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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

After the charges were withdrawn, Ms Priest said her client had always been prepared to take responsibility for the two assaults.

The man will be sentenced in November.

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

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

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

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

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

Young Labour abuse victims barred from Parliament offices

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

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

Monday from The Spinoff:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why Labour president must resign over sexual assault allegations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She should be demanding that for herself right now.

Newsroom: Labour fails to learn from its mistakes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But that’s just a political consequence.

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


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

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

Labour assault investigation retraumatised victims – witness

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

The Prime Minister has refused…

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

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

RNZ also gave credence to the open letter.

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

As did One News.

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

Also:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Haworth has been approached for comment but has not replied.

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

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

Suppression continues in Labour camp assault case

The man facing multiple charges of sexual assault at a Labour Youth summer camp in February has had his name suppression extended until either a verdict or other determination, on the grounds that “there would be a real risk to fair trial rights”. This is a common reason for suppression pre-trial.

NZH:  Labour Party summer camp indecent assault accused keeps name suppression

The 20-year-old was arrested in June and charged with six counts of indecent assault against four complainants.

Today, the accused appeared before Judge Russell Collins in the Auckland District Court seeking to extend his interim name suppression.

The man’s lawyer Emma Priest argued her client should keep his name suppression until determination of the charges, and may seek permanent suppression if there were valid grounds to do so.

Judge Collins granted interim name suppression until either verdict or other determination and bailed the man to appear in court again later this year.

“I am satisfied, and have been satisfied quite quickly, there would be a real risk to fair trial rights,” he said.

The judge continued there had been an “extremely high-level of media coverage” with many people talking in the press “without thinking that a prosecution may ultimately result”.

“Many people have commented publicly with the only inference to be taken from the comments is that the defendant must be guilty.

“His presumption of innocence is paramount,” Judge Collins said.

Given the level of public and media interest in the case I think this is a fair call, presuming that it will be a jury trial.

This suppression means that no attempt to identify the person in any way can be allowed here.

Labour camp review recommendations, but no holding to account, victim appalled

Labour Party President Nigel Haworth said a report on the Labour Youth Camp near Waihi in February had made a number of recommendations which would all be adopted – but I can’t find any details on anyone being held accountable for the use of alcohol by young people, the lack of supervision, and the slow and poor response by party officials.

Timeline (Newsroom and RNZ):

  • 9-11 February 2018: Labour Youth Waitawheta Camp near Waihi in February
  • 12 March: Sexual misconduct alleged at boozy Labour Party camp
    The Labour Party has been hit with claims that four young supporters were sexually assaulted at one of its annual ‘Summer School’ camps near Waihi last month.The four – two males and two females – are all 16 and were allegedly assaulted or harassed by a 20-year-old man during a wild party on the second night of the camp. Newsroom has been told the man was intoxicated and put his hand down the pants of at least three of the four young people.
  • 12 March: PM investigating reports of sexual assault at Labour event
    Labour’s general secretary Andrew Kirton didn’t notify the Prime Minister, the police or parents that four teenagers were allegedly sexually assaulted at its summer camp last month.
  • 13 March: Labour camp misconduct: Victim reached out to Megan Woods
    It has been revealed that Cabinet Minister Megan Woods was contacted by a victim raising concerns about incidents of sexual assault of teenagers at a Labour Party summer camp.
  • 14 March: Second Labour sexual assault incident alleged
    Another person has contacted the Labour Party saying they too were sexually assaulted at a Labour event several years ago. Labour has already apologised to four teenagers who were sexually harassed by a 20-year-old man at a Labour youth camp in Waihi last month.
  • 19 March: Details of Labour’s sexual assault review revealed
    The review into how Labour handled complaints of sexual assault is expected to take up to three months and every party member will be contacted.
  • 22 June: Andrew Kirton steps down as Labour Party general secretary
    The Labour Party’s general secretary, Andrew Kirton, has resigned to take up a senior position with Air New Zealand.
  • 5 July: Labour Party camp accused in court, name suppressed
    A 20-year-old man has appeared in court charged with indecent assaults at a Labour Party youth summer camp. He denied six charges of assaulting four victims believed to be aged 16 to 18. The man was arrested on 26 June.
  • 29 August: Review reported on

The report was “expected to take up to three months” but has been partially reported on five months later.

