The New Zealand Labour Party's handling of an alleged sexual assault has left Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern facing the most serious scandal since she took office Photo: POOL/AFP/File

Sex assault claims rock New Zealand PM Ardern's government


New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern apologized Wednesday for her party's handling of an alleged sexual assault, as a top ally was forced to resign.

In the most serious scandal Ardern has faced since she took office in late 2017, the centre-left leader admitted "mistakes were made" after a Labour Party volunteer accused a senior party staffer of assault last year.

"Raising an allegation of sexual assault is an incredibly difficult thing to do -- for additional distress to be caused through the way these allegations are handled is incredibly distressing," Ardern said in a statement.

The 19-year-old woman alleges the staffer sexually assaulted her at his home in February last year and she reported it to Labour Party president Nigel Haworth in October that year.

An internal party investigation recommended no action against the man and Haworth argued as recently as Tuesday that the complainant did not inform him about the seriousness of the allegations.

The woman, who has not been publicly named, disputed this, providing media with emails and documents she said supported her version of events.

Other volunteers also backed the woman and said their complaints to the party were not taken seriously.

Ardern said she discussed the woman's documents with Haworth on Wednesday morning, as she tried to address the scandal.

"Whilst he stands by the statements he made on this matter, I believe mistakes were made," she said. Ardern added: "On behalf of the Labour Party, I apologize to the complainants for the way this matter has been dealt with."

In a separate statement, Labour said that Haworth -- who has been credited as an unsung hero of Ardern's electoral victory -- had resigned.

Ardern said she never knew about the nature of the allegations.

"I was informed in the very beginning that the allegations made were not sexual in nature," she said. "That is obviously directly counter to what is now being reported."

A barrister, Maria Dew, has been appointed to review the Labour Party's handling of the case and is due to report directly to Ardern next month.

Ardern said she was willing to meet with the complainants and would ensure they were receiving appropriate support.

"I want a justice system in New Zealand where people feel comfortable coming forward and are listened to," she said. "But I also need to ensure the Labour Party lives up to that expectation too."

New Zealand's next general election is scheduled for late 2020.

© 2019 AFP

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

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How is this a scandal? How is there anything to apologize for? This is a matter for the police, not political parties. If people want extra-judicial punishment they can go to heck and back and back again. Not proven guilty in a court of law means you assume innocence. Anyone who says otherwise has an agenda.

-12 ( +2 / -14 )

Jacinda Ardern and her party lecturing everyone else about morals, woman's rights, etc. Hypocrites.

6 ( +13 / -7 )

How is this a scandal?

That's described in paragraphs 5-7 of the article.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

She says she didn't know about it, but everyone else knew. It was in the media, even the opposition were posting about it. Even I knew about it and I don't go looking for NZ news.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

Sex scandals everywhere.  no organisations, no matter how right on (e.g. this one) or how reliant on sex selling (e.g. Hollywood) or even totally unlikely (e.g. women's soccer) seem to have a problem with it.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

This is even more of a problem for Labour/Jacinda as this is the second incident of sexual assalt which has happened at one of their party linked events, or by one of their party. Both incident have been managed extremely poorly by the Labour, with denials about who was informed, knew about the allegations etc.

Here is a link to information on the previous incident:

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Should we be labeling a party that takes away guns from their citizens as “center-left”? Sounds like what authoritarian or communist governments do.

-4 ( +3 / -7 )

The NZ PM knew all along but took no action as her political support would have dried up if she had acted.Now the whole matter has blown up in her face.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

From Wikipedia:

*Ardern has described herself as a social democrat, a progressive, a republican and a feminist......*

How sad that so many politicians, especially leftist progressives like Ardern, talk about equality, human rights, women's empowerment, etc, but don't practice those ideals themselves. It's all talk. Like the Russian Communists when they overthrew the Czar. 'We promise bread, land and equality!'. Sure. In the end everyone was equal......equally poor, with no land and barely enough bread to survive, while Communist Party elites led cushy lives.

Where are the sincere leaders who really care about their people?

She should resign or be forced to.

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

She should resign or be forced to.

Wait, aren't you a Trump supporter?

If you are, the above comment coming from one of you people is laughable.

If you aren't, my comment isn't applicable, and you can ignore it.

-3 ( +2 / -5 )


Wait, aren't you a Trump supporter?

If you are, the above comment coming from one of you people is laughable.

If you aren't, my comment isn't applicable, and you can ignore it.

Does it matter? What really matters is Ms. Ardern's and many politician's (particularly progressives) hypocrisy, which I pointed out.

PS: Just for the record, I try to support policies rather politicians and parties. I don't care who delivers them. I am favorable towards many of President Trump's policies and hope he's successful, as he has been, though less enthused by some aspects of his character and approach. I completely oppose his support for Israel. I also support Democrat minimum wage and single payer health care policies.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Deplorable behaviour.

Sexual assault shouldn't be swept under the rug.

She should resign immediately, along with her cabinet.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

a party that takes away guns from their citizens

I hear that they aren’t taking them away, but attempting to buy them up, or something, and the program has been criticized by at least some on the so-called right. So yeah this party can be called centre-left, given that they are going about their aims in an ineffective manner.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Lots of down votes but not a single answer to a simple question. How does this qualify as a scandal? The party took no action against a member of their party who has been accused, but not proven guilty, of a crime. Is everyone to be punished from the accusation stage now? Or just men?

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

Does it matter? What really matters is Ms. Ardern's and many politician's (particularly progressives) hypocrisy, 

For hypocrisy, surely the religious right have taken the crown.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )


For hypocrisy, surely the religious right have taken the crown.

I would have agreed with you until about 20-30 years ago. But then they lost thier political and cultural dominance and have been largely humbled. Recently liberal progressives have dominated western politics and culture.

The dominant political and cultural force usually displays the most hypocrisy and arrogance, like Ms Ardern.

Ps: Despite the religious right's previous (and present at times) problems with hypocrisy at least they gave us and many developing countries hospitals, care for the homeless, orphaned, disabled, aged, etc. women's shelters and more.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Ladies and men, if you are sexually assaulted, GO TO THE POLICE.

Do that before you wash.

Do that before you call your friends.

Do that before you change clothing.

If you want to call someone first, call a rape hotline (this applies to men too). Get the information BEFORE you make any choice that prevents legal prosecution.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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