Twyford versus Bennett on release of information

Pressure was maintained on Paula Bennett yesterday over the revealing of one her staff to a journalist that Te Puea Marae chairman Hurimoana Dennis was under police investigation.

Phil Twyford asked her questions in Parliament yesterday about it.


[Sitting date: 15 June 2016. Volume:715;Page:6. Text is subject to correction.]

6. PHIL TWYFORD (Labour—Te Atatū) to the Minister for Social Housing: What time and date was she first aware that her staff member had released or was going to release information about a Police investigation into Te Puea Marae Chairman, Hurimoana Dennis?

Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Housing): At just before 2 p.m. on Tuesday, 14 June, I was stopped on the bridge and asked questions about whether a staff member had leaked information about Mr Dennis to the media. After 2 p.m. I asked my staff to investigate whether there was anything in the allegations. I had two questions in the House and concentrated on them, while leaving my senior staff to investigate. At approximately 3.20 p.m. yesterday one of my staff confirmed to me that they had spoken to a Television New Zealand journalist about it the week before.

Phil Twyford: Why did her staff member want the journalist to know about the police investigation?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: The staff member has informed me that she was talking to the journalist in light of a meeting that I had on Friday morning with Mr Dennis. She informed me that as an aside, at the end, she did discuss those issues with him, as has been canvassed. She assures me that it was not the intention for it to be a smear campaign against Mr Dennis or the marae.

Phil Twyford: Did she talk to her staff about the information that came up in the meeting with Hurimoana Dennis; if so, why?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: I had a full brief with three or four of my political staff members on the meeting that I had with Mr Dennis. Yes, it did come up, about the investigation.

Phil Twyford: Why did she discuss the information about the police investigation with her staff?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: It was just in the context of the whole meeting. I had gone through the meeting from start to finish, and, as a consequence of that, that is why it was raised—in that context.

Phil Twyford: Was the staff member who joined her for the meeting with Hurimoana Dennis at a Mount Eden cafe the same staff member who passed the information about the police investigation to the journalist?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: I am unwilling to confirm or deny whether or not it was the same staff member because I think it might identify them, and I do not think that is fair.

Grant Robertson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: A point of order has been raised, and I need to hear it in silence.

Grant Robertson: The Minister did not invoke a public interest clause there. Mr Twyford is not asking for the name of a person—simply whether or not the person who was in the meeting with Ms Bennett was the same person who spoke to a journalist. I do not see how that could identify a particular person, one way or the other.

Mr SPEAKER: I refer the member to Speaker’s ruling 193/3, which talks about an issue of commercial sensitivity, national security, and privacy. In this case I think that test has been met.

Phil Twyford: Will she take responsibility for the culture in her office that allowed a staff member to think it was OK to leak details of a police investigation to a private citizen?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: There is not a culture. As I have said, it is unacceptable and it should not have happened.


While I don’t agree with frequent demands for resignations – if everyone resigned when opponents demanded it there would be no one left – this has been awkward for Bennett and hasn’t looked good at all.

NZ Herald: Paula Bennett refuses offer of resignation from staff member over marae leader leak

Social Housing Minister Paula Bennett has refused an offer of resignation from the press secretary who told a journalist that a marae leader was under police investigation.

Ms Bennett today faced further questions about the leak, which she said was a “grave error of judgment” by her staff member.

Pressed by Labour MP Kris Faafoi during a scheduled appearance before a select committee in her role as State Services Minister, Ms Bennett said she had no idea the information had been passed on, until confronted by media yesterday afternoon.

“I do not think that she tried to deliberately smear. I do not think that she was trying to deliberately undermine anyone, and I think it was in the context in a conversation about something else, and then at the end it came up.

“She deeply, deeply regrets it. And I can’t apologise enough.”

Despite some claims of the Minister’s complicity there is no evidence that Bennett was involved in a deliberate outing or smear of Dennis, so it remains at this stage a poor decision by one of Bennett’s staff (who apparently has apologised and offered to resign) that reflects poorly on her Minister.

Unless something else emerges the dust will probably settle on this now, but some of that dust has settled on Bennett’s chances of rising further in the political ranks.

One interesting aspect of this is that the issue was raised by a journalist who was told about the police investigation by a staffer – presumably a PR staffer who may well be an ex journalist.

Neither of them have been named or identified.

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71 Comments

  1. Blazer

     /  16th June 2016

    “Gordon Bennett “

    Reply
  2. lurcher1948

     /  16th June 2016

    It’s all right when the right do it.

