Bridges leak and Curran semi-demotion: more to come?

The two big political stories of the week (in New Zealand) may not be over yet.

News of Clare Curran’s semi demotion was dumped late on Friday, and that raised suspicions by media, as it should have. They may get more out of the story yet – or Curran may have learned from her second similar stuff up and become an uncontroversial minister outside Cabinet.

There has to be more on the Bridges expenses leaker who played a mental health card, as well as suggesting their life was at risk if the leak inquiry continued. The speaker Trevor Mallard stopped the inquiry, which raises more questions.

Stacey Kirk:  The foreboding sense there’s more to come in two capital scandals

On Curran

The self-styled “most open and transparent Government ever” has just ushered in its first ministerial sacking: former Minister for Open Government Clare Curran for less than transparent practices.

Curran mislead the House and failed to disclose a meeting she held with entrepreneur Derek Handley, who expressed an interest in becoming the country’s first chief technology officer.

It’s her second offence of an almost identical nature and while it was at best a sloppy administrative oversight, it’s left both her and the Government open to accusations of dishonesty.

Ardern had no choice but to sack her from Cabinet, but has left the door open for her re-entry as Curran retains ministerial warrants for broadcasting and ACC. And as her first major disciplinary act, not cutting the cancer entirely could be a decision Ardern comes to regret.

This story could now fade away, unless Curran does something else to attract adverse attention.

Ardern has established a reputation as being prepared to act against erring Ministers, eventually but not particularly decisively.

On the Bridges leaker

The case of the Bridges leak is so far from closed.

Which is why the decision by Speaker Trevor Mallard to call off the investigation makes little sense. But there doesn’t seem to be much about the saga that makes sense anymore.

One thing we know is there a person who has mental health issues, who may not be coping in the role and cannot possibly be getting all the help they need because no one knows who to provide it to.

The leaker sent texts to both Bridges and Mallard last week and it goes without saying, all mental health claims have