25 Aug 2022

Timeline of Gaurav Sharma's allegations and the Labour Party saga

7:00 am on 25 August 2022

It took less than two weeks for the Labour Party to decide to expel an MP from when he first made public allegations of bullying, gaslighting and misuse of taxpayer money.

Former Labour Party whip Kieran McAnulty (now Minister for Racing and Emergency Management), current Labour Party whip Duncan Webb, independent MP Gaurav Sharma, and Labour leader Jacinda Ardern.

Former Labour Party whip Kieran McAnulty (now Minister for Racing and Emergency Management), current Labour Party whip Duncan Webb, independent MP Gaurav Sharma, and Labour leader Jacinda Ardern. Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver, Samuel Rillstone; Getty Images/ Hagen Hopkins

In Labour's 2020 election list, Gaurav Sharma was at number 65 and won the Hamilton West seat.

Sharma has claimed that since then there have been issues not dealt with by the Parliamentary Service in his office and eventually, as more concerns were raised, the situation escalated to bullying by party whips - whose job includes managing conflict and discipline in the party ranks.

But Labour Party leader Jacinda Ardern has repeatedly said Sharma's claims are unsubstantiated.

Here's how the situation has unfolded:

11 August, 2022 - Sharma's first allegations in media

In a column for the New Zealand Herald, the then Labour backbencher claimed MP-on-MP bullying was rampant within Parliament and facilitated by those supposed to prevent it.

Among his accusations were that the Parliamentary Service stonewalled serious concerns about colleagues' behaviour and instead redirected them to the party's whip, whom - he claimed - would gaslight and victimise the complainant with the intention of threatening them about their long-term career prospects.

Parliamentary Service's boss dismissed the allegations.

But the next day, a former staffer to Sharma told the Herald there was an alleged culture of bullying that existed in Sharma's office, which they claimed was so bad they needed counselling.

Labour chief whip Duncan Webb said his office became aware of issues between Sharma and his staff a year ago and had been trying to work with him to address these issues as recently as the day before his column was publicised.

The issues at Sharma's office prompted the whip and Parliamentary Service to impose interventions including management training and a hiring freeze.

Later on, Ardern would say it was her understanding a resolution had been reached with Sharma the day before he aired his frustrations to the media over his staffing.

He had never approached her directly over his concerns, nor to the caucus which met every sitting week, she said.

"Staff had claimed that they were being treated poorly. And an intervention was rightly made to try and correct that situation. Then what has essentially been performance management has been turned into accusations of bullying, I've seen nothing to substantiate that."

12 August - Claims of misuse of taxpayer money

Sharma hit back with a lengthy statement on his Facebook page, claiming he had been gaslit, shouted at, degraded in front of caucus members, told he was a terrible MP, and that none of his concerns, nor claims against him, had been investigated.

He also revealed he had complained to the Parliamentary Service in August 2021 about alleged misuse of taxpayers' money, which he claimed was never looked into.

However, Parliamentary Service chief executive Rafael Gonzalez-Montero said the complaint was looked into in 2021 and it was determined the expenditure was for parliamentary business and, therefore, not in breach of the rules.

Sharma claimed he was bullied by then junior whip Duncan Webb because Parliamentary Service had informed the Labour Party about his complaint.

Webb told RNZ the allegations were "unfounded and not accepted" and a spokesperson for the Labour Party said it disputed the allegations made by Sharma.

15 August - Sharma shares screenshots of complaints

Ardern told Morning Report bullying was not a widespread issue in party, as accusations of bullying were levelled at another MP.

She said his allegations did not warrant an independent investigation as called for by his Hamilton West electorate committee.

On the same day, Sharma shared screenshots on social media of messages he claimed were from fellow MPs also alleging bullying by former whip Kieran McAnulty.

The screenshots were not attributed to specific individuals but included complaints about serious mental health concerns and wanting to avoid returning to Parliament.

Sharma said said he formally emailed the prime minister's office in December with detailed complaints against McAnulty, but nothing was done.

"Instead a few months later Kieran was promoted to a Minister of the Crown unfortunately sending a message to caucus members being bullied that their wellbeing and concerns didn't matter."

In a post-Cabinet media briefing, Ardern announced Labour would hold a caucus meeting to address Sharma's status because his public actions were out of step with the rules of dealing with disputes within the party.

Sharma has complained, however, that using those mechanisms have got him nowhere, saying he had tried dealing with the concerns through the party whip's office and Parliamentary Service for the past year and a half.

16 August - Labour caucus suspends Sharma

There were in fact two meetings held to address Sharma's status; one without Sharma the night before, which did not involve all caucus members, and then the planned one the next day, which he had been invited to but did not attend.

