Mallard’s Parliament rape claim under scrutiny as man responds

The Speaker Trevor Mallard has admitted that he didn’t handle the furore he created in Parliament well, when he stated that accusations of sexual attacks in the Francis report amounted to rape, and that the accused person was still working in Parliament. The next day a Parliamentary staffer was stood down. he is now speaking up.

NZ Herald:  ‘I’m in a very dark place’: Man stood down from Parliament after Speaker Trevor Mallard’s rape claims

The man stood down from Parliament after Speaker Trevor Mallard’s claims about rape has spoken out.

Referring last week to the alleged assaults, Mallard said: “We’re talking about serious sexual assault. Well that, for me, that’s rape.”

In a two-hour sit-down discussion in his home, the devastated man said: “The accusation of rape has put me in a very dark place.

“I was driving to Parliament the day after the bullying and harassment report on the place was delivered and heard on the radio that a ‘rapist’ could be stalking the corridors and it disturbed me greatly,” he said.

However early that afternoon he realised he was the so-called “rapist” when he was summoned into the office of the Parliamentary Service boss Rafael Gonzalez-Montero to be stood down.

A colleague at the centre of an unsubstantiated complaint against him three years earlier had come forward again after complainants were urged to do so by the Speaker.

“It’s ironic that the review was about bullying and harassment. I feel I’ve been bullied out of Parliament and harassed within it, particularly by the Speaker’s claim,” the teary-eyed man said.

The complaint was ruled to be unsubstantiated last year, laid two years after the incident happened.

The man said it resulted from working alongside a colleague at Parliament when a clipboard was lost.

“We searched for the clipboard which was important and with great relief we finally found it. She gave me a high five but being a little old-fashioned I hugged her back, that was honestly all there was to it,” the man said.

Hugging isn’t old-fashioned. It has become a thing over recent years – in my opinion too much of a thing to do, especially with people you don’t know well.

I think that it is generally inappropriate and unprofesssional to hug colleagues at work. And risky.

Hugging someone because something is found seems quite odd to me, but it doesn’t sound anywhere near rape or even sexual assault as explained by the man here (perceptions can be different).

The Speaker understood the same man was responsible for the two other claims of serious sexual assault. He later added one of the key dangers is no longer in the building.

The man said he’s dumbfounded but the same woman was involved in one of the other complaints. He said he passed a comment about another woman’s hair looking nice, with the original complainant telling her he was looking at her breasts.

The third complaint came following a platonic friendship he had with another colleague, who on one occasion came around to his house with her son for a cup of tea with his wife. He says he kissed her on the cheek once as he was farewelling her and he suspects she was put up to the complaint by someone else.

Again, kissing a colleague on the cheek seems inappropriate. It’s important to remember that this is as he describes it, and the woman may have a different recollection or perception.

Saying he suspects she was put up to the complaint by someone else seems quite odd.

 

The distraught man said: “I never thought I would ever find myself in this situation, it’s not who I am, I’m thoroughly devastated. I would like to be able to return to work to clear my name and I expect, at the very least an apology from the Speaker for labelling me as a rapist which I most certainly am not.

“Surely he must have known the background to the complaints and if he did, his comment is slanderous as I’m sure many in Parliament now know I’m the one who has been stood down. I have been married for many years and have throughout been monogamous.”

The rapist claim by Mallard did seem a big leap at the time based on what was disclosed in the report.

But trying to resolve things like this via media is a poor way to sort them out. the man may be mostly innocent, but unfortunately his word cannot just be accepted as the full facts of the matter.

More from NZH:  ‘Bullied out’: Man stood down from Parliament after Speaker Trevor Mallard’s rape claims wants apology

The man stood down from Parliament after Trevor Mallard’s claims about rape says he feels bullied out of the building and wants an apology for what he described as the Speaker’s “slanderous” comments.

Mallard declined to comment yesterday, and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern entered into a terse exchange over the interview at Monday afternoon’s post-Cabinet press conference.

Ardern refused to comment on the nature of the allegations in the Francis report.

All information given to the Francis report was anonymous, she said.

“You’ve asked me to comment on the Francis report which had allegations within it that I have not seen the detail of, that were provided confidentially and that were provided under that banner to ensure that those who were the victims felt able to come forward and speak openly to the inquirer, so I simply cannot comment on what you’re stating.”

Ardern also said she did not know what information Mallard may or may not have in relation to the allegations.

This has become a very messy situation for Parliament and for Mallard.

Regardless of the facts of this matter, I think that the practice of hugging has goner far too far, especially in work situations. Hugging is a close and personal thing, and I think should be reserved for people you are close to in a personal way – and even then you have to be aware that not everyone likes to hug.

Mallard sparks chaos and consternation, alleged Parliament predator stood down

Yesterday morning the Speaker Trevor Mallard sparked consternation when he said that the Francis report suggested there was a sexual predator in Parliament. There was widespread reaction in media, and behind the scenes party leaders Jacinda Ardern and Simon Bridges met with each other and with the Speaker. By the end of the day a staffer was stood down.

