People vs Parliament

https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/9881074/election-choice-johnson-corbyn-majority/

A report from Missy in the UK


At the beginning of September Parliament returned from summer recess and boy has it been interesting. First of all is the news that after a summer of threatening a Vote of No Confidence Jeremy Corbyn, (as I predicted), bottled it and failed to table a Vote of No Confidence, however, it doesn’t mean that Parliament has been short of drama.

The opposition managed to take control of the order paper with the assistance of a number of Remain supporting Conservative MPs, and they passed the Withdrawal Act 2 (also known as the Benn Act), immediately after this passed in the House of Commons the PM tabled a motion for a General Election to be held on 15 October which was defeated.

This Act states the PM must ask for an extension to Article 50 by 19 October, and that it has to be until 31 January at the earliest, however, it also states that if the EU offer a longer extension he must accept it unless Parliament rejects it within 3 days. At first many thought it would be defeated as the Conservative Lords were heading for an epic filibuster on the Thursday and Friday, however, all of a sudden the filibuster was called off amidst reports that Corbyn agreed to vote for a General Election if the bill passed. The bill duly passed and the motion for a General Election was tabled again, however, Corbyn reneged and voted against it, prompting accusations of him being a chicken, the reality is most likely that Corbyn is aware of how badly he is doing in the polls and that Boris Johnson would get a good majority.

Whilst the Party Conferences were taking place after Prorogation, a number of court cases were taken out against the PM for the proroguing of Parliament. In Scotland a number of MPs went to court, and the Scottish High Court found in favour, ruling not only that the Prorogation was illegal but that the PM had lied to the Queen, though how they could say he lied to the Queen without actually calling the Queen as a witness to know what he said to her I don’t know. In England Gina Miller took a case to the High Court, which ruled that proroguing Parliament is a prerogative power making it a political process and therefore non justifiable. Both cases were appealed and last week the Supreme Court ruled that the proroguing of Parliament, whilst legal in itself, was prorogued for an excessive period of time and was therefore unlawful (as opposed to illegal). This means the Supreme Court have set a new legal precedent, and have made the proroguing of Parliament for excessive length of time unlawful.

So, last Wednesday Parliament resumed and despite the MPs saying they had to return to urgently debate Brexit they didn’t spend any time on Brexit. MP after MP lined up to have a pop at the PM and Attorney General, Boris however managed to still get the better of them. On a day that the Leader of the Opposition should have been able to have the PM on the ropes, it was the Leader of the Opposition that was on the back foot and the PM that came off the best.

Corbyn kept saying that the PM should resign, and called on Boris Johnson to resign several times, the response of the PM was to refuse to resign and tell Corbyn that if he wanted to get rid of him to agree to a General Election. The PM gave a one time offer that he would accept a Vote of No Confidence from any party that had the courage to call it, many were hoping the DUP would gazump Corbyn and call the vote, they didn’t however. Despite all opposition MPs saying that Boris Johnson should resign and wasn’t fit to be PM they stopped short of calling a Vote of No Confidence to trigger an election. The Government tabled a motion to recess Parliament for their Party Conference next week, they are the only party who have yet to have their Conference, and predictably the opposition spitefully blocked it, however, the Conservatives will go ahead with their conference in spite of it, but it is rumoured that the opposition will do everything they can to disrupt it.

It was reported today that the SNP have come to an agreement with Labour whereby they will support a Government of National Unity with Jeremy Corbyn as PM in return for Corbyn approving a second independence Referendum. This Government will be formed for a period time to gain an extension, have a second referendum which they hope will vote Remain so they can then revoke Article 50 before holding a General Election. This of course will have to depend on rebel Conservative MPs (who have mostly indicated they would abstain or vote against the Government, some even saying they would prefer a hard left Marxist Government to leaving the EU without a Withdrawal Agreement), and the Liberal Democrats who have indicated they wouldn’t support Jeremy Corbyn as PM, but would support someone else. And here is where we get into the most likely campaign strategy for the Government if they can force a General Election in the next couple of months. Whether or not they extend Article 50 the Government’s strategy is most likely going to be the people vs Parliament angle, with Boris Johnson and the Conservatives on the side of the people and the rest the elitist establishment who want to tie the UK into the EU Empire.