RNZ:  Labour to review policies after Young Labour camp incidents

The Labour Party says it will implement all the recommendations of a report into indecent assaults at a Young Labour camp in February.

Labour Party president Nigel Haworth said Labour had committed to putting in place all the recommendations and had established a process for that work to be completed.

The recommendations:

  • Develop a more tangible and effective relationship between Young Labour and the Labour Party
  • Review and/or develop policies on The party’s code of conduct – along with consideration as to whether that should apply to the Young Labour Party, or whether a modified or separate code should be developed
  • Review and/or develop policies on sexual harassment and sexual assault, alcohol, events and host responsibility, bullying and complaint procedure
  • Incorporate updated event registration and parental consent and risk disclosure information requirements and forms to ensure compliance with current best practice and all legislation relating to the care of minors when participating in party held events.
  • Ensure at least one Labour Party representative should also attend the entire event and be available throughout (solely or jointly with another nominated adult supervisor) to ensure compliance with safety and welfare expectations and the Young Labour Party should also nominate a welfare officer to attend all events
  • Introduce a new, over-arching alcohol policy, formulated in consultation with expert external advice
  • Introduce a new open complaints process to enable complaints to be received and responded to without delay and with the appropriate degree of specialist advice.

However, Mr Haworth said he would not be releasing the report.

One of the victims:

“As far as I’m concerned the failure to release the report to the media is absolutely disgraceful”

“I feel to a degree that there is conflict of interest in a sense – one of the most influential figures that was aware of the original complaint, which is the President of the party, is also the person that is in charge of implementing the recommendations of the review.

“Further to that, the fact that it hasn’t been released to the media shows an absolute lack of transparency, but a copy also hasn’t been released to the victims or the people that were interviewed for the review, which from my perspective as a victim is absolutely disgraceful.”

Jacinda Ardern…

…said she has yet to read the full report, however, it would not be made public because the events detailed in it were still before the court.

The review was undertaken for a reason and the party knows there were things it needed to do differently, Ms Ardern said.

I understand the need to not make the full report public due to matters still being ‘before the court’.

There seems to be no reason why victims should not be given the report, except that Labour may want to keep things from being revealed that could impact on the prosecution.

Perhaps Labour have given their report to the prosecution to help with the facts of the matter, but I can’t see any indication of this having been done.

I can see no indication of anyone apart from the alleged offender being held accountable.

Party secretary Andrew Kirton resigned in June and left the party in July.

Labour need to maker sure things like this don’t happen again in the future, so it is good to see recommendations on that.

But there appears to be no holding to account for those that allowed underage drinking at February’s camp, enabled alleged sexual assaults to happen, and then tried to deal with it alarmingly inadequately, and secretly.

Newsroom:  Victim slams Labour summer camp report

One of the victims from Labour’s youth summer camp scandal has slammed the party for its “absolutely appalling” handling of a review into what went wrong, saying nobody is being held accountable.

“Failing to release the report shows a blatant lack of accountability and from my perspective as a victim, is absolutely appalling.”

The report should have been released with the redaction of any information which could have identified people, they said.

The victims and witnesses involved in Austen’s inquiry were not given a copy of the final report either.

They also questioned the news that Haworth would lead the work on changing Labour’s procedures, given the failures of the party in handling the initial complaint.

“The person in charge of implementing the recommendations is the person that hasn’t been trusted in the first place to provide support and resolve the issue…I don’t see accountability there.”

The victim believed alcohol should be banned entirely from events which had significant numbers of people under the age of 18, rather than allowing adults to drink while in attendance.

Labour have failed again to address concerns of at least one victim.

 

 

Helen Clark: Ardern was ‘let down’ by party officials

Helen Clark has said that it was “unbelievable” that Jacinda Ardern was not told about sexual assault allegations at a Young Labour camp before the story broke publicly.

Stuff – Helen Clark: PM Ardern was ‘let down’ when she wasn’t told about sexual assault allegations

Labour general secretary Andrew Kirton has come under fire for not telling police, parents of the alleged victims, or the prime minister – his boss, about allegations a 20-year-old man sexually assaulted four teenagers at a Young Labour camp near Waihi in February.

Helen Clark:

“Jacinda was let down. She should have been told immediately, actually, then events would have taken a different course. And I cannot understand why she wasn’t told. Unbelievable.”

Asked if there should be ramifications for Andrew Kirton or those in party management, Clark said: “If you get out the book and ask what would Helen have done, well, draw your own conclusions.”

