John Key, Tania Billingsley, The Waitress, and me






it's never ok to touch someone without their consent


After The Daily Blog published the story of the [then un-named] cafe waitress who has been harassed by our esteemed Prime Minister for seven months, it now becomes apparent why he was so reluctant in this case;


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Tania Billingsley - I won't apologise - PM on diplomat case - John Key


Key’s reluctance to apologise to Ms Billingsley over the atrocious way in which MFAT mishandled the Malaysian Diplomat, at the center of attempted rape and burglary allegations, appears to be a pattern of misogynistic behaviour from the man.

Note Key’s statement why he would not apologise;

“I don’t make apologies unless there’s a serious reason to.”

Many New Zealanders now have a greater insight into Key’s psyche; he did not believe there was a “serious” reason to apologise to Ms Billingsley.

Just as  Key dismissed his behaviour with the waitress by minimising it as some sort of harmless play;

“There’s always lots of horsing around and sort of practical jokes and that’s all there really was to it.”

The problem for Key is that his (not hers) “lots of horsing” was non-consensual (as well as utterly inappropriate on many other levels). Very rarely is it acceptable in New Zealand – or wider Western Society – to touch complete strangers, unless invited; eg; a handshake.

The waitress made it clear that Key’s attention and touching were unwelcome;

On Saturday, 28th February (which I specifically recall as there was to be a protest outside his home the following day) he approached me from behind, security personnel by his side, as I stood with my back to him filling water glasses, and he pulled my hair before once again pointing the blame at Bronagh. I couldn’t believe it, he was still persisting and by now he had definitely got the message that I was not enjoying it – that seemed to be why he was enjoying it so damn much. It had really crossed the line by this point and I didn’t need to tell him to stop because now Bronagh herself was already telling him to stop what he was doing, and not for the first time I might add. I exclaimed “Really?!!”, to my manager beside me, and shot him a look of utter disbelief and frustration.

The waitress has nailed it;

I couldn’t believe it, he was still persisting and by now he had definitely got the message that I was not enjoying it – that seemed to be why he was enjoying it so damn much.

Let me explain why her observation that Key “ was enjoying it so damn much” is so apt.

My first job out of High School was at the age of 16, around 1974/75. I was employed in the mail room, sorting mail – this was waaaay before email. Or faxes. Everything was done by post, and the company – Blue Star Port Lines, situated at the time in the IBM House on The Terrace – received and sent hundreds of letters and shipping notifications every day.

A few months later, I was promoted to the role of a junior shipping clerk. I had my own desk, surrounded by (mainly) men doing similar work to me. Women were primarily in secretarial roles.

I was excited – my own desk! That excitement did not last long and after few weeks had passed, I began to receive unwanted attention from one of the male staff, who would lean close into me when talking; hold my shoulder as he looked over it at whatever work I was doing; and talking to me suggestively.

I’ve no idea if he was gay, hitting on me as a young man, or straight and just teasing the hell out of me.

It was a situation I had never faced before. High School had prepared me  for muddy games of rugby and the odd scrap with whichever bully was rostered on that day to give us smaller kids a hiding. (Stupidly, I almost always stood my ground and never ran. Subsequently received more than my fair share of bruises. I should have watched more “Dr Who” and realised there is nothing ignoble about running from a bigger foe…)

But sexual harassment? The term barely existed in the mid-1970s. It was simply an unknown concept. You might as well have come from the 21st Century and asked me where the nearest wi-fi hot-spot was…

It got worse. The touching. His face close to mine. Then, one day, he pressed his body close to mine in an otherwise empty elevator. I was terrified. I  felt repulsed. I felt totally powerless.

For fuck’s sakes, I was 16 (nearly 17) – hadn’t even lost my virginity. And here was a guy in his late 30s (early 40s?) coming on to me.

The next day, I called in sick. The following day, I went to work, hoping like hell he wasn’t there.

He was. It continued.

