SFO investigating Labour Party donations

The Serious Fraud Office announced today that they are investigating Labour Parry donations from 2017.

SFO commences investigation in relation to Labour Party donations

The Serious Fraud Office has commenced an investigation in relation to donations made to the Labour Party in 2017.

The SFO is presently conducting four investigations in relation to electoral funding matters. A fifth matter that the agency investigated relating to electoral funding is now before the courts.

“We consider that making the current announcement is consistent with our past practice in this area of electoral investigations and in the public interest,” the Director of the SFO, Julie Read, said.

In the interests of transparency and consistency, the SFO has announced the commencement of all these investigations.

RNZ: Serious Fraud Office to investigate 2017 Labour Party donations

In a statement, the SFO said it was conducting four investigations in relation to electoral funding, and a fifth was now before the courts.

The other cases involved respectively the New Zealand First FoundationAuckland Council, and Christchurch Council.

An SFO investigation into the New Zealand First Foundation was launched in February, after police promptly handed in a complaint from the Electoral Commission last November.

Kiwiblog: SFO announces investigation into Labour’s 2017 donations

This is very interesting. If I had to guess, I’d say the investigation was into Labour not naming people who paid tens of thousands of dollars for artworks as a donation to Labour.

The Standard:  SFO to Investigate Labour Donations

It appears the investigation may be into donations made at a ‘silent’ art auction in 2017. In February, Labour acknowledged that two men facing SFO charges along side National Party bag man Jami-Lee Ross and another man over donations to the Tories, had made donations to Labour as well.

Labour Party president Claire Szabo said at the time that Zheng Hengjia donated $10,000 by buying a piece of art at a silent auction in April 2017 and Zheng Shijia donated $1940 in 2018.

Szabo noted both donations were included in the Labour Party return filed in the respective years.

Possibly the main change of note here is that finally the SFO are investigating donations. In the past the Police tended to kick for touch on political investigations.

Official Government website used for campaigning

There is supposed to be, or should be, a clear demarcation between Government operations and party promotions and campaigning. Ministers frequently push boundaries this with self promotion and party promotion littering official Ministerial releases.

But I think that including a Labour Partyongress speech launching their election campaign is an abuse of intent and purpose, given that the beehive.govt.nz website is The Official website of the New Zealand Government.

Some of it is subtle, like this from last week:  PGF top-up for QE Health in Rotorua

The Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) is investing $1.5 million to ensure QE Health in Rotorua can proceed with its world class health service and save 75 existing jobs, Under Secretary for Regional Economic Development, Fletcher Tabuteau announced today.

“This announcement today provides an additional much needed economic boost to the regional economy and complements all the positive investments this Coalition Government has made in this region of late, including last week’s announcements with the Deputy Prime Minister the Rt Hon Winston Peters,  and this week’s infrastructure announcements made by Ministers Grant Robertson and Shane Jones,” Fletcher Tabuteau said.

That managed to name drop for four NZ First MPs. Another from the same day:PGF funds tourism boost in Northland

The Provincial Growth Fund is investing more than $7.5 million in Northland ventures to combat the economic impact of the COVID-19 virus, Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters and Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones have announced.

Why did Peters need to be mentioned in that other than for self promotion?

Similar in New investment creates over 2000 jobs to clean up waterways:

A package of 23 projects across the country will clean up waterways and deliver over 2000 jobs Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Environment Minister David Parker announced today.

It’s common to take subtle swipes at opponents, as in Keeping ACC levies steady until 2022:

“The previous Government increased levies during the global financial crisis only to find they were too high in following years. We are taking a cautious approach and ensuring we do not add to pressure on businesses and New Zealanders where it’s not necessary.

It’s hard to see why three party leaders are used to promote except to promote the three parties in government: Jobs budget to get economy moving again

Investments to both save and create jobs in Budget 2020 mean unemployment can be back to pre COVID-19 levels within two years and could see the economy growing again as early as next year.

The centrepiece of Budget 2020, Rebuilding Together, is the establishment of a $50 billion COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund which will target stimulus investment at protecting existing jobs, creating new ones and provide support for workers to retrain and for business to survive as well as targeting support to those sectors most affected by the virus.

“The Government’s decision to go hard and early to defeat the virus means we are now in a strong position to quickly get our economy moving again,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said.

“New Zealanders have made incredible sacrifices and suffered incredible loss in our collective battle against COVID-19. It is vital that Budget 2020 builds on restoring independence in every sense, to every day New Zealanders by creating jobs for those who have had them stripped away by this viral invasion,” Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters said.