“She’s done her best to repair it after the event, but leaders never like to be blindsided.”

Ardern’s response (from her office):

“As the Prime Minister has said, there are more serious issues here that concern her than whether she was given an early warning by the party.”

Being ambushed by awkward revelations seems to be a recurring thing for Ardern.

Yesterday alone she has had to deal with The unclear Curran RNZ debacle as well as a disturbing claim of political blackmail involving a NZ First MP and possibly a NZ First Minister.

Labour sexual assault review – terms of reference

Labour has released the terms of reference for the review into the sexual assault issues at the Young Labour summer camp. It will take 2-3 months, and all Labour Party members will be contacted.


Maria Berryman Review: Terms of Reference

The Terms of Reference for the Berryman review have been finalised.

  1. Ms. Berryman will inquire and report on:
    1. all Labour Party policies and procedures in relation to Young Labour events, that existed as of February 2018, having regard to all relevant legislation;
    2. whether such policies and procedures were applied correctly in respect of the February 2018 Young Labour summer camp;
    3. whether the policies and procedures, when correctly applied, adequately support the Labour Party’s objective of providing a safe environment for members and participants;
    4. all Labour Party policies and procedures in relation to the planning and management of events and the handling of complaints, having regard to all relevant legislation;
    5. whether such policies and procedures were applied correctly in respect of the February 2018 allegations;
    6. whether the policies and procedures, when correctly applied, reflect best practice.
  2. The Reviewer will not investigate or make findings about the specific allegations of sexual assault, except to the extent of how the policies and processes were applied in relation to the events prior to, and after, the alleged assaults.
  3. The Reviewer will make any recommendations for change that she thinks appropriate.
  4. In addition, because the possibility of at least one other incident of a similar nature has been raised in the media, the Reviewer will also be available to, and will establish processes to:
    1. receive any other concerns of issues that any person may wish to raise in relation to previous events (either relating to Young Labour or the Labour Party more generally); and
    2. take such steps as she considers appropriate in relation to those other issues, having regard to the wishes of those who raise them with her. Those steps may include recommendations to the Labour Party Council.

“Ms Berryman is commencing immediately with the initial focus of her investigation on the Young Labour camp in February. The review is expected to take between two and three months,” said Nigel Haworth, Labour Party President.

“A statement will be issued when the review has been completed, outlining any recommendations as well as the steps the Labour Party will be taking to implement them.

“All members of the Party will be contacted in relation to the review.

“Historical cases may be brought to Ms Berryman’s attention by sending details of the case to: labourreview@kensingtonswan.com

“This address will be confidential to Ms Berryman and will be available on our website at www.labour.org.nz.

“The Labour Party will fully cooperate with Ms Berryman’s requirements in the completion of her review.

“Labour will not be commenting further while this investigation is underway,” said Haworth.

Ardern on the Nation

Ardern was conspicuous by her absence from the first two programmes of The Nation this year, and also from the first Q&A.

She fronts up today on The Nation – possibly scheduled before her tough week at the Beehive office.

On why no one has been sacked over the summer camp mess.

“If everyone who ever made a mistake in their job was sacked, we wouldn’t be left with many people left, particularly in politics.”

Ardern keeps diverting from ‘political management’ to supporting the young people when asked why Minister Megan Woods and MP Liz Craig didn’t advise her about the problems.

Defending her MP Liz Craig, who was photographed at a table with Young Labour members drinking alcohol at the summer camp where the alleged sexual assaults took place. When asked if Ms Craig had met expectations: “I haven’t seen any evidence to suggest otherwise.”

Asked if the party intentionally insulated Ardern from the issue?

She disagrees. Strongly disagrees.

And then diverts back to ‘the young people’.

Asked again.

When asked if her party gave her “plausible deniability” by not telling her about the Labour summer camp allegations, replied: “Absolutely not. I push back on that very hard. That implies that our number-one concern here was political management. That’s not fair.”

And then diverts back to ‘the young people’.

How many other issues have been raised? She has seen one raised on social media.

Asked more specifically about any issues over the last ten years? She concedes some but only those reported in the media.

She was not asked to confirm that she knew nothing about the issue until Monday.


On Russia.

Ardern leaving the door open to a trade deal with Russia. “It is too early to say, under the current circumstances we find ourselves in with [the] Salisbury [nerve agent attack], to say if and when those negotiations and talks would restart.”