After the planned meeting, Ardern revealed caucus' unanimous decision to suspend Sharma.

She repeatedly denied claims the outcome was predetermined the night before and said that meeting was held without Sharma because members did not feel comfortable openly discussing issues or raising questions while there was a risk of confidentiality being breached.

Caucus determined Sharma had breached confidentiality of meetings and brought the party into disrepute, an offence which could have led to permanent expulsion right then.

Still, there was a chance he could rejoin in December upon review.

While mediation would be provided as an avenue to raise any further concerns, Ardern said this was Sharma's final warning and if he breached the party rules again, he could be expelled.

17 August - One staff member in Sharma's office

It was revealed Sharma's office had one staff member and no further decisions had been made on his staffing since his allegations of bullying were made public.

18 August - Sharma defies final warning

Despite the threat of expulsion, Sharma continued to level accusations in his first public interview since suspension, resurfacing allegations of a predetermined outcome on his suspension.

He told Newshub he had recorded a phone conversation with a senior Labour MP, who he claimed called him after the initial meeting with some caucus members to warn his fate was sealed.

Sharma claimed "many people" from Labour's caucus had told him they agreed there was bullying in the party.

He also published a screenshot of a message sent by Minister of Conservation Kiri Allan to the caucus reminding them all written correspondence was subject to the OIA, and "if we are being lobbied on issues by colleagues, especially where we haven't had a yarn, things unfolding through OIA process less than desirable".

He suggested this was proof new MPs were being taught methods to avoid the Official Information Act (OIA), which enables journalists and members of the public to seek records of information held by the government.

He also said some staff in the prime minister's office could also choose to receive information as the Labour leader's office, in order to prevent an OIA request.

A spokesperson for Ardern said Sharma had failed to respond to communication about mediation, was misrepresenting conversations with colleagues, and that the Labour caucus would consider a motion to expel him.

19 August - Labour members unite against claims

Labour Cabinet ministers continued to pushed back against claims Sharma's suspension was predetermined at a secret meeting the previous night.

22 August - OIA allegations refuted by PM

Ardern told Morning Report all of Sharma's claims had been refuted, including that new MPs were being trained to dodge OIA requests.

The message from Kiri Allan had been taken out of context, Ardern said in a post-Cabinet briefing.

"A question was asked where an MP raised a situation where a constituent's information was released in an OIA and was concerned about that ... we find ourselves in a conversation where we've got a complete misrepresentation of the situation."

It was important that MPs had knowledge about how to handle information, she said, arguing the message was intended to serve as a reminder for MPs.

23 August - It is revealed the chief ombudsman sought assurances over OIA claims

Ardern's position on the matter was echoed by other Labour MPs who were heading into the latest caucus meeting to vote on Sharma's expulsion, like chief whip Duncan Webb, list MP Ibrahim Omer and list MP Helen White.

The OIA allegations resulted in Chief Ombudsman Peter Boshier seeking assurances from Ardern and other government ministers on the referenced workshop.

Ardern's office publicly released its response to the ombudsman, which stated the workshop was not dedicated to OIA but "how the leader's office can assist MPs with constituent queries, parliamentary matters like House debates, and other electorate matters".

The letter said an MP at the workshop had sought clarification over how to manage sensitive information about their constituents.


Former chief whip Kieran McAnulty and Webb, both of whom had borne the brunt of Sharma's bullying accusations, rejected these claims as they went into the meeting.

Sharma wanted to present his case at the meeting and called for an independent investigation, but he said no one wanted to talk about the points he raised.

Caucus voted to expel him and refer the matter to the New Zealand Council of the Labour Party to consider any further disciplinary action.

The Labour whip's office said Sharma could vote on his expulsion - one of 62 votes - and confirmed the voting record of one abstention and one vote against.

Nevertheless, Sharma said he would keep pushing for an independent investigation and reiterated his claims that bullying was commonplace.

"I was the one who raised concerns regarding my staff, not the other way around, and that's when the bullying from the whips started."

Back in Parliament as an independent

On 24 August, Sharma used the election of the new Speaker to level new accusations against outgoing Speaker Trevor Mallard, claiming Mallard ignored concerns he raised about bullying within Labour.

Several senior Labour ministers criticised Sharma's conduct, saying it was a day to honour and welcome the new Speaker.

A further process will need to take place with the wider party to assess whether to eject him from the party, and yet another decision to be made on whether to use the waka-jumping law.

Ardern previously said the decision by caucus on the waka-jumping law had not yet been made, but "at this stage we haven't for instance got any intention to discuss that legislation or to discuss triggering it, and one of the concerns in my mind is unnecessary expense for taxpayers".

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