Greens’ Tana conundrum continues

The longer the Darleen Tana saga continues the messier it gets.

Accounts of the leaked report from the investigation into the Green Member of Parliament around allegations a family business had been involved in migrant exploitation say her husband gave evidence which ‘tended to obfuscate rather than elucidate’.

Obfuscation rather than elucidation is a term which could be applied to this schemozzle from the get-go.

When first learning of the allegations in February, the party removed Ms Tana from her small business portfolio without any public announcement, only suspending her in mid-March when there was more publicity involving workers’ claims about the business.

Then, having engaged lawyer Rachel Burt to investigate, there was no indication of how long this might take which meant the co-leaders were constantly vague about when the result would be known.

Much was said about the need for natural justice as if putting some time limit on this process would have been an affront to this.

As we understand it, the inquiry was to concentrate on what Ms Tana knew and when rather than a full-blown investigation into the migrant exploitation allegations themselves.

After the report was eventually received by the Green Party, the caucus met on Saturday to consider it.

Ms Tana was given the opportunity to give her perspective before a vote was taken to unanimously reject her from the caucus and seek her resignation as an MP.

When co-leader Chloe Swarbrick announced that chain of events on Monday and publicly urged Ms Tana to resign as an MP, there was no release of Ms Burt’s report, with privacy issues cited as the reason.

Ms Swarbrick was clearly upset and felt betrayed, but details of what led to that were not divulged.

This was nonsensical. The privacy or otherwise of the report should have been established at the time the terms of reference were set.

Darleen Tana has resigned from the Green Party but wants to stay in Parliament. Photo: Marika...
Darleen Tana has resigned from the Green Party but wants to stay in Parliament. Photo: Marika Khabazi
Since then, parts of the report have been leaked to some media which merely adds to the farce.

In the meantime, Ms Tana, who has resigned from the party, has denied wrongdoing, does not accept the report’s findings, and says it substantially misrepresented the level of her involvement in the business.

She has also been reported as saying the inquiry did not say migrant exploitation had occurred, or that she was responsible for it in any capacity.

We would have been surprised if the inquiry made a finding about exploitation, given there are still employment claims before the Employment Relations Authority.

Unless Ms Tana can find another party to take her on, she will tread a lonely path if she remains in Parliament. Since she has no electorate, she will not have constituency work to do either.

Accordingly, there has been considerable commentary about whether the Green Party might invoke the waka jumping legislation (the Electoral (Integrity) Amendment Act). It voted through gritted teeth for this in 2018, although it had railed against such laws for years.

This newspaper was among those who opposed this legislation because of deep concerns about how MPs, who might have good reason to stray from a party line, could act in the best conscience when threatened with removal.

The law was supposedly designed to enhance public confidence in the integrity of the electoral system by upholding the proportionality of political party representation in Parliament as determined by electors.

However, as law professor Andrew Geddis says, if this law is needed to safeguard our trust in the political system, why has it never been used, despite several MPs parting company with their parties since its inception?

We would be surprised if the Green Party invokes it, and thus far Ms Tana is not falling on her sword either.

It is an embarrassing impasse for the Greens who have had a miserable year.

If nothing else, it should serve as a wake-up call to the party about vastly improving its processes for candidate selection and managing situations when MPs do not live up to expectations.