Driven to dark place by unsubstantiated accusations

May 28, 2019

Barry Soper writes:

The man stood down from Parliament after Speaker Trevor Mallard’s claims about rape has spoken out. . .

He was stood down by the closed shop Parliamentary Service last week, which is exempt from the Official Information Act and will not have to release documents over the alleged incident.

Referring last week to the alleged assaults, Mallard said: “We’re talking about serious sexual assault. Well that, for me, that’s rape.”

At the time there were questions about the wisdom of this statement given it could prejudice any legal proceedings. Now there are even more questions.

In a two hour sit down discussion in his home, the devastated man said “The accusation of rape has put me in a very dark place”. 

“I was driving to Parliament the day after the bullying and harassment report on the place was delivered and heard on the radio that a ‘rapist’ could be stalking the corridors and it disturbed me greatly,” he said.

However early that afternoon he realised he was the so called ‘rapist’ when he was summoned into the office of the Parliamentary Service boss Rafael Gonzalez-Montero to be stood down. A colleague at the centre of an unsubstantiated complaint against him three years earlier had come forward again after complainants were urged to do so by The Speaker. 

At no time was I spoken to by the review’s head Debbie Francis which I thought I would have been considering an alleged incident had been investigated and was found to be without merit.

“It’s ironic that the review was about bullying and harassment. I feel I’ve been bullied out of Parliament and harassed within it, particularly by the Speaker’s claim,” the teary-eyed man said. . .

The complaint was ruled to be unsubstantiated last year, laid two years after the incident happened.

The man said it resulted from working alongside a colleague at Parliament when a clipboard was lost.

“We searched for the clipboard which was important and with great relief we finally found it. She gave me a high five but being a little old fashioned I hugged her back, that was honestly all there was to it,” the man said.

A hug might be inappropriate or even unwelcome but it’s a long way from rape.

Two years later he said she laid a complaint and both of them were interviewed. In a written decision, after the investigation last year, her claim that he hugged her from behind pushing his groin into her, was found to be unsubstantiated and no further action was warranted.

However after the call from Speaker Mallard last week, the woman, who the man said he’d had a few sharp exchanges with since the hug, asked for the complaint to be reconsidered.

Immediately after that he was sent packing from Parliament with Mallard summoning the media to declare: “I don’t want to cut across any employment or possible police investigation, but I am satisfied that the Parliamentary Service has removed the threat to the safety of women working in the Parliamentary complex.”

If it was unsubstantiated two years ago, how could it possible be serious sexual assault, even rape, now? This isn’t she said, he said, the complaint was investigated and wasn’t substantiated.

The Speaker understood the same man was responsible for the two other claims of serious, sexual assault. He later added one of the key dangers is no longer in the building.

The man said he’s dumbfounded but the same woman was involved in one of the other complaints. He said he passed a comment about another woman’s hair looking nice, with the original complainant telling her he was looking at her breasts. 

The third complaint came following a platonic friendship he had with another colleague, who on one occasion came around to his house with her son for a cup of tea with his wife. He says he kissed her on the cheek once as he was farewelling her and he suspects she was put up to the complaint by someone else.

In Argentina it’s common to greet and farewell people with a single kiss, right cheek to right cheek; in Spain it’s a kiss on each cheek and in Holland it’s three kisses.

That isn’t the cultural norm here in the work place but even if a kiss on the cheek might not be appropriate it’s a long way from sexual assault.

After talking to the man, NewstalkZB saw the finding of the investigation against him, a finding that would usually be kept under wraps by the unimpeachable Parliamentary Service. The finding bore out everything the man had claimed and found the claim against him was unsubstantiated. . . 

The accused man is understandably in a dark place and was driven there by the Speaker who turned unsubstantiated accusations of a hug and a kiss on the cheek into accusations of serious sexual assault.

The Francis report raised some very serious questions about the behavior of several people in parliament – MPs, staff and the media.

This now raises questions about the validity of the report.