The Coalition Government is using every tool it has to meet the immediate needs of New Zealanders post-lockdown, while balancing the long-term goal of a vibrant future economy.

“This Budget will support the people most affected by the global downturn,” Green Party Co-leader James Shaw said.

Labour have frequently promoted a sledge of National with the meme “nine years of neglect” – their are 266 Google hits of the phrase on the Beehive website. Some date back to 2002, showing that the Clark Government used the same term about the previous National Government, but ten hits are from the last 12 months and 27 since the current Government took over.

Over the last 12 months:

  • Labour Party mentioned 58 times
  • New Zealand First mentioned 48 times
  • Green party mentioned 43 times

The Government website includes speeches made by Ministers, which if relevant to their portfolios and responsibilities is fair enough.

But I think it’s taking things too far including Ardern’s speech to the Labour Party congress/conference in the weekend: Speech to Labour Party Congress 2020

This speech was made to Labour Party members at a Labour Party event, and launched the Labour Party election campaign. It closed with Labour’s election slogan “Let’s keep moving”.

This is not Government business and I think it is an abuse of the intent of an official Government website to be used to specifically promote one party that happens to be in power.

‘Let’s keep moving’ and the Jacinda movement

The Labour Party are launching their election campaign this weekend. It’s no surprise to see it based on Jacinda Ardern – framed as ‘Jacinda and our movement’.

But their ‘Lets keep moving’ campaign slogan seems a bit uninspiring.

Today Jacinda Ardern announced our slogan for the 2020 election campaign. Our plan to rebuild New Zealand is already in action, so on September 19 let’s keep up this momentum, and let’s keep moving

Ardern’s personality and charisma drastically turned the Labour campaign around from pending disaster to recovering enough to be able to form a government in 2017, and her popularity kept the party polling up through this term, until both soared on the back of Ardern successfully fronting the Covid-19 pandemic.

Their Facebook launch promotes the slogan and Ardern:

As does their new pinned post:

 

The slogan has been spun off their Covid recovery promotion from last month:

Getting New Zealand moving again: June 2020

We wrapped up the first half of 2020 with a busy month, taking additional steps to support New Zealanders as we continue with our economic recovery. We rolled out targeted packages to support key industries like tourism and construction, helped create jobs in the environmental and  agriculture sectors, and set out our plan to support Kiwis to retrain and upskill with free trades and apprenticeships training.

Ardern was always going to be central to the Labour campaign. If Covid remains under control recovery from the effects of the lockdown will also continue to be promoted.

An unknown is how the New Zealand economy will look in two months as the campaign climaxes and an extended voting period begins.

If there is a surge in job losses after the wage subsidies run out that could impact but the effects of that may not be clear until after the election.

Ardern will give her conference/campaign opening speech this afternoon.

Greens slam Labour for ‘breaking core promise’ about welfare reform

The Greens have accused Labour of breaking a core promise to overhaul the welfare system, made in the Confidence and Supply Agreement between the New Zealand Labour Party and the Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand.

Yesterday Green Party unveils its candidate list for the 2020 election

The Green Party is pleased to reveal its candidate list for the upcoming election. With a mix of familiar faces and fresh new talent, this exceptional group of candidates are ready to lead the Greens back into Government.

“We are a force to be reckoned with and are entering this critically important race more united and determined than ever.”

So that has launched the greens into campaign mode, four months out from the election.

Also yesterday two Labour ministers announced New payment to support Kiwis through COVID

This was criticised as benefiting a few people while ignoring all those who were already unemployed before Covid struck, and also criticised for being more tweaking without fundamental change to how the social welfare system works.

From the Confidence and Supply Agreement between the New Zealand Labour Party and the Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand (2017):

Fair Society

10. Overhaul the welfare system, ensure access to entitlements, remove excessive sanctions and review Working For Families so that everyone has a standard of living and income that enables them to live in dignity and participate in their communities, and lifts children and their families out of poverty.

Today the Greens seem to have jumped into campaign mode over this – Green Party ‘won’t give up’ pushing for benefits increase (RNZ):

The Greens have accused Labour of breaking a core promise to overhaul the welfare system, a commitment made in 2017 during negotiations to form a government.

The gripe comes after a chorus of frustration from those on the left who say the government has entrenched a cruel and dehumanising two-tier welfare system in its latest response to the Covid-19 crisis.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson yesterday unveiled a special 12-week relief payment for people who have lost their jobs due to the economic impact of Covid-19. Full-time workers can apply for $490 a week – roughly double the regular Jobseeker Support.

Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson told RNZ the new offering was a “very clear” admission that base benefit rates were not enough to live on.

