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).

Craig still trying to rescue the Conservative Party

Colin Craig is still trying to resurrect what’s left of the Conservative Party. He has travelled to Christchurch to respond on CTV News (Canterbury Television) to an interview by the now resigned board member John Stringer.

Craig promoted this interview via Twitter and Facebook so he must think it does his cause some good.That’s very debatable.

The interview introduction:

On Monday you may remember we spoke to former Conservative Party Chair John Stringer. He made some extraordinary claims Colin Craig’s got more to hide.

Stringer: I think we can survive once Colin Craig’s removed.

After all the allegations there is more to come.

There’s more Christmases to come to, and at least we can rely on them happening.

Just remember, eleven of Colin’s governing officials have resigned because of his behaviour.

Colin Craig is untenable as a political leader.

In the meantime Craig is trying to ignore the allegations and promises of more revelations and continues to try to patch up the damage.

Interviewer: And Colin Craig is with us now to defend those allegations. Welcome to the program. Thanks for your time.  “Colin Craig is untenable in anything”. What’s your response to that?

Craig: Well Mr Stringer’s got his own opinion. Um. I don’t think that’s a very valid opinion. Ah it’s not for him to decide. Of course at the end of the day ah for the Conservative Party decided by the Board and the members.

CraigCTV

Interviewer: John Stringer said to me there are more king hits to come, there are more serious allegations to come. Do you have any idea of what he may be on about?

Craig: No not at all, and I think um that’s just game playing. He’s been very public and outspoken about his criticisms of me, I’m sure if he had anything else to say he could say it.

Stringer is not the only one to claim concerns about more details and other ex-board members have apparently been shown more. And he’s not the only one to threaten there will be more revelations.

Interviewer: There are many in the media circles and both on the the left and the right who are saying your political career is completely gone. What’s your response to that, because they’re right to a certain degree aren’t they?

Craig: Well I don’t think they are. It’s not for them to decide, and naturally I haven’t made it for me to decide either. Ah we’re going through a process where we’re consulting with members and supporters and they’re giving us feedback as to what they think.

Um, we’ve got hundreds, probably well over a thousand responses in already, um that’s giving us a flavour. Certainly the vast majority are supportive. How that works out is still to be decided.

There’s a notable change in his language here – “We’re going through the process”, “we’re consulting”, “giving us feedback”, “we’ve got hundreds…”.

Craig was reported to have sent out a “personal letter” to about 10,000 party members but he is obviously doing this with others and with access to the party member’s database. (NZ Herald Colin Craig asks for forgiveness)

CTV Interviewer: Well here’s the deal. The Conservative Party doesn’t effectively have a leader, it doesn’t really have a board, you are rudderless and leaderless, there ain’t no party Colin.

Craig: Well I think that’s an over-exaggeration. The reality is that ah…

Interviewer: Hang on, do you have a leader?

Craig: No well obviously not…

Interviewer: Do you have a board?

Craig: Ah no but we’re in the process of…

Interviewer: So that’s not an over-exaggeration…

Craig: …but we are in the process of electing one…

Craig resigned as leader and is no longer on the board, but still refers to “we are in the process”.

Craig: …and that’s our standard process in the Conservative Party, we’re a party that believes in referendum, we’re a party that believes in the right of people to decide, that’s the way we elect our board.

With no board in place they will have to elect a new board. But when a board is in place their constitution gives the board  considerable power over who can subsequently stand for the board – they control nominations – and the board selects the party leader, not the members.

Craig: Sure we’ve had to bring it forward by about two months, but the reality is it’s a process we’ve gone through before, it’s a process we go through again. It’s just not that big a drama.

It’s surely a major drama if the party leader resigns and the whole board resigns. And it’s not a process they have gone through before. When Craig first started the party he appointed an interim board that then appointed him as leader. They then presumably set up their constitution that gives the board substantial power.

Interviewer: I want to bring you back to the press conference you held a few weeks ago now. It was bizarre. Do you look back it now and think you could have done it better.

It looked bizarre, and I’ll tell you why, because you stood there, well you were sitting down, and you essentially said you were sort of sorry but we didn’t really know what you were sorry for, because you were saying there were those serious allegations but you had to say sorry because there was inappropriate behaviour.

So what I’m trying to get from you tonight is, the spectrum, and that line, where is that line and where did you cross it?

