NSW Labor MP Walt Secord apologises amid bullying allegations

·3 min read
<span>Photograph: Bianca de Marchi/AAP</span>
Photograph: Bianca de Marchi/AAP

A senior New South Wales Labor frontbencher has unreservedly apologised amid allegations he bullied staff in the office of former Labor leader Jodi McKay.

After a landmark review into the workplace culture in the state’s parliament was released on Friday, the shadow police minister, Walt Secord, released a statement saying he was aware of his “shortcomings” and committing to “addressing my behaviour”.

The Guardian understands multiple former staffers made submissions to the review in relation to Secord’s past behaviour. They relate to accusations of bullying of staff outside of his own office.

In a lengthy statement, Secord said 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”.

Related: Review of NSW parliament uncovers five alleged sexual assaults

“If any parliamentary staff members feel that my conduct in the workplace was unprofessional and caused offence or distress and was unacceptable, I unreservedly apologise,” he said.

“I have listened and reflected on my interactions with staff – and I have reflected on the Broderick report.

“It is important that all parliamentarians conduct themselves with civility and respect – towards staff and towards each other. I want to be part of repairing the culture in state parliament and addressing my behaviour as part of that.

“I will be participating fully in any and all education measures or proposals put forward by the review or that the Labor party thinks is required.”

The NSW Labor leader, Chris Minns, was confronted with accusations made against Secord at a press conference on Friday and said he had “never had a complaint made to me by a survivor or a victim directly as the leader of the NSW Labor party”.

“We would, of course, always take an allegation or an instance or a suggestion of bullying and intimidation in the NSW parliamentary Labor party seriously,” he said.

“If it had come to my attention, we would of course have taken action, but I can say to you, no one who’s been the alleged survivor or victim of harassment has come to me as NSW Labor leader and made that allegation.”

Secord is a heavyweight of the right faction who previously worked as a staffer for former NSW premiers Bob Carr and Kristina Keneally, as well as former prime minister Kevin Rudd.

Despite having sat in parliament since 2011, he faces a fight to retain a winnable spot on the party’s ticket when upper house preselections open in October amid fierce jostling from other right-aligned MPs.

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Released on Friday, the Broderick review sent shock waves through Macquarie Street after it revealed that five respondents said they had experienced actual or attempted sexual assaults at work.

The review uncovered what it called “systemic and multi-directional bullying”, with some MPs’ offices described as “well-known hotspots” for “harmful” behaviour and high rates of staff turnover.

The deputy Nationals leader, Bronnie Taylor, issued a stark warning to MPs accused of harassment or assault, saying: “You do not belong in the parliament of NSW.”

“I ask you to think very long and hard about this, and I ask you to make sure that if this is you that is mentioned, get the help that you need and please leave the NSW parliament,” she said.

Greens spokesperson Jenny Leong said she was committed to changing the “toxic culture and boys club behaviour” and called on members of parliament to call out issues within their own parties, as she had done in the past.

Hayley Foster, the chief executive of Full Stop Australia, a sexual violence counselling and advocacy group, said the review was a chance for real change.

“This is an opportunity for not only the NSW parliament but for all workplaces to reflect upon and consider how to create safe and respectful workplaces,” she said.