“Everybody should be able to access the support, regardless of whether they are recently unemployed or longer-term unemployed.”

Davidson said she had heard the frustration of beneficiaries who felt they had been deemed the “undeserving poor” by the latest move.

The Greens had pushed for all benefits to be increased to the new Covid-19 level, she said, but had so far been unsuccessful in getting that over the line.

“We’ve been consistently clear that this needs to happen urgently and desperately. It hasn’t happened yet, but we won’t give up,” Davidson said.

“Both New Zealand First and Labour need to come to the table on this.”

NZ First have been a problem for the Greens trying to promote their policies, but Labour has also seemed reluctant to make major structural changes, even after Covid allowed them to commit to tens of billions of extra spending.

Asked whether Labour had adequately delivered on its commitment, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the government had made “significant changes”.

She cited the $5.5 billion Families Package in 2018 which established the Winter Energy and Best Start payments, as well as boosting Working for Families tax credits.

The government also began indexing main benefits to wage growth from April 2020, meaning benefit payments rise in line with wages – rather than inflation.

In its initial Covid-19 economic rescue package, Finance Minister Grant Robertson increased most benefits by $25 a week and doubled this year’s Winter Energy Payment.

However, the vast majority of the 120 recommendations by the Welfare Expert Advisory Group have not been acted on.

Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni yesterday told media the government could not implement all the recommendations immediately.

Immediately was in 2017, or at least in 2018. The Welfare Expert Advisory Group reported in 2019 and disappointed many. See Government response to welfare expert advisory group ‘more rhetoric than action’ – Poverty group

The government’s initial response to the welfare expert advisory group’s 200-page report is “pathetic”, National says, with interest groups and the Green Party also saying more needs to be done.

The government has said it would start by implementing two of the group’s 42 recommendations, with Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni saying major change would take years.

National’s social development spokesperson Louise Upston said Labour voters should be underwhelmed.

She said the government’s response was another example of it not delivering in its ‘year of delivery’.

Greens are now also effectively saying that the Government has not delivered, and specifically that Labour has not delivered on their agreement with the Greens.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out through the campaign.

Now at the top of the Green Party list it would seem expected that Davidson would become a minister if Labour and Greens get to form the next Government. She could lead the fight from there perhaps.

Labour staffer ‘sexual assault’ report

As some predicted the report into the accusations against a Labour staffer who worked in Parliament has been released just prior to Christmas.

And predictably the outcome has dismayed some people, particularly the complainants.

Concern has been expressed over the welfare of some of the complainants, with reports that a mental health crisis assess team was called for one complainant, and another had been treated in hospital.

RNZ: Sexual assault allegations against ex-Labour staffer ‘not established’

The inquiry into the allegations of sexual assault made by one Labour member against another has cast major doubts over the accuracy of the chief complainant’s story.

Labour released the executive summary of the report – conducted by independent lawyer Maria Dew QC – this afternoon.

It found “insufficient evidence” to back up the most serious allegations and ruled critical elements of the complainant’s version of events were incorrect.

It also said the complainant had since admitted providing “misleading information” to the investigation.

The man at the centre of the sexual assault allegations said the report came after a “thorough investigation” and a fair and transparent process.

RNZ has not named the man, but in a media statement through his lawyer, he said he had answered all questions and provided all of the information, asked of him.

He says the report backs up his repeated denials of serious sexual assault, finding no evidence to substantiate the claims.

The allegations had taken a toll on him and family, he said, and he thanked those who had supported him.

The complainant had given media a screenshot of an email and an attached document which she said she had sent to the Labour Party outlining her complaints of sexual assault.

Ms Dew concluded, on the balance of probabilities, that document was not attached.

The report also rejected the complainant’s claim that she had outlined her complaint in person to Labour’s investigation panel, saying that was “improbable” when assessed against the weight of other witness evidence.

RNZ includes a copy of the Executive Summary of the report.

Similar from Newsroom: Labour: report finds no sexual assaults, harassment

The Spinoff – ‘Worst nightmare’: Labour staffer complainants respond to Dew report

Complainants involved in the Labour Party inquiry into the conduct of a party staffer say they are “angry” and “disappointed” following the release of a report into their allegations. The Spinoff has spoken to some of the former Labour volunteers since the release of a summary of findings by Maria Dew QC into allegations of sexual assault, sexual harassment and bullying by a Labour staffer. Despite hearing from five complainants, Dew found that almost all the allegations were “not established”.

