Mallard “best and worst of Speakers”

Some of what Trevor Mallard has done as Speaker is innovative and relatively effective, but he remains dogged by his political bias and his personal baggage with some MPs, which seem unlikely to change.

Audrey Young: Is it time for fresh challenges for Speaker Trevor Mallard?

Mallard’s performance as Speaker this week has not done the Government any favours.

He is seen as simply part of the Government and the Government is seen to be throwing out National MPs – leader Simon Bridges and Nick Smith – from Parliament.

It has been so bad, that if Ardern is casting around for a capable minister to add to her ranks for the June reshuffle, maybe she should consider bringing Mllard back into the ministry.

Mallard was one of the most highly valued and competent ministers in the Helen Clark.

Mallard is a problem for the Government as Speaker, and he would add something that labour lacks in the current Cabinet – experience. I wonder how he would do as Minister of Housing, or Health. The current ministers are struggling to perform adequately.

While Mallard also has ample experience for his role as Speaker he also has a history of animosities that he seems unable to separate from the job.

I have covered Parliament under seven Speakers and Mallard is both the best and the worst, rolled into one.

When he’s good, he’s brilliant, but on a bad day he’s a House-wrecker.

The good:

On a good day (and there have been two in the past six sitting days) question time can be brilliant.

Because of the rules Mallard instituted, the flow of questions and answers is seamless and his intervention is evident only when he insists on a fuller answer.

He listens to questions and answers very carefully. he does not give diatribes when explaining why he has made a decision.

With oversight over written parliamentary questions, he has also demanded a better standard from ministers and twice this year has awarded National an extra 12 questions because of sloppy written answers from Shane Jones and David Clark.

The bad:

Mallard at his worst is when he abuses the inherent power of the chair by punishing Opposition MPs and then punishes them for reacting under extreme provocation.

That is how Simon Bridges came to being kicked out.

Bridges was kicked out for calling Mallard “unprofessional”. Under Parliament’s rules it was not an unfair punishment. But Bridges was right: Mallard had been unprofessional.

What is happening is that Mallard is giving himself licence to insult MPs but as soon as they bite back they are punished.

Mallard insulted Bridges several times on Tuesday, demanding he knew show “leadership” at a time he knew Bridges was facing leadership pressure. The apparent intention was to humiliate Bridges.

The absolute worst:

However Mallard was at his absolute worst when he refused to put leave on behalf of Nick Smith to give priority to a Bill next members’ day that provided roadside drug testing of drivers.

Smith wanted to know why and Mallard said that he himself had objected. That is unprecedented for the so-called umpire.

When objected, not unfairly, Mallard ordered him to leave the house.

As Speaker, Mallard has power, and he doesn’t want that challenged even when he misuses it.

When Smith abused Mallard on the way out Mallard ordered him back in and named him, suspending him from all proceedings for a day.

The abuse hurled at Mallard by Smith warranted serious punishment, but Mallard’s refusal to put leave was extreme provocation and an abuse of his position.

In contrast, Mallard is quite lenient with government MPs, like Winston Peters.

At times he also appears to protect the Prime Minister and other Ministers.

Mallard has the experience to be a good speaker, and has made worthwhile improvements to how things are done, but he has always had a problem with his temperament, and that is not easily resolved.

Would Ardern consider moving him from the Speaker’s chair to a ministerial responsibility? Would Mallard want to?

Leave a comment


  1. Zedd

     /  12th May 2019

    I hear media & others attacking Mallard.. as bias, BUT Speaker Carter (Natl Govt.) was much more bias (IMHO) booting out Winston & others in Labour, at least weekly & rarely ever saying ‘boo’ to Key & Co.

    Maybe Trev’s fuse, is just getting a bit shorter.. with serial ‘barnyard sounds’ (from Natl) & also some of their ‘more seasoned’ MPs ongoing challenges, to his decisions.. inc. talking over him ?!

    Kia Kaha Trev. ! 🙂

  2. Trevors_Elbow

     /  12th May 2019

    Mallard is just an extension of the Labour part of the Coalition Government. He knows what a competent and professional executive looks like, he knows what a competent and authoritative Leader looks like … ditto a PM. He was part of Helen Clark’s extremely competent and efficient Ministry.
    He looks at the treasury benches now and sees a bunch of hacks and incompetents flailing about lead by an out of her depth political ingenue
    And his daddy reflex kicks in and he tries to protect them.
    Carter was poor and had obvious flaws. But Trevor Mallard is much worse. Refusing to allow the House to vote on allowing Smith’s bill to be pushed to the head of the queue is frankly undemocratic, un-parliamentarian and an abuse of the role he serves in parliament as above and outside politics.
    The sooner he retires the better the place will be for it – a thug, a bully and a scalper of tickets who shouldn’t be in the house anymore and if he had had the cajones to defend his seat he would be out of the House now…

    • Duker

       /  12th May 2019

      “Refusing to allow the House to vote on allowing Smith’s bill to be pushed to the head of the queue is frankly undemocratic, un-parliamentarian and an abuse of the role he serves in parliament as above and outside politics.”

      never heard of Speakers rullings have you ?
      There seems to only have been 2 Bills indroduced this way in the last 20 years or so- private members bills go into the ballot after being checked by the Clerk of the House.
      Those 2 seem to have been private members bills with wide support.

      The Context is that Smith is chief disrupted for the national party, even having a conviction for witness tampering in a family court case-

      • Trevors_elbow

         /  12th May 2019

        Willful misdirection from Duker… shock, horror..not! Just par for the course from you.
        The precedent for leave being put to the House and members making a choice is well established. And the precedent is the Speaker stays out of that specific process and allow members to decide.

        Mallard acted like a Soviet style chairman and cut off the process.

        He was wrong… he shouldnt have done it … and his vindictive, school ma’am controlling behaviour does him a great discredit and disservice…

        • Alan Wilkinson

           /  12th May 2019

          Seems to have a nasty temper and a vindictive streak. Would make a good Lefty some day.

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