Power has apparently gone to John Key’s head. Nothing exemplifies this better than his initiation of a witch-hunt against the public servant allegedly responsible for the mishandling of the case of of the Malaysian diplomat accused of sexual assault.
In consequence there is now a second victim, coincidentally a woman, and that is the public servant. Silence is her only option. The Prime Minister has effectively called for her to resign. That is constructive dismissal. He has exposed her to trial by public opinion. That flouts our employment laws and her right to natural justice. His words were: “Justice should be undertaken in New Zealand through our legal process, not offshore. If that person doesn’t have clarity about that position, then they ought to think very strongly about their exact position”. Within 24 hours of his ‘assault’ on her competence, she was named in the media. How her name was obtained was not explained.
Only this morning, I was pleased to find that the Public Service Association had issued a statement pointing out that Key’s comments breach the Cabinet Manual and the State Sector Act. No big headlines however.
The Prime Minister’s call for an inquiry to be headed by John Allen, the head of Mfat, is ludicrous.
Allen’s role, or more inaccurately lack of role in the process, is beyond belief. He cannot head it. Ministry heads are paid handsomely to do their job which is to ensure workers clearly understand their roles and properly carry out their duties in compliance with clear descriptions of policy and protocols.
Allen also has a duty to his staff. He cannot stand idly by and let a rampaging politician savage them. That is totally out of order. Was the head of the State Services Commission immediately called in to restrain the Prime Minister from doing further damage? The public servant has been condemned before the inquiry has even been set up. That prejudices its outcome. The baying media hounds have made the situation worse by publicly naming her. She must be devastated. Her career is quite probably in tatters. It is also possible she has been defamed. I don’t know if Key was speaking in Parliament under parliamentary privilege when he called for her resignation. The taxpayer may rue his actions. The media may rue theirs.
The lives of the two women in this case will never be the same again. One may see her alleged attacker bought to justice in New Zealand. It is not impossible that the Prime Minister’s intemperate conduct and media coverage, accompanied by a photo of the accused, may cause the Malaysian Government to wonder if he can receive a fair trial here and rethink its decision to return the diplomat. Justice, however, may be beyond the reach of the public servant.
The Prime Minister feels strongly about the issue of violence towards women. He should look in the mirror and reflect on his own actions. Arguably they are a serious ‘assault’ on the right of a public servant (of either gender) to a fair hearing. This ugly scenario is redolent Muldoon’s attack on journalist Simon Walker. My recall is that the media rallied to Walker’s defence. In this case the media appear to have become the current Prime Minister’s baying hounds. That is indefensible.