This strategy could work, and I am sure those working in Number 10 are gathering the soundbites, videos etc to use, and the most useful for them will be from the Liberal Democrats. Jo Swinson, the Lib Dems leader, has already stated on the record that she would not accept a second referendum outcome for Leave, which most are using as justification for not supporting a second referendum as they believe she would not implement such a vote if she was leader, further the Liberal Democrats have voted to revoke Article 50 if they become Government without a vote, (so this contradicts their previous policy of a second referendum), lastly Guy Verhofstadt spoke at the Liberal Democrat Conference and his speech talked about the future EU Empire, now it is hard to know if the words were chosen incorrectly due to English being his second language, but regardless it does play into Leavers hands on the future empirical ambitions of the EU.

Boris Johnson’s reference to the Benn Act as the Surrender Act is, I believe, part of them positioning for a General Election campaign, it angers the opposition and the more it angers them the more that the PM uses that phrase and the more support he gets. Surrender Act was trending on Twitter when Boris used it, and many Leavers (not just Conservatives) are using the phrase. That is a key thing, May did not have the ability to bring together people from different political views, Boris however is managing to do that, a number of voters in the North of England who are being interviewed are saying they have never voted Conservative, but will vote for Boris.

All in all, I believe that sometime in the next 2-3 months there will be an election in the UK, and the Conservatives will be using the People vs Parliament strategy, it won’t be a formal or official slogan (that is most likely to be Get Brexit Done – which has also been trending on Twitter) but everything said by the Conservatives will be underpinning that message.

 

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

GENERAL DEBATE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN (Prime Minister): Yes.

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

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

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

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Yes.

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

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

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

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: No.

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

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

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

Abortion Bill passes first reading 94-23

Following speeches by many MPs in parliament today the Abortion Bill passed it’s first reading by 94 votes to 23. Three MPs didn’t vote.

This is a large majority, but it’s just the first of three votes, with some MPs wanting the Bill to progress to public submissions, but with no guarantee of supporting it all the way. NZ First MPs all voted for it but have imp[lied they may not support the final vote unless it goes to a public referendum (although their messages have been missed).

Here are the votes split up:

YES VOTES:

Labour: ARDERN Jacinda, DAVIS Kelvin, LITTLE Andrew, ROBERTSON, Grant, TWYFORD Phil, WOODS Megan, HIPKINS Chris, SEPULONI Carmel Jean, CLARK David, PARKER David, NASH Stuart, RADHAKRISHNAN Priyanca, HUO Raymond, LEES-GALLOWAY Iain Francis, TINETTI Jan, SIO Aupito Tofae Sua William, PRIME Willow-Jean, O’CONNOR Damien, FAAFOI Kris, ALLAN Kiri, JACKSON Willie, CURRAN Clare, DYSON Ruth, WILLIAMS Poto, WALL Louisa, WOOD Michael Philip, ANDERSEN Ginny, LUXTON Jo, RUSSELL Deborah, CRAIG Liz, LUBECK Marja, MALLARD Trevor, EAGLE Paul, COFFEY Tamati, STRANGE Jamie, McANULTY Kieran, WARREN-CLARK Angie, O’CONNOR Greg, MAHUTA Nanaia, HENARE Peeni, WHATIRI Meka, WEBB Duncan.
National: BENNETT Paula, CARTER David, BRIDGES Simon, ADAMS Amy, TOLLEY Anne, GUY Nathan, KAYE Nikki, McCLAY Todd, COLLINS Judith, BARRY Maggie, GOLDSMITH Paul, MITCHELL Mark, WAGNER Nicky, BENNETT David, SIMPSON Scott, KURIGER Barbara, DOOCEY Matt, HUDSON Brett, McKELVIE Ian, BAYLY Andrew, BISHOP Chris, DOWIE Sarah, MULLER Todd, SCOTT Alastair, SMITH Stuart, KING Matt, FALLOON Andrew, LEE Denise, STANFORD Erica, VAN de MOLEN Tim, YULE Lawrence, BIDOIS Dan, WILLIS Nicola.
NZ First: PETERS Winston, MARK Ron, MARTIN Tracey, TABUTEAU Fletcher, BALL Darroch, MITCHELL Clayton, PATTERSON Mark, JONES Shane, MARCROFT Jenny.
Greens: SHAW James, DAVIDSON Marama, GENTER Julie Anne, SAGE Eugenie, HUGHES Gareth, LOGIE Jan, SWARBRICK Chlöe, GHAHRAMAN Golriz.
ACT: SEYMOUR David.
ROSS, Jami-Lee.

