Paula Bennett speech on PM’s office involvement in assault claims

GENERAL DEBATE

Hon PAULA BENNETT (Deputy Leader—National): Thank you, Mr Speaker. I move, That the House take note of miscellaneous business.

The Prime Minister says she did not know there were sexual assault allegations against one of her staff members until Monday. I could go through the various media reports since 5 August and my own representation since being contacted by victims to show the inconsistencies in this, but they have already been well traversed in the last 24 hours.

Back in 2016, Jacinda Ardern wrote an op-ed about the scandal surrounding the Chiefs rugby team. She said that a resignation is not enough: “It’s the PR quick fix—usher the source of the controversy away. But that solves nothing. After all, apologies followed by silence changes nothing, and change is what we need.”

The resignation today of Nigel Haworth cannot be, in the Prime Minister’s words, “the PR quick fix—usher the source of the controversy away.” Yes, Mr Haworth needed to go, and it should have happened weeks ago, but what is also known is that the Prime Minister’s own senior staff and a senior Minister have known the seriousness of the allegations but have not acted.

The complainants were members of the Labour Party. They genuinely believed that the party would listen to their complaints and deal with the alleged offender appropriately, but nothing happened. It clearly has taken an incredible sense of frustration, disappointment, and disillusion for these people to come to me, a National Party MP, to try and see their complaints addressed.

These are serious allegations. The Prime Minister cannot keep her head in the sand and pretend like it is happening somewhere far, far away. It is happening in her own office, in her own organisation. She is the leader of the Labour Party. The alleged perpetrator works in her leader’s office—he works for her.

Less than a year ago, the Prime Minister was in New York at the UN, trumpeting “Me too should be we too.” Well, who knew that that meant her own office was following the path well trod by all those companies who drew a curtain over sexual misconduct and inappropriate behaviour.

I have been told by the complainants that Jacinda Ardern’s former chief of staff Mike Monroe knew about the allegations, her chief press secretary, Andrew Campbell, knew about the allegations, and the director of her leader’s office, Rob Salmond, knew about the allegations. I have been told by two victims who work in Parliament that they went to Rob Salmond around Christmas time and made a complaint about the alleged perpetrator.

The Prime Minister has constantly said her office did not receive complaints and, in fact, encouraged the victims to speak to their line managers. They did. They have told me they went to Rob Salmond and nothing was done, and we are expected to believe that none of these men in her own office told the Prime Minister about the allegations—all of this in the aftermath of the Labour summer camp scandal, when the Prime Minister made it very clear she expected to have been told. And are we really expected to believe that she didn’t know that her chief press secretary, Andrew Campbell, embarked on a witch-hunt to try and find out who in the Beehive was talking to the media about the allegations? The complainants certainly felt hunted and scared that he was trying to shut them up and stop them from talking to the media—classic bullying of victims, and hardly a victim-led response.

A victim has told me that the alleged perpetrator has deep alliances to Grant Robertson, that he was involved in his campaign for the Labour Party leadership, and that Grant Robertson has known the seriousness of these allegations. It is unbelievable that he hasn’t discussed this with his close friend and his leader.

This all smacks of a cover-up. This goes straight to the top: to the Prime Minister, to senior Cabinet Ministers, and—

SPEAKER: Order! The member’s time has expired.

https://www.parliament.nz/en/pb/hansard-debates/rhr/document/HansS_20190911_053250000/bennett-paula-mallard-trevor


Possible of note is in Question time just before this Bennett briefly questioned Ardern.

2. Hon PAULA BENNETT (Deputy Leader—National) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by all her statements?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN (Prime Minister): Yes.

Hon Paula Bennett: Does she agree with the statement made by Jacinda Ardern in 2016 about the Chiefs rugby scandal that a resignation is not enough: “It’s the PR quick fix—usher the source of the controversy away. But that solves nothing. … After all, apologies followed by silence changes nothing, and change is what we need.”?

SPEAKER: No. That question does not relate to a statement of the Prime Minister.

Hon Paula Bennett: Does she stand by her statement in the House yesterday that “we need to make sure that we have environments in all of our workplaces that meet the expectations of alleged victims, and that respond to those situations.”, and how does that correlate with a situation where the victims were barred from parts of the parliamentary complex?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Yes.

