Labour MPs may well be determining the fate of Hamilton West MP Gaurav Sharma at a special caucus meeting, as this post is being written.
According to Stuff, the party’s MPs will enter a virtual meeting at 2.30pm on Tuesday and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was expected to speak to reporters afterward, at about 4pm.
Stuff explained that:
Sharma, the MP for Hamilton West, has repeatedly alleged he had been bullied by the party’s whips, Parliamentary Service, and the prime minister’s office in the past week.
Sharma has so far produced no substantive evidence to back up his claims of bullying. Ardern has said the claims appear to be prompted by the party working to resolve issues between himself and employees, and a “hiring freeze” that had been placed on his office.
Point of Order noted that Sharma’s bullying allegations were recorded in a social media post on Friday night.
He is reported to have made another social media post yesterday afternoon alleging bullying from fellow Labour MP Kieran McAnulty when he was the party’s chief whip.
This mix of whipping and bullying couldn’t happen in the Green Party because their MPs much prefer to be disciplined by a musterer.
Point of Order’s interest is not so much in wanting to know the truth or otherwise of the bullying allegations. We want to know how Sharma found time to write those social media posts.
As we reported in June, our interest in him and his sensibilities had been whetted by a Parliamentary debate in May in which Sharma indicated he had been upset by something National’s Simon O’Connor said on the subject of academic freedom.
The occasion was the first reading of the Education and Training (Freedom of Expression) Amendment Bill, a private member’s bill promoted by ACT MP James McDowall.
ACT and Nats supported the Bill. Labour, the Greens and the Māori Party had the numbers to sink it before it went any further.
Sharma followed O’Connor in contributing to the debate:
Dr GAURAV SHARMA (Labour—Hamilton West): Thank you, Mr Speaker. I had written a speech, but before I read what I was going to say initially the last speaker, Simon O’Connor’s words were quite unfortunate and sad, especially for somebody like me who, as a man of colour, has faced a lot of abuse—including to the point when I was running for election. The sort of comments the speaker was making are the sort of comments behind which a lot of people hide behind and make those comments—not just in private conversations, but also out in public. So, I just want to say the last five minutes were very unfortunate, and the words that came out of that speaker’s mouth were really, really unfortunate.
Those words suggested O’Connor had said something of a racist nature, although we could find nothing troubling or offensive in our reading of his speech.
Point of Order therefore emailed Sharma, asking him to help us understand why O’Connor had vexed him.
An unnamed staffer acknowledged receiving the email and advised us
If your email is an invitation to an event or a media query, your request will be processed, and a staff member will be in contact in due course. Please note it is not always possible for MPs to attend at a short notice especially on sitting days of Parliament.
This email further said:
We appreciate your patience. Thank you for contacting us.
Office of Dr Gaurav Sharma
Member of Parliament for Hamilton West
We remained patient until July 1, when another email was sent:
On 27 May you advised me I could expect a response to my email and questions.
If you did respond, it seems your email has gone astray. I cannot find it in my inbox or among the junk email, where (sadly) some legitimate emails finish up.
I would appreciate your sending it again.
This time there was no response.
Being of a generous disposition, this writer supposed Sharma was much too busy dealing with other emails and his Parliamentary workload.
Perhaps had he explained himself to us instead of writing his recent social media posts – when he found the time for writing – he might not now be explaining himself to the Labour caucus.