Former MP Peter Dunne has weighed in to the parliamentary rancour swirling around Speaker Trevor Mallard's rulings, accusing him of "compromising the presumed impartiality" of his role.
Dunne, who was a minister in Labour and National governments, said Labour member Mallard seemed "hell-bent" on changing the role of Speaker from its traditional independence from political bias.
Mallard declined to comment when approached by the Herald this morning.
Expressing his opinions in a political column, Dunne notes National has labelled Mallard a bully following the Speaker's ejection of Opposition Leader Simon Bridges from the House this week and the sanctions imposed on National MP Nick Smith.
"Mr Mallard revelled in being Parliament's resident bully boy when he was in Opposition. And he was good at it.
"But trying to reprise the role from the Speaker's chair to protect the Prime Minister and batter the Opposition is not acceptable. If he carries on this way, he will achieve the dubious honour of being remembered as the Speaker who brought Parliament into disrepute."
Smith was suspended from Parliament for 24 hours after Mallard "named" him following a dispute over the release of a report on testing drivers for drugs.
Mallard had ejected Smith for disorderly behaviour. The departing Smith shouted abuse at Mallard, prompting the Speaker to order him back in to face a naming motion.
Dunne said Mallard had overreacted, as he had over the "barnyard" noise Bridges was alleged to have made but had denied uttering.
Being "named", Dunne said, meant an MP was suspended, initially for 24 hours but in rising amounts if the offence was repeated, and deprived of salary and the House's resources.
"Put into perspective, Dr Smith's offence was akin to the serial parking offender who wrote an abusive letter to the local council being sent to jail for 10 years, completely over the top and out of all proportion to reality."
Dunne also criticised Mallard for what he said was seemingly having assumed the role of the protector of Jacinda Ardern.
"Faced with a new government and a totally inexperienced Prime Minister he seems to have taken on the role of her protector in the cut and thrust of Parliamentary debate, Question Time in particular.
"While his paternalistic approach towards the Prime Minister may be understandable in the circumstances, it is, at the same time, not only utterly patronising, but, worse, it is completely inappropriate and totally compromising of the presumed impartiality of the Speaker."
Dunne said there might be less discussion over Mallard's performance if there was a perception that his interventions were evenly spread between Government and Opposition.
Oppositions more so than the Government always felt the Speaker's treatment more acutely.
"And that puts an added pressure on the Speaker to be doubly sure that his treatment of the Opposition in the House is not just fair and reasonable, but is overtly seen to be so. That is where Mr Mallard is failing."
Mallard told the Herald he was busy with engagements today and he had not read the column.
"I'm not going to read it, so I can't respond to something I haven't read."