Ardern, Robertson in precarious positions

Labour Party president Nigel Haworth resigned yesterday over the mishandling of bullying and sexual assault allegations, but pressure continues to build on Jacinda Ardern and the spotlight is now also shining on Grant Robertson.

In his brief resignation statement Haworth didn’t take any responsibility for his mishandling of two serious issues (the summer camp assaults and the staffer allegations, and there was no apology either.

Ardern did apologise in her statement and in standup interviews. From Jacinda Ardern accepts Labour Party President resignation:

“In the last 48 hours I have read incredibly distressing reports of an alleged sexual assault involving members of the Labour Party,” Jacinda Ardern said.

“This morning I was provided some of the correspondence from complainants written to the party several months ago. It confirms that the allegations made were extremely serious, that the process caused complainants additional distress, and that ultimately, in my view, the party was never equipped to appropriately deal with the issue.

“I discussed the correspondence with the Labour Party President this morning. Whilst he stands by the statements he has made on this matter I believe 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.

But this must just be a beginning in properly dealing with this.

In question time in Parliament yesterday Paula Bennett had a short exchange with Ardern, which concluded with this question and answer:

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.

That seems to have been a setup that could be a problem for Ardern. Bennett seems to have used a common trap

Shortly after in a speech in General Debate Bennett said:

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.

Ardern doesn’t usually attend Parliament on Thursdays but may be advised to amend her answer, or claim she misinterpreted the question. Otherwise this is likely to come up next week in Parliament.

And Ardern has more questions to answer about what she knew, and when.

Newsroom: More answers needed as Labour president departs

This is far from the end of the matter, however. Using the protection of parliamentary privilege, Bennett named several senior members of Ardern’s office who she says knew about the nature of the allegations as far back as last Christmas.

We do not yet know whether that is true (a spokeswoman for Ardern said her office had no comment to make) but it is clear that the review of Labour’s processes will almost certainly uncover a few more skeletons.

Some potential findings – that some of Ardern’s staff did know but deliberately kept her out of the loop in the interests of plausible deniability, or that Ardern did know and has been economical with the truth – would almost certainly lead to more resignations.

Even if Ardern did not know that sexual assault claims had been made, some may question why she did not more forcefully ask her party to look back over its records, given the repeated claims made by complainants through the media.

And Bennett also named Grant Robertson as complicit.

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.

Robertson is not answering questions, claiming he needs to wait for the outcome of the QC inquiry that hasn’t begun yet. Burying difficult issues in an inquiry is a well worn political tactic, but I think in this case it could be more damaging rather than burying. Things will keep coming out. And they are today.

Andrea Vance (Stuff): Labour Party president Nigel Haworth has resigned – but it’s not over

Labour will be hoping party president Nigel Haworth’s exit will cauterise the wounds. It’s political management 101: feed the media a scalp and they will move on.

But it is not yet time to draw a line under the bullying, intimidation and assault allegations that currently shame the party. There are too many unanswered questions.

Ardern and the party must now be upfront about how much they knew about these allegations, and exactly when.

It’s important for a few reasons. Firstly, so that the public can be sure that senior figures did not shield this staffer.

His identity cannot be disclosed, but he held positions of influence within the party and then through his job, with the Labour Leader’s Office at Parliament.

There are other connections – which cannot be detailed for legal reasons – but mean he held more sway than an average volunteer or apparatchik.

It is one of the reasons why the complainants were so reluctant to come forward with their stories in the first place.

One of them told Stuff:  “Abuse only happens in a vacuum, it thrives in silence. And that’s the case here. For years he was able to bully and intimidate women and have relationships with women where he was abusive.

“That was reasonably well known and yet he was still given opportunities within the party. Despite his reputation, he kept on going up the ladder.”

The party needs to explain how that perception was allowed to take root among those young people.

We need to know precisely when senior ministers – including Grant Robertson and Jacinda Ardern (or their staff, because they are one in the same) were informed of the allegations. And what they did about it.

Did Ardern ever ask for a copy of Labour’s internal investigation, or the subsequent review? Why not?

Ardern says she didn’t know the allegations were sexual until this week. That’s hard to swallow.

