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PM rejects bullying claims made by MP Sharma

It’s Friday, August 12 and welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates, I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund. You can reach me directly via

The agenda

  • Labour backbencher Gaurav Sharma has penned an explosive op-ed in which he alleges bullying within parliament – and his own party.
  • Jacinda Ardern has responded to the claims and denied any instances of bullying.
  • In local election news, Leo Molloy has pulled out from the Auckland mayoralty.
  • Covid-19 latest: Covid-related deaths continue to drop, 4,126 new cases.

PM rejects bullying claims made by MP Sharma

It’s Friday, August 12 and welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates, I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund. You can reach me directly via

The agenda

  • Labour backbencher Gaurav Sharma has penned an explosive op-ed in which he alleges bullying within parliament – and his own party.
  • Jacinda Ardern has responded to the claims and denied any instances of bullying.
  • In local election news, Leo Molloy has pulled out from the Auckland mayoralty.
  • Covid-19 latest: Covid-related deaths continue to drop, 4,126 new cases.
Aug 12 2022

Labour MP Gaurav Sharma names ‘main bully’ within caucus, alleges misspending of taxpayer funds

Gaurav Sharma (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

Backbench Labour MP Gaurav Sharma has taken to Facebook with a number of serious allegations of bullying within his own caucus and parliament – and named the individual he claims was responsible.

It follows an opinion piece penned by Sharma that was published in the NZ Herald yesterday afternoon, in which the Hamilton West MP raised concerns of bullying, including by the Parliamentary Services, but did not name anyone specifically responsible.

The Facebook post, published earlier this afternoon, singled out Wairarapa MP Kieran McAnulty as “the main bully” and alleged he was responsible for “gaslighting me, shouting at me, degrading me in front of caucus members”.

Sharma wrote: “One of the most clearest examples was on the night of the America’s Cup final race where [McAnulty] asked me to come to his room for a meeting on a very short notice, but when I got there I was advised that he had to be in an important meeting so couldn’t make it. I spent close to 2 hours sitting with Kieran McAnulty’s staff in his office being told how terrible a manager I was, with no right of reply. But what was most sickening was that when I came out I saw photos of him drinking and celebrating the America’s Cup final while I sat in his office like a school kid at the headmaster’s office.”

The post also alleged misuse of taxpayer money by an unnamed Labour MP. “In August 2021 I found that a Member of Parliament of the Labour Party and a Parliamentary staff member (also a Labour Member) were misusing taxpayer’s money. As someone who took an oath to uphold and protect the interests of this country I raised my concerns with the Relationship Manager at Parliamentary Services. Instead of protecting my identity and looking into this matter, Parliamentary Services forwarded my concerns to the Labour Party Whips and alerted them of what I had said.”

Sharma said that he slowly fell into a cycle of stress and depression. “I thought to myself about how despite listening to and assisting many of my constituents with bullying and harassment issues, I had to put a bold face up as I struggled everyday with the thought of contemplating suicide.”

McAnulty was also responsible for bullying other caucus members, claimed Sharma. “My bully still walks the halls of power with his head held up high, while a ‘messenger from Caucus’ advised me yesterday after my op-ed in Herald that I should take the basement exit and try to avoid Parliament,” Sharma wrote. “The kick in the guts however is that despite raising concerns about Kieran McAnulty, not only by me but as I understand by other members of the caucus too (which I had clearly said to the PMO) he was promoted to being a Minister of the Crown. This is our justice.”

Sharma denied coming forward with his own bullying allegations at the same time the National Party was facing its own crisis related to MP Sam Uffindell. “The reason the op-ed came out yesterday was because the meeting was called by the Labour Whips yesterday at a time and place of their choosing and in that meeting they continued to laugh on my face saying in front of my lawyer ‘how will you even sue us, you have no legal rights’ while repeatedly refusing to investigate anything I have said or investigate me for any issue,” alleged Sharma.

Earlier today, a former staff member of Sharma told the NZ Herald that the MP was “controlling” and left her in tears and questioning self harm. “I’ve never cried at work before but this guy had me in tears – he couldn’t process my emotion and didn’t want to deal with it. He more or less told me ‘you need to get hard and handle this’,” the staffer claimed.

A Labour spokesperson reiterated that the party disputed Sharma’s allegations. “As previously stated there have been ongoing issues between Gaurav and some of his staff that his Facebook post provides further confirmation of,” the spokesperson said. “We believe we’ve handled this matter appropriately and in accordance with the normal processes when staffing issues are raised.”