Four times now PM says too early to say if FTA talks with Russia will restart – no definitely ruling out.


On the proposed new prison.

The ‘out of control prison population’ is one of the biggest issues the Government has been grappling with.

They “should go back and have a look” at bail laws – a large part of the increase in prisoner numbers is as a result of changes to bail laws and an increase in the number of people on remand prior to trial.

On possible loosening of parole & bail laws: “We are not making justice-policy decisions based on bed capacity. We’re making decisions on what delivers the best outcomes in terms of safety for the community & reducing reoffending and improving rehab.”

She won’t say if they will build the prison or not. Still considering it.

“Do I want to build another prison? No. Do I want extra bed capacity? No. But am I being told that if we had an earthquake tomorrow, we wouldn’t have a place to put prisoners? Those are all things we’re having to grapple with”.

Believes consideration of a Waikeria Prison rebuild is not a betrayal of her commitment to Māori at Waitangi.


A lot on poverty policies, but little in definitive policy or commitments.

Staking her reputation on economic growth remaining stable after cutting immigration. “I don’t agree that that will be the consequences of our policies at all.

Says they don’t have any extra money specifically for child poverty in this budget – even though numbers of kids being raised from poverty revised downwards from 88,000 to 64,000

Working on a lot of things – except making commitments.

Not committing to implementing all recommendations from Climate Commission. She also won’t commit to ending oil and gas exploration permits. “I’m not going to pre-empt that decision, but we’re working on it.”

On Peters as acting Prime Minister – she ‘imagines’ she will stay in touch with him while on maternity leave.

She is adept at sounding strong and clear, but being vague.

“Let me be very clear about this. This is something we are working on and I can’t give you those answers at the moment.”

 

Ardern’s difficult week

Jacinda Ardern has experienced the highs of politics, rescuing the Labour Party from political oblivion and becoming Prime Minister are just a couple. She also revelled in attention at Waitangi for a week in early February, and spent last week being applauded and praised on a tour around the South Pacific.

This week was at the other end of the scale though.

It would have been very challenging for her, to say the least. As well as relatively minor  but embarrassing stories about Ministers – Jenny Salesa’s big spending on travel and Ron Mark’s use of Defence Force helicopters and planes as ministerial taxis – there have been major issues, the Young Labour summer camp fiasco, and dealing with Winston Peters and Russia.

Ardern has copped a lot of flak, but some of the media have still been easy on her while blasting others in Labour.

Stuff’s Below the Beltway: A week in politics

DOWN

The Labour Party:The Labour Party undoubtedly dropped the ball in its handling of the alleged sexual assault incidents at last month’s Young Labour summer camp. Four 16-year-olds were allegedly sexually assaulted by a 20-year-old Young Labour supporter. There have since been further allegations of sexual assault and misconduct at past Young Labour events. As well as leaving Young Labour to run the camp, where alcohol was available to underage attendees, the party was then slow to deal with the incident, and to offer support to the victims. The prime minister, who was kept out of the loop until media uncovered the incident, admitted the party failed the victims, and has ordered an independent inquiry, and a full review of the party’s processes.

But Ardern hasn’t escaped criticism.

Tracy Watkins goes easy in Jacinda Ardern has political capital to burn but Labour shouldn’t squander it

Did Labour learn nothing from nine frustrating years in Opposition up against the hugely popular John Key?

If crisis management is how we judge our prime ministers Ardern’s handling of Labour’s Waihi camp scandal is text book.

She has apologised to the young people involved, acknowledged Labour’s failure of care and put a process in place to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

But she has had to burn up some of her precious political capital making up for the party’s shambolic response to allegations that four young people were sexually assaulted during the boozy Young Labour event.

I wouldn’t call her handling text book at all. The story broke on Monday. Ardern didn’t front up on it until Wednesday, and she has given party officials a pass on their inept handling of it.

The bigger failing, of course, was letting down the young people in its care by its failure to act.

But there is a political price to pay for that, as well as a personal one.

Labour might think it can keep calling on the bank of Jacinda Ardern. But her political capital will not be limitless – and it wants to be careful it doesn’t squander it just because it can.

Despite Watkin’s tip toeing Ardern’s ‘political capital’ has taken a hit over this.

