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.

 

Harassment of Muslims continues

While there has been a huge amount of sympathy and support shown for the Muslim community in New Zealand, there are claims of continued harassment of Muslims, especially Muslim women. And attacks on Muslims continue online.

Newshub:  Jacinda Ardern ‘devastated’ as anti-Muslim attacks continue after Christchurch shooting

Most of what we’ve seen so far from the public toward the Muslim community has been love. But Anjum Rahman from the Islamic Council of Women told Newshub hatred is around as Muslims are reporting being threatened even since the terror attack.

“People are having people pretend to shoot them – ripping hijab off women,” Manning said.

When confronted with this on Monday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said: “I think it’s devastating to know that when a community has been the subject of a direct attack like this that they would then be subject to threats.”

The Guardian has reported a 593 percent increase in anti-Muslim hate crimes in the UK in the aftermath of the Christchurch shooting.

That’s an alarming reaction to the Christchurch attacks in the UK, I think it’s reasonable to assume that that is in part fed by online abuse.

Police couldn’t give Newshub data on any potential increase in New Zealand, but the Prime Minister is urging anyone who has experienced attacks or threats to report them.

“Please report it – they are taking them seriously, they are following them up,” she said.

It seems every single threat is now being treated that much more seriously.

As they should be.

There have been positive changes. NZ Herald:  A changed world after Christchurch mosque attacks

An Auckland Muslim woman has described how her world has changed since the Christchurch terror attacks, which have helped unite the country and counter racial hatred.

Fijian-born mother-of-three Neelufah Hannif was once called a “curry muncher” and for years felt too uncomfortable to wear her hijab to work.

But the 40-year-old public servant has sensed a shift in attitudes towards inclusiveness and racial harmony since an extremist gunman killed 50 Muslim worshippers in two mosque attacks on March 15.

“I think the last few days have shown that people are compassionate, they’ve shown empathy and they have grieved with the Muslim community. I think this is who we are, this is who we have always been and I hope this will continue.”

“New Zealanders have shown solidarity and it’s comforting to know we are ‘one’ and people are there for us,” she said.

But also from NZH – Trevor Richards: NZ in denial about its anti-Muslim racism

In France following the January 2015 attack, the catchphrase heard and seen everywhere in Paris had been “Je suis Charlie (I am Charlie)”.

Here, it was not an Islamic terrorist attack against citizens of a Western country, but an attack by a white nationalist extremist against Muslims at prayer. This difference is important in determining the responses of the two countries.

France’s response to both attacks contained an ugly underbelly. Islamic terrorists had been the attackers. In the week following the Charlie Hebdo attack, a total of 60 anti-Muslim incidents were reported.

In New Zealand, Muslims had been the victims. The immediate nationwide response was to support and embrace Muslim communities.

On the Sunday following the attack, two young Muslim women at an Auckland railway station were told to “go back to your f****** country”. For some in this country, they are not us.

Unlike France, such horrific events are new to us. It has been widely claimed that New Zealand will never be the same again. The good news is that life will “get back to normal”, as Norway seems to have after Breivik. But our image of ourselves as a small country at the bottom of the world, happily immune from extremist right-wing political psychopaths and the more vicious edges of world politics, has gone. That will inevitably change us in ways yet to be realised.

Like everywhere in the world New Zealand will never be free of racism, of religious animosity, of prejudice and of fear.

But we can all play a part making things better than they were before the attacks in Christchurch.

 

 

 

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).

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.

 

Craig v Williams strike out attempt fails

This is another chapter in the widening litigation after Colin Craig was attacked via Whale Oil and Craig retaliated via a media conference and a nationwide mail-out of a pamphlet.

Craig is counter claiming defamation against Jordan Williams in a parallel case to the original claim Williams made against Craig.

Williams v Craig

Williams took Craig to court for defamation. Williams won and was awarded a record amount by a jury. However this was overturned by the judge. Wrangling on this case recently got as far as the Supreme Court, and remains unresolved.

Craig v Williams

Meanwhile, Craig also later filed separately for defamation against Williams.

This differs from the Craig v Slater v Craig claim and counter-claim which were heard at the same time (early last year, still no judgment).

