The Government’s “nine years of neglect” meme a bad excuse for under performance

Government ministers keep using the term ‘nine years of neglect’ to attack the last Government (and by association the Opposition), and also as an excuse for not delivering on their own promises.

With a far larger than expected surplus causing some embarrassment due to the lack of urgent action on issues that Labour had claimed needed urgent attention 9before they took over government) this line of attack may continue at least until next year’s pre-budget and budget announcements lead into the election campaign.

The Prime Minister started the year by telling New Zealand that 2019 would be the “year of delivery” but there is another phrase that has become much more synonymous with this Government.

“Nine years of neglect.”

It has become the Government’s go-to defence when its back is against the wall on any given issue.

From Parliament’s question time yesterday Jacinda Ardern showed in her first answer to Question 1 that she is leading the attack/excuse.

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN (Prime Minister): Yes, particularly our Government’s $300 million investment in Taranaki Base Hospital announced last week. The Government is investing record amounts into infrastructure, including $1.7 billion set aside in Budget 2019 for upgrading our hospitals and health services, which, of course, after nine years of neglect is much needed.

Question 2:

Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: The accounts show the coalition Government continues to increase investment in areas that were neglected by the previous Government. Capital investment—including in new hospital buildings, classrooms, roads and rail, and the super fund—was up 13.7 percent over the year. In dollar terms, capital investment in the 2019 year was more than $6.7 billion, building on the $5.9 billion we invested in 2018. This compares with just $3.7 billion in 2017, before we came to office. Our high levels of capital spending demonstrate this Government’s commitment to investing in turning around the infrastructure deficit we inherited after nine years of neglect.

Clark has used the term a lot to make excuses for his slowness to address health issues. Again in question 3:

Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: Average wages are rising at the fastest rate in a decade. We have, as I said to the member earlier, ensured that those working New Zealanders, through the Working for Families tax credits, do have lower tax to pay. Now, this is the Government that wants to see a strong economy and is investing in making sure that we are also addressing the infrastructure neglect that we inherited—nine years of infrastructure neglect—and we make no apology for investing in our schools, in our hospitals, and in our roads.

And:

Hon Todd McClay: Does he think New Zealanders are paying too much tax?

Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: Average wages are rising at the fastest rate in a decade. We have, as I said to the member earlier, ensured that those working New Zealanders, through the Working for Families tax credits, do have lower tax to pay. Now, this is the Government that wants to see a strong economy and is investing in making sure that we are also addressing the infrastructure neglect that we inherited—nine years of infrastructure neglect—and we make no apology for investing in our schools, in our hospitals, and in our roads.

Again in question 9:

Hon Michael Woodhouse: In that case, why does he continue to blame the previous Government when he believes he has put in sufficient funding to make DHBs viable?

Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: As I’ve said many times before, it will take more than two Budgets to make up for nine long years of neglect. They ran the health system into the ground, and it will take us a wee while to put that right.

Hon Michael Woodhouse: When is he going to take responsibility for the clinical and financial performance of the health sector on his watch rather than blame the previous Government?

Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: I’ll take responsibility when I’ve finished cleaning up that Government’s mess.

At the rate Clark is going it will take a long time. Actually growing health needs are likely to continue to struggle against government funding limitations for a long time.

Nanaia Mahut joined the chorus:

Hon Jacqui Dean: How much does she expect rates to rise, in order for councils to fund all of the work she has just described?

Hon NANAIA MAHUTA: That’s a matter that I can’t be entirely responsible for. The setting of rates is a matter for local councils to determine, and they are mindful that, in balancing the impact on ratepayers with the priority that their people have within their communities, they must balance the books based on what the revenue is that they get from rates. But can I say this: when we came into Government, it was very clear that the local government sector had been left to languish for nine years and the issues of affordability on councils had been neglected. That’s why we embarked on a Productivity Commission report that is looking to provide some solutions, and we’re considering that report and will respond in due course to the cost pressures facing councils.

A report ‘looking to provide some solutions’ at some time in the future, perhaps, is a common theme for this Government.

Later during: Education (School Donations) Amendment Bill — Third Reading

Kiritapu Allan: Barking at cars.

MARJA LUBECK: Really though—barking at cars, all of that. But New Zealanders aren’t as gullible as the National Party probably thinks they are. People know that the flow-on effects from the nine years of neglect and nine years of under-investment are going to take us a little while to fix up. It’s going to take us more than one term to turn that ship around, but we have started to fix a lot of things. We have recently—

SPEAKER: Order! Order! I am going to call the member back to the bill, which is about school donations. The member has to somehow make the link.

MARJA LUBECK: So much good positive messaging…

Irony that Lubeck seems oblivious to.

It is a dirty meme, both a negative attack campaign, and an excuse for under performance, that is used by and obviously approved by Jacinda Ardern.

This sort of tactic isn’t new – National kept blaming the previous Clark/Labour-led government – but I think that voters would prefer to see more focus on doing things now rather than pointing fingers back into the past. And action.

Ardern promised that 2019 would be the Government’s “year of delivery”. It is becoming apparent that what she and her Ministers are intent on delivering is an ongoing excuse for not delivering anywhere as much as was promised.

It would be a very risky campaign strategy to claim that “It’s going to take us more than one term to turn that ship around” as a reason to be re-elected for a second term.

All incoming governments inherit challenges as a result of previous policies and circumstances.  It isn’t new for Prime Ministers and Ministers to blame past governments, but Labour’s relentless repeating of a lame excuse is wearing increasingly thin.

Next election campaign voters will remember the three years of the incumbent government better than the previous nine years or the nine years before that.

Two political polls with similar results

Newshub released a Reid Research a poll on Sunday with ridiculous headlines and claims. 1 News released a Colmar Brunton poll last night with less dramatic but still over the top claims. Polls are just polls, especially this far from an election, but they try to get value from the expense of polling by making stories out of them that aren’t justified.

