Peters wants monetary damages for privacy breach

Winston Peters wants damages from politicians, public servants and journalists in his High Court legal action taken for alleged breaches in privacy.

Tim Murphy (one of the journalists): Peters seeks money from two journalists

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters has told the High Court he wants to be paid monetary damages by two journalists who reported his seven-year overpayment of national superannuation.

Peters, aged 72, is also alleging in an unorthodox draft Statement of Claim filed with the High Court at Auckland that prominent Newshub political reporter Lloyd Burr is a “National Party political activist”.

I doubt that stupid claims like that will help Winston’s case. And it’s highly hypocritical given the number of journalists Peters has used over the decades to publicise his claims, allegations and conspiracy theories.

Peters not only wants the court to require Burr and myself to hand over phone records, notes and documents relating to his superannuation windfall story but to pay him “general damages” as compensation for allegedly breaching his privacy. The amounts are not specified, but Peters did pay back thousands of dollars for taking the extra super for so long. As deputy Prime Minister he earns $330,000 a year, plus he takes his (now-standardised) national superannuation payments.

He also wants money from one of the country’s top civil servants, the head of the Ministry of Social Development, Brendan Boyle.

The draft document was required by Justice Anne Hinton after Peters’ initial fishing expedition for documents — known as a pre-proceeding discovery application — was filed without the usual arguments for what he was claiming he suspected the two journalists and seven others from the previous National government had done and what his action wanted to achieve.

That action against National leader Bill English and three ministers, signed by his two lawyers and filed with the court on the day before the September 23 general election and subsequent “good faith” coalition negotiations, indicated Peters wanted to sue someone for making public his super overpayment but did not know who, or exactly for what.

He calls “unlawful” the actions of Boyle, in telling two ministers about Peters’ super overpayment. He claims Boyle “knew or was reckless if he did not know” that the two ministers Anne Tolley and Paula Bennett “would utilise the intended plaintiff’s private MSD information for political purposes including discrediting the intended plaintiff in the forthcoming general election”.

“If”, Peters’ draft claim goes on, “the no surprises policy is lawful” then Boyle breached it in any case.

He also alleges it was reckless by Boyle to even disclose the Peters’ windfall to the State Services Commission.

It sounds like Peters is challenging public service and Parliamentary procedures through the Court. This seems very odd from a current Cabinet Minister.

Peters calls the group of National ministers and staffers, which also included Steven Joyce, English’s chief of staff Wayne Eagleson and party communications officer Clark Hennessy, by a made-up title, the National Party Re-election Committee and gives it the acronym NPRC throughout his document.

Again, in a legal document, that sounds bizarre.

He says the “leak” of the information caused him damage and he attempted to mitigate it by making a public statement “about his private MSD information being leaked”. His draft statement of claim does not say that it was Peters himself, through that statement, who made his seven-year overpayment public. No media story had appeared when he took it upon himself to go public.

On the media’s reporting of the story, Peters alleges the “NPRC” arranged to leak the fact of his overpayment “to the media by use of journalists who were part-of and/or sympathetic to the National Party campaign to be re-elected — or alternatively would be reckless as to their obligations” when they knew of the payments.

He claims in one paragraph that the “public concern of the intended plaintiff’s private MSD information does not outweigh the intended plaintiff’s right to privacy of his private MSD information.” It could be, here, that he is questioning the public’s right to know.

Peters argues the media “owed him an obligation to protect his privacy unless they had information that entitled them to assert that [his] conduct as disclosed in the private MSD information “was of public concern and could be published.”

He seeks unspecified damages, and costs, from all the “intended defendants”.

The High Court has also directed Peters to file an affidavit, which he had not done when first filing. A hearing is set for March, if the judge decides there is any basis for Peters’ seeking pre-discovery from the media or politicians.

Peters may well be justified at feeling aggrieved at his private information being leaked, but he seems to be taking some unusual and debatable measures to deal with it.

Not surprisingly most media concern is of journalists being included in the legal action.

There is a real risk of a ‘chilling effect’ on media coverage of politics.

Certainly it’s fair to hold media to account, but Peters has used media to his advantage more than just about any politician so this is highly hypocritical action from Peters.

Journalists are happy for Peters to attack his political opponents, they like headline fodder, but on RNZ Brent Edwards has just called the inclusion of journalists in the action as reprehensible, and slammed Peters for his calling Lloyd Burr a “National Party political activist”.

“To have a senior minister, who is also deputy prime minister, taking legal action against journalists is very worrying.”

“We see those sorts of attacks on journalists in the Philippines and places like that … it’s just reprehensible and there’s no place for it in New Zealand.”

Peters may struggle to get sympathetic coverage on this.

 

21 Comments

  1. Blazer

     /  November 29, 2017

    you would expect all roads would lead to National black ops.Eagleson has moved on,has form,as has Bennett for being …indiscreet.

    • PDB

       /  November 29, 2017

      Or a left-wing public servant with an axe to grind, maybe a Green party supporter wanting to show Turei wasn’t the only high profile MP rorting the system…all conjecture and almost zero chance of Winston finding the person/s responsible.

      I note the left in this country get up in arms over Trump attacking the press but in this case it’s all fine and dandy…

    • artcroft

       /  November 29, 2017

      More squirrels Blazer. You’re being over run by the varmints.

    • Corky.

