Parliamentary Code of Conduct

There have been attempts to have a Parliamentary Code of Conduct for years. This is from 2007: A Code of Conduct for Members of Parliament- is the time ever right?

Greens, UnitedFuture, Māori and ACT signed that proposed code of conduct for MPs. But the time wasn’t right for Labour and National who refused to cooperate.

But times have changed. This term a number of disgraced MPs have led to the conduct of MPs becoming an election issue, with three MPs pulling out of re-election in the last couple of weeks due to very poor conduct.

Speaker Trevor Mallard, who has serious conduct issues himself in the past, is now promoting a Code of Conduct and an independent watchdog.

(Mallard has a battling staffer conduct in the courts at the moment after he outed them for alleged exual assault at Parliament, and they started defamation proceedings against him – see Speaker Trevor Mallard loses suppression argument in defamation claim)

He is now addressing MP behaviour.

Stuff: Parliament’s Speaker Trevor Mallard to MPs: ‘Behave or I’ll out you’

Exasperated Speaker Trevor Mallard has issued a stern warning to MPs, threatening to go public with their bad behaviour if they won’t appoint a complaints’ watchdog.

After a year of MPs wrangling over a code of conduct, Mallard has released the one-page document, urging the parties to sign up.

And he says if they can’t agree to establish an independent commissioner to investigate complaints, he’ll go public with the names of repeat offenders. “People have got to own their actions, basically,” he told Stuff.

“Some people are good but not everybody,” he said. “And then we have another group of people who probably just don’t get the fact that they are treating people badly. It is partly generational, but not only.

“And they are, what I would describe as, repeat offenders who I regularly get reports back … about how they treat other people around the buildings or officials.

“I’ll work with the Whips and talk to people, but I am only going to do it once. If things have been taken up with you, either with me or via the Whips, and you do it again then you can’t expect people not to make that public.”

“I find it really hard to believe. I want to make it clear, it is not only MPs. There are some staff members who treat other staff members appallingly. And there are MPs who treat other MPs appallingly.

“Our history has been one of not embarrassing either the institution or our party. I think we live a decade or two behind most workplaces.”

Before the recent disgraces Parliament has already been found badly wanting as far as behaviour goes.

In a sweeping review released last May, consultant Debbie Francis identified a systemic bullying and harassment problem within the corridors of power.

She recommended an Independent Commission for Parliamentary Conduct, to receive and investigate complaints or disclosures about MPs, as well as “a shared Parliamentary Workplace Code of Conduct”.

A cross party group of MPs, and two union representatives, have been working for more than a year on implementing Francis’ 85 recommendations. It is unlikely to get agreement on the establishment of a Commissioner, and caucuses are yet to give approval on the code.

Mallard said: “In my opinion, the party system or myself [as Speaker], neither of those work particularly well. What I’d really like to do is have someone independent who makes final decisions on whether people are outed or not. I would prefer that not to be my decision.”

It makes sense to have someone independent of MPs and parties overseeing their behaviour – actually I think it is essential, as long as they are given decent powers to deal with bad behaviour.

Of course some have tried to avoid accountability by turning on Mallard because of his past indiscretions.

Mallard has been working to make Parliament a kinder, gentler environment, with family-friendly policies. But his efforts are occasionally dismissed because of his own reputation as an enfant-terrible of politics.

“Like many people I have grown up. And my understanding of what is appropriate and acceptable has changed,” he said.

Trying to divert from accountability for behaviour now because of past crappy behaviour is bollocks, but it’s how some operate to try to remain untouchable.

The new code, which won’t be adopted until the next term even if agreed on by parties, says bullying and harassment are “unacceptable”. MPs will hold people to account for incidents and have a ”responsibility to speak up if we observe unacceptable behaviour, especially if we are in a position to help others.”

Code of Conduct here: Proposed Code of Conduct for MPs

Green Party will sign up to long overdue Code of Conduct

Green Party MPs will be signing up to a Parliamentary Code of Conduct, following its release from the Speaker of the House Trevor Mallard.

Green Party Workplace Relations spokesperson Jan Logie, who was on the Working Group for the Code of Conduct’s development, said:

“I welcome the timely release of the Code of Conduct for Parliament.

“The Green Party commit to signing up to it, so that our MPs and staff have guidance on best behaviour that keeps us all happy and thriving in our workplace.