Prime minister Jacinda Ardern earlier denied the allegations levelled by Sharma, but would not label the MP a bully. She said the party was assisting Sharma with the support he needed. Ardern told media that a hiring freeze was implemented in Sharma’s as part of this process, a move which the MP stated in his Facebook post added to the bullying.

The Spinoff has approached McAnulty for comment.

Gaurav Sharma (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

‘Wouldn’t do it again’: Leo Molloy admits regret over Guy Williams interview

Guy Williams and Leo Molloy on New Zealand Today (Image: New Zealand Today)

Leo Molloy has expressed regret at his controversial interview with comedian Guy Williams, saying he won’t be doing it again in the 2025 campaign.

The outspoken entrepreneur and business owner today quit the Auckland mayoral race just minutes before the deadline.

Speaking to reporters in downtown Auckland, Molloy, with a Heineken bottle in hand, said he was “mortified” by a new poll putting him in third place. “We just didn’t see it coming,” he said.

Asked whether the Guy Williams interview may have been to blame for the fall in popularity, Molloy said he did not think so. However, he acknowledged it may not have helped his image. “Nothing against Guy but I wouldn’t do it again,” he said.

The Williams interview saw Molloy swear multiple times, use an offensive slur, and ultimately fight the comedian in a boxing ring.

Despite rejecting the idea that he was feeling “sad” today, the Molloy present in this afternoon’s press conference was notably toned down compared with the colourful figure from the campaign. Molloy said he now recognised that his public persona may have contributed to his downfall.

“I think the Leo up on the lectern who starts ranting and gets angry at people who piss him off, that’s the Leo that people don’t like. I understand that now,” he said. Confirming he plans to run again in three years’ time, Molloy said he would “try and speak in a quieter way”.

He added: “I can at times be obnoxious and a bit edgy.” However, he believed he “brought a dash of colour and a bit of character” to the mayoral race.

Molloy said he had “no animosity” towards the media, but acknowledged that they often tended to “report the fluffy sizzle [and] ignore the sausage.”

Since Molloy quit the race, his former competitor Wayne Brown, who placed second in the newest poll, has released a statement saying Aucklanders now had a clear choice. “They can choose more of the same from current councillor Efeso Collins, or a new proactive approach to fixing Auckland and getting it moving again when I am mayor,” said Brown, who has positioned himself as Auckland’s “fixer”.

Covid-19 latest: Covid-related deaths continue to drop, 4,126 new cases

Image: Toby Morris

The number of Covid-related deaths continues to decrease, with just seven deaths reported as directly attributable to Covid-19 in the past 24 hours. Another six deaths have been recorded with Covid; the cause of death for these people has not yet been confirmed.

There are now a total of 1,733 deaths confirmed as attributable to Covid-19, either as the underlying cause of death or as a contributing factor. The seven-day rolling average increase in total deaths attributable to Covid-19 is now 12.

There have been 4,126 new community cases reported to the Ministry of Health. The seven-day rolling average of community case numbers today is 4,581. Last Friday it was 5,812.

There are 549 current hospitalisations, with the seven-day rolling average of hospitalisations now at 609. Last Friday it was 721.

Of the 13 people whose deaths the ministry has reported today, one was from Northland, three were from Auckland region, one was from Waikato, one was from Bay of Plenty, one was from Tairawhiti, one was from Hawke’s Bay, one was from Taranaki, one was from Canterbury and three were from Southern.

Five were in their 70s, five were in their 80s and three were aged over 90. Eight were women and five were men.

Ardern rejects allegations in MP’s op-ed: ‘Primary concern is Gaurav’s wellbeing’

(Photo: Mark Mitchell-Pool/Getty Images

The prime minister has disputed the issues raised in an opinion piece by one of her MPs, but wouldn’t go into detail about what had actually happened to spark it.

Backbench MP Gaurav Sharma alleged widespread bullying across parliament in an article he penned for the NZ Herald. His targets were widespread, including suggesting issues could be found all the way to the top, though he did not name the prime minister herself.

Speaking to media from Auckland Airport this afternoon, Jacinda Ardern said she rejected these allegations but said that parliament must be a workplace free from bullying.

“Starting out as a new MP can be challenging and one of the toughest parts is navigating the new environment but also the role that you must play as an MP managing others… managing staff can be hard,” she said. “Our focus with Gaurav from the start has been to take a constructive approach that we hoped would set him up for a long term future as an MP.”

