Accusations of bullying for posting about Slater

The ‘Whale Oil’ book about the attacks on Matthew Blomfield by Cameron Slater and others over many years was all over the news yesterday – online, in newspapers, on TV and radio.

I posted bout it here, and also posted a comment about it at Kiwiblog.

David Garrett dumped on me in a number of comments, before eventually admitting:

PG: Thank you, I was unaware of all this…and for the record I wasn’t playing dumb; I had never heard of this Matt Blomfield before this morning (my participation in social media is strictly limited to this blog).

So he jumped on me without knowing anything about the topic, informed only by Kiwiblog. Good grief. This sort of attack the messenger stuff is common at Kiwiblog (and on blogs and social media generally).

Tony Stuart joined the messenger attack with this comment:

Pete – have you ever stopped to consider that your own long-running campaign against Slater is in itself a form of bullying?

Two wrongs don’t make a right.

My Slater/WO posts have sometimes been questioned here as well.

I have often considered what to post about Slater and how often to post about him. I don’t do them often, usually when there is something in the news or the courts related to him or Whale Oil.

I find it quite ironic that Tony has suggested I may be bullying Slater, by posting about something prominent in the news, about a book that details arguably the worse case of online bullying in New Zealand history.

So is it bullying to post and comment about bullying?

Perhaps it depends on what your definition of bullying is. It seems to be like the ‘hate speech’ argument doing the rounds. It is claimed that labelling something as hate speech is a way of trying to shut down free speech. If you hate the misuse of ‘hate speech is it hate speech to talk about it?

I not that Tony was only critical of me for talking about Slater’s bullying, His only comment on Slater was:

Am I defending Slater? No. He made his bed, and now has to lie in it.

He seems to want the covers pulled up over Slater’s bed.

This is despite the fact that Slater has attacked and bullied extensively over the past decade. He often bragged about being a bully.

Slater used to relentlessly post about targets of his bullying.

Whale Oil still repeatedly attacks and criticises politicians and journalists – they include attacks on journalists in their ‘dictionary’, and also groups of people like Muslims, lefties, media.

Is it bullying to post about bullies and bullying?

This isn’t the first time Tony has attacked me for posting about Slater at Kiwiblog. Is he bullying me? He certainly seems to be trying to get me to shut up about Slater.

Tony, Whale Oil continues to criticise and attack (some may call that bullying). While Slater no longer posts or comments under his own name his obvious and input is obvious.

He has bullied hundreds of people, many of them to a serious degree – Blomfield is probably the worst example, as detailed in the ‘Whale Oil’ book, but that’s debatable. Slater has deliberately tried to destroy political careers. I think he is a proven liar – the court ruling he had no defence in the Blomfield defamation case supports this.

There are unresolved issues. Slater appears to unremorseful and unrepentant, despite the damage he has done to people’s lives.

He filed for bankruptcy, but Whale Oil continues (it shifted sideways onto a new web address), presumably the Whale Oil revenue continues. Slater promoted the Whale Meat business as his enterprise – that has also been shifted sideways and continues to advertise in Whale Oil. These are ongoing issues.

Tony seems to think that mentioning things like this is bullying. Perhaps he should try telling that to Blomfield and his family. To Len Brown. To Bill English. To Simon Bridges. To Jacinda Ardern. To Golriz Ghahraman (actually Tony tells things to Ghaharam a bit but I presume he doesn’t see that as bullying).

Slater got away with a mass of massive bullying for years, in part because people like Tony supported him, and continue to support him indirectly by trying to shut down any criticism of Slater.

This is how bullies keep getting away with bullying. People aid and abet, they make excuses, they play diversion.

If Tony thinks it is bullying to point things like this out then so be it.

Francis Report – Bullying and Harasssment by the Public

From the Independent Review into Bullying and Harassment in Parliament:


BULLYING AND HARASSMENT BY THE PUBLIC

Threats and violence are not uncommon

According to the online survey results, 24% of respondents have experienced bullying or harassment from members of the public. This is most often the case for Members, Ministers, and the staff in their electorate or community offices.

It was common for Members to describe threats of physical violence – often via letter or social media – from constituents or members of the public, including death threats.

