Bullying allegations levelled at Labour MP

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Bullying allegations levelled at Labour MP

It’s Friday, September 22 and welcome along to The Spinoff’s live election updates. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund.

Want to get in touch? You can reach me on

Learn more about the political parties in Election 2023 at

The agenda

Support our election coverage

The Spinoff’s coverage of the 2023 election is powered by the generous support of our members. If you value what we do and believe in the importance of independent and freely accessible journalism – tautoko mai, donate today.

Sep 22 2023

The daily wrap

To close out the week, here are some of today’s top stories from the campaign and beyond.

Have a good weekend – I’ll catch you back here on Monday.

Luxon’s visit to Auckland’s Viaduct was the opposite of Judith Collins on Ponsonby Road

Christopher Luxon crashes a long lunch (Photo: Stewart Sowman-Lund)

If the Ponsonby Road walkabout was the final nail in the coffin for Judith Collins’ dreams of being prime minister, Christopher Luxon’s afternoon at Auckland’s Viaduct may be the last boost of confidence he needs.

The contrast between Collins’ visit to the affluent Auckland suburb on October 7, 2020 and Luxon’s afternoon today couldn’t be starker, a sentiment echoed by one senior National MP who tagged along for the campaign stop.

Collins’ stroll down Ponsonby Road saw the then-National leader approached by a number of “supporters”, who it later transpired had been installed there for the TV cameras. At one store, a worker outwardly told Collins not to come in – “We don’t want you here,” they said, with a thumbs down.

It’s worth remembering that Ponsonby Road is within the Auckland Central electorate, which in 2020 was a National seat.

The Auckland Viaduct is also within Auckland Central and equally upmarket – but today saw only positive reactions from members of the public when Luxon popped by.

While a handful of bars had been given a heads up that Luxon would be visiting, the planned itinerary was quickly thrown out the window when patrons spotted the National leader walking by. People were yelling and waving out from inside almost every venue.

At Bivacco, Luxon was expected to walk past and perhaps talk to people at the outdoor tables. Instead, he was called inside by a group of women having a celebratory long lunch. “I could pop out of a cake, if you vote,” said Luxon, adding that it might “put them off their food”.

Christopher Luxon crashes a long lunch (Photo: Stewart Sowman-Lund)

Surrounded by a large media contingent, Luxon, joined by deputy Nicola Willis, spent about five minutes inside the bar, moving from table to table talking to happy punters. A National staffer confirmed this was not a planned stop on the Luxon tour.

Headquarters Bar, owned by former Auckland mayoral hopeful Leo Molloy, was conspicuously passed by as Luxon carried on around the waterfront. “Is it date night?” he asked one couple at an outdoor table, despite it only being 1pm. “It’s a work lunch,” they replied, sheepishly looking at the TV cameras.

“You’ve already got my vote, so you don’t need to say anything,” said another patron.

As Luxon headed further around the waterfront, a man yelled out “Go National” and Luxon waved back, while people gathered around hopeful to snare a selfie (Luxon obliged).

The day before Collins’ walkabout on Ponsonby Road, there had been headlines suggesting internal issues within National’s caucus. Flash forward three years and it’s Labour facing new headlines over caucus issues, with Northcote MP Shanan Halbert accused of bullying, forcing Chris Hipkins to front press conferences that largely avoid policy.

That brief 2020 Ponsonby Road appearance ended with Collins muttering “dear God” under her breath as she headed for her waiting car. Luxon, who has consistently looked like he’s having the time of his life on this campaign, said nothing of the sort.

Act wants to reverse pseudoephedrine ban

David Seymour doesn’t miss opportunities to compare New Zealand with the so-called “third world”

The Act Party would reverse the ban on over-the-counter pseudoephedrine as part of a policy to help seniors.

It’s been 12 years since products containing pseudoephedrine were reclassified from a class C to B2 controlled drug because of its use in the production of methamphetamine.

But Seymour said that the ban had not slowed down local production of illegal drugs. “Pseudoephedrine was banned because of fears it would be used for P production and following assurances there would be alternatives. Instead, the evidence shows that gangs continue to produce P, and there are no viable alternatives for people who are unwell,” he said in a statement.

“We will reverse the ban on over-the-counter pseudoephedrine. We will also require post-implementation evaluations of pharmacist-only and prescription-only classifications for medicines used to cure common ailments.”

Act would also reform the Retirement Commission so it’s focussed on retirement villages and aging-in-place and require the commission to design a regulatory framework to enable individualised funding of in-home care.