       /  November 29, 2017

      Don’t let paranoia eat you up, Blazer. The fact is Winston has rubbed the wrong people up the wrong way.

      It’s all grist for the mill. It’s the cumulative damage that will take this government out. It will be interesting to see what event/issue is the tipping point. It could be something as trivial as Kelvin Davis buying a hamburger with a government chit.

      • Blazer

         /  November 29, 2017

        Winston has been ..rubbing people up..the wrong way…since 1975.

        • Corky.

           /  November 29, 2017

          True. But with this government in a ‘delicate state,’ now really isn’t the best time to piss journalists off…..again.

  2. Gerrit

     /  November 29, 2017

    With the call by commentators and journalists that the Hager books were in “the public interest” even though the material in the books were derived from stolen emails, one has to wonder why the same commentators and journalists are not advocating that the leaked Winston Peters information is also in “the public interest”.

    Frankly Winston Peters is in a self defeating bully boy tactic with this litigation and his first test will be if the courts will allow the journalist the coverage of section 68 of the evidence act in that what they published was not significantly harmfull and “in the public interest”..

    If that ruling is in the favour of the journalists, he is up the creek, he might as well start writing his memoirs.

    If Winston Peters succeeds he has started a huge mission to collate the evidence and present a case for libel.

    Now the Winston Peters 2004 Scampi case took 7 years before coming to trial (settled just before going to trial).

    Can he really take that long again? Will he live that long?

    And frankly does anyone give a damn?

    • Blazer

       /  November 29, 2017

      You appear to!Winston has probably already begun writing his memoirs.He has achieved more in politics than any current M.P.Does the fact that Hager used stolen emails over ride their authenticity in your opinion?I will point out the obvious to you…the info leaked into the public domain came from a Govt Dept.

      • Gerrit

         /  November 29, 2017

        Than you need to provide that “proof” in regards the leak came from a government department to Winston Peters. Am sure he will embrace you with open arms!

        It does not matter one iota how much (or little) Winston Peters has done in the past, the law is only interested in today.

        Of extreme interest is the first court ruling in regards section 68 of the evidence act as relating to journalists having to divulge their sources.

        Winston Peters has a final option open to him and that is to stand up in parliament, use the cloak of immunity that parliamentary privilege extends to him and name names, events and liabilities.

        Bet you he wont.

        • Blazer

           /  November 29, 2017

          You only need to concede the information came from a Govt Dept and was unauthorised…to lose this argument…as you have done.

  3. Gerrit

     /  November 29, 2017

    Hager’s book “The Hollow Man” was derived from stolen, leaked and otherwise illegally obtained from a government department.

    Does that make a difference to you Blazer?

    Oh and your champion has a history with stolen emails.

    “But New Zealand First leader Winston Peters, who once tabled some of the emails and boasted to have a “telephone book” of them, said the leak was inside Dr Brash’s office.

    “I know that and so does Don Brash. Going to the police and laying a complaint was an absolute fraud,” Mr Peters said.”

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/371614/Nats-leaker-happy-to-get-away-with-it

    Hang by his own petard?

    Utu could be strong in this case!

    Or suck it up Winston?

    • Blazer

       /  November 29, 2017

      Do try and be accurate at least…’Hager’s previous books have included The Hollow Men, which also drew heavily on emails, the source of which Hager has never revealed. ‘Stuff.

      • Gerrit

         /  November 29, 2017

        Am leaving you far behind. If you read the link provided you will see that the sources were never revealed, however the emails were stolen from a government department (like the Winston Peters information).

        This information was freely used by Hager, the press and by Winston Peters in parliament.

        He boosted he had copies, and used them to effect.

        But now he is aggrieved that stolen information about him is released!!

        Oh the hypocrisy!!

        • Blazer

           /  November 29, 2017

          I just caught up…with your own link…
          ‘Mr Hager has always maintained the emails were leaked to him by National Party sources and said those who claimed they were gained by theft should apologise to him.’…Hager is Hager…and Winston is his own…man.note…do try ..harder.

  4. Gerrit

     /  November 29, 2017

    You really don’t get it do you blazer.

    Winston Peters used information from stolen emails for political advantage. Even expressed and boasted that he had a “telephone directory” quantity of emails.

    How do you think in a court of litigation that this precedent sets will be viewed? Never mind the court of public opinion?

    Now he is upset that his stolen information is used? Goodness me Winston Peters is a hypocrite.

    Still it will cost him heaps in legal bills.

    • Blazer

       /  November 29, 2017

      I get it..you make assumptions about the source of Winstons information.You have no proof,and Hager maintains the information came from National…not stolen as you allege.

      • Gerrit

         /  November 29, 2017

        No you haven’t “got it”

        Winston Peters made political gain from stolen information against Don Brash.

        The question of where that information (covertly obtained) came from is immaterial.

        Now that someone else has made political gain from covertly obtained information detrimental against Winston Peters, he is on his high horse.

        Suck it up Winston Peters, what goes around comes around.

        • Blazer

           /  November 29, 2017

          what political..’gain’?

          • Gerrit

             /  November 29, 2017

            Do your own history lessons and try and understand about strategy to undermine leadership.

            In Brash’s case his extra marital affair, in Peters case his claiming a living alone pension when he was in cohabitation with a partner.

            • Blazer

               /  November 29, 2017

              ‘The question of where that information (covertly obtained) came from is immaterial.’…could have saved yourself alot of time and…effort…in that..case.