Bullying at the top must stop

Editorial One

Issue 406, December 15, 2018

The State Services Commission is currently investigating complaints of bullying against former Retirement Commissioner Diane Maxwell and Parliamentary Services is looking into similar allegations against National MP Maggie Barry.

In both cases, former or existing staff members have filed these complaints.

Recorded allegations

Ms Barry said that Parliamentary Services has cleared her name, while one staff member has denied this. Ms Maxwell has been forced to go on leave, while Ms Barry seems to be gathering support from other members of her staff.

In the case of Ms Barry, there are tape-recordings which apparently testify the complaints, in some places the MP using foul language.

Then there is another debate whether she allowed her staff to record the proceedings of her meetings with staff.

What is going on?

The British Scene

Bullying staff appears to be becoming a common practice by lawmakers in many parts of the world. In Britain, following a revelation by BBC, Andrea Leadsom, Leader of the House of Commons has proposed to conduct an inquiry into allegations of bullying.

“I will propose that the inquiry should hear from past and current staff members about their experiences and help to provide them with closure wherever possible.”

As BBC mentioned, her wording was a little vague.

It is also the case that the House of Commons Commission, the panel that runs the House, would decide on the terms.

“The whitewash is coming,” BBC announced.

Independent Review

In New Zealand, Parliamentary Speaker Trevor Mallard has launched an independent review into bullying and harassment of staff at Parliament, saying that all political parties have problems in this area.

Consultant Debbie Francis will conduct the Independent Review to find out whether any harassing or bullying of staff has occurred since October 2014, the start of the last Parliament. It will cover MPs, staff and contractors in Parliamentary Services and the Office of the Clerk. At least 3000 personnel, including former staffers, in Parliament or in electorate offices around the country, who have left since 2014 will also be covered.

We welcome the Independent Review. It is time erring politicians are brought to account.


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