Last time the two polled the biggest talking point was how different their results were. The Reid Research poll was regarded as an outlier, being quite different to any other polls this term.

The most notable thing about the polls this time is that the results are very similar, taking into account margins of error of about 3% for the larger results, and the fact that Colmar results are rounded to the nearest whole number.

  • National: RR 43.9% (+6.5%), CB 47% (+2)
  • Labour: RR 41.6% (-9.2), CB 40% (-3)
  • Greens: RR 6.3% (+0.1), CB 7% (+1)
  • NZ First: RR 4.0% (+1.2), CB 4% (+1)
  • ACT: RR 1.4% (+0.6), CB 1% (-)
  • TOP: RR 1.1% (+1.0), CB 1% (-)
  • Maori Party: RR 0.7% (+0.2), CB 1% (-)

I don’;t think it’s surprising at this stage to see National a bit ahead of Labour, Labour has had a mixed month or two and is struggling to make major progress due to the restraint of coalition partner NZ First.

Green support looks at a safe level, but is well below what they were getting last term (about half).

NZ First are still polling below the threshold and will be in a battle to stay in Parliament.

Is is fairly normal these days there are a number of borderline governing scenarios with these numbers, with National+ACT and Labour+Greens thereabouts but not certainties.

A lot may depend on whether NZ First make the threshold or not next election. Both other times they have been in a coalition government they have lost support at the next election.

Trends from Opinion polling for the next New Zealand general election (Wikipedia):

That shows the last Reid Research anomaly well.

Preferred Prime Minister:

  • Jacinda Ardern: RR 38.4% (-10.6), CB 38% (-3)
  • Simon Bridges: RR 6.7% (+2.5), CB 9% (+3)
  • Judith Collins: 5.2% (-1.9), CB 5%
  • Winston Peters: CB 4%

Ardern a bit down, Bridges a bit up but still a big difference.

Newshub also did a poll on performance:

  • Ardern: performing well 62.4%, performing poorly 23.1%
  • Bridges: performing well 23.9%, performing poorly 52.7%

UPDATE: 1 News/Colmar Brunton have also started asking a similar question:

  •  Ardern handling her job as Prime Minister:  +33
    approve 62%
    disapprove 29%
    don’t know or refused 8%
  • Bridges’ handling his job as National Party leader: -22
    approve 29%
    disapprove 51%
    don’t know or refused 20%

Ardern performance is well above her party support, while Bridges is well below National support (about half).

  • Newshub-Reid Research Poll was conducted between 2-9 October 2019.
    1000 people were surveyed, 700 by telephone and 300 by internet panel
  • 1 News-Colmar Brunton poll conducted between 5-9 October
    1008 eligible voters were polled by landline (502) and mobile phone (506)

So both now rely on some polling by something other than landline, Reid Research 30% by internet panel and Colmar Brunton 50% by mobile phone.

1 News link here.

Newshub/Reid Search links here and here.

The Newshun headline says “Jacinda Ardern, Labour take massive tumble in new Newshub-Reid Research poll” but a more accurate description would have been “Newshub poll looks more likely following last rogue poll”. It wasn’t a massive tumble for Ardern, more like a large correction by Reid Research.

Iconic Thunberg target of awful attacks but ‘allies’ are her target

Greta Thunberg has become an international icon of youth concerns about climate change.

She has attracted over the top and awful attacks from some who seem threatened by having to change the world to stop the world from suffering potentially irreversible damage due to predicted climate change.

But she is also a threat to politicians who think she is on their side.

Stephen Buranyi (Guardian): Greta Thunberg’s enemies are right to be scared. Her new political allies should be too

Greta Thunberg has made a lot of enemies. They are easy to recognise because their rage is so great they cannot help making themselves look ridiculous. Thunberg’s arrival in the US earlier this month set off rightwing pundits and then the president himself. The conservative provocateur Dinesh D’Souza compared her look to a Nazi propaganda poster; a Fox News guest called her a “mentally ill Swedish child” being exploited by her parents; and Trump mocked her on Twitter as a “happy young girl looking forward to a bright and wonderful future”, after a speech in which she urgently laid out the dismal prospects for her generation’s future.

These are the latest attacks, but they aren’t the darkest, or most unhinged. Arron Banks intimating that she might drown crossing the Atlantic in August might be the single worst example – or you can stare directly into the abyss by witnessing the depraved abuse Thunberg receives across the social media networks.

Social media is notorious for attacks on messengers in trying to discredit messages.

Thunberg’s age and gender undoubtedly annoy her critics, but they’re melting down because she explicitly makes the connections that scientists are generally unwilling to make. Namely that their scientific predictions for the climate, and the current economic and political order, may not be compatible.

Continuous growth – economic, population, consumption – is untenable. If the economy keeps growing then crashes are inevitable. if the population keeps growing then the human race is at increasing risk of a crash in food production, or even an inability to keep increasing food production.

Catastrophe may not happen in our lifetimes, but the longer we let things continue as without doing much about it, the greater the risk for us, or for future generations.

Last year’s IPCC report warned there were just 12 years left to avoid irreversible damage to the climate.

That has been misrepresented as 12 years until the world will end. The warning was overstated, and that has been amplified by critics.

Thunberg refers to this often, updating the count as if it were a timebomb strapped to the chest of her entire generation: the closer it gets to zero, the more radical action seems justified.

It’s a moral argument, fundamentally, that assumes the climate crisis will be worse than any disruption caused by addressing it.

I’ve seen Greens (national and local body politicians) here push this argument here. Not just the disruption of trying to address it, in particular the cost. But they don’t seem to have done costings on trying to mitigate the effects of climate change – it seems more of a pie in the sky faith based argument, absent any practical suggestions.

