Inquiry finds Husar behaved badly to staff but dismisses allegations of lewd conduct


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

The inquiry into Labor MP Emma Husar’s conduct has upheld complaints that she behaved unreasonably towards her staff, but rejected claims of lewd conduct and misleading the parliament.

These are the central findings of the independent assessment by barrister John Whelan, commissioned by the NSW Labor party. The party said the legal advice, based on this assessment, was that there was “no basis” for Husar to resign from parliament.

Husar, who is in her first term, announced this week she would quit at the election.

NSW Labor issued a summary of the Whelan inquiry’s findings on Friday.




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The assessment said the allegation of misuse of public entitlements should be referred to the Independent Parliamentary Expenses Authority for audit, and noted Husar had advised she was referring herself.

It found allegations of sexual harassment, on the balance of probabilities and Briginshaw Standard, were not supported. Nor were claims that she behaved in a lewd manner in the office of Labor frontbencher Jason Clare.

But complaints that staff performed non-work related and personal duties for Husar had merit – “even accounting for the particular nature of political offices”. They should be referred to the Department of Finance’s Ministerial and Parliamentary Services for advice about the appropriate employment guidelines issued to MPs, the assessment said.

It also found merit in complaints that “staff were subjected to unreasonable management, including unreasonable communication, demands, practices and disciplinary methods”.

The assessment outlined the two contrasting perceptions of what had happened that it had been given.

Husar argued “she manages appropriately to achieve higher standards of performance and loyalty. And does so under a heavy workload, intense personal stress and a desire to serve Western Sydney and in particular the cause of victims of domestic violence.”

But the men and women who made complaints “perceive and allege they have found much of the member’s management offensive and unreasonable”.

“After considering all sides of the relevant issues the assessment has generally favoured the complainant’s perception of events.”

The inquiry recommended Ministerial and Parliamentary Services review the accessibility of the current electorate office staff complaints resolution process.

It also said Husar, who is on extended leave, and Finance’s Ministerial and Parliamentary Services should be asked to develop a “return to work” plan, covering timing, training, staff needs and office support.

The assessment condemned as “reprehensible” the release publicly of selected allegations.

It said there were concerns for the wellbeing of many involved and counselling was being made available.

The full assessment – which emphasised the need for a “de-escalation” – will not be released.

Husar said the report had cleared her “of the most malicious and damaging of allegations, which were not only baseless but leaked to media.”

“I don’t believe any of these should have cost me my reputation, my job, or humiliated me and my children, ” she said.

“This has been trial by media, gossip and innuendo.

“I am gutted that the willingness of certain individuals, and certain parts of the media, to defame me on vexatious and unfounded accusations, has caused so much personal, emotional and professional damage to me, so much hurt to those close to me, and political harm to the party I love, have supported and worked so hard for.”

The ConversationShe said she was confident that if she had been given the opportunity to respond to all allegations in full, without the public attacks, she would have been able to put the matter behind her and continue to serve her electorate of Lindsay.

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Emma Husar falls on her sword


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Labor MP Emma Husar has bowed to the inevitable and announced she will not contest next year’s election – although she plans to stay in parliament until then.

With a string of extraordinary allegations about her personal conduct, including claims of serious bullying and inappropriate sexual behaviour, coming from multiple staff members, Husar faced disendorsement if she didn’t announce she would not seek to run again.

She holds the highly marginal Sydney seat of Lindsay.

Husar said in a statement: “This is a very sad day for me.”

She said she had co-operated with the NSW Labor inquiry into the allegations made against her and “kept quiet in the face of vicious and baseless smears and sensational clickbait headlines with no basis in fact.”

“This vendetta led to threats to my personal safety, the trolling of my children online and media parked outside my house around the clock. It has been terrifying for my kids and utterly traumatic for me.”

She said she “absolutely” rejected the “malicious allegations”, but “given my reputation has been completely shredded by nameless, faceless people”, she saw no point in waiting for the NSW report.

“Enough is enough. I’ve spoken with Bill Shorten and let him know that I won’t be re-contesting the next election.

I’m going on my own terms: I will continue to give my best for the wonderful community of Lindsay; I will fight to clear my name from the unbelievable mud that’s been thrown at it”.

Husar told 9NEWS: “I could have absolutely done better. Am I perfect? No way. I’m not going to sit here and say that I’m perfect. But did I do those things? Absolutely not.”

In the latest claims, made in Wednesday’s Australian, one former staffer accused Husar of “insensitive and brutal” treatment. The staffer also alleged that her daughter had been turned against her by Husar.

The staffer, Angela Hadchiti, was quoted as saying: “There is not one staffer involved in this … There are 22 of us, and we are in this together”. Husar had previously tried to blame one disgruntled former staffer for the allegations against her.

Bill Shorten has denied that he knew the allegations until the story was about the break on BuzzFeed. The government has repeatedly publicly doubted his word.

The ConversationBefore the Husar announcement, Shorten said on Wednesday: “I’ll wait until the investigation has concluded”.