    Reply
    • PDB

       /  16th June 2016

      The left do it all the time, the difference being that their ‘union’ mates don’t then publicize it in order to make political capital.

      Reply
  3. Brown

     /  16th June 2016

    The staffer is said to have offered their resignation. Bennett should have accepted it as a warning to the rest of these big mouthed mistake makers.

    Reply
  4. David

     /  16th June 2016

    Where does the line get drawn on these things, Labour work really closely with the media, get leaked stuff etc etc which appears to be OK, is it kind of a Katie Bradford moral test that its ok when it smacks National but morally abhorrent when its in Nationals interest.

    Reply
    • PDB

       /  16th June 2016

      Yep – the left are free to work with the MSM in running their attack lines, anybody else is accused of being involved in ‘dirty politics’. The recent ‘homeless’ beat up was initially instigated by Labour asking through their newsletter for examples of people who were ‘homeless’, and this was then fed to the MSM so that they could exaggerate the situation to create a ‘story’. This of course backfired when Little did a full media stand-up outside a house that was in fact not ‘overcrowded’ as they had been informed.

      Reply
      • Kitty Catkin

         /  16th June 2016

        Well, the tent was crowded-with furniture and building materials ! 😀

        I am as mad as a wasp that I missed the film of this and the indignant house owner coming out to ask what they thought that they were doing.

        What an excellent idea, though, to buy/hire a tent at such a time. I’d never have thought of doing that. There must be some happy tent sellers & hirers as the result of that story, anyway 🙂

        Reply
  5. Gezza

     /  16th June 2016

    The tv journalist to whom the information was leaked has not identified the leaker. So the information was given “off the record”. Why would a press secretary ineptly give out a piece of information like this, which now makes the public wonder about the character of the chairman of Te Puea Marae should he, or they, make any more comment on the number of homeless they have had to help, off the record?

    Reply
    • Gezza

       /  16th June 2016

      Reply
    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  16th June 2016

      Actually, I am amazed it was not already public knowledge. This is a relatively senior policeman who has been suspended and presumably off work for many months during this investigation. Surely everyone at the Marae and wherever else he is present during the working week will have wondered why he is there all the time and not doing his job?

      Likewise the journalists covering the Marae’s involvement in the homeless issue must surely have wondered that. How on earth could it have been kept secret?

      Reply
      • Gezza

         /  16th June 2016

        I’m pretty sure most, maybe everyone, involved in running the Marae know why he’s suspended Alan.
        http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/crime/81089110/allegations-top-auckland-police-officer-helped-teenager-leave-country

        Reply
        • Alan Wilkinson

           /  16th June 2016

          Exactly. Which is probably why in the meeting with him there was no explicit comment on the matter being kept private. And why the staff member did not realise that it was not already public knowledge and made the error.

          Of course jamie will prefer to ignore such obvious common sense because a conspiracy suits prejudice or politics.

          Reply
          • Gezza

             /  16th June 2016

            So why make the conversation off the record? This was the first time I’d heard about it. Did you already know about this?

            Reply
            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  16th June 2016

              What conversation was off the record? Did I already know about what?

            • Gezza

               /  16th June 2016

              Sorry, I see now how confusing my comment was.
              1. The press secretary’s conversation with the tv journalist was off the record. Otherwise they would have named. Why make it off the record?

              2. Did you already know about Huri Dennis’s suspension was what I meant? If it was already public knowledge how come none of us knew about it? If nobody knew about it, why would the press secretary assume it was public knowledge. This is fishy Alan.

            • PDB

               /  16th June 2016

              Who was doing the smearing though?

              “Asked by RNZ whether her office had made unsolicited calls to journalists, informing them of the investigation, Bennett said she was unaware of any calls and “wouldn’t expect that to be happening” (Stuff)

              SO RNZ initially made out that the office of Bennett was actively making calls to journalists to smear the Marae (I’m still not sure what they gained by doing this on purpose) but in actual fact it appears a single member of her staff had a short ‘off the record’ conversation with a journalist after they had spoken on a more official matter.

            • Gezza

               /  16th June 2016

              (I’m still not sure what they gained by doing this on purpose)

              Smearing 101 PDB. Any comment made thereafter on the government’s failure to deal adequately with the homeless crisis in Auckland is coming from a Marae whose committee chairman is a suspended policeman under investigation and whose character & motivations are therefore questionable.

            • PDB

               /  16th June 2016

              Can’t see it myself……one (possible) bad egg doesn’t mean the whole Marae is dodgy. The whole reasoning behind slandering the Marae makes no sense. what is more likely is a MSM (particularly red radio) working together with Labour to attack Bennett & further promote the ‘National don’t care about homeless people’ lie.

