Bizarre and more bizarre expenses leak – questions unanswered

It was a bizarre day yesterday as revelations and media conferences added information but raised further questions in the already odd case of the leaked expenses of Simon Bridges.

Just one bizarre part of yesterday’s unfolding was Tova O’Brien, the Newshub journalist who broke the story in the first place after being provided with leaked information, riding a high horse criticising RNZ for adding to her story yesterday, claiming insensitivities when someone was a significant mental health risk.

The inquiry into the leak has been called off, but National party internal inquiries should be continuing, as should journalist inquiries.

Sam Sachdeva (Newsroom): Fittingly strange end to leak scandal  – I don’t think it is anywhere near the end of the leak saga, but there is a good summary:

Speaker Trevor Mallard’s decision to call off an investigation into the leak of MPs’ expenses, following a text message from the leaker saying their health was at risk, has put an ellipsis rather than a full stop on “Limogate”.

As first reported by RNZ, the anonymous texter contacted National leader Simon Bridges and Speaker Trevor Mallard last week, urging an end to the investigation due to fears it would worsen their serious mental health issues.

The texter claimed to be a National MP, providing evidence which supposedly could only have been obtained if that was in fact the case.

The original decision to leak the expenses to the media only days before they were due for release was puzzling enough.

Then there was Bridges’ reaction, initially brushing off the media attention only to change his mind and call for a High Court judge to look into the matter (he got a Queen’s Counsel instead, with Michael Heron QC in the job for all of 24 hours).

In a week where news presenter Greg Boyed’s death has put the spotlight on New Zealand’s high rates of depression and suicide, responding with anything other than sensitivity and care would have been cruel.

We have been assured that the leaker was having mental health difficulties but whose life should not be at risk any more if it ever was (it’s unknown whether the plea to end the inquiry was genuinely fraught, or was an attempt at a form of emotional blackmail.

On balance, you could argue both Bridges and Mallard made good decisions: Bridges in contacting the police so they could identify the person and provide support, and Mallard in deciding that the leaker’s wellbeing outweighed any benefits of pushing ahead with an inquiry.

Bridges disagrees with the Speaker’s call, but if there is any question of someone’s health being at risk then that is what should be the top priority.

While Bridges suggests the integrity of Parliament is at sake, Mallard’s reading of the text has led him to conclude that it is almost certainly a member of National’s caucus or wider staff who is responsible.

I think that Bridges must make it publicly clear what the outcome is. If a National MP tries to quietly resign in a while it will be immediately seen as to have a connection, or at least suspected.

If it is a staff member or someone else who is not an MP, failing to reveal details leaves all 56 of the National MPs under suspicion. That is unfair on them.

For the ultimate good of the culprit, and for the good of the National caucus, we need to be told more.

29 Comments

  1. chrism56

     /  August 25, 2018

    There is still no proof that it was actually someone in National’s caucus. Note how Mallard carefully skirted around the subject.
    “Mallard also said: “The existence of, and part of the detail of, a text both the Leader of the Opposition and I received last week has been reported on. It has now been confirmed to me that the person who leaked the details of the expenses and the texter are the same person.
    “He or she has details of events that it is unlikely anyone outside the National Party would be privy to.””

    So he doesn’t know who it is but guessed they were someone from National.

    • Blazer

       /  August 25, 2018

      keep clinging to the futile hope its not a National insider..

      • robertguyton

         /  August 25, 2018

        Caucus member: Doesn’t really matter though; National has suffered throughout the whole affair and looks set to suffer some more.

        “But Bridges has now been left in the worst of all worlds.

        Having called for an inquiry, he was obliged to stick to his guns on the issue, even after it appeared that he might not like the answer should it turn out to be a National MP.

        That would have suggested a concerted campaign to destabilise his leadership.

        But having now been informed by police that the person concerned has mental health issues, Bridges has no way of knowing for sure whether that might be one of his MPs, a staff member, or even someone from the Speaker’s office.

        An inquiry might have allowed Parliament to find that person and put support around them if necessary. Alternatively, it might have found that the text was a smokescreen.

        But we may never know. Worse for Bridges, the finger of suspicion is now pointed at an internal leak, suggesting cracks in National’s unity.”
        Tracey Watkins

        • duperez

           /  August 25, 2018

          I’d already read the whole Watkins article.

          I wondered if she were suggesting the name of the person be found and put out and damn the consequences. You know, the glory of the story is more important than the humans at the end of it. The sort of feral attitude quite common.

          Or if she were peed off because she didn’t have control of the story because she doesn’t know who the person is. Seeing it as the bit of a problem Bridges has highlights the big ups for Watkins – there’s more mileage in the situation for her yet.

      • Trevors_elbow

         /  August 25, 2018

        Labour dirty tricks….and the old bovver boy is at the centre…… that’s what looks like in my honest opinion.

        And the fact you’re running around saying it’s a National leadership coup ploy just unlined how much it is a left hit job… which has been completely botched…

        • Blazer

           /  August 25, 2018

          is this an attempt at parody,comedy,satire??Bol.

          • Trevors_elbow

             /  August 25, 2018

            No. Oh look Clare Curran is in trouble again…. isn’t interesting how a supposed Nat scandal erupts nicely when Clare has been caught out again and then her ooopsie, sorry and demotion is slid out the door while the Bridges thing is kept stirring…

            Timing is not coincidental. Tova the Tame One earns her stripes it seems…

        • duperez

           /  August 25, 2018

          Someone saying it’s a National leadership coup ploy underlines how much it is a left hit job? Dear oh dear.

