PM Jacinda Ardern has ridden a wave of popularity since she was allowed to form a coalition government with NZ First and the Green party. Her political capital, however, is in danger of a complete wipeout due to what appears to be a cover-up of sexual assault allegations.

“The Prime Minister herself is under immense pressure and scrutiny over any role she might have played in an attempted cover-up. The consensus amongst political journalists and commentators seems to be that her statements about what happened are no longer credible, and her honesty and ‘MeToo credentials’ are now being openly questioned.”

breakingviewsnz.blogspot.com/2019/09/bryce-edwards-political-roundup-claims


A Labour party culture of bullying and sexual harassment and one case of alleged assault have been laid bare, and 7-12 people have complained about one staffer’s behaviour

Embarrassingly for the Labour party, it is now clear that those in charge put the party’s interests ahead of the wellbeing of the alleged victims.

This is highly ironic as during her first speech to the United Nations General Assembly as PM, Ardern talked about the importance of the #MeToo movement: “Me Too must become We Too. We are all in this together.”

Calling on the world to act when the Party of which she is the leader has an “entrenched culture of bullying and sexual harassment” – and was embroiled in a major sex abuse scandal – is hypocrisy on a grand scale.

It calls into question Jacinda Ardern’s honesty and sincerity in branding herself as a ‘champion of women’.

[…] Since the details in this matter are important, but can be quite confusing, let’s look at the timeline of events that led to the current situation

2018:

August 6

After a heated exchange occurred with the Prime Minister’s staffer at a gathering they both attended, the young women contacted the Labour Party President Nigel Howarth to ask for help. She named the man and accused him of predatory behaviour that was getting worse.

October 18

A meeting was organised between the young woman and the Party President and Assistant General Secretary Dianna Lacy, at which she says she revealed the full extent of the alleged sexual offending.

2019:

February 24

Labour’s governing body, the New Zealand Council decided the allegations against the staffer by the young woman – and six other party members who had also complained about him – were serious enough to warrant an investigation.

March 9

Three members of Labour’s Council – Simon Mitchell, Tracey McLellan, and Honey Heemi – met with the seven complainants. The young woman claims she had emailed her testimony – which included details of the alleged sexual assault – to the panel members. Printed copies were distributed at the meeting. She read out her testimony.

June 15

Labour’s Council approved the recommendation of the investigating committee that “no disciplinary action” would be taken against the staffer.

July 5

The President notified the complainants of the decision.

July 23

The complainants started receiving their interview notes from the investigating committee. They had been promised ‘transcripts’ shortly after their testimonies so they could verify that their recorded evidence was correct. They were distressed and dissatisfied to find the information they received did not accurately reflect the evidence they presented to the committee. They wanted to appeal.

August 5

Some complainants had lost faith in the Labour Party’s handling of the matter and approached the media: “Newshub revealed the Labour Party has been forced to review an internal investigation into bullying, sexual harassment and sexual assault by a Labour staffer. It follows complaints the investigation process was botched and traumatising for the alleged victims.”

August 6

The Herald reported Jacinda Ardern’s response: “the party is taking a good look at whether we’ve satisfied the natural process of justice and whether or not we’ve supported the complainants as we should have.” They further disclosed, “there were 12 alleged complainants and the allegations involved not only sexual assault, but also rape and offers to pay for sex.”

August 8

National’s Deputy Leader Paula Bennett revealed she had been approached by Labour’s Beehive staff concerned about the way the Party had been handling the complaints.

August 10

Jacinda Ardern attended Labour’s Council meeting and expressed her concern about the way it had been handling the complaints, saying it was not the appropriate place “to ever undertake an investigation into a sexual assault”.

August 12

Labour’s President announced an “independent appeals process” would be conducted by Maria Dew QC. Complainants were given nine days to appeal.

September 9

The full story of the young woman who first raised concerns about the Prime Minister’s staffer with the Labour Party was published by The Spinoff. The Prime Minister read the article and said, “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.”

She revealed that for the last five weeks her staffer had been working from home. She refused to express confidence in the Labour Party President. And she explained that the QC carrying out the inquiry would report directly to her.

September 11

The Labour Party President resigned.

September 12

The staffer at the centre of the abuse claims resigned. The accusations against him lodged by 12 complainants included intimidation, bullying, sexual harassment, and sexual assault. 

September 16

The PM then announced that not one but three inquiries would be carried out into the complaints against her former staffer. No doubt she hoped that the three inquiries would kick the can down the road so that her highly implausible public claims would no longer be under scrutiny.

The public have been asked to believe that she didn’t know that the allegations against her staffer were of a sexual nature until she read The Spinoff article on September 9th. To swallow that claim the public would have to beleive that she “did not see, hear, or watch weeks of relentless media reporting from early August” about the alleged sexual misconduct of her staffer.

When Mike Hosking asked her the day after the story first broke in the media, “How many people have quit your party as a result of this investigation into this bloke who may or may not have sexual[ly] assaulted someone?” and she responded: “I’m going to be very careful answering that question Mike because this is an inquiry and work is still underway and it is still a party matter” – did she not hear the words ‘sexual assault’?

Did she not ask why her staffer had been sent to work from home for five weeks?

When she told Labour’s Council last month that it was not the appropriate place “to ever undertake an investigation into a sexual assault”, was she not talking about the two inquiries they had initiated into her staffer?

It turns out that a large number of people all around the Prime Minister knew the allegations against the staffer involved sexual misconduct. These included the Labour Party president, general secretary, assistant general secretary, the three Labour Council members on the inquiring committee, the investigating lawyers, the Prime Minister’s former chief of staff Mike Munro, her new chief of staff Raj Nahna, her chief press secretary Andrew Campbell, the staffer’s lawyer Geoff Davenport, the union officer Paul Tolich, Wellington city councillor Fleur Fitzsimons, Beth Houston in Phil Twyford’s office, MP Kiritapu Allen, and the Finance Minister Grant Robertson.

With so many people aware of the full nature of the allegations, it is almost impossible to believe that a Prime Minister, who had publicly chastised her Party for keeping her in the dark over the Young Labour Summer Camp sexual assault allegations only months earlier, would not have been told the details. 

nzcpr.com/implausible-pm


Normally a scandal the size of this one would have been quickly shut down by the party before it could grow legs and endanger the leader but for some reason, the staffer was considered valuable enough to risk leaving Ardern dangerously exposed.

David Farrar at KiwiBlog thinks it may have been for the following reasons:

He had held senior office within sections of the party. 

He has a family member who has a professional association with Labour, which is very long-standing and incredibly valuable.

He had very close connections with senior Ministers.

His role in the Labour Leader’s office was very valuable to them.

KiwiBlog

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