Jake Bezzant and National's unsuccessful Taieri candidate, Liam Kernaghan at a National Party ball earlier this year

Two separate events yesterday  — both involving the National Party – revealed that our political culture is not up to managing potential scandals.

On the one hand, National’s leader Judith Collins admitted she had not seen a draft report on an incident involving National MP Nick Smith over which he has resigned.

He did so after Collins warned him the media were about to publish details of the incident.

But if Collins was easily able to have Smith removed from her caucus, National did nothing for nearly 12 months about what they were told was a brewing scandal involving the North Harbour candidate, Jake Bezzant.

It was not until his ex-wife launched a podcast on Monday revealing how he used explicit nude pictures of her on social media to impersonate her to solicit cyber-sex with other males that the party said he was no longer a member.

POLITIK spoke to a number of people last June and July who were involved in a New Zealand company that had developed a high-tech car parking control system that they were marketing in the United States.

Their stories were all the same; that Bezzant was a fantasist who had run the company into the ground and had made promises to staff and customers that he simply could not deliver on.

They also raised questions about his private life.

They were surprised that he had married.

POLITIK sought answers from the National Party and provided an account of what the various investors had said.


It was made clear that if the party wanted to check any of the facts, then POLITIK could arrange for representatives to contact the sources.

A senior party official, Auckland regional chair Andrew Hunt, did have a meeting with Bezzant, who denied the allegations which had been made to POLITIK.

In September, BusinessDesk published some of the allegations about Bezzant’s involvement in the parking business.

National Party president Peter Goodfellow responding, said the party had been made aware of “some issues” concerning Bezzant earlier in the year and carried out an investigation.

“There were some issues raised to the Party in June about Jake Bezzant which were thoroughly investigated,” Goodfellow said.

“As a result, National accepts Jake’s position about his time at Parking Sense.”

There the matter rested though there are suggestions that both leader, Judith Collins, and campaign chair Gerry Brownlee, were still concerned that Bezzant could be a liability.

The “Whips Chains and Brains” podcast has confirmed that.

But the whole affair has raised questions about how much due diligence National does when it selects candidates.

That has apparently been discussed at some of the party’s regional conferences, with concerns about the Auckland Central selection being highlighted.

But if National’s approach when it comes to candidates is too amateur, the Nick Smith affair shows that there are traps in the professional quasi-corporate approach used by Parliamentary Services to resolve tricky personnel matters.

The principal issue both with Smith and the question of allegations of sexual assault levelled against a Parliamentary employee is the length of time the Service’s inquiries take.

Politics abhors delays, and inevitably, the lengthy processes increase the chances of leaks. The danger period is when the draft of the report is given to the complainant and victim to comment on.

There are also questions about whether the fundamentally political nature of the work in an MP’s office should be managed by an independent authority (as it is now) rather than the political party itself. There are questions about giving a third party the ability to influence the career of an MP (as has happened with Smith) that runs counter to the idea of MPs being accountable to the electorate.

National MP Ian McElvie raised the question of leaks on employment issues in Parliament at a Select Committee yesterday.

Speaker Trevor Mallard said he had recently found out “from the press” that there was an investigation into an employment matter going on in Parliament.

“When there is a situation where there’s an investigation or something that is being looked into every single body that is involved in that is asked to maintain the confidentiality of any of the things that are being dealt with, and we certainly do that with our staff,” Mallard said.

“I guess sometimes issues escalate, and if people don’t see a resolution to issues, then they might go to other places like the media. “

The Speaker then said he had had some briefing on the Smith case.

“No Parliamentary service staff member other than the complainant had a copy of it (the draft report into the Smith incident).

“So this thing which allegedly leaked was done by someone who was independent.

“I understand the report was in draft form but not had come back to anyone in the Parliamentary Service.”

The very fact that Mallard has been briefed raises more questions. Though he is the Speaker, he is also a Labour MP.  Should he, therefore, have access to the process which has produced a draft report which has already ended the career of a National MP.

National will undoubtedly tighten up its candidate selection process, but it may take longer to develop a more political system for managing Parliamentary staff disputes.