Earlier this year, Transparency International released its annual list of the countries with the least corrupt governments and agencies in the world.
It's been doing this for several years, and for the past eight, New Zealand has jockeyed for first place with Denmark and Finland. Last year we were second; this year we were first equal.
In January, we could be confident that our government and judiciary were the least corrupt in the world and that is rightly a source of pride. We might not be the most sophisticated country in the world. We might be a bit "take us as you find us", but by crikey, you know you can trust us.
With the events of the past week, I'm not entirely sure we'll hold first place next year. Bad enough that Speaker of the House Trevor Mallard falsely accuses a parliamentary staffer of rape, but while he was being sued for defamation by the aforementioned staffer, he was part of a very quiet rule change.
The change means that any MP, not just ministers, can now claim costs for damages and settlements in court cases. Ultimately that means any legal costs, damages and settlements will be footed by the taxpayer.
Previously, when ministers have carelessly shot from the hip, the money to pay for the damage their loose lips have caused has come from their own budgets. Remember the "teapot saga" when John Key met John Banks for afternoon tea, and their conversation was inadvertently recorded?
Key made several public statements about journalist Bradley Ambrose that resulted in a defamation suit being taken against Key. Ultimately it was settled privately; the money for Key's legal costs coming out of the leader's budget and the money for the settlement coming out of fundraising or private contributions.
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The rules at the time meant while a minister could apply to have legal costs paid for out of the party's budget, any settlements had to be paid for privately. Not so now. Any MP, any minister, any member of the Parliamentary Service can be reckless and careless in their accusations and the taxpayer will pay for their court costs – and the damages to the person they have wronged.
It's absurd. They can – and do – say whatever they like in the House. Surely they have the nous to be careful when making public statements.
There's several things about this that stink. One, that Mallard should have been involved in a scheme to extend protection from financial consequences across all of Parliament at a time when he was trying to save his own sorry skin in a defamation suit – a suit he must have known he would lose.
And two, that on the day the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the mosque shootings released its findings, the Speaker of the House used the distraction to issue an apology to the staffer involved, knowing full well that his apology would be buried under the huge number of stories on the inquiry and its recommendations.
He's not the first person to have done this and he won't be the last – of any party – but it's a cynical, shabby move. He'll be hoping the story will simply disappear over summer and that by the time the House sits in the new year, all will be forgiven and forgotten.
National and Act have declared the Speaker must resign and that his behaviour is such that he no longer has their confidence. A vote of no confidence will surely fail because of the enormous majority Labour enjoys in the House.
But Mallard's 36-year career has been tarnished. And he'll likely have a very tough ride over the next two and a half years – deservedly so.