            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  16th June 2016

              AFAICS it was TV One who chose to keep the journalist’s name secret, not anyone else’s.

              No, of course not, but I’m not heavily involved in politics and the Auckland homeless issue as well as police gossip. It could have been as simple as the journalist asking how to get hold of Dennis and being told he wasn’t at police HQ at present.

            • Gezza

               /  16th June 2016

              @ PDB & Al. I know you two can’t see it. You’re not supposed to.

            • PDB

               /  16th June 2016

              Just another media beat-up……

            • Gezza

               /  16th June 2016

              Well, you know how it goes, something shiny will come out soon enough and distract them PDB.

            • Kitty Catkin

               /  16th June 2016

              It could well have been no secret but not have made the press-it’s not such an exciting story that we’d all want to hear every one of the few details. Or if it had made the press, it would have been two lines on page 11 rather than a headline.

            • jamie

               /  16th June 2016

              Yes Kitty that’s exactly correct, the story is not much of a story. Up until the point where he embarrasses the govt of course.

  6. jamie

     /  16th June 2016

    A press secretary accidentally gives private information to a journalist for no reason at all and it’s nothing to do with the Minister?

    Sorry Pete but there’s being fair and then there’s just being naive.

    Reply
    • PDB

       /  16th June 2016

      Depends who’s side the press secretary is on………….not as clear cut as you think. Bennett has had, shall we say ‘staff issues’ in the past, so loyalty can not be assumed.

      Also press secretaries speak ‘off the record’ to media all the time, maybe her trust in this particular media person was misplaced considering the gossip appears to have occurred at the end of the business side of the conversation.

      Reply
      • Gezza

         /  16th June 2016

        A fairly good indication of whose side the press secretary is on is given in the lack of dismissal.

        Reply
  7. Dougal

     /  16th June 2016

    It’s no secret the place has more leaks than the Titanic. I don’t know what all the fuss is about? This is nothing other than Twyford struggling for relevance. Any utterances from his place where he inserts pie should be ignored or filed in the BS basket.

    Reply
    • jamie

       /  16th June 2016

      Not a good look when the only way left to defend the smearing a private citizen is by saying ‘but she does it all the time.’

      “Any utterances from his place where he inserts pie should be ignored or filed in the BS basket.”

      Even if they’re true, right?

      Reply
      • Dougal

         /  16th June 2016

        True like all those “Chinese sounding names” ?

        Reply
      • Dougal

         /  16th June 2016

        While we are on the subject of smearing private citizens, I wonder how Little Andrew is feeling now a private citizen is taking him to court for a very public smear?

        Reply
        • Gezza

           /  16th June 2016

          Well he should be worrying. He’s a total amateur at this game. The Auditor-General is showing no sign of wanting to investigate the matter and Andy’s got nothing to prove his allegations or we’d have seen it already.

          Reply
          • Kitty Catkin

             /  16th June 2016

            Do you mean ‘Chinese’ names like Ling, Lee and Ching ?

            Reply
  8. lurcher1948

     /  16th June 2016

    John Keys replacement,ticks ALL the boxs………….
    Paula Bennett has form, she has a history of leaking the personal details of private citizens, she’s under pressure, and this is what she does – she assassinates the character of private citizens.” Stuff

    Reply
    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  16th June 2016

      B.s. lurcher. Bennett didn’t leak anything and didn’t do it malevolently either. You, on the other hand, are attempting to assassinate the character of a politician.

      Reply
      • jamie

         /  16th June 2016

        Winston Wolf said it best, and it definitely applies in this instance:

        “Just because you ARE a character doesn’t mean you HAVE character”.

        Reply
    • PDB

       /  16th June 2016

      “she assassinates the character of private citizens”

      That coming from Twyford who saw fit to smear anybody with a ‘Chinese sounding name’ as a foreigner stealing our houses……….pot meet kettle.

      Reply
      • Gezza

         /  16th June 2016

        Yep. There is that. I think it was unintentional – they are useless at the smearing game – but it definitely had that effect.

        Reply
        • Kitty Catkin

           /  16th June 2016

          She responded to the allegations and nonsense talked by the two single mothers on the DPB by revealing their incomes as I remember (incomes provided by the taxpayer) Anyone could have worked these out for themselves, probably, by looking at the WINZ website. I think that a lot of people lost any sympathy that they’d felt when they heard how much these incomes were in comparison with their own !

