15 Apr 2019

National Party may not have approached its women MPs in culture review - Simon Bridges

10:06 am on 15 April 2019

The National Party review into its culture may not have spoken to women from the party who are Members of Parliament, leader Simon Bridges says.

The National Party has conducted its own internal review of its culture, following allegations that former National MP Jami-Lee Ross acted inappropriately with staff and another MP.

In addition, an external review of bullying and harassment of staff at Parliament, following complaints dating back to October 2014, was launched last year and is headed by independent external reviewer, Debbie Francis.

The National Party's review has been completed, but Mr Bridges told Morning Report he was not sure if female members of Parliament from the party had been spoken to.

"I don't know that for certain but that seems to be the case," Mr Bridges said.

"My understanding is quite clearly female MPs, all members of parliament, are entitled to go forward.

"[The] National Party is a 30,000 member political organisation, it is the biggest in New Zealand. [The review] talked with regional leaders, it talked with a bunch of folk, including Young Nats, to get a sense of where they thought there were concerns, where they thought we were getting it right."

Mr Bridges would also not name the independent health and safety expert who conducted the review, saying there was no interest in that information.

"We're not at the point where that's important yet, the point where that becomes relevant is when we've had a review by parliament and then I assure you I will sit down and go through those things, but there's a process to follow."

Despite calling for the review himself, he said "it's important it is not something I'm in charge of".

"I called for it ... it's done it but now we wait ... when the parliamentary review is done, we will put a summary on the table for people to see and assess.

"When the [Debbie Francis] review from parliament and the Speaker is out and we have synced those, I believe a summary of what we have decided is in the public interest."

On the other hand, Mr Bridges said he still believed that there was a strong and positive culture at the party.

"But there's no doubt, in light of last year, we can't be complacent about that and we have to be vigilant."

In October last year, Mr Bridges said he ordered the inquiry to make sure women in the party were feeling safe while at work.

"A number of people, a number of women have been affected here," he said at the time.

"And so I'm going to make sure that I talk to Parliamentary Service this week, to make sure women feel absolutely safe in the workplace and they feel they can confidently come forward on all matters."

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