Earlier this year Williams applied to the High Court for:

(a) striking out the plaintiff’s (Mr Craig’s) claim as an abuse of process;

(b) if the proceeding is not struck out, transferring the proceeding to the Wellington Registry of the Court; and

(c) if the proceeding is not struck out, ordering Mr Craig to provide security for Mr Williams’ costs

Williams partially succeeded but largely failed.

The claims made by Mr Craig

[4] On 29 May 2017, Mr Craig filed this proceeding (“the Craig proceeding”) against Mr Williams, alleging that Mr Williams made defamatory statements about Mr Craig in the period between 26 May 2015 and 26 June 2015.

[5] Mr Craig’s statement of claim pleads six separate causes of action, each relating to statements allegedly published by Mr Williams.

Conclusions on the strike-out application:

[99] In my view, the issue of whether Mr Craig sexually harassed Ms MacGregor (by means falling short of sexual assault) has been conclusively determined against him in the Williams proceeding.

The causes of action and parts of causes of action that argued whether Mr Craig sexually harassed Ms MacGregor were all struck out.

[128] The pleaded meaning that Mr Craig had sexually harassed Ms MacGregor will be struck out, for the reasons discussed earlier.

But other parts of five of the six claims were allowed to stand. Craig was directed to file and serve an amended statement of claim.

[129] I do not consider there is a sufficient basis to strike out the other pleaded meanings, both of which are concerned with sexual harassment of women other than Ms MacGregor.

Williams also asked that the proceedings be struck out due to the existence of other proceedings. This was declined.

[159] Mr Williams points to numerous Court proceedings Mr Craig has now filed against a number of parties, including Mr Slater, Ms MacGregor, and Mr Stringer. It appears that all of these claims relate broadly to the same series of events in 2015.

[160] I do not think I can make anything of these other claims in the context of the present application. I did not receive any detailed submissions on the nature of the other claims, and I have no basis for finding that they were unnecessary or improper, or otherwise an abuse of the Court’s process. I am dealing here with a strike-out application in respect of this one proceeding, and I think it would be dangerous to conclude from the fact that there are a number of other proceedings commenced by Mr Craig that this proceeding was commenced for an improper collateral purpose, or was otherwise an abuse of the Court process. I decline to strike out the Craig proceeding on the basis of the existence of these other proceedings.

Williams also applied for an order for security of costs. This was dismissed.

Williams also applied for an order transferring the proceeding to the Wellington registry of the Court (from Auckland). This was dismissed.

Craig has failed to re-litigate findings that he sexually harassed MacGregor, but otherwise he successfully opposed Williams applications.

So this means that as well as Williams versus Craig continuing on it’s way through the courts, Craig versus Williams is now also able to proceed.

Full judgment here

 

Media add to pressure on victim of harassment

It is reported that one of the women alleging harassment by ex MP Jami-Lee Ross may be involved in a confidentiality agreement with the National Party. I don’t think we should rush to conclusions here.

But appears this is exactly what the media has done, without considering the impact on the victim of them flying into the issue without properly considering the situation and the rights and wishes of the victim.

If the party has suppressed the issue against the wishes of a victim then that deserves exposure and condemnation. But if the agreement was willingly made with the victim then what’s the problem with the agreement?

The victim Katrina Bungard has now revealed her identity. She says that she feels that the National Party did all they could to help at the time, and she has released a statement this morning saying that the media attention is making things worse.

Newsroom:  National officials must answer for Ross ‘cover-up’

Questions to be answered

Goodfellow is hardly being forthcoming about his role, saying only that “any issues that we were aware of that were raised, were dealt with at the time” – a statement that hardly seems adequate.

It is unclear exactly how much he knew about Ross’ behaviour, and whether there were any further complaints to him or officials on top of the one which led to the confidentiality agreement – facts which could offer mitigation.

But if Goodfellow wants the benefit of the doubt, he owes it to the party and the public to provide as thorough an explanation as possible without compromising the privacy of the woman involved.

Of course, Ross is the only one responsible for his actions, and the women’s testimony of being “nearly destroyed”, “intimidated, threatened and abused”, and “used” by the Botany MP speaks volumes.

But if this saga has taught us one thing, it is that operating in the shadows does little good for anyone.

Victims often do not like the glare of publicity driven by media rushing in without properly considering the victim’s rights and wishes.