After a while, I simply quit. I couldn’t cope. I had no idea what to do; who to go to. I just felt totally powerless. To someone who has not experienced anything remotely like harassment, when you are utterly powerless and the abuser plays on that power-imbalance, then it is hard to comprehend. You cannot hope to feel what a victim has felt, unless it is in your head as well.

Luckily, it was the mid-1970s, and you could walk out of one job and straight into another. I collected my final pay; an additional reimbursement from Labour’s superannuation fund (about $25, if I recall), after Muldoon scrapped it; and never went back.

Everyone else in that office had seen what was happening (it was open-plan for ordinary workers – only managers got enclosed offices).

Not one person said or did anything. Not one.

And all the while – and this is a memory I retain decades later – I can remember the smiling and grinning on his face. He was enjoying my discomfort. That’s how he was getting his ‘jollies’.

People like that; they get pleasure from the discomfort of others. For them, it’s “horse play”.

It was my entrance into the world of being an adult.

So,  to hell with those who try to excuse Key’s behaviour. They are the enablers who allow bullies – whether it be a senior shipping clerk, or a Prime Minister – to keep raping a person’s mind.





The Daily Blog: EXCLUSIVE – The Prime Minister and the Waitress

TVNZ News:  I won’t apologise – PM on diplomat case

NZ Herald: John Key – Pony-tail pulling ‘just horsing around’


Amy Adams, MP for Selwyn: Prime Minister John Key jokes with Brooke Coburn about cutting her hair (Hat-tip:  Greg Presland)

NZ Herald: Audrey Young – Today I’m embarrassed John Key is Prime Minister




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  1. Thank you for that.
    Nothing changes. The Billingsley and the waitress stories demonstrate a society largely lacking in empathy. “I’m all right Jack so everything’s well with the world” is the way. And “thank goodness it’s happening to someone else not me.”

    • Yep Paul Henry – gobshite mouthpiece for Key and his ilk – banged on about about the complaint being “politically motivated”, loudly and vociferously aiming to re-tell the narrative so that it’s the victim’s fault. Paul Henry gave 5 things we needed to know for the day, two of which involved a politically motivated smear of the PM by a lowly waitress. Re-writing reality like most right-wing sycophants do. …”the reality is….” Here are some more get out of jail free cards for the PM to play.

      She shouldn’t have grown her hair long enough for a ponytail.
      The PM had his hand raised calling for a waiter and muttering “Don’t you know who I am?” and AB’s hair accidentally fell into his hand.
      The PM has long-running support from many AB’s including Richie and PM thought that it was OK to get close and personal with another AB.
      Bronagh pushed the PM playfully, as she often does and the PM overbalanced and used AB’s hair to steady himself.
      The PM’s wine sales are not going as well as they have been since $1,000 a head fund-raisers have come under scrutiny, so it was a good chance to get rid of a couple of pinot, before they age too much.

      So many reasons for an innocent touch of the hair and then this furore – which is politically motivated blows up. How about these narratives for Tuesday morning Paul Henry? More gobshite that diverts the truth and blames the victim of abuse, not the perpetrator.

      Roger Sutton did the right thing and resigned his lucrative government job when he was caught out for inappropriate touching.

      We would expect no less from the PM to resign from his Government position forthwith. Gobshite that sequitur argument Paul Henry!

  2. I wish I hadn’t read that- you’ve brought back far too many uncomfortable memories. It’s hard to believe now the behaviour we felt we had to put up with (or couldn’t put up with, as the case may be) – or that it’s still going on!!

      • Bring it all out Frank he deserves all he gets he a disgrace,and so are people who blame the victim just scumbags and THEY ARE politically motivated.Same old same old blame the opposition .

    • Sexual harassment didn’t exist in the 1990s even. Being a plain and unattractive female, in my late 20s, I had the experience of a ‘powerful’ European man run his fingers down my spine as I was working at my desk. The man was well known for his ‘prowess’ etc and women were lining up, rumour had it, so I may actually have enjoyed ti in the moment. Had he done this to me more than once, however, I imagine I would have told him NO! These days I would have turned around and kneed him where it hurts … so John Key, you may have been getting your jollies tormenting the waitress, but she certainly wasn’t as she clearly told you NO!