Citing the confidentiality agreement that all complainants and the respondent were required to sign, the woman who alleged sexual assault said she could not address the details of the report. She did, however, say that she had only received a full version of the report this morning, and stressed that she stood by her account as shared with The Spinoff. She said she also wished to acknowledge the “huge plethora of women who aren’t able to prove sexual assaults”.

“This isn’t the result that we wanted and we are disappointed,” another complainant involved in the process said. “I still believe all the complainants and their stories and am proud of the work that they did in coming forward.” Another described experience as a whole as amounting to “the worst nightmare” for anyone considering speaking up about sexual violence. “I just feel shattered.”

Newshub – Labour Party sexual assault investigation: Complainants distressed claims not upheld

Complainants have told Newshub how distressing the report is and say they asked for more time before the investigation findings were released on Wednesday.

The report also found while the staffer’s other actions didn’t amount to unlawful bullying, the staffer had accepted his conduct was at times overbearing and aggressive, and that he had made three comments of a sexual nature.

But he denied the more serious allegations.

“We are not here to seek blame or seek malice,” Ardern said on Wednesday. “We are here to try and restore a process that should have been in place in the first place.”

Labour Party president Claire Szabo said she “would like to acknowledge the discomfort and distress that these matters have caused a number of our people”.

One complainant told Newshub the report has caused significant distress to some of the complainants and that’s been communicated to the party.

They’re worried significantly for the welfare of some of the complainants and had to call a mental health crisis assess team for one complainant, while another had been treated in hospital.

Newshub informed the Prime Minister that complainants are distressed that the investigation’s findings have been released.

She replied: “None of this should have been dealt with in this way.”

Alison Mau (Stuff): Labour sexual harassment complainants ‘told PM of suicide risk’ from report’s release

The prime minister’s office was warned the release of the Maria Dew report into sexual harassment by a former Labour Party staffer posed an immediate suicide risk to some of the complainants, one of the group claims.

Stuff understands a sexual assault counsellor told the office on Wednesday that at least two of the young people who participated in the review were at risk of harming themselves, and should be given more time to look at the report before it was released publicly.

A spokesperson for the prime minister confirmed “mental health” issues had been discussed with a support professional on Wednesday afternoon, but maintained the issue raised was not more time needed, but the release of any information at all.

He said Labour had been clear from the start that “some form of summary” would be made public.

He said the report’s release was intended to avoid the results being “played out” in the media.

“We understood that there were concerns, but we also ensured there was adequate support in place.”

The complainant said she was first alerted to the report’s imminent release in an email from a solicitor at 7.30pm on Tuesday. The email included a draft press release timed for 12 noon on Wednesday.

She said she and others in the survivor group asked the solicitor to go back to Labour and plead for more time. “We didn’t have enough notice,” the woman told Stuff.

Through tears, the woman said she was frantically worried about one of the other complainants, who had “gone AWOL” and had not been in contact with anyone since reading the report.

The woman said she had been told that any release process would be done with full collaboration with the complainant group.

“They haven’t done that. They have said this is what we are going to say, and they’ve gone ahead and done it anyway.

“The rationale was that they wanted the party not to be asked too many questions. We needed more time and they ignored it.”

So again Labour’s handling of this issue is being questioned.

The prime minister’s spokesperson confirmed to Stuff that all complainants, witnesses, and the alleged perpetrator had been asked to sign confidentiality agreements both at the beginning of the process as a condition of their participation, and again before being allowed to read the report on Wednesday.

He said these were not Non-Disclosure Agreements that would prevent complainants from sharing their thoughts about the report or the process.

“It was done to ensure that personal details didn’t enter the public domain. The requests around confidentiality primarily came from the complainants,” he said.

Complainants were asked to sign confidentiality agreements to ensure they didn’t put their details into the public domain? That seems odd.

The report had been delayed. Labour may have wanted this issue dealt with and closed off before the end of the year, but this timing would always be viewed cynically.

And it looks like the issue has not been closed off effectively.

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.

Statements by member of Labour panel and complainant at odds

Simon Mitchell, a lawyer and a member of the Labour Party Council, and one of the three members of the panel that investigated complaints of bullying, abusive behaviour and assaults, has put out a statement claiming to have never been advised that there had been claims of sexual assaults.

The complainant known as ‘Sarah’ has countered with a statement from her lawyer. It claims that emails included allegations of ‘rape’.  That escalates the seriousness of the allegations (from sexual assault).

Two key things are disputed:

  • Whether emails to the panel mentioned a sexual assault
  • Whether there were attachments on the emails that mentioned a sexual assault

There could be a technical explanation for the difference over attachments – it is not uncommon for mail systems to strip attachments from emails.

It is harder to explain the difference over the contents of emails, unless whole emails were not delivered by the mail systems of all three members of thee panel.