The victim has reacted to media attention this morning. From RNZ:

 

 

National Party candidate claims harassment by Jami-Lee Ross

One woman has gone public about what she claims was harassment by Jami-Lee Ross. This is in relation to the Howick Community Board where Ross campaigned for his wife to be appointed board chair. others have complained about Ross’ behaviour over this too, including the person who became chair.

It wasn’t sexual but was serious enough for the women to complain to the National Party (not the parliamentary part) and to seek medical help. At the least Ross has proven again to be a pushy arrogant arse.

NZ Herald: National candidate speaks out over harassment by rogue MP Jami-Lee Ross

A National Party candidate has spoken about a campaign of harassment by rogue MP Jami-Lee Ross which became so severe she sought medical help and intervention by the party hierarchy.

Manurewa candidate Katrina Bungard told the Herald Ross had harassed her in 2016 and 2017.

She said Ross began the campaign to get wife Lucy Schwaner appointed as chair of the Howick Community Board in east Auckland.

Bungard – a teacher – said her experience of harassment by Ross had led her to complain to National Party hierarchy.

“They did what they could, which is talk to him. There wasn’t enough evidence of anything extreme.”

However, Bungard said her personal experience led her to a definite perspective.

“I thought it was extreme.”

Ross had wanted Bungard – and others on the board – to support Schwaner and he had enlisted so-called political strategist Simon Lusk to assist.

Lusk involved again. Odd paying for a political hit man to try to get his wife voted as community board chair.

“(Lusk) rang me and told me I could have a great career in politics, that he would get me this job and that job.

“Then he said he can only do these things if you’re in a good place with Jami-Lee. If you fall out, I can’t do anything.”

“You know it’s not a good day when you’re getting calls from Simon Lusk.”

Bungard said the harassment had been ongoing for a few years.

“It’s been a pretty hard time for me. I had to get medical help. I was off work, working on my Master’s thesis. I had to get an extension on the thesis and medical note saying I had been under a lot of intense pressure.

“I was concerned for my own family. I had phone calls where he was ‘going to war’ with me and my family.”

Bungard said the campaign shifted after she voted for David Collings, as did the majority of others on the board.

Collings had complained to National Party general manager Greg Hamilton about Ross’ behaviour over the vote for the chair’s role.

Collings said: “He was being a dickhead and a bit of a prat and I wanted him to stop. Greg said he would have a word to him. But it carried on.”

Nothing on it’s own seems particularly serious, but it seems to be a pattern of obnoxious behaviour and playing power games.

It included being served a trespass order when she tried to attend a National Party morning tea for senior citizens.

She had arrived at the meeting in the electorate – for which she was electorate secretary at the time – to be presented with the trespass by the electorate chair.

“I didn’t even get in the door.” She said she asked for the grounds and was told it was “because I had fallen out with Jami-Lee and he had been ordered to trespass me and I wasn’t welcome at any event Jami-Lee was hosting”.

Bizarre.

Bungard said she believed the party had done what it could but it was difficult when the harassment included constant low-level incidents over which there was no physical evidence.

“Greg and Peter Goodfellow did what they could at the time given the evidence they had to go on. But it was one person’s word against another. I’ve been a long-time supporter of the National Party and there was nothing they could do.

“I don’t hold National responsible for his behaviour at all.”

Ross must be held responsible for his behaviour, but it sounds like he made things awkward for the party, especially as he was an MP.

 

Four women claim harassment by Jami-Lee Ross

On Tuesday Jami-Lee Ross claimed that Simon Bridges had confronted him with claims that four woman had made allegations against him. Ross suggested he was in a similar situation to Brett Kavanaugh.

Paula Bennett was criticised for saying that Ross had acted “inappropriately for a married man” – Paula Bennett stands by claim Ross acted inappropriately for a married man, during tense interview with Jack Tame

National Deputy leader Paula Bennett stands by saying Jami-Lee Ross acted inappropriately for a married man but denies accusing him of sexual harassment.

Yesterday, as part of the extraordinary hour long stand-up in which he levelled a number of allegations at Simon Bridges and the National party, Mr Ross accused Ms Bennett of trying to scare him off with anonymous sexual harassment allegations.

Ms Bennett defended herself today, saying Mr Ross has mischaracterised a meeting they had.

“Well he came out yesterday and he said we’d made claims to him of sexual harassment and he likened himself to (US Supreme Court Justice) Brett Kavanaugh, which I found extraordinary in itself,” Ms Bennett said.