NO VOTES:

Labour: SALESA Jenny, KANONGATA’A-SUISUIKI Anahila, RURAWHE Adrian, TIRIKATENE Rino.
National: PUGH Maureen, BROWNLEE Gerry, WOODHOUSE Michael, SMITH Nick, UPSTON Louise, DEAN Jacqui, MACINDOE Tim, LEE Melissa, BAKSHI Kanwaljit Singh, PARMAR Parmjeet, YOUNG Jonathan, HAYES Jo, O’CONNOR Simon, RETI Shane, BROWN Simeon, HIPANGO Harete, PENK Chris, LOHENI Agnes, GARCIA Paulo.

ABSENT:

National: WALKER Hamish, NGARO Alfred, YANG Jian.

That was supplied from Stuff who have good coverage with summaries of the MP speeches here – Live: Abortion Bill’s first reading in Parliament

On Tracey Martin (who was put in a very difficult position by her party):

Tracey Martin in tears

NZ First MP Tracey Martin came to tears as she lays out the speech she was going to make on the bill.

She says she was ready to make a personal speech about why she supported the bill, but the context of this week’s news means she can’t.

Martin was the lead negotiator with Andrew Little on this bill from NZ First as the women’s spokeswoman for the party. She told the media on Tuesday morning that the party would not be seeking a referendum on the issue. But later that morning at a caucus meeting NZ First resolved to attempt to introduce a referendum at committee of the whole house.

This led to a somewhat embarrassing media situation on Tuesday afternoon when it all came out on the way into the House.

Martin is detailing this whole story to clarify things.

She confirms that NZ First will block-vote in favour for first and second readings.

I presume she has been able to present the actual party position and won’t be contradicted again.

Aupito William Sio will support the bill at first reading:

Pacific Peoples’ Minister and Labour MP Auptio William Sio is speaking for the bill, at least in the first reading, despite opposing abortion himself.

“I value life,” Sio says.

“I am looking at this debate from the perspective of a father who does not support abortion.”

He says he would want his daughters to not abort – but would support them in their choice, whatever it was.

“I do not support abortion, but I am on the record that I support a woman’s right to choose.”

I respect him deferring to his daughters and to women despite his personal views.

 

End of Life Choice Bill passes second reading 70-50

End of Life Choice Bill passed its second reading last night in Parliament last night, by 70 votes to 50.

That is a comfortable margin, but it doesn’t mean that the euthanasia bill is a done deal. It will now proceed to the third reading, and a lot of Supplementary Order Papers will be debated on and voted on before we know what the final form of the Bill will look like. Then Parliament will make it’s final vote for or against.

NZ First are pushing for the final choice to go to a referendum to be run at the same time as next year’s general election. Whether that will happen is yet to be decided.

There are some strong views and emotional feelings on this issue on both sides of the debate. Unfortunately there are also some outlandish claims being made.

I think the key thing in this is Choice.

I personally would like that choice, if I was ever in a situation of terminal illness.

I understand that others feel strongly against euthanasia. I hope the End of Life Choice Bill will allow them to opt out, while giving choice to chose who want it, with sufficient safeguards.

Parliament has to decide whether to give a legal end of life choice to people.

