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.

Disturbing allegations of online death and rape threats

There’s been quite a bit of online comment lately about females getting serious threats of harm.

1 News: James Shaw ‘really furious’ female colleagues Marama Davidson and Golriz Ghahraman are subjected to threats online – ‘I don’t face that as a white male’

Mr Shaw told TVNZ 1’s Q+A current affairs programme he was “really furious” that his colleagues are subjected to “constant sustained attack” from people making threats against them.

“I don’t face that as a white male – certainly not nearly to the same extent,” Mr Shaw said.

Apart from a spate of attacks and threats over a few months in 2015 and 2016 I don’t get attacked on Twitter, but I don’t tweet very much, and I’m not well known like an MP is.

Ms Davidson tweeted in July that she had received “death threats towards me and my kids from supporters of those two who Goff refused to hire a venue to”.

Ms Ghahraman said in May she has also been subjected to threats online, including threats of sexual violence, and said social media networks like Facebook need to take more responsibility.

I don’t venture much into political stuff on Facebook either. I have seen some examples of threats, and also of more general attacks, so have no reason to doubt their claims. It is an insidious problem that females in particular seem to suffer from.

On Twitter today:

From my perspective, this is an extremely well-timed piece. It’s fast becoming mostly madness on here. So why do we keep doing it? Are we masochists?

During the last 24 hours, I’ve received well over a dozen death and rape threats.

That’s an alarming claim.

I haven’t counted them all. I’m not worried or frightened or scared. Or even angry. I’m just completely inured to it. And that’s not a healthy way to be.

It’s extremely unhealthy for online discussions and socialising.

Now, some will argue that I poked the viper with *that* tweet so what did I expect? That’s one (strange) way of looking at it. The other is that an online world where this stuff is par for the course, is very sick indeed. Do I need to be part of it? Something I need to consider.

The fact that I feel absolutely nothing/zero/zilch about being threatened and called every name under the sun, is a sure sign I’ve stayed too long at the online party. Might be time to call a cab and go home. Before the sun comes up.

That would be an unfortunate response, because that would appear to be the aim of those gutless nameless pricks (I think they are mostly men), to drive off voices they disagree with.

Well, it’s been an eye-opener. That’s for sure. I never really paid the whole issue much attention before. But now I see what the all the fuss is about. Politicians, journalists, and the public should be very concerned about what is happening. But, they’re not.

There are multiple herds that take intolerance to intolerable levels.

Perhaps there’s some way some of the online community can get together and brainstorm ways of trying to deal with this, without shutting up, and trying a counter shut down of voices.

 

Manafort trial judge has received threats

The jury in the Paul Manafort trial are still deliberating. There’s a pile of papers and 18 charges so it’s not surprising it is taking a while to arrive at verdicts.

In a bizarre twist the trial judge says there have been threats made against him.

NBCNews:  Judge in Paul Manafort trial says he has gotten threats

District Court Judge T.S. Ellis, who is overseeing the bank and tax fraud trial of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, said Friday that he has received threats that necessitate U.S. marshal protection to and from the courthouse.

“I had no idea that this case would excite these emotions, I will tell you that frankly,” Ellis told the court as the jury, which was not present for his comments, deliberated for a second day. The case is being tried in Alexandria, Virginia.

Ellis’s admission came during an afternoon hearing brought by a coalition of media outlets, including NBC News, to unseal juror names and bench conference transcripts of conversations the judge has had with the defense and the prosecution.

Ellis refused to reveal the names of the jurors because he fears they would face similar threats — without being afforded the same protections.

“I have no reason to believe that, if those names are unsealed, there won’t be threats against them,” he said.

Ellis also said he would not unseal the one bench conference related to the ongoing investigation, because he did not want to interfere in it, though at the conclusion of the case, he will unseal transcripts related to the administration of the jury.

Manafort is facing 18 charges of tax and banking fraud, and has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Prosecutors have painted Manafort as a liar who hid millions from U.S. tax authorities in overseas accounts for years, while Manafort’s attorneys sought to paint him as a talented political consultant who had served several elected officials, including Trump, while pinning the blame for any wrongdoing on Rick Gates, Manafort’s former protégé and the key witness against him.

Threatening a trial judge is a very serious allegation.

Death and rape threats against Davidson

Yesterday Green MP and co-leader Marama Davidson tweeted:

I think this claim has to be seen as credible. But it seems worse.

RNZ: Green Party co-leader receives rape and death threats on social media

The MP posted on Facebook yesterday morning, supporting Auckland mayor Phil Goff’s decision to ban two controversial Canadian speakers from Auckland Council venues.

Marama Davidson said “vile” comments about death and rape were made by supporters of the Canadian pair on her Facebook post yesterday.

“Quite a lot of tears from supporters of the two…some quite vile disgusting death threats to me, my children…some rape threats and people just calling me the most disgusting names and abuse you could probably imagine.”

She deleted the comments straight away because she did not want the wider public to get offended by what was written.

But she was now trying to recover the messages so she could give them to the police.

“Yeah I think it is worthwhile just putting on record to the authorities. That could include the parliamentary security – that this threat has been received,” she said.

Davidson’s post on Facebook:

Threats against MPs and their families shouldn’t be tolerated in New Zealand.

I have reservations about the Auckland banning of the Canadians, but that doesn’t justify threatening someone who supports the ban. It is something that warrants debate, but not gutless anonymous online attacks.

I don’t know how bad the threats were, I haven’t seen them, but it is still a disgraceful blot on ‘free speech’ and politics in New Zealand.

I know what it can be like to be threatened online, it has happened to me including implied death threats, and also threats against members of my family. It is an insidious part of the Internet – threats and abuse are an abuse of free speech.

