Review into bullying and harassment at Parliament

The Speaker, Trevor Mallard, has announced an external review into the bullying and harassment of staff at Parliament.

Note that this doesn’t address behaviour between MPs in Parliament or via the media, and it doesn’t address bullying and harassment of MPs by media.


Independent review launched into bullying and harassment at Parliament

Speaker of the House, Rt Hon Trevor Mallard, announced today that an independent external review into bullying and harassment of staff within the Parliamentary workplace will take place.

“Bullying and harassment are not acceptable in any workplace. It’s important that people at Parliament feel respected, safe, and supported each day coming to work,” the Speaker said.

The review will begin in early December 2018 and is expected to take at least four months to complete. It will look to:

  • Establish whether bullying and harassment (including sexual harassment) has occurred and, if it has, the nature and extent of this towards staff employed or engaged since the 51st Parliament (since October 2014). This includes contract staff, who regularly work on precinct, and former staff who no longer work in the Parliamentary workplace.
  • Review how previous complaints have been handled; whether policies, procedures, and related controls are effective; how they compare to best practice and the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015; and whether there are any barriers to reporting or making complaints
  • Assess the culture of Parliament as a place to work and allow for consideration of other matters brought up in the review.

A draft report, with findings and recommendations, will be presented to the Speaker and the Chief Executive or General Manager of participating Parliamentary agencies. Following the delivery of the report, the agencies will consider how to action the report’s recommendations.

At an appropriate time, the report will be made public.

Who is leading the review?

Debbie Francis, an experienced consultant and independent external reviewer, will carry out the review. Debbie has previously led performance improvement reviews at Parliament, and elsewhere on behalf of the State Services Commission. Her recent work on bullying and harassment at the New Zealand Defence Force will be of particular value to this review.

The Speaker is sponsoring the review and will work with the agencies for which he is responsible to address the findings.

Participating in the review

The review will provide current and former Parliamentary staff with an opportunity to share any relevant experiences of bullying and harassment, including sexual harassment, within the Parliamentary workplace. The review covers people employed or engaged by the Parliamentary Service, Ministerial and Secretariat Services, and the Office of the Clerk since the 51st Parliament.

 

Law harassment survey

Most criminal lawyers have experienced or seen bullying or harassment in the profession, and the majority of offenders are judges.

RNZ:  Judges worst offenders in law harassment survey

Criminal Bar Association vice-president Elizabeth Hall, who instigated the survey, said the “staggering” results were “obviously of deep concern to both the association and the Law Society”.

Types of abuse include shouting, insults and threats, and nearly one in three had experienced unwelcome sexual attention.

In nearly 65 percent of cases, the person doing the harassing or bullying was a judge.

Fewer than 17 percent of respondents made an official complaint – mainly because they believed it would not make any difference and they were afraid of the repercussions.

Of those who did complain, just 6 percent felt this fixed the problem.

  • Of the 283 respondents (181 women, 102 men), about 60 percent had been in practice more than nine years
  • 88.1 percent had personally experienced or witnessed bullying or harassment in the last four years
  • Most commonly type of bullying:
    – mockery 69.2%
    -invalid criticism 60%
    – shouting 58%
    – bullying based on age/ experience 57%
    – personal insults 45%
    – unwelcome sexual attention 28.5%
    – threats 27.3%
  • Effect of the bullying/harassment: stress, loss of confidence, anxiety, fear, moved jobs

The law profession was not alone in having with problems with harassment or abuse, Ms Hall said.

“But what is unique to the sphere of criminal practice is this very entrenched hierarchical structure governed by people who have come up through this system in which you go down to court and have strips torn off you by the judge or opposing council, you patch yourself up and do it again the next day.

“That was the practice 20 or 30 years ago – but times have changed, people have moved on and that sort of thing is no longer acceptable.”

Satire versus bullying

I hadn’t heard of Terry Pratchett until I saw this quote at The Standard:

There could be some truth in that.