Since the Francis Report, an internal review of bullying at parliament and the approach to dealing with it, improvements had been made to address issues like this, Ardern said. A hiring pause had been put in place in Sharma’s office since the issues were raised.

Ardern would not label Sharma a “bully”, but simply stated there had been “issues” within his office. Asked to clarify what these issues meant, Ardern would only say they related to employment. “There are other people involved, not just MPs,” she said.

“My primary concern at this moment is Gaurav’s wellbeing… I’ve reached out to ensure him we will provide him with the support he feels he needs.”

In response to a question from The Spinoff, Ardern signalled that the approach of publishing an opinion piece without running it through the prime minister’s office went against party rules. “We do have expectations in our team, particularly where they relate to the privacy of others… clearly there are a number of issues here at play and that would be one of my primary concerns,” she said.

Ardern was first made aware of the employment issue at the end of last year.

On whether there was a “wider culture” of bullying at parliament, Ardern said she had seen “no evidence” of this. “There are many different individuals involved with the employment relationships that MPs have at parliament. All of these groups have worked constructively to resolve the employment issues that have arisen in Gaurav’s office.”

The prime minister did not believe her personal brand of “kindness” was damaged by these allegations. “[Kindness] needs to extend to the people we employ and when issues are raised it’s our duty to make sure we go through a process to resolve those issues. That might not mean that every party involved in that situation… is always satisfied but it’s our job to make sure we do our very best to follow-up on concerns when they’re raised.

Earlier today, a statement from Labour’s chief whip Duncan Webb said his office had been working to address Sharma’s concerns. “The Parliamentary Service and I met with Gaurav in good faith to progress these issues as recently as yesterday, he was fully represented at that meeting. We are mindful these are ongoing relationships, so we must respect individual’s privacy, but we will continue to seek a resolution with Gaurav in the coming weeks.”

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Leo Molloy quits Auckland mayoral race

Leo Molloy says he may run again (image: Tina Tiller)


The outspoken, controversial restaurateur turned mayoral candidate Leo Molloy has abandoned his run for the super city mayoralty, following a new Ratepayers Alliance / Curia poll that places him third, trailing Efeso Collins and Wayne Brown.

“I’m today announcing the end of my bid to become mayor of Auckland – for now!” he said in a statement. “It’s the right thing to do for the city. Some aspects of my polling are still strong, however there are clear trends emerging that suggest I cannot win – this time. On that basis I’m deciding to withdraw immediately and, in doing so, potentially help other candidates – who won’t do as a good a job as I would have – but at least will be better than the dispiriting status quo we’ve had under Phil Goff and this Labour mayoralty.”

Speaking to The Spinoff, Molloy said he’d always considered it “a poll to poll proposition with us and, to be frank, last night’s poll wasn’t great.” He acknowledged that every candidate had “good points and bad points” but said the candidate he wanted least to win had a higher chance of doing so as long as Molloy continued to run. “I think it’s best for the city if Leo’s not in the race.”

Molloy said he would not be endorsing any candidate at this time.

He’s not done yet and would consider running again. “I’ve made a tactical decision… but I’m always going to be a player in this city.”

The contest had been tracking towards a split vote on the right, with Efeso Collins the sole serious candidate on the left. Nominations close at noon today. Molloy had in recent weeks seen some key figures depart from his team, including his head of media and his campaign chair.

Leo Molloy says he may run again (image: Tina Tiller)

The new poll, reported by the Herald, puts Collins in the lead on 22%, Brown on 19%, Molloy 15% and Viv Beck 13%. That’s without the don’t-know figure of 45% excluded, however. Despite attracting many headlines, Molloy was roundly condemned for outbursts including saying of Collins “If anybody sights Efeso, he’s an endangered species – there’s space on the wall”, and obsessing on when Guy Williams lost his virginity.

The rest of Molloy’s statement reads: “I wish all the remaining hard-working candidates the very best for the gruelling weeks ahead.

“Cowboys don’t cry. I’m getting on with my other life as a hospo legend. I have a new restaurant / bar to design and build, and I’m looking forward to concentrating on that project. I thank my team for their hard work, and of course my sponsors. We did our best, but it wasn’t quite enough. I won’t be endorsing another mayoral candidate just yet, but I may do so once I scrutinise their policies in more detail. If I do endorse it’ll be a fiscally responsible candidate – not a reckless spender.”

