Credibility of Ardern, Haworth and Labour increasingly shaky over sexual assault claims

A follow up up on yesterday’s post Labour’s ongoing bungling of dealing with assaults within the party – the reputation of the Labour Party and the credibility of the party president Nigel, and increasingly the leader Jacinda Ardern, are on the line as the bullying and sexual assault claims grow in strength as more people and information comes out in the media.

The Spinoff: Timeline: Everything we know about the Labour staffer misconduct inquiry

Jacinda Ardern has declared herself “deeply concerned and incredibly frustrated” over the allegations levelled at a Labour staffer as well as the party investigation into the man, who remains employed by the Labour leader’s office and denies wrongdoing.

The party president says he is “confident I have handled the process in a professional manner”.

The prime minister says she had been assured that no complainant alleged sexual assault or violence. She says the first she learned of the nature of the allegations that Sarah (a pseudonym) insists she raised repeatedly with the Labour Party, was upon reading the Spinoff’s investigation published on Monday.

A crucial question is whether the Labour Party’s position, that it was not informed of the allegations, is tenable. Just as important is whether its process – for example in repeatedly failing to meet complainants’ requests to review the summaries of their oral evidence – is defensible.

They then detail “an incomplete chronology” based on public statements and numerous documents provided to The Spinoff. This collates much of what has been made known already, but includes corroboration of the authenticity of an Open Letter to Ardern:

An “open letter to the prime minister” is circulated within the party by “Me Too Labour”, an unnamed “group of Labour Party members who are writing to you to urge you to immediately take action regarding the allegations” surrounding the staffer. It makes a series of demands including the resignation of Haworth. The letter, which The Spinoff has verified originates from party members, had by lunchtime attracted more than 100 signatures.

From the open letter:

Dear Prime Minister,

We are a group of Labour Party members who are writing to you to urge you to immediately take action regarding the allegations of repeated sexual assaults, harassment and predatory behaviour of one of your staff, who is a member of the Labour Party, as detailed in these stories:

https://thespinoff.co.nz/unsponsored/09-09-2019/a-labour-volunteer-alleged-violent-sexual-assault-by-a-senior-staffer-this-is-her-story/?fbclid=IwAR2w3BYBKCccR_hDGB-qNqohdFcXnS157NsZLbBj1yVrjl9M6mBscbQjuRo

https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/115592299/young-labour-abuse-victims-barred-from-parliament-offices

https://www.newshub.co.nz/home/politics/2019/08/exclusive-labour-forced-to-review-investigation-into-bullying-sexual-assault-allegations-against-staffer.html

Some of us are the survivors. Others are their friends and supporters. All of us have watched in horror as this story has unfolded, as the survivors have been repeatedly re-traumatised, and as the Labour Party has run a shambles of a process that has enabled an alleged attacker and shut out his survivors. This issue has been discussed for too long in secret meetings and private conversations, and it is our hope that by drawing attention to it in the light of day we will get the action that the survivors deserve. We are sending this letter to the Labour Party caucus, the entirety of the New Zealand Council of the Labour Party, and to all Labour Party LECs.

What has been outlined in the stories is nothing short of sexual assault. What has been outlined as the party’s process in addressing this assault is nothing short of enabling.

It has been claimed that this letter is a ‘false flag’, part of a conspiracy and attempts have been made to discredit it at The Standard.

Stuff: Complaints about Labour Party staffer taken to his employer

Two of the complainants in an investigation into assault, bullying and harassment by a Labour Party staffer have taken their concerns directly to the man’s employer.

The man, who Stuff cannot name for legal reasons, works in the Labour Leader’s Office, but is a public servant employed by Parliamentary Service.

A 19-year-old woman, who alleges sexual assault, and a young man, who has accused the staffer of throwing a punch at him, wrote to Parliamentary Service boss Rafael Gonzalez-Montero on Tuesday.

But Gonzelez-Montero says his hands are tied because the accusations do not relate to the man’s employment. Neither of the complainants work at Parliament.

It’s hard to understand why this can be deemed not an employment matter.

The man has not been stood down. But he agreed to work from home after allegations surfaced about his conduct in early August.

The issue has a direct effect on the man’s employment.

It is also hard to understand why Ardern is allowing this man to continue to work for her office in the current situation. It could drag her and her Government down.

HDPA (Newstalk ZB): We must question PM’s honesty over Labour sexual assault allegations:

This is what we want to ask her: When did she know that the allegations against a staffer in her office were of an alleged sex crime?

She told media yesterday: ”I was informed in the very beginning that the allegations made were not sexual.”

She told RNZ this morning that she found out yesterday.

“The first I’ve seen the complaints of that nature was when I read then.” Asked when that was, she said “When I saw them in the Spinoff.”

That is very hard to believe. This has been reported in the media for the last five weeks.

If you believe that yesterday was the first the Prime Minister heard of this, then you must believe that the Prime Minister of this country does not watch, read or listen to the news reported in this country.

That she for the last five weeks has missed every bulletin, newspaper and programme that mentioned the fact this guy is alleged to have committed a sexual crime.

