Exclusive: Labour forced to review investigation into bullying, sexual assault allegations against staffer

Newshub can reveal the Labour Party has been forced to review an internal investigation into bullying, sexual harassment and sexual assault by a Labour staffer.

It follows complaints the investigation process was botched and traumatising for the alleged victims. At least four people have resigned from official party roles and cancelled their membership as a result. 

The complainants say the party's done nothing to improve its processes since the sexual harassment allegations at last year's Young Labour summer camp.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is aware of the allegations. Finance Minister Grant Robertson also knows some details, so do two other Labour MPs.

Following the Young Labour summer camp allegations in 2018 of sexual assault, underage drinking, bullying and harassment, Labour promised it would do better.

The Prime Minister said in August last year, "We need to do things differently".

An inquiry by lawyer Maria Austen recommended sweeping changes including to the party's bullying, sexual harassment and assault policies.

But Newshub has spoken to five people who say nothing has changed since then.

When asked if the Prime Minister has lived up to her promise, one of the complainants said: "Not at all."

Prime Minister and Labour leader Jacinda Ardern with Labour president Nigel Haworth.
Prime Minister and Labour leader Jacinda Ardern with Labour president Nigel Haworth. Photo credit: Newshub

Seven party members and officials laid complaints this year accusing a senior Labour staffer of unacceptable behaviour ranging from bullying and intimidation to sexual harassment and sexual assault.

Their complaints were investigated in March and no disciplinary action was taken. The man's lawyer says the allegations were untrue. 

But after concerns were raised about the investigation, the party is now reviewing its processes - but not the outcome. 

One of the complainants told Newshub they were "disappointed" with the Labour Party since "no action" had been taken. 

"I'm really just disappointed that even though they were aware, there was no action taken, and it seems like this is happening over and we're going through the trauma of it again."

The complainant added: "I really don't have much faith that the party will do something."

Complainants have spoken of panic attacks, vomiting and having to take days off work because they were so scared of the staffer.

At least four people have resigned from official party roles and cancelled their Labour membership.

"We consider these people our family, our whānau, and it's really disappointing to see how we've been treated," the complainant said.

"You would hope that your family would look out for you and I've really been let down by it."

As far back as August 2018, Labour Party president Nigel Haworth was informed the staffer told a woman she was elected within the party because she "would be nice to sleep with".

He was also told a senior ministerial staffer had warned an alleged victim that if she told anyone about the staffer's behaviour she would be shut-down.

"It's really disappointing to see the Prime Minister's Office standing by," the complainant said. "They all knew and nothing's happening."

Interviews took place on 9 March and the investigation wrapped up on 21 May. In June, the complainants say they were called about the outcome.

It wasn't until July 5 when the party president emailed complainants explaining that no action would be taken and that "there is no appeal process".

Leaked party emails show the alleged victims felt "left in the dark" from between the interviews and the conclusion.

"We've just lost hope," the complainant said. 

Newshub has been investigating this story for nearly a month. The list of complaints about the party's process include:

  • a lack of communication
  • complainants weren't shown transcripts of their testimonies to check for accuracy before they went to the alleged perpetrator, outing their names to him
  • the length of time to reply to complainants was "unacceptable", in some cases they got no response
  • concerns the internal party process could mean undue influence