  3. In the 80s I worked with a man who is now married to a prominent right wing New Zealand woman. He liked ‘horsing around’. We were at the same level in the workplace and he only pinched my bottom once, because I turned around and slapped him in the face straightaway. More junior staff, some in their teens, told me how, if they met him coming the other way down a corridor, he would block their way and try and make a game about them getting past him without him grabbing them. I’m sure he thought it was all fun, they hated it. I now wish I had done something at the time to bring him to account for his behaviour.

  4. Frank, I’m so sorry that happened to you at the young age of 16/17.

    You’ve painted a clear picture of why people who are harassed don’t complain. Why the power imbalance keeps them silent.

    When they do complain the mainstream asks all kinds of questions focussing on the behaviour of the person being harassed, which has the effect of making the victim second guess their behaviour and think they did something wrong. This is why focus on behaviour of victims is so horrible and we shouldn’t do it.

    Key has proved he does not think attempted rape is a serious thing, he is happy to harass young women while he has his security detail beside him, and he refused to compensate women who had been raped by NZ police.

    He’s proving he doesn’t care. He just doesn’t care.

      • and Judith Collins and Stephen Joyce and all the other
        co-dependent bullies who praise and defend a person with
        such low ethics and an ” infantile understanding of truth and responsibility. ”

        Frank – thanks for your honesty and maturity and sharing more that hopefully will help others to see some of the many ugly sides of abuse.

        What is so sad to me is that most do not see
        through donkey jonkey’s phony facade.
        That smile of his ! ! ?#@?*^FS %#)&HD(#%GV
        They believe a drama story rather than seeing the whole picture.
        They think he walks on water rather than sliding into quick sand.
        How much longer do you think it will take before he buries himself
        and the ” Hundredth Monkey Theory ” kicks in and we wake up and lead the world in how to get it right finally ? Dreams are good.

  5. Horrible. I wish more men would speak up about their experiences. Bullying and harassment of any kind are too easily dismissed as “angry woman syndrome” or “she’s too sensitive” or “she’s probably got a personality disorder” or “she’s probably a lesbian, mate”. It’s about power and control, as anyone who has ever attended one of those seminars on domestic violence will know.
    It fascinates me to read that you did what so many women will do – you chose to leave the situation. I don’t have a judgement around that, I think if you can leave, it’s the best way to get an obviously very toxic person out of your life. But it shows that the dynamic is probably “the same” regardless of gender.
    He sounds like a thoroughly nasty piece of work.

    • Janice – you’re 100% right, “But it shows that the dynamic is probably “the same” regardless of gender.”

      I recall it was all I wanted at the time. I just wanted him out of my life and away from me. The easiest thing (back then – not so much now, with high unemployment) was to just leave. It didn’t occur to me to do something about it. At 16 (almost 17) I had no idea. Probably nothing. I remember feeling very embarressed, as if it was something I should be doing something, but couldn’t figure out what…

      • They make people feel a lot of shame. I think what you’re describing is something that anyone who has ever been bullied would recognise, that feeling that it’s somehow you’re fault, or other people will think it’s your fault if you tell someone. One of the best things I have read on bullies is that you can never win them over, ever, so don’t even try. If you feel that someone is targeting you, you have to trust yourself and accept that they are.
        Then you “go computer” and keep all of your interactions as boring as possible with them, whatever part you can control, so they get limited emotional feedback from you. Then you start keeping a written record of everything that sets your alarm bells ringing. The hardest part, in some ways, I think, is finding someone you actually trust to hear you out and who has the EQ to understand what you’re explaining. Professional counsellors can be good, but I think a lot of people do end up leaving the workplace because the management haven’t got the will or training to understand the situation. Besides which, if the person is a chronic bully, according to what I’ve read, they don’t change. They’re too sadistic, and they enjoy your suffering, I think that’s the type of person you met.
        A good book is “In Sheep’s Clothing” by George Simon (Ph.D). Dude is no fool! Also, website Loads of info. None of us are perfect, I can certainly think of times when I should have reined it in, but concerted bullying is different, and chronic bullies are not people you want to get all, geez, poor guy, he probably had a really bad childhood….over.