“Roll on 2025. I’ve learnt some valuable lessons and if there’s an opportunity in three years’ time I’ll be in, boots and all. “To the many battlers in the street, the hard-working, kind and generous people who backed me, supported me, and even just chatted to me…I thank you, you are the Auckland I love. I have no regrets. It was fun, and I thank all who participated.”

Parliamentary Service had ‘paused hiring’ for MP Sharma’s office, says Labour whip

Gaurav Sharma and Jacinda Ardern on the campaign trail.

The Labour Whip’s Office became aware of “issues between Gaurav [Sharma] and some of his staff a year ago”, according to a statement just issued by chief whip Duncan Webb. It follows the extraordinary op-ed by the first-term Labour MP published yesterday that levelled allegations of bullying, victimisation, ghosting and gas-lighting. The targets included speaker of the house Trevor Mallard, the Parliamentary Service, the office of the leader of the opposition, the whip’s office and the prime minister’s office. Sharma last night posted a response to former Labour MP Darien Fenton in which he said: ” I have made multiple complaints through proper channels including to the PMO over the last 1.5 years and nothing has been done.”

Webb’s statement continues: “At all times the Whip’s office has acted in good faith and sought to work constructively with Gaurav and the Parliamentary Service to ensure he has good support available to address issues between him and his staff. It recently paused hiring with the intention of providing further assistance before more staff were hired into his office. This seemed prudent. The Parliamentary Service and I met with Gaurav in good faith to progress these issues as recently as yesterday, he was fully represented at that meeting. We are mindful these are ongoing relationships, so we must respect individual’s privacy, but we will continue to seek a resolution with Gaurav in the coming weeks.”

Jacinda Ardern is expected to speak to media shortly after noon.

Watch: New series gets to the root of our prickly relationship with body hair


Yasmine likes looking at the hair on her arms. It reminds her that she’s a mammal, warm-blooded and a little bit furry. But as a Palestinian New Zealander, she also has to navigate complex cultural ideas about what hair should be covered and what hair should be seen. The expectation that Arab women are hairless clashes with the religious idea that all people are created perfectly just as they are. Hair, after all, is one of the first things that individuals can control about themselves and how they’re seen. When her grandmother gives her the gift of laser hair removal for her university graduation, Yasmine has to think about the body hair she wants to keep, and why.

Watch the first episode of Hair Now, made with support from NZ On Air.

Food prices up 7.4% compared to last year

Image: Archi Banal/Tina Tiller

The cost of food continues to rise across the board, with the biggest rise being a 10% bounce in food and vegetable prices.

Stats NZ has reported an overall 7.4% increase in July 2022 compared with the year prior. It’s largely expected, with inflation hitting record levels and the government choosing to implement its cost of living payment to help middle income New Zealanders.

Grocery prices were up 7.5% year-on-year, with a 7.7% bump for meat, poultry and fish and 6.6% for restaurant and ready-to-eat meals.

“Increasing prices for cheddar cheese, standard two-litre milk, and yoghurt were the largest contributors within grocery food,” consumer prices manager Fiona Smillie said.

If you hadn’t already noticed, The Spinoff has been tracking the price of cheese for several weeks now. Here’s the latest:

The Spinoff Cheese Index

Senior Labour MP says he’s never encountered bullying within the party

Michael Wood, the minister responsible for the FTA scheme (Image / Supplied)

Labour is being forced to deal with the fallout from an opinion piece penned by one of its own MPs, Gaurav Sharma.

The backbencher made allegations of bullying within parliament and his own Labour caucus, going so far as to implicate – though not directly name – the prime minister.

So far, most MPs have avoided embroiling themselves in the issue, saying it was an employment matter. However, senior MP Michael Wood was forced to address the claims during his regular slot on Newshub’s AM this morning.

“I’ve been an MP that’s worked at all levels of the party over the last five years and there’s actually a really supportive, collegial atmosphere but, look, when issues get raised like this, you have to deal with them empathetically – you have to take them seriously,” he told the programme.

“Within any organisation, you have to be able to raise issues if you feel that they’re occurring… I think the expectation we would all have is that, when someone raises these issues… that they’re heard, that they’re listened to and that they’re worked through with all of the facts on the table.”

As a minister, Wood holds the workplace relations portfolio – making him an appropriate spokesperson for this particular matter.

Other Labour MPs to comment so far include Chris Hipkins and Willie Jackson, who equally said they had never witnessed any internal bullying.

Prime minister Jacinda Ardern will front media a little later today and The Spinoff will be there.

With a few hours to go, does anyone want to be Queenstown mayor?