We have already seen something similar in action on a smaller scale in Dunedin, the almost evangelical and expensive  introduction of cycle lanes on busy highways and streets that have increased cycle use, but from hardly any to a bit more but still not a lot.

Carbon moves the deadly clock forward, and anything that facilitates that must be bad.

But we really can’t suddenly cease use of carbon, suddenly cease use of fossil fuels, suddenly cease use of cars, trucks, planes. Trying to achieve anything like that would threaten civilisation more than effects of climate change. At least more suddenly.

She judges long-touted paradigms of “green growth” and market-based solutions as failures by this simple measure. “If solutions within this system are so impossible to find then maybe we should change the system itself,” she said at the UN climate conference in Katowice last year.

Change the system to what? Suddenly or with some sort of transition?

I think that rapid change to world systems would pose bigger risks, and more rapid risks, than business as usual. At best rapid change would cause major disruptions, and the end result could easily be worse than the established systems.

I think that radical change is being promoted because politicians and leaders have failed to act enough incrementally (or failed to act at all, or acted more irresponsibly).

The right doesn’t just mindlessly explode at every climate activist. Thunberg has none of the unthreatening geniality of Mr Inconvenient Truth, Al Gore, or the various Hollywood celebrities who have taken on climate as a cause. She styles herself as a climate populist: she invokes a clear moral vision, a corrupt, unresponsive system – and has a knack for neatly separating an “us” and a “them”. When she spoke of her supporters “being mocked and lied about by elected officials, members of parliament, business leaders, journalists”, she was drawing now-familiar political lines against the elite.

This framing releases ordinary people from complicity in the climate crisis, just as other populisms release them from blame for their economic or social fate, and directs that feeling towards a political enemy. “Some people say that the climate crisis is something that we all have created. But that is just another convenient lie,” Thunberg told attendees at Davos earlier this year. “Someone is to blame.” A 2017 report showing that just 100 companies have been the source of more than 70% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions since 1988 has become a popular reference among protesters. The alchemy of populism is that powerlessness fuels anger rather than despair.

And anger at inaction is growing, around the world – and here in New Zealand. James Shaw is promising carbon zero legislation but that seems to have been delayed (he has been Minister of Climate Change for nearly two years).

Thunberg’s critics previously understood exactly what to expect from the climate issue. Even if they didn’t follow it closely, they could intuit, as most people could, that the mainstream channels of communication were gunked up with denial and obstruction, and international negotiations were governed by a politics that was accommodating to the status quo. Despite the lofty promises, no one believed anything would change.

It isn’t just that Thunberg has made climate politics popular, she has – for the first time since the early days of the climate justice movement – made them populist on a large scale, something these people rightly see as a threat to the more liberal order that suited them fine. A good reactionary recognises the potential vehicle for real change, and they hate it.

Yes, some people seem to hate change. Or fear it.

In seeing this, Thunberg’s red-faced peanut gallery hecklers are actually more perceptive than many of the liberal and centrist politicians who have taken to gushing over her without hearing her message. Justin Trudeau, for example, praised her last week while unveiling new climate policies that fell short of Thunberg’s goals.

After meeting with him, she claimed Trudeau was “not doing enough” on climate – and she has previously called his government’s doublespeak on climate policy “shameful”.

The New Zealand Government, and the Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, are under similar pressure here. Early on her leadership role Ardern grandly stated that climate change was this generation’s nuclear free issue, but those wanting significant action want to put a bomb under her government.

It’s not clear where Thunberg’s politics lie, or where they will go in the future, but her rhetoric mirrors the left of the environmental movement, a wing of which has long cautioned that reductions in consumption and growth will be required to deal with the climate crisis. “You only speak of a green eternal economic growth because you are too scared of being unpopular,” she told delegates at the UN climate conference in Katowice last year, criticising the “same bad ideas that got us into this mess”, and telling them to pull “the emergency brake”.

Earlier this month in New York she continued the critique in front of world leaders. “We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can think of is money and fairytales of eternal growth: how dare you,” she said, visibly angry.

I think that talk of “the beginning of a mass extinction” is not helping Thunberg’s case. Presumably that is what she believes, but it is easy to ridicule and dismiss as over the top scare mongering. But those who may do that are not her target market.

This is worth pointing out – not to claim Thunberg for any particular political faction, but to note that her main rhetorical targets are not denialist wingnuts, but the same mainstream politicians who invite her to speak and praise her activism.

Politicians like Trudeau and Ardern.

They beam at her as if she were their own child, and, perhaps in a similar way, they don’t appear to hear her when she says it’s their fault her life is ruined. It’s the reaction of a group who have long considered themselves on the correct side of the climate divide, and thus, of history. As if a grand “we tried” would satisfy the generations after them.

But the problem is they haven’t even tried very much, they have just talked about it.

Thunberg’s great contribution is to convince the wider public of the bankruptcy of that outlook, and to indict years of missed targets as the failures that they are. Politicians don’t appear to take this shift, or her, very seriously. They’re happy to bask in her light, perhaps convinced this new insistence on immediacy will pass, as all the others did.

In her latest speech, Thunberg promised change was coming, “whether you like it or not”, although it’s not clear she has a plan for how. For the moment she and the movement she has invigorated are in a strange place, commanding immense popular support for a radical cause, and simultaneously praised by the very people they identify as the problem.

A problem, or problems, with no obvious solution.

They want radical change. But to what? And how?

Democracy doesn’t seem to be the answer, going by poor voting rates so far in the local body elections. Early returns are low, in Dunedin just three quarters of the corresponding time last election, and thus half of the rate in 2010.

 

Mana whenua consensus is that Ihumātao land be ‘given back’ to them

RNZ: Mana whenua reach decision on Ihumātao land

The Māori king, Kiingi Tūheitia, says mana whenua have finally reached consensus over what to do with Ihumātao – they want it back.