NZ Herald has a list of How your MP voted on the End of Life Choice Bill

* Denotes MPs who have changed their vote since the first reading


SUPPORT – 70

  • Amy Adams – National – Selwyn
  • Ginny Andersen – Labour – List
  • Jacinda Ardern – Labour – Mt Albert
  • Darroch Ball – NZ First – List
  • Paula Bennett – National – Upper Harbour
  • Chris Bishop – National – Hutt South
  • Tamati Coffey – Labour – Waiariki
  • Judith Collins* – National – Papakura
  • Liz Craig – Labour – List
  • Clare Curran – Labour – Dunedin South
  • Marama Davidson – Green – List
  • Kelvin Davis – Labour – Te Tai Tokerau
  • Matt Doocey – National – Waimakariri
  • Ruth Dyson – Labour – Port Hills
  • Paul Eagle – Labour – Rongotai
  • Kris Faafoi – Labour – Mana
  • Andrew Falloon – National – Rangitata
  • Julie Anne Genter – Green – List
  • Golriz Ghahraman – Green –List
  • Peeni Henare – Labour – Tamaki Makaurau
  • Chris Hipkins – Labour – Rimutaka
  • Brett Hudson – National – List
  • Gareth Hughes – Green – List
  • Raymod Huo – Labour – List
  • Willie Jackson – Labour – List
  • Shane Jones – NZ First – List
  • Nikki Kaye – National – Auckland Central
  • Matt King – National – Northland
  • Barbara Kuriger – National – Taranaki-King Country
  • Iain Lees-Galloway – Labour – Palmerston North
  • Andrew Little – Labour – List
  • Jan Logie – Green – List
  • Marja Lubeck – Labour – List
  • Jo Luxton – Labour – List
  • Nanaia Mahuta – Labour – Hauraki-Waikato
  • Trevor Mallard – Labour – List
  • Jenny Marcroft – NZ First – List
  • Ron Mark – NZ First – List
  • Tracey Martin – NZ First – List
  • Kieran McAnulty – Labour – List
  • Clayton Mitchell – NZ First – List
  • Mark Mitchell – National – Rodney
  • Stuart Nash – Labour – Napier
  • Greg O’Connor – Labour – Ohariu
  • David Parker – Labour – List
  • Mark Patterson – NZ First – List
  • Winston Peters – NZ First – List
  • Willow-Jean Prime – Labour – List
  • Priyanca Radhakrishnan – Labour – List
  • Grant Robertson – Labour – Wellington Central
  • Jami-Lee Ross – Independent – Botany
  • Eugenie Sage – Green – List
  • Carmel Sepuloni – Labour – Kelston
  • David Seymour – Act – Epsom
  • James Shaw – Green – List
  • Scott Simpson – National – Coromandel
  • Stuart Smith – National – Kaikoura
  • Erica Stanford – National – East Coast Bays
  • Chloe Swarbrick – Green – List
  • Fletcher Tabuteau – NZ First – List
  • Jan Tinetti – Labour – List
  • Tim van de Molen – National – Waikato
  • Louisa Wall – Labour – Manurewa
  • Angie Warren-Clark – Labour – List
  • Duncan Webb – Labour – Christchurch Central
  • Poto Williams* – Labour – Christchurch East
  • Nicola Willis – National – List
  • Megan Woods – Labour – Wigram
  • Jian Yang – National – List
  • Lawrence Yule* – National- Tukituki

