MEDIA WATCH: Does Andrea Vance’s defence of Paula Bennett lead to neo-Salem Witch Trials?

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Paula thanking herself for being so amazing

Andrea Vance is one of NZs best political Journalists and she has written a staunch defence of Paula Bennett while attacking anyone criticising Paula’s politicking of the Labour sex assault allegations.

There is much to commend in Vance’s defence of Bennett but there are also two glaring problems which threaten to sink her entire argument beneath an ocean of troubles.

Firstly, Vance is 100% right about not criticising the complainants for approaching Bennett. If you feel that you have not been treated fairly by a process and wish to complain to any Politician, that is your total right. The attempts by some to paint this as dirty politics demeans the term and those who are complaining.

That some complainants were outraged by the process and the tone deaf response form Labour and approached Bennett is a reflection on the Labour Party process, not them.

The Labour Party should have immediately welcomed and thanked those complaining for having the courage to step forward with their truth. The Labour Party then should have offered immediate free counselling for everyone involved, stepped down the staff member on full pay for the duration of the inquiry and been transparent with the complainants over the evidence provided and the findings of that process so that those complainants at least felt they had been listened to and heard, whatever the outcome.

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If the decision was to clear the staff member, the reasons for that needed to be specific. That Labour mishandled the sensitivities of this and were too clumsy in the process seeded the resentment that leads people to go to Paula Bennett and complain.

Vance is also right in attacking some of the political responses to this. Shane Jones jaw dropping comment that he was more worried about the Spark world cup coverage was as jarring as it was ugly.

However, where Vance trips and falls is in her glossing over of Bennett as the defender of victim rights.

While there is no dirty politics here and while the complainants can’t be criticised for their choice of messenger, the messenger herself can certainly be attacked.

Paula is the champion of victims is she?

No apology from Bennett over leaked income data

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett has refused to apologise to a single mother whose income details she released in 2009 – and will not rule out taking the same action again in the future.

The Director of the Office of Human Rights Proceedings Robert Hesketh yesterday said a privacy breach complaint by single mother Natasha Fuller against Ms Bennett in 2009 had been resolved and no proceedings would be taken.

The same Paula who wrongfully maligned state tenants for a meth hysteria that Paula herself helped generate is the champion of victims is she?

Babies living in P contaminated houses

Social Housing Minister Paula Bennett said the high rate of methamphetamine was “particularly distressing”.

“Any situation where methamphetamine use has been found in social housing is unacceptable, but the number of young children in this case makes it particularly distressing,” she said.

The same Paula who only stood up for the ‘victims’ of Jami-Lee Ross when it was politically expedient to do so is the champion of victims is she?

Marriage comment about Jami-Lee Ross is ‘vicious’ tactic

National deputy leader Paula Bennett said the leadership team raised issues with Ross – but it wasn’t about harassment.

“At no point was the matter of sexual harassment ever put to Jami-Lee Ross,” Bennett told the Herald.

“What was put to him was inappropriate behaviour that is unacceptable from a married Member of Parliament.”

Those examples are not as Vance describes them, ‘crass whataboutery’, if there are issues with how Labour handled an allegation of serious sexual assault, Paula Bennett is the last person to be making political capital out of that.

The second glaring problem that sinks Vance’s defence of Bennett however is the most concerning.

In the face of a legal system that requires objective evidence and fails to prosecute sexual abusers effectively, the post #MeToo culture war and social media landscape demands that allegation is the new evidential threshold and due process a cis-male privilege.

Vance’s entire position is underpinned by the presumption that the Labour Party staffer is guilty based on only the allegations made against him. Damien Grant covers this issue off in his latest column that Stuff has hidden online in the hope that it doesn’t generate a #MeToo backlash from the Wellington Twitteratti.

Moving to a presumption of guilt based on only allegation is a neo-Salem Witch Trial moment that will solve little in terms of the power imbalance between the accused and the accuser.

In the age of subjective rage where any micro aggression can escalate to a hate crime in the space of 2 tweets, a neo-Salem Witch Trial era will have all the nuance of Mao’s Cultural Revolution.

To watch a journalist with the mana of Vance gleefully take that step is eye opening because it creates a political environment ripe for backlash.

Last years vicious Kavanaugh confirmation hearings created this very backlash and robbed Democrats of wins that they should have picked up to defeat Trump with.

Mothers and Fathers watching the baying mob of the woke who believed allegation is evidence went from worrying about their daughters being sexually assaulted to worrying about their sons being accused of sexual assault.

I think the same dynamics will play out here with the benefactor being NZ First.

Meanwhile the accusers, the accused and the Party trusted with providing a process of justice have all been let down while the Prime Minister has been smeared with claims she covered up a serious sexual assault.

Nobody limps away from this unharmed.