Craig: Well look I think that’s an obvious question that people want to ask. I am in a position where I can’t talk openly and freely about all the allegations that have been made.

Ah we have requested the ability to do that. Um and it would be great to be able to do that. But that’s what we’ve asked for but we haven’t got agreement from the other party to do that…

But he had a media conference about it, and he has continued to talk to media about it, allowing himself to defend himself but remaining legally constrained (according to him) about detailing what he’d actually done wrong.

…so until we have that ah we are a little bit hamstrung in terms of what we can actually respond to.

But he has continued getting whatever media coverage he can get and has written to all party members asking for forgiveness – with no details able to be given about what he did.

What we did respond to was the big, the mischievous allegations that were out there. Those had to be sorted out.

They are far from being sorted out.

“We” again. He responded by resigning as leader. He also admitted inappropriate behaviour – but also implied that his party secretary was also behaving inappropriately, which she couldn’t address due to the confidentiality agreement that Craig admits he broke.

The whole party board resigned over the following week, with some of them citing evidence of the inappropriate as a reason for that.

And then Craig wrote to party members vaguely admitting being imperfect and seeking forgiveness for ‘something’.

Interviewer: Well talking about mischievous, I guess you would say that John Stringer continues to make allegations but at the same time doesn’t. Have you spoken to him since the interview on CTV news, and if not why not?

Craig: No look I haven’t. Um I don’t have any ongoing correspondence with Mr Stringer at the moment. Ah my last correspondence with him was formal. It was simply saying look, you’ve made a lot of allegations, you need to retract those, they’re baseless. Um he hasn’t come back to me formally in any way on that.

That sounds like a letter from Craig’s lawyer. What baseless allegations? plenty of vague statements from both Craig and Stringer with scant specifics.

Interviewer: You’ve sent out a letter ah to current members.

Craig: And supporters.

Interviewer: Asking for forgiveness. Forgiveness from what though?

Craig: Well look um, I’m not claiming to be a perfect leader, and there are some things that people have raised, and some of those criticisms that people have raised along the way.  Some of the way, maybe my answers in interviews.

Has he forgotten about the inappropriate behaviour? Has no one raised that at all? Apart from the board that resigned, at least two members claiming that Craig had falsely claimed that no one had raised his behaviour before he resigned.

Um, there’s always this thing of can your leader in a political party be perfect. Um I wanted to make it very clear to the membership and to supporters, I’m not a hundred per cent perfect person, and I don’t want them to think I am.

I want to know that they’ll support me, ah in who I am, whether I make the odd mistake or not. No I’m new to politics. I only started this three and a half years ago.

Four years ago (since August 2011 publicly). He also stood for the Auckland mayoralty in 2010, five years ago. He has contested three major elections since 2010.

I haven’t always got it right, and I think it’s very transparent to go back to people and say “What do you think?”

Without them knowing key information that is pertinent to him in relation to the Conservative Party. There’s only one fact that’s publicly known, his party press secretary suddenly quit her job two days before the 2014 election saying that Craig was a manipulative man. And last month Craig admitted “inappropriate behaviour” with her.

But after having arranged legal confidentiality he’s acting as if his vague admissions and vague denials are now being transparent.

I’m not in this for myself, I’m in this to represent people. If they feel I can do that I’m happy to put my hand up.

He’s doing far more than putting his hand up. He appears to be doing all he can to continue with his political ambitions.

He’s not a messiah but he has been a naughty boy.

Interviewer: The trouble is, the brand Conservative Party is Colin Craig. Colin Craig and the Conservative Party many would argue is now tarnished because the Conservative Party builds it’s reputation on family values. The allegations are, what we do know so far, you know there’s a former press secretary, nice female blond, inappropriate behaviour.

It doesn’t set the best example for a party that relies on the family values brand though does it.

Craig: Look and I understand that concern and people are raising that ad they’re saying well look, this is something that, you know, that makes you untenable. And some people are thinking like that. Not the majority um but obviously it’s a concern and I recognise that.

He’s talking about a claimed majority of a claimed approximately a thousand members – out of a claimed membership of ten thousand. A majority of about 10% is not a majority.

And I think that’s the importance of going out to members and going well, I’m not saying I’ve been a hundred right or perfect at all times.  “Do you still support me or not?” And I think that’s a very transparent and honest process. It’s what I agreed that I would do with the previous board, um and when we get that feedback it will be up to the board to consider.