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Emma Husar allegations show a need for clearer rules about what MPs can – and cannot – do



File 20180726 106511 1cm5ucw.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Labor MP Emma Husar has taken personal leave while the party investigates claims against her.
AAP/Mick Tsikas

Yee-Fui Ng, Monash University

Labor MP Emma Husar is facing pressure to resign, following revelations that she tasked her electorate office staff with childminding and picking up dog poo. Her staffers have also alleged that she engaged in workplace harassment and bullying.

Husar is now on personal leave and the issue is being investigated by the Labor Party.

As we are hit by scandal after scandal involving political staff, from Barnaby Joyce and his love affair, to Michaelia Cash and her leaking adviser, it is time to take a closer look at these political staffers and their role in our democratic system.

Who are staffers and what do they do?

There are two main categories of political staff. The first is ministerial advisers, who advise ministers and parliamentary secretaries on their ministerial portfolio. The second is electorate officers, who assist MPs in carrying out their local duties of representing the people who voted for them.

Unlike the neutral and impartial public service, these staffers are political and partisan, focused on electoral success for their party. They are often young apparatchiks, sometimes with their own political ambitions.

So, is tasking electorate staff with child- and dog-minding acceptable?

These officers are hired to support MPs in administrative, communications and financial matters as they represent their constituents. Dog-walking and child-minding are not part of an MP’s professional role, and therefore should not be part of the deal.

Although Husar’s job advertisement refers to her staff supporting her personal and family obligations, this is not appropriate. Staffers are publicly funded, and the taxpayer should not have to pick up the bill for an MP’s family life. This should be funded through her personal funds, from her (very generous) salary as an MP.

How are MPs and electorate officers regulated?

Both ministers and ministerial advisers are subject to a Statement of Standards. This sets out a code of conduct to achieve the expected standards of behaviour.

But these standards do not apply to MPs who are not ministers. They also do not apply to electorate staff.




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There is therefore a regulatory vacuum for federal MPs and electorate officers, without even a code of conduct regulating their behaviour. Yet MPs and electorate officers are publicly funded. This is a gap that should be fixed.

Despite discussions that have persisted for three decades, we still do not have an MPs’ code of conduct at the federal level. This means that MPs have no formalised guidance about the appropriate boundaries of behaviour, or about avoiding conflicts of interest. Likewise, electorate officers lack a code of behaviour. This is a glaring omission.

Politicians drag their heels on reforming the system because they benefit from having nonexistent regulations or lax rules. They can claim they acted appropriately or within any vague rules, or blame their staff if things go wrong.

This is why we have so many controversies involving ministers, MPs and their staff hitting the headline news – but remarkably few about remedial action or law reform.

Equivalent jurisdictions such as the United Kingdom and Canada have a code of conduct for their MPs.

The ConversationAs public trust in ministers and MPs falls, it is necessary to look to reform our political institutions. Examining parliamentary integrity systems and the regulation of political advisers would be a very good place to start.

Yee-Fui Ng, Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Law, Monash University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Labor MP Emma Husar takes personal leave as party investigates conduct towards staff


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Labor’s member for the NSW marginal seat of Lindsay, Emma Husar, has announced she is taking personal leave, after a long-running party investigation into allegations she misused and bullied staff members became public.

Husar said in a statement that she had received threats of violence.

The NSW Labor party probe, led by barrister John Whelan, into the claims against Husar, who is in her first term, has been going on for some time but the story only broke publicly with a BuzzFeed report last week.

Opposition leader Bill Shorten has said he first heard of the allegations last week.

They include that Husar had members of her staff perform baby sitting and dog walking chores, and that she had been abusive towards staff. Her office has had a big turnover. There has been speculation that she could lose preselection if the investigation finds against her.

In her statement late Tuesday Husar said: “The past few days have been incredibly difficult for my family. I’m a single mum and my first priority is the safety and wellbeing of my children.

“I have received threatening messages including threats of violence and have referred them to the Australian Federal Police.

“The best thing for me and my family right now is for us to be out of the spotlight so I can access support.

“I look forward to returning to my duties as the Member for Lindsay very soon. I love my community and there is no higher honour for me than representing the people of Western Sydney in Australia’s parliament.

“As I said last week, I respect and am co-operating with the independent process that is underway”.

Shorten said on Tuesday Husar had “been a hard-working member in her electorate” but he didn’t want to further comment until the inquiry was finished.

Shadow treasurer Chris Bowen said: “I’ve always found her very passionate about Western Sydney, about the issues she cares about deeply, and entirely professional, but these serious matters should be dealt with through that independent investigation.”

Labor frontbencher Mike Kelly defended Husar, saying the use of staff members for some personal help was “a small price to pay for having a truly representative democracy and facilitating the ability of women to participate in our parliament.”

“You’ve got a hard-working young woman here, a single mother with three kids, having to juggle a very tough electorate in Lindsay with a lot of diverse issues and then of course do the commute to Canberra,” he told Sky.

The ConversationRecently former deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce took a stint of personal leave after a furore over his paid TV interview about his affair with his former staffer and now partner Vikki Campion, with whom he has a baby.

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.