Clean-up begins in Queenstown, road closures remain in Southland

Most rivers have peaked (Photo: Environment Southland Facebook)

The clean-up is beginning in Queenstown, with mayor Glyn Lewers telling RNZ the town is beginning to clear debris flows and geotechnical engineers are assessing hills in the area. The rain is easing off, he says. Southland MP Joseph Mooney said late this morning that Queenstown town centre was open and accessible.  

There are still several road closures across Southland, and SH1 between Mataura and Gore remains closed. There is still considerable surface flooding across farmland, on roads and around towns, particularly in Gore and on SH6 and SH99, and Emergency Management Southland advises that extreme caution is required. EMS group controller Simon Mapp said though the weather had eased there were still considerable hazards in places, and people should avoid flood waters and travelling on affected roads. The Invercargill City Council is also advising residents not to travel due to road closures.

Environment Southland says some rivers have peaked, and that the impact appears to be from surface flooding and an overwhelmed drainage network, rather than rivers flooding. The Mataura River at Gore and Mataura is yet to peak, but is expected to be within the designs of the stopbanks. 

There are water tankers in Tuatapere (on Main Road and Bridge Street) and the boil water notice remains in force, while power has been restored to Ohai, Balfour, Riversdale and Winton. Central Otago District Council has issued conserve water notices for Naseby and Omakau to protect stored water levels, as local rivers continue to rise. They also report that snow is settling around Naseby and Oturehua, and advise residents to drive to the conditions. 

Emergency management minister Kieran McAnulty told RNZ that small amounts of rain are expected to fall in the south until midnight tonight, and that river levels will continue to be monitored. There have been isolated areas within the Gore district that are completely cut off, and FENZ (Fire and Emergency NZ) is prepared to intervene there if it is required,” he said.

Some rivers have peaked (Photo: Environment Southland Facebook)

National bundles economic pledges into plan for the future

Luxon speaks in Auckland (Photo: Stewart Sowman-Lund)

The National Party has relaunched many of its economic policies as part of a repackaged plan for the future.

In front of a crowd of MPs, candidates and party faithful in central Auckland, leader Christopher Luxon and deputy Nicola Willis reiterated that this election was about the economy – and pledged to be pull spending under control.

The packaged economic plan included pledges to reduce consultant spendingby $400 million per year and reduce back office government functions. The Auckland light rail project would also be axed.

Luxon told the crowd there were 100 economic promises to end the cost of living crisis, but his speech centred on just a handful. He once again referenced the country’s “mojo” and said his party would help get it back.

Earlier, Willis took aim at finance minister Grant Robertson for wasteful spending and supposedly claiming “victory” over the fact New Zealand was technically not in recession.

Luxon speaks in Auckland (Photo: Stewart Sowman-Lund)

Meanwhile, in a statement, Willis has accused Labour of a $411 million hole in its flagship GST plan as the war of words over who has the best tax policy continue.

The hole was discovered by the Taxpayers’ Union and claimed Labour had not taken into account possible increased demand for fruit and vegetables once the tax policy had been implemented. “Treasury’s guidance has always been clear – any predictable change in demand should be accounted for when a policy is costed. Labour appears to have ignored this advice in costing their policy,” said Willis.

Luxon will soon front to media and then head to Auckland’s Viaduct for a public walkabout.

Watch: Ex-PM Jacinda Ardern talks leaving politics on US TV

Jacinda Ardern and PM-in-waiting Chris Hipkins at Rātana, January 2023. Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images

Dame Jacinda Ardern has spoken to Good Morning America about her decision to leave New Zealand politics behind.

It was in mid-January that Ardern shocked the nation when she told reporters in Napier that she would be stepping down as prime minister, as soon as a successor could be confirmed. A few days later, Chris Hipkins became Labour leader and prime minister.

Ardern is currently in the United States due to her new role with Harvard University and ongoing position with the Christchurch Call. It’s unlikely she’ll be a part of Labour’s campaign for re-election back home as a result.

Listen: Melbourne City’s carbon-neutral apartment building

Liam Wallis is the founder of HIP V HYPE, a design agency in Melbourne that helped design, fund and build the first Nightingale project apartments in Melbourne’s Brunswick. These apartments are designed from the start to be carbon neutral, healthier, and cheaper places to heat.

On the new episode of When the Facts Change, Wallis talks to Bernard Hickey about what makes Nightingale apartments special – including the dramatic difference in air circulation between their apartments and normal ones.

New Ikaroa-Rāwhiti poll brings shock for Te Pāti Māori

Meka Whaitiri (Photo: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

Ikaroa-Rāwhiti, which stretches from East Cape to Hutt Valley has been held by Labour MPs for its entire 24 year history. But after Meka Whaitiri defected from Labour to Te Pāti Māori earlier this year after a decade in the seat, the race has been given an unpredictable shake up.