 


Birds bludgeoned

September 13, 2018

Native birds used in a protest against 1080 were bludgeoned to death:

The speaker of the house has laid a complaint with police after discovering native birds used in a 1080 protest were bludgeoned to death.

Protestors laid dead birds on the steps on parliament yesterday along with fake 1080 pellets.

Protestors claimed the birds were killed by 1080 poisoning.

However, Trevor Mallard says forensic experts say the birds were killed by blunt force trauma.

Even people who aren’t experts ought to be able to tell the difference between death by poisoning and death by blunt force.

Who did the bludgeoning and how did the protesters find the birds that had been bludgeoned?

Whatever the answers, and whoever did it, both killing birds this way and using them in a protest like this is seriously sick.


Who dunnit still matters

August 27, 2018

Why did Trevor Mallard stop the investigation into the leaking of Simon Bridges’ travel expenses?

. . .To recap; Mallard pulled the inquiry led by Michael Heron, QC, after it was revealed police had established the identity of the person who sent a text to the Speaker and Bridges claiming to be the same person who leaked details of the National leader’s travel expenses.

The text implored them to drop the inquiry, citing mental health issues.Bridges sought advice from a mental health expert and police who, it seems, established the identity of the leaker very quickly.

Police advised Bridges the person was receiving appropriate support for their mental health, but refused to give him their identity for privacy reasons.

That suggests they were able to access the information from the phone company concerned on the grounds of concern for the person’s safety.

That might have been where things were left except details of the text – which went to just Mallard and Bridges – were then leaked to RNZ.

And those details included some that suggested the person had inside knowledge of what went on inside the National Party caucus room.

Mallard called off the inquiry on that basis, implying that, as it was clearly a National MP, it was now a matter for an internal inquiry, rather than one conducted under his auspices.

Except Stuff has been told the text was by no means incontrovertible evidence of an inside job – and while some of the information supplied by the texter could suggest they were a National MP, that information could also have been picked up or deduced by a wider circle of people, including staff.

We have not been shown the text, so there is no way of verifying that. . . 

Mallard had known about the text when he announced who would lead the inquiry.

What happened between that announcement on Thursday and the decision to can the inquiry on Friday?

He said it was unlikely the person who texted was outside the National Party but unlikely isn’t good enough.

The texter has thrown suspicion on everyone in the National caucus, at least some of their staff and people who work for parliamentary services, and MPs and staff from other parties.

. . .Police said they had dealt with the matter “entirely from a mental health perspective”.

The texter had claimed to be inside the National Party and had leaked Bridges’ expenses to punish him for being arrogant. . . 

Giving appropriate support for the leaker’s mental health issues is the first priority, that includes establishing whether or not the person is able to do his or her work properly while getting the help that is needed.

But those issues don’t absolve the leaker of blame nor should they protect her or him from consequences when s/he is showing no contrition and serious misjudgment, and putting so many people under a cloud of suspicion.

And Mental health issues or not, whodunnit still matters.


Conspiracy censorship or . . .?

June 22, 2018

Speaker Trevor Mallard  ruled out an amendment from the Overseas Investment Amendment Bill that would have made a controversial 106-house luxury development in Northland more attractive to wealthy overseas buyers.

The amendment that exempted Te Arai property development near Mangawhai from the consent provisions of the bill was inserted by the office of Associate Finance Minister David Parker, the minister in charge of the bill.

It was included in recommendations on the bill from the Labour-chaired Finance and Expenditure Committee.

That was despite concerns from National members of the committee that the inclusion of a private exemption for Te Arai development through an amendment to a public bill was inappropriate. . . 

Richard Harman wrote a comprehensive post at Politik yesterday explainging the background to this.

National’s Amy Adams questioned the minister about the issue yesterday:

3. Hon AMY ADAMS (National—Selwyn) to the Associate Minister of Finance: What is the purpose of the Overseas Investment Amendment Bill?