Like this on Newshub: “The Labour Party has been forced to review its own investigation into bullying, sexual harassment and sexual assault by a Labour staffer.”

Or this: “Two more of the seven people who laid complaints about bullying, sexual harassment and assault by a Labour staffer have told Newshub about their experience of the department’s internal investigation.”

You have to also believe that the Prime Minister didn’t ask what allegation was so serious that a staffer in her office stopped coming to work five weeks ago.

You also have to square it with this comment she made yesterday in her press conference”:

“A month ago I visited New Zealand [Labour Party] Council. Very seriously shared my view that they were not the appropriate place to undertake inquiries around concerning behaviour of members of the Labour Party. But particularly they are not the appropriate place to ever undertake an investigation into a sexual assault. And that would be their view too.”

Why would she say to the Labour Party council that they were not the right people to investigate an alleged sex crime, if she didn’t know the allegations were of a sex crime?

Because she did. She did know.

On the 6th of August, one day after the story broke in the media, Mike Hosking raised it with her right here on this station.

He asked her: “How many people have quit your party as a result of this investigation into this bloke who may or may not have sexual assaulted someone?”

Her response was: “I’m going to be very careful answering that question Mike because this is an inquiry and work is still underway and it is still a party matter.”

Exactly when the Prime Minister knew is important for a bunch of reasons.

Did she fail in her duty of care to staffers and volunteers?  Was this supposed to be covered up? But mostly it’s important because this is now about her integrity

It’s becoming increasingly hard to believe her version of events, and possibly this is the first time that we’ve had reason to question Jacinda Ardern’s honesty.

This is not just Ardern’s honesty and credibility at stake. Labour’s chances in the next election may be severely compromised by this.

It has been claimed that the man facing the allegations is seen by Labour as an important part of their campaign team. He may be more toxic than helpful. It’s hard to understand why Ardern can’t see this. Perhaps she is (or has been)too close to the accused person.

Grant Robertson also seems to be involved in this, and may have been trying to distance Ardern from the growing issue.

Newshub: Emails show Labour was sent details of sexual assault allegations against party staffer

Newshub has obtained emails that show Labour was sent details six months ago of sexual assault allegations against a party staffer.

The party continues to deny it knew the claims against the man included sexual assault, but on Tuesday the Prime Minister said the party President Nigel Haworth has to go if it’s proven he mishandled the allegations.

Newshub has been forwarded an email sent by a complainant to one the members of the Labour Party investigating panel on the day of her interview.

She wanted to be able to read off a timeline and testimony. She asked if someone could print the document before her interview which was taking place an hour later.

A document “to print sexual assault experience” was attached.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was shown the document on Tuesday morning.

She told Newshub, “You’ll understand why we will want to take away this and look at it directly.”

Labour agrees the email was sent but claims there were no documents attached. The complainant says all three members of the investigating panel were given a printed copy.

Newshub revealed in August Finance Minister Grant Robertson was aware of the investigation and some complaints, but he’s refusing to say how much he knew.

“I am not going to comment any further than what I have on that because I will be undermining the privacy,” he told Newshub.

In an interview on RNZ’s Checkpoint yesterday a man who claims to be the victim of an attempted physical assault and a physical assault indicated the accused man had family connections to the Labour Party.

Protecting him looks increasingly untenable.


And more just posted at The Spinoff: Fresh evidence emerges confirming Labour was told of sexual assault allegations on June 11

The woman who alleges sexual assault by a man currently employed by the Labour Leader’s office has expressed dismay at the response of the Labour Party president, Nigel Howarth, who yesterday issued a public statement doubling down on his position that sexual assault allegations contained in investigation published by The Spinoff were never made known to anyone involved in the Labour inquiry.

“He was like a fatherly figure to these six women, and he’s let us down,” she told The Spinoff.

Her comments come as a second email has newly emerged which shows Sarah, the pseudonym by which she is described in The Spinoff’s story, sending a written account of sexual abuse allegations to the Labour Party.

In the email, dated June 11 and sent to the three members of the investigation panel, she directs them to an attached document which contains clear reference to her allegation of being sexually assaulted by the man.

This is on top of another email, sent on the morning of her interview to the chair of the panel, requesting that attached documents be printed. He asked her to send it on to the party official who was overseeing access to Labour headquarters, which she did. According to Sarah four copies of those documents were printed and provided to the panel.

The Labour Party has told The Spinoff that no attachments were received by the investigation chair, and that no one involved in the investigation was aware that any of the people appearing before them was alleging sexual assault.

Sarah told The Spinoff yesterday she was “disappointed” by what she regarded as a “cowardly” statements on the part of the Labour Party. She maintained that her traumatic experience, as detailed Monday on The Spinoff, was first described to Labour at a meeting in October 2018 with Nigel Haworth and general secretary Dianna Lacy. She said this was reiterated to the investigating sub-committee in March 2019.

“We’ve had so many email exchanges that talk about the nature of the investigation,” she said. ““I’m incredibly saddened … Standing by a process you know is flawed, a process you know retraumatised and put further young women at risk is cowardly.”