OPPOSE 50

  • Kiritapu Allan*- Labour – List
  • Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi – National – List
  • Maggie Barry – National – North Shore
  • Andrew Bayly – National – Hunua
  • David Bennett – National – Hamilton East
  • Dan Bidois – National – Northcote
  • Simon Bridges – National – Tauranga
  • Simeon Brown – National – Pakuranga
  • Gerry Brownlee – National – Ilam
  • David Carter – National – List
  • David Clark – Labour – Dunedin North
  • Jacquie Dean – National – Waitaki
  • Sarah Dowie – National – Invercargill
  • Paulo Garcia – National – List
  • Paul Goldsmith – National – List
  • Nathan Guy* – National – Otaki
  • Joanne Hayes – National – List
  • Harete Hipango* – National – Whanganui
  • Anahila Kanongata’aSuisuiki – Labour – List
  • Denise Lee – National – List
  • Melissa Lee – National – List
  • Agnes Loheni – National – List
  • Tim Macindoe – National – Hamilton West
  • Todd McClay – National – Rotorua
  • Ian McKelvie – National – Rangitikei
  • Todd Muller – National – Bay of Plenty
  • Alfred Ngaro – National – List
  • Damien O’Connor – Labour – West Coast
  • Simon O’Connor – National – Tamaki
  • Parmjeet Parmar – National – List
  • Chris Penk – National – Helensville
  • Maureen Pugh – National – List
  • Shane Reti – National – Whangarei
  • Adrian Rurawhe* – Labour – Te Tai Hauauru
  • Deborah Russell* – Labour – New Lynn
  • Jenny Salesa – Labour – Manukau East
  • Alastair Scott – National – Wairarapa
  • Aupito William Sio – Labour – Mangere
  • Nick Smith – National – Nelson
  • Jamie Strange – Labour – List
  • Rino Tirakatene – Labour – List
  • Anne Tolley* – National – East Coast
  • Phil Twyford – Labour – Te Atatu
  • Louise Upston – National – Taupo
  • Nicky Wagner – National – List
  • Hamish Walker* – National – Clutha-Southland
  • Meka Whaitiri* – Labour – Ikaroa Rawhiti
  • Michael Wood* – Labour – Mt Roskill
  • Michael Woodhouse – National – List
  • Jonathan Young – National – New Plymouth

Forty years since “not a monotonous garden” Winston Peters’ maiden speech

I think it’s fair to ask whether Winston Peters is past his ‘best before’ date, but it would be an interesting to consider when he has been at his best in Parliament.

This week marked forty years since his maiden speech in Parliament.

He has become a bit monotonous over the years, but has had a varied and at times successful political career.

Peters was born on 11 April 1945, just before World War 2 ended, 19 days before Hitler died.

He stood for National in the Northern Maori seat but was never going to come close to winning that. It was effectively a practice run.

He stood in Hunua in the 1978 election and lost on the initial result, but this was overturned after an electoral petition. He entered parliament 6 months after the election, on 24 May 1979.

Hitting out against critics and opponents has been a frequent occurrence.

His  first stint in Parliament was short, losing the seat in the 1981 election. He stood in Tauranga and won in 1984, holding that until 2005, when he became a list MP, He and NZ First dropped out of Parliament altogether in 2008, but both Peters and his party got back in in 2011.

So while it is forty years since Peters first entered Parliament he has been an MP for 34 years.

 

The pre-budget political circus symptom of a bigger problem

The politically created and media stoked pre-budget circus over insecure Treasury data was a symptom of a growing problem.

Treasury, the Government (in particular Grant Robertson), and the National opposition all came out looking worse to the public.

The circus demonstrated how out of touch with ordinary New Zealand politicians and the media are getting.

Bernard Hickey suggests: Our political metabolic rate is way, way too fast

No one comes out the Budget 2019 ‘hack’ with any credit, Bernard Hickey argues. The ‘scandal’ is symptomatic of an accelerating and more extremist form of politics in a social media-driven age of snap judgments and tribal barracking.

I turned on Radio New Zealand’s First at 5 programme, expecting and wanting to hear the latest burp and fart in the saga.

Instead, I heard presenter Indira Stewart asking some year 13 students at Tamaki College in South Auckland about what they wanted from the Budget, and comments from the tuck shop lady Nanny Barb about the kids at the school arriving hungry and needing breakfast. Listen to it here.

It stopped me in my tracks.

Year 13 students Lu Faaui, Uili Tumanuvao, Sela Tukia, Francis Nimo and Efi Gaono thanked Nanny Barb for their meal. They talked about what they wanted from the Budget. They had been forced to move out of state houses in Glen Innes (Tamaki Regeneration Company) to South Auckland and their parents were working multiple jobs to pay for private rentals.

They were paying $40 a week to travel across Auckland each day to Tamaki College.

“Just like Sela said, it’s forced us to move out of GI (Glen Innes) and yeah my family just decides to cope with it. It’s made my Dad work even more hours. My mum gets two jobs, my sister gets two jobs. I mean, money is money you know,” said Lu.