Stuff: Speaker Trevor Mallard believes bullying report alleges rapes in Parliament

Speaker of the House Trevor Mallard says some allegations made to a review into bullying and harassment at Parliament amounted to rape.

Debbie Francis’ review included interviews with employees, past and present. Five reported sexual assault to her and all the allegations involved male on female violence. “Three of the alleged incidents disclosed to me in interviews were in my view extremely serious and some appeared to be part of a multi-year pattern of predatory behaviour,” she said.

Speaking to Radio NZ on Wednesday, Mallard said his impression from the report was that one person was involved in the three extremely serious incidents.

“I don’t know that this is an MP, and if it’s not an MP then it will be the Parliamentary Service, of Office of the Clerk, or Ministerial Services chief executives who will be the individuals who will take leadership.” Mallard said he hoped any one involved in such an incident would go to the police or Rape Crisis, or other support agencies.

“We’re talking about serious sexual assault. Well that, for me, that’s rape,” Mallard said.

Asked if people had been raped in Parliament, he said: “that is the impression I get from the report, yes.” The impression he had was that It happened within the past 4½ years.

“Clearly it’s an intolerable situation.”

A number of people spoke up about how intolerable they thought the situation was.

One pointed claim on social media was that if there was a suspected murder or drug pusher loose in Parliament the police would be called in immediately.

1 News: Paula Bennett calls for police to be involved ‘immediately’ over alleged rapist at Parliament

Speaking to media later this morning after the Mallard interview on Breakfast Ms Bennett said there was a “duty of care to people working in this place that police are involved immediately”.

“There are people here feeling unsafe, uncomfortable and nervous at the moment, particularly after the Speaker’s comments this morning.”

“In light of the Speaker’s comments this morning about there being alleged sexual assault and rape happening for staff members and others on premises here in Parliament…. I think there is a duty of care for Debbie Francis and the Speaker to have police involved immediately so those allegations can be followed up and the safety of people working here be put first.”

“They have a responsibility to make sure if there is someone here that has alleged criminal activity, this is not just a bit of inappropriate behaviour, the Speaker is alleging a very serious criminal act, I’m not convinced that everything is being done that should be.”

RNZ: Politicians respond to Parliament rape claims

Political party leaders held a meeting with Speaker Trevor Mallard this afternoon, following his comments to RNZ this morning that he believed there was a rapist on the premises.

After the meeting, Jacinda Ardern said she was very concerned when she heard Mr Mallard’s comments on Wednesday morning.

“We have to ensure that the people who work with us are working in a safe place,” Ms Ardern said.

“Ultimately that’s the job of the Speaker.

Labour MP and party whip Kiri Allan had said after the meeting if there were allegations of rape then police should be involved.

She said discussions were held between Labour female MPs and “there will be further action taken by our leadership”.

Police Minister Stuart Nash said if the allegations of rape were true then it was very serious.

Justice Minister Andrew Little said if the allegation of rape was substantiated then “it’s right for the appropriate action to be taken”.

The Green Party co-leader James Shaw said he couldn’t talk about the meeting with the Speaker and other party leaders but said Mr Mallard had assured them that he’d taken “immediate steps to secure the campus”.

A bizarre report: Winston Peters says alleged Parliamentary rapist is not MP, staffer

Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters says the alleged serial sexual offender at Parliament is not an MP or Parliamentary staffer.

“It is not a parliamentarian and it is not a parliamentary staffer – that’s number one – all the parties are clear on this matter,” Peters said on Wednesday.

“You just can’t go out and have an allegation where everybody’s now under scrutiny when none of them should have been.”

When asked what that’s based on, Peters said: “It’s based on going and finding out, because I wasn’t prepared to hear what I heard this morning.”

Peters appears to have been wrong.

By late afternoon (RNZ): Parliamentary service staffer stood down after sexual assault allegation

Speaker Trevor Mallard said a female staff member came forward following his interview with RNZ where he said he believed there was a rapist on the premises.

The woman made a complaint to the Parliamentary Service general manager and the matter is now an employment investigation.

“I don’t want to cut across any employment or possible police investigations, but I am satisfied that the Parliamentary Service has removed a threat to the safety of women working in the Parliamentary complex.

“Because the matter is now under investigation as opposed to being part of a review, it’s not appropriate into further detail,” Mr Mallard said.

Parliamentary Services said the alleged incident had been previously investigated but, after a direct approach from the complainant to the newly appointed GM of the Service, Rafael Gonzalez-Montero, he reopened the investigation today.

It said the original investigation was not into allegations of rape.

RNZ:  Speaker accepts some responsibility for chaotic way rape allegations emerged

Mr Mallard said he accepted it would have been better had the day not played out as it did.

“I have some responsibility for that, and I accept it. The main thing now is to minimise the further trauma that was caused.”

He has urged anyone who has been assaulted to go to the police or Parliamentary Service.

So a clumsy start to the day by Mallard, followed by chaos, but sort of sorted out in the end.

There was probably no tidy or easy way of dealing with this. At least what Mallard started precipitated fairly rapid action.

 

 

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.