An email sent to media outlets and others on July 12 very explicitly references allegations of extreme sexual violence. The first media reporting of the scandal, on August 5, details that some of the complaints were of sexual harassment and sexual assault. Is she saying that she wasn’t aware of these?

For the same reasons, it’s hard to accept that senior figures within the Labour party machinery had no inkling of concern about this man’s behaviour. The complainants say they flagged it with a number of senior figures going back as far as 2017 (one woman counted that she had raised concerns on eight separate occasions).

The branch that he was involved with is one of the party’s more influential, and its members certainly hold more access and sway with MPs and officials than others.

Was the party really blind to these allegations?

And then there is the shambolic internal investigation. Haworth has carried the can, but the decisions were not his alone.

The party’s ruling council decided the process. Why did they believe an internal inquiry, with no expert guidance, was appropriate?

Did the investigation panel ignore the more serious allegations of sexual assault, or not take them seriously?

Who decided the Labour staffer could bring his lawyer, when the complainants were denied legal representation?

And why were the complainants denied the right to see the final report? They have never had an explanation as to why their stories weren’t believed.

Ardern said on Wednesday: “It is my job to make that right.”

She and the party can start by being absolutely transparent with the public about these shocking events. Otherwise, abuse continues to thrive in silence.

Ardern has a big and urgent job to be seen to make this right. And I don’t think Robertson can keep hiding his involvement behind the next inquiry.

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34 Comments

  1. NOEL

     /  12th September 2019

    After the QC report is publish I suspect things will be clearer.
    Understandable that National would want their version implanted prior to publication.

    Interesting the difference in claims on Ardern. MSM ” unlikely” she did not know ” from Bridges versus “she’s a liar” on partisan National blogs.

    Reply
    • Trevors_elbow

       /  12th September 2019

      Her media friends know how bad this is and how woefully handled… but they still can’t bring themselves to tear strips off her approach and her competence.

      How Ms Ardern could not have known about this is staggering to contemplate and indicates incompetence or that she is a photo op figurehead with others steering the ship of goverment. I think it’s both!

      Reply
    • Corky

       /  12th September 2019

      I see Paula doing the rounds this morning. Funny thing, politics. No party likes being labelled ‘one term wonders’. But my bet is many in Labour will be dusting off their CV, in preparation for life after politics.

      Winston? Where is he? Looking out behind closed curtains? Let’s hope he and the prince of the provinces are also history soon.

      Reply
  2. Robertson and Noel ( and lots of other Labour supporters) urge us to wait till an unnamed QC releases a report, that the parameters are still being set!
    A very obvious tactic of deflection, that is really just a way of putting the day off when Labour have to explain just why this creep has such good armour.

    Reply
    • Duker

       /  12th September 2019

      Did you not get the memo about the Bridges investigations
      1) Long delay over who leaked the limo numbers – they knew it was JLR
      2) Long delay over nationals bullying culture in parliament:
      “Bridges personally ordered an inquiry into the culture of the National Party, claiming “a number of women have been affected here”. He spoke in real-world terms, promising to “make sure women feel absolutely safe in the workplace and they feel they can confidently come forward on all matters”.
      That wasnt an an attempt at a whitewash, it was swept under carpet and the carpet sent off to the cleaners and then disappeared in transit

      Reply
  3. NOEL

     /  12th September 2019

    Nah not deflection . Just prefer the report to the supposition and innuendo to date.

    Reply
    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  12th September 2019

      It doesn’t look much like this one, does it?:
      https://www.kiwiblog.co.nz/2019/09/the_full_labour_scandals_timeline.html

      Reply
      • Duker

         /  12th September 2019

        Does he not put enough references to Ardern in his timeline ? Maybe he could squeeze a few more in
        May 18 . Volunteer went on date with ‘leaders’ office employee ( ie one who works with Mps ) its not the same as ‘PMs office ”
        https://nz.linkedin.com/in/rsalmond
        “I lead the Labour Leader’s Office at New Zealand parliament, which assists all MPs in the Labour caucus to perform their Parliamentary duties.