What they didn’t care about

They didn’t care about how an Opposition researcher had done 2,000 searches on a Treasury website to try to find Budget 2019 information four days ahead of its release.

Or that Simon Bridges had then recreated 22 pages of Budget information and released it to the public to highlight Treasury’s IT system flaws and embarrass the Government. They didn’t care or even know that the Treasury Secretary had jumped to the conclusion the information was ‘hacked’ and needed to be referred to the police.

Or that Grant Robertson had made the mistake of trusting Makhlouf and leapt to lash back at Bridges by suggesting illegal activity. Or that Bridges had then accused Robertson of lying and the Treasury of being incompetent, and that it was a deliberate smear and a threat to democracy.

They did not hear the Opposition Leader jump the shark by saying: “This is the most contemptible moment in New Zealand politics.”

Really? Worse than Muldoon outing Colin Moyle? Or the Dirty Politics revelations? Or Jami-Lee Ross’ allegations?

All those teenagers wanted was affordable and convenient housing and transport so they could easily go to school and their parents didn’t have to work so hard.

That sort of thing is reality for many people who don’t care for posturing and point scoring, which turns most people off politics.

This is how politics works now

If I had time and they were still interested in talking to me, I’d explain how politicians and the media operate now.

I’d show them my twitter feed and how news and commentary have ramped up into a blur of headlines, memes, click-bait, extreme views, abuse and a desperate game of trying to grab the attention of a distracted media and whip their own social media bubbles into a frenzy.

The best example of how this increased metabolic rate of politics has warped the public debate is to point to what has happened in America and Europe, where increasingly polarised politicians shout at each other from their own bubbles of supporters and nothing changes. Meanwhile, other forces keep screwing the scrum of democracy to further their own interests.

The end result is a disengaged public, policy paralysis, a lot of noise and not much light.

It isn’t unusual for politicians to be out of touch with ordinary people living ordinary lives.

But the media a real concern – they are supposed to shine a light on politicians and Parliament, hold them to account and inform the public.

too often they seem too intent on lighting the fires, or at least providing the petrol and inflaming things way out of proportion to their importance.

I understand how it happened and I’ve been living in it now for a decade. A political firmament driven by social media, sound bites, cheap shots and one-day-wonder stories is not going to solve the problems of South Auckland or Tamaki.

Everyone should take a chill pill, stop jumping to conclusions for a quick political hit and instead think beyond the beltway to the real world and long term concerns of citizens.

What’s the chances of this happening? I see no sign of it.

 

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.

 

 

Francis Report – Bullying and Harasssment by the Public

From the Independent Review into Bullying and Harassment in Parliament:


BULLYING AND HARASSMENT BY THE PUBLIC

Threats and violence are not uncommon

According to the online survey results, 24% of respondents have experienced bullying or harassment from members of the public. This is most often the case for Members, Ministers, and the staff in their electorate or community offices.

It was common for Members to describe threats of physical violence – often via letter or social media – from constituents or members of the public, including death threats.

Six Members told me they had experienced some form of direct physical violence, during a protest in one case, in their electorate offices or at public meetings. Three of these incidents were described as having a racial element. All six reported good post incident support from parliamentary security staff and Police.

Members also showed me a variety of social media or written communications from members of the public which were threatening and abusive. Women MPs showed me sexist and racist threats that shocked me.

Although some of the threats I was shown had been escalated to the parliamentary security staff and Police, many of what were in my view very concerning communications had not. When I mentioned harmful digital communications offences, a typical response was: “I could report it, but we get so much of this stuff. I’d look weak. It’s par for the course.”

Almost all Members with whom I spoke were vigilant about their physical security. “I’m careful about constituents, especially the ones known to be mentally unwell,” said one. “I still represent them and want the best for them, but it can be frightening to deal with the obsessives.”

Most Members saw this “as a part of the job we just have to manage. We are here to serve people, after all.”

Several Members reported concerns about their staff and families’ exposure to fixated members of the public. “It’s often the same people and they’re pretty well known to authorities” said one, “but you’re always worrying if today’s the day they’ll go too far.”

