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Toxic Parliament, British PM-exit

Opinion Piece

Different sorts of political turmoil dominated the media’s attention last week, with the threat of a rapist in New Zealand’s Parliament building and the embattled UK Prime Minister Theresa May finally forced to call it quits.

The five-month independent review conducted by Debbie Francis produced findings which would have amazed many and brought Parliament into disrepute.

Among other things she found inadequate health, safety and wellbeing practices, barriers to making complaints, inadequate pastoral care, unusual and complex employment relationships, and a lack of investment in leadership development.

Respondents to a confidential survey reported 50 cases of unwanted touching, 54 of unwanted sexual advances and 14 of sexual assault, alongside an already toxic workplace due to systemic bullying and other forms of harrassment.

Unfortunately the wider issues in the report were overshadowed by the Speaker of the House Trevor Mallard’s comments that a rapist was operating in Parliament. Mallard later clarified his remarks, but by then the harm had been done. His handling of the situation has drawn withering criticism.

Ultimately, though, Parliament has been shown up as a terrible environment for many staff, which is unacceptable in a country that purports to support the rule of law.

Fixing this mess is going to require a Herculean effort but it is something that must be done.

On the other side of the world Theresa May announced she would stand down on June 7, after three years of trying to deliver Britain’s exit from the European Union.

Poor May was placed in an impossible situation when her predecessor David Cameron promptly stood aside after the surprise Brexit vote result in 2016.

Her Conservative party remains deeply divided, to the extent that some wags say she had more knives in her back than Julius Caesar. Her resignation leaves the country staggering on towards an October 31 exit date with no idea still of what the situation will be after that.

Our first Wellbeing Budget on Thursday will struggle to match that sort of drama.