Another Pratchett quote on bullying (from Hogfather):

“A bully, thought Susan. A very small, weak, very dull bully, who doesn’t manage any real bullying because there’s hardly anyone smaller and weaker than him, so he just makes everyone’s lives just that little bit more difficult…”

He has a satirical record:  Terry Pratchett and the Art of Satire:

Under his hand, the entire concept of fantasy changed, and satire was put to better use than ever before; but just how did Pratchett combine both into such a phenomenally successful formula?

Pratchett also uses the medium of his Discworld novels to examine more serious issues concerning our society today: bribery and corruption are a major feature of his Discworld, especially amongst the ruling elite.

Human behaviour is examined in all of his novels – even his children’s books, such as The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents, where the society of intelligent rats are made the heroes rather that of the townspeople who are trying to kill them. Comparing the two- with the implication that is it the rat that are the truly educated ones rather than the humans- allows Pratchett to make intellectual points in both a funny and parodic way that might not be possible in another setting.

Here, satire is not only a comedic device but also a way in which to examine our society.

Through his juxtaposition of the modern and the fantastic we can laugh, not only at the society he creates but also, obliquely, at ourselves. In Pratchett’s hands, the art of satire is a way in which we can examine ourselves more clearly.

Satire is a useful way of examining and exposing those in power, politicians.

But it can also be misused as a means of attacking politicians – and political supporters.

From Oxford:

satire
The use of humour, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues.

bully
A person who habitually seeks to harm or intimidate those whom they perceive as vulnerable.

Politicians (and political supporters) sometimes deserve ridicule, and satire is a fair and reasonable means of doing that.

But politicians are also vulnerable to being coerced, intimidated or harmed by unfair and untrue attack and ridicule.

‘Satire’ is sometimes used as an excuse for dirty politics.

Workplace bullying

From patupaiarehe:


I posted this link last week Alan, and I’m going to do it again. It seems relevant, IMHO, seeing as how ‘confidential settlements’ are being discussed…

The people at the heart of this story are silenced. They have been paid off to keep quiet.

It is all part of the emerging New Zealand silent class. These people have won cases against employers, but as part of their settlement, they are gagged.

There is an emerging culture of paid off silence across the country. Journalists can’t detail the stories as few will risk whatever outcome they have worked to achieve, by going public with their own story.

For most, the settlement will be the only positive to emerge from the damage inflicted at their place of work.

They are required to shut up because the truth is damaging. They are shut down because employers do not want the public knowing the truth. Councils, universities, hospitals and others want to protect their image and will manipulate settlements in a bid to mask the true level of workplace turnover.

Today these silent New Zealanders walk our streets with knowledge and experience that can not, and will not be shared. Yet, the very experience they have if shared publicly, may offer solutions to the workplace violence which has been described as nearing epidemic proportions.

Psychopathic workplace intimidation, (I refuse to use the word ‘bullying’ as I feel it belittles the violent reality of what happens at work), is real. The damage is long lasting and for some staff it is the workplace equivalent of post traumatic stress disorder.

You don’t need a mortar shell to go off to bring you close to break down. A dedicated workplace psychopath can do it all, just more slowly and deliberately.

Many reading this column will know of the creep of fear that occurs at weekends when they have to face the Monday morning dread, still days away.

PWI is widespread across New Zealand working life.  It is planned, malicious, vicious and designed to belittle and disempower.  It is always a power game and one that is often disguised in language and conduct designed to mirror the appearance of successful management culture.

We welcome the popularity of intimidatory violent conduct into our homes and lives when Gordon Ramsey the chef who abuses staff for ratings is on TV. Other reality TV programmes from Survivor to My Kitchen Rules to The Bachelor include public put downs, conniving closed-door conduct, exclusion tactics, backstabbing and humiliation as a routine part of entertainment.

Popular culture has made its way to the workplace where identical tactics of humiliation and intimidation are seen as the new wave of management.

Alongside the emergence of workplace bullying has been the growth of a side industry; a lucrative business of independent consultants helping people making claims of work place intimidation and violence. These consultants are the New Zealand equivalent of ambulance chasing lawyers.

And that is not to say they don’t have a job to do. They do, but when money changes hands from employer to independent employment consultant, the relationship is business and it immediately stops being independent. Those who pay – say.

