Welcome to another week.
In what’s beginning to look more and more like a silly tit for tat, new rumours have surfaced which suggest former Child Abuse Inquiry Chair Lowell Goddard was a racist tyrant who treated junior staff badly.
We find this hard to believe. As a woman of Maori origin, and the first Maori to be made a High Court judge in her native New Zealand, Goddard will most likely have had to tackle racial biases in her personal and professional life. Maoris have been subjected to appalling treatment throughout history, a legacy which lives on in New Zealand’s current policies and prison population stats.
But it’s not just Goddard’s ethnic background which makes the allegations suspicious. Goddard was also the first panel member to suggest that her departure was due in part to internal problems at the inquiry.
Fast forward to the next Chair, Alexis Jay, who within a few days of taking office swiftly suspended the Inquiry’s lead counsel for what was described in an official statement at the time to be concerns over the team’s management. The Inquiry’s lead lawyer then hired lawyers of his own to defend the claims.
And then, it all went quiet.
What followed was an astonishing back pedal. Gone was the decision to investigate internal conduct at the Inquiry and in its place a polite, perhaps diplomatic, statement by the Inquiry, which completely glossed over the concerns. It seemed as if the escalating legal battle between the Inquiry and former members of the panel had been stopped in its tracks.
With that fiasco behind it, the public and survivors were optimistic that the Inquiry would move on and get on with its work, and so the latest series of allegations against a former Chair are both strange and unwelcome. There’s little mileage for survivors in this development, and no real value to be had from casting aspersions on a Chair who is no longer at the Inquiry. It also seems odd that these allegations have come out now, long after Goddard’s own resignation.
Goddard’s full statement addressing the allegations against her, which has just been published over in New Zealand, makes for an interesting read. Whatever issues existed about her competence to run the Inquiry, she was clearly not doing the work for money or fame.
Senior civil servant Mark Sedwill has been asked to come before the Home Affairs Committee tomorrow to address claims that he was made aware of the allegations against Justice Goddard. It will be interesting to see what he has to say about the claims, and whether there really was a cover up, or the allegations themselves were considered to be spurious upon investigation and so set aside.
So our question this week then, is simply this: what do you make of the allegations?