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.

 

 

Transphobic TERF wars of words

It really isn’t clear to me what this is all about, but a tweet from Labour MP Kiri Allan (recently suggested as a candidate for promotion to Minister) has some people reacting.

 

TERF:

TERF is an acronym for Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist. Sometimes, “exclusionary” is expanded as “eliminationist” or “exterminationist” instead to more accurately convey the degree to which TERFs advocate for harm towards trans people, specifically trans people who were coercively assigned male at birth.

Some TERFs call themselves “gender-critical feminists”, a term which is synonymous with “TERF”.

Unsurprisingly, many TERFs complain that “TERF” should be regarded as a slur.

Transphobia:

Transphobia is a range of negative attitudes, feelings or actions toward transgender or transsexual people, or toward transsexuality. Transphobia can be emotional disgust, fear, violence, anger, or discomfort felt or expressed towards people who do not conform to society’s gender expectation.[1][2] It is often expressed alongside homophobic views and hence is often considered an aspect of homophobia.[3][4] Transphobia is a type of prejudice and discrimination similar to racism and sexism,[5] and transgender people of color are often subjected to all three forms of discrimination at once.

Other than that I’m really not getting what the aim of all this is.

I’m generally for leaving people to be how they want to be. Labelling seems to be causing some strife.

I still don’t really get it.

Ah, this might have something to do with it.

Stuff:  Battle lines drawn between feminists and trans activists over sex self identification

Hostilities between feminists and transgender activists are coming to a head as the sex self identification debate heats up.

The two parties are arguing over a biological woman’s right to be labelled a woman.

Trans Dignity Collective is lobbying on proposed changes to patient identification data – arguing the “concept of ‘biological sex’ is inherently derogatory towards trans people.”

The collective “categorically opposes” the inclusion of a ‘biological sex recorded at birth’ field, which would “constitute a willful refusal to treat trans people with dignity and respect.”

Dunedin feminist Charlie Montague says the debate over people being able to self-identify as women has become aggressive.

A public meeting hosted by campaign group Speak Up for Women, will be held on Thursday in Wellington to “peacefully” discuss conflicts between women’s rights and proposed changes around self identification.

The collective’s argument comes as a process is underway to make legal changes to sex on birth certificates easier.

Montague and other lesbians and radical feminists argue that gender identity trumping biological sex will have far reaching implications for the rights women have fought for, including women’s only spaces like changing rooms, prisons and women’s refuges being infringed upon by men claiming to be women.

“Why are we replacing biology with ideology?” Montague said.

 

Earlier this month Wellington feminist Renee Gerlich’s posters celebrating 125 years of women’s suffrage were pulled by Phantom Billstickers over rainbow youth group’s concerns they were transphobic.

“This whole idea of sex self-identification, that government now wants enable as a one-step process, means we lose any robust, shared definition of sex. That in turn undermines all sex-based protections, which are especially important for women,” Gerlich said.

The implementation of sex self-identification with a single administrative declaration would allow convicted male sex offenders who identify as women – men like Rory FrancisAlex Seu and Malcolm Platt – to gain automatic access to women’s prisons upon sentencing.

“In short, these government proposals represent an unprecedented roll back of gains that women have fought hard for, and women need not only to be allowed to voice concerns about them – if this is a democracy, lawmakers should be actively seeking to hear women’s concerns and objections, and should be setting up opportunities for those to be aired freely,” Gerlich said.

Both Corrections and Department of Internal Affairs said they had provided advice on the Births, Deaths & Marriages Registration Bill currently before Parliament, and would see what happened.

Ah, there’s a bill before parliament causing some angst and arguments.

Self identification of one’s gender at one’s convenience could potentially have some unintended consequences.

Bridges still supports benefit sanctions ‘to motivate to work’

Beneficiary sanctions remain a point of difference between National and the government.

 

Labour to ‘rename’ Partnership Schools?

It sounds like Labour, or at least some of the Maori caucus and/or candidates, are planning on renaming Partnership Schools (sometimes referred to as charter schools).

There appears to be either some deft repositioning going on, or there’s a battle within Labour.

Labour, via education spokesperson Chris Hipkins, have always campaigned strongly against Partnership Schools.

Several weeks ago at Newsroom: Charter schools wait on their fate

When partnership schools were first set up some of them struggled to reach the guaranteed minimum rolls for which they were funded. Now with several hundred students on what’s known as ‘charter school’ rolls, school managers are holding their breath until the election and hoping a Labour-Green government wouldn’t have the heart to follow through with shutting them down.

Alwyn Poole, trust board member and academic advisor, said South Auckland Middle School was full at 180 students, “with 80 on a waitlist but no policy means or incentive for expansion,” while Middle School West Auckland was at 205 “and growing fast towards its maximum of 240 in its third year, after a difficult first year.”

Poole argued that, with the partnership schools now part of the educational landscape, opposition politicians needed to stop using them as the latest ‘dog-whistle’ issue.

He gave the example of Labour Education spokesperson Chris Hipkins addressing a public meeting in Palmerston North: “We have got a good relationship with Chris and he has seen the school and he appreciates it – but he says ‘we’ll abolish charter schools’ and everybody in the audience starts clapping. Well, Palmerston North doesn’t have a charter school, they probably don’t know what one looks like, they don’t know the kids that we are working with – it just becomes this way of saying something,” Poole said.

But much as Poole likes to think it is just dog-whistle rhetoric, Labour and the Greens remain determined the schools will go if they win the election.

The two parties are united in their position on shutting down the schools. New Zealand First is also opposed to partnership schools; its policy is to “end public funding for these privately-owned profit making opportunities.”