Ms Bennett said she stood by telling media Mr Ross had acted inappropriately for a married MP.

At his media conference yesterday after making a complaint to the police about his allegations of corruption (against Bridges) Ross said:

“Well I’m the one here in front of a police station who’s just spoken to three senior sergeants about my concerns around the Electoral Act being broken, so

“I’ve said that I’m comfortable with all of my conduct, I’m comfortable that I am somebody who is standing up and doing the right thing.

“I know that there’s smears about me at the moment: what I think has always been something in New Zealand politics that we leave personal lives and family out of this.

“I’m comfortable with what I have with my wife – if the way in which we’re about to play politics, when a political party and the leader is under pressure, if they want to start lifting the bedsheets on everyone that works in that building, you guys and MPs, then I think there’ll be a lot of people concerned – even those that are throwing allegations now.”

But four women have indeed made claims, according to Newsroom – Jami-Lee Ross: Four women speak out

Over the past year, Newsroom investigations editor Melanie Reid has been looking into the background and behaviour of former National MP Jami-Lee Ross. She has talked to a number of people who have given detailed accounts, recordings and documents of their close working and personal relationships with the controversial politician.

So this is not just a reaction to this week’s events.

Some felt manipulated and intimidated by the way he goes about his politics and his social interactions. Others felt pressured not to speak out.

Today Newsroom presents, on the condition of anonymity, the stories of four women and the relationships which they now believe saw them variously groomed, used for access to information and power, and abused.

Each saw the MP speak out on Tuesday denying his leaders’ allegations of “harassment”, saying he was raised to respect all women.

Yesterday Ross, who is married with children, told journalists he was happy with how he had conducted his personal life and warned against anyone in politics trying to “lift the bedsheets”.

However, each of the women interviewed below wanted to speak out, now, to set the record straight.

Profile of a narcissist

A woman who moved in the same political circles as Ross says he targeted her for a relationship which evolved into controlling behaviour, “incoherent rages” and “brutal sex”.

The woman, who described herself as the ‘primary supply’ for Ross’s narcissistic tendencies, says she was manipulated during a time of personal vulnerability.

A close friendship developed into an affair after consistent and repeated pressure. She described it as “her biggest mistake”.

“It was very clear to me his political motivation was a lust for power and control.”

She saw her opportunity to get out after noticing him seeking ‘supplies’ in other women.

Playing the long game

Another woman says she “absolutely regrets” having an affair with Ross and now believes he manipulated her for information about key National Party figures.

What started as a work friendship at Parliament became sexual after Ross initiated back-and-forth messaging – often late into the night.

The woman told Newsroom that while the encounters were consensual, she felt Ross had “100 percent groomed her” in order to seek information about National Party members she had access to.

During this time Ross had suggested she sleep with other men in the workplace – including MPs who were married – and made many other inappropriate comments.

“He said things like ‘You’re going to go out tonight and pull’.”

The woman said her reaction to Ross’ claim he respected “all women” was to “laugh out loud”.

Threats and harassment

A National Party member who says she was on the receiving end of Ross’ abuse, says she was “completely floored” by his claim he had never harassed a woman.

“I watched as Jami-Lee Ross looked reporters in the eye and told the nation that he, ‘to the best of his knowledge, had never harassed a woman’.

“He was calm. He was collected. He was every bit the master of deception.”

He went on to say that “he was raised by his grandmother to respect women”.

“Well, during the past two years, I can assure the public that my dealings with Jami-Lee Ross have never left me more harassed and disrespected as a woman in my whole life.”

“This man is a narcissist. He absolutely turns on people when he doesn’t get his own way. He is a master manipulator and a deceitful liar who has no problem looking somebody in the eye and outright lying.”

A pattern of behaviour

A woman who worked in close quarters with Ross says he “nearly destroyed” her.

“Not only was he rude and arrogant, he falsely accused me of things I didn’t do. He really didn’t treat me fairly.”

The woman had a history of many years in Parliament, and says she has never experienced anything like it “before or since”.

Ross continually undermined her and her work.

“He was setting me up and I knew I hadn’t done the things he said I had.”

The stress and anxiety became so bad she had to seek medical help.

“I didn’t even feel like I could enter the building afterwards … he destroyed me as a person.

“It makes me shake, just thinking of him.”

Ross didn’t respond to Newsroom requests for a response.