MP gets reprimand for sexual comment

By David Fisher

A Government MP has been reprimanded for lewd conduct just weeks after the resignation of National's Richard Worth.

Act MP David Garrett was spoken to by party leader Rodney Hide after making sexual comments to a female member of the party's Parliamentary office.

Hide said last night he had cause to speak to Garrett after learning the fledgling MP had made "off-colour" remarks. He said he hoped the incident would not lead to the end of Garrett's career as a member of Parliament.

Garrett is one of the drivers behind Act's "Three Strikes" policy - and this incident makes for his own second strike. Garrett also came under fire when he compared homosexuality to paedophilia on TVNZ's Eye to Eye show, after he had been drinking.

At his North Auckland home yesterday, Garrett refused to come to the door and a woman said he would not be making any comment. The MP also failed to return phone calls. The rap over the knuckles is a fresh blow for the National-led Government and follows the exit from Parliament of National minister Richard Worth, after one woman laid a complaint of a sexual nature with police, and another woman claimed he harassed her with text messages and phone calls.

The new allegations have earned the National-led government a warning that it risks becoming branded as a "government of sleaze".

Prime Minister John Key was briefed on the incident yesterday afternoon. A spokeswoman said he would be making no comment on an MP from another party.

The Herald on Sunday learned that Hide was approached by a staff member who expressed concerns about comments made by Garrett. The comments were to another staff member inside the party office, and about her elsewhere in the Parliamentary complex.

Those comments allegedly included one made when the MP saw the woman filling a drink bottle at a water cooler. The comment described an oral sex act.

Hide said he had not heard of that comment but confirmed that Garrett had made "off-colour remarks". He had not sought details of the incidents as it was not his role to act as "judge and jury".

Instead, he spoke to Garrett "about the need to maintain high standards at all times".

Hide said the matter could be escalated to the Parliamentary Service - which employs the staff member - if there was a formal complaint. He had met with the staff member to assure her any complaint she made would be handled properly.

Hide said Garrett was "a guy who has come from a rough, tough background".

"I explained to him we set high standards in our Parliament across all parties.

"It is a learning experience in becoming an MP. I said it is good he can learn quickly - because he has to."

Act president Michael Crozier said he had been unaware of the incident but expected a report to be made to the party's board when it next met in a few weeks. "David has a lot to learn. He really hasn't been in the Parliamentary side of politics before. You have to learn quick."

University of Otago political scientist Bryce Edwards said Hide could not be faulted for his handling of the incident. But he said the incident was a "blow" for Act and the National Government.

- Herald on Sunday

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