Six Members told me they had experienced some form of direct physical violence, during a protest in one case, in their electorate offices or at public meetings. Three of these incidents were described as having a racial element. All six reported good post incident support from parliamentary security staff and Police.

Members also showed me a variety of social media or written communications from members of the public which were threatening and abusive. Women MPs showed me sexist and racist threats that shocked me.

Although some of the threats I was shown had been escalated to the parliamentary security staff and Police, many of what were in my view very concerning communications had not. When I mentioned harmful digital communications offences, a typical response was: “I could report it, but we get so much of this stuff. I’d look weak. It’s par for the course.”

Almost all Members with whom I spoke were vigilant about their physical security. “I’m careful about constituents, especially the ones known to be mentally unwell,” said one. “I still represent them and want the best for them, but it can be frightening to deal with the obsessives.”

Most Members saw this “as a part of the job we just have to manage. We are here to serve people, after all.”

Several Members reported concerns about their staff and families’ exposure to fixated members of the public. “It’s often the same people and they’re pretty well known to authorities” said one, “but you’re always worrying if today’s the day they’ll go too far.”

There are parallels between these findings and those of a 2014 survey of Members in which 87% of the Members responding (with an overall response rate of 80%) reported harassment in one modality or another.17 This survey was the basis for consideration by Parliament’s leaders of a fixated threat assessment service.

Those that fixate on Members and other public figures have high rates of mental illness. This led to the initial development in 2006 of a Fixated Threat Assessment Centre (FTAC) in the United Kingdom based on communications to the Royal family and later expanded to Parliament. The service was then implemented using a similar model in Queensland and now all states in Australia either have or are in the process of developing such services.

In New Zealand the Fixated Threat Consultative Group was established as a pilot in 2017. This had Police and mental health professionals coming together to assess referrals coming from parliamentary security staff and then considering potential interventions. This pilot service had limited capacity for communications, education and training. A full service, which will comprise Police, a mental health nurse, and a forensic psychiatrist, is planned to start on 1 July 2019.

Many staff in electorate offices and in Members’ and Ministers’ Wellington offices had experienced calls from suicidal callers. One said: “it’s harrowing…I do my best, but you never really know if you did right by them.” One Member worried that: “It’s my EA who gets these awful calls. She’s only [age]. Where does she go for care and support when all this gets too much?”

It was not uncommon for Members and staff in electorate offices to be lower key about such matters than perhaps they should be. One staff member said, “There’s just no way to deal with abusive contact from the public. It happens every single day.”
In one electorate office I asked staff if they were on the receiving end of inappropriate behaviours from the public. One staff member said to me, after a pause for reflection: “a bit…do death threats count?”

Even though it was clear in this context that staff were aware of the avenues available for support, including going to Police, I formed the impression that some staff had developed an overly hightolerance for threats.

After the Christchurch mosque shootings, I received several submissions from electorate office staff around the country who felt unsafe, even though their offices had recently been strengthened in terms of physical security. Two said that with the (then) heightened threat level, they were seeing members of the public on an appointment-only basis and: “This feels safer… maybe we should always do this”.


Full report: Independent External Review into Bullying and Harassment in the New Zealand Parliamentary Workplace – Final Report

While MPs and parliament has set a bad example of behaviour for a long time this part of the report is a bad reflection on New Zealand society.

I think that forums like Your NZ have a responsibility to work towards better standards of behaviour.

“It has always happened” and “others do it” are not reasons or excuses for bad behaviour, they should be reasons for needing to work towards improving behaviour in political discussions.

Francis Report – bullying, harasssment and the media

From the Independent Review into Bullying and Harassment in Parliament:


BULLYING, HARASSMENT AND THE MEDIA

Members of the Press Gallery, while employees of media agencies, also work on precinct. Although Press Gallery staff are largely out of scope for this Review, the parliamentary agencies have health, safety and wellbeing obligations with regard to them.

It is also important that all those working in the parliamentary workplace comply with health and safety legislation as it relates to them in their interactions with others in the workplace.

A significant number of respondents – not all of them Members – commented on what they perceived as inappropriate behaviour by members of the Press Gallery or media more generally.