The only board member that he appears to have been dealing with at that stage was the Chairman. Stringer claimed that Craig wouldn’t meet with the available board members – in fact it was claimed that while Craig was having his media conference there were board members expecting him to be at a meeting with them at about the same time.

In the interests of transparency will Craig advise how much of the previous board agreed with him that he should do what he is now doing?

“When we get that feedback it will be up to the board to consider” – “we” again. Also in the interests of transparency will Craig advise what involvement he will have in seeking candidates for the new board and what influence he might have in who is allowed to stand for election?

Interviewer: Do you feel embarrassed at all about the fact that the majority of your board said ‘see you Colin Craig, we don’t want anything to do with you’?

Craig: Well I think you’ve got to remember that I had stood, no one resigned prior to me standing down. Once I stood down the board needed to take it forward. A number of those board members have talked to me about why they resigned. It’s more complicated than Mr Stringer would have you believe.

That became a very hostile and very open environment where you weren’t safe from, you know, disclosure of anything you might have written. That’s a hard environment to operate in.

He hasn’t taken any responsibility at all for the whole board resigning. He has implied that it was the fault of others after he stood down.

His degree of denial of responsibility is incredible.

Interviewer: In a way though you’ve lost one of your greatest and most outspoken and highly publicised members, Christine Rankin.

Craig: Mm.

Interviewer: Does that hurt you?

Craig: Well I think, it does matter to me, of course it matters to me, and ah there’s a discussion that I want to have with her at some stage about that.

“I gave my brand to Colin Craig … I feel very let down,” she told Radio NZ. She said there was no future for the party if Mr Craig remained on board.

She had lost confidence in Mr Craig “a while ago” and challenged him after hearing about his conduct three weeks ago (reported by NZH on June 23).

The interview then closed.

It appears to me that Craig may have sought this interview as a right of reply, and in any case he travelled to Christchurch to do it.

He advised twice by Twitter that he was doing the interview:

Colin in Christchurch. Meeting with members and supporters and for an interview at CTV. Thanks for the wonderful…

And also on Facebook including a photo of him at the interview.

Colin in Christchurch. Meeting with members and supporters and for an interview at CTV. Thanks for the wonderful support shown today. Christchurch has always been to good to us and we know it will continue to be in the future.

The following afternoon (yesterday) he tweeted a link to the interview.

Colin’s Interview on VTV .. Christchurch ..

So Craig seems to think this interview was good for him. How out of touch with reality or in denial can a person be?

Here’s the interview on Youtube:

Postscript: I had no idea who the interviewer was and didn’t think that was important through the interview, his questions and Craig’s responses were what mattered. It was a useful interview and is worth having on record, especially if Craig manages to revive his train wreck party.

Afterwards I checked out the CTV site and identified the interviewer:

Chris Lynch is the host of NewstalkZB’s morning show, currently rated number one in the Canterbury market. Chris also writes a column for the Christchurch Star and is anchor of CTV’s First at Five daily news programme.

Good one Chris.

Conservative accusations of Craig lying

A number of Conservative Party members, including two current or ex Board members have accused (or strongly implied) Colin Craig of lying.

In Holier than thou? (Stuff) Garth McVicar, who was a high profile candidate for the Conservatives in last year’s election, refers to a ‘forked tongue’:

McVicar unsuccessfully stood for the Conservatives in Napier and while it’s been rumoured that he’s the preferred new Conservative leader he has no desire to return to politics.

Politicians promise the earth over election time but over the next three years do bugger-all. That’s not my style. It’s incredibly disheartening… I was probably a dreamer thinking that I could do any better than the 120 politicians we’ve got.”

Craig’s behaviour hasn’t done anything to assuage his concerns. “You put yourself out there as a leader, so ultimately it’s hypocrisy when you’re found to be speaking with a forked tongue.”

Another high profile recruit was Christine Rankin, who became Party CEO before resigning recently.

She wanted to resign after the election. “We haven’t been allowed to talk about what the issues were during the election campaign…he blocked it every time we got near.”

She confronted him four weeks ago when she got solid evidence. “I heard Colin say ‘I’ve never been approached by board members.’

“He convinced me, he convinced everyone, he was like ‘no, I’m Christian, I wouldn’t do that.’ He’s very charming.”

