The deputy leader of New Zealand’s opposition party has called for an investigation after the parliament’s speaker suggested there was a rapist working at Parliament House.
After the release of a review of bullying and harassment in parliament, speaker Trevor Mallard said there were three allegations of “serious sexual assault” that amounted to rape.
Speaking to Radio NZ on Wednesday, Mallard said his impression from the report was that one person was involved in the three incidents and that it was likely they still worked in parliament.
“We’re talking about serious sexual assault. Well that, for me, that’s rape,” Mallard said. “Reading the report carefully I get the sense that the man is still on the premises.”
In response, National party deputy leader Paula Bennett called for Mallard to clarify his comments. She said if police were not called in it would give the appearance of “harbouring a criminal”.
“There are a whole lot of people in this building looking for answers.”
She said there was a “duty of care” by both the speaker and review author, Debbie Francis, to have police involved if there was a known perpetrator of a crime.
Bennett said she had told staff they would be looked after if they decided to come forward.
Winston Peters, the deputy prime minister, said the man was not believed to be an MP.
Mallard said police would be called in if the people who had been allegedly assaulted were prepared to have them involved.
The bullying and harassment review revealed 50 people reported unwanted touching and 54 people reported unwanted sexual advances, along with 14 reports of sexual assault – 11 made by current staff members.
When Bennett was asked whether she thought parliament was a safe place for women, she said: “Doesn’t feel like it today”.
There were 85 recommendations made by the review, including a parliamentary code of conduct signed by MPs, staff and the media.