The Emma Husar pile-on: Investigation into allegations flawed and unfair

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Accused Labor MP Emma Husar (Image via YouTube screenshot)

Outcome aside, the investigation into allegations against Emma Husar seems to be unfairly against her, writes Noely Neate.

Emma Husar: “The perception and the pile-on...”

That line was part of the report from Jane Norman on ABC’s Breakfast News this morning in relation to "senior Labor figures" reportedly saying Emma Husar will be told not to run again at the next election, due to, “the perception and the pile-on...”

Now, you would have to be living under a rock to not to know Emma Husar has hit the state of “embattled” as a precursor to her name being mentioned – which it is a lot – in our news bulletins. Ms Husar is accused of workplace harassment and bullying, with reports she expected electorate office staff to mind her kids and even pick up dog poo. She supposedly treated her staff as “slaves”.

According to an article by Candace Sutton:

‘Ms Husar also allegedly told a male worker to wash her dishes so as to learn about “white male privilege”.’

Ms Husar had already taken personal leave due to receiving threats against herself and her family before The Daily Telegraph put her on the front page, with the suggestion she used taxpayer funds to have a nice little jaunt to Brisbane to go to a Bruno Mars concert with a friend.

Hence why Ms Husar has now entered the “embattled” stage.

I’m not here to defend Ms Husar if she has bullied or harassed staff — but what is the process?

I am never going to condone bullying or harassment. Ever. Although I do have questions in regard to this whole issue and how it is being publicly prosecuted. I also have concerns about procedures for MPs when it comes to staffing.

I’ll admit, I don’t know a lot about parliamentary procedures. I do, however, know that in most cases electorate staff, particularly for backbench MPs, are normally party members, often those who have political aspirations themselves or offspring/mates of those in the party itself. These staff members are also paid by us, the Australian taxpayers and, due to that, come under the auspices of the Finance Department.

Yet Ms Husar is being investigated by the NSW Labor Party, not the Finance Department. As I said, I’m no expert on procedures, although Cheryl Kernot, being an ex-Senator and involved with the ALP at the end of her career, also seemed to think this issue was unusual.

In all the media focus on Ms Husar and her alleged workplace bullying, the questions in this series of tweets have not been answered. To me, something seems a tad off about how these allegations are being handled.

Of course, since then we have had the suggestion of misuse of taxpayer funds, which Ms Husar has defended asking the expenses authority to look at her travel entitlement. It would appear she did have cause to be in Brisbane and to use the entitlements she did on face value, not that it will help Ms Husar too much as it seems the damage is done.

As a side note, I would say that even Sharri Markson suspects these allegations – splashed on the front page of her paper – are probably legit, as her tweet (graphic above) includes: 

'Husar met with two charities the next day but won’t say if the meetings were set up before or after she got Bruno tickets.’

It is something that has always grated on me, but very common for politicians to do some dodgy little five-minute meeting that can be related to their job, then write off a trip on the taxpayer dime. Mr Abbott even famously bragged about it once ‘apologising to his cabinet for being late as he had to pop into a hospital to make his Melbourne fundraising trip legit’, so Sharri probably knows that this trip, like many other MP trips over the years, will be found to fit “within the guidelines”.

So we are now at the stage where Government ministers are squealing that Ms Husar has to be sacked. A state political party is investigating a serious workplace bullying allegation instead of the Department of Finance and she is also under a cloud about misuse of entitlements? None of these allegations has even been proved to be true as yet, though to return to the beginning of this piece, she is now “embattled” due to the “perception and the pile-on” and it would appear ALP bigwigs have decided her career is over.

I’m going to pretty much ignore the allegations of misusing entitlements and ask why has this hit the news now?

It has already been shown she had meetings in Brisbane, so even though it looked sensational on the front page of the Daily Tele – and most likely put the final nail in her coffin – it will be found to be “within the guidelines” as per all the other entitlement issues we see. Not to mention, compared to the likes of Julie Bishop and some others in government, if this is all they could find on Husar in this area then she is a dead-set amateur at this entitlements rorting.

