So Nick Smith is leaving Parliament. This is not a planned exit and the circumstances are from his view unfortunate. But leaving he is.
A leaked report on an employment dispute where it is alleged that Smith verbally abused a young staff member.
Claire Trevett has some of the details:
In a statement, Smith said he would leave Parliament on June 10, and revealed Parliamentary Service was investigating “a verbal altercation in my Wellington office last July that has not concluded”.
“I was advised on Friday that the inquiry and its details have been leaked to the media for release tomorrow. It is inappropriate for employment disputes to be litigated in public.“I will put on the record that I regret the incident, I apologised at the time and I apologise again today.
“I have decided the best course of action for the parties involved, the National Party, my family and myself is to retire now.”
It is understood the altercation was with a young staff member who had worked there for less than a year prior to the incident.
It followed Parliament’s review into bullying and harassment in the workplace – the Francis Review – which was completed in 2019 and led to Parliament adopting a code of conduct for MPs and Parliamentary managers and staffers.
Smith said he had decided to retire after losing the Nelson electorate in 2020, but that inquiry had prompted him to leave now.
He also said that he wanted to spend more time with his family. If that was the case then he should have gone earlier.
The main story containing the details has not broken yet. One wonders if Tova O’Brien will be the author. And if so was the leak a hit job on Smith from within his party?
A motive is not hard to find.
Smith’s replacement will be Harete Hipango. This is a win for Judith as Hipango is said to be a loyal supporter.
She will give National’s caucus a more diverse feel although it appears the status quo in terms of race baiting will continue. From Henry Cooke at Stuff:
She would not be drawn on National’s current campaign against alleged Māori separatism, saying she hadn’t read the He Puapua report and was not sure that a Māori health authority was the best way to get better outcomes.
She is another very conservative Christian who told lies during the abortion debate and posted on Facebook a made up statement attributed to Jacinda Ardern. She refused to take it down even when it was pointed out to her that the claim was false.
Clearly she will fit right into National’s caucus.
Stand by today as the details emerge. And wonder in amazement how National managed to keep quiet a potential story about bullying during an election campaign but managed somehow to lose control of the details at a time that suited it best.