The announcement was made this morning, with Kiingi Tūheitia Potatau Te Wherowhero VII saying he had successfully guided mana whenua of Ihumātao to a unified position.

“Mana whenua agree they want their land returned, so they can make decisions about its future,” he said.

“Kiingitanga has conveyed the views of mana whenua to the government and urged it to negotiate with Fletchers for the return of Ihumātao to its rightful owners.”

Background:

The land near Auckland Airport has been occupied by members of the Save Our Unique Landscape (SOUL) group for almost three years to oppose Fletcher Residential from building 480 houses there.

But the occupation ramped up on 23 July after police served occupiers with an eviction notice. Since then thousands from across the country have flocked to the site and hundreds have camped there.

After growing public outcry, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern stepped in and put a halt on development until a decision was reached about how to proceed.

The Kiingitanga initially signalled its support for the Fletcher development, having negotiated with Fletchers to return eight hectares of the 32-hectare site.

But on 3 August, Kiingi Tūheitia visited Ihumātao and invited all mana whenua to meet to find a solution. These hui excluded government officials and Fletcher development.

The consensus decision:

“Although the land has remained occupied, mana whenua representatives have engaged in good faith discussions under the cloak of Kiingitanga and have reached a unified position on Ihumātao.

“Mana whenua agreed the return of the land is outside of the Treaty of Waitangi settlement process and therefore requires an innovative and modern solution that does not financially disadvantage iwi.”

A major issues though is that a “innovative and modern solution” must contend with the Treaty of Waitangi settlement process, and there are risks with setting a precedent for making ad hoc additional settlements.

And:

The Crown confiscated the land from Māori in 1863, and it was sold to Fletchers in 2016. Typically, the government will not negotiate the return of land in Treaty settlement if it has moved into private ownership.

Some expect something out of the Government now:

Tāmaki Makaurau MP Peeni Henare said now mana whenua had reached a decision it was time for everyone to sit around the table.

“From here on out, now the mahi starts, in terms of the government’s perspective,” he said.

And:

And Winston Peters:

However, when approached by reporters at parliament this afternoon, Mr Peters was dismissive of the role government had to play.

He said there had already been a Treaty settlement and that the issue was still in the hands of the Kiingitanga, not the government.

“There would have to be one extraordinarily high benchmark for the government to be involved and hitherto we do not see that benchmark,” he said.

More background (from weka at The Standard):

“It was confiscated under the New Zealand Settlements Act, thus breaching the 1840 Treaty of Waitangi agreement.”

https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/te-manu-korihi/395121/explainer-why-ihumatao-is-being-occupied-by-protectors

Confiscation was for rebelling, but,

“In 1927 a royal commission found that ‘a grave injustice was done’ to South Auckland Māori ‘by forcing them into the position of rebels and afterwards confiscating their lands’. In 1985 the Waitangi Tribunal concluded that ‘all sources agree that the Tainui people…never rebelled but were attacked by British troops in direct violation of Article II of the Treaty of Waitangi’”

https://thespinoff.co.nz/atea/27-07-2019/our-trail-of-tears-the-story-of-how-ihumatao-was-stolen/

From dukeofurl at The Standard:

Kawerau a maki  previously had a full and final  Treaty settlement that they signed

https://www.govt.nz/treaty-settlement-documents/te-kawerau-a-maki/te-kawerau-a-maki-deed-of-settlement-summary-22-feb-2014/

‘The Te Kawerau a Maki Deed of Settlement is the final settlement of all historical Treaty of Waitangi claims of Te Kawerau a Maki resulting from acts or omissions by the Crown prior to 21 September 1992′

KAM had a signed agreement with Fletchers over the land development which involved return of about  20% of the land ( next to the mountain) and a process for access to  some of the lower cost housing.

About 30 per cent would be “affordable”, including 40 homes (8 per cent) available to people who belong to the area’s whakapapa. Fletcher Building said it would develop a pathway to ownership programme to help Māori into homes. This may involve a shared equity-type scheme,..”

https://www.stuff.co.nz/business/property/114776601/ihumtao-heres-what-fletcher-buildings-480-home-development-would-look-like

‘Innovative and Modern’ doesnt really cover walking away from 2  previous signed agreements.

As dukeofurl said, it’s  tricky one. And expectations are now that the trickiness appear to be now be pointing to the Government’s.

I saw someone say somewhere that Fletchers, the Government and Auckland City Council have plenty of money so between them they should gift the land to whoever is asking for it.

All three had been happy to convert some of the land to housing, and leave the land of most important historical significance undeveloped as a reserve.

The biggest problem probably is that if the land is gifted to those who have been protesting over the planned development, this will encourage more protests, more and occupations, and more demands that land be given to those who protest and demand.

Dealing with this will be a big challenge for Jacinda Ardern, as expectations have turned to her.

The Spinoff:  Mana whenua have agreed to keeping the land at Ihumātao. So what comes next?

Qiane Matata-Sipu, one of the founding members of SOUL, said that while she’s happy with the outcome for now, the fight’s not over.

“The reclamation continues. Even though we’ve come to a consensus, the whenua is not safe. The whenua is still owned by Fletcher… It’s now time for the government and Fletcher to work on how the land is going to be returned because that’s the expectation.”

Prime minister Jacinda Ardern paused construction on the site in late July after tensions between Fetcher, land protectors and police escalated. She said she was likely to visit the site, but didn’t want to intervene while discussions led by the Kiingitanga were underway.

Now those discussions are over, Ardern and her Labour-led government are being called on to negotiate a deal with Fletchers.

Ardern has just gone on a trip to Japan and then the US. She will have to face this when she returns.

Ardern announces separate Party inquiry alongside QC complaints inquiry

Jacinda Ardern announced that the terms of reference for the Maria Dew inquiry into allegations made against a Labour staffer had been decided but would remain secret (at the request of complainants and the alleged offender).