These respondents understood that onsite journalists, in the words of one: “…need to be really assertive, in their role working on behalf of the people of New Zealand to ensure an open democracy”.

But some felt that journalists in Parliament sometimes:
“Cross the line into disrespect in pursuit of clickbait. Their behaviour can further fuel the overall   environment of gossip and intrigue.”

One alleged, in a comment typical of several: “Gallery behaviour is unacceptable… they come in there perfectly nice people and then adopt this persona of the classic bully. You can watch it happen.”


Full report: Independent External Review into Bullying and Harassment in the New Zealand Parliamentary Workplace – Final Report

Political journalists do difficult but important jobs. They have a responsibility to inform the public of what happens in Parliament, and to hold politicians and the public service to account.

Most are also under pressure to keep their jobs, and to deliver news and views that attract viewers, readership, clicks and advertising.

They can potentially make or break political careers, and can influence elections.

They are also in positions of relative power, which can be abused.

They only get a brief mention in the Francis Report, but should take the criticisms seriously.

Independent Review reveals bullying and harassment in Parliament

The ‘Francis report’, the final report of the External Independent Review into Bullying and Harassment in Parliament, has been released. I think that it was well known that there were some serious problems with behaviour in Parliament. This report confirms it.

Reviewer Debbie Francis:

This Report traverses sensitive matters within one of the most complex and demanding workplaces in New Zealand. The story goes as much to the health of our democracy and New Zealanders’ pride in their Parliament as it does to matters of employment, health, safety and workplace culture.

My findings need to be addressed with care and the solutions recommended here are complex and wide-ranging. For these reasons I encourage readers to take the time to read the Report in its entirety.

The Story in a Nutshell

  • Bullying and harassment are systemic in the parliamentary workplace.
  • The story is complex, involving harmful behaviour by and between staff, managers, Members,
    media and the public.
  • There are unique features of the workplace that create risk factors for bullying and harassment,
    including:
    – A high-intensity culture
    – Lack of investment in leadership development
    – Unusual and complex employment arrangements
    – Largely operational, rather than strategic, workforce management
    – Health, safety and wellbeing policies and systems that are not yet mature
    – Barriers to making complaints; and
    – Inadequate pastoral care.
  • Unacceptable conduct is too often tolerated or normalised.
  • The identities of many accused are an open secret, and there are alleged serial offenders.
  • A core perceived problem is low accountability, particularly for Members, who face few sanctions
    for harmful behaviour.
  • The leadership roles and profiles of Members, Ministers and chief executives provide them
    opportunities to be important role models by:
    – Setting and modeling expectations for dignified and respectful conduct
    – Holding colleagues and staff to account for their conduct
    – Investing further in the development of leaders and managers
    – Reforming the employment model, professionalising the workforce and further investing in
    strategic human resource management
    – Establishing new independent bodies and processes for complaints and investigations; and
    – Extending the provision of pastoral care.
  • The changes needed to the culture of the parliamentary workplace are comprehensive and
    complex. They will require skilled implementation and must be sustained and monitored over a
    period of years.

Some complaints have been classified as ‘extremely serious’. Francis on about what complainants can do now:

This Report is based on the patterns and themes that emerged from these submissions, interviews and discussions. I am reporting here on the perceptions of participants, where I found consistent patterns in their responses.

As will become clear, I received many accusations of harmful behaviour made against individuals, staff, managers and Members, some of whom were regarded by complainants as serial offenders.

My role as reviewer was not to investigate any new or historic complaints – as per the Terms of Reference. However, any such new or historic complaints are not prevented from being progressed by complainants in the appropriate avenues open to them.

I have ensured that any respondents who indicated they wished to take steps outside the Review process regarding any such concerns were provided with information about the avenues for that, and the support available to them, in order to do so.

Full report: Independent External Review into Bullying and Harassment in the New Zealand Parliamentary Workplace – Final Report

Speaker Trevor Mallard:

The Speaker said today “This review was commissioned to establish if the parliamentary workplace is a place where harmful behaviour occurs, and in some cases is supported by the system. The report confirms this harmful behaviour occurs, and recommends changes that can be made to ensure the system does not enable or support this behaviour.”