26 COMMENTS

  1. Vance i dont really take any notice of her shit she writes she is bias and it is obvious to speak nicely of such a nasty divisive person (pulla) and we all know her intentions are to hurt the opposition while making out she is there to help the victim well i guess its birds of a feather stick together

  2. One aspect that seems to have been glossed over is that the alleged course of events happened in someone’s private home. (The complainant volunteer ‘Sarah’ had gone to the home of the then-staffer, which is where whatever happened.)

    Now while the Nats may have little hesitation in ordering police to storm someone’s home, to confiscate their computers, hardware, software, kid’s toys and the dog’s lead (well, just ask Nicky Hager and his family for precise details), – Labour take a more measured approach.

    Which raises some questions:
    To what extent are the government, any government, responsible for what happens in peoples homes?
    To what extent are they or should they be able to dictate whatever behaviour in people’s homes, and at what point does an allegation necessarily become, rather, a matter for legal and court proceedings?

    • Good point, Kheala, about Sarah’s event taking place in a private home. This raises complications categorising it as either (a) a workplace issue, or (b) a political issue. (c) is that apparently Sarah herself did not approach Bennett about it, and (d) Bennett is apparently relying on second or third hand information about Sarah. Not something I would do.

      Andrea Vance, who is usually one of the better political commentators, may have missed the implications of this; one might expect Simon Bridges to bring Bennett up to speed on the legal aspects, but as his own wife says that he’s a dirty little street fighter, these may be overly great expectations.

      The Nats didn’t order the police to search Hager’s home; they can’t do that; the police obtained a search warrant from a district court judge. They were likely looking for a small usb – and it could take days to find a usb in many family homes – almost impossible in some kids’ bedrooms. (Steven Spielberg’s mum once found a family of lizards in his.)

      Your last questions are so big. From them arise the wrath of those still yelping away about Sue Bradford’s anti-smacking bill.

      Some -not me – say that what grown-ups do to children is their own business, and that the govt should not interfere. I repeated this to a transgender friend with a violent alcoholic mother who also spent parts of her childhood in foster homes, and she responded passionately, “Oh yes they should.”

      If I tell the police I have been assaulted and if what happened to me is a criminal offence, then it is a matter for legal proceedings – if it can be proven. The police are – depending on the offence – less likely to take action if there is no evidence, and therefore a successful prosecution is unlikely.

      Not all sex stuff is necessarily a criminal offence – even if it’s plain bad – but the police are good on family violence now and are called out about it I think about every 10 minutes in NZ.

      • “are called out about it I think about every 10 minutes in NZ.”

        Yes, horrific numbers.

        I don’t believe it has to be that way. We desperately need a culture change…

        • Yes Kheala, culture change. If you ever get the chance to read it,Jock Phillip’s revised edition of “A Man’s Country?” shows how Pakeha males developed the way they did – though it suits people to try and make violence a Maori/Pacifica issue, which is total crap. Nice white middle class people are better at hiding things and protecting each other – they still hold most of the power.

          The issues of bullying in the Parliamentary precinct, the seat of power, are probably worse than most workplaces, and inexcusable in that these men and women (women bully too you know) are theoretically reasonably well educated, and they should know better.

          It’s a shame that the current LP complainants went to Bennett, who would have been my last choice, and I find it bizarre. Worse that it’s being used for political point scoring, including by media – but many of them are more concerned with showing off to each other, which is irresponsible if they whip up more emotion for the sake of a fleeting headline. And they know it.

  3. ” Vance’s entire position is underpinned by the presumption that the Labour Party staffer is guilty based on only the allegations made against him ”

    And that is precisely why we don’t have real , objective professional non biased journalists in this country.

    All of this is alleged and the Labour party can blame itself for the way this has been handled and the fallout.

    Paula Bennett is the last person who should be championing this as her record is hardly untarnished.

    You don’t give your enemy your gun and ask him or her not too shoot you with it.

    I am waiting for the outcome of the enquiry before i sum up the whole situation and so should Vance and the other Money Market mouthpieces.

  4. Attacking Bennett’s past history (albeit not unwarranted) undermines the alleged victims she is currently the voice of.

    Hence, it’s a defensive move Labour and their defenders in this matter need to avoid. Unless they want to be seen as trying to undermine the alleged victims, which of course doesn’t improve the public perception of their handling of this.

    Undermining alleged victims of sexual assault (albeit indirectly) is not a good look. Especially when your handling of this is initially in question.

    As for being innocent until proven guilty. The defence being put forward is there were no allegations made, hence there is nothing to be guilty of. Which again undermines the alleged victims who claim to have made the allegations.

  5. Vance has taken a side. She believes the accusers, so any conflicting accounts are due to opposite side lying. As much as Vance is defending Bennett, she really defending her own view – the assault happened and those who dismiss or downplay it are wrong.