Duncan Garner: Labour president should walk the plank over ‘gobsmackingly incompetent’ handling of camp saga

It had to end some time. The golden glow and constant smile were never going to stretch through an alleged sex scandal involving young people and booze.

Honeymoons simply can’t go on forever, and Jacinda Ardern will surely be reflecting on that as she grabs an organic latte from Mt Albert’s local markets this weekend.

New prime ministers always hope their political honeymoon will stretch on and on, but in this business there’s always an idiot lurking around the corner. Most of the time he or she is in your camp.

Unbelievably … and somehow we have to believe this, no one told the PM. That needs to change in future. Information is power. Ardern needs to know everything. She looked like a startled possum in the headlights this week. Don’t surprise your prime minister with the cameras rolling.

And her condemnation of Labour was weak too.

But there is one crucial thing they really needed to do. Labour should have told the parents of the alleged victims. If I was the father I’d be furious. But apparently the victim has that right to privacy. The parents deserved to know to help make the best decision for their teenager.

The gloss came off the Labour Party this week.

And some of the gloss came off Ardern.

Audrey Young: A week Jacinda Ardern will want to forget

I disagree with the headline – if Ardern wants to learn from this week she needs to remember the mistakes.

The past week has been the worst for Jacinda Ardern since she became Prime Minister.

That may be more of a reflection of how many excellent weeks she has had than necessarily how terrible it has been.

It has not been a disaster, and there will definitely be worse to come. But it has been a mess.

She has had to deal with two very different and vexed issues of political management: the Labour Party’s handling of indecent assaults on young people at its summer camp, and her deputy and coalition partner beginning to flex his muscles as Foreign Minister.

The Labour camp issue is highly embarrassing for Labour and for Ardern, but both should survive it – it is now in it’s tidy up phase.

But the Winston Peters issue is more problematic politically. This week Ardern was slow to respond on it as well.

The summer school episode was eventually contained. Dealing with the Peters problem is more difficult. Being in a second season as foreign minister under a Prime Minister who is not seasoned in Foreign Affairs, he is being less guarded in what he says than he was in the 2005 – 2008 under Clark.

He seems to have forgotten the maxim that the Prime Minister is always the real foreign minister and that together they have to present a seamless face to the world and to the public. There should not be an iota of difference between their intention, their messages and their tone.

But Peters has raised eyebrows not just domestically over comments on Newshub’s The Nation programme.

He criticised the EU when it is on the brink of launching free trade negotiations with New Zealand, showed empathy towards Donald Trump’s new tariffs on steel and aluminium, and showed sympathy to Russia over accusations of downing MH17.

His off-the-cuff comments on MH17 drew criticism from Australian Labor MP Penny Wong and former Prime Minister Tony Abbott as well as the National opposition and an editorial in The Australian newspaper.

Ardern has been left this week having to defend what he said and what he meant, because his own clarifications have been anything but clarifying. Words matter, as Peters is fond of saying.

Ardern herself weighed into the backing-Britain issue on Friday with more appropriate criticism levelled towards Russia.

It was messy week but she finally got to where she needed to be – in control.

Eventually, sort of, in control, maybe.

The Russia problem is unlikely to go away quickly.

If Peters has conceded that a trade deal with Russia won’t be a big legacy achievement for him, will he be looking for something else to promote? Will that also clash with Government policies?

In a few months Ardern will take six weeks (corrected) maternity leave. A Government should be able to manage that without any problems.

If Helen Clark had had to take time out Michael Cullen would probably have stepped up virtually seamlessly.

John Key took permanent time out and Bill English stepped up without a hiccup, it was business as usual for the National led government.

But this week has shown a potential weakness in the current party power sharing arrangement. Ardern was slow but eventually stepped up and took over the Russian issue from Peters.

What if something crops up while Ardern is on leave and as acting PM Peters promotes his own agenda rather than the Government’s? Ardern will still be Prime Minister, but it will be far more noticeable if she needs to step out of the nursery and step in over the top of Peters again.

Peters always looked like one of the biggest risks for the Labour-NZ First-Green government. This week reinforced concerns about that.

The problem is not just a clash between what Peters wants and what the Government and country needs – Peters has done some damage to New Zealand internationally, which is bad enough.

What we are yet to see is how Peters will react if Ardern keeps overriding him.

How will he handle things as acting PM if a young mother puts the nappies down to tidy up another Peters botch-up?

The Labour camp issue is now in the hands of the police and nothing like that is likely to happen again.