And she said that Dew didn’t want to investigate the party’s handling of their own inquiry, so there would be a separate inquiry into that. terms of reference were also not disclosed.

Stuff – Labour scandal: Party to conduct two separate inquiries into sexual assault allegations

Labour will conduct a separate inquiry into its response to sexual assault allegations made against a former staffer.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced the review at her post-Cabinet press conference on Monday, saying the party had failed its members.

The inquiry will sit alongside the initial inquiry by QC Maria Dew into the actual sexual assault and bullying allegations against the staffer.

Labour’s lawyers, Kensington Swan, will finish an already-begun report on the Labour response to the complaints, but this will then be handed to a separate third party lawyer to establish the facts, based solely on paper evidence.

The complainants and the party will then be able to offer comment as part of this report. Ardern said it would be released to the public if those involved were comfortable with that.

The inquiry would remain paper-based as to not subject the alleged victims to multiple interviews, Ardern said.

Asked whether her own office and senior MPs would be subject to the inquiry, Ardern said she expected anyone asked to be involved.

That doesn’t really answer the question. It depends on what and who Labour’s own lawyers check out, and what the “separate third party lawyer” chooses to investigate, or is asked to investigate.

The Prime Minister said the terms of reference for the Dew inquiry were now finalised but the complainants did not wish for them to be released to the public.

Ardern is still making it clear that she accepts that mistakes were made.

“There are no excuses for Labour’s handling of these allegations and I will offer none. Mistakes have been made. It is now my job to address that.”

A lot is riding on how well Ardern addresses that – and how well she is seen to address it. Some details will need to remain confidential, but openness and transparency are very important, or the damage of her reputation will not be undone.

Complainant: Labour Party will have to address archaic power structure

Complainants want the Labour Party to address it’s archaic power structure, and hope that Jacinda Ardern can make it happen.

Alison Mau:

And while the party rows about how it’s going to achieve next steps, the young people are laser-focussed on what needs to happen now. I asked one of them what it was they wanted, now that they really do have everyone’s attention.

The group wants policy change at the top of course, with a complete overhaul of the sexual harm prevention and handling policy. It wants sensitive complaints referred to an expert third party for investigation.

And it wants the party to stop relying on its own supposed expertise, and take note of what the real experts have to say about the prevention of sexual harassment and bullying.

The group is now pinning its hopes on Jacinda Ardern.

They do not yet know when they will meet with her, and some of them are a little overwhelmed at the very thought, but they are refusing to condemn her, and they have a very clear idea of what they’d like to say when they do.

“We will go through our stories with her in more detail,” one of the group told me.

“We would want an open, honest and frank conversation about what it’s like to be a young recruit to Labour in 2019.

“We would tell her how hard we have pushed progressive parts of the party on subjects like abortion law reform – (that) we are not just bitter volunteers, we really care about this stuff.

“(We will tell her) here are some conditions that the party needs to look at, before any of us feel comfortable coming back into these (Labour) spaces.”

Those conditions include requiring all staff to undergo sexual harassment prevention and disclosure handling training. They’d like to see a code of conduct being developed for party volunteers, rolled out party-wide.

They would like the party to finally understand the power imbalances in Labour: “we are not only male dominated, but incredibly white.”

The young woman says she remains a Labour member and “has hope” because she’s seen the party change and adapt before but it will have to address an “archaic” power structure.

https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/opinion/115801937/when-people-speak-out-why-do-we-find-it-so-hard-to-believe

I think that Ardern will understand that there’s  lot riding on this – for the victims of course, but also for the reputation of the Labour Party and it’s attractiveness to young people, especially to young females.

Labour has talked about gender balance for years, but has failed to provide a safe environment for young people, especially females.

Note the names of those who seem to have been responsible for male staffer protection debacle – Nigel, Grant, Andrew, Rob.

And there’s a lot riding on this for Jacinda herself. Her reputation, her primary attractiveness as a new generation leader who is a caring and empathetic champion of gender balance and rights, is on the line.

Tracy Watkins (Stuff): Jacinda Ardern must force Labour to face itself in the mirror

So what now?

No leader likes loose ends and there are plenty of those as Ardern prepares to head overseas this week.

So expect her to announce further action before she steps on a plane. But it will have to be more than token – Ardern has to be clear that urgent, and painful, culture change is needed in the organisation she leads.

Many of the party faithful will find it had to swallow that Labour has failed to walk the talk on an issue so core to its – and Ardern’s -identity.

But the only place where they should be pointing the finger is at themselves.

She needs to make sure the repair job from here is done transparently. If the inquiry terms of reference are stacked in favour of the party and the Council, if the report is kept secret like the last one, if there is a lack of openness and no public sign of real repair and progress, then Ardern have failed to live up to her PR, again.

“(We will tell her) here are some conditions that the party needs to look at, before any of us feel comfortable coming back into these (Labour) spaces.”

That cannot be done in secret, because it is not just the group of victims who want change, it’s the future of the party at stake. Prospective party recruits – volunteers and candidates – need to know that Labour has finally learnt from multiple failures and put things right.

Ardern to party members: “do drop me a line”, but…

On Thursday Jacinda Ardern sent an email to Labour Party members.

Dear ……….

Firstly, my apologies that it’s taken a few days to get this message to you. I know many of you will have seen media coverage around serious allegations involving Labour Party members. You may have also seen that Nigel Haworth has resigned as President of the Party. I wanted to share his statement with you.

I also wanted to acknowledge that while the Party has sought to act with the best of intentions, we also need to be an organisation that admits when mistakes have been made. It disappoints me, and I know others, that we will not have met the expectations we have set ourselves. We know we must do better.