Until the past couple of weeks Craig has denied being approached by the board over his behaviour related to Rachel MacGregor.

John Stringer, who claims to have formed a new Board (but Craig claims has been thrown out of the Party) would only go as far as calling Craig’s claims ‘untruths’ when he first went public on The Nation. Here is part of the transcript of the interview:

Okay. Because I’m just wanting now play you a clip of Colin Craig addressing that question about whether anyone on the board raised questions about the nature of the relationship. Let’s have a listen.

Paul Henry: Are there members on the board who feel that you have not been honest with them about any dealings that you’ve had with Rachel MacGregor or indeed there was an inappropriate relationship that you haven’t been honest with them about?

Colin Crag: No board member has ever raised that concern with me. I have not ever been accused of being dishonest.

That’s a clear statement denying it had been raised with him.

Lisa Owen: That was Friday morning. So what’s your response to that? Because he’s saying nobody brought it up.

John Stringer: That is completely untrue. Because the board has discussed this almost monthly perhaps for a year. Even before this matter came up we had concerns, and this has been discussed at length and comes up all the time. When we had the briefing of the regional chairman, the very first question that was asked of Colin by the regional chairman was this matter. So Colin cannot say this has not been raised.

So Colin Craig’s lying, that’s what you’re saying.

What he’s just said is untrue.

Well, that’s a lie, isn’t it? This is a man who’s campaigned on high moral standards and bringing different kind of politics. Are you telling me that he’s telling untruths?

Well, it’s certainly not the experience that I’ve had around the board table, and it’s been discussed many times when I’ve been there, and I’ve discussed it myself with Colin. So I don’t know what he means.

Now Stringer is more forthright.

“The lies, the deceit, the false information,” Stringer said. “The guy’s lying through his teeth and it’s just shocking.”

That seems to be backed up by Rankin and McVicar.

It certainly looks like Craig has not been truthful with some aspects of this issue. This must put into doubt any of his claims that aren’t backed by evidence or independent corroboration.

Conservatives cranky about Craig leadership

3 News has just reported that Conservative leader Colin Craig could be rolled at a special board meeting tomorrow.

‘A source’ says they have the numbers to replace Craig.

They said there was dissatisfaction with Craig over their election campaign, over their party secretary quitting two days before the election and an election result that was sort of creditable but not close to being successful.

And some of them were very cranky about Craig’s appearance on ‘Newsworthy’ last week : Sauna Session with Colin Craig.

The Sauna Sessions is a weekly feature here at Newsworthy. The idea is very simple: Conduct an interview with a person of interest in a very hot sauna.

That person could be a politician or a musician; a comedian or a writer. David Farrier will ask the questions that will make them sweat.

For the very first Sauna Session David was joined by Conservative Party leader Colin Craig.

Colin talked about his disappointment in the last election and his worries over the debate about New Zealand’s flag.

Colin managed to hold it together, while David described the whole thing as “truly disgusting”.

It probably wasn’t the best look for a Conservative Party leader.

CraigSauna

“In 2012, during the Government sitting of New Zealand’s Gay Marriage Bill, Farrier came out as bisexual” – I’ve got no problem with that but some of the party members may not have have been thrilled to see their leader having a shower with farrier.

CraigShower

Patrick Gower said he has spoken to Craig who said he will give the challenge his best shot. And he also gave a party shot over the bows of the party, saying that some of his donated money may have just been a loan and may need to be repaid.

Who will challenge him? Christine Rankin was second on their party list last election, with Garth McVicar of the Sensible Sentencing Trust at three.

Maybe the Conservative Party wlil benefit from a good shake-up, as long as they don’t fly to bits – or get dumped into a financially untenable situation.

UPDATE: Farrier didn’t exactly cover himself with glory either, during that interview and since on Twitter:

to all those that said THE SAUNA SESSIONS were not a force of change – na na na na nah

Newstalk ZB: Conservative leader ‘doesn’t regret’ TV interview

Conservative Party leader Colin Craig says he doesn’t regret an interview that may have put his leadership at risk.

The party’s board is expected to meet tomorrow night to discuss Mr Craig’s leadership, after a TV3 interview he did in a sauna sparked outrage within the party.

Mr Craig says he hasn’t been told about the meeting.

Maybe Craig will regret doing the interview after tomorrow. Or maybe it was a coup waiting to happen anyway.