And those consulting companies that want future work advising employers on their work-place intimidation practises are unlikely to get future work if they are constantly found to be siding with employees taking employers to task.

The Labour Department needs to treat the issue seriously and become the arbiter of workplace issues where intimation and violence is used against staff. It is a workplace hazard and it needs the same independent governance and oversight as any other issue. The conflict of interest between paid employment consultant and employers must be removed.

That is edited a bit, the whole article is at Sunlive:  Opening up about workplace bullying

Harmful communications and Your NZ

From today people who believe they have experienced online abuse, harassment and cyberbullying van submit complaints to the appointed agency, Netsafe, to try to stop the attacks.

Your NZ may have to deal with this if complaints are received under the Harmful Digital Communications Act. I will do what I can to ensure comments posted here don’t breach the Act and moderation may be necessary to do this.

Now the Act has taken effect it is important to note:

What are harmful digital communications?

Harmful digital communications take a variety of forms such as private messages or content that others can see. It includes when someone uses the internet, email, apps, social media or mobile phones to:

  • send or publish threatening or offensive material and messages;
  • spread damaging or degrading rumours about you; and
  • publish online invasive or distressing photographs or videos of you.

What are the 10 communication principles?

The 10 principles work as a guide for how people should communicate online. Netsafe and the District Court will look at these when deciding if a digital communication breaches the Act.

The 10 principles say that a digital communication should not:

  1. disclose sensitive personal facts about a person;
  2. be threatening, intimidating, or menacing;
  3. be grossly offensive;
  4. be indecent or obscene;
  5. be used to harass a person;
  6. make a false allegation;
  7. breach confidences;
  8. incite or encourage anyone to send a deliberately harmful message;
  9. incite or encourage a person to commit suicide; and
  10. denigrate a person’s colour, race, ethnic or national origins, religion, gender, sexual orientation or disability.

I will moderate comments here that I believe risk breaching those principles. I don’t want that sort of behaviour here anyway, but if I don’t then it puts this site at risk of breaching the Act.

If you believe that anyone has posted comments here that breach any of these principles then contact me. You can do this either through comments or directly:

  • Email: YourNZContact@gmail.com
  • Phone: 027 327 3468

I will deal with it as soon as I can. I’m not always available so it may take a few hours but it will be as soon as possible.

If I decide a comment here breaches the Act I will edit or delete the comment. If I can’t deal with it properly immediately the comment may be deleted in the first instance and then later edited and reinstated.

The aim of Your NZ has always been to allow robust discussion but not to be nasty or abusive. The Act does not change this approach, but it provides different means of dealing with abuse.

Some abuse is obvious, but sometimes it can get tricky. One person’s ‘joke’ can be perceived by others as abusive or offensive.

We don’t have to be prudes but we should be decent humans in the way we interact here. Most of it should be common sense.

It shouldn’t change things much here as I done my best to maintain reasonable standards already, sometimes in very trying circumstances.

If this site was to be subject again to the sort of attacks experienced last year by a couple of malicious visitors using multiple identities then I won’t rule out making complaints to Netsafe myself.

For more details see Harmful Digital Communications or Netsafe’s website.


Your NZ has already experienced an attempt to gag the site and threats were made to imprison me prematurely under the ACT. A vexatious court order didn’t comply with the procedures specified in the Act, was nearly a year before this part of the Act came into effect (today), and relied on evidence planted in anonymous comments here. When this was pointed out to the Court it was immediately thrown out.The vexatious incompetents who attempted this are some of the worst online abusers I have seen, frequently breaching the principles of the Act.

Harmful Digital Communications

The Harmful Digital Communications Act has taken a long time to come into force, but from today anyone who is experiencing online abuse, harassment and cyberbullying can report to the appointed agency, Netsafe, who will “receive, assess and investigate complaints”. What they will do to help targets of abuse and how effective this will be is yet to be seen.

From Netsafe’s website:


Anyone who is experiencing online abuse, harassment and cyberbullying can get help from Netsafe thanks to the Harmful Digital Communications Act (the Act). Netsafe will receive, assess and investigate complaints related to harmful digital communications from 21 November, 2016.