I will continue to provide updates on the steps we’re taking, but in the meantime, support is available. If you wish to talk to someone specifically about the allegations that have been raised in the media, please contact our General Secretary Andre Anderson at [email address].

Otherwise, if you have questions or want to share any feedback, do drop me a line at [email address].

Until then, we’ll keep working on being better.

Thank-you

Jacinda Ardern

This is  personalised email, and suggests that Ardern is available for direct contact. But Prime Ministers are sent a lot of letters and emails and she can’t be expected to deal with all of them personally and promptly.

As this shows from Tova O’Brien at Newshub: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was sent email by alleged sexual assault victim

The Prime Minister says she is not in direct contact with any of the complainants in the Labour sexual assault and bullying investigation.

But Newshub was copied into an email on Thursday night, which was – sent directly to Jacinda Ardern – from someone who says they told Labour they were assaulted by the staffer who resigned yesterday.

The Prime Minister was asked if on Friday afternoon if she’d had any feedback or any response from the complainants.

“Anything, any response – generally obviously I’m not direct contact,” she told reporters in Christchurch.

But on Thursday night – there was direct contact to the Prime Minister’s inbox.

Copied in were the deputy Labour leader, Paula Bennett, another journalist and Newshub.

The email began “Dear Jacinda, I am one of the women who was assaulted….”

But Ardern said she’s not expecting any contact from complainants yet.

Ardern told the media on Friday her view and focus was getting the process right for the complainants.

Part of that process was making herself available for what looked like direct contact.

That may be the case – but if you invite feedback from complainants, checking emails, responding to them and acknowledging that contact seems key to getting the process right.

Ardern has established reputation for being very good at empathetic communications.

But she has also been growing a record of not delivering on her promises.

I don’t expect the Prime Minister to be able to respond to all personal emails immediately. She will have staff checking her inboxes, and passing on to Ardern what is important.

Passing on emails from complainants should be at the top of the priority list right now.

Ardern needs to be seen to be delivering on her promise as being an empathetic and approachable PM.

 

Ardern didn’t refute all of Bennett’s claims

Jacinda Ardern sounded like she refuted claims made by Paula Bennett in Parliament on Wednesday, but she only refuted “some of those allegations” – which of course could mean that some of what Bennett said was true or close to the mark.

Stuff ran an inaccurate headline: PM Jacinda Ardern ‘absolutely refutes’ National’s claims

That’s incorrect.

And the article reinforced the misrepresentation of Ardern’s words.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is adamant she was never told about allegations of sexual assault until Monday and “absolutely refuted” claims made by the Opposition that her senior staff and Finance Minister Grant Robertson knew months ago.

National Deputy Leader Paula Bennett claimed in Parliament that Robertson and Ardern’s former chief of staff Mike Munro, chief press secretary Andrew Campbell and director of her leader’s office, Rob Salmond, knew about the allegations of a sexual assault by a Labour Party staffer – and therefore could not believe that Ardern had not been told.

But:

When asked about the claims, Ardern said: “Some of those allegations that I’ve heard I just absolutely refute”.

She only refuted “some of those allegations” and wasn’t specific which ones. That leaves open the possibility –  that some or most of Bennett’s allegations were correct.

And she has refused to refute or challenge or deny specific questions.

NZ Herald: Labour staffer at centre of sexual assault allegations resigns

Some of the complainants were also angered that he had been present a party events, though Finance Minister Grant Robertson has said that people’s safety had always been given the highest priority.

The staffer’s resignation is likely to be welcomed to the complainants, who said that Haworth’s resignation was a step forward but the issue of safety remained.

“We must also not forget that there is still a person facing these serious allegations in the Party, and we need to take immediate action to ensure that no more people can be harmed,” a representative of the complainants said following Haworth’s resignation.

Earlier today, Ardern would not be drawn on whether Finance Minister Grant Robertson had talked to her about sexual assault claims.

Robertson has also refused to say when he was told about sexual assault claims.

I would expect that if Robertson wasn’t told about the sexual assault claims both Robertson and Ardern would have made that clear.

NZ City: Grant Robertson says he sought assurances from the Labour Party after concerns were raised with him

But the Finance Minister won’t say whether those were sexual assault allegations against a staffer.

National’s deputy leader Paula Bennett claims Robertson – and three of the Prime Minister’s senior staff – had known about those for some time.

Robertson says he checked that issues were dealt with appropriately – but won’t confirm or deny Bennett’s claims.

Newstalk ZB: National: PM’s senior staff knew about sexual assault complaints for months

Bennett said the complainants claimed that Grant Robertson knew about the sexual assault claim and had “deep alliances” to the Labour staffer.

Robertson has not commented on what he knew, saying he wanted to respect the privacy of the complainants.

“I’m comfortable with what I’ve done in this process,” he told reporters today.

“There is a process underway with a QC where the voices of these people need to be heard. I have to respect that process.”

This has little if anything to do with respecting privacy and respecting a process being run by the Labour Party (it is not a judicial inquiry). It sounds like an excuse not to front up and be open and honest.

Back to something from the NZH article: “Grant Robertson has said that people’s safety had always been given the highest priority.”

Why would ‘the people’s safety” been given “the highest priority” at party events attended by the accused staffer and by complainants, unless it was known the staffer was facing serious allegations?

Andrea Vance:  How to make the Labour abuse scandal worse

It has been claimed that concerns were raised with Finance Minister Grant Robertson, by one of the complainants, at an event on June 30. He has not responded to questions on this.

By July 12, the complainants had lost patience, decided to go public and sent an anonymous email to several media outlets.

Just over 10 days later, general secretary Andre Anderson wrote to the complainants.

“The email to the media has had the unfortunate effect of increasing the number of people who know something about these matters, which is undermining confidentiality.  I think it would be reasonable for you to assume that the content of the email has been circulated to a number of people,” he wrote.

