The Labour Party still has a raft of questions that need answering about the cover up of an alleged sexual assault by a staff member who was employed in Jacinda Ardern’s office, National’s Deputy Leader Paula Bennett says.
“It’s been five weeks since the Labour Party brought in a QC to take over the investigation after Labour let down the alleged victims. But we still don’t know what the terms of reference are or what the report will even look into.
“The very people who originally dismissed the serious allegations are the ones who will be deciding the terms of reference. The victims continue to be let down.
“They have added an additional insult to the victims by appointing one of the panel members as the Acting President of the Labour Party. If they were serious about this being a victim centred approach, she would have stepped aside for someone else.
“This process has never been victim-led and the fact that we don’t know what the report is looking into, what the terms of reference are and the same people who originally dismissed the serious allegations are still involved shows Labour has no intention of putting the victims first.
“The Prime Minister and Grant Robertson can’t continue avoiding questions because of the QC’s report.
“It’s time to stop hiding behind the QC’s report, start a proper process which respects the victims and be transparent with New Zealanders.”
Labour leader Jacinda Ardern must finally do the right thing and stand down the staff member in her office who is accused of serious sexual assault while the matter is reviewed, Deputy Leader of the Opposition Paula Bennett says.
“The shocking details of this alleged assault, which have been reported in the media this morning, are confronting and bring into sharp focus just how serious the matter is.
“The staff member accused of these violent acts needs to be stood down and removed from Parliament immediately until an earlier investigation into his conduct is completed.
“Any other workplace would take this sensible step to ensure the safety of its entire staff.
“The Prime Minister cannot distance herself from this issue. The alleged attacker works in her office. She would be rightly criticising any other organisation that handled something like this so badly.
“Labour doesn’t need an investigation into whether this was handled appropriately at the beginning – that much is blatantly clear.
“The victim who has spoken up today is incredibly brave. She deserves to be respected, and to not have to live in fear. It’s concerning to read reports that parts of her testimony appear to be missing.
“She is not alone. Five people have now come forward to me for help because they don’t feel they have been taken seriously. Two other women have similar stories of sexual assault and numerous others of intimidation and bullying all by the same perpetrator.
“If the Labour Party truly believes in a victim-led response then its handling of this has been appalling to date. It calls into question the decision-making of Party president Nigel Howarth.
“I’m also concerned about the process. It is not independent, as the findings will be reported back to the Labour’s ruling council, and it is not being led by a specialist in sexual assault.
“The victims in this sorry saga have lost faith and trust in an organisation that they believed would look after them.”
The past week of political announcements showed the Labour-led Government is still out of ideas and isn’t up to the job it was elected to do, Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Paula Bennett says.
“If 2019 is Labour’s year of delivery, as the Prime Minister called it, then why is her Government continually kicking decisions down the road? She should apologise to New Zealanders for this inaction.
“Last week was a master class in making announcements without actually announcing anything. The Government simply deferred any real decisions or actions to a later date.
“It started with the disappointing interim report on the Health and Disability System review. It was 300-plus pages and cost taxpayers more than $30,000 per page, but didn’t contain a single recommendation. It’s basically a $9.6 million paper weight.
“Then we finally got the KiwiBuild reset only to discover it was a complete retreat from Labour’s election promises, with no new initiatives to speed up the delivery of houses.
“All we got from the Government was an admission of defeat, with no targets for new housing and the foreshadowing of schemes like rent-to-buy.
“There was also no guarantee this would be delivered before the election, despite it being in Labour’s confidence and supply deal with the Greens. Where’s the urgency?
“The Government’s Freshwater Discussion Document mirrored its approach to Resource Management Act reform. Labour knows it won’t get consensus on these issues with its coalition partners so it’s pushing the decision making out beyond the next election.
“It’s extraordinary that after nine years in Opposition and two in Government, Labour has done so little work on its policies that it needs to engage in seemingly never-ending consultation rather actual delivery.
“The year of delivery has been a con. The only thing New Zealanders will remember about 2019 is that it was Labour’s year of discussion, and not much else.”
The Prime Minister’s deafening silence on the rights of Māori over freshwater is cementing a trend of indecisiveness on critical issues, Deputy Leader of the Opposition Paula Bennett says.
The Government has failed to confirm their position on freshwater rights after a Waitangi Tribunal report recommended that water could be owned by iwi and hapū.
