Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has refused to comment on the nature of serious sexual assaults raised in a review of bullying and harassment at Parliament because she is unable to verify the details.

It comes after a parliamentary staff member was stood down from his job following the release of the Francis report and Speaker Trevor Mallard's public comments last week that suggested a rapist was at work at Parliament.

The man, who NZME has decided not to name to protect his family, has spoken out, telling NewstalkZB's political editor Barry Soper he had been at the centre of an eventually unsubstantiated complaint that arose from hugging a colleague.

Ardern was asked about the issue yesterday at her weekly post-Cabinet press conference, leading to a terse exchange between her and Soper.


Asked if she knew what the nature of the complaints that Mallard referred to as rape were, Ardern said they were anonymous, provided confidentially and should stay that way.

"No, I don't know detail around those complaints that were made within the [Francis] report," Ardern said.

She would not comment on a report that the most serious of the allegations against the man consisted of a high-five and a hug because she was unable to verify that.

"You've asked me to comment on the Francis report which had allegations within it, that I have not seen the detail of, that were provided confidentially and that were provided under that banner to ensure that those who were the victims felt able to come forward and speak openly to the inquirer so I simply cannot comment on what you're stating."

Asked whether Mallard should have referred to rape when he didn't have those details either, Ardern said she could not comment on the detail he was commenting on at the time.

"I assume it was the detail of the Francis report and I simply do not know what the Speaker knows or does not know about the Francis report."

Mallard told reporters last week he was not privy to any details of the complaints made to Debbie Francis for her review, and Francis herself was to pains to point out the confidentiality of the report.

Mallard would not comment on any matter yesterday.


Last week during an interview with RNZ, Mallard referred to the alleged assaults, saying: "We're talking about serious sexual assault. Well that, for me, that's rape."

The man at the centre of the allegations said a colleague at the centre of the unsubstantiated complaint against him three years earlier had come forward again after complainants were urged to do so by Mallard.

"At no time was I spoken to by the review's head Debbie Francis which I thought I would have been considering an alleged incident had been investigated and was found to be without merit," the man said.

The complaint, laid last year two years after the incident happened, was ruled to be unsubstantiated.

NewstalkZB has seen a copy of the investigation against him, which bore out everything he said found the claim against him was unsubstantiated.