Politics

Mixed messages from National on culture review

The National Party has been sending mixed messages about whether its review into its own culture, health and safety is complete — and what the review itself is about. 

The National Party’s review into its culture, health and safety appears no closer to being signed off, with Party President Peter Goodfellow casting doubt on just when it will be finished. 

The review was launched in the wake of the Jami-Lee Ross saga. Goodfellow said in April that it was complete, but would not be signed off until the Debbie Francis inquiry into culture at Parliament was released. 

Now Goodfellow has walked back on these remarks saying it was “absolutely not complete”.

Speaking to reporters before the party's weekly Tuesday caucus meeting, Goodfellow also seemed unaware that the Francis review was being released in less than an hour's time, saying: “we’ve still got a long way to go, the Francis review is some time away”. The Francis report was released shortly after, at 11.30am.

A focus on women or a health and safety update?

The messaging around the National Party review has also changed. In October, in the wake of allegations raised by Newsroom about rogue MP Jami-Lee Ross and the party’s treatment of female MPs and staff, Bridges said he was seeking “independent advice to make sure we have the best systems and processes so women do feel safe and they do feel confident”.

Asked by media whether he was seeking “independent advice to look into the party and its culture”, Bridges responded that this was correct. 

But this changed in April when TVNZ reported that several women MPs had not been spoken to by the review. 

At that time, Goodfellow clarified that it was a “health and safety” review into existing practices. He said the purpose was not to see whether there was a culture of bullying and harassment within the party.  

"I don't think that's the issue around this health and safety review and I don't think that's really what they were asked to look at,” he said then.

This leaves unanswered where the “independent advice” to make sure the party has systems and processes for women to feel “safe” and “confident” actually went.

Goodfellow said the report was actually a review of health and safety policies which were now five years old. 

“The people who designed our health and safety policies five years ago do a review of those policies, because there’s no good consulting on something that might not be best practice internationally,” Goodfellow said. 

This review would then be put to MPs and members once complete, he said. 

He would not say who was conducting the review.

“It’s the same people who did the original review," Goodfellow said.

“We haven’t actually mentioned who they are and we haven’t asked."

Bridges said the report would need to be “in sync” with the Debbie Francis report before being completed. 

“We want to make sure our health and safety report is in sync with the Debbie Francis report, so I don’t think its something you should expect to see in the next day or something like that,” he said. 

Bridges rejected the allegation he had changed his messaging over the report.

“If you go back and cast through, I think you’ll find nothing has changed”.

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