Jacinda Ardern 'absolutely can't stay in the job' if she lied - Paula Bennett

Paula Bennett has defended getting entwined in the Labour Party sexual assault allegations scandal, saying she would have stayed out if the victims hadn't come to her.

The National Party deputy leader says Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Finance Minister Grant Robertson are "being misleading or they have been misled" about what they knew and when.

Ardern said earlier this week she had not been made aware the allegations against a senior Labour Party staff member were sexual in nature.

"That is obviously not directly counter to what is being reported," she said on Monday, after new details about one of the alleged cases were reported by The Spinoff.

Bennett first made the allegations public in August after she claims alleged victims came to her, unsatisfied with how Labour was handling the complaints.

"It was a big call to make," she told Newshub Nation on Saturday."I felt that me not sticking up for them, and not speaking, as yet again having them being silenced."

Last year when rogue National MP Jami-Lee Ross was accused of bullying and harassment, Labour largely stayed out of it. An email sent from Ardern's office to MPs told them to say it was an issue for the National Party caucus, if they were asked about it by media.

"It's a bit unethical that they keep coming at us when they had sex scandals all over them," Labour MP Willie Jackson told The AM Show on Friday. "Did you hear a word from our side? You've got to give us some credit. They were in their own bed together, we heard all the names - not a word said from our side."

Paula Bennett on Newshub Nation.
Paula Bennett on Newshub Nation. Photo credit: Newshub Nation

Bennett said Labour had other reasons for not getting involved in the Ross saga.

"I think the reason they stood back then was because they had their own mess that they knew was going on," she said, without elaborating. Ross' split from National took place almost a year ago.

Bennett said she'd rather not be appearing on TV shows to discuss Labour's problems.

"All the way through this I have felt they are actually incredibly smart, intelligent people that get to make a call on what they want to do next - and that's not mine to make. These are very serious allegations and they should have the support to go to the police, if that's what they wanted. 

"They wanted to keep this within the Labour Party. If they had been treated fairly, respectfully and appropriately from day one, then obviously we wouldn't be sitting here discussing it now."

Bennett said she first took the alleged victims' concerns to the Speaker, believing at the time the conduct was limited to Parliament grounds. She didn't go directly to Ardern, Robertson or the Labour Party itself. The complainants haven't told Bennett they've spoken to Ardern directly.

"I believed at that point that Jacinda Ardern and the Labour Party and the council already knew what was going on - this wouldn't be new news to them," Bennett said, adding that the complainants had already spoken to people in Ardern's office.

Paula Bennett and Simon Shepherd on Newshub Nation.
Paula Bennett and Simon Shepherd on Newshub Nation. Photo credit: Newshub Nation

If it's proven Ardern has lied about what she knew and when, Bennett said she "absolutely can't stay in the job" of Prime Minister.

Bennett also said she herself wouldn't have to apologise if it turns out there was no cover-up of the claims, because "there is a cover-up". 

"[Ardern and Robertson are] either being misleading or they have been misled. It seems to me that pretty much everybody has known for a lot of weeks that we've got sexual assault claims within the Labour Party, except the Prime Minister."

Labour declined to put anyone forward when asked for an interview by Newshub Nation, and declined to comment when asked by Newshub.

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