Sexual assault allegation: PM 'deeply concerned' by Labour Party process

9:46 pm on 9 September 2019

The Prime Minister has avoided expressing confidence in the Labour Party President, saying she's concerned and frustrated about how allegations against a staffer have been handled.

Jacinda Ardern

Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

Earlier today The Spinoff reported sexual assault allegations against a Labour Party staffer.

Jacinda Ardern said she was assured by party officials when the allegations first arose, that these were not sexual in nature.

However, recent news reports had caused her to question those assurances, she told journalists at Parliament.

"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."

Ms Ardern said she visited the Labour Council about a month ago and "very seriously" shared her view it was not the appropriate place to undertake inquiries concerning behaviour of members of the Labour Party.

It would be particularly inappropriate if it was a sexual assault, she said.

Ms Ardern said she had received "differing accounts" so needed a third party to give her an independent assessment.

The QC would give a her a report directly.

"And I will act decisively on that report," she said.

"Obviously not there is very different information and it is only appropriate that I have the findings of the QC that's been appointed to give me some clear direction on the action that needs to be taken from here."

The party president Nigel Haworth has been leading the party's response, and Ms Ardern was asked if he retained her confidence.

"I absolutely want to believe 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... I'm now going to await the findings of the QC's report."

The person at the centre of the allegations had ceased to work from Parliament since the allegations became public, which had been about five weeks ago, she said, and that individual would not be returning until the matter was resolved.

"They have not been on the premises, but we haven't had a complaint to their employer that has enabled action beyond that."