    This could have played out differently. Labour could have acted on the complaints and dismissed the accused. The staffer, offended at the outcome, gets a lawyer and wants compensation for unfair dismissal and to have his name cleared of sexual assault. The very same Paula Bennett would now be asking if Labour believed men had the right to be innocent until proven guilty. She would want to know why Labour did not take something as serious as sexual assault to the police. She would wonder if good, honest men were safe anywhere under a Labour-led government that was so clearly leaning toward extreme feminist thinking and trying to be #MeToo champions.

    As for why the accusers went to Bennett, they have stated their reasons. But perhaps they were driven by spite when they did not get the outcome they desired.

  6. Come on, was a lot of this angst on behalf of these volunteers to do with bullying with the sexual assault featuring later if not at all if some are to be believed.

    That they went to someone as toxic as Bennett was meant to be as destructive as they could possibly get. Revenge, nuclear option 101. As I’ve said before, taking the sexual assault to court after the Bennett option has rendered the matter zero chance of justice now.

    It’s not just this, there is a full on effort at the moment to destroy Jacinda from other angles too.

    The Nat’s know, if Jacinda’s reputation survives, they stand less of a chance of winning.

    It stinks!

    As for Vance defending Bennett, that stinks too!

  7. Vance, and all the other “commentators” have commitments to deadlines. Sometimes nothing much happens, so the keyboard or the internet gets interviewed.

    Occasionally carefully crafted network links happen to produce media gold, not often.

    Occasionally something blows up out of “left field”, an Americanism not applicable to any NZ media commentators (including Matthew Hooton).

    They all have media voids to fill. They will say anything to fill it, otherwise they don’t get paid.

    What they say only plays to our biases/scepticism. It keeps advertisers happy.

    What Vance really thinks about Bennet (and vice versa) we will never know.

    Bennet adopting the moral high ground is a bit sickening ,given her contempt for beneficiaries.

    Hypocrisy becomes the National Party. They protect semi automatic firearms and deride those that wish to ban them. Massacred people do not matter or count (as in bodies).

    If Vance, and her ilk, spoke about deliberate National Party neglect of our social services over nine years they might get some deserved attention.

    OH NO! It has to embarrass someone , preferably a high ranking politician, plus there is a sexual angle, even better. That drag the readers/viewers/listeners in.

    Boring shit like homelessness, ill health, hunger, child neglect, physical violence, drug addiction etc, etc do not matter.

  8. I have been trying hard to keep an open mind on this issue, which is becoming more conflicting all he time.

    Paula Bennett’s direct involvement, combined with the non involvement of police investigating alleged assault offences (one of an alleged serious violent sexual nature which allegedly took place at a private residence) and now along with Andrea Vance’s recent biased, nonobjective reporting, I’m beginning to wonder what the truth is! Is there any constructive evidence to support either side?

    Is it possible that this has been constructed to attack Labour, in particular to smear Jacinda Ardern, who is a threat to National?

  9. Andrea Who? Sorry but I haven’t bothered reading any of her ‘articles’ for such a long time that I no longer know who she supposedly is and what political party she appears to be now directly associated with i.e National.
    But that awful photo of the woman with the toilet brush hairdo(aka Paula Bennett)certainly is a shocker. She(Bennett)doesn’t look like a normal human being anymore. Posing like a trollop says alot about her indeed.
    Amazing thing about the Toilet Brush Hairdo person(Paula Bennett)but would she had been sending flowers to ordinary NZers especially beneficiaries that criticised her beloved NZ National Party whilst there was, unfortunately, a National government? Or would she has simply slipped in a microphone into that bunch of flowers in the hope of breaching ordinary NZers rights to privacy even after surgery?
    Out of all this but Paula Bennett is the last person on the planet one would want to trust confidential information with because she is totally incapable of keeping things private when it comes to ordinary NZers and perhaps Winston Peters to begin with. Besides she boasted she wouldn’t have any hesitation on breaching a person’s right to privacy whenever the opportunity presented it self.
    Hardly the qualities one deems acceptable for a credible politician in my honest opinion. But then Paula Bennett got away with alot in the John Key years which now makes me and probably many others question exactly was going on with those two for him to constantly turn a blind eye to her actions however badly reflecting they are upon the NZ National Party????!!!!

    • JustMe – I keep thinking back to what I’d have done at 18. Certainly it wouldn’t have occurred to me to go to an opposition political party. But if it were today, and I needed a nice kindly maternal sort of political person to go to, it would be Eugenie Sage, Tracey Martin, or Megan Woods, and there’s maybe others I can’t think of – but certainly not you know who.

      You are so awful judging a woman on her hair do ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.
      How many of us ever get to look like what we are really are ? Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.