 

Labour’s ongoing bungling of dealing with assaults within the party

The Labour Party badly bungled how they handled the complaints of assault that happened at a Young Labour Summer Camp in 2018 – the accused person has just pleaded guilty to two charges of assault.

Worse than this, stories keep emerging of far more serious sexual assaults by a Labour staffer working in the prime Ministers’s office.

The responsibility for this disturbing mismanagement lies mostly with the party president, Nigel Haworth, but Jacinda Ardern is also tainted by association, especially by apparent close association regarding the staffer.

The party tried to deal with the Summer Camp problem internally until complaints went public, an inquiry was ordered, and police lay charges. Haworth and Ardern vowed to sort out their procedures for dealing with complaints. But they have botched again.

It finally got to trial last week, and after chargees were dreduced the trial ended with guilty pleas.

RNZ on September 4 2019:  Man accused of Young Labour camp assaults pleads guilty

The man accused of assaulting teenagers at a Young Labour summer camp has pleaded guilty to two charges of assault on the third day of his trial.

The 21-year-old, who has continued name suppression, was facing five charges of indecent assault in relation to four teenagers.

He was accused of touching the genitals of two young men, kissing and licking a young woman on her neck and face and groping another young woman’s breast and bottom.

Today, midway through the trial, he pleaded guilty to assaulting two young men at the camp near Waihi last year.

The indecent assault charges, in relation to the two young women, were dropped this morning.

The third indecent assault charge, in relation to one of the young men, was dismissed.

The man’s lawyer Emma Priest had earlier asked the jury to consider whether or not the defendant was the sexual offender the Crown suggested he is, or just a young man at a party “caught up in a political storm”.

She has indicated she will apply for a discharge without conviction.

After the charges were withdrawn, Ms Priest said her client had always been prepared to take responsibility for the two assaults.

The man will be sentenced in November.

Judge Russell Collins said he hoped what happened at the camp wouldn’t put young people off being involved in political groups.

It sounds like the assaults were relatively minor but of a sexual nature, and there were multiple victims.

While the man’s name remains suppressed there have been suggestions he may be related to someone senior in the Labour Party.

Following the trial which brought up Labour’s poor handling of the assaults, more details and claims emerge from the party problem in Parliament.

It appears that the Labour Party is failing assault victims badly here. On Sunday from Stuff:

Young Labour abuse victims barred from Parliament offices

​Labour’s president Nigel Haworth barred complainants and witnesses in an alleged bullying and sexual harassment case from one of Parliament’s main buildings.

Leaked emails show Haworth and other senior officials instructed the women, all Labour party members, to stay away from the Labour party offices in Bowen House, where the man at the centre of their complaints works.

Monday from The Spinoff:

A Labour volunteer alleged a violent sexual assault by a Labour staffer. This is her story

A Labour party staffer is alleged to have committed a serious and sustained sexual assault on a 19-year-old volunteer early in 2018. The volunteer told the Spinoff the assault was compounded by the resulting inquiry, during which the alleged perpetrator was not stood down from any duties, which included the supervision of Young Labour volunteers.

The complaint process, undertaken entirely by people within the Labour Party, has left her feeling “angry, quite fearful and desperate”.

The alleged perpetrator has ties throughout the party hierarchy. The woman, who remains a member of the Labour Party, said the man’s level of influence left her constantly frightened of the impact of speaking out.

Over the course of numerous in-depth interviews with The Spinoff, Sarah – whose name has been changed to protect her identity – detailed how she was pinned down and sexually assaulted at the man’s home during a private meeting to discuss party business in early 2018. The process that followed, beginning in April 2018 during the post-Labour Camp review undertaken by Maria Berryman, has completely eroded her faith in the party.

Sarah is one of at least seven people who made formal complaints in relation to the individual, ranging from bullying, intimidation and sexual harassment through to sexual assault. She described him as having a “pretty senior and active” role in the party, and being well-connected with several high profile Labour MPs.

The Party is running out of carpet to sweep this under. Nigel Haworth’s position must be in jeopardy.

Why Labour president must resign over sexual assault allegations

Ardern can no longer pretend that sexual harassment is someone else’s problem.

It will be a painful realisation, but Labour must accept that it has a toxic culture and does not look after its young members.

The first step in addressing that is to fire Haworth, the man who badly failed all the complainants.

This time, the party must protect them – and not turn away.

The Spinoff Editorial: Labour has failed vulnerable young members for a second time. There must be consequences

n the aftermath of revelations about an alleged sexual assault at a 2018 Labour youth summer camp, party leader Jacinda Ardern fronted the media to express her dismay. Both at what had happened, and how her party had responded to it.

“We failed the young people who told us they had been hurt – this failure left them feeling abandoned and I am deeply sorry for that,” she said.

Ardern and the party president Nigel Haworth vowed that such an experience and outcome was unacceptable, and when an inquiry was launched, announced that its scope would not simply be limited to the events at the camp, but open to other historical allegations, too.

Watching all this unfold was a young Labour member who had her own harrowing experience within Labour. Hearing their words, she found it within herself to approach the lawyer appointed to lead the investigation. After hearing from the lawyer that the summer camp allegations were taking priority, she met with the party president and assistant general secretary, who formed a panel to investigate her claims.

