Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is facing a second messy situation involving the Labour Party, including allegations of a sexual assault by a staffer and party activist. As questions swirl around who knew what, NZ Herald senior writer Claire Trevett unpicks the threads.
In October last year, a young woman met with Labour's party president, Nigel Haworth, and assistant general secretary, Dianna Lacy, in a room at the Wellington Library.
They met because the woman had asked for help. What was said in that room at the library is now a matter of two starkly differing tales.
The woman told The Spinoff that it was there that she first laid out a claim of sexual assault on her by a man who was a Labour activist and a staffer in its parliamentary team.
Haworth says he and Lacy were told of no such event at that meeting.
The woman also claimed she raised the alleged sexual assault — both in her written submission and verbally — when she was interviewed by a panel of three who were conducting an internal review into complaints against the same staffer.
Haworth says that panel was never told any such thing during the review.
In the end, documents may be the casting vote: Some media have seen emails showing the woman's statement referring to the assault was sent in, but it remains unclear if the panel read it.
One of the two is telling the truth and Haworth's job now hangs in the balance with the Prime Minister suspending her confidence in him until a report into the matter by QC Maria Dew comes back.
If there is no conclusive finding either way, Jacinda Ardern has signalled she will take the side of the woman.
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For Ardern's reputation is also in danger as questions swirl around what she knew, when she knew it, and why she did not get more involved earlier on. It does not help that this is the second time the party has put her in this position.
The story now playing out started back in early 2018 when Young Labour met for its annual summer camp in Waihi.
In March last year Newsroom broke the story that on the final night a man had allegedly groped other attendees during a drunken party.
That triggered a long saga in which the Labour Party was criticised for its handling of those victims.
Labour's handling of the event itself and the aftermath was reviewed by lawyer Maria Austen, a review completed in August last year.
As part of that, people were encouraged to come forward if they had concerns about other incidents — and some of those involved in the latest case did just that.
The report has not been released, but Ardern said at the time it showed the party needed to deal with such issues in a much better fashion.
The report recommended an overhaul of the party's bullying and sexual harassment policies.
The summer camp case effectively concluded in court last week after the man admitted assault, while charges of indecent assault were withdrawn.
Labour had said it could release the review once the court action was over, but that has not yet happened.
Then in November, Parliament's Speaker Trevor Mallard ordered a review into bullying at Parliament.
That was mainly prompted by allegations about Botany MP Jami-Lee Ross' treatment of staff, claims that were aired after his spectacular fallout with National, but the review covered the entire precinct.
The review by Debbie Francis was released in May. It included numerous allegations of bullying — and some serious allegations of sexual harassment and assault.
No names were mentioned by the Francis review, but it prompted some staff to report complaints more formally. One man (separate from the Labour case) was stood down pending an investigation into complaints.
What was not widely known then was that in February this year, while the Francis review was under way, Labour had embarked on its own internal review after complaints from seven people about a party member who was also a staffer at Parliament.
The complaints ranged from bullying and intimidation to sexual assault.
Some of the complainants were staffers, some party volunteers.
Some had spoken out because the Labour Party had encouraged those with issues to come forward as part of the summer camp review, after which Ardern had promised the party would do better.
The review into the allegations against the staffer stayed a secret for five months until July 12 — a week after the complainants were told no disciplinary action would be taken against the man.
On July 12, one complainant emailed numerous media outlets, including the Herald, to say what had happened.
That email contained a number of allegations, and the author said it was on behalf of 12 victims.
It said there was anger at the outcome of the review, Labour's lack of action, and the decision that there would be no ability to appeal it.
The email ended by saying they hoped that telling the story would help ensure the party was held to account, and the victims could get some peace in knowing their story was heard.
Several media outlets started inquiring into the matter, but it did not become public until August when Newshub ran a story saying Labour had carried out an internal investigation with a general outline of the allegations — including sexual assault.
Ardern remained hands-off, saying it was a party issue and that Parliamentary Service was the primary employer.
However, Parliamentary Service could not act without an official complaint being lodged, and nobody had lodged one.