“The Code of Conduct sets clear expectations on acceptable behaviours in Parliament. For too long this has not been clear, resulting in behaviours that have made people in Parliament feel unsafe, with an increased exposure to bullying and harassment.

“It has long been the case that Parliament, like other institutions, had work to do to ensure our spaces were free of harassment and bullying.

“What has been launched today is an important step in creating a workplace where everyone feels safe and valued.

“People deserve to have trust in Parliament. We look forward to the time when Parliament provides a positive example to the rest of the country.

“I remain focused on seeing the rest of the recommendations from the Debbie Francis review being acted upon.”

According to Stuff Labour then issued a statement claiming the caucus signed up to the code on June 30. “It did not disclose this to Stuff when asked about the code earlier this week”.

I can’t find a statement from Labour on the Code of Conduct. Given Jacinda Ardern’s promotion of niceness and kindness I expect they should be fully supportive of Mallard’s efforts.

National To Adopt Parliamentary Code Of Conduct

Leader of the Opposition Judith Collins will recommend to her National Party caucus colleagues that the party signs up to Parliament’s code of conduct.

“The Francis Report and more recent situations have pointed to a lack of respect for the power imbalances that occur within the Parliamentary environment and in the behaviours of some Members of Parliament.

“Robust parliamentary debate will occasionally be needed in the interest of good democracy, but bullying, harassment and inappropriate behaviours should not be accepted in the parliamentary environment or elsewhere.

“I believe everyone who works at Parliament does so because they want to make this country a better place, even if we sometimes disagree on the best way to do that. But there should be no disagreement when it comes to treating people with dignity and respect.

“I will be recommending at National’s next caucus meeting that the party signs up to the code of conduct released by Speaker Trevor Mallard today.”

I can’t find anything from NZ First or the ACT Party., but this sounds promising with three major parties pledging support for a Code of Conduct.

All candidates standing for election should be acquainted with and pledge support for the Code of Conduct.

This won’t guarantee better MP behaviour, but it should help move them in a better direction at least.

I think that having senior MPs like Mallard and Judith Collins strongly promoting the Code of Conduct (and Collins has made it clear she will deal to anyone behaving badly), despite their histories of degrees of dishonourable conduct, is a positive sign that the winds of change are finally starting to reach into Parliament.

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17 Comments

  1. NOEL

     /  25th July 2020

    If it was a code of Ethics that would really get me to sit up.

    Reply
  2. Duker

     /  25th July 2020

    “Labour and the Greens have committed to signing up to the code, and the opposition National Party has indicated it will follow suit.”
    https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/political/421956/mallard-releases-code-of-conduct-following-bad-behaviour-in-parliament
    “Labour MP Angie Warren-Clark, who was on the group which helped develop the code, said the caucus had signed on at the end of June.”

    “In a statement, ACT leader David Seymour declined to say whether he would sign up, describing the code as a “noble attempt” at getting better behaviour.”

    Yes , Seymour sees Codes as for ‘the Little people’…how condescending of him to describe it as ‘noble’

    Reply
    • Jack

       /  25th July 2020

      “Trying to divert from accountability for behaviour now because of past crappy behaviour is bollocks, but it’s how some operate to try to remain untouchable.”

      Abusive behaviour is too difficult to work out. Each situation is entirely unique. I think that the discussions re a code of conduct do more good than what the actual signed document will achieve. Once the doc is in place, we’ll see its impotency time and again.

      Mallard admits to bad behaviour from the past. That’s different to repentance. His attitude surely is a reason for caution around this code. It’s just another rule, and rules are for breaking.

      The best code of conduct is for the leader in each political party to call the shots. No need for a blanket code. It won’t work.

      I think it’s stupid of Young ACT to have succumbed to writing a policy for these matters. They had a young capable intelligent woman who made a bold and sensible decision. David should have stepped up to the mark and supported her at that point.

      Reply
      • Duker

         /  25th July 2020

        leader call the shots ?

        That would never work as they are busy people far above the normal interactions of Mps and their staff etc. And there is always the reluctance to inform someone at a higher level when its discretionary as everyone knows discretion is never uniform and theres NO set of rules how can you know which one was broken. Theres always the ability of a leader to lose confidence in an MP for whatever reason.
        Look how much effort was used to cover up Barclay and his transgression was an offence under the crimes act. Lots of effort to make the electorate office staff quiet…rather than realising Barclay was way out of his depth and lacked the maturity for the job…there were stories about his love of the Queenstown party scene instead of attending to rural farming electorate issues.