UNDERSTANDING HARMFUL DIGITAL COMMUNICATIONS

The Act tackles some of the ways people use technology to hurt others. It aims to prevent and reduce the impact of cyber-bullying, harassment, revenge porn and other forms of abuse and intimidation.

The Act provides quick and affordable ways to get help for people receiving serious or repeated harmful digital communications. A digital communication is harmful if it makes someone seriously emotionally distressed, and if it is a serious breach of one or more of the 10 communication principles in the Act.

What are harmful digital communications?

Harmful digital communications take a variety of forms such as private messages or content that others can see. It includes when someone uses the internet, email, apps, social media or mobile phones to:

  • send or publish threatening or offensive material and messages;
  • spread damaging or degrading rumours about you; and
  • publish online invasive or distressing photographs or videos of you.

What are the 10 communication principles?

The 10 principles work as a guide for how people should communicate online. Netsafe and the District Court will look at these when deciding if a digital communication breaches the Act.

The 10 principles say that a digital communication should not:

  1. disclose sensitive personal facts about a person;
  2. be threatening, intimidating, or menacing;
  3. be grossly offensive;
  4. be indecent or obscene;
  5. be used to harass a person;
  6. make a false allegation;
  7. breach confidences;
  8. incite or encourage anyone to send a deliberately harmful message;
  9. incite or encourage a person to commit suicide; and
  10. denigrate a person’s colour, race, ethnic or national origins, religion, gender, sexual orientation or disability.

How to get help?

If you are concerned about the immediate safety of you or someone else, please call 111. If you or someone you know needs help with a harmful digital communication, contact Netsafe toll free on 0508 NETSAFE or complete a complaint form at netsafe.org.nz/report.

Netsafe can look into your complaint and tell you if there’s anything else you can do to stop the abuse and stay safe. We may also work with you and the person harassing you to get them to stop.

If Netsafe can’t resolve things, you can apply to the District Court for help – but you have to have tried to resolve things with Netsafe first.

How can the District Court help?

The court deals with cases of serious or repeated harmful digital communications that Netsafe hasn’t been able to resolve.

The court will look into whether the person harassing you has seriously breached, will seriously breach or has repeatedly breached one or more of the 10 communication principles. It will also consider how people responded to the advice Netsafe provided.

The court has the power to order people to stop their harmful digital communications and take action including:

  • Ordering material to be taken down;
  • Ordering someone to publish a correction, an apology or give you a right of reply;
  • Ordering online content hosts (like social media/telecommunication companies or blog owners) to release the identity of the person behind an anonymous communication; and
  • Order name suppression to protect your identity or the identity of anyone else involved in the dispute.

Anyone who ignores the District Court’s orders can be prosecuted and penalised. The penalty is up to six months in prison or a fine up to $5,000. Companies can be fined up to $20,000.

What if the situation is really serious?

The Act also includes a criminal offence to penalise the most serious perpetrators. It is illegal to send messages and post material online that deliberately cause somebody serious emotional distress.

Police will handle these most serious cases. They may prosecute a person or company if:

  • they intended the communication to cause harm;
  • it’s reasonable to expect that a person in your position would be harmed by it; and
  • you were harmed.

The court will consider a variety of factors including how widely the material spread and whether what was said was true or not. The penalties for this offence are a fine of up to $50,000 or up to two years’ jail for an individual, and up to $200,000 for a body corporate.


How this affects  Your NZ and you if you comment here: Harmful communications and Your NZ

 

Key “didn’t deliberately intend” to abuse power

It’s been established as un-denied fact that Prime Minister John Key pulled a cafe waitress’ hair on a number of occasions.

Key has apologised for it, and has said it was “very very silly”, but has denied he misused his power. He has said it was the opposite, he was trying to put people at ease in an informal setting.

From a Thursday report on 3 News – Key’s hair-pulling raises behaviour questions:

Mr Key has publicly apologised to waitress Amanda Bailey, 26, for persistently pulling her ponytail while visiting her Auckland cafe over the last six months.

The embarrassing apology was prompted by Ms Bailey’s contribution to the left-wing Daily Blog website yesterday, in which she accused the Prime Minister of harassing and bullying her.