The potential for Winston problems is ongoing, in a challenging time for Ardern, when she will be somewhat distracted.

An added problem is that Labour don’t have a 2IC ready to step up, Kelvin Davis looks nothing like a strong deputy leader. Grant Robertson is sidelined in Finance. It would raise eyebrows and likely cause friction if David Parker has to step in and clash with Peters.

This has been a difficult week for Ardern for sure, but every week is potentially difficult for a Prime Minister. There will be more to come, including while Peters is in charge.

“Attempts by some fringe Labour supporters to minimise these issues”

It is normal for political activists to over play attacks on opponents, and to make excuses and minimise issues that put their favoured parties and politicians in a bad light. This has been apparent over the sexual abuse claims at Young Labour’s summer camp.

This can go to the extreme of trying to shift blame to opponents, sometimes to a ridiculous degree. Like this from ‘Anne’ at The Standard:

I am becoming convinced that this Youth Camp incident is being used by Labour’s opponents to destroy General Secretary, Andrew Kirton. The MO is remarkably similar to that used on David Cunliffe… grab a piece of info. (eg. a letter he had received 12 yearspreviously) and create a false meme around it. Make sure your MSM acolytes keep it on the boil for as long as possible. They all know the truth will out eventually, but that doesn’t matter because by then the damage has already been done.

And Draco T Bastard:

I’m pretty sure the only reason it’s in the news is for the political point scoring done by the RWNJs.

No other case of sexual abuse gets this sort of attention from the MSM.

Anne again:

Warning! Right wing concern troll calling him/herself John Selway has been sent to TS. Wonder who his/her masters are… and what his/her previous mission was?

Now there’s a real conspiracy theory for the deniers to dig their fangs into.

Ironic that she mentioned conspiracy theory.

Tim Murphy at Newsroom (where the story broke) writes How bad is bad enough?

By common consent the Labour Party has handled the sexual assaults against four young supporters at a political summer camp badly. Labour’s top two names certainly think so. Among their statements on Wednesday were

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern:

“This sexual abuse took place.”

“The event was not undertaken in a safe and responsible way.”

“Things went very, very wrong.”

 

Labour Party President Nigel Haworth:

“We have failed in our duty of care since the event.”

Their acceptance of failure and distress on behalf of the victims was unmissable. No gilding of the lily at the top level.

But among their supporters there were those determined not to take their leaders’ lead and accept that Labour did not do right by these victims.

On social media some have claimed the disclosure of these sexual assaults was somehow a political attack on Labour; that National did not get intense media scrutiny over John Key’s ponytail pulling or Todd Barclay and Bill English’s behaviour over the taping of a staff member; that Newsroom, in breaking this news showed no concern for the four victims.

They have been shooting the messenger. They have been minimising.

Shooting the messenger is common on political forums, but more problematic is the minimising of what Ardern and Haworth have admitted are serious problems that include sexual assault.

They are wrong, wrong and wrong. Key was confronted with the starkest and most intense coverage of his bizarre and indefensible fetish, Barclay was forced to resign after weeks of media scrutiny.

Whataboutism has been rife – including here at YourNZ. That’s a common diversionary tactic.

But with the clear acceptance at the top that so much went wrong – for the victims, and *after* the camp – the ongoing confidence in Kirton and the attempts by some fringe Labour supporters to minimise these issues are more than a little troubling.

In effect they are minimising what could amount to multiple serious assaults. That is troubling – and also troubling is that nonsense claims on this are allowed to stand unsubstantiated at The Standard.

There are also many troubling comments on this issue at Kiwiblog, but that’s another story.

Also another story, from NZH – Witness: People were vomiting in the toilets and bushes from too much boozing at Young Labour summer camp

An eyewitness at the Young Labour party during the Waihi summer camp says it was a “recipe for disaster”, describing it as an unsupervised party where people were throwing up in toilets and in the bushes from excessive boozing.

And there was a giant walk-in fridge where anyone, including people as young as 15, could just walk in and grab any booze they wanted.

The man, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the public deserved to know the true nature of the event, during which a 20-year-old is alleged to have sexually assaulted four people aged between 16 and 18.

“On the Saturday night, even before dinner, people were playing goon bag roulette with the clothes line, hanging a bag of cask wine and sitting underneath it and spinning the clothes line,” the man said.