As The Spinoff’s reporting showed this morning, some of the experiences which motivated the young Labour members to get in touch were incredibly harrowing. The allegations they carried with them were about a single party member, and ranged from bullying to abuse of power to assault to sexual assault.

The very fact of engaging with the party was intimidating. The man they were speaking out about was an influential staffer, well-connected within the party and its parliamentary wing. The fact that it was the same party investigating made them worried about the security of their information, and unsure about where loyalties lay. Yet they fronted up on a Saturday in March, and told their stories to a panel comprised of three members of Labour’s governing council.

That panel appears to have been more intent on containing the story for political reasons, with victims claiming they have been treated badly.

As reported on Sunday by Stuff, the alleged perpetrator remains in his role. And Haworth, who has now presided over two acknowledged failures, remains in his.

He, and his party, need to quickly decide whether that is a state of affairs which should continue. At the very least they need to pledge immediately and unequivocally that all future inquiries will be run by qualified individuals independent of the party.

It has been a long and torturous process. A process which began when a young woman decided to come forward after hearing the most senior individuals in the party encourage her to do so. At the time the party acknowledged having “failed” its young people. Unconscionably, another group of young people are today living with that same sensation – of a party which they loved having badly let them down.

Jacinda Ardern had to front up at her weekly media conference yesterday.

The Spinoff:  ‘Incredibly frustrated, deeply disappointed’: Ardern speaks on Labour inquiry

The prime minister and leader of the Labour Party, Jacinda Ardern, has this afternoon responded to questions relating to allegations of sexual assault by a Labour staffer, and the controversial process surrounding an inquiry into his behaviour. She was “incredibly frustrated and deeply disappointed” by the way it had been handled, she said.

“I want to make it very clear that I am deeply concerned and incredibly frustrated by the process that has been undertaken by the Labour Party, but also obviously by the nature of the allegations,” she said, speaking to reporters at her weekly post-cabinet press conference.

“I was informed in the very beginning that the allegations made were not sexual in nature. That is obviously directly counter to what is now being reported.”

Ardern said she had “sought assurances that they were not [sexual in nature] in the very beginning. I have obvious since seen and heard questions in the media raised as to whether or not that was accurate.”

Perhaps party management and the inquiry panel have tried to shield and distance Ardern from the issues, but their bungling has put Ardern in a very difficult position.

Ardern said she had attended a meeting of the New Zealand Council, the governing body of the Labour Party, on August 10, after the story was broken by Newshub. She had “very seriously shared my view that they were not the appropriate place to undertake inquiries around concerning behaviour by members of the Labour Party, but particularly they are not the appropriate place to ever undertake an investigation into a sexual assault, and that would be their view, too”, she said.

Following that meeting, Maria Dew, QC, was appointed to undertake a review of the original inquiry.

The prime minister would not say whether the individual at the centre of the inquiry had been stood down from his role in the Labour Party, but that “the person referenced in the article has not been on the precinct … for roughly five weeks now and will not be on the precinct at least for the duration of the inquiry that’s being undertaken by a QC appointed by the Labour Party.”

She said she does not believe the alleged is still attending party meetings and events.

Ardern should know exactly what the situation is with the staffer accused of multiple assaults. David Farrar claims that as party leader Ardern has the power to terminate the employment of the staffer: The clause Jacinda refuses to use

The staffer should at least be suspended pending the outcome of the latest inquiry. That is standard practice in other workplaces.

When asked if she retained confidence in the president of the Labour Party, Nigel Haworth, Ardern said: “I absolutely believe that the president wants to do the right thing by those involved and by the party. But I have had competing reports now on the nature of the allegations and the complaint process. It was a month ago that I expressed complete dissatisfaction with the way it had been handled by the Labour Party. And I’m now going to await the findings of the QC’s report.”

Awaiting the findings will allow this to fester further, but Ardern seems to want to continue with this hands off approach. She should at the very least be talking sternly with Haworth, now.

Ardern said the QC would report directly to her, rather than the NZ Council.

“I need absolute clarity. I have not received it through the competing reports to date … I do need a third party, a reliable, trusted individual to give me clarity and I will act on the findings decisively.”

That’s what she and the party should have demanded over the summer camp assaults issue, and when the Parliamentary staffer story broke.

She added: “I will be seeking assurance that the party will provide all the information that it was provided during the original investigation to the QC.”

She should be demanding that for herself right now.

Newsroom: Labour fails to learn from its mistakes

A little over a year ago, Labour Party president Nigel Haworth promised the party he had presided over since 2015 would change.

In the wake of claims that four young supporters were sexually assaultedduring one of the party’s summer camps, Haworth announced Labour had accepted all the recommendations of a review into the events.

Among them was a commitment to review or develop policies for sexual harassment and assault, bullying and the party’s code of conduct, as well as introducing “a new open complaints process to enable complaints to be received and responded to without delay and with the appropriate degree of specialist advice”.

Now, claims about Labour’s approach to allegations made against one of its employees suggests the party has not changed as much as it should have – but its president may have to.

…it is Haworth who is the constant in both cases, and Haworth who left Ardern expressing her concern and frustration about the Labour Party’s process.