“The Prime Minister must clarify that the Tribunal has got it wrong and that water is a public resource.
“National has consistently and reasonably maintained that no one owns fresh water, it is a resource all New Zealanders should enjoy and get benefit from. The Government cannot afford to play both sides on this issue, indecisiveness will cause a rift and divide the country.
“The Prime Minister’s hesitation on ownership only distracts from discussions around how we can best manage and improve this critical resource and take greater economic opportunities from it whilst maintaining its environmental integrity.
“This comes a month after the Prime Minster stuck her oar in at Ihumātao and failed to take decisive action. There is now speculation that iwi will buy the land back. This raises concerns that the Government has set up a backroom sweetheart deal, an intervention that would be dangerous, costly and ultimately, unravel our Treaty process.
“This complete lack of initiative followed up by hollow waffle is what has come to be expected from this Government.
“The Environment Minister has made excuses for the Government’s indecision, saying ‘we have to be careful what we say in this space’. The answers to these questions are simple - No one owns water and the protestors need to go home.”
The Government is playing politics when it comes to pay equity and it’s time to take action, National’s Women’s spokesperson Paula Bennett says.
“The Equal Pay Amendment Bill has been ready to be debated at second reading in Parliament since May 13th. The Government has left it languishing on the Order Paper.
“Today Julie Anne Genter released a statement saying that the Bill is currently in front of a Select Committee. The Minister either doesn’t know that the Bill came back from Select Committee three months ago, or she’s deliberately tried to mislead the media.
“The work behind this Bill was originally done by the National Government. The current Government refused to bring it with them when it was sworn in. It then voted down a National Members Bill from Maungakiekie MP Denise Lee.
“If the Government had kept our Government Bill, or Denise Lee’s Bill, they would be law by now and women would be benefitting from the changes.
“Instead, they waited until Suffrage Day last year to introduce the Equal Pay Amendment Bill which was 90 per cent copied and pasted from our work.
“Today I’m asking Julie Anne Genter to ensure that this Bill is brought back before Parliament as soon as possible and to stop playing politics. It seems that Government is once again cynically waiting until Suffrage Day to debate it so it can use this as a publicity stunt.
“Julie Anne Genter should apologise for releasing false information in her press release today. She should then do everything she can to progress this Bill. Women shouldn’t have to wait even longer for this Bill because she wants to do a press release on Suffrage Day.”
From today the Police will be directed not to prosecute all drug users as the Government sneakily introduces the decriminalisation of drugs, National’s spokesperson for Drug Reform Paula Bennett says.
“National supports both greater rehabilitation and tougher sentences, treatment and deterrence should go hand in hand. However this Bill means Police will not be able to individually prosecute people who are buying and using hard drugs including P, heroin and cocaine.
“The Government says it’s putting the legalisation of cannabis to the public in a referendum, yet at the same time it’s telling Police not to prosecute when it comes to prosecuting Class A and B drugs.
“The Government has a million and one questions it needs to answer about marijuana and the Prime Minister’s referendum to legalise its personal use, before it starts saying Police should not prosecute for wider and harder drug use.
“Both the Police Association and the NZ Drug Foundation presented at Select Committee and agreed the Bill amounts to de facto decriminalisation of drug use. Police are not social workers, it will be up to them to help people try to find services that simply don’t exist.
“National consistently increased investment in rehabilitation and pledged $40 million more over four years for drug treatment and education services during the election campaign, including an additional 1,500 treatment beds. This Government has been big in talk but we haven’t seen any action.
“National will fight for safer communities and ensure these issues get the scrutiny they deserve.”
Today the Prime Minister could not rule out serious offenders being able to hold a licence to manufacture and grow cannabis under this Government’s medicinal cannabis scheme, National’s Drug Reform spokesperson Paula Bennett says.
“While the Prime Minister was unable to answer questions today on her Government’s policy, National has the detail because we’ve read the consultation proposal.
“Active gang members, people currently addicted to drugs, those in rehabilitation for drug issues, serious offenders, and even people currently in prison, can have a licence to manufacture cannabis under the Government’s medicinal cannabis scheme, so long as all other licence holder criteria are met.
“Health Minister David Clark may think gang members will be able to contribute their skills to society, in other words, they know how to grow cannabis, but most New Zealanders will see this as just another opportunity to put our communities at risk.