Queenstown, anyone? (Getty Images)

The clarion call was issued this week: your locality needs you. But in many areas, with a few hour to go until nominations close, the hoped-for flood of late entries in contests for boards, councils and mayoralties is still awaited.

As of 8am today, there had been precisely zero formal nominations for the mayoralty in one of the country’s most important and dynamic chunks of the country, Queenstown Lakes. Hopefully they’re doing the paperwork this very moment. The Otago Daily Times reported yesterday that there were four people vying to succeed Jim Boult, who announced earlier in the year he would not be seeking re-election. The dearth of names officially recorded runs through to the council, where only three people are so far officially in the running for 16 seats.

If you need to enrol or update your details, you’ll need to get on to that before the clock ticks midnight (go here, immediately) if you want to get your voting papers in the post. Otherwise you’ll need to cast a special vote.

Queenstown, anyone? (Getty Images)

When the Facts Change: Is your property a climate change hot potato?

If climate change projections make their way to Land Information Memorandums, owners of coastal properties may find themselves struggling to stay afloat long before waves start lapping at their door. Vulnerable properties will become uninsurable causing banks to withhold lending – suddenly passing on that slice of hot potato paradise will be near impossible.

James Shaw joins Bernard Hickey in the latest episode of When the Facts Change to talk about the real meaning of climate change adaptation and who’s responsible for funding infrastructure that will mitigate the effects of climate change.

Listen below, or wherever your get your podcasts

Stuff names alleged Middlemore imposter

(Photo: LDR / Stephen Forbes)

Stuff has named the man who is alleged to have used fake documents to get a job as a doctor at the Auckland hospital. Yuvaraj Krishnan began working at Middlemore in February and was stood down on August 1. Health minister Andrew Little was notified of the incident on Wednesday, a week after Krishnan was stood down.

Counties Manukau’s chief medical officer Dr Andrew Connolly said the care of every patient seen by Krishnan had been reviewed and a “thorough” investigation showed there had been “no compromise” to any patient’s care. The health district is undertaking a full investigation into its employment vetting processes.

Want to read The Bulletin in full? Subscribe and join over 36,000 New Zealanders who start each weekday with the biggest stories in politics, business, media and culture.  

Former Labour MP ‘appalled’ by Gaurav Sharma ‘mouthing off’ in op-ed

Gaurav Sharma and Jacinda Ardern on the campaign trail.

A former Labour MP has blasted backbencher Gaurav Sharma for publishing a bombshell opinion piece yesterday in the Herald.

The op-ed, based around the issue of bullying within parliament, casts its net of allegations wide. Targets named by the Hamilton West MP include: the speaker of the house, Trevor Mallard, the Parliamentary Service, the office of the leader of the opposition, the whips and the prime minister’s office.

Sharma even implicitly draws Jacinda Ardern into his accusations, writing: “Politicians especially at top [sic] of our current system and from parties across the political spectrum often talk about ‘changing the system’ and ‘kindness’… But as the saying goes ‘charity must start at home’.”

Last night, the backbencher added to the mystery of his post by sharing to Facebook a message received by Darien Fenton, Labour MP from 2005 to 2014. “I am appalled by your ill discipline in mouthing off in the media,” wrote Fenton.

Sharma, in response, said: “Mind your own business. I have made multiple complaints through proper channels including to the PMO over the last 1.5 years and nothing has been done. What’s appalling is that despite being a former MP and a union representative you want to victimise me instead of asking the party what they did about the bully.”

There’s been no direct word from Sharma since his op-ed went live. Media have not been able to reach him directly and, according to RNZ, his answer phone states he is overseas. There has also, so far, been no comment from the prime minister’s office and speaker Trevor Mallard told The Spinoff he had no comment to make.


(Photo: FB)

Read more: An MP blasts bullying, ghosting, gaslighting. And delivers a godsend to Christopher Luxon

Tova O’Brien scores NZ-exclusive interview with Ukraine president

Tova O’Brien and Volodymyr Zelensky (Photo: Supplied)

Today FM host Tova O’Brien has been off the air this week – but she wasn’t just on leave. The broadcaster has been in Ukraine for a New Zealand exclusive interview with president Volodymyr Zelensky.

The interview will air next Wednesday on Today FM, while a filmed documentary will be shown on Prime TV.

“Being on-the-ground here is a gut punch,” said O’Brien, who is still in Ukraine. “Seeing and hearing first hand the devastation has been critical to understanding why we can’t let our attention waver from this war and why New Zealand needs to do more.”