“Together with the agencies and all political parties, I am committed to making changes to ensure the parliamentary workplace is free from harmful behaviour. We will now consider the report’s recommendations. The issues in the report will not be a quick fix and any solutions will need to have input from those affected and address the systemic issues.”

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern:

“The findings of this report are rightly being taken very seriously. Parliament, like any other workplace, should be free from bullying and harassment and we need to make improvements.

“In response to the report, I have asked to receive regular reports from the Department of Internal Affairs and Parliamentary Services on how offices are working generally as well as any exceptional reports where an issue needs to be raised with me promptly.

“I will also share this information with the Labour Party to ensure a joined-up approach in any action that may be taken as a result of these reports.

“While I acknowledge we work in an environment of long hours and pressure, excuses won’t be tolerated.

“At Cabinet and Caucus I have reiterated my expectation that we treat one another with dignity and respect”.

Parliament has set a very poor example of behaviour. It won’t be easy to change what has too often been an abusive and toxic environment.

 

Bullying in Parliament and Non Disclosure Agreements (gag orders)

As investigation is being carried out into staff bullying in Parliament there have been a number of stories giving examples of bullying. This has raised issues around the use of Non Disclosure Agreements (gag orders)

Alison Mau (Stuff): Gag orders don’t work, here’s why

Imagine something terrible happens at work – something that severely affects your mental health, something that might even drive you to quit your job – but you’re never allowed to speak of it again.

Stuff’s #MeTooNZ reporting team has heard a number of distressing stories like this in the past year. In one case that still haunts me, a young woman told us she was sexually assaulted by her boss, the head of the organisation, at a work function. She did what everyone says is “the right thing” – brought a complaint – and eventually signed a non-disclosure agreement that included a five figure penalty if she ever spoke out about her case.

She says she signed the agreement on the understanding that at least the internal investigation into her alleged assault would continue; perhaps things would change and others would be protected, she thought. But after she signed the NDA and left the organisation, the investigation was abruptly dropped. The woman would like to tell her story but she can’t afford the penalty if it were enforced.

Stuff has spoken to a number of people whose cases will be at the heart of Francis’ findings. Their stories are pretty grim; one woman talked about how she got a lawyer but couldn’t face a personal grievance case, had to resign to protect her family and her mental health, and cried in despair all the way home after she did.

Today, we’re hearing about one of the ways Parliamentary Services is ‘managing’ this distress – by locking people into silence under gag orders.

Non-Disclosure Agreements are a common way for both parties in a dispute to put the matter to bed, and move on. Or at least that’s the theory. But they’re increasingly being rumbled as overly “fair” to one side (can you guess which one?) and not very fair at all, to the less powerful individual.

Andrea Vance (Stuff): Ex-Parliament staffer accused of breaching NDA, Speaker Trevor Mallard says they shouldn’t exist

An ex-staffer was threatened with legal action after Parliament bosses suspected her of speaking out about bullying.

More than a dozen, unnamed former employees have spoken to Stuffabout a culture of bullying and harassment that affected their health and drove some out of jobs with Parliamentary Service and Office of the Clerk.

Speaker Trevor Mallard has confirmed some staff have signed non-disclosure agreements on leaving their roles at Parliament.

And he revealed one former, female employee was sent a warning letter because Parliamentary Service managers believe she broke a confidentiality agreement.

“It was in the case of an individual who was easily identifiable and knows well that she is breaching the law and that the Service responding with the background to the case would also break the law.”

However, Mallard is troubled by the use of the controversial ‘gagging’ agreements.

“It is my view that the non-disclosure agreements should not generally be used.

“The behaviours of the individuals, their managers and the Service generally should be open to scrutiny … and transparent because taxpayers funds are involved.”

Bad behaviour and bullying in Parliamentary Services should not generally be hidden.

One former Office of the Clerk worker felt she was “coerced” into signed a non-disclosure document after resigning.

She felt compelled to leave after experiencing a “very large workload”,  an “aggressive confrontation” and was left feeling “isolated and cornered. When I signed the NDA, I didn’t know what it was. I’d never heard of them and I’d never come across one before.”

Following Stuff‘s revelations, general manager Rafael Gonzalez-Montero sent an internal email to staff claiming former staff “may be breaking non-disclosure agreements” by speaking to journalists.