          Reply
  9. Zedd

     /  16th June 2016

    BUT.. is this the ‘first time’ Paula has allegedly blamed her staff, for her ‘issues’ or ‘mistakes’ ? Methinks NOT !! :/

    Twyford said ‘its a culture in her office’ (including as WINZ minister ?).. oh dear Paula, maybe its time to ‘close the door behind you’ ??? (on the way OUT) 😀

    Reply
    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  16th June 2016

      If Twyford said it, it must be true? Oh dear, reality disconnect is why the Left will remain in opposition.

      Reply
      • Zedd

         /  16th June 2016

        @AW

        OR is it that ‘the Right’ think ‘they can do NO wrong’ ?
        It must be wonderful to be ‘SO perfect’ 😀

        Reply
        • Kitty Catkin

           /  16th June 2016

          Mustn’t it ? How happy all those finger-pointers must be when they think that THEY have never, ever repeated anything that they didn’t know wasn’t known anyway-or let something slip. I wish that I could say the same.

          Reply
          • Gezza

             /  16th June 2016

            OMG. What did you tell the press you shouldn’t have Kitty?

            Reply
          • Kitty Catkin

             /  16th June 2016

            Phil Twyford and his groupies must be very pleased to think that they are so much better than the rest of us imperfect mortals. How I wish that we could all live up to their standards.

            Reply
  10. Gezza

     /  16th June 2016

    The Press Secretary and the TVNZ Journalist now named:
    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11657606

    Reply
    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  16th June 2016

      Rebecca Wright has a history with Bennett which is probably why TVNZ wanted to keep her name out of it. If there is an malevolence involved in this story I know which side I would suspect it is on.

      Reply
    • PDB

       /  16th June 2016

      It also shoots down the theory that Bennett was involved in releasing the information since Rebecca Wright would be the last journalist she would be passing private information through if that was her goal.

      Reply
      • PDB

         /  16th June 2016

        Just read David Farrar and he is of the same opinion:

        “For those convinced it was some sort of deliberate strategy signed off by the Minister, well if so the last person they would choose to deliberately leak to is Rebecca Wright! As in even if every other journalist in NZ had Ebola, Paula would still not choose to deal with Rebecca Wright, let alone leak to her”

        “If TVNZ and Radio NZ had revealed immediately that the journalist talked to was Rebecca, then I doubt any one else in the media would have taken seriously the accusation that this was a deliberate leak. The ill will between the Minister and Rebecca is well known. You wonder if it was a deliberate decision not to reveal this, so the story would be more potent”

        http://www.kiwiblog.co.nz/2016/06/a_difference_between_gossip_and_a_leak.html

        People on here like Jamie are far too quick to jump on the anti-govt bandwagon to put the boot in whilst throwing all common sense out the window.

        Reply
        • Gezza

           /  16th June 2016

          I wonder how Claire found out?

          Reply
        • Gezza

           /  16th June 2016

          Does David Farrar support any particular party in Government? Anyone know?

          Reply
          • jamie

             /  16th June 2016

            I’m pretty sure Farrar is a neutral, objective observer in NZ politics.

            If he opines on one side or the other of any issue, it’s only because he has carefully weighed all of the relevant evidence and come to his own independent conclusions.

            Reply
        • Gezza

           /  16th June 2016

          Paula. Lucy. Rebecca. Claire. Girls. We blokes might actually have *no idea* what’s really going on here. :/

          Reply
  11. jamie

     /  16th June 2016

    It’s interesting how so many commenters here have decided that Twyford is somehow relevant to what Bennett has done.

    The story didn’t originate with Twyford. It was raised by a group of reporters on the bridge in Parliament.

    Of course Twyford is going to talk about it. It’s incredibly embarrassing to his opponent. But that has no bearing on the facts whatsoever.

    Reply
    • PDB

       /  16th June 2016

      What has Bennett done?

      Reply
      • Gezza

         /  16th June 2016

        Bennett > Lucy > Rebecca > Katie > everyone > ❓ > Claire.

        Reply
        • PDB

           /  16th June 2016

          Jamie is like one of the kids running around with his fingers in his ears saying “not listening, not listening”….. Bennett apologised for her staff members indiscretion (and considering the MSM leaker was Bennett’s sworn media enemy tells us that Bennett had naught to do with the so-called ‘leak’) so I’m not sure what else she could do except maybe sack the person. Twyford has got involved and said Bennett should resign so he is fair game.

          Reply
      • jamie

         /  16th June 2016

        What has she done? Well according to some reports she knowingly employed an office full of her enemies whom she knew would leak sensitive info against her wishes and make it look like the Minister was behind it.

        Oh no hang on, that is just MENTAL.

        Reply

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