Soon after the media coverage, Labour ordered QC Maria Dew to have another look by way of giving the complainants an "appeal".
Things settled down again until this week when The Spinoff ran its story based on an interview with a young woman alleging a serious sexual assault by the staffer which had happened in February 2018.
WHAT DID THE PM KNOW, WHAT SHOULD SHE HAVE KNOWN, AND WHEN?
Despite media reports last month referring to a sexual assault allegation, Ardern has said the first she knew of the sexual assault allegation was when The Spinoff article ran on Monday.
Later that same day, Ardern told media that as soon as she was told about complaints against the staffer about six months ago, she had asked one of her staff — likely her chief of staff, Raj Nahna — to check whether any of the complaints involved sexual harassment or physical assault.
It was unclear who that staffer checked with but the answer came back as a no.
Ardern has said she subsequently checked again on other occasions, including after August media reports of a sexual assault and each time the answer was no.
At no point did Ardern publicly say that she had checked the situation until this week.
By early yesterday morning, it was becoming possible that while the Prime Minister had not known of allegations of sexual assault some people around her might have.
That has given rise to suspicion she was not fully briefed to allow her to deny knowledge.
The National Party's deputy leader, Paula Bennett, had been contacted by some of the complainants and Bennett claimed other senior MPs had known of it.
Minister of Finance Grant Robertson said he had not known about the specific allegations set out in The Spinoff but he refused to say whether he had known of any sexual assault complaints being levelled against the man.
Labour MP Kiri Allen said she knew several of the people involved in the case, but had not known of any sexual allegations.
There are now two starkly different versions of events.
On Monday, Haworth told The Spinoff only that the panel had not investigated any claims of sexual assault but was silent on whether he knew of the claims.
Yesterday morning, Haworth walked to the Labour caucus room with the party's whip, Michael Woods, beside him.
He said time and time again that he could not talk about it because he was "bound by confidentiality".
But he did not rule out resigning at some future point, saying "I'm going to look at my situation as the process develops. If I've been found at fault, I will look at my position".
Later, after the caucus meeting, Haworth released a more unequivocal statement that the serious allegation outlined in The Spinoff "was not provided to the president and acting general secretary at a meeting in the Wellington Central Library or subsequently to the Labour Party investigation panel".
Then there is the woman's account.
The woman had emailed Maria Austen when Austen was reviewing the Young Labour summer camp case and outlined a different, earlier case of behaviour by the man.
Austen had replied, saying she was focusing on the summer camp first and would then consider other issues. The woman never heard back from Austen.
The woman also said she had told Haworth and Lacy about the alleged assault in a meeting at the library, a meeting at which she had also outlined the concerns of others.
She said the sexual assault claim was also included in a written statement she emailed to one of the Labour panel members investigating the staffer — an email and statement seen by media.
It is not known whether that statement was distributed to the rest of the panel, but the woman also said she had raised it orally in her interview with the panel. Early yesterday morning Ardern did her weekly interview with Newstalk ZB's Mike Hosking.
Asked who she believed out of the woman and Haworth, Ardern made it clear that she would side with the woman if there was no evidence to the contrary in Dew's investigation.
But Haworth's future does not lie solely on the truth behind conflicting tales.
On Newstalk ZB, Ardern said that if the QC found the party had not handled it well, "or that there's been failures on his part", Haworth would likely take it upon himself to step down.
Even if the question is never answered, there are enough other elements of the case that may warrant a head rolling — including the staffer being given the statements against him while those complaining were not given the chance to review that evidence to make sure it was correct.
There were also Haworth's actions immediately after the investigation ended in July.
He told the complainants they could not go to some parts of the parliamentary complex to ensure they did not run into the man.
Speaker Trevor Mallard, who was not told of the directive, has described that as inappropriate.
It was not until after the Newshub story ran in early August and the new investigation started that steps were taken to send the man to work off-site instead.
Since taking over as president when Labour was at its lowest ebb in 2015, Haworth has managed to wrestle the party organisation into a functioning form and rebuild its fundraising efforts.
But the handling of these two sagas may well prove his undoing.