        Reply
      • Gezza

         /  12th September 2019

        Where have you been, Sir Alan? On safari somewhere? Your hero has been sacking tosspots that he appointed again!

        https://yournz.org/2019/06/14/trump-preparing-for-re-election-campaign-launch/#comment-376690

        Trump sacks ’em all, like nobody’s ever been sacked. He’ll have to go. 😠

        Who else have they got? 😳

        Reply
        • Alan Wilkinson

           /  12th September 2019

          Bojo has out-sacked him big time this time. Although Bojo seems to be offering the sackees a grovel path back to redemption.

          I saw an interesting article today pointing out that Republican and Trump’s SCOTUS appointees vote as a block far less frequently than Democrat appointees.

          Anyway it is far more important what you do in a job than how long you stay in it.

          As for me, I’ve been building a big fence and gate for a friend in this crazy weather as well as being up to some other mischief. How is your health?

          Reply
          • Gezza

             /  12th September 2019

            I’ll send you a catch-up email. I owe Possum one too.

            I’ve been in the wars, medically, since my Triple A repair in May, & just had my second surgical adventure – lower jaw surgery last Thursday. Seeing Surgical Reg @ Kenepuru Hospital – just up the road, tomorrow pm.

            Procedures went well but Jeez, talk about bloody pain, after both ops! Been living on painkillers this week, especially.

            Well on the way to recovery now though.

            Ma’s still battling on indefatigable & giving me heaps, reciprocated with gusto.

            Reply
  4. Maggy Wassilieff

     /  12th September 2019

    Jacinda Ardern has proved to all of us that she is out of the Loop.

    If her key staff members and fellow MPs and Labour Hierarchy don’t give her vital information, then what damn use is she apart from being the figurehead of a corrupt organization.

    Reply
    • Duker

       /  12th September 2019

      key staff members ?
      The Leaders Office , despite the name is nothing to do with PM ( that would be the PMs office)
      leaders office works with MPs only and the money to run it comes from aggregated funding for MPs work in Parliament. Ministers have their own ‘Ministers Office and people’
      Bridges has his own ‘leaders office’ , but thats all he gets so he is very closely involved. The JLR saga was run by his ‘office head’ who act as intermediary to keep Bridges nose clean

      Reply
      • Kitty Catkin

         /  12th September 2019

        The MP is also the party leader, so she ought to have some idea of what’s going on there.

        Reply
      • Maggy Wassilieff

         /  12th September 2019

        The Leaders Office , despite the name is nothing to do with PM

        Last time I checked, The Leader of the NZ Labour Party was Jacinda Ardern, who incidentally is the PM of NZ.

        https://www.labour.org.nz/ourteam

        Reply
        • Kitty Catkin

           /  12th September 2019

          That’s odd, when I looked it up, it said the same thing.

          Reply
        • Duker

           /  12th September 2019

          That’s because you are confused with the Prime Minister’s office…which does serve the PM
          The Leaders office serves MPs …. So should be called labour MPs office.

          Do try to keep up….remember when we had to work out which ‘hat’ Key was wearing as he personally tried to wriggle out of a sticky situation. The best one was when he lost defamation against the tea tapes camera man and wanted to use tax payers funds to pay…but we was quickly reminded he was wearing his national party leaders hat not his PMs hat so wasn’t on official duties….. Thats when his hat swapping came back to bite him in the bum… hahaha

          Reply
          • Maggy Wassilieff

             /  12th September 2019

            Duker, I’m not confused at all.
            I worked in the Wellington Public Service for yonks.
            The focus of my post was that Our PM doesn’t know what is going on in her immediate sphere of influence.
            Most of us have known for weeks that sexual abuse had been alleged.

            No need to play distractor/deflector games here… The Standard caters for that type of trolling.

            Reply
            • Duker

               /  13th September 2019

              Yes you are . Just working ( decades ago?)in the Public Service with 10s of thousands in Wellington alone doesnt mean you know any thing of what occurs in the Beehive /Parliament “Conurbation”

              There is all these separate and overlapping organisations
              Prime Minister and Cabinet department ( Cabinet office)
              PMs office
              Leaders office – for Labour, National, Greens , NZ First etc as part of Parliamentary Services
              Ministerial Services which is part of DPMC

              The leaders office – which deals with a partys Mps outside of its top people would have little contact with a PM – who would be swamped more by Cabinet work and things of NZ wide and international importance

    • Gezza

       /  12th September 2019

      Is she “out of the loop”, or keeping herself at arm’s length while being briefed, but being protected by her theoretical distance from all this shit?

