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PM 'concerned, frustrated' with Labour Party process after sexual assault allegation

The Prime Minister is "incredibly frustrated and deeply disappointed" at the way Labour has handled an investigation into a party staffer, after an allegation of sexual assault was reported today. 

The alleged sexual assault was published today by The Spinoff - said to have occurred in February of 2018, with the complainant claiming the person had significant influence and connections within the party.

An investigation panel was set up by Labour's highest governing body, the NZ Council, earlier this year.

The woman says she expressly detailed to the panel the sexual assault allegation in March. However, the Spinoff reported the Labour Party disputed it was told of a sexual assault, either at the initial meeting, or at the investigation panel hearing.

Today, the Prime Minister says she is "deeply concerned and incredibly frustrated" at the reports of sexual assault allegations. 

"I was informed at the very beginning that the allegations made were not sexual in nature," she said during a weekly press conference that follows her Cabinet meeting. 

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The PM says the staffer has been stood down from the precinct while inquiries are carried out.

"It was a month ago I expressed complete dissatisfaction with the way it had been handled by the Labour Party.

"I sought assurances originally that these complaints were not sexual in nature, in part because it would be entirely inappropriate for the Labour Party to investigate," Ms Ardern said. 

"I was given an assurance they were not. Obviously now there is very different information."

When asked if the person at the centre of the allegations was working at Parliament, Ms Ardern said they had not been in the precinct for about five weeks, and would not be for the duration of the inquiry by a QC.  

She said the process now sits with the QC.

"I'm incredibly frustrated and deeply disappointed by the way this has been handled," she said. 

"It will be clear to you that I have had differing accounts relayed to me. I do need a third party - someone who is a trusted, reliable individual - to give me a sense of clarity and I will act decisively on the findings of that report.

"I want to make it very clear I am deeply concerned and incredibly frustrated by the process undertaken by Labour Party, but also obviously by the nature of the allegations."

Ms Ardern said the NZ Council was not "the appropriate place" to undertake inquiries around behaviour of members of the Labour Party. 

"Particularly, they are not the appropriate place to ever undertake an investigation into a sexual assault. That would be their view too."

In the wake of the allegations a group claiming to be Labour Party members - known as Me Too Labour - have called on the party's president Nigel Haworth to resign.

They have also written an open letter to Ms Ardern, with a list of changes they say need to be made to how the party handles such accusations.

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Jacinda Ardern expressed her concerns today during a post-Cabinet meeting press conference. Source: 1 NEWS