Bullying and harassment systemic in parliament - Report

By Talisa Kupenga

The report into bullying and harassment in parliament has found that such behaviour is systemic, normalised and extends from violent behaviour through to sexual harassment and assault.

"In summary, our system is not good," says Speaker of the House, Trevor Mallard.

The review, carried out by independent external reviewer Debbie Francis, took five months and makes 85 recommendations.

It paints parliament to be an environment many deem unsafe, a place that has a "perfect storm" of factors for bad behaviour.

Francis says, "Significant numbers of reviewed participants also told me they had experienced or observed harm from bullying or harassment.  Indeed, I found harmful behaviours to be systemic across the parliamentary workplace."

More than 200 people were interviewed, more than 100 written submissions and 1,000 online survey responses were received and 40 focus groups were held.

The report also identifies a lack of workforce and cultural diversity.  Some of the anonymous respondents found monoculturalism to be an issue.

One MP response noted, “Whenever I come here, I know that I have to suspend my Māoriness.  All my values, like manaakitanga, must be put into abeyance in ‘te ana o te raiona (the lion’s den). My Māori constituents know this and pity me for it.”

Te Tai Tonga MP Rino Tirikatene says it’s not something he’s experienced.

"Not at all, I suppose we walk in both worlds."

Tāmaki Makaurau MP Peeni Henare says, "My Māoritanga was my ticket into parliament and I continue to follow that path."

Labour Party’s Willie Jackson says, "I support that in terms of the National Party, but it is different for the Labour Party."

The report's recommendations include:

  • That all chief executives and party leaders affirm a no-tolerance approach to bullying, harassment, and sexual harassment.
  • A Parliamentary code of conduct embedded into job descriptions.
  • A 24/7 confidential mental health line for those on precinct.
  • Appointment of culture and values champions within each agency and party.

"This place and all the parties in it, can and must do better," says National Party leader Simon Bridges.

Henare says, "There is a lot of work to do if we want to achieve and get to the level of what is outlined in the Treaty."

Francis says if action is taken change could be expected in the next five years.

A full copy of the report is available on the Parliament website.