Hipkins’ response to Newsroom was simple: “Labour’s position on charter schools hasn’t changed. They won’t continue under Labour.”

But one thing in particular has changed with Labour. Andrew recruited Willie Jackson as a candidate, Jackson has been appointed as Maori campaign manager – and Jackson supports partnership schools.

In June last year: Willie Jackson: ‘I truly believe in the partnership school model’

The opposition’s stance on partnership schools won’t get a pass mark from me.  And as far as Maori are concerned, Labour’s Education spokesman Chris Hipkins’ Private Members Bill to scrap partnership schools rates an E.

I truly believe in the partnership school model.  I believe in it so much we have one at Nga Whare Waatea. The  kura comes under the Manukau Urban Maori Authority of which I am chief executive.

That’s why I have to put these questions to Hipkins: Why would you want to carry on funding a model which continues to marginalise those tamariki – admittedly mostly Maori – who don’t fit in? Why would you not want an alternative that can support and help our children fulfil their own dreams and aspirations?

Hipkins jumps on the bandwagon about them being a costly experiment that has distracted attention and diverted resources away from the vast majority of Kiwi kids attending public schools.

He describes the charter school model as a cosy “cup of tea” deal between National and ACT and that they’re based on ideology rather than what is best for kids’ education.

To me it appears that Labour’s need to appease the unions is at the expense of children’s education.  John Tamihere, who is the chief executive for the Waipareira Trust and a former Labour Party minister, and I have supported the charter school concept for a number of years now.

We will try anything that will help turn around the negative statistics in terms of Maori students failing in mainstream schools. That doesn’t mean we are anti-mainstream schools or in fact anti-Labour – it means we are pro-Maori and pro our people.

It is Hipkins’ right to put this through as a Private Members Bill but I would suggest that not even his own party colleagues are happy with his stance and when push comes to shove, they might not vote for it to happen. Let’s hope not.

That was before Jackson joined Labour – he is now placed at 21 on their list and judged a reasonable chance of making it into Parliament if Labour get their act together. Partnership schools is one thing they need to sort out.

Yesterday Jackson was asked about this clash on Q&A, along with another candidate, Kiri Allan, whi is placed a couple of spots above Jackson on Labour’s list.

CORIN But there are tensions, aren’t there? Because, Willie, you’ve been a strong advocate of charter schools. You’ve been involved with some. You’ve talked about how they are good for Maori children, yet you’re in a Labour party which will abolish them.

WILLIE I’ve already talked with the leadership about that. I’m into any sort of school that will change what’s happening with our kids. You can call it schools, whatever you like, and Labour—
CORIN Chris Hipkins will get—

WILLIE Well, Chris and I have talked about this, and he understands where we’re coming from. Our school has qualified teachers—

CORIN But can you change his mind?

WILLIE No, no, Chris is of the same mind as me. We want schools that will turn our lives around.

CORIN So you’re saying Hipkins is okay with a partnership school?

WILLIE No, no, you call it whatever you like, Corin, but if you will bring in a school that will change kids’ lives, that can— You know, we’re dealing with families who half the kids have parents are prisoners, for goodness’ sake. We’re not in for a profit. We’ve got qualified teachers.

CORIN I’m not questioning the results at the school. I’m just saying I’m curious as to Labour policy, because Labour policy is to not have partnership schools.

WILLIE No, no, but Labour—

CORIN How would your school fit under that if you get rid of them?

WILLIE No, no, they’ll get rid of the name, and they’ll get rid of the concept, but the principle of turning kids’ lives around is something that Chris Hipkins believes in and all of Labour believes in. So call the school whatever you like.

So they’ll get rid of the name and get rid of the concept, call it something else and do much the same thing?

KIRI And what you’ve got right now is a government that’s slashing its funding in education, right? So you’ve got principals that are having to make decisions about whether to fund books in schools, in libraries, or choose between support staff. So, really, again, if you’re boiling it down, it’s really— Right now, the priorities of this government in its education portfolio — and we would say across pretty much all of its social services portfolios — the matrix isn’t working right now, so whether— whatever you call them, we know our kids aren’t thriving in these schools, and that’s again— I mean, that’s why you’re seeing—

CORIN But if a charter school or partnership school works, why wouldn’t you do it?

KIRI Well, what I understand is that Chris Hipkins and our team, we’re focusing on what does work. Call it what you will. I don’t think that that’s the issue, but what we are looking at — what are the results for our kids? And right now our kids aren’t thriving.

Except that in most partnership schools it appears that their kids are doing better than they were in the standard State School system.

So “call it what you will”, and focus on what does work – partnership schools under a different name?

It’s well understood that Hipkins is close to the teacher’s unions, and has strongly promoted their opposition to partnership schools.

Labour are proudly proclaiming that the next Labour caucus will be 25% Maori, and they want to cut the Maori Party out of contention and be the sole party representing Maori (except for the Green Maori caucus, but that’s a different conflict).

Three months ago (February 7 2017) NZH: Labour leader Andrew Little confronts caucus over Willie Jackson ructions

Little said Jackson will be expected to abide by Labour’s policy on issues such as charter schools, despite his criticism of Labour on the issue in the recent past.

Hipkins today refused to endorse Jackson, saying it was not his role to voice support or dissent about any Labour candidate.

However, he said Labour would not change its policy to abolish charter schools.

This contrasts with the Jackson and Allan opinions on partnership schools. Unless Labour are just going to abolish the name and the concept but otherwise leave them intact. Or something.

This is something Andrew Little may need to show some leadership on – and some clarity on it. Otherwise it could easily become an embarrassing and/or divisive issue for Labour, and they don’t need any more of those.