Labour laxness, and parents’ right to know about sexual assault

Criticism of Labour’s lax handling of the summer camp sexual assaults continues.

ODT Editorial: Missteps on harassment allegations

Allegations have been made four Young Labour supporters were sexually assaulted at the camp last month. Two males and two females, all 16, were allegedly assaulted or harassed by a 20-year-old man during a party at the Waihi camp.

The man was reportedly intoxicated and put his hand down the pants of at least three of the four young people. The affected teenagers did not get much support until the day before the story was due to break on the Newsroom website. The support came three weeks after the camp.

The things which did not happen include Labour Party general secretary Andrew Kirton not telling the parents of the young people, not notifying the police of the allegations and not informing Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who was apparently caught unawares by the allegations when questioned by the media.

One of the reasons put forward by Mr Kirton for not telling anyone about the incidents was he wanted a victim-led process, defying the logic of having 16-year-olds allegedly sexually harassed or interfered with.

There have been suggestions Ms Ardern is going to investigate the matter; not a wise decision if true. A prime ministerial investigation could step across any investigation to be instigated by the police.

Ardern may have had sufficient time to rethink that proposal.

There are huge implications for Labour in this. Strong women MPs have, over the years, stood together on issues such as gender equality and sexual connotations.

Labour has made serious mistakes in the handling of this complicated issue. The young people are again being made victims because of the ineptness by party officials.

Whether parents will again trust Young Labour at a future camp is a moot point. The party’s obligation was to the young people and their families. The police should have been involved at the earliest opportunity.

Dominion Post editorial: Labour should have fronted on sexual misconduct

Sorry, Labour, but the age of innocence is over. It’s well and truly buried. There are no longer any excuses.

Woman after woman after woman – and the odd man too – has stepped forward to declare that time’s up on sexual harassment, on assault, on staying quiet.

Ignorance is not bliss. Was it ever?

So it’s quite extraordinary that a political party that has appeared to embrace the social-media surge and momentum behind the #metoo movement and the rise of young, ambitious women; that has euphorically smashed a few of its own glass ceilings in storming the citadels of power; and which offers such wonderful inspiration to wide-eyed youngsters considering their own political and business careers, should have chosen to maintain a small, closed circle around sexual assault.

​Extraordinary, and possibly just a little convenient. There is an argument to be made that Labour’s hierarchy was focused solely on the wishes of four 16-year-olds allegedly sexually assaulted at one of the party’s events when it largely kept the issue ‘in-house’. That is certainly its stance.

There is another argument that the hierarchy’s considered, “victim-led” approach carried an element of political calibration. We’ll leave readers to draw their own conclusions on that.

Political considerations cannot be separated from Labour’s inept handling of the assaults.

Sadly, the reaction echoes the darker machinations of other previously austere bodies when faced with such issues: the transgressions have been kept behind closed doors and the transgressor has simply been moved on.

Labour has handled this poorly, at practically every step. The party’s general secretary, Andrew Kirton, wasn’t informed until four days later. He made another, possibly politically motivated, decision not to tell his boss, Jacinda Ardern.

Why? It’s a simple enough question. Did he think such things below her station? Did he believe that not telling her would give her some protection against any possible media prying in future? Did he simply believe that it was contained?

Again, it’s hard not to see a political method to the madness.

Ex-ACT MP Heather Roy has a say on Young Labour Summer Camp and Parents’ Right to Know

There has been much discussion today about what should have happened when a drunken 20 year old allegedly sexually assaulted three 16 year olds at a Labour Party summer Youth Camp. The handling of the affair by Labour party officials was clumsy at best, bungling and harmful at worst. Everyone agrees that the inappropriate events should have been dealt with swiftly.

Parents, who had presumably consented to their 16 year olds going off to Labour summer camp, had the right to believe their children were going to a safe environment. Yes things sometimes happen, but when they do the expectation is that they are dealt with adequately.

The decision to not tell parents what had happened (so they could assist their children if traumatized) is either amazingly naïve or, more likely, it was intended to prevent the media storm and disdain now being launched at Labour for a significant lack of judgement.

Some have said that it is ‘best practice’ not to tell parents or police, but I think that many, if not most, parents would disagree.

The matter should have been dealt with by the system – the police – not ineptly handled by the Labour Party, acting as police, judge and jury, to avoid public and political embarrassment. There is a presumed perpetrator who should be held to account or vindicated if not guilty.

So the Prime Minister didn’t know, wasn’t told and was surprised when door stopped by media. That’s a failing by her party. More importantly, they have let down young people who don’t deserve to be let down.

And Labour are still flailing and failing on this. They haven’t fronted up adequately – including Prime Minister Ardern.

And this isn’t the first time Andrew Kirton has tried to paper over a major embarrassment for Labour, in a situation where coincidentally Ardern also separated herself from any knowledge. This involved young people again, the mis-managed, ill-fated intern issue before last year’s election with a disingenuous conclusion.