    • I remember, when he’d come onto the floor when my desk was, that I’d keep my head down, hoping he wouldn’t notice me. It was more like a “red rag” to a bull and just egged him on even more. His face would suddenly be close to mine, whispering something into my ear. (I can’t recall what it was. I just wanted him gone.)

        • “Sadistic”… yes, that is certainly the impression I gained from him. I can remember his smiling and grinning, and it was obvious he enjoyed himself. And I’m fairly sure he read my body language, as I tried pulling away from him, in my chair. A blind person would have noticed.

  6. “The problem for Key is that his (not hers) “lots of horsing” was non-censual
    I assume this is meant to be “consensual”? No need to publish my post.

  7. Who are the low lifes down voting these posts? Is it just ‘I’ll go to TDB and down vote everything. Because it’s a left wing blog. Just because. And I’m really bored today” Or are they just really really sick people

    • @Brigid – it’s the same two or three that vote everything down because they are paid Nat Trolls – Nehemia Wall, Amy (probably Judith) and Ryan Simpson.

      They come over here and vote down anything sensible.

  8. Thankyou Frank for sharing your story. What is frightening is this man – John – has absolutely no concept of her point of view. A person who has this lack of understanding, empathy, the ability to reflect, have insight into oneself, is a psychopath and it is reflected in his very dead eyes and associated behaviour and decision making. Given such a state of self entitlement and lack of regard for the ordinary person, he is not capable of being in charge and even sending our troops overseas. This man is dangerous. The sad thing is, people are in awe of people like him precisely because they have millions in the bank. In every other capacity he is underdeveloped as a human being.

  9. I well remember the workplace bullying, and intimidation from my teens….. One person would constantly be “coming on” to me while the rest looked on and laughed… The feelings of rage and frustration I felt then translated to, once I was past my junior status, me going so far as to bailing people up against walls, or fronting them directly when I saw them doing the same to the young’uns… for the man that has portrayed himself as “the leader of our society” to indulge in what is blatant, and frankly.(no pun), cowardly bullying, is a stain on all of us….

    The fact that this appalling behaviour is both informed, and enabled by the national party ethos of “might is right” is a telling indicator of why this group of self serving parasites are unfit to lead, and shape our societies development towards maturity…..

    One thing I can guarantee, is that the only argument I will get from the tory bootlickers against my assertion will amount to name calling, and more name calling… It’s really all they have… ganging up and bullying…Everything else they speak amounts to mindless repetition of mantas they were taught as children….

  10. I thought Key’s referring to Kim Dotcom as Laila Harre’s “sugar daddy” was also very telling.

  11. That took a lot of courage to write Frank. You’ll be targetted by quite a few National and Act supporters and their bloggers. You’re a tough bugger though. It really shows in your character.

    By the way, to those two people “down voting’ the message here, you should be ashamed of yourselves. You cowardly actions are every bit as bullying as the character in Frank’s story. Shame!

  12. There was a sexual harassment case at the NZ Herald back in the early 80’s. The creep had molested some of the young cadets who worked there. The case was brought by an older woman , probably because she had more confidence, and managers investigated the case. As far as I can tell the managers at the Herald at that time acted appropriately and he was sacked. I was impressed at the time. They had some standards back in the day.

  13. A trait belonging to such people:

    Sadism: The tendency to derive pleasure, especially sexual gratification, from inflicting pain, suffering, or humiliation on others.

    Further, putting events in context, it’s disgusting how the media frequently replayed that “I’m sorry for being a man” clip taken well out of context. Then there was that photo of Key wearing that “I’m not sorry for being a man” tee-shirt. Demonstrates the contempt towards issues of violence and harassment towards women and the vulnerable, and instead we see pride taken in some archaic boorish masculinity.