The Prime Minister would not directly state that he had misled her, but her comment when asked if she had confidence in him that he had “articulated to me that he only wants to ensure he has done the right thing” smacked of damnation with faint praise.

Speaking after the complainants’ concerns came to light, Ardern said the investigation had been “a test of whether or not we’ve now learnt from” the summer camp scandal.

It is a test the party appears to be failing – and Haworth may be the one who has to pay the price.

I think that after two major failures Haworth should step down, and if not he should be stood down.

But there is a bigger political price that may be paid.

This is seriously threatening Brand Jacinda. She has talked strongly about new standards of decency in politics, but has failed to match her own rhetoric with her distancing from these serious issues. I think it is quite possible this will impact on Labour’s re-election chances significantly.

But that’s just a political consequence.

The worst aspect of this is the victims who continue to be very poorly protected and listened to by the party they had thought was better than all of this.


Update: It looks like the problem for labour is growing, with more people and claims coming out today.

Another person (male) has gone to media, corroborating what others have claimed, and claiming the accused man took a swing at him when he confronted him over his treatment of women, and claims a separate physical assault.

Labour assault investigation retraumatised victims – witness

A man who says he was assaulted by a Labour Party staffer would like to meet with Jacinda Ardern to discuss the party’s handling of claims of sexual abuse and assault.

The Prime Minister has refused…

https://www.rnz.co.nz/national/programmes/checkpoint/audio/2018712678/labour-assault-investigation-retraumatised-victims-witness

This is a problem that doesn’t look like going away for Ardern and Labour. Waiting weeks for the outcome of the QC inquiry to be completed may be too little, too late to avert or stem irreparable damage.

RNZ also gave credence to the open letter.

https://www.rnz.co.nz/national/programmes/checkpoint/audio/2018712686/ardern-urged-by-labour-members-to-act-on-assault-complaints

As did One News.

It comes after an open letter sent by some of the alleged victims of a Labour Party staffer asked for the Prime Minister to “do the right thing”.

Also:

A complaint has been made to Parliamentary Service against the person at the centre of the Labour Party staffer allegations.

It was made by a person who does not work at Parliament, meaning Parliamentary Service cannot act on it.

https://www.tvnz.co.nz/one-news/new-zealand/complaint-made-parliamentary-service-against-labour-staffer

This may or may not be a different complainant again but the claims are a little different to what was said on RNZ.

Former Labour party volunteer says he raised allegations with party president Nigel Haworth

But one of the 12 complainants told Stuff he directly raised the matter with the investigating panel in March this year.

He has provided Stuff with an email he sent to Haworth in May which refers directly to “this investigation …which involved elements of predatory behaviour, sexual violence and physical violence.”

And the man says he spoke about it in a two-hour meeting with Haworth in early July.

Haworth has been approached for comment but has not replied.

“I definitely had those conversations with him and there is an email proving it,” the complainant told Stuff.

https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/115693354/former-labour-party-volunteer-says-he-raised-allegations-with-party-president-nigel-haworth

NZ troops to be withdrawn from Iraq

Beehive:  New Zealand to withdraw from Iraq in June 2020:


New Zealand will conclude its non-combat Building Partner Capacity (BPC) mission at Taji Military Complex in Iraq in June 2020, when full responsibility for basic training will be handed over to the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF), Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Minister of Foreign Affairs Winston Peters and Minister of Defence Ron Mark announced today.

New Zealand currently deploys up to 95 personnel to the BPC at Taji. Following recent Cabinet decisions this will reduce to a maximum of 75 from July 2019 and 45 from January 2020, before the mission’s completion by June 2020.

New Zealand and Australia have been jointly delivering training to the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) at Taji since 2015, when New Zealand first deployed to Iraq as part of the multinational Defeat-ISIS Coalition. Over 44,000 ISF personnel have been trained at Taji since 2015.

“Four years ago New Zealand made a commitment to the Iraqi Government and to the Coalition to train the ISF at Taji and lift their capability to defeat and prevent the resurgence of ISIS. Over the next 12 months, New Zealand will be able to wind down and conclude that commitment,” Jacinda Ardern said.

“The New Zealand and Australian troops at Taji have worked hard, not only to provide training, but also to ensure that the ISF are well placed to take over this commitment at Taji in the near future. The goal of any training mission is to ensure that it becomes a sustainable programme.”

“Significant progress has been made in this area, which will allow the mission to reduce in numbers and conclude within the next year, having successfully achieved what we went in to do. This is an encouraging evolution and a success not only for us but also for the ISF personnel who have trained hard to gain the skills to become a modern military force,” said Ron Mark.

Alongside the deployment to Taji, the New Zealand Defence Force will continue in a reduced number of support roles within the Defeat-ISIS Coalition in the region. Cabinet will consider these positions again by next June.

New Zealand will however increase its stabilisation funding contribution to Iraq to approximately NZ$3 million per annum for the next three years (from NZ$2.4m in 2018-19) to help affected communities recover and rebuild following the conflict with ISIS.

Stabilisation funding will come from within MFAT’s overseas aid and development fund, and will contribute to what has been estimated to be a US$87 billion rebuild of Iraq.