There are parallels between these findings and those of a 2014 survey of Members in which 87% of the Members responding (with an overall response rate of 80%) reported harassment in one modality or another.17 This survey was the basis for consideration by Parliament’s leaders of a fixated threat assessment service.

Those that fixate on Members and other public figures have high rates of mental illness. This led to the initial development in 2006 of a Fixated Threat Assessment Centre (FTAC) in the United Kingdom based on communications to the Royal family and later expanded to Parliament. The service was then implemented using a similar model in Queensland and now all states in Australia either have or are in the process of developing such services.

In New Zealand the Fixated Threat Consultative Group was established as a pilot in 2017. This had Police and mental health professionals coming together to assess referrals coming from parliamentary security staff and then considering potential interventions. This pilot service had limited capacity for communications, education and training. A full service, which will comprise Police, a mental health nurse, and a forensic psychiatrist, is planned to start on 1 July 2019.

Many staff in electorate offices and in Members’ and Ministers’ Wellington offices had experienced calls from suicidal callers. One said: “it’s harrowing…I do my best, but you never really know if you did right by them.” One Member worried that: “It’s my EA who gets these awful calls. She’s only [age]. Where does she go for care and support when all this gets too much?”

It was not uncommon for Members and staff in electorate offices to be lower key about such matters than perhaps they should be. One staff member said, “There’s just no way to deal with abusive contact from the public. It happens every single day.”
In one electorate office I asked staff if they were on the receiving end of inappropriate behaviours from the public. One staff member said to me, after a pause for reflection: “a bit…do death threats count?”

Even though it was clear in this context that staff were aware of the avenues available for support, including going to Police, I formed the impression that some staff had developed an overly hightolerance for threats.

After the Christchurch mosque shootings, I received several submissions from electorate office staff around the country who felt unsafe, even though their offices had recently been strengthened in terms of physical security. Two said that with the (then) heightened threat level, they were seeing members of the public on an appointment-only basis and: “This feels safer… maybe we should always do this”.


Full report: Independent External Review into Bullying and Harassment in the New Zealand Parliamentary Workplace – Final Report

While MPs and parliament has set a bad example of behaviour for a long time this part of the report is a bad reflection on New Zealand society.

I think that forums like Your NZ have a responsibility to work towards better standards of behaviour.

“It has always happened” and “others do it” are not reasons or excuses for bad behaviour, they should be reasons for needing to work towards improving behaviour in political discussions.

Francis Report – bullying, harasssment and the media

From the Independent Review into Bullying and Harassment in Parliament:


BULLYING, HARASSMENT AND THE MEDIA

Members of the Press Gallery, while employees of media agencies, also work on precinct. Although Press Gallery staff are largely out of scope for this Review, the parliamentary agencies have health, safety and wellbeing obligations with regard to them.

It is also important that all those working in the parliamentary workplace comply with health and safety legislation as it relates to them in their interactions with others in the workplace.

A significant number of respondents – not all of them Members – commented on what they perceived as inappropriate behaviour by members of the Press Gallery or media more generally.

These respondents understood that onsite journalists, in the words of one: “…need to be really assertive, in their role working on behalf of the people of New Zealand to ensure an open democracy”.

But some felt that journalists in Parliament sometimes:
“Cross the line into disrespect in pursuit of clickbait. Their behaviour can further fuel the overall   environment of gossip and intrigue.”

One alleged, in a comment typical of several: “Gallery behaviour is unacceptable… they come in there perfectly nice people and then adopt this persona of the classic bully. You can watch it happen.”


Full report: Independent External Review into Bullying and Harassment in the New Zealand Parliamentary Workplace – Final Report

Political journalists do difficult but important jobs. They have a responsibility to inform the public of what happens in Parliament, and to hold politicians and the public service to account.

Most are also under pressure to keep their jobs, and to deliver news and views that attract viewers, readership, clicks and advertising.

They can potentially make or break political careers, and can influence elections.

They are also in positions of relative power, which can be abused.

They only get a brief mention in the Francis Report, but should take the criticisms seriously.

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.