NSW Labor leader received complaints about Walt Secord’s behaviour before MP stood down

·4 min read
<span>Photograph: Dean Lewins/AAP</span>
Photograph: Dean Lewins/AAP

The New South Wales Labor leader Chris Minns has said it would be premature for him to endorse former shadow police minister Walt Secord’s preselection ahead of the next election after concerns were raised with him about the veteran MP’s behaviour.

Secord stood aside from Labor’s shadow ministry on Monday after allegations that he had bullied staff members inside former party leader Jodi McKay’s office.

The complaints surfaced after former McKay staffers made submissions to a landmark report into the culture inside NSW parliament that raised concerns about alleged bullying.

Minns on Monday wrote to the premier, Dominic Perrottet, to endorse the idea of a bipartisan group to implement changes recommended in the review.

He said parliamentary staffers should be included, similar to the advisory group that worked with Elizabeth Broderick and her team during the review.

“This is a model that the cross-party group should look to emulate to ensure all voices within the parliamentary precinct are represented, including staff,” he said in his letter to Perrottet.

The Guardian reported on Friday that former members of McKay’s office made submissions to the Broderick report in relation to Secord.

Related: NSW Labor MP Walt Secord apologises amid bullying allegations

Secord issued a statement saying that while he did “not have the same recollections from the staff in the former leader’s office – especially in relation to raised voices in the workplace”, he accepted “that I can be too blunt and too direct in a fast-paced workplace”. He unreservedly apologised for what he described as his “shortcomings” and committed to “addressing my behaviour”.

While Labor had initially intended to allow Secord to remain in the shadow ministry, Minns said concerns had been raised with him over the weekend.

“It became clear over the weekend that many colleagues had concerns about Mr Secord’s behaviour,” he said.

“Over the weekend I obviously spoke with people that made contact with my office.

“You remember on Friday, I said I hadn’t been spoken to directly about bullying claims or about the behaviour of Mr Secord. That changed over the weekend. I made sure I spoke directly with the people who contacted me.”

Minns refused to detail the allegations made against Secord, saying the complainants had asked for the details to remain anonymous.

He said he expected an investigation would be run either by the NSW Labor party or a yet-to-be established independent complaints commissioner recommended by the Broderick report.

NSW Labor leader Chris Minns said he would not give an endorsement of Secord at this stage ‘given the current set of circumstances’.
NSW Labor leader Chris Minns said he would not give an endorsement of Secord at this stage ‘given the current set of circumstances’. Photograph: Bianca de Marchi/AAP

Secord is due to face preselection for his position on Labor’s upper house ticket in October, and Minns refused to say whether he should remain in parliament.

“I’m not going to draw an inference or make a suggestion or give an endorsement given the current set of circumstances,” he said.

“I think given the sets of circumstances it’s appropriate that there is an inquiry, and that me making a comment about his future is premature.”

Before entering parliament Minns had worked as a staff member with Secord inside another MP’s office, but he insisted he had not been aware of concerns about his behaviour before the weekend.

Asked on Monday whether he had received complaints about other Labor MPs, Minns said: “Not as yet.”

Related: Review of NSW parliament uncovers five alleged sexual assaults

Minns later sent an email to all Labor staff and members of parliament to encourage anyone “who wishes to make a complaint to do so”.

“There are avenues available through both the parliament and the Labor party,” he said.

On Monday Secord said he had asked Minns to “let me stand aside from the shadow ministry” after “long reflection and with more than 30 years in the Labor party”.

“Chris, myself, and the NSW Labor Party have committed to adopting the recommendations of the Broderick review and working across party lines to make the NSW parliament and NSW politics a workplace we can all be proud of,” he said in a statement.

“I fully support the Broderick review and the change it will hopefully lead to. But my remaining in the shadow ministry at this time has become a distraction from these major revelations and the important work that needs to be done.”

Secord’s shadow ministerial responsibilities have been split between Penny Sharpe, John Graham and Paul Scully.

• This article was amended on 15 August 2022. Chris Minns had previously worked with Walt Secord in another MP’s office, not as a staff member for Secord as stated in an earlier version.