Key's hair-pulling raises behaviour questions

  • 22/04/2015

By 3 News online staff / NZN

An official complaint will be laid with the Human Rights Commission over Prime Minister John Key's café hair-pulling antics.

Graham McCready, the man who took former ACT Party leader John Banks to court, says the complaint will be filed under Section 62 of the Human Rights Act alleging bullying of a sexual nature in the work place.

"This complaint is not only justified on the facts disclosed and admitted but is requirement to establish a prima facie case under the New Zealand Crimes Act of assault," Mr McCready said in an email.

Mr Key has publicly apologised to waitress Amanda Bailey, 26, for persistently pulling her ponytail while visiting her Auckland cafe over the last six months.

After the incident was made public the National Council of Women described the repeated harassment of the cafe worker as "sexist" in an open letter to Mr Key.

Human Rights Commissioner Jackie Blue, a former National MP, says the hair-pulling prank highlights why people should discuss what is or isn't acceptable behaviour.

"It's never OK to touch someone without their permission. There are no exceptions," she said.

Dr Blue has welcomed the Prime Minister's apology and says she hopes the situation can be resolved "with dignity for all involved".

The embarrassing apology was prompted by Ms Bailey's contribution to the left-wing Daily Blog website yesterday, in which she accused the Prime Minister of harassing and bullying her.

At first she believed it was playful - Mr Key sometimes pretended it was his wife Bronagh who did it - but she then informed Mr Key's security that one day she would snap and punch him in the face.

Mr Key mocked her when she raised it personally with him and it left her crying frustrated tears because she felt tormented and powerless, she said.

When quizzed by reporters at Los Angeles Airport, Mr Key - who was on his way to Turkey for Anzac Day commemorations - said he had been joking around with the waitress.

"There's always lots of horsing around and sort of practical jokes and that's all there really was to it," he said.

The New Zealand Herald this morning quoted Ms Bailey as saying the Prime Minister feels he is "untouchable", but there have been concerns raised about how the paper obtained the interview.

In a follow-up post on The Daily Blog, Ms Bailey says she was led to believe she was speaking to a public relations agent hired by her employer, Rosie café in Parnell, and only found out afterwards that 'Rachel' was in fact Rachel Glucina, a Herald reporter with close links to Mr Key.

Daily Blog editor Martyn Bradbury says he contacted the Herald late last night to inform them Ms Bailey was withdrawing consent for them to use her comments, considering they had been obtained via deception.

Ms Glucina has denied the accusations, posting on Twitter it was "utterly not true".

Why didn't John Key stop?

Veteran Labour MP Annette King questions why Mr Key didn't stop pulling Ms Bailey's hair when it became clear it was inappropriate to do so.

"His wife… on at least two occasions, according to the report, told him to stop it, that it wasn't appropriate. If my husband said that to me in my political role, I'd certainly be taking notice of it," she said on TV3's Paul Henry programme this morning.

But National MP Judith Collins – whom Mr Key had stood down as a Minister last year for her own alleged bad behaviour – says the only people who make mistakes are those who never get out of bed, and it's time to move on.

"Knowing him as I do, he will be absolutely remorseful that he's offended Ms Bailey, and he's hurt her feelings so badly. He wouldn't have meant to hurt her feelings like that."

Ms King says #ponytailgate, as it's been dubbed on social media, is perhaps the "weirdest" in a long line of strange incidents involving the Prime Minister – and his apology left a lot to be desired.

"You go back to some things like the three-way handshake or the things that have happened over time, and it all adds together and people say, 'that's strange behaviour from a Prime Minister, that's a bit weird'.

"This certainly was the weirdest, I have to say, because it was totally inappropriate… he has apologised, but I was a bit surprised when he said 'I was just horsing around' when we're talking about a ponytail. That actually meant that he half-apologised, but 'I was only horsing around' – I thought that undermined his apology."

Ms King says he might have got away with strange behaviour before, but the public may be starting to tire of it.

"I've been in a third term Government, and I just know over time little things that you might not have thought were very important add onto each other."

Ms Collins on the other hand says Mr Key's friendly nature is one of the reasons he has been so popular, for so long.

"He's an awful lot like a lot of us. He has a sense of fun, and sometimes he can overstep the mark – and this is one of them."

Has he broken the law?

Broadcaster, former MP and ex-Internet Mana press secretary Pam Corkery said on TV3's Paul Henry programme this morning that Mr Key's actions amounted to "sexual harassment" and should stand down.

"He apologised for it when his wife told him to; when this woman, after seven months of dealing with this behaviour, said 'stop it or I'll hit you'. This is a woman driven to the edge."

She says most women – particularly those who have worked in hospitality – would have read Ms Bailey's blog entry and believed every word of it.

"As a woman, we know when shit is true."

As for his apology, she says he won't get away with writing it off with "two bottles of cheap piss".

Rob Fyfe, former CEO of Air New Zealand, doesn't believe it's a major issue, and wouldn't fire Mr Key if he was an employee.

"He's made quite a serious mistake, he's apologised for it – what do you want him to do now?"

The ensuing media furore has reaffirmed his decision to never try his hand at politics.

"The sad thing is, you get remembered for all this crap. You don't actually get remembered for all the hours and hours and years and years you put into doing good stuff for New Zealand."

The Human Rights Commissioner says the incident raises questions about what is considered appropriate behaviour.

"Talking about what's acceptable and what isn't is a conversation worth having and one every New Zealander needs to be part of," said Dr Blue.

Minister for Women Louise Upston has stood by Mr Key, saying she didn't believe the Prime Minister's actions were meant to be offensive.

"As the Prime Minister has said his actions were intended to be light-hearted. It was never his intention to make her feel uncomfortable," Ms Upston said in a statement, Fairfax reports.

"He said that in hindsight it wasn't appropriate, and that is why he apologised."

3 News / NZN

source: newshub archive