“Despite its territorial defeat in Iraq in December 2017 and Syria in March 2019, it is clear that ISIS remains a threat and Iraq requires ongoing international support as it moves towards recovery and stabilisation,” said Winston Peters.

“As large numbers of Iraqi people return home and begin to rebuild their lives and communities, New Zealand’s targeted funding support can make a meaningful contribution towards this.”


National have sort of supported this – with a catch.

RNZ: National supports troop withdrawal – if partners do same

The National Party is on board with the government pulling Kiwi troops out of Iraq next year – on the condition Australia and the United States also withdraw.

National Party defence spokesperson Mark Mitchell said the decision to leave was the right one, providing everyone went at the same time.

“It looks okay with us, it would be dependent on whether it’s in line with what our partners are doing – especially the Americans and the Australians,” he said.

Australia is yet to make a formal announcement but Mr Mark told media yesterday the New Zealand decision was part of a carefully planned exit strategy alongside partners.

“We took a role of about a third/two-thirds contribution in partnership with Australia. This reduces down to a quarter/three-quarters and we will be downsizing alongside them and working with them, not just walking away from the mission,” Mr Mark said.

In a statement Australian Defence Minister Linda Reynolds said Australia and New Zealand “consult closely on their respective deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan”.

“Australia is proud to support the Iraqi Security Forces, alongside its New Zealand counterparts. We will continue to work closely with New Zealand as it gradually draws down its footprint in Iraq,” she said.

“Australia regularly reviews its overseas operations, taking into account the needs of the Iraqi Government and the operational context on the ground.”

Whether National backs the withdrawal probably won’t make any difference, as the drawdown will have largely happened by next year’s election.

I doubt there is much public support for staying in Iraq, and there will be much stronger support for a withdrawal.

 

Rainbow Wellbeing Legacy Fund

Government establishes Rainbow Wellbeing Legacy Fund

Improving the mental health and wellbeing of young members of the rainbow community is at the heart of the establishment of the Rainbow Wellbeing Legacy Fund, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said today.

The Fund is an acknowledgement of those New Zealanders who were convicted for homosexual acts before the law was changed in 1986. In 2017 the Government apologised to them and in 2018 passed a law to allow for convictions to be expunged.

“In the wake of this the suggestion was made by some of the men involved that a fitting legacy would be to establish a fund that supports the young people of the Rainbow community. That is exactly what this fund will do.” Grant Robertson, Minister of Finance said.

“This is a community proposed and driven idea that has come from one part of the community for another and the Government is proud to make it happen,” Jacinda Ardern said.

“The Government is proposing to establish a charitable trust with a one-off endowment of $1 million. The trust will administer the payment of annual grants to support organisations that improve mental health and wellbeing outcomes in New Zealand rainbow communities, with a particular focus on organisations that support young people.

“The Government takes mental health seriously and this fund helps to tackle one of New Zealand’s long-term challenges of mental health,” Jacinda Ardern said.

A million dollars is a very small part of the budget (compared for example to the $1 billion a year Shane Jones political wellbeing fund). It should be money well spent.

 

 

Budget leaked

National claims to have been leaked the budget ahead of it going public on Thursday. If National have obtained a copy, that’s bad. But it is also bad that they are making parts of it public.

I can’t remember a budget leak before this.

RNZ – Budget leak: Embarrassing error or conspiracy?

A major pre-Budget bomb has dropped on the Beehive with top level Budget information ending up in the hands of the National Party.

The Prime Minister’s regular media stand-up at Parliament this morning was ticking along with questions about mental health, funding for dentistry and the Debbie Francis report when the news broke – the timing was of course no coincidence.

Jacinda Ardern was blindsided and reporters had just enough time to digest the document released by National before heading to leader Simon Bridges’ regular Tuesday question and answer session.

“National reveals Budget details” screamed the headline on the media release.

With it was a document claiming to reveal the funding for 18 policy areas for the next financial year.

It spanned major portfolios including health, defence, overseas aid, customs, Maori development and justice.

“This is not the Wellbeing Budget it’s the Winston Budget”, declared Mr Bridges.

That’s a reference to Deputy Prime Minister and New Zealand First leader Winston and a $1.3 billion spend on defence assets in National’s documents.

But Mr Bridges was a lot more reticent when asked about how National had come across the information – “cock-up or conspiracy?” asked one reporter.

One possibility is that someone within the Government deliberately leaked the material to National.

Mr Bridges talked about a “loose and incompetent” government and would not go as far as calling it a leak, so that seems less likely.

More likely is that someone has been careless with the information and it has ended up with National through human error.

The Finance Minister Grant Robertson hastily convened a media conference where he said some of the figures were right, but some were wrong.

The “major new initiatives”, he said, were not in the National Party document.

The only specific comment he made was about the defence spending, confirming it does includes the purchase of Boeing P-8A Poseidon Aircraft, which had already been announced.

But other than that he refused to say which other parts were right or wrong, or even how much of it was accurate.

The hunt for who was responsible will only begin in earnest once the Budget has been delivered on Thursday, but Treasury is already investigating.