Hon DAVID PARKER (Associate Minister of Finance): There are three main purposes. The first is to ban foreign buyers of existing New Zealand homes; the second is to bring forestry registration rights into the overseas investment screening regime to ensure they’re treated similarly to existing screening for freehold and leasehold forests, whilst at the same time streamlining screening for forestry to encourage foreign direct investment in the forestry sector; and the third and equally important purpose is to preserve policy space for future Governments to protect the rights of New Zealanders to own their own land. This policy space would, in practice, have been lost forever had this Government not acted to do these things before the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) comes into effect.

Hon Amy Adams: Was it the policy intent of the bill for developers of multimillion-dollar homes targeted at foreign buyers, such as the Te Ārai property development, to be exempt?

Hon DAVID PARKER: No. The transitional exemption that was put forward but has been ruled out of order was put forward with the intent of helping the iwi who had suffered long delays on the project. It was a time-limited, transitional measure. There was advice from Treasury that this was procedurally appropriate to allow an exemption. However, the Speaker has advised that the select committee’s recommendation is not within the Standing Orders. The Government accepts the Speaker’s ruling, and therefore the transitional exemption will not proceed.

Hon Amy Adams: Well, is it his intention to promulgate regulations under the Overseas Investment Amendment Bill to exempt the Te Ārai development, or any other development linked to John Darby, from the provisions of that legislation?

Hon DAVID PARKER: No, and, indeed, the other regulation-making power in the bill—and the member will know this because she was on the select committee—would not allow such an exemption. . . 

Hon Amy Adams: Since becoming the Minister responsible for the Overseas Investment Amendment Bill, has he had any discussions about the bill and the proposed Te Ārai development exemption with the chairperson of the Finance and Expenditure Committee, Michael Wood; and if so, when?

Hon DAVID PARKER: Obviously on a number of occasions, but I do that with every bill that I’m responsible for.

Hon Amy Adams: Since becoming a Minister has he met, corresponded with, spoken to, or texted John Darby or Ric Kayne, as the beneficial owners of the Te Ārai development, or any representative of their business interests; and if so, for what purpose?

Hon DAVID PARKER: No. I know thousands of people in New Zealand, including Mr Darby. I have bumped into him probably once or twice in the last decade. The last time I can recall talking to him was when I bumped into him, and it’s so long ago I can’t remember when it was.

Hon Amy Adams: Well, since becoming a Minister, has he met, corresponded with, spoken to, or texted any representative of John Darby and Ric Kayne’s lobbying firm Thompson Lewis; and if so, for what purpose?

Hon DAVID PARKER: Everyone in the House will know that GJ Thompson actually was the acting chief of staff here, so I’ve regularly spoken with him—unfortunately for the member, not about this issue. Someone made me aware that Mr Lewis had some involvement in this. I have not spoken to Mr Lewis about this at all nor corresponded with him. The two meetings that I can recall having with Mr Lewis since we were elected were in respect of carbon rights and forestry, and members of staff were present at those meetings to witness them, as well. . . 

Later Matthew Hooton tweeted:

I read the column but if you click on the link now, it’s disappeared.

Is there a conspiracy, is it censorship is there really nothing to see or is there more to come?

 


Organisation matters

November 7, 2017

Until just a few weeks ago, one of the big questions over Labour’s suitability for government was its inability to organise itself.

Those questions quietened when Andrew Little resigned and was replaced by Jacinda Ardern.

But Labour still hasn’t got it all together:

Ceremonies to open New Zealand’s 52nd Parliament have kicked off with National threatening to gatecrash Labour’s party over the election of new Speaker Trevor Mallard.

The election is normally straightforward and comes straight after all MPs swear an oath of allegiance.

However, things threatened to go pear-shaped when National MP and shadow leader of the House Simon Bridges asked whether MPs who were not present today and therefore not sworn-in could vote. . . 

However – in what is an embarrassing oversight for the new Government – at least five of its MPs were absent.

That meant it lacked the numbers to have Mallard elected, and things threatened to go pear-shaped when National MP and shadow leader of the House Simon Bridges raised a point of order.

Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Winston Peters and Trade Minister David Parker are on their way to Manila for APEC. Green MP Gareth Hughes was also absent.

