Hide vs. Mallard

This week, Rodney Hide took a complaint to the Speaker about the scuffle between Labour minister Trevor Mallard and National MP Tau Henare, in which the former admitted assaulting the latter, as NZPA reported:

ACT leader Rodney Hide says he will go to the police if his privileges complaint over the stoush between Trevor Mallard and Tau Henare goes unheard.Mr Hide said last week he would lay a breach of privilege complaint with Speaker Margaret Wilson over the altercation which saw Mr Mallard punch Mr Henare.

Hide has posted his full letter to Wilson at his blog. In keeping with Hide’s new image of being nice to everyone, he bends over to compliment Mallard to begin with:

I feel sorry for Trevor. I have known him for over a decade. He is a boisterous, aggressive and, at times, nasty Member of Parliament. As the Prime Minister would say, “That’s Trevor!” But he has never to my knowledge been physically violent. His punch is definitely out of character and I can’t imagine what he was thinking at the time.

Ah well, so why take a complaint then? Hide goes on:

We can’t ignore the incident and by implication say punching someone in Parliament is okay as long as you apologise or whatever other excuse can be proffered. As the TV ads implore us – it’s never okay. It’s what you do now Madam Speaker that counts. It’s not just the signal it sends the country; it is also the signal it sends MPs. What happens now if an MP threatens to punch another MP? We would have to act against that – but we would look hypocritical if we did nothing when actual punches were thrown.

Hide continues in a similar vein, justifying why he was late in filing the complaint and urging the Speaker to take action. Frankly, I think Hide’s move is foolish. It’s one thing to change one’s image and be a “nice guy”, but quite another to become all sanctimonious about others’ conduct. Personally, I think Mallard should have been charged with assault, but I think the public mood is more divided. Mallard took the first opportunity to do a mea culpa and apologise for his actions, an attitude which New Zealanders will usually respect from someone who has made a mistake. Compare the arrogance shown by David Benson-Pope who continually refused to admit he was in the wrong, before finally being brought down.

In any case, jurisdiction over such matters does not rest with Hide. He was not the one assaulted, nor is he an MP in the Labour or National parties. Neither is he a Conduct Czar for all of Parliament. Perhaps it would help if I put it this way: will gunning for Mallard get ACT any more support? The answer is clearly no. Suggestion: the We’re Here to Help film on the ill-conduct of the IRD comes out this Thursday. Use this as a hook to talk about tax, tax, tax. An ACT issue – not a non-issue.

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