Late last year, Mallard launched an investigation of bullying behaviour at Parliament, headed by external consultant Debbie Francis, which is understood to be near completion.

He says staff who signed the NDA’s were not prevented from giving evidence to Francis. “It was made very clear at the beginning of the review that all staff who have worked in the Buildings since 2014 were welcome and in fact encouraged to talk to Debbie Francis.

“Their identities are completely confidential. Debbie Francis has confirmed to me that a number of individuals with those agreements have in fact made submissions and that their input has been valuable.”

What happens when Francis reports? Will details of claims where an NDA is involved be redacted or excluded?

Meanwhile, the stress of working in Parliament continues to

Thirty-seven staff have left Parliament since Christmas.

But the bullying claims have been met with silence from MPs, who rely on Service and Clerk staff to do their jobs.

While the investigation is under way they shouldn’t be commenting. I presume that some of the bullying is done by MPs.

Cultures of power and secrecy seem to be prevalent at Parliament, with Official Information Act requests for official information being increasingly difficult due to have actioned due to the efforts of both MPs and staff.

More claims of bullying by parliamentary staff

A week ago from stuff: Parliamentary staff allege rampant bullying at the Beehive

Parliament’s back office staff have claimed a culture of bullying and harassment has affected their health and driven some out of jobs they used to love. Andrea Vance investigates.

There are few things more stressful in life than restructuring and redundancy. But imagine learning your job is at risk from a Powerpoint presentation in a room full of 200 of your colleagues.

The employee was a senior manager. Her team knew of the restructuring proposal before she did, because that morning they’d all been asked to pick up a letter from a desk in their office, outlining the plans.

It took another week for the manager to receive her letter, finally confirming her job was on the line. When she spoke up about her treatment, she felt she was frozen out of decisions, her emails were ignored, she was blanked in person and whispered about behind her back.

Within a few weeks, the manager left her job, walking out the same day she resigned. She took a pay out and signed a confidentiality agreement.

She is one of 35 back-office staff who have left Parliament since Christmas.

Stuff has spoken to nine women about their experiences working at Parliamentary Service and the Office of the Clerk. They’ve spoken on the condition of anonymity, many worried about obtaining professional references and burning contacts in Wellington’s small public service bubble.

They have broken their silence amid an independent review into claims of bullying and harassment carried out by consultant Debbie Francis. A highly-placed source who has read the first draft said it was “shocking, but not surprising”. It is now with lawyers and will then be sent to political parties, who’ll have a week to respond.

Both the Office and the Service deny there is a culture of bullying and harassment and say many of the claims made to Stuff are “inaccurate and untrue”. Most of those interviewed also reported their concerns to Francis, but have expressed concern that no-one will be held to account.

Responding to the allegations, Gonzalez-Montero said: “No complaints of bullying have been received by the Parliamentary Service since I took up my new role in February. There is therefore no basis upon which to claim that I have brought a culture of bullying and harassment to the Service.

“All staff who were affected by the restructuring were informed, either verbally or in writing, before the Powerpoint presentation took place.”

Staff spoken to by Stuff described what they felt was a “100 per cent toxic” workplace, “petulant and unprofessional” behaviour from senior staff, and “gender intimidation.” Twelve men and 23 women have left, although women do make up 62 per cent of staff.

Today: Parliamentary staffer says she ‘cried all the way home’ after bullying

A further three ex-employees spoke to Stuff this week on the condition of anonymity.

One former Office of the Clerk staffer described how they reached “rock bottom” after working for the organisation.

Another described encountering “sexist” attitudes and said allegations of sexual harassment were not taken seriously, with a “lack of support” for overworked and stressed staff.

A woman working for the Office of the Clerk complained of being harassed while working overseas in 2017. “The staff member did not wish to pursue a complaint,” Clerk of the House of Representatives David Wilson said.

In a statement, Wilson and Gonzalez-Montero said: “Our door is always open to employees who feel they have any workplace concerns, including historical, about perceived bullying, harassment or any other inappropriate behaviour.”

However, they also said many of the allegations made to Stuff are “simply not true”.

