Paula Bennett claims Beehive staffer has ‘no faith’ over complaints
Paula Bennett claims to have been contacted by a Beehive staffer who alleges to be “one of the victims of a perpetrator”, and says their complaints haven’t been taken seriously.
Bennett, deputy leader of the National Party, said on Thursday the woman – along with “a number of other people” – has laid complaints over many months.
She said the victim claims to have not been taken seriously by the Prime Minister’s Office and has spoken of feeling “extremely unsafe and actually fearful”.
“She expressed to me that they’re at the stage now where they’re seeing people having panic attacks, crying, and really serious anxiety,” Bennett said in Parliament.
“They’ve taken the really extraordinary step because they feel they are not being listened to or taken seriously to actually come to the deputy leader of the opposition to hope that they can be heard.”
Bennett said the complainants have expressed a “range of different allegations”, which she said she would not go into detail about “at this stage”.
She said complaints were made to both the Prime Minister’s Office and the Labour Party, and that the complainants have been told to keep quiet.
“They now feel like there’s a witch-hunt on to find people who have spoken to the media and Newshub earlier this week,” Bennett said.
Newshub revealed on Monday that Labour has been forced to review an internal investigation into bullying, sexual harassment and sexual assault by a Labour staffer.
The complainants told Newshub the party had done nothing to improve its processes since the sexual harassment allegations at last year’s Young Labour summer camp.
Bennett said the complainant spoke of intimidating behaviour, “and I suppose they have absolutely no faith in the process that will come from the Prime Minister’s Office and that they will be heard and be taken seriously”.
When asked what Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern should do about the situation, Bennett said: “Well, she talks about leadership, and actually providing a safe environment, and I believe that action needs to be taken immediately.”
Bennett added: “I believe that these people actually work in her office and work in the Beehive and as such that is not just a party matter that is an employment issue that is within her own office.”
Ardern said on Tuesday morning that it “hasn’t been raised as an employment issue but rather a party one”.
Bennett said she’s not sure what the complainant talked about “would cross a criminal threshold, but it would certainly cross an unacceptable behaviour in the workplace threshold”.
She said she thinks it is “extraordinary” that someone who works within the Beehive “feels they have to go to the deputy leader of the opposition to get action taken and they are absolutely scared”.
“I’ve spoken to the Speaker myself and expressed that I believe that he as the head of Parliament, has an obligation to provide a safe work environment,” she said.
“If anyone else wants to come and speak to me, I will absolutely keep their confidence.”
The Prime Minister’s Office has been contacted for comment.
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