      My money’s on the latter.

      She ain’t all that bright, but she’s not stupid, & she can talk the arse off a donkey when facing hard questions, & just keep repeating (“reidderading”, as she calls it) what are supposed to be plausible denials.

      Every bit as much of a political animal as John Key, imo.

      But I don’t buy her “innocence”.

      Reply
      • Maggy Wassilieff

         /  12th September 2019

        She’s STOOPID…She’s trusted the men in her party to cover for her inadequacies.
        But you can’t cover up the fact that she hasn’t given a stuff that young folk were being bullied/abused/sexually abused until it started impinging on the caring Jacinda Brand.

        Reply
        • Kitty Catkin

           /  12th September 2019

          The kindness and wellbeing don’t seem to extend very far.

          It’s not doing her image overseas much good, I fear.

          She is all right with the wall of sound if she is prepared for the question, but if she isn’t she really flounders and flails around. Her defensiveness is not a good look.She seems to be lashing out at the questioners….and did I see her stamping out of a press conference ?

          I wonder how long it will be before another young woman with a child has the chance to be PM.

          Reply
        • Gezza

           /  12th September 2019

          That’s my point, Maggy. She’s smart enuf to kow that all she really has is a bag full of warm fuzzies & a bunch of other lacklustre accidental Miisters with no freakin idea of how to cost, implement, & report & monitor progress of their policies.

          She knows that she basically IS a brand. Still dressing & talking like an idealistic 6th former, with occasional exercises of authority when told she now has to do something & appear to bein charge.

          Protecting that brand I reckon she now understands is “absolutely” vital. Which is why she bullshits so much. Jesus, have you heard her defend “Kiwibuild”?

          Laughable.

          Reply
          • Maggy Wassilieff

             /  12th September 2019

            Oh, OK…my STOOPID is your NOT BRIGHT.
            Perhaps you are a kinder, nicer person than me.
            But she’s nearly 40 fgs, not 16!

            Reply
            • Gezza

               /  12th September 2019

              Perhaps you are a kinder, nicer person than me.

              I’m not entirely ruling that out, must admit. There are waterbirds, eels, waxeyes, blackbirds, tuis, sparrows, & a pair of starlings who seem to think I’m a nice chap.

              Ma, on the other hand, says I’m always criticising her. Which is true, but I don’t know how she arrives at that conclusion because she’s constantly talking over top of me & telling me I’m wrong about everything she usually never even hears what I’m saying.

              Plus, lately, I’ve been right & she’s been wrong more often not. She never says you were right. I think it’s a mother thing.

  5. Johnathon

     /  12th September 2019

    At a meeting in February, a very senior PMO staffer specifically said not to tell the PM, despite push-back from at least one other ministerial comms staffer who was certain the the PM would want to know.

    I’ve worked around the precinct for more than 15 years, and I didn’t recognise his name nor face. He doesn’t appear to work in PMO. He’s really only a big name in a small Wellington Central/Labour Youth arena.

    What I would also add tho, is that my perception is that there is a toxic office culture from some well-placed Labour staffers who are also Labour party members and activists towards other Labour employees and ministerial secondees, which is manifest in a number of ways, but shows up in a real paranoia regarding Party loyalty. Ironically, its these party activists/staffers who have ultimately caused the most damage to the PM and the Party. They were so focussed on political perception that they ignored what little parts of their soul flickered a trace of human decency. The Party is largely responsible for these idiots being in positions of authority, because these old-school remnants from the Clark-era were tasked with interviewing and appointing the huge number of new positions created when they won the election. Agendas were settled, favours were granted, jobs were offered to the chosen few. Honestly, the transition was an absolute disaster, both from the Party, and Parliamentary Services/Ministerial Services. A lot of the Govt’s issues come back to the appalling HR decisions over this period.

    Reply
    • Gezza

       /  12th September 2019

      Interesting observations. You seem to know your onions & apples, & this, if true, explains a great deal.

      Reply
  6. NOEL

     /  13th September 2019

    It’s identified in those department with high staff turnover.
    Hiring 23 year old graduates with no practical experience in the role is starting to show.

    Reply

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