    Unfurling events seem to demonstrate what I suspected for some time, much of the coarse and negligent “leadership” we experience in the world today probably emanates from sexually perverted drives.

  14. Many thanks for this account Frank. I have been in a similar situation in my workplace in the mid 1960s when I was about the same age as you were.

    I won’t go into it, but I wasn’t the only one affected by a particular revolting work colleague’s lecherous behaviour towards us younger female staff. And he got enormous enjoyment out of seeing us squirm and recoil from his lewd gestures and advances!

    Despite law changes to protect people from the unwanted attention of someone else, situations such as this still prevail! And the most disturbing part is the fact many of these creeps still manage to get away with their offences!

    I’d put Key into the category of lecher, because he knew his behaviour was upsetting the waitress concerned, but continued to indulge his warped pleasure at her expense for over seven months!

    I hope this issue is not dropped and forgotten about. It needs to be taken to a high level and appropriately addressed.

  15. Sending you aroha and a safe hug Frank. When I was still in my teens I got my first real media job, with a high profile well respected married boss.
    I certainly respected him – until he started making remarks when we both somehow happened to get in the lift at the same time like ‘If you ever get tired of shagging your boyfriend, I’d be keen.’ I made it clear I wasn’t. He kept bringing it up.
    I resent being so jaded so young about men I should have the faith to respect. On the other hand, sad as this is, I’m glad I learnt a lesson I shouldn’t have to learn so young too.

    • Thanks, Rachel. Yes, I get what you mean about your experience. It’s like they think boundaries just don’t exist for them.

      I had an interesting message from someone today who read my blogpost and she made an interesting observation (personal) that I found quite insightful…

      We discussed it later over the phone and she understood fully about how the harassment seemed more to be about his enjoyment of my discomfort than his touching/nearness to me. (The elevator incident was definitely getting his thrills from the touching, and getting away with it.)

      If there’s anything that came out of that experience, all those many years ago, it’s made me more conscious of the problem (I refuse to call these things an “issue”), including ensuring my own behaviour always remains appropriate.

      Again, thank you for the safe hug. (I assume it wasn’t the land shaking, today! ) 🙂

  16. I couldn’t write something like that let alone proof it. I’m pleased you could Frank and I take my hat off.

    I do remember encountering an individual familiar to me, in a lengthy Bank queue in central Auckland years later. I recall standing right behind him staring at the back of his head with spinning emotions weighing up my options. Should I say “Hi, remember me?” or should I take the full weighted cheap shot … after all, so far it had cost him nothing. With a vision of the cuffs being snapped around my wrists it became plain I was once again powerless. Anything I did or said would only reveal my ongoing discomfort.

    I guess the point is, once you’ve been rendered powerless by those taking advantage of imbalances, it’s very difficult – almost impossible – to get it back, The power they have to initiate it, is the same power they have to walk away and the moral void remains. AB is discovering this fact I fear

  17. Gee, Frank, I’m terribly sorry you went through that, it was an awful thing for a young, guileless bloke to have to deal with, and it sounds like you were working among a pretty gutless crew too. You were better off out of it, away from the lot of them. And you’re right, it was a Key-esque experience. Quite sickening. It should be sent as a letter to the editor because it’s so well explained in all its repulsiveness that I’m sure it would help a lot of the doubters get a much clearer insight into the wretched experience this young woman went through, literally at the hands of our leader. No one should have to go through what either of you did. All these apologists should be ashamed of themselves. Clearly, they’re incapable of pushing aside their Hosking-like adoration of the man for two minutes and putting themselves in the victim’s shoes.

  18. “I don’t make apologies unless there’s a serious reason to.” — John Key. Well, he apologised to Amanda Bailey. Thus, he knew that it was not just “a bit of banter.”

    By the way Frank, thank you for bravely sharing your story <3

  19. …. and what about the part in all this of NZ Herald’s reporter Rachael Glucina – she is ‘in bed’ with Cameron Slater.

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