Tue, Sep 17, 2019 - Page 5 News List

NZ’s Ardern slammed after party bungles assault claim


New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s leadership is under scrutiny after her Labour Party botched its handling of an alleged sexual assault on a 19-year-old party volunteer.

Ardern has been forced to apologize to the woman and take control of an investigation into the allegations, including that the volunteer was attacked and groped by a Labour Party staffer early last year.

The party earlier this year decided that no disciplinary action was necessary, prompting the woman to tell her story to the media.

Since then, Labour Party President Nigel Haworth and the man at the center of the allegations, who worked in parliament and has not been identified, have both resigned.

“There are no excuses for the handling of the complaints by the Labour Party and I will offer none,” Ardern said at a post-Cabinet news conference in Wellington on Monday, a week after the sexual assault allegation was detailed on the Web site of The Spinoff.

A year out from a general election, the scandal has the potential to undermine support for Labour and Ardern, whose popularity has much to do with her image as a caring leader and champion of the disadvantaged.

Questions are being asked not only about the culture of the Labour Party, which last year mishandled a separate sexual assault allegation, but also whether Ardern knew about the allegations sooner than she says she did.

The Labour Party looked into multiple complaints against the man from several people, including harassment and bullying, but Ardern has said that she was not aware of the sexual assault claim until The Spinoff article.

“While the party has continued to maintain that they weren’t in receipt of the complaints that have since been published in the media, that is secondary to the fact that the complaints made to the party were of significant concern and needed to be heard in a timely way,” Ardern added. “That didn’t happen.”

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