The prime minister has responded to the allegations made in a Spinoff story this morning, saying she’s expressed ‘complete dissatisfaction’ with the Labour Party investigation.
The prime minister and leader of the Labour Party, Jacinda Ardern, has this afternoon responded to questions relating to allegations of sexual assault by a Labour staffer, and the controversial process surrounding an inquiry into his behaviour. She was “incredibly frustrated and deeply disappointed” by the way it had been handled, she said.
“I want to make it very clear that I am deeply concerned and incredibly frustrated by the process that has been undertaken by the Labour Party, but also obviously by the nature of the allegations,” she said, speaking to reporters at her weekly post-cabinet press conference.
“I was informed in the very beginning that the allegations made were not sexual in nature. That is obviously directly counter to what is now being reported.”
In the story published this morning on The Spinoff, one of the participants in the investigation described in detail what she called a sexual assault by the Labour staffer, which is alleged to have taken place during a private meeting to discuss party business. The woman insisted that she communicated to the party the nature of her allegations, which the party disputes. She told The Spinoff how the assault experience, compounded with the subsequent complaint process, left her feeling “angry, quite fearful and desperate”.
Ardern said she had attended a meeting of the New Zealand Council, the governing body of the Labour Party, on August 10, after the story was broken by Newshub. She had “very seriously shared my view that they were not the appropriate place to undertake inquiries around concerning behaviour by members of the Labour Party, but particularly they are not the appropriate place to ever undertake an investigation into a sexual assault, and that would be their view, too”, she said.
Following that meeting, Maria Dew, QC, was appointed to undertake a review of the original inquiry.
The prime minister would not say whether the individual at the centre of the inquiry had been stood down from his role in the Labour Party, but that “the person referenced in the article has not been on the precinct … for roughly five weeks now and will not be on the precinct at least for the duration of the inquiry that’s being undertaken by a QC appointed by the Labour Party.”
She said she does not believe the alleged is still attending party meetings and events
Ardern said she had “sought assurances that they were not [sexual in nature] in the very beginning. I have obvious since seen and heard questions in the media raised as to whether or not that was accurate.”
When asked if she retained confidence in the president of the Labour Party, Nigel Haworth, Ardern said: “I absolutely believe that the president wants to do the right thing by those involved and by the party. But I have had competing reports now on the nature of the allegations and the complaint process. It was a month ago that I expressed complete dissatisfaction with the way it had been handled by the Labour Party. And I’m now going to await the findings of the QC’s report.”
Ardern said the QC would report directly to her, rather than the NZ Council.
“I need absolute clarity. I have not received it through the competing reports to date … I do need a third party, a reliable, trusted individual to give me clarity and I will act on the findings decisively.”
She added: “I will be seeking assurance that the party will provide all the information that it was provided during the original investigation to the QC.”