“I’m aware that at least one of you has been approached by one or more MPs.  But they may only know one of you and the content of the email, rather than all of you.”

He then listed “the people who I either know are aware or I’ve been told are aware”. This included Robertson, though Anderson wrote: “I don’t know how much Grant was told.”

He says that he, or Haworth, knew the following people had been told: Ardern; her former chief of staff Mike Munro; new chief of staff Raj Nahna​; chief press secretary Andrew Campbell;  and the party’s solicitor Hayden Wilson. “These people only know the basics, including [the man’s] identity, but we haven’t told them who you are,” Anderson wrote.

He then says the man, or a member of his family, had told him four other people knew. These included the man’s lawyer Geoff Davenport and E tū senior national industrial officer Paul Tolich, who also sits on the NZ Council. Wellington city councillor Fleur Fitzsimons, and Beth Houston, who works for Cabinet minister Phil Twyford were also listed – both are on the council. “I don’t know the extent of their knowledge,” Anderson said.

MPs Kiritapu Allen and Paul Eagle are also mentioned: “I don’t know the extent of their knowledge,” Anderson said. Eagle has since denied he was in the loop.

The first news reports began to appear in early August, and almost all refer to bullying, sexual harassment and sexual assault. On August 6, Ardern spoke to reporters at Parliament and said the party would begin a review.

When asked if Labour had a culture problem, she said she couldn’t ignore the fact that complaints had been made.

Ardern has maintained she did not know complaints of serious sexual assault were reported to the party until this week.

“Monday was the first time that I saw details that a complainant had stated that they’d been sexually assaulted and that they’d taken a complaint to the Labour Party. That was the first time,” Ardern said at a press conference on Thursday.

She said when media reports first surfaced, five weeks ago, she “sought assurances” from the party and was told “no complainant had come to them and claimed to them they’d been sexually assaulted”.

She seems to have changed her language now from whether she knew there were sexual allegations to claiming she was told “no complainant had come to them and claimed to them they’d been sexually assaulted”. That leaves a lot of possibilities not refuted or denied.

Ardern still appears to have a problem here, as does Robertson.

Staffer resigns, Labour warned two years ago about insidious culture

The Labour staffer who has been the focus of a lot of attention regarding allegations of bullying, assault and sexual assault has resigned from his job in Parliament. His lawyer put out this statement:

“I have enjoyed my time working at Parliament, but today have made the very difficult decision to resign because of the stress of the situation, and my wish not to be a distraction to the work of the Government”.

“I adamantly refute the serious allegations made against me. I co-operated fully with the initial inquiry. I am co-operating fully with the Dew inquiry that is now underway, and will continue to do so, having been assured that this process will be fair to all parties.”

There’s some careful language here, in particular “I adamantly refute the serious allegations made against me”. He hasn’t refuted all allegations, just serious ones. From what has been reported some bullying, abuse and an attempted assault at least were in front of witnesses so could be hard to argue against. The most serious allegation, of sexual assault, was in private with just him and the complainant present. He is likely to be trying to protect himself from possible legal action, and  in those situations the defence often tries to downplay the seriousness of what happened. It’s common to claim ‘consensual’, and that can be a dispute over different perceptions.

His resignation was inevitable. He had become a major political liability for Labour and Jacinda Ardern. ‘Presumed innocent until proven guilty’ is a legal tenet but doesn’t apply so much in politics.

This is likely to defuse the situation, but won’t make it go away.

Meanwhile the story continues. Alison Mau:  Labour was warned it had a major problem before summer camp scandal

Before the summer camp scandal and the latest claims, Labour was warned it had a major problem.

The Labour Council was told two years ago that there was a troubling culture of bullying, sexual harassment within the party.

A witness to the latest Labour sexual harassment investigation told the council in a late-2017 written submission that instances of sexual assault happened in the party and reporting the behaviour was extremely difficult.

The witness, a 21-year-old woman, is also a Labour Party member. The submission came before the Labour summer camp scandal.

The written submission came in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal in the United States and made direct reference to that.

While there was obviously no way Labour could have known what was to come, the witness said the party was warned about its culture, and should have seen the summer camp incident as proof of the need to act.

“They could have said, we’re going to deal with the wider problem we know we have, because here is a specific instance that proves it.”

The woman, who Stuff has agreed not to name, sent the submission to then-General Secretary Andrew Kirton, Haworth and Assistant General Secretary Dianna Lacy.

The submission itself describes “a troubling culture of bullying, and of sexual harassment and assault” within the Labour Party.

“Instances of sexual harassment, and of sexual assault, happen in our party. They don’t often come to light, usually because the survivor leaves the party, but also because those survivors who stay have no official means of reporting such behaviour.

“This allows abusers to continue in the party.

“Having an unpublicised, intimidating process for reporting sexual assault and harassment in our party is costing us talented members. I believe our party needs to take steps to combat this culture, and to allow a mechanism for survivors of abuse and assault to come forward.”

Stuff understands the submission was tabled at the Labour Council in November 2017.

Stuff understands it was then passed to a smaller group of high-level members of the Labour Council.

The submission’s author was later asked to give evidence to a three-person panel about her experiences with the man accused of harassing up to 12 people. The man worked for Parliamentary Service in the office of the Labour leader.

Despite repeated approaches for comment, Haworth and Lacy did not respond. Kirton declined to comment and referred questions to Labour.

After the party was warned there was the assaults at the Young Labour summer camp in early 2018, and the handling of that was badly botched.

And now it is well known (and admitted by Ardern) that the handling of multiple complaints was also badly handled, and a QC has been called in to investigate.

It is apparent that Labour has nasty entrenched culture of abuse of power, abuse and assault, both male versus female and male versus male – one man who challenged the behaviour of the staffer says he was assaulted for doing this.