Hon Paula Bennett: Does she stand by her statement in the House yesterday that “we need to make sure that we have environments in all our workplaces that meet the expectations of alleged victims,”; and, if so, how does that correlate that senior male staffers in her office have known about these extremely serious allegations since at least the beginning of the year and none of these men have brought it to her attention?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Again, to answer the first part of the question, yes.

Hon Paula Bennett: Will she be revising her statement made to the UN less than a year ago that “#MeToo must become we too. We are all in this together.”, in light of her own office’s failure to deal with sexual assault allegations involving one of her staff members?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: No.

Hon Paula Bennett: Does she stand by her previous statements that victims should go to one of their line managers and that no senior people in her office had received a complaint?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: At the time that I made the statement, yes.

If Ardern “made the statement” after two complainants went to a line manger (Salmond) around Christmas time she could have a probem.

Leave a comment

26 Comments

  1. Duker

     /  11th September 2019

    Paula seem,s mixed up previous allegations and the later sexual assault complaint away from work
    Remember back in the day about the physical harassment of a cafe waitress
    “Muir said the reported incidents were particularly alarming because both the worker and Key’s wife had made it clear to him that it was inappropriate, yet he continued to harass the worker.”
    Multiple times ! Yet some at that time said it was ‘inadvertent’ …can you believe that
    Maybe I didnt catch when Key resigned over that.

    Reply
    • Kitty Catkin

       /  11th September 2019

      Anyone who’s been on the receiving end of sexual assault (or any assault) will know that having a ponytail tugged is hardly in that league.

      Multiple is a weasel word.

      The waitress made a little go a very long way, I think, for reasons of her own.Harassment is an absurdly emotive term to use over something so trivial.

      Reply
    • Gerrit

       /  11th September 2019

      oh look a squirrel, It is way, way, way and way past the time of deflection and side stepping. Either Arderns office is treating her like a mushroom (in the dark) or she is lying.

      Either way if her staff kept her in the dark, she is nothing but a puppet to be paraded as leader when the real leadership is with Robertson. Or she is totally in denial as to the depth of the hole she is in due to her lying about how much her staff told her.

      Reply
  2. Lou Graham

     /  11th September 2019

    Well reasoned argument from Ms Bennett, can see why there is talk of her being leader one day.
    Problems here for Prime minister Ardern. Best case, the incidents may not have been criminal, but instead “inappropriate behaviour”. But in these days of #metoo , just as bad having someone like that on staff. She had the chance to ditch him, as she could anyone in her office, but too late to do that now of course.
    Also, I suspect she’s on a “plausible deniability” classification. Where she has possibly instructed colleagues not to bother her with bad news, just make it go away….
    Worst case, is she is protecting someone of value to Labours internal family?

    Reply
    • Kitty Catkin

       /  11th September 2019

      Honesty compels me to admit that the accused should have a chance to defend himself and not be sacked on someone’s say-so. If he did these things, he deserves to be sacked or worse, of course.

      Jacinda Ardern will look either incompetent or dishonest. Stamping away from a press conference as she appears to do looks childish and unbecoming

      Why does 3 distort voices ? It makes them sound ridiculous and undignified. Scroll their words down the screen and./ or have someone read them, but don’t make them sound absurd.

      Reply
  3. Gezza

     /  11th September 2019

    Not a bad effort by Bennett there. Wonder who wrote the script?

    Not much of a fan of PB, but she has definitely been given more prominence in speaking for National’s caucus of late & I reckon she’s shown herself capable of stepping up to the mark as National’s Deputy Leader.

    She’s developed a touch of class & professionalism when called upon, even allowing for the Nats all following the standard Opposition tactic of criticising virtually everything the government does.

    Although she fell a bit flat at Question Time today when grilling Jacinda, she at least has managed to keep the “scandals” front & centre.

    She has been getting some good tv sound bites too, lately. I must see how Simon fared on Question 1.

    Reply
    • Trevors_elbow

       /  11th September 2019

      QT was just a set up to get JA on record before the set piece speech…

      Ms Ardern has got a serious problem and it’s getting worse. Even TV1 news lead with the Labour problem…

      Reply
    • Gezza

       /  11th September 2019

      Hopeless. Has no idea when to divert from his list & bore in for a grilling. Jacinda’s diverting all over the place but Simon just plods on to the next item.

      His suggesting she should have a suicide reduction target is just dumb, dumb, dumb – & he lets her swat it away with bollocks about how that would suggest Labour has a tolerance for suicide, & they want to see none.

      Bridges is still just an uninspiring plodder & a plonker.

