Speaker Trevor Mallard

Parliament’s Speaker, Trevor Mallard, is refusing to agree to some MPs being assigned staff because of their inability to manage them.

The MPs — who he would not name — are now receiving training in staff management.

Mallard made the revelation at a meeting of Parliament’s Government Administration Committee yesterday.

He was answering questions about a followup to the Francis report into bullying within the Parliamentary complex, but he said none of the MPs under training were the subjects of any sexual harassment complaints.

Members will be aware that there are some members in the buildings who currently do not have staff employed or have fewer staff than they would otherwise be entitled to,” he said.

“That is because, between myself and the general manager, we have agreed that those members need training and coaching in being a manager supervisor type person.

“Quite a few members have issues every now and again, but some members have many more issues than they should.

“We have been in working with the whips; it’s something that we have been addressing.

“There are no easy answers around this.

“It doesn’t seem to matter which party it is.

“It doesn’t seem to matter what your age is or your ethnicity, what your prior experience before you came in was or even your experience as a member.

“Our issues have come from right across the board.”

Mallard also revealed his concern over Parliamentary resources which are used to pay staff.

The May Budget provided for no increase in Parliamentary Service’s $374 million budget.

And in a new move, the Remuneration Authority will now set pay and allowances for MPs to apply over the next three years after the election.

 Mallard is worried that neither they nor the Government will approve the level of resourcing he believes MPs need.

It is my expectation that in the next triennium, members will be squeezed for resources again,” he said.

“And the real value, and especially the real value per constituent and the real value per expected workload will go down.

“And that, I think, is a pity.

“I think it will end up negative as far as democracy is concerned.

“And so I just want to place on record while there is some extra money there, there is nothing like what is needed to put us back to the sort of situation that we had.”

Not only will MPs find they have less money, but they are also likely to have less office space.

Mallard wants Parliament to move out of Bowen House because it needs earthquake strengthening work and because of what Committee member,  National MP Lawrence Yuile (who had access to non-public documents) called “onerous” lease conditions.

 In 2016 Parliament was paying $6 million to lease its offices there.

The MPs and staff currently there will be accommodated by squeezing them into Parliament’s ground floor and into un-used space in the adjacent Parliamentary Library Building.

Meantime Mallard wants to demolish the so-called Beehive Annexe which is on Bowen Street at the back of the Beehive and which until it was declared an earthquake risk after the 2018 Kaikoura earthquake houses the law drafting staff and the Press Gallery.

In its place, Mallard would build a three-storey building to house Ministers and small parties.

In 2016 then-Speaker, David Carter proposed a new $100 million office building to be built at the back of Parliament in place of a building occupied by the law drafting office and the Press Gallery which had been declared an earthquake risk.

NZ First objected and made it a condition of their coalition agreement that the building not go ahead.

Ironically their offices are in Bowen House, and if they return after the election, they and the Greens will be the parties most affected by the shift.

 

POLITIK The Beehive from Bowen Street. the annexe . Heritage NZ objects to the demolition of the rectangular building highlighted at the base of the Beehive.

However, there are problems getting work on the new building started.

Mallard told POLITIK last night that the Wellington City Council on the advice of Heritage New Zealand would not agree to the demolition of an existing two-storey building at the back of Parliament which is also an earthquake risk and which has housed the law drafting office and the Press Gallery.

Their objection meant the proposal would have to go through a full Resource Management Act  process which could see it take up to three years to be consented.

The immediate consequence of the move into the temporary accommodation will be that space will be tight.

“That will involve some tightening up for members that are involved and a lot more shared space for staff than is currently the case, both for government and opposition backbenchers,” he said.

“We’re going to use a smaller footprint or something.

“I was quite worried about it pre-Covid.

“I’m less worried about it now because I think one of the lessons that we’ve learned through this exercise is that a lot of the work in this building can actually be done from outside the building.”

Mallard is concerned about the heritage objections which will slow the project down.

He said to say it was part of the vital view shaft of the Beehive when until 1997 Broadcasting House obscured it, was “just bloody nonsense.”

“It’s one of the things that causes ridicule of the Wellington City Council and Heritage NZ,” he said.

As a consequence, he is talking to Environment Minister David Parker about having it included in the fast track RMA consenting process which is currently proposed in legislation before Parliament.

Mallard hopes to have the shift out of Bowen House completed over the coming year, but it may not be the end of the Warren and Mahoney designed 22 storey building as a Parliamentary building.

Mallard said the existing Select Committee rooms on its ground floor were actually part of the Treasury building so could continue to be used and it was possible that another Government department could move in once it had been earthquake strengthened and Parliament could sub-lease a lesser part of it.

With over 700 staff working for Parliamentary Services as secretaries, advisors, security guards, tour guides, librarians, messengers or in more lofty roles as Clerks and legal officers, Parliament is now a major Government department.

Add to that the MPs plus the outsiders who work in Parliament like catering staff and journalists and the endless stream of Parliamentary tours walking through the buildings and the scale of the whole operation is much greater than it might appear.

It is all run by the Speaker, so there is now much more to that job than simply presiding over Question Time.

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