“Where’s Winston when you need him?” Bridges taunted the Labour benches.

“Get used to it,” another National MP commented.

After hurried discussions between Bridges and Labour’s leader of the House Chris Hipkins, Mallard was finally confirmed as the new Speaker. . . 

National’s delaying proceedings can open it up to accusations of pettiness.

Probably only political tragics will take any notice.

But the government has a wafer-thin majority and it can’t afford to be sloppy over process.

Organisation matters for a party and even more for a government.

UPDATE: In discussion over Labour’s lack of a majority, National got Labour to agree to increase the number of select committees from 96 to 108.

UPDATE 2: Counting and calmness matter too – Labour did have the numbers but panicked when challenged.


MoU is MoM

August 25, 2017

The Memorandum of Understanding between Labour and the Green Party did a lot more for the latter than the former.

The Greens had everything to gain at the cost of Labour which only lost.

Often it was less a MoU and more a MoM – memo of misunderstanding

Any pretence the agreement is worth anything is useless now when the Greens have done a u-turn and decided to stand candidates in Ohariu.

They might try to say it is to maximise the party vote, and that will be one motivation. But James Shaw’s refusal to endorse the Labour candidate makes it something more.

One poll shows it has less than 5% support and a couple of others show it above the threshold but at only half the level of support it had a few weeks ago. The Greens without the safety net of an electorate seat are now fighting for survival.

Taking votes, whether they be electorate or list, from Labour, in the process, won’t worry them.

On the AM Show* yesterday morning, host Duncan Garner gave Shaw several opportunities to endorse the Labour candidate and he refused to do so.

The winner in this is National’s candidate Brett Hudson who has worked as a list MP based in Ohariu for three years as a Green candidate will split the opposition vote.

The Green Party has a new candidate in Hutt South, after the previous one pulled out a few weeks ago. That is good news for National list MP Chris Bishop who seriously eroded the majority of Labour MP Trevor Mallard last election.

Mallard is standing list only and Bishop, who has had a deservedly high profile in the electorate in the last three years, was odds-on to take the seat against a newcomer. His chances are even better now the Green candidate will split the vote in this seat too.

All of this begs the question: if Labour and the Green Party can’t play nicely in opposition, what chance would they have of doing so in government?

* Newshub covers the interview here but makes no mention of Shaw’s repeated refusal to endorse the Labour candidate.

 


Mallard makes it easier for Bishop in Hutt

July 25, 2016

POLITIK reports Hutt South MP Trevor Mallard won’t contest his electorate at the next election but will seek a list seat:

He says he is doing this because Labour will nominate him as Speaker and he told them he had come to the view that it is very hard to be both an effective electorate MP and chair the house in an unbiased manner.

And he says the move will help the party with its process of renewal by bringing in a new MP.

That means that he is not expecting Leader Andrew Little  who does not have an electorate, to stand in the seat.

Labour’s Deputy Leader Annette King appeared to confirm this last night when she told POLITIK that she did not expect Mr Little to stand in any seat.

A leader’s workload is one reason for Little to continue to be a list MP. But that also makes it easier to say he lacks the on-the-ground experience of people and issues that electorate MPs  gain working in a seat and for its people, in contrast to list MPs who can pick and choose more.

This decision also makes an already task more difficult for Labour’s list selection if the party can’t get a substantial boost in its support.

Wallowing in the popularity shallows as it is just now would give Labour very few list MPs.

But the move also opens the way for one of National’s young rising stars, Chris Bishop, to possibly win the seat. . . 

Some list MPs don’t try to win electorates, some do and Bishop is one who has been working very hard in Hutt South.

Little would have a much higher profile than a newcomer should he stand in the seat but Bishop would also be able to argue that he (Bishop) would be able to devote much more time to the electorate than a party leader.

Should Little not stand, a newcomer would have to work much harder to gain profile that Bishop’s service in the electorate has given him.

Either way this makes it easier for Bishop, who lost by only 709 votes to Mallard in 2014, to gain the seat.


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