If the ‘open door’ is to bully’s office it won’t resolve the problems.

Gonzalez-Montero sent an internal email to staff this week claiming former staff “may be breaking non-disclosure agreements” by speaking to journalists.

He refused to say how many staff have signed a gag order or whether he had issued warnings to those involved.

It sounds like there is a lot of sorting out to do.

Hauhama report to be released today

This looks like an awkward report being dumped right on the Christmas break.

Stuff: High-ranking cop Wally Haumaha belittled staff, report to say

The police watchdog has found deputy commissioner Wally Haumaha​ belittled and acted inappropriately to two women staff.

Stuff understands Haumaha faces criticism in the long-awaited Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) report due Thursday, which will find he acted improperly during a high-pressure Government project in 2016.

The report, expected to be released at midday, will be one of three to come from a series of allegations that have beleaguered Haumaha since his promotion to deputy commissioner in May.

It is understood aspects of the findings, which differ from those of a prior Government inquiry, are likely to be contested and challenged.

That may ensure the issue remains alive into next year.

The report does not determine workplace bullying occurred, but does find in two instances he behaved inappropriately and unprofessionally towards two staff who subsequently left the joint project at Police Headquarters.

What actually constitutes ‘bullying’ in a workplace is something that needs further discussion. ‘Inappropriately’ and ‘unprofessionally’ could also mean a wide variety of things.

During one meeting, he belittled and humiliated a staffer.

Two other instances of alleged bullying were found to be unsubstantiated.

Haumaha, after taking legal advice, asked fellow officers and others to support him – deemed improper – and shared inappropriate information about a complainant.

If this report is due to be released today why is stuff reporting on it already?

A State Services Commission review into the  handling of bullying allegations by the Ministry of Justice and Corrections is also expected to be released on Thursday.

There is also a Parliament review to look into bullying, harassment of staff

The Speaker has launched an external review of bullying and harassment of staff at Parliament dating back to October 2014.

Mr Mallard said the review will be carried out by an independent external reviewer, Debbie Francis, who has done similar work with organisations such as the Defence Force.

He said bullying and harassment were unacceptable in any workplace and the review was designed to work out what could be done to improve the parliamentary workplace.

And…

The National Party is already doing its own internal review of its culture, following allegations that former National MP Jami-Lee Ross acted inappropriately with staff and another MP.

A good thing to look at how to improve employer and MP behaviours


From the report:

Maggie Barry bullying accusations continue

An ex-employee of Maggie Barry is continuing his campaign against Barry.

I must admit I am struggling to not be turned off by all of this, but there are I guess some important issues being raised, like:

  • bullying by MPs
  • accusations of bullying being prosecuted by media
  • ex-staff going public
  • what actually constitutes workplace or MP office bullying

RNZ are giving all this quite an airing this morning with an interview of the ex-staffer who claims to have been bullied, but also a statement from another staffer who has quite a different experience.

Maggie Barry accused of bullying staff

Another MP has been accused of bullying, this time National’s Maggie Barry. she disputes the allegations. This further puts the spotlight on the pressures of being an MP, and whether some MPs abuse their power. There will always be an unavoidable power imbalance, but the important thing is that that is not abused.

NZ Herald: Former staff accuse National MP Maggie Barry of bullying

National MP Maggie Barry has been twice investigated over bullying claims this year – including accusations she expected staff to do political party work on taxpayer time, which would be unlawful.

The Weekend Herald can reveal two employees in Barry’s four-person office have accused her of bullying since May – one in a personal grievance complaint, and the other during the investigation of that complaint.

Barry concedes there were issues raised by former staff, but they were resolved “by mutual agreement” and “there was no finding that bullying or harassment had occurred”.

And she is backed up by a different former staff member who said she never saw any bullying behaviour from Barry, though she added that everyone has different ideas about what constitutes bullying.

I think that is an important point. One person could feel ‘bullied’ in a situation that another person sees as a normal type of employer/employee relationship.

Here different employees have different views on how things happened.