This is also a wider problem in New Zealand society. The National Party had it’s own embarrassing revelations last year involving Jami-Lee Ross. Law firms have been under the spotlight.

And it is apparent from diversions and excuse making in social media, including here at Your NZ, and it has been rife at The Standard this week, that the problems still exist. Those who make excuses, point their fingers elsewhere, and attack those who publicise bad behaviour, are a part of the problem. They support and enable abusive behaviour and assaults. At it’s worst it is ‘rape culture’ and tacit support of violence.

It is obvious that Labour has a lot of work to do to clean up their party. And so do other parties and organisations.

Bullying and violence and sexual violence are huge problems in our society. It is incumbent on all of us to speak up and to stand up against it. It won’t be a quick or easy thing to sort out, but we must do much better in addressing it.

Paula Bennett speech on PM’s office involvement in assault claims

GENERAL DEBATE

Hon PAULA BENNETT (Deputy Leader—National): Thank you, Mr Speaker. I move, That the House take note of miscellaneous business.

The Prime Minister says she did not know there were sexual assault allegations against one of her staff members until Monday. I could go through the various media reports since 5 August and my own representation since being contacted by victims to show the inconsistencies in this, but they have already been well traversed in the last 24 hours.

Back in 2016, Jacinda Ardern wrote an op-ed about the scandal surrounding the Chiefs rugby team. She said that a resignation is not enough: “It’s the PR quick fix—usher the source of the controversy away. But that solves nothing. After all, apologies followed by silence changes nothing, and change is what we need.”

The resignation today of Nigel Haworth cannot be, in the Prime Minister’s words, “the PR quick fix—usher the source of the controversy away.” Yes, Mr Haworth needed to go, and it should have happened weeks ago, but what is also known is that the Prime Minister’s own senior staff and a senior Minister have known the seriousness of the allegations but have not acted.

The complainants were members of the Labour Party. They genuinely believed that the party would listen to their complaints and deal with the alleged offender appropriately, but nothing happened. It clearly has taken an incredible sense of frustration, disappointment, and disillusion for these people to come to me, a National Party MP, to try and see their complaints addressed.

These are serious allegations. The Prime Minister cannot keep her head in the sand and pretend like it is happening somewhere far, far away. It is happening in her own office, in her own organisation. She is the leader of the Labour Party. The alleged perpetrator works in her leader’s office—he works for her.

Less than a year ago, the Prime Minister was in New York at the UN, trumpeting “Me too should be we too.” Well, who knew that that meant her own office was following the path well trod by all those companies who drew a curtain over sexual misconduct and inappropriate behaviour.

I have been told by the complainants that Jacinda Ardern’s former chief of staff Mike Monroe knew about the allegations, her chief press secretary, Andrew Campbell, knew about the allegations, and the director of her leader’s office, Rob Salmond, knew about the allegations. I have been told by two victims who work in Parliament that they went to Rob Salmond around Christmas time and made a complaint about the alleged perpetrator.

The Prime Minister has constantly said her office did not receive complaints and, in fact, encouraged the victims to speak to their line managers. They did. They have told me they went to Rob Salmond and nothing was done, and we are expected to believe that none of these men in her own office told the Prime Minister about the allegations—all of this in the aftermath of the Labour summer camp scandal, when the Prime Minister made it very clear she expected to have been told. And are we really expected to believe that she didn’t know that her chief press secretary, Andrew Campbell, embarked on a witch-hunt to try and find out who in the Beehive was talking to the media about the allegations? The complainants certainly felt hunted and scared that he was trying to shut them up and stop them from talking to the media—classic bullying of victims, and hardly a victim-led response.

A victim has told me that the alleged perpetrator has deep alliances to Grant Robertson, that he was involved in his campaign for the Labour Party leadership, and that Grant Robertson has known the seriousness of these allegations. It is unbelievable that he hasn’t discussed this with his close friend and his leader.

This all smacks of a cover-up. This goes straight to the top: to the Prime Minister, to senior Cabinet Ministers, and—

SPEAKER: Order! The member’s time has expired.

https://www.parliament.nz/en/pb/hansard-debates/rhr/document/HansS_20190911_053250000/bennett-paula-mallard-trevor


Possible of note is in Question time just before this Bennett briefly questioned Ardern.

2. Hon PAULA BENNETT (Deputy Leader—National) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by all her statements?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN (Prime Minister): Yes.

Hon Paula Bennett: Does she agree with the statement made by Jacinda Ardern in 2016 about the Chiefs rugby scandal that a resignation is not enough: “It’s the PR quick fix—usher the source of the controversy away. But that solves nothing. … After all, apologies followed by silence changes nothing, and change is what we need.”?

SPEAKER: No. That question does not relate to a statement of the Prime Minister.

Hon Paula Bennett: Does she stand by her statement in the House yesterday that “we need to make sure that we have environments in all of our workplaces that meet the expectations of alleged victims, and that respond to those situations.”, and how does that correlate with a situation where the victims were barred from parts of the parliamentary complex?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Yes.

Hon Paula Bennett: Does she stand by her statement in the House yesterday that “we need to make sure that we have environments in all our workplaces that meet the expectations of alleged victims,”; and, if so, how does that correlate that senior male staffers in her office have known about these extremely serious allegations since at least the beginning of the year and none of these men have brought it to her attention?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Again, to answer the first part of the question, yes.

Hon Paula Bennett: Will she be revising her statement made to the UN less than a year ago that “#MeToo must become we too. We are all in this together.”, in light of her own office’s failure to deal with sexual assault allegations involving one of her staff members?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: No.

Hon Paula Bennett: Does she stand by her previous statements that victims should go to one of their line managers and that no senior people in her office had received a complaint?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: At the time that I made the statement, yes.

If Ardern “made the statement” after two complainants went to a line manger (Salmond) around Christmas time she could have a probem.