What is the worst thing about the Labour youth camp scandal?

by Deb on March 16, 2018 at 12:30pm

Much has been published over the last few days about the Labour youth camp scandal.

There is so much about this whole sorry saga that is rotten, that I have found myself stuttering with indignation from bad decision to weasel excuse, trying to decide which screw-up, of the many, is the worst.

I will leave the sexual assault allegations to one side: that’s a matter for the police. I’ll also not dwell on the delay in offering support to the victims immediately. That’s just a no-brainer: worst decision made. Hands down.

As for the rest, let’s look at the prelude and the aftermath: which of these is the biggest screw-up?

Serving alcohol to minors and inadequate supervision

All kinds of rules broken with this one. Given this was a Youth Labour event, I don’t understand why alcohol wasn’t completely banned, and why that rule wasn’t strictly enforced. That just removes a whole lot of risks and complications. Some of our readers have told anecdotally of school camps where there is a complete alcohol ban: not even the parents are allowed to drink. This makes a lot of sense: it removes any ambiguity about degrees of intoxication and there’s no risk of alcohol falling into the wrong mouths.

I’m also a bit stunned that the person in charge was not present when all this went down. As Camp Mother, her job was to supervise and ensure the safety of those attending. She should not have bailed until the last little poppet was tucked up safely in their own bed. Even if she had to prop her eyes open with matchsticks, she’s the last one to call it quits for the night. That’s her job and her sole reason for being there.

Not telling the parents

Kate Hawkesby wrote a good opinion piece in the ‘Herald’ and covered this. Her point of view is summed up well with this sentence:

 “I would hope no amount of ‘but that’s the law’ would stop any other parent or adult telling me if my child had suffered or experienced something so gravely traumatising.”

Kate also raised some good points about 16 being the age of consent and how there is no clear step from child to adult. It is ambiguous, and even at 16 support from parents is desirable.

The consensus I’ve read and heard is that most people think the parents should have been told. Would it be easy to tell a parent that someone has messed with their child in some way? No way. And, for the same reason, I don’t think a 16-year-old should ever have to make that choice or be the one to do the telling. The parents should have been told straight away. No ifs, buts or excuses.

The cover-up

Labour can try and spin this until they are red in the face. The “we were acting in the best interests of the victims” is a crock. If that spin was even remotely true, they would have given them all the support they needed immediately, instead of doing nothing for three weeks and hoping it went away. This is a cover-up, pure and simple. They cared more about the party image than the kids in their care. That makes me see red. And I’m not a red-seeing kind of person.

The hypocrisy of it all

Just a few weeks ago, on 27 February while this was quietly ticking away in the background, Ms Ardern was appealing to landlords, saying, “Landlords should ignore market signals and poorly designed public policy, and instead just look to ‘morality’.“

Morality. Right. You sit there and lecture landlords about the morality of charging a market rate rent, while your party is quietly spinning the wheels, and desperately hoping they won’t come off; silently doing nothing, except cover up an alleged sexual assault at a Youth Labour camp.

I think for me, the hypocrisy is what really sticks in my craw.