There is actually serious financial implications of part of budgets being leaked ahead of the official release date.

And it is a serious matter if the budget has been deliberately leaked to the Opposition.

Circus politics seems to be getting worse.

Mallard’s Parliament rape claim under scrutiny as man responds

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jacinda Ardern’s 2019 pre-budget speech

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern gave a pre-budget speech to Business New Zealand yesterday. Excerpts:


Not surprisingly, I want to talk to you today about next week’s Wellbeing Budget, why we are doing it, what it means and what it will achieve. I’ll also run through some of the pre-Budget announcements we have made to illustrate what the new approach means in action.

As I said when I entered Parliament, I developed a passion for social justice over many years, but in part from living through that and seeing people lose their jobs and seeing families struggle.

For this Coalition Government, a key plank of delivering that change is our Wellbeing Budget. Let me talk a little about our rationale for taking on quite a different approach, and one the OECD is watching quite closely.

…what we are trying to do with the Wellbeing Budget.

It has five priorities, which were developed using the Treasury’s Living Standards Framework, evidence from sector-based experts and the Government’s Science Advisors, and through collaboration among public sector agencies and Ministers.

These priorities, which yes include our economy, but go beyond that too, are the areas where the evidence shows we have the greatest opportunities to make a difference to New Zealanders’ wellbeing.

These are:

  • Creating opportunities for productive businesses, regions, iwi and others to transition to a sustainable and low-emissions economy;
  • Supporting a thriving nation in the digital age through innovation, social and economic opportunities;
  • Reducing child poverty and improving child wellbeing, including addressing family violence;
  • Supporting mental wellbeing for all New Zealanders, with a special focus on under 24-year-olds; and
  • Lifting Māori and Pacific incomes, skills and opportunities.

The second step was to then look at Budget bids under each of these priorities, through a different lens.

We asked three big questions:

  • is the Budget bid intergenerational? Will it make a difference now and for the lives of our children, grandchildren and beyond?
  • does it move us beyond the narrow measures of success to take a wider set of factors into consideration?
  • and, finally, is it a whole of Government approach? After all, for too long policies and initiatives have operated in isolation, sometimes with overlapping work and other times resulting in gaps in policies.

First, homelessness.

Instead of looking solely at public housing places, we have acknowledged that chronic homelessness is often a result of multiple complex and often compounding issues.

Rather than take part in a merry dance on what issue comes first, we should instead, house first.

And that’s exactly what a well-researched and evidenced-based model called Housing First does. It houses those who are in cars or on our streets and then wraps social support around them – whatever is required – to make it stick.

Budget 2019 does that by making the largest Government investment in chronic homelessness ever, and rolling out Housing First into more centres, and funding more places.

Family and sexual violence

Every year about one million New Zealanders are affected by family and sexual violence, including almost 300,000 children.

Violence is expensive, in more than one way. It, for instance, can do as much harm to a child who witnesses it, as it does to a child who is directly harmed. And that then plays out in their behaviour, and their relationships. And so it continues.

We all know we need to put in place a crisis response, but we just haven’t invested much before in breaking cycles, working with children for instance, or addressing the mental health impact of family and sexual violence. A wellbeing approach demands that we do.

And so on Sunday we announced a $320 million investment in this area. And because of our new coordinated approach, it’s an investment that will sit across eight portfolios and deliver more support services to more New Zealanders, major campaigns aimed at stopping violence occurring and major changes to court processes to reduce the trauma victims’ experience.

Budget Responsibility Rules

Finance Minister Grant Robertson…confirmed we will meet all of the Budget Responsibility Rules as we did last year as well. For anyone who needs or wants a reminder, these were a set of self-imposed rules to demonstrate our commitment to sound economic management covering our debt-to-GDP ratio, core Crown spending and Budget surpluses.

The reaction to his news that following the expiry of the Budget Responsibility Rules in 2022 we would be moving from a net debt target (of 20%) to a net debt range (of 15-25%) received positive and negative attention – usually a sign we have the balance right.

Global Economy

Fortunately we are well positioned to face instability and uncertainty. Although growth rates are set to be lower than we have seen in recent years, the IMF projections for New Zealand are that we will still grow at around 2.5% in 2019 and 2.9% in 2020. We are still tracking ahead of most of our major trading partners. The average growth for advanced economies in the same period is projected to be 1.8% and 1.7% respectively.

We are projected to grow faster than the US, the UK, Japan, Canada, the Eurozone and Australia. Just this week the OECD released its latest outlook which also shows us growing faster than our peers, while last week the Reserve Bank of Australia further lowered its 2019 growth forecast for the Australian economy.

We continue to have historically low unemployment and stable, low inflation. This is supported by Budget surpluses and low public debt due to our Government’s responsible fiscal management.