The use and abuse of alcohol is one of the problems accepted by Ardern and will be included in their inquiry into what went wrong.

‘Expert’ advice on informing victims’ parents questioned

Labour party officials defended their decision not to inform parents of the victims of the alleged sexual assaults at the Young Labour summer camp.

Stuff: Labour Party confirms sexual misconduct at camp – parents and police not told

Labour’s general secretary has defended not telling the police or parents about complaints teenagers were sexually assaulted at a summer camp last month.

Andrew Kirton, the Labour Party’s general secretary, said he stood by the way the party had handled the situation, which he said was done with a “victim-led” focus on the back of advice from a Wellington sexual violence charity.

Parents of the victims hadn’t been told about the incident because “we wanted to deal with the young people in the first instance,” Kirton said.

“We didn’t want to assume the young people involved had told their parents. They’re 16 so that had an impact on that decision and that was the advice we got.”

But the advice Kirton says he received is universal ‘best practice’.

I have received a copy of a professsional counselor’s advice on confidentially not being absolute when dealing with young people suffering trauma.


I have recently had a chance to catch up with the news regarding the sexual assault allegations perpetrated against 4 young people at the NZ Labour Party Youth Camp at Waihi, and I find myself feeling simply appalled by the role of the Counsellors in this saga.

In my professional practice opinion, gleaned from over 17,000 hours of practice, the decision by the so-called “experts” to not tell parents about what had happened to their children at the camp flies in the face of common sense and ethical decency.

This decision is also at odds with the evidence of what constitutes best practice.

There are a number of logical inconsistencies within the narrative of those who were charged with providing a safe environment for these young people – so many in fact as to risk eroding parental And caregiver confidence in the ability of the “experts” to actually make reasonable and rational decisions regarding people in crisis under their care.

This story is one of many to have emerged over time, under the mis-represented umbrella of “client confidentiality”.

Confidentiality (in any profession) is not absolute.

For Counsellors in this story to claim that confidentiality is absolute, is to incur an inconsistency with their own ethical Codes of Practice.

I know this, because I have had cause to review the Codes of Ethics for the six main Professional Associations that operate within the social service delivery space, a review that also included the Privacy Act 1993.

Every single one of the aforementioned documents accepts breach of confidentiality without client consent in four instances of disclosure: risk to self, risk to others, risk from others, and disclosure of illegal intent or action.

These breaches have particular significance for clients under the age of 17, which all of the alleged camp victims were.

Part of the informed consent process for clients in Counselling is for the Counsellor to advise clients at the beginning of the first session that some exceptions to confidentiality exist, prior to any disclosure being made.

Failure of the Counsellor to conduct an adequate informed consent process can result in the Counsellor adopting a level of responsibility for the client and families welfare that they have no right to claim in the absence of parental involvement and awareness (as has happened in this case).

Offering an illegitimate blanket of confidentiality also risks further alienating a young client from the enduring available support structures available within the family unit.

There is also a logical inconsistency in the reasons given by the experts not to tell the parents about what occurred in the camp, and it goes like this.

The experts in this saga claim that the alleged victims of the sexual assault were traumatised by the actions against them, yet it is these same traumatised minds that the experts choose to trust in terms of the victims (who are most likely fearful, confused, and in shock themselves) being able to make a reasonable decision about who to tell or not tell about what happened, because of the risk of re-traumatisation?!

This isn’t (as the experts claim) best practice – it’s rather professional abdication of a legitimate responsibility for the Counsellor to skillfully navigate the child towards their family so that the family can manage the issue at hand, with assistance from the Counsellor, if required.

The oft-repeated acclaimed rights of children and young people thus become misguided ideological nonsense when contrasted against the sanctity of the parent-child relationship which informs the right of parents to decide what is best for their children.

There is now a plethora of longitudinal population research studies that reveal that the higher order brain centres (e.g. the pre-frontal cortex, responsible for integrating sensory information and reasoning) don’t fully develop until the early-mid twenties.

To therefore assume (as the experts in this case have) that young people in crisis are capable of making a rational decision about what is best for them in the absence of parental or caregiver guidance is a classic example of present day ideology attempting to supersede historical and empirically revealed common sense.

Perhaps the lesson for the Counselling profession is this: when working with clients, and particularly younger clients, those who claim to be “helping” need to be very cautious of claiming a responsibility for a young person’s welfare or situation that is not theirs to claim.