The Weekend Herald has obtained documents which show that during its investigations in August this year, Parliamentary Service heard allegations that Barry:

• swore and yelled at staff;
• called an employee “stupid”;
• used derogatory terms about other elected officials, which made staff uncomfortable;
• referred to people with mental health issues using offensive terms like “nutter”;
• discussed her employees’ sexuality in the workplace;
• expected staff would do work for the National Party during office hours, which they felt unable to refuse while knowing it was wrong, because they were scared.

One staffer told investigators he believed there was a huge power imbalance and that Barry was “terrifying” and could “destroy my career”.

When questioned by Parliamentary Service in August, Barry denied all of the allegations.

“In particular, she disputes the claims regarding her attitude and comments attributed regarding people with mental health issues,” the investigation notes from her interview read.

“[She says] she does not use profanities and doesn’t swear or behave inappropriately… MB absolutely refutes that she expects staff to complete party work during work time.”

However, the Weekend Herald has heard recordings which appear to show Barry swearing in a work context, and others where she appears to call a local board member “barking”, one a “waste of space”, and another “a duplicitous piece of shite”.

Again, some people may see ‘colourful language’ as acceptable, others may think otherwise.

It has also seen messages from Barry – who rarely used email but instead spoke into the voice-to-text function on her phone – appearing to request political work be completed during office hours.

Examples included writing her column “Maggie’s Messenger”, where she encouraged people to vote for Northcote MP Dan Bidois, and completing a “Super Blues” brochure for an over-60s National Party conference.

A former staffer who came forward to the Weekend Herald told Parliamentary Service that, during some weeks, up to half his work was party work. Parliamentary rules strictly stipulate party work is not part of support staff’s job.

According to her interview with investigators, Barry knew it was against the rules.

But in a different recording obtained by the Weekend Herald, Barry said the opposite to the staffer the day he was due to give evidence for his co-worker’s personal grievance case.

In it she said writing brochures on office time was “legitimate”, while acknowledging the investigators would not be impressed if they found out.

“It’s how the world goes around,” she said. “You know the lay of the land.”

I think that politicians have been bending this rule for a long time. I know it has happened, but I don’t know how common it has been.

When questioned by the Weekend Herald yesterday, Barry said Parliamentary Service had looked into allegations from former staff.

“The allegations were vigorously denied and disputed and were thoroughly investigated by Parliamentary Service. There was no finding that bullying or harassment had occurred.

“The issues have all been resolved professionally and by mutual agreement. I have wished the employees concerned well and so I am surprised to see they are being repeated in a partial, selective and incomplete way.”

She said she had “constructive and positive employee relationships”, and may refer the recordings of her to police.

Secret recordings of MPs (and staff as per Todd Barclay) seems to be a trend, and a worrying one.

At the time, leader Simon Bridges said he didn’t believe there was an environment of abuse and power within the party. Barry also spoke out, saying bullying behaviour had “no place” in National.

The former staffer who spoke to the Weekend Herald said hearing that had made him feel sick.

“When you’re the subject of bullying investigations it takes gall to claim that Jami-Lee Ross was a one-off, that there are no other bullies that the party is aware of,” he said.

But the staffer said the final straw for going public was when he saw his former job advertised and feeling “awful” that the next person would go through the same experiences he had.

“I just couldn’t take it. Parliamentary Service as an employer has an obligation to ensure its staff are safe. They can’t guarantee that if they recruit someone to work for Maggie,” he claimed.

He said Parliamentary Service clearly knew about Barry’s behaviour – his manager from the service had even warned him during his induction Barry could be a difficult boss.

When he later complained to the manager that he was having trouble, he says he was told to document any inappropriate behaviour – which is why he had the recordings.

Ok, maybe appropriate, especially if something serious was revealed.

The former staffer supportive of Barry, who did not want her name published, said that Barry could be “firm”, but had never seen anything resembling bullying from Barry – though she added that everyone had different definitions.

“On different days, people have different sensitivities, and people have different lines of what they can and can’t tolerate.”

She was surprised when the personal grievance case surfaced and the other former staffer stopped coming to work.

“It came as a huge shock to me that that particular person didn’t step into the office again. I was blindsided. I was told not to contact him by Parliamentary Service. I had no idea.”

She also said that new staff members sometimes mistook parliamentary work for party work, and it often took time to realise what material, for example, should and should not carry a National Party logo.

Clare Curran was exposed in Parliament this week when it was revealed one of her electorate staff gave material to Work & Income offices that had Labour logos on it.

One thing is obvious – MPs and their workplace practices are suddenly under a lot of scrutiny.

Rankin, Ardern, Peters respond to Parliament’s bullying and harassment review

The behaviour of MP versus MP is not included in the Review into bullying and harassment at Parliament, it is dealing with staff only, but it has raised the issue of poor behaviour from MPs.

The Speaker Trevor Mallard’s past behaviour in Parliament has been pointed out, including a conviction for fighting with another MP and attacks on a consultant. In 2007 Mallard pleads guilty to fighting, says sorry to consultant

Mallard pleaded not guilty to an assault charge, but today pleaded guilty to the lesser fighting charge and agreed to pay $500 to the Salvation Army’s Bridge drug and alcohol programme.

Shortly after the conclusion of the hearing, Mallard apologised in Parliament to Ms Leigh, who he had been accused of unfairly attacking under parliamentary privilege.

And yesterday, in response to Mallard launching the review – ‘He was a bully’: Christine Rankin accuses ‘crude’ Trevor Mallard of bullying

Former Work and Income NZ chief executive Christine Rankin says she was subjected to a campaign of bullying from senior ministers who wanted her out – and that Speaker Trevor Mallard was among them.

“I think anyone can look back on my situation 18 years ago and accept that it was the biggest bullying situation that has ever happened in this country that we know of,” she told Newshub.

She says she was taunted and comments were made about the way she looked. She claims she was even told that her earrings were a “sexual come-on”.

“Incidents have occurred over many years in these buildings which are unacceptable,” said Mr Mallard when announcing the inquiry earlier this week.

Ms Rankin says she was relentlessly bullied by senior Labour Party ministers after they took power in 1999, and that group included now-Speaker Mr Mallard.

“He was a bully,” she told Newshub. “They were all bullies and they revelled in it.”

She says ministers would whisper and laugh about her during meetings – with Mr Mallard using language that still makes her too uncomfortable to repeat.

“He was crude and rude and it was directed at me.”

Mallard has probably changed a lot since then, especially since he took on the responsibility of Speaker. His past behaviour shouldn’t stop him from addressing that sort of behaviour now. Tolerance of harassment has significantly diminished.

Parliament should set an example (a good example) to the population, and the review is a good to do this.

Hopefully MPs will learn something from it. Robust debate is an essential part of a healthy democracy, but in the past MP behaviour has gone far further than that with attacks on opponents capable of being seen as bullying and harassment.

Quite contrasting reactions from Jacinda Ardern and Winston Peters.

NZ Herald: Winston Peters has ‘no idea’ why bullying review into Parliament is taking place

Most MPs welcomed the review, including Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who said Parliament was not immune to such issues.

“It is high pressure. There’s long hours. There’s no excuse, though, for that to result in poor behaviour, so it’s worthwhile to undertake this exercise,” Ardern said.

But someone’s nose seems to be out of joint – or perhaps there are feelings of guilt.

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters has poured cold water on Parliament’s review of workplace bullying and harassment, saying he has “no idea” why it is taking place.

Peters said he had not been consulted, adding that being told in advance did not amount to consultation.

“I’ve got no idea why this is being requested by the Speaker at all. I have not been consulted on that matter, so I’m not prepared to make any comment at all.”

Asked if he supported the review, Peters said: “We’ll find out when the review happens.”

He joked that the media had subjected him to bullying.

“I’m going to tell the interviewer that the only person being seriously bullied around this place for a long time is one Winston Peters – by people like you.”

Given Peters’ use of the media to attack people that’s ironic.

And given Peters’ manner towards journalists trying to interview him the question of bullying could easily be put to him – but Peters has long used attack as a form of defence.

At least Mallard has recognised moves to address and reduce poor MP behaviour, seemingly having learned from his own mistakes and unsatisfactory behaviour in the past.

If anything Peters is getting worse now he is in one of the most powerful positions he has attained in Parliament. A sense that his longevity in Parliament gives him some sort of right to act as he pleases highlights how out of step his combative and cantankerous approach is in the modern world of politics and in society in general).