This all supports this Government’s economic plan which includes:

  • Focussing on increasing trade and broadening our trading base to protect our exporters and economy through the introduction of the CPTPP, pursuing an EU FTA and we recently, of course, signed our Enhanced Partnership with Singapore.
  • We are reforming skills and trade training to address long-term labour shortages and productivity gaps in the New Zealand economy, to make sure we are prepared for ongoing automation and the future of work – I’d like to acknowledge the work Kirk and Richard Wagstaff are doing alongside the Finance Minister on the Future of Work Tripartite Forum. So far a focus on the future of work has meant greater investment in apprenticeships and partnership with business like the skills pledge launch by my Business Advisory Council under the leadership of Christopher Luxon.
  • We are addressing our long-term infrastructure challenges – and that doesn’t just mean billions in investment, but establishing long-term planning through the Infrastructure Commission.
  • We are transitioning to a sustainable carbon-neutral economy. Our focus is not only having a long-term plan through the Zero Carbon Act, but also investing in R&D as the economic transition occurs.
  • And, of course, investing in wellbeing because this is inextricably linked to our economic success too. You will see more on that in the Budget on May 30.

These economic initiatives are, in turn, part of the Government’s approach of finding pragmatic solutions to New Zealand’s long-term challenges.

CONCLUSION

Ultimately though, it’s fair to say we are taking nothing for granted. Our relatively solid position does not mean we should simply ride out the conditions around us. Nor do the existing parameters successive governments inherit mean we should use traditional frameworks to make decisions or measure success.

Systemic change does however take time.

My hope is though that this year, by meeting both the Budget Responsibility Rules and with the new Wellbeing Budget, you’ll see us doing exactly what is needed – setting a strong foundation for both our country and our people.

Full speech at Scoop.

Lobbyist – PM Chief of Staff – lobbyist

No matter how it was being managed, this looks questionable for Jacinda Ardern’s office.

The Spinoff (22 February 2018):  Conflict of interest concerns over lobbyist turned chief of Jacinda Ardern’s staff

The government lobbyist who served for several months as chief of staff to the prime minister as the new government took office says he didn’t do any work for the lobbying firm of which he is part-owner while working at the Beehive. Nor, he says, was he paid by the business.

In response to questions on potential conflicts of interest, GJ Thompson, who advised the prime minister for five months ending last Friday, told The Spinoff he “declared the potential conflict at the very outset” and that it was for the Department of Internal Affairs to manage any conflict.

Before taking on the leading Labour position he was a partner at Thompson Lewis, the lobbying firm he founded in 2016. Having left the role, he has returned to Auckland and his firm to continue as a lobbyist.

His time advising Ardern leads in his promotional bio on the front page of the firm’s website, which boasts: “He spent five months as chief of staff to prime minister Jacinda Ardern, assisting the new government transition into the Beehive.” The firm’s blurb advertises its “strong political networks” and its partners’ “significant time in senior roles in Government and Opposition”.

The Spinoff asked the prime minister’s office whether Thompson’s clients were disclosed to the prime minister, how any conflicts were managed, and whether the prime minister knew Thompson remained a director and shareholder of his firm while we was working as chief of staff.

The PM’s office said these were questions for Ministerial Services as Thompson’s employer.

The Spinoff asked Thompson about these circumstances and how any conflicts of interest were managed, including whether the disclosure was about his role at the firm generally, or relating to particular clients.

Thompson responded: “Your questions are best directed to DIA [the Department of Internal Affairs] given they were the employer. DIA manages any potential conflict of interest. I declared the potential conflict at the very outset of my short-term appointment.”

“While I was temporarily working as chief of staff, I took a leave of absence from Thompson Lewis and did not work for the business at all”, he said.

Less than a month ago he transferred shares in the firm to another lobbyist, Sifa Taumoepeau, who is now also a director. And very recently the firm announced a recruiting decision likely to have been made some time during Thompson’s five months as chief of staff: the appointment of Wayne Eagleson, former chief of staff to John Key and Bill English, as a consulting partner at the firm.

Lobbyists mingling with Government and political parties has raised eyebrows for years.

The guidance for state servants explains: “Any commercial activities, investments or other personal interests must not influence the work we do, and we must be open in declaring where our interests may potentially conflict with our responsibilities.”

It remains unclear from the answers provided by Thompson, the prime minister’s office, and the Department of Internal Affairs whether Thompson disclosed his clients’ identities or simply that he was involved in Thompson Lewis, though that question was put directly to all three.

Without knowing who Thompson’s clients are, it would have been challenging for the department and the prime minister’s office to decide what steps should be taken to mitigate potential conflicts of interest, such as what information Thompson should have had access to, and whether he should have resigned his directorship of the firm.

Risks of corruption aside, political scientist Bryce Edwards, speaking to RNZ about his coverage of Thompson’s appointment, explained why he was concerned about changes in the lobbying industry: “There is increasing suspicion about what is basically a political class.”

“A lot of people — in especially the Wellington circles — that work in government departments, work in ministers’ offices, or are politicians, then work in the media, they work in PR, they work in lobbying. It’s all a bit too close, I think. It’s a very cohesive political class.”

This sort of public/private intermingling looks unlikely to change if politicians see advantages in it for themselves.

 

 

Mallard sparks chaos and consternation, alleged Parliament predator stood down

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Clearly it’s an intolerable situation.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RNZ: Politicians respond to Parliament rape claims

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

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

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

“Ultimately that’s the job of the Speaker.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peters appears to have been wrong.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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.