          • Trevors_elbow

             /  August 25, 2018

            Oh grow up Dupee. BOL has been pushing that meme if you read his postings on it. You’re weak attempt at saying that is my POV on it and I’m therefore off kilter is pretty pathetic even for you and your oh so superior brand of snide..

            Who gains from the Tova attempted hit? Against the background of constant Ardern zministry missteps and eff ups?

            Yeah Labour is the likely source and now they have start to try and shut it down because it’s a nothing.

            How’s that report on labour youth camps going?

  2. Alan Wilkinson

     /  August 25, 2018

    Gone quiet until we know more.

  3. Grumpy

     /  August 25, 2018

    This is so easy to get sorted. All Bridges has to do is give Mallard a letter signed by ALL his MPs insisting the investigation continue. Any that won’t sign, then……goodbye.

  4. David

     /  August 25, 2018

    Mallard is playing games, not knowing exactly who it is raises everyones paranoia and destroys trust amongst colleagues. Mallard is an arsehole but thats hardly new news.

  5. lurcher1948

     /  August 25, 2018

    The tempory leader of the opposition is proving to be an expensive liability and continues to want to spend more and having a picture taken with his”loyal”troops surrounding his back to deflect the soon to come dagger wasn’t a good look

  6. MEDIA RELEASE 24 August 2018

    Trevor Mallard, Speaker of the House, has called off the inquiry into the source of the leak of National Party travel and accommodation expenses that was to have been undertaken by Michael Heron QC.

    “The existence of, and part of the detail of, a text both the Leader of the Opposition and I received last week has been reported on. It has now been confirmed to me that the person who leaked the details of the expenses and the texter are the same person. He or she has details of events that it is unlikely anyone outside the National Party would be privy to.” Trevor Mallard said.

    “The text is from someone who is clearly very disturbed and today’s publicity will almost certainly make that worse. My priority is to get appropriate support to them whether they are an MP or a staff member.

    “I have discussed my decision with Hon Simon Bridges. He disagrees with it. He wants the inquiry to continue. I have indicated to him that the Parliamentary Service will cooperate if he decides that he wants to proceed with an investigation and appropriate consents from MPs are in place. The general manager will make any relevant staff emails available.”

    • Kitty Catkin

       /  August 25, 2018

      Nobody seems to have mentioned hacking.

  7. robertguyton

     /  August 25, 2018

    The entire National Party caucus is under suspicion.

    • artcroft

       /  August 25, 2018

      Never mind. Once the Greens vote for Winstone’s Tyranny Bill, Bridges knows he will have the power to expel any dissidents. Thanks Greens.

      • Corky

         /  August 25, 2018

        For once them Greens were shooting straight, Arty. It’s always about control with the Left.

        • Blazer

           /  August 25, 2018

          If its not an M.P. as Barely Sober states ,its clearly the attention seeking,blubbering blogger himself..has all the circumstantial pointing at him.

          • robertguyton

             /  August 25, 2018

            But he’s denied it!!!

            • robertguyton

               /  August 25, 2018

              If it is him, it shows Judith is still whispering in his ear: the National Party’s leaking like a seive!

    • Gezza

       /  August 25, 2018

      The enquiry should have proceeded & identified the perp. If the leaker came to harm that is something for Tova O’Brien to wear.

      • Kitty Catkin

         /  August 25, 2018

        The person needn’t have been named; it would be enough to know that they’d been caught.
        If they’re a staff member, the name would mean nothing to most people, anyway.

        Tova has a lot to answer for, the silly cow. I thought better of her.

  8. Patzcuaro

     /  August 25, 2018

    Simon says ” don’t call me if you have a leak”.

  9. Alan Wilkinson

     /  August 25, 2018

    I don’t ser why this is a problem for Bridges. Even if it is an MP it just shows his only caucus enemy is a nutter.

  10. robertguyton

     /  August 25, 2018

    Bridges insists the inquiry should continue, despite saying:
    “It was my very clear view there would be significant harm to them if the investigation proceeded. It was a dark and concerning text message,” he says. “.

    Bridges doesn’t care about that “significant harm” any longer???

    “National Party leader Simon Bridges says police have worked out the identity of the person who claimed to leak his expense details.
    Last week, Mr Bridges received a “dark and concerning” text from an unknown number claiming to be a National MP. They said they had leaked because Mr Bridges was “arrogant” and they disliked his leadership.
    They also said they had a “long and serious mental health issue” and pleaded for the investigation into their actions to be dropped.
    Speaking to media on Friday, Mr Bridges said the person made it “very clear” in their text message there would be significant harm to them if the investigation by speaker Trevor Mallard continued.
    “It was my very clear view there would be significant harm to them if the investigation proceeded. It was a dark and concerning text message,” he says.
    So given that, if we on the other side are to assume first as to real motivation, and judge first before complete facts are in, then we’ll also simultaneously lay ourselves open to a reasonable charge of hypocrisy.”

  11. Blazer

     /  August 25, 2018

    new absolving cover all…’long and serious mental health issue”…

  1. Bizarre and more bizarre expenses leak – questions unanswered — Your NZ – NZ Conservative Coalition