COMMENT

I don't know why the Rt Hon Trevor Mallard, Speaker of the House wants to look into the work culture for Parliamentary staff.

He has announced a review, by an independent external reviewer, to check out if there is any bullying and harassment within the Parliamentary workplace.

And if there is, how widespread. I can tell you the short answer to the review already "hell yes".

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Now tell us something we don't know. A former Prime Minister once told me "there are some huge egos in this place".

He was right. I saw many of them at work, up close and personal. Bullying, harassment and verbal abuse particularly, is modus operandi in Parliament.

Mr. Mallard wants proof. Understandable. That'll open the floodgates. If I was him I would be inclined to accept the bullying as a given and work on remedial action right now.

He's no fool, he would have seen and heard most of what the review's findings will expose.

Present and former Parliamentary staff can come forward with their stories of verbal abuse, harassment and the emotional stress they endured.

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I'll believe them because I've seen it happen. I've been on the receiving end of verbal abuse too and I wasn't even a Parliamentary staff member.

Just doing a job that required me to present some unsavoury facts to the government at the time. I'll never forget an MP I had always respected, who sat quietly not saying a word as I was verbally attacked by his colleague. I wouldn't be silenced.

The facts and figures were made public and blew the lid off the appalling domestic violence statistics that were increasing year after year in New Zealand.

In hindsight I can't say I blame that MP now. It's not easy to stand up and speak up against a bully. A few years later I did the same thing. Stood by and let a work colleague be harangued, verbally abused and made to look foolish in front of others. I regret that I lacked the courage to speak up. Now it would be a different story.

Ministers are the worst. Well they would be wouldn't they?

Everyone around them bows and scrapes. Because they're a minister there's the perception they're super clever and talented. Some are, most are not.

Parliamentary staff talk amongst themselves. They know the ministers they respect. Those who work hard and appreciate and value the work their staff undertake. Staff know the ones who never read their papers and reports and "wing it".

There are ministers who everyone wants to work for. The capable and committed ones.

Ministers who know they can only be successful in their job when they have trusted staff advising them. Treated with respect, staff will do their job professionally.

If I was the speaker I wouldn't wait for the review findings.

Ask Parliamentary Services to provide a trusted staff member, counsellor or therapist for staff to talk to now.

Counselling advice and support should be provided to MPs on all sides of the house too.

Working as a Parliamentary staffer is not your usual workplace. MPs can lose their tempers and become aggressive easily.

It is not necessarily wrong to get angry but it is wrong to take out anger on others. How many of them have had any training in "difficult conversations".

Conversations that need to happen earlier rather than later. Just thinking about behaviour can bring about change.

People get angry for a whole number of reasons: when they don't get what they want, are frustrated, get hurt and don't want to show it, feel hard done by, feel frightened or stupid, don't get their own way or they may be being abused and can't tell anyone.

Most staff know the winds of change are blowing through all workplaces. Staff are speaking up. They're being encouraged to.

They know there are "above the line and below the line behaviours". This should be a compulsory workshop for all Parliamentary staff with senior managers and MPs included.

MPs should attend the same sessions as everyone else. So everyone knows the behaviours expected of them.

Courtesy and respect are not difficult to give. But for the bully their first job is to learn how to respect themselves then how to respect others.