From The Spinoff: Two statements on the Labour Party inquiry

Statement of Simon Mitchell

I was part of the New Zealand Labour Party panel that was set up to investigate allegations of inappropriate conduct by one member of the Party against another.

The Panel arranged to meet with a number of individuals on 9 March.

On the morning of 9 March the complainant sent an email to me: “Hi simon, i was woundering if anyone today had printer acess? I want to be able to read off of a timeline testimoney I’ve created. Would somone be able to print this before my interview at 10.30?”

The email did not have an attachment.

I replied that she should send it to Dianna Lacy as she was opening up that morning.

The complainant sent a document to Dianna Lacy, who I am told printed a copy and gave it to the complainant.

When the complainant met with the Panel she read from a document when taking us through her concerns. She did not provide us with a copy of that document. At no point did she say that she had been sexually assaulted or tell us about the events that are described in the Spinoff article.

I have subsequently (last week) been given a copy of what the complainant sent to Dianna to print out on the morning of our interview and it does not contain any details of the sexual assault against her as described in the Spinoff article.

I met with the Complainant again on 29 May 2019 to clarify the allegations and the matters that we were investigating. At no time during that meeting did she say that she had been sexually assaulted by the subject of the complaint or disclose the events that are the subject of the Spinoff article.

At the conclusion of the meeting she said that she would provide me with more detailed information in the next few days.

On 10 June 2019 I emailed the complainant following up the documentation that she was to send.

On 11 June 2019 the complainant sent me an email with 3 attachments including what she refers to as her testimony. Neither the testimony nor the other attachments contain any reference to a sexual assault on her or disclose the events that are the subject of the Spinoff article.

On 17 June 2019, after being advised of the outcome, the complainant emailed me and the other members of the panel thanking us for our hard work.

On becoming aware of the Complainant’s allegation that she had provided me with details of the assault on her both in person and in attachments to emails sent to me on 9 March and 11 June 2019, I have had my computer system forensically examined.

There is no evidence of any attachment being sent to me on 9 March 2019.

There were three attachments to the email to me dated 11 June 2019. None of these attachments or the email itself contain any reference to a sexual assault on her or disclose the events that are the subject of the Spinoff article.

Response to Simon Mitchell’s statement

The complainant (the person called “Sarah” in the Spinoff’s article of 9 September) has records of three emails sent by her to Simon Mitchell between 9 March 2019 and 21 May 2019 in which Mr Mitchell was made aware of there being allegations of sexual assault.

These emails have been provided to Labour Party lawyers Kensington Swan, who have been requested to provide the emails to the reviewers conducting the independent review of the internal investigation.

In the earliest email, sent by the complainant on Mar 9, 2019 at 9:35 AM to Mr Mitchell, the complainant attached two documents, one outlining the sexual assault in depth (this document contained sexual assault in the file name of the document) and the other the complainant’s testimony, which also outlines allegations of sexual assault. Attached is a screenshot of this email and the attachments.

The other two emails sent by the complainant to Mr Mitchell were also sent (simultaneously by cc) to the two other members of the investigation panel as well as Labour Party President Nigel Haworth, and another NZ Council Member. These emails were as follows:

  • Email sent by the complainant on Apr 26, 2019 at 6:28 in which the complainant draws the investigation panel’s attention to the seriousness of the allegations, including the allegation of “rape”.
  • Email sent by the complainant on Tuesday, 21 May 2019 11:00 PM in which the complainant again draws the investigation panel’s attention to the seriousness of the allegations, including the allegation of “rape”.

The complainant maintains that she went into detail about the sexual assault during the 9 March interview and that Mr Mitchell was present and engaged.

The complainant is struggling to understand why Mr Mitchell would make these statements when he sat through her giving testimony of the sexual assault.

The complainant is not the only person who made allegations of a sexual nature during the internal investigation.

The complainants are hugely disappointed that Mr Mitchell has come forward with his statement just as the complainants and the Labour Party are making some positive progress.

The complainants await the outcome of the independent review of the internal investigation announced by the PM this afternoon.

Yesterday Jacinda Ardern announced that there would be two inquiries, the already initiated inquiry by Maria Dew that will only re-investigate the complaints, and another inquiry that will investigate the handling of the complaints by the Labour Party.

She also said:

“My view is that is continuing to contest this in the public domains serves nobody. I am absolutely focused here on creating an environment that is a place that complainants can be heard by a QC, not the party, where there is not that contested question over what was told.”

That was after Mitchells statement but before ‘Sarah’s’ statement.

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 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.

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.”