        Reply
        • Jack

           /  25th July 2020

          And now people can see Bill’s leadership for what it was.

          Relying upon the discretion of the top leader is the only honest means in these matters.

          Reply
          • Jack

             /  25th July 2020

            In David’s case, that intelligent volunteer did the donkey work – admirably – decisively, great leadership. All David needed to do was be himself.
            Sorry Duker, it’s all in my books. Seriously.

            In David’s case, he failed his true self and now is staring down the possibility of having to go the way of the ‘little people’ as you put it.

            Reply
            • Jack

               /  25th July 2020

              Therefore, as David gets sucked in to a system which you presume (it seems, by your comment above) saves the time of the leader, he will become complicit in future corruption.
              The honest and kind ways are always more time and resource productive.
              That code of conduct is simply disastrous.

            • What utter rubbish. He did not ‘fail his true self’. What more could he do but have an enquiry ?

              The fact that something’s in your Vanity Press-printed books doesn’t make it true. How dare you accuse someone of being about to be complicit in future corruption ?

              This young woman and Young ACT do NOT do all the donkey work, as you would know had you been there or been in any political party. They do not go around doing flyer drops and putting up billboards. I have done a lot of that myself, and my late husband did a lot more. There is a surprising amount of donkey work and it takes a lot of people to do it.

            • Blazer

               /  25th July 2020

              donkey work is best done by…donkey’s….when it comes to ACT…one commentator is donkey deep.

    • David Seymour said nothing about the Code being for the little people; his point that the voters would make the decision was a valid one.

      Reply
  3. PartisanZ

     /  25th July 2020

    There should definitely be a Code of Conduct … enforceable somehow?

    But Westminster-style ‘Parliament’ is WAY, WAY past its ‘Use By Date’ here in Aotearoa NZ.

    It not only WON’T honor Te Tiriti o Waitangi – willfully refuses to do so – but it CANNOT honor it.

    The Westminster formula – based on which branch of the English Aristocracy would rule the English & Colonial Peasantry on behalf of the Monarchy – Tories or Whigs – is incapable of honoring Te Tiriti. It is WHY Te Tiriti has not been honored!

    Reply
    • PartisanZ

       /  25th July 2020

      And that, in turn, is why the election of a Labour government in 1935 threatened the New Zealand ‘Farmitocracy’* so deeply, terribly and desperately.

      Here was the Peasantry themselves elected to govern the Rightful Rulers of the Nation. And, of course, they did so, and conducted a World War, infinitely better than their former Masters.

      And clearly, threaten the Corporate-Farmitocracy a REAL Labour government still does!

      *Farmitocracy is derived from Farmocracy, but also relates to “harvesting” every resource possible to be exploited globally, most notably ‘Cheap Labour’.l

      Reply
  4. Alan Wilkinson

     /  25th July 2020

    I’m unclear why normal employment law does not suffice. Please advise.

    Reply
    • Kimbo

       /  25th July 2020

      Evidently when it suits her, Collins likes to virtue signal just as much as Labour and the Greens. Is bemusing as the National supporters crowing this week about the resignation of Ian Lees-Galloway as some sort of quid pro quo political damage-control distraction from the odious Andrew Falloon. So now National supporters, the party that supposedly champions personal liberty (yeah, ok, I’m exaggerating their pragmatic track record, but, hey, when it suits her, Collins especially will preach it)

      …is supportive of someone losing their job as a result of a sexual relationship…with a consenting fully-cognisant fellow adult?! Be careful what you wish for, because your job for equally pernicious arbitrary and capricious reasons may be next.

      Reply
      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  25th July 2020

        What has she said about the late lamentable workplace relations Minister?

        Reply
        • Kimbo

           /  25th July 2020

          Nothing. As above, I was referring to Collins’ readiness to sign up to Mallard’s scheme…and the short-sighted folly of some foolish National apologists to cling to the resignation of ILG as if it is some sort of electoral “get out of jail free” card after the collective Boag-Walker-Falloon debacles.

          Reply
        • Kimbo

           /  25th July 2020

          Like the sort of comments from National supporters in this post:

          https://www.kiwiblog.co.nz/2020/07/collins_indicates_national_will_sign_code_of_conduct.html

          As if reciting ancient political history like David Benson-Pope, Darren Hughes and the moral and legal failings of Trevor Mallard somehow counts as damage imitation in the week Andrew Falloon was catapulted from relative national obscurity to a walking headline.

          Reply

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