At first she believed it was playful – Mr Key sometimes pretended it was his wife Bronagh who did it – but she then informed Mr Key’s security that one day she would snap and punch him in the face.

Mr Key mocked her when she raised it personally with him and it left her crying frustrated tears because she felt tormented and powerless, she said.

When quizzed by reporters at Los Angeles Airport, Mr Key said he had been joking around with the waitress.

“There’s always lots of horsing around and sort of practical jokes and that’s all there really was to it,” he said.

The media has had limited access to Key as he was travelling to Gallipoli. On Friday 3 News reported:

Mr Key admitted misreading the situation and says he understands why it’s causing concern.

“When these things play out later on they look a lot more serious, people take other readings from it and I understand that and I take responsibility for that,” he told reporters when he arrived in Turkey today for the Gallipoli centenary commemorations.

“I’m pretty casual and laid-back … playing along a little bit, and that’s very, very silly on my part… I should have read the situation more accurately. I’ll learn from the experience.”

So he has conceded he was at fault and it had been “very, very silly on my part”.

It doesn’t appear to be online but on 3 News last night Key explained further, in response to a question from Patrick Gower:

Gower: When you accepted you got it wrong, do you accept that you misused your power?

Key: No, because I didn’t deliberately intend to do that, it was the opposite. I intended to try and be in a much more informal sort of setting so that I put people at ease and we could have a bit of a laugh and have a bit of fun so it’s really opposite.

But I accept that that’s an interpretation that someone could get.

News reader: Key said in the cold light of day he accepts what he thought what was kidding around did not seem that funny later.

This may be played on The Nation this morning.

There have been many claims of abuse of power, sexual abuse, misogyny and bullying.These seem to be overstating the situation at best.

The effect of Key’s actions is in part of bullying but his explanation sounds reasonable, bullying wasn’t his intent, it was inadvertent. He was trying  to be an ordinary person goofing around.

But as Prime Minister he can never be seen totally as an ordinary person. Key will always have a non-ordinary status, no matter how hard he tried to be seen otherwise.

And he accepts that he went too far, and accepts that what he did could be seen as an abuse of power.

As has been said before one person’s buffoon can be another person’s arsehole, and a recidivist buffoon can become an arsehole.

Key appears to get this.

This has been embarrassing for Key, it has caused some people to see him differently and it may have an ongoing impact on him and his popularity.

It’s an easy avenue of ridicule and it’s certain be used as a persistent means of attack by some opponents.

But unless something else is revealed, or if court action succeeds (experts have said that’s unlikely), it shouldn’t do any further damage.

Another story has emerged out of this, how some left wing activists have played the story. That will be covered in the next post.

Shane Reti ‘bullying’ sets worrying precedent

Whangarei MP Shane Reti has been accused of bullying by a small activist group.But the manner on which this has been reported sets a worrying precedent, where an MP’s conversation is recorded and that is then used to stir up a storm with very debatable evidence obtained and used sneakily.

RNZ reports  Dusty road group claim bullying.

Whangarei dairy farmer Alex Wright said Whangarei National MP Shane Reti rang her last week and told her the Pipiwai advocacy group should keep quiet for the next two and a half weeks – or risk getting nothing.

In the call, which she recorded, Dr Reti said he had been working behind the scenes to help the group, but warned her that could be jeopardised if the group continued to agitate and send what he called threatening emails to MPs.

Ms Wright said she was taken aback by Dr Reti’s call, and felt bullied.

And there has been quite a reaction from mainstream and social media.

Stephanie Rogers at The Standard: Who said it? Shane Reti vs. Aaron Gilmore

Now, Shane Reti, elected in 2014 in the safe seat of Whangarei, has been accused of threatening a local lobby group to stay quiet while the Northland by-election hangs by a thread.

It’s appalling behaviour, but is it surprising? After all, can you pick which of the quotes below were said by Shane Reti, and which by Aaron Gilmore?

Who’s behaviour is appalling? RNZ also reported:

But Dr Reti said he was trying to help the group – not bully them.