      Spare some kind thoughts for the elderly lady who Peters passed Bennett’s flowers to – there’s something about that scenario which makes me rather uneasy- I don’t see why he didn’t biff them out the window or hide them under his mattress.

    • “She(Bennett)doesn’t look like a normal human being anymore. ”
      Actually, every time I see her in one of her multiple leopard skin suits, I think Paula’s been hiding in a bush ready to pounce. Sums her up perfectly.

      • bert – It’s Bennett’s choice if she gets around permanently dressed for Halloween. Maybe some guy late some October told her to be prepared, and she took it the wrong way, or maybe she used to be a boy scout, or perhaps she’s trying to frighten Shane Jones, Winston Peters, Simon Bridges, Grant Robertson, etc

        It’s the complainants who are of concern, and I hope the QC’s inquiry doesn’t drag out too long – ERA Mediation could have sorted all this in a morning.One concern is the position these young women may have put themselves in by giving away information about themselves.

        During the J-L R happenings too much colourful and possibly fictional information was aired which was none of our business, muck-raking, and insensitive to whanau.

        • Snow White, it is very surprising, given it was Bennett these complainants went too, that Bennett hasn’t named the complainants in the media, she has history? Of course when the complainants are on the benefit and accusing her government and her own ministry, she’s more than happy to name them and stated she will do so again. She can cry me a river all she likes but Bennett is a mongrel and this is just for her political benefit, nothing more nothing less, Bennett has no moral compass!

          • bert – Yep, if my memory is correct, the two women Bennett outed to the media re the TIA got Ombudsman or Privacy Commission support, but Bennett seemed undeterred by this. Next was Te Puea kaumatua Hurimoana Dennis doing an outstanding job helping the homeless. As a professional courtesy he told her that he was being investigated by his employer, and the next thing is he’s being shopped to the media too. That stank.

            Confidences are often shared as a professional courtesy, but this is the first occasion I have seen in NZ of this type of interaction being seemingly treated as a matter for public consumption.

            The implications are such that professional persons could struggle to regard Bennett as a reliable recipient of confidential information – and there are times it could be important or even vital for police, teachers, doctors, nurses, journalists etc to share relevant personal information, but if they do so to someone who proceeds to inappropriately disclose it, then they could be held liable themselves, so it is a biggie, and I don’t know if she appreciates this.

            The LP complainants issues are now, I think, being investigated by a QC, and Bennett could stuff up those proceedings if she spilled their personal information to the salacious media – at this stage.

            Dennis and the two TIA ladies had no such “protection”. One can only hope that when the QC reaches her findings, that they are framed in a way that protects them all. I’m assuming that the complainants want a solution.

            Standard employment settlements do have confidentiality clauses, and this one most certainly should.

  10. The simplest thing could be to just ban all heterosexual males from Parliament – they’re not worth the trouble – not like they’re All Blacks or anything useful. They could drive buses. If they can find them.

    A pleasing alternative could be having harmless flirtatious Frenchmen – wearing Italian suits – but I doubt whether the press gallery could cope with that – they’ve not always been squeaky clean themselves.

  11. Seriously – Beneficiaries who are single mothers have been historically financially penalised for refusing to name the father of their child, leaving mother and child, scraping to survive.

    The reasons appear complex, but some apparently have been trying to sever, escape from, or not disclose gang contacts, or possibly they just fear the father, given our rate of intimate partner violence. It is not hard to imagine some males beating women if the IRD or whoever, chases them up for child support.

    But every single one of us should be able to be confident that personal information provided to a govt dept
    does remain confidential.

    Most, perhaps all govt depts, sack employees who access computer files for non work related purposes. We see cops fired for it, and I gather that at the IRD, it’s instant dismissal. In the case of the two TIA women, it was actually the Minister, who had their files accessed, and then disclosed personal information to the media.

    It is not clear who disclosed Winston Peter’s NZ Super over-payment to the media, but what is clear, is that none of our personal information is safe when National is in power, and when so much has been documented about how very dirty they are.

    Doubtless there may also be people who would not want health issues inappropriately known or revealed, or their criminal records or relatives publicly disclosed.

    One of the worst aspects of the Peter’s debacle, was that all the Nats involved were obviously abysmally unaware that this was an ordinary run of the mill WINZ cock-up.They got themselves all excited over a not-uncommon event.

    Human error occurs. In the worst cases beneficiaries can be crushed when WINZ over-pays and then bills them; a woman in Lower Hutt committed suicide due to WINZ erroneously thinking that she owed them money. Peters was more fortunate as he was able to repay them.

    To my way of thinking, Paula Bennett does not have a particularly edifying record in using the media for her own purposes, and one can only hope that whatever the harassment complainants have disclosed about themselves or others to her, that it is not later used in behaviour inappropriate for a Member of Parliament.

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