After claiming a controversial petition against New Zealand signing the UN’s Global Migration Compact was taken down weeks ago, National now admits the petition page was deleted by a “junior staffer” who was “emotional” on Friday night, after the Christchurch mosque shootings.
The National Party had previously told media including Newsroom that the petition was deleted weeks before the attacks.
The party now claims that while it had asked for the page to be archived a number of weeks ago due to inactivity on the petition, it remained live without their knowledge until Friday night.
A Google screenshot shows the page was still live at 1.39 pm on Friday, roughly the time the shooting took place.
National says they only discovered on Tuesday morning that the petition had not been taken down until Friday.
“The situation there is that I had understood the petition was deleted a matter of weeks ago as a matter of routine archiving,” Bridges said.
“What in fact happened, which I learnt this morning was that a junior staffer who was incredibly emotional on Friday night took it upon themselves to delete it, we didn’t know that until this morning,” he said.
Bridges said he didn’t know whether the staffer had made decision to delete the petition.
“Honestly, I don’t know. We’re not going to be critical of it. As I say it’s a junior staff member — very emotional, I think New Zealand is emotional, given what we’ve seen,” he said.
The petition became controversial as it used language that had been common in international alt-right websites, as reported by Newsroom. The petition had been a rallying cry for the alt-right, who allege that the UN compact will erode sovereignty and open borders — claims that have been widely refuted.
References to the UN migration compact were found on the Christchurch terrorist’s weapons. The compact was also mentioned by the man who attacked Climate Change Minister James Shaw last Thursday.
Bridges said the assertion National mainstreamed far-right views with the migration compact was “wrong” and “offensive”.
He said remarks about the migration compact were “legal points”, which were not inflammatory.
Bridges said the petition would not be put back on the party’s website.
Petitions remaining on website
Bridges also told media it was standard procedure to hide older and inactive petitions and the party regularly archived petitions.
However National currently has at least 24 active petitions on its website, with the UN Migration compact apparently the only one to have been archived.
A spokesperson for the party said it was “standard process for content such as petitions that are no longer being used to be listed in our web system as ‘unlisted/archived’.
“Users can still find the petition however should they have the specific link, but it is not considered active content. This is true for many of the petitions we run,” they said.
Other still-active petitions on the website date back to January last year.
At least one of these petitions — for the Lumsden Maternity Ward – was apparently presented to Parliament in September respectively, yet as of March 19 remains live on the website.
Newsroom was told the staffer switched the compact petition to “hidden”, meaning the link to the page went dead, whereas other petitions were simply “archived” meaning they were no longer promoted on the website, while their links remained live.