Report reveals toxic bullying in New Zealand's Parliament

A police officer patrols outside New Zealand's Parliament in Wellington on March 25, 2019. Seventy-eight per cent of those surveyed said they experienced unreasonable or aggressive behaviour that threatened or intimidated them.
A police officer patrols outside New Zealand's Parliament in Wellington on March 25, 2019. Seventy-eight per cent of those surveyed said they experienced unreasonable or aggressive behaviour that threatened or intimidated them. PHOTO: AFP

WELLINGTON (DPA) - New Zealand's Parliament is a toxic workplace with "systemic" bullying and harassment, according to a review published on Tuesday (May 21).

Unacceptable conduct was too often tolerated or normalised, the external independent review that looked at harassing or bullying of staff by consultant Debbie Francis said.

Ms Francis, who interviewed former and current staff for her report, said it was very common for respondents to mention the names of a "very small number of members (MPs) who they saw as repeat offenders."

"The fundamental problem is the power imbalance. It's a master-servant relationship and they're treated like gods," an anonymous respondent said while several described "creepy" behaviour towards young women.

Another person was anonymously quoted as saying "there's the few who are various shades of shits... Everyone knows who they are, and no one ever challenges them."

Seventy eight per cent of those surveyed said they experienced unreasonable or aggressive behaviour that threatened or intimidated them.

The behaviour would include frequent shouting, abusive texts, and character assassination.

"Sleeping with my phone always under the pillow in case of a midnight text or call yelling abuse... It was emotionally and physically exhausting," one respondent said.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the findings of this report were rightly being taken very seriously.

"Parliament, like any other workplace, should be free from bullying and harassment and we need to make improvements," she said.