 

“Ten biggest threats to nature in the city”

An Auckland University study, using experts from New Zealand, Australia and the UK, and has identified “the ten biggest future threats to nature in the city” .

Some of these so-called threats may be a surprise.

Top 10 threats to nature in the city

A new study, led by researchers in the University of Auckland’s School of Biological Sciences, brought together experts from Australia, the United Kingdom and New Zealand to identify current trends and new technologies that pose the biggest threat to urban ecosystems.

The list includes advances in technology aimed at lessening human impact on the environment.

“We don’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater – some of these new technologies bring a range of environmental benefits,” lead author Dr Margaret Stanley says.

“But clever solutions are going to be needed to mitigate threats to urban biodiversity if we are to maintain our connection with nature as we become increasingly urbanised.”

There is growing evidence that the natural world is a benefit to human health and wellbeing, particularly if more and more of us are going to be living in cities in the future, the study authors say.

Top 10 Potential threats

  1. Health demands on greenspace: As more people are encouraged to use green urban spaces for exercise, these spaces can become highly maintained for people rather than wildlife; with more tracks, artificial lighting and fewer plants.
  2. Digital replacement of nature: There is a risk that nature in cities could be replaced with digital equivalents of nature, such as images and sound recordings. This gives people some of the benefits of nature, but without the maintenance and messy side of nature, however it could lead to city dwellers undervaluing nature in their immediate environment.
  3. Scattered cremains (material resulting from cremation): There has been a growing trend for cremation as space for burial of human remains is at a premium. However, in some cities land for interring cremains has become very expensive and scattering cremains has become more culturally acceptable. Because of high levels of phosphate and calcium in cremains, there is a risk of polluting urban ecosystems and waterways.
  4. Spread of disease by urban cats: Globally, there are now more than 600 million pet cats, and the increase in pet cat ownership is resulting in the disease toxoplasma spilling over into wildlife populations, in urban areas as well as to species in more remote locations, such as the endangered Hector’s dolphin.
  5. Switch to LED lights: Cities across the globe are switching their lighting technology to LED lights. However, the whiter spectrum of LED lights overlaps with the visual systems of wildlife and can disrupt their physiology and behaviour.
  6. Solar cities: Many cities are implementing city-wide solar panel installation programmes. However, solar panels can disrupt the behaviour and reproduction of animals that are attracted to the polarised light they produce.
  7. Nanotechnology: Nanoparticles (e.g. graphene) are now an increasing but invisible part of cities, found in everything from smartphones to clothing. However, there has been almost no research on the effects of these particles on animals, plants and entire ecosystems.
  8. Self-healing concrete: This is a new concrete product infused with specialised bacteria is about to be commercialised. If use of this product becomes widespread, it could spell the end for the often unique biodiversity that currently manages to thrive in cracked concrete all around cities.
  9. Energy efficient homes: Many countries are implementing large-scale retrofitting of buildings to make them more energy efficient. However, this effectively seals the building off from the outside, resulting in loss of breeding sites for wildlife such as bats and nesting birds.
  10. Drones: The recent popularity of using drones (unmanned aerial vehicles) in cities is likely to result in issues for wildlife, such as nesting birds, which are particularly sensitive to stress and repeated aerial disturbance.

The study is published in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment.

 

Six biggest threats to New Zealand

David Fisher at NZ Herald on the biggest threats to New Zealand – ‘Extremism in NZ’ top of alert list:

The top-secret list was revealed in the Briefing to the Incoming Minister provided by the heads of the Security Intelligence Service (SIS) and the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB).

It was obtained by the Herald through the Official Information Act after the intervention of the Office of the Ombudsman and – with redactions – shows how Mr Key and Attorney General Chris Finlayson were briefed when returned to government in October last year.

The six biggest threats:

  1. Violent extremism in NZ and by New Zealanders – the report warns migration is creating communities with “distinct identities and links overseas”. It appears to reflect information the SIS has learned from Muslim communities.
  2. Loss of information and data – the means by which a cyber attack is done is “easier to acquire and easy to combine with insider threats”. It poses economic and reputational risks.
  3. Hostile intelligence operations in and against the country – the report warns of “industrial espionage” against companies and “targeting of New Zealanders by foreign governments”. Again, the consequence of increased migration could be linked to these concerns.
  4. Mass arrivals – the entire small section is redacted, but John Key has previously spoken of concern over boat-loads of refugees making landfall in New Zealand.
  5. Trans-national organised crime – drugs, money-laundering and illegal fishing are highlighted, brought about by an “open economy, the internet and established networks among migrant communities”.
  6. Instability in the South Pacific – the entire section is blanked out, but the SIS has had a close focus on Fiji, its leadership and anti-regime movements in New Zealand and Australia.

Source: Briefing to the Incoming Minister, NZ Intelligence Community.

(NZ Herald)

The actual degree of threat from these things in New Zealand is very low, partly due I guess to our SIS and GCSB and their links to other intelligence agencies. But mostly due to our geographic location and lack of internal conflict.

Teacher unions politically threaten charter organisations

Remarkable action from teacher groups actively opposing charter schools by making political threats.

Teacher unions trying to head-off charter schools

Teacher unions have written to aspiring charter school operators in a last-ditch attempt to warn them off setting up the schools.

Radio New Zealand’s education correspondent said the letters are the first time the Post Primary Teachers Association and the Educational Institute have directly lobbied groups wanting to set up the schools, which the government is calling partnership schools.

The letters say the schools could be cancelled as early as November next year with no compensation because opposition parties have vowed to abolish them.

They are being sent to 35 organisations that expressed interest in the schools, four of which are known to have made it to negotiations with the Government.

PPTA president Angela Roberts said charter schools will damage nearby state schools.

Directly promoting party politics with threats – regardless of the pros and cons of charter schools I think this is disgraceful behaviour from the teacher unions.