It has been a big couple of days in New Zealand politics.
Sex scandals do this. There is too much titillation involved. And they are difficult. There are human lives at stake, the victim, the perpetrator, the families of each. Everyone wants certainty and justice.
So how does the left wing and the right wing handle these allegations? There have been a few recent examples. We can work out what the likely future response will be.
There was Andrew Little and Mike Sabin although this example relies on the general handling of allegations of inappropriate behaviour because the details have never been publicly specified. Little was told about issues concerning Mike Sabin shortly after he became Labour leader. Instead of trying to milk the issue he had his chief of staff tell National’s chief of staff about the problems.
I am still impressed by this. Andrew was the newly minted leader of the opposition at the time and the desire to get media attention must have been huge. Instead he held off and trusted National to sort the problem out.
I earlier posted this:
Note the ethical decisions made here. The Standard was not told. The first post we did on Sabin was my post in late December based entirely on a Sunday Star Times Article. Parliament was sitting at the time. The opportunity was not taken to embarrass Key with questions in the house. The issue was dealt with in a quiet apolitical way in the hope it could be resolved.
Can you imagine if National had the equivalent piece of information? Slater would have been posting non stop on the issue, the media would have been briefed, and there would be an all out hatchet job done on the unlucky victim.
National is trying to say that the only relevant date is the date that Eagleson told Key and no one can disprove that it happened on December 1. But this is so improbable. The media were asking his office questions about Sabin in August 2014. Do you really believe that the Prime Minister’s office would ignore media enquiries into an allegation that a National MP was being investigated by police for an assault?
The story is not over yet. The Police “no surprises” policy which caused them to advise Anne Tolley of OIA requests concerning Maurice Williamson and his interference in the prosecution of Dounghua Liu must have kicked in. What was she told and when?
What ever the outcome it is clear that Andrew Little’s recollection is significantly better than Key’s and that he really is a principled politician.
And there is the recent matter involving former National MP Andrew Falloon.
He was accused of sending inappropriate photographs to young women. His resignation clearly confirms that there is something in the story.
It emerged because late last Wednesday night Jacinda Ardern’s office was advised. This is significant. I am theorising here but I suspect that Falloon has the contact details of young women sympathetic to the National Party on his phone and sent to them unusual graphics of dubious taste. I am pretty sure no young lefties would provide him with contact details.
His behaviour was of such concern that a couple of weeks ago a complaint was lodged with the police. I get the strong impression that the complaint to Jacinda only happened because the family were so distressed that the police would not do anything.
I understand why the police did not take the matter further. The law relating to objectionable material is complex and disturbing material does not qualify. It has to be really disturbing and the availability of the material has to be likely to be injurious to the public good.
This is difficult for people to understand. But unsolicited pictures to young women are not illegal unless they are really, really sick.
Jacinda’s decision to refer the matter to National’s leader’s office is in the best tradition set by Andrew Little.
But some elements are probing to see if somehow Labour can be smeared with what happened,
Yesterday Tova O’Brien sent out this really unfortunate tweet.
Opinion: Both Judith Collins and Jacinda Ardern failed NZers and owe them an apology. Their delays kept Andrew Falloon in parliament far longer than he should have been. Detailed timeline revealed. https://t.co/cXYbw0fEbA— Tova O'Brien (@TovaOBrien) July 21, 2020
Let’s see. The Labour leader did not deal with the letter immediately because she was out in the country doing what good Prime Ministers do and meeting with people. Note to Tova. Prime Ministers do not wait at their desk answering emails. They receive hundreds or thousands of emails each day and have staff and a system to handle them. Expecting a sub 24 hour turnaround is just crazy. I rarely achieve this as the chair of a local board in Auckland. Expecting the Prime Minister to achieve this is just bananas. I am amazed that the response did not take weeks. I have a formal letter to the Minister of Fisheries that has not been responded to even though it was sent way longer than 12 months ago.
Did Judith fail the country?
You becha. She put out a press statement suggesting that Falloon was resigning because of mental health issues and not because he had been sending dodgy material to teenage women and had been found out.
On one hand we have a leader that has led us through a terrorist attack and a world wide pandemic and has kept us in a stunningly good place. On the other hand we have a want to be leader that told porky pies about one of her MPs who was ushered out of Parliament because he had done decidedly dodgy stuff.
And this morning Judith engaged in the dead cat strategy and said publicly that she had received an allegation of inappropriate behaviour by a Labour Minister and had passed it on to Ardern.
There is some attempt to suggest that Judith is now past her earlier ways of giving back double and is trying to live up to Jacinda’s standards. If this was the case she would not have publicly announced the leak. This removes her handling of this claim from the responsible category and transfers it to the wallowing in mud category.
There is another recent example involving an allegation of sexual misconduct and the use of it by National for political advantage. That was National’s milking of the allegation of sexual assault made against a Labour activist. The matter was fully investigated by the party and the conclusion reached by the QC instructed was there was insufficient evidence to back up the most serious allegations, critical elements of the complainant’s version of events were incorrect and she had admitted providing “misleading information” to the investigation.
I earlier said this:
Serious questions should be asked about Paula Bennett’s behaviour. And why she rushed to judgment and politicised this for political gain. It seems clear that she milked this for all it was worth and did not care about the complainants. They were collateral damage.
She kept asking about why Labour did not have a “victim led response”. With the benefit of hindsight hers was anything but.
Using the protection of Parliamentary privilege she smeared the Prime Minister, as well as senior staffers in her office, and basically went to town on them. Serious questions need to be asked, like did she actually talk to any of the complainants and what was she actually told.
And will she apologise.
It would be good for the National opposition to leave behind Dirty Politics and get on with releasing their discussion documents and having policy debates. This trashing individuals for political advantage is not only tedious, but it is damaging for all involved and ultimately it damages the political process.
Jacinda Ardern has called a press conference to reply to Collins’ claims. This could be another big day for New Zealand politics. I just hope that everyone has enough gas in the tank to deal with the international pandemic that so far we are handling really well.