      Jeez they make me wince. Her with her “reidderadings” & him with his “guvamint”. The pair of them grate on my ear drums. They must be the worst speakers in the House, surely? Other members don’t seem to be as lazy with their diction as those two. Ok, maybe Mark Mitchell.

      Reply
      • I agree re Bridges. Bennett has been handed something big by the complainants, and i think she’s been handling that fairly well, but I still don’t rate her as a suitable leader.

        Reply
  4. I’ve just added Bennet v Ardern in question time. It is possible that Bennett has tried to set Ardern up to make a claim that she then implied was false in her General Debate speech.

    Reply
    • Trevors_elbow

       /  11th September 2019

      Yip…. just posted on the same theme. National playing this on a long line

      Reply
  5. The lies are catching up with Ardern. Her very close friend Grant Robertson knew about the sexual assault allegations as did all the top Labour brass. Below Ardern avoids a fairly simple question as to whether or not Robertson told her of the sexual assault allegations. Surely if she only found out Monday from an article a resounding ‘no’ would have been an easy answer? The accused man worked closely with her in her office and is a good mate of Robertson’s who helped him run for the Labour leadership. This guy, from her office who she has hiring and firing power over no questions asked, was stood down five or so weeks ago and she didn’t bother to find out why? The news has had major coverage for over a month regarding sexual assault claims & she only realised sexual assault was alleged on Monday?

    One of Ardern’s issues is that she isn’t a very convincing liar. I actually think she isn’t a natural liar (& not a leader – basically a puppet for others in her party to tell what to do) but in order to protect herself, her position and her party she’s had to buy into it. She was lucky to get away with saying (I’ve always said lied) she wasn’t told of the sex camp allegations but it’s not going to work again – too many Labour people knew.

    Newshub: “Complainants also say Robertson, the Finance Minister, was told in person about the sexual assault allegations on 30 June at an event where the Prime Minister was also in attendance.
    Newshub revealed in August Robertson was aware of the investigation and some complaints.
    “I’m going to respect the privacy of the young people involved in this situation,” Robertson said on Wednesday, when asked if he was told.
    “I’m simply not going to go into it.”
    The Prime Minister was asked if Robertson ever raised sexual assault allegations with her. She responded saying the party “has maintained the same position”.
    Robertson said he’s “comfortable” with what he’s done throughout the process”.

    Reply
  6. Ardern asked at least 3 times if Robertson had told her previously about sexual assault claims & she avoids answering the question. I can’t see how the internal investigation is going to be affected if she says yes or no to a fairly simple question unless she means she would have to say ‘Yes, Grant did tell me’ thus turning the investigation on its head.

    First it wasn’t her problem it was something for that bloody ‘Labour Party’ to sort as if that was something she wasn’t leader of. Now it isn’t the Labour party she says is mainly to blame but the ‘process’ that left them ill-equipped to do the right thing though they were trying to do their very best for all involved. Damn that ‘process’!

    Reply
  7. Kitty Catkin

     /  11th September 2019

    She’s floundering .She is well out of her depth.

    Either she didn’t know about all this when every man and his brother did; which means that she’s out of touch and incompetent. Or she did know, which means the same thing. She just about got away with it over the camp, but it beggars belief that she had no idea this time.

    The suicide prevention sounds caring, but won’t do anything to change the situations of people who are so desperate that suicide seems the only way out, like those living in social isolation.

    Reply
  8. higherstandard

     /  11th September 2019

    Meanwhile at The Standard the hypocrisy from the usual apologists and Labour stalwarts is nauseating.

    Reply
    • It’s sad to see all the diversions, excuses, blaming the messenger, blaming the media, blaming National – it’s normal tribal politics but on this issue where young peeole are claiming serious offences it’s a very poor look.

      Reply
      • Duker

         /  11th September 2019

        Pete you can’t be serious . Look back at your words completely parroting the national party line about Keys repeated harrasment which was techical assault on the cafe waitress.
        Inadvertant….joking ….the PMs office couldn’t have diverted better…..oh those were it’s diversions

        Reply
        • Trevors_elbow

           /  11th September 2019

          Squirrel breeding a profession Duker or just a side line. Jeez you spin for Labour like few others

          Key was crucified. Apologised and owned it. And he is well off the scene..bad man gone Duker…

          Jacindarella is floundering and digging herself ever deeper.

          Labour is all about protecting the vulnerable I thought? But obviously not as these young kids have been used in a terrible way according to those young peoples testimonies. Or are you saying they are lying Duker?

