"There's natural justice and of course we have to make sure that applies," declared the kindly Jacinda Ardern when talking about the Government's treatment of the outgoing Retirement Commissioner Diane Maxwell.

But did Maxwell get 'natural justice' when two anonymous allegations of bullying were made against her late last year?

The answer is no from this kind Government that insists our wellbeing forms the basis of everything they do.


Not long before Christmas last year two allegations were made that Maxwell publicly shames employees, tearing up work in front of them (which she denied).

But the minister in charge of her office Kris Faafoi insisted this Government is very clear on the need "for workplaces to be safe and appropriate" - and he publicly stood Maxwell down while a Queen's Counsel was called in to investigate.

Faafoi expected to hear back early this year but instead heard last month which clearly left Maxwell's garden well-tended.

It was found that the benchmark to establish bullying conduct wasn't met and the Retirement Commissioner immediately returned to work to what she says was applause and flowers.

But she been told her contract's not being renewed when it runs out at the end of the month, with Faafoi saying they need a new broom - that's despite Maxwell's predecessor getting three terms in the job.

How could this have been better and more fairly handled?

Surely it could have been dealt with in-house, avoiding the public vilification and damage to Maxwell's reputation. The complainants were given anonymity, so for Maxwell where's the natural justice in that?

We've now got a definition of bullying as unwanted behaviour that you find offensive, intimidating or humiliating. It's behaviour that's repeated and has a detrimental effect on your dignity, safety and wellbeing.


Applying this definition to Maxwell the investigator found she had not bullied current or former staff and she had not breached her obligations under the law to ensure "good and safe work conditions".

Some previous staff did have some trouble with the Commissioner's communication style. So it seems it's open season for public service bosses, if you don't like yours then you know what to do: say you are being bullied, lay a complaint and he or she's on their way, at the very least to the garden for a while.

But surely it's time we all hardened up and start giving as good as we get. Having been a worker for the past half a century it's a code I've lived by - and I haven't been fired yet.