An exclusive poll by Whakaata Māori has revealed Labour’s newcomer, Cushla Tangaere-Manuel, has a lead over Whaitiri. The poll, conducted by Curia, was completed on Tuesday and puts Tangaere-Manuel at 33% and Whaitiri on 25%. But with 29% of those polled still undecided, it could come down to the wire on election day.

Tangaere-Manuel, the former Ngāti Porou East Coast Rugby CEO isn’t on the Labour Party list and must win the seat to enter parliament. Whaitiri is third on the Te Pāti Māori list.

Meka Whaitiri (Photo: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

The day ahead

We’ve reached the end of another week, but the campaign must go on. Here’s a look at today’s agenda.

  • Labour leader Chris Hipkins continues his roadie through the central North Island. He’ll visit a roading construction site this morning, then visit a free school lunches provider and speak to the media. Later, he’ll head to a Kāinga Ora development in Masterton.
  • Up in Auckland, National leader Christopher Luxon will make a financial announcement and then head to the viaduct for a lovely public walkabout. There probably won’t be any goats.
  • The Act Party will launch a seniors policy today. David Seymour will speak to media from Auckland before 2pm.
  • Fresh from last night’s Powerbrokers debate, New Zealand First leader Winston Peters will hold a rally in Auckland’s Remuera.

Ex-Today FM staff receive financial settlement – report

(Image: Tina Tiller)

A group of 17 former Today FM staff have received a pay out following the sudden closure of the radio station earlier in the year, reported the Herald’s Shayne Currie in his Media Insider column today.

It includes high-profile broadcaster Tova O’Brien, who has since launched a new podcast for Stuff. O’Brien revealed the end of Today FM live on air during a dramatic broadcast at the end of March.

According to Currie, there are strict confidentiality conditions in place and those at the centre of the settlement wouldn’t comment. “The matter has been resolved and we have no further comment to make,” a Mediaworks spokesperson told the Herald.

Tova and Duncan
(Image: Tina Tiller)

The Bulletin: Clean up begins as Southland state of emergency continues

Rain is easing in Southland after heavy flooding yesterday prompted a state of emergency to be declared in the region. Emergency management is warning that it will take some time for the flooding to recede and people are being urged to avoid contact with the flood water as wastewater and stormwater systems struggle to cope, RNZ reports. Late on Thursday the wastewater treatment plant in Tuatapere stopped working after being inundated by flood waters, leaving the remote town with just eight hours of drinking water. In Queenstown and neighbouring Glenorchy, where a local state of emergency has now also been declared, evacuation centres were set up overnight and some residents advised to self-evacuate, according to local news website Crux.

The severe weather is now moving north, with Tasman, Buller and Westland among the areas being warned to expect heavy downpours. There are also heavy snow warnings for inland Canterbury, including the Mackenzie Country, beginning early this morning, Stuff reports.

Want to read The Bulletin in full? Click here to subscribe and join over 38,000 New Zealanders who start each weekday with the biggest stories in politics, business, media and culture. 

Labour MP asks staff to come forward after bullying allegations

Shanan Halbert meet shoppers at the Northcote Shopping Centre on June 7, 2018 (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

Labour’s Northcote MP and candidate Shanan Halbert is facing accusations of severe workplace bullying, with anonymous claims he’s “manipulative”, “scheming” and “a narcissist”.

The allegations were first reported by Newshub’s Jenna Lynch, who tried to put the claims directly to Halbert (he declined).

Prime minister Chris Hipkins fronted after the allegations. He said he wouldn’t “form a judgement” based on unverifiable information, but encouraged anyone with concerns to raise them via the formal process. “There are now much better processes in place than there have been in the past,” he said.

In a statement, Halbert said he had good working relationships with staff inside and out of parliament. “Occasionally employment issues arise in any workplace, but I have always done my best to work through those professionally and appropriately sought advice and support where required,” he said.

“These issues have only been brought to my attention through the media today. I’ve never had a formal complaint raised against me.

“If a staff member feels that they were poorly treated then I would like to resolve this by engaging in the process that parliament has set up for dealing with complaints. I think it’s important for the person that’s made allegations anonymously and for me. It’s so important that the safety and well-being of all people involved is maintained. That would be the best and fairest way to resolve this.”

Shanan Halbert meet shoppers at the Northcote Shopping Centre on June 7, 2018 (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

Earlier this year, National’s Tim van de Molen was censured by parliament’s privileges committee over claims he had bullied Halbert in a parliamentary select committee.

It’s not the first time this year a sitting Labour MP has faced claims of workplace issues. Concerns were raised in the media about former minister Kiri Allan prior to her resignation, while last year saw renegade ex-Labour MP Gaurav Sharma allege bullying from within caucus.