          How do you sleep defending and deflecting this stuff?

          Reply
        • I think your assertion is straight our wrong. I have never done anything like parroting National Party lines on that or on any issue. And on this specific issue you’re wrong.

          While I don’t really want to be drawn into a diversion from Labour’s current debacle, this is what I said about the Key hair pulling:

          From what I’ve heard about John Key repeatedly pulling someone’s hair at a cafe it sounds like awful behaviour, for anyone.

          I think Key needs to address this significant lapse far more than that. He can’t just apologise and shrug it off.

          At least he can’t just shrug it off now without increasing the damage.

          While it might have seemed normal ‘horsing around’ and accepted behaviour to Key he must realise now it was very unacceptable.

          This is damaging for Key. He could limit the damage a bit but that won’t happen by doing nothing more about it, nor by trying to minimise or explain off what he’s done.

          It’s a piss poor look for him and that makes it a poor look for the country.

          I wouldn’t say it goes as far as being disgusting but it is somewhere along the lines of disgraceful.

          He should have known that it was poor behaviour in the first place, Once could maybe sort of be laughed off as horsing around, but after that it was crap.

          See https://yournz.org/2015/04/22/keys-hair-pulling/

          Please retract your accusation.

          Reply
          • Duker

             /  12th September 2019

            I got it from one of your other posts
            https://yournz.org/2015/04/26/key-didnt-deliberately-intend-to-abuse-power/
            ” but his explanation sounds reasonable, bullying wasn’t his intent, it was inadvertent. He was trying to be an ordinary person goofing around.”

            “As I’ve shown in Key “didn’t deliberately intend” to abuse power Key accepts that what he did was “very very silly”.
            https://yournz.org/2015/04/26/the-lefts-handling-of-keys-hair-pulling/

            The waitress said it was on multiple occasions , even his wife told him to stop.

            Even this amazing comment of yours over the ‘left wing coverage’
            “And amongst that there’s a bit of Dirty Politics Derangement Syndrome”

            Pleeeeese. You accepted nationals talking points at the time of ‘joking around’ and ‘inadvertent ‘
            Here is ‘the Key side of the story’ in Stuff
            https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/67949918/

            Here is Campbell Live footage of more ‘hair fondling’ , a pre teen girl/
            “The claims follow a Campbell Live segment last year where Key, as part of a wider political leaders story, was filmed touching the ponytail of a young girl at the Matakana market, north of Auckland:

            Are you sure that was all joking too ?( other than because that what Key says)

            Reply
            • That’s lame cherry picking.

              Do you understand there’s a big difference between a person annoying someone openly in public, incorrectly thinking it was a bit of fun, and someone using a position of power to lure someone to their home and then sexually assault them, as well as bullying and attempting to assault and assaulting and bemeaning 10-12 people he had a level of power over?

              Key’s behaviour was well addressed at the time, which was four years ago.

              The current issue is the now ex Labour Party staffer. You continue to fail to address that, which gives a perception of excusing or defence of or approval of the alleged behaviour. Ardern has accepted her party handled things poorly, but you keep avoiding that.

        • And you seem to be parroting diversions that have been prevalent at The Standard. By omission of criticism you’re in effect defending the appalling handling of the staffer issue by the Labour Party – Ardern has belatedly admitted “mistakes were made”…

          “Raising an allegation of sexual assault is an incredibly difficult thing to do; for additional distress to be caused through the way those allegations are handled is incredibly upsetting. On behalf of the Labour Party I apologise to the complainants for the way this matter has been dealt with.

          …to the extent that justified the resignation of her party president.

          Reply
        • And I note that while hair pulling of a waitress in public was bad, it was nowhere near as serious as the allegations against the Labour staffer of bulling, assault and serious sexual assault. And neither was it as serious as the summer camp incidents that ended up in court and resulted in guilty pleas.

          Reply
          • Duker

             /  12th September 2019

            There you go again ..it was harassment that was an assault. And it involved Key..with witnesses.
            Surely if the guy in parliament gets the chop , so should Key.
            As he was both the PM AND the person doing the misbehavior. or as you call it ‘joking around’ .
            Im just amazed you cry a river for the ‘poor labour volunteers’ but dismissed the waitress situation with that that strange canard – inadvertent
            While the labour volunteer experience is believable, her previous complaints about harassement/bullying havent been accepted.

            Reply

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