“The Prime Minister says this is just a consultation proposal and these details will be hammered out, but the Government should’ve done the work in the first place and made sure convicted criminals and those people addicted to drugs can’t hold a license to cultivate.
“The Government has only just released a consultation proposal on its medicinal cannabis policy, despite passing the Bill last year. It’s clear it rushed the process as we’re seeing major holes in the Government’s scheme.
“In contrast, National’s Medicinal Cannabis Bill is comprehensive and has been well researched. It doesn’t allow those convicted of a serious offence to become a licensee and it doesn’t allow a licence to be granted if you are currently addicted to drugs.
“This is another example of a Government that’s been lazy in developing its policy, couldn’t swallow its pride and pick National’s Bill up, and is now left with a scheme full of holes.”
Treasury Secretary Gabriel Makhlouf should have offered his resignation following the early release of Budget information, and at the very least should apologise for how he handled it, Deputy Leader of the Opposition Paula Bennett says.
“Mr Makhlouf had a responsibility to keep Budget information confidential. It is disappointing that he has taken no responsibility for the incompetency he has shown.
“It is clear the State Services Commissioner Peter Hughes felt he should offer his resignation. If Mr Makhlouf wasn’t already leaving, his position would be untenable.
“He will now likely leave the country, having collected a remuneration package of at least $640,000 a year, without any public apology for overseeing one of the biggest blunders in the Treasury’s history. The New Zealand public deserve better.
“Questions now need to be asked of Finance Minister Grant Robertson. He is ultimately responsible for the Treasury and the Budget, and the buck stops with him. It’s clear he did not ask the right questions of Mr Makhlouf and only heard what he wanted to hear – which was that the National Party was engaged in systematic hacking. He was happy to sit on that lie for more than 36 hours. He has never corrected his false statement.
“Mr Robertson is the one who publically linked the National Party to a false hacking claim. Given Mr Hughes felt it appropriate for a resignation to be offered by Mr Makhlouf, the Prime Minister should expect the same level of accountability from her Finance Minister.
“At the very least, Mr Robertson owes an apology to all New Zealanders, not just the National Party.
“The handling of this by the Treasury and the Minister has been incompetent. New Zealanders deserve better from what is arguably this country’s most important and influential Ministry.”
Women’s Minister Julie-Anne Genter has confirmed that women are paid less than men at the very Ministry that is focussed on eliminating the gender pay gap, National’s Women’s spokesperson Paula Bennett says.
“Julie-Anne Genter told a Select Committee that the men at her Ministry are paid six per cent more than the women. The pay gap at the Ministry has changed in favour of men since this Government came into power.
“If Julie-Anne Genter wants to have any credibility criticising private businesses or other Government departments, she needs to sort out her own Ministry first.
“This is another example of hypocrisy by Green Party Ministers who have swallowed more dead rats than a hungry stray cat. They supported the Waka-Jumping legislation, they didn’t get their Capital Gains Tax and there’s been no progress on the Kermadecs.
“Under a National Government the Gender Pay Gap decreased from 12 per cent to 9 per cent. It hasn’t changed under this Government.
“There are only 30 per cent women in this Government’s cabinet, fewer than under the National Government. The Prime Minister has the opportunity to address this tomorrow in her reshuffle.
“The Greens were incredibly vocal in Opposition but they’re finding the reality of Government much harder. It’s time for them to start walking the walk, because until now they’ve been all talk.”
Finance Minister Grant Robertson and GCSB Minister Andrew Little need to tell the truth about what information they received from the GCSB and Treasury about how sensitive Budget information had been accessed, National’s Deputy Leader Paula Bennett says.
“Reports this morning that there was a desperate 11th hour phone call to Andrew Little from the head of the GCSB to say Treasury’s website had not been hacked shows that senior Government Ministers knew they were releasing false information to the public.
“It is inconceivable that the GCSB Minister didn’t immediately phone Finance Minister Grant Robertson and the Prime Minister to give them that information.
“The fact that Grant Robertson went ahead and released a statement implying National had been releasing hacked information shows he was out to smear the National Party. He now needs to be up front about what information he had before he released that statement.
“If Mr Robertson received the information from Andrew Little after he released his statement, he should have immediately corrected it.
“We shouldn’t have to wait for the State Services Commission. Grant Robertson and Andrew Little, who claim to be part of the most open and transparent Government ever should tell us now what they knew. It’s time they stopped covering this up and let us know exactly what happened.”