A life may well eventually depend on the application of such professional discernment.

20 year old should front up

One 20 year old man has caused substantial damage after alleged sexual assaults at a party during a Young Labour summer camp last month.

I think he should front up and identify himself, to remove suspicion from anyone else (particularly the other young males who attended the camp). As he is facing a police investigation and possible charges he shouldn’t have to admit anything, but he should out himself.

Jacinda Ardern accepts that something serious occurred:

“The environment was not a safe one and that’s something we have to fix.

“It shouldn’t have happened, we should absolutely have made sure those people were looked after and that hasn’t happened.”

From a statement from Labour General Secretary Andrew Kirton indicates no party denial that something serious happened:

“We are extremely disappointed that an incident like this happened at a Labour event and we are working to make sure those involved receive any support they need. We are deeply sorry for the distress that’s been caused. It shouldn’t have happened.

“The morning after an evening in which we understand several young people had consumed alcohol, Young Labour was alerted to complaints in relation to the behaviour of a 20-year-old man.

“I have subsequently banned the perpetrator from any future Labour Party events.”

The actions of the 20 year old have caused problems for many.

Obviously the claimed four victims will be have been affected, at least one (reported to be male) to the extent that they prompted Labour (Megan Woods) to do something about it, and they have now complained to the police, who are investigating.

Others impacted by their actions or by association:

  • Young Labour, who have had all events suspended by the Labour Party.
  • The camp organiser (who went to bed early, before the alleged offences occurred).
  • The Labour Party, in particular secretary Andrew Kirton who has admitted not responding to the allegations adequately, and also president Nigel Haworth who was involved in the inadequate action.
  • Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who, if as claimed she only found out when blind sided at a media conference on Monday, has been seriously embarrassed by the offending at the camp (which she had attended) and by the poor handling of the aftermath.
  • Cabinet Minister Megan Woods who initiated action when approached by someone on Facebook – she should be credited for acting immediately, but has been criticised for not informing Ardern.
  • New Labour MP Liz Craig, who was at the camp but was asleep when the alleged offences occurred (however she was present when alcohol was being consumed).
  • The 50 or so attendees at the camp.

Those who attended the camp other than the alleged victims will also have been impacted. I’m sure they have had to explain their involvement in the camp, and the partying, and if under age the alcohol consumption (and possibly drugs).

NZ Herald:

Kirton told the Herald that Labour had not sought the consent of minors to supply them alcohol because it had not been expected that they would be drinking alcohol.

Under the law it is unlawful to supply anyone aged under 18 with alcohol without the consent of a parent or guardian.

Kirton said such consent was not sought “because the intention was no one under 18 would participate in that.”

According to witnesses who spoke to Newsroom, there was a large array of alcohol available at the Saturday night party including rum, vodka, cider and a large array of RTDs. The witness saw many people drinking, including a 15-year-old.

This will affect any Labour events in the future.

But the biggest and immediate issue is the alleged sexual assaults.

Any of the males who attended the camp will be under suspicion. Most won’t be 20 years old, but they shouldn’t have to wear signs around their necks saying “Yes I was at the camp but no I am not 20!”

Andrew Kirton:

Kirton says the 20-year-old alleged to have groped the four teenagers at the event was “deeply embarrassed” when confronted about it the next day.

“He was spoken to the morning after and my understanding is he was deeply embarrassed and they got him out straight away.

“My understanding from the conversation relayed back to me was that he recognised he had drunk too much and that he was embarrassed by what happened.”

Recognising that he had drunk too much is not the issue. The allegations of multiple sexual groping are the problem here, and alcohol consumption is no excuse for that. Most people who drink alcohol don’t act as alleged he did. There is only one alleged offender.

That person should identify themselves so that no one else involved is under suspicion.

This shouldn’t impact on the victims, who won’t be identified any more than they are now.

The 20 year old, if he did offend, has a legal right to not admit anything, but he could save the victims a lot ongoing attention and grief by fronting up and accepting responsibility and admitting what he did. This would mean the victims would not have to go through the investigation processes and possibly court processes.

The 20 year old has caused many problems and has done a lot of damage, to the victims if the allegations are true, to Young Labour and to Labour.

He could mitigate some of that damage by fronting up. This would also mitigate the end result of any legal repercussions.

If he remains silent and anonymous the damage will continue – in particular for the victims and for innocent males who also attended the camp.