12 Sep 2019

Labour assault complaints: Paula Bennett says alleged victims 'wanted the truth out there'

8:34 am on 12 September 2019

Deputy opposition leader Paula Bennett says the alleged victims of assault thanked her for naming people who she says knew about the allegations in Parliament.

No caption


Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has apologised to the complainants who've made allegations of bullying and serious sexual assault, saying she recognises the actions of the party have added to their distress.

The party president Nigel Haworth quit yesterday, after a conversation with Ms Ardern.

Ms Bennett used parliamentary privilege to name several of the prime minister's most senior staff and a Cabinet minister who she says have known for some time about the allegations.

However, she admitted her information on who knew what was based on hearsay.

Ms Bennett said she named the staffers because the victims felt the ongoing silence was revictimising.

"They wanted the truth out there," she said.

Ms Bennett said the victims were adamant that Finance Minister Grant Robertson knew but admitted it was based on what she had been told rather than proof.

"I would say, right throughout this, the victims have proved to be honest and telling the truth."

Ms Bennett said the Prime Minister has either been misled or she's being misleading.

"This does go right to the most senior people in her office. They knew what was going on. At any point, they could have actually done something for these victims to make sure they had the process they deserve."

Ms Bennett denied that she was using the alleged victims for political gain.

"I'm trying to give the victims a voice who have not had one for the last 12 months. They've been retraumatised on a daily basis."

"I'm doing what they want, that's the big differences," she said.

Ms Bennett said she got messages from some of the victims thanking her for what she said in Parliament.

"They came to me, they wanted a voice and they needed someone to speak up for them, and they deserve that."

The Prime Minister's office yesterday issued a statement saying "we have no comment to make on the allegations made under the protection of Parliamentary privilege".

Mr Robertson has declined to answer questions about whether he was told directly of allegations of sexual assault.

He was asked yesterday if a complainant told him about such an allegation in late June.

"I'm going to respect the privacy of the young people who are involved in this situation. There is a process to go through with the QC, it's important the voices of these people are heard and I'm not going to say anything more about that."

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs