Parliament workplace culture needs "tidy-up" - CultureSafe

By Talisa Kupenga

CultureSafe says parliament needs to clean up its act and address bullying and harassment in the workplace. The call comes in the wake of political crossfire between the National Party and now independent MP Jami-Lee Ross, who was recently released from mental health care.

Halse says, "They talk about it being a robust environment and it's only political infighting, it's not.  It's a reflection of the culture in New Zealand where we treat people with disrespect, where we're quite happy to publicly humiliate people."

Alleged instances include the Meka Whaitiri incident, with allegations she grabbed a former staffer's arm and caused bruising.  

ultiple bullying and harassment allegations have also been made by women against now Independent MP Jami-Lee Ross, following his claims that the National Party committed electoral fraud.

Te Kāea asked members of the public whether they thought bullying was an issue in parliament.

One woman says, "The latest stuff that happened with the mental health issues was a bit of a problem.  They were aware of it and they probably shouldn't have gone after him."

 While another man says politicians should lead by example.

“If they continue with that sort of behaviour then that's just going to continue when the next generation come into power."

Halse says NZ is ranked the second worst place in the world for workplace bullying and sexual harassment and that this has been highlighted with the events surrounding Jami-Lee Ross.

“Workplace bullying, sexual harassment, there is a direct entry from there to the mental health system and to suicide beyond that.

"Politicians need to play the ball not the man.  Talk about the issues, be robust, don't attack the person who is delivering the message about the issues."

National will conduct an internal review into its party and culture but Halse says 95 percent of investigations like this are scams aimed to distract from the real issues.

"[The] National Party is no different to any other employer.  They're looking to cover their butt trying to minimise risk and the way to minimise risk is to pretend you're fixing the problem when all they're doing is delaying the scrutiny of the problem until people give up."

Halse says confidentiality agreements like the one signed between National a woman who complained against Ross increase the problem.

"Two years ago in NZ there were 6,000 confidential settlements, a year later, 10,000 confidential settlements.  So effectively what's happening is the bullying behaviour and the sexual harassment is being swept under the carpet and employers are paying out a lot of money to hide these problems."

According to one study, one in five New Zealanders have reported being bullied at work.