Most of the responses at The Standard are predictably aghast at Reti’s behaviour. But Matthew Hooton commented:

Having listened to the recording in full, I don’t see anything wrong with what he said. It sounds totally polite and straightforward. I think the worse behaviour is taping a routine call from a local MP trying to help and releasing it.

And Alan Wilkinson said here yesterday:

And here is the Herald’s transcript report of what Reti said:

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11419458

The activist claims it was “subtle bullying”. To anyone else it was simple common sense telling an idiot that threatening MPs is a counter-productive way to get them to help you and support your cause. Then the idiot ran off squealing to the media.

This is what the Herald reported:

In the recording forwarded to the Herald, Dr Reti said he had got the issue to the Cabinet and had originally thought the announcement, which turned out to be about widening 10 bridges, might have been to announce their success, but it turned out not to be.

He then expressed concern about an email that all MPs had recently received about their case and said the threatening tone in the email would be guaranteed to put an end to his approach.

“If this next two and a half weeks is so critically important to have that tone, then go ahead and do it, no problem, and we will see what the consequence is.

“If another two and a half weeks doesn’t matter to you, then for goodness’ sake don’t do any more … weigh it up and see what you think.”

Dr Reti said he would approach ministers again to see if the issue was still on the table, whether it was still moving forward or had slipped off.

“Whatever strategy you think the best, you should and must do,” he told Alex Wright, “but I just want to give you a brief heads up for my piece of work in this.”

For this to become an accusation of bullying astounds me. And it sets a worrying precedent.

Political activists try all sorts of things to try and score hits against opponents. Dirt happens frequently.

But when the media buy into something like this and promote it then we should be very worried.

Dusty roads looks like deceitful dirty politics, aided and abetted by journalists who should know better – and should do much better.

If they willingly run stories like this then they can’t expect politicians to clean up their act, and our democracy suffers.

Press on online abuse and bullying

From the Christchurch Press Editorial: Stamping out online ugliness:

The internet has been responsible for many good things, as a Google executive has observed, but the dark and horrible practice of “trolling” – spreading abusive and offensive comments – and similar such activities is not one of them. In the past, nasty and ugly remarks made by people generally did not go much beyond those they were in close touch with. It was limited by the size of social circles and naturally limited from spreading further by the general reluctance of people in civilised company to pass on wounding stuff said about others.

Now, thanks to the internet, such stuff can go at practically the speed of light all over the world, and where formerly only a few would know of a hurtful comment, now thousands can learn of it in an instant. Once on the internet, it also tends to endure. Large outfits like Facebook and Google may remove it and links to it, but such efforts are rarely entirely successful. And not only is there no shortage of people prepared to create obnoxious stuff, there also seems to be no shortage of those who will slaver over it and even worse commend it, add to it and pass it on.

Those who engage in trolling may, of course, be deeply troubled themselves as was illustrated by a tragic example in England last week when a middle-aged woman was identified as one who had engaged with many others in a what has been called a “vile” campaign of abuse against Kate and Gerry McCann, the parents of the five-year-old who disappeared while on a family holiday in Portugal seven years ago. When asked why she did it, the woman said she felt “entitled” to. A few days later, however, she was found dead, an apparent suicide.

The creation and spreading of this kind of stuff is largely enabled because of the anonymity of the internet. Many people engage in it because they know they will never have to face their victims and are confident they will not have to answer for what they have done. Many of them may also not be aware of the full effects they will have on their victims. Putting it at its most charitable, these people may not realise that the words they heedlessly tap out in isolation at a keyboard can have far-reaching and shattering consequences.

Regulations and laws have been put in place to try to control the worst of this material and they have been effective up to a point. But laws and regulations, though they may deter some people, generally operate after the event, by which time damage may have been done.

The best deterrent may be to try to bring home to internet users the fact that obnoxious behaviour is obnoxious wherever it occurs. There needs to be the cultivation of a greater awareness, possibly starting with young people who seem most likely to engage in ungoverned behaviour, that if it is not acceptable to say or do something directly to others, it is just as unacceptable to do or say it online.

It’s up to participants on blogs and other social media to confront and speak up against abuse and bullying online.

Blogs are communities, albeit with anonymous input. The quality of any community requires good people to stand up against the worst of human behaviour.