Sharma (left) with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in 2020.[Source: NZ Herald]
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will today answer questions about why a Labour backbencher claims there is an environment of bullying at Parliament, including within his own party.
Hamilton West MP Dr Gaurav Sharma, writing in an explosive column in the NZ Herald yesterday, detailed alleged bullying and gaslighting involving party whips and the Parliamentary Service.
It remains unclear exactly what prompted Sharma’s complaints.
Parliamentary Service chief executive Rafael Gonzalez-Montero revealed they had been working through “employment matters” involving Sharma.
“The Parliamentary Service works alongside whips from all parties,” he said.
“This has included working closely with the Labour Whip’s office over the past year to address employment matters with Dr Sharma.”
Labour Whip Duncan Webb also said they’d been working with Parliamentary Service to address employment matters in Sharma’s office.
“We had been working to provide support for Gaurav and find a solution. We’re committed to reaching an outcome everyone is happy with.”
A further statement from Webb is expected this morning.
Ardern would face media about midday and will field questions on the matter.
Since writing the column Sharma has refused to comment further except only to mention: “I am not the bully”.
When asked who the bully or bullies were, Sharma said: “We’ll find out.”
Speaker Trevor Mallard said he would not discuss individual MPs or staff relationships.
“A practice was developed during the last Parliament and has continued into this Parliament where MPs who have ongoing staff relationship issues have been delayed in their appointment of new staff until the whips and Parliamentary Service are convinced they have sufficient skills to properly supervise them,” he said.
Asked about cases where an MP was allegedly bullied by another MP, Mallard said he expected to soon announce a new Commissioner of Parliamentary Standards, who would investigate allegations.
He said MPs and staff could go to the commissioner if they were unsatisfied with the way a complaint had been handled.
Senior Labour ministers – namely Chris Hipkins and Willie Jackson – have said they had not seen any bullying between MPs in the party.
National MPs meanwhile were quick to leap onto discontent on the Labour backbench, taking attention away from the misdeeds of their own MP Sam Uffindell, which has dominated headlines this week.
National MP Chris Bishop described Sharma’s allegations as “extraordinary”.
“Dr Sharma is a very brave man to take a swing at both the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister, they’re extraordinary allegations for the Labour Party to answer,” Bishop said.
National Party Whip Chris Penk did not respond to broader criticism of party whips and only said “Labour’s leadership will need to respond to these allegations about a lack of kindness”.