an outrage.

“To send someone with such a lengthy political rap sheet and zero diplomatic ability is an insult to our friends in Ireland.

“This is a man who has falsely accused a staff member of rape, who inflamed the Parliamentary protest with his immature behaviour and who refuses to be held accountable for his actions.

“He took the Office of the Speaker only to have the worst approval rating of any politician in modern history. Now he’s being rewarded for his bad behaviour.

“This appointment goes to the heart of the Ardern Government’s rotten values. The message to New Zealanders everywhere is bad behaviour gets good rewards under the Ardern Government.

“To all those people who toil away, fearful of losing their jobs for poor performance, getting a five year post on light duties in Dublin after screwing up year after year is unfathomable. People might come to the conclusion, why bother?

“The cynical timing of the announcement, 15 minutes before the 6pm news amidst another scandal speaks for itself.

“If ACT were in government, we would show a lot more respect to Ireland and appoint somebody more appropriate to be a diplomat.

“The Prime Minister and her colleagues should have shown leadership and integrity and not given in to Mallard’s petty demands for an overseas posting.

“The only theory we can come up with is that Jacinda Ardern wanted to get rid of him and at least the Irish have a sense of humour.”

Opposition disdain for Mallard and dissatisfaction with the diplomatic appointment inevitably was picked up by Irish news media.

The online news site headlined its report of the appointment: ‘An insult to Ireland’: Controversial New Zealand politician appointed as ambassador

It reported Mallard’s role in incidents dating back to 2002, when he told two International Rugby Board officials he would insert beer bottles in “uncomfortable places” in a row over the co-hosting of the 2003 Rugby World Cup.

In 2007 he apologised after punching an opposition MP outside the debating chamber.

In 2020 he was blamed for spending NZ$572,000 (€357,300) on a children’s playground in the grounds of the New Zealand parliament, including NZ$243,000 on a slide. The playground was budgeted at NZ$400,000.

Mr Mallard has sought to make the New Zealand parliament more family friendly and to encourage female MPs to bring their children into the chamber if they need feeding.

Last year, he apologised for falsely accusing a parliamentary staff member of rape leaving taxpayers to pay damages and legal fees of NZ$330,000 after the staff member took a case against him.

In February he turned the sprinklers on those protesting against the Covid-19 vaccination mandates outside New Zealand’s parliament in Wellington. He also played loud music in a vain attempt to scatter them.

In June, an opinion poll found that just 17 per cent of New Zealanders approved of him as speaker, 48 per cent disapproved of him and 35 per cent did not know.

At Point of Order, we have a team member (the author of this post, who spent 50 years in the Parliamentary Press Gallery) who recognises the positive aspects of Mallard’s contribution to the country’s politics.

Mallard was a very effective MP in Opposition who served in the Clark ministry and demonstrated his political skills over a range of portfolios – among them, Education, Sport and Recreation, State Owned Enterprises, Labour and Broadcasting.

He was respected as a very responsive constituent MP.

He is a man of conviction and clearly thought he raised standards within the debating chamber, which if not always successful, were motivated by the best of intentions.

On a personal note, Mallard arranged a parliamentary farewell on the (involuntary) departure of this member of the Point of Order team when he left the Parliamentary Press Gallery.

Point of Order accordingly wishes Mallard well on his mission in Ireland.

Oh – and let the record show that the Irish name for “mallard” (of the duck variety) is “mallard”.

The scientific name is Anas platyrhynchos

Mallard occur in almost all available wetland habitats in Ireland.

Our information comes from BirdWatch Ireland.

Point of Order is a blog focused on politics and the economy run by veteran newspaper reporters Bob Edlin and Ian Templeton

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