Not to mention, Emma Husar is a single mother with three kids aged between ten and 16 – the youngest being on the spectrum – so I doubt this woman has time to go to town on her entitlements anyhow.

So pretty much a young MP's career is effectively over, even though no investigation (not conducted via normal channels) has even been completed.

As I stated earlier, if Ms Husar has bullied her staff and treated them inappropriately, I will not be condoning that. What I do wonder is why this issue has hit the news now? Ms Husar became an MP in 2016, so I’m sure this supposed inability to treat staff appropriately would not be a recent thing. Has this been a problem since she was first elected?

I ask this, as a glance at Emma Husar’s Parliamentary profile is very scant when you look at her previous experience.

Qualifications and occupation before entering Federal Parliament

  • Advisor, Federal MP, 2015-16
  • Fundraising and events manager

So… one year as an “Advisor”, and I’m unsure what her role as “Fundraising and events manager” entailed. Was it only a casual job? Was this role only for a few years? Is this a bit of an embellishment – as all resumes tend to do – and was it really only helping out a mate who owned a catering company? Hell, was this role really just included because she was in charge of fundraising events at the Penrith branch of the ALP? It should be noted she was president from 2015, although does not appear to have been an ALP member for decades like other MPs.

Either way, unlike most MPs, there appears to be little or no experience of working in an office environment with any substantial staffing levels, nor running any staff herself?

Most recent sexual harassment allegations

Buzzfeed is now reporting ‘Labor MP Emma Husar Accused Of Sexual Harassment And Diverting Thousands Of Dollars Into Her Personal Bank Account’ and, if these sordid allegations are true, it is very concerning for both the staff involved and Ms Husar herself.

Sadly, hyper-sexualised behaviour is normally a symptom of much bigger personal issues – too complicated to get into here – although again, I would be looking to the NSW ALP and asking if Ms Husar was ever counselled by them or offered any professional workplace counselling and personal counselling, and leave that aspect of this soap opera with this. I hope, if there is even a speck of truth to these allegations, Ms Husar does get the support and, more importantly, professional help this sort of alleged sexualised behaviour is crying out for.

Did the ALP think "Sweet, we got an MP in parliament", then just leave her to her own devices, knowing Emma had no idea how to run an office? Surely any issues staff had – taking into account they are normally associated with the ALP anyhow – would have raised these allegations a hell of a lot earlier — what did ALP do to address this? Did they organise an office manager for her who was used to running an office with staff?

NSW ALP have questions to answer here. Questions I doubt will get answered due to this entity doing the investigation. I seriously doubt they'll find any fault in themselves.

Or… and I hope I’m wrong, I really do, after she did the hard yakka to win the seat, they knew she couldn’t really run her office, turning a blind eye to the issues, giving her enough rope to hang herself with an inability to run the operational side of her office.

As I said, I hope I’m wrong, but it will be interesting to see who does end up being pre-selected for the seat of Lindsay and if that candidate has connections with any who have made allegations against Ms Husar or aligned with a particular faction who have decided that Emma Husar, not coming from a Union background nor any of the other traditional ALP backgrounds, is not deserving of the seat, unlike one of “their own”.

This really worries me. Parliament is nowhere near representative of the Australian citizens they supposedly serve.

I want more women of Emma Husar’s socio-economic demographic in parliament

I want more single mothers, more people who have actually had to rely on government services, and understand the role of government and their decisions on the lives of people less privileged. The flipside of people like Emma is that they don’t have the background experience to run the operational side of being an MP.

Are there no procedures to assist non-career political aspirants once they become MPs or senators? Is our political system set up to ensure only a certain “type” of citizen can succeed in our parliamentary system?

I will hold my judgement on Emma Husar's workplace bullying allegations and, sadly, even then, as they have not been conducted through normal processes, might be a tad suspect on the findings as well. I also hope that Ms Husar will get some form of counselling should more sordid allegations be proven to be true. What I do believe though is, thanks to the “perception and the pile-on” in the media and from politicians themselves, the writing is on the wall for a “type” of MP that this nation sorely needs and that is to be regretted.

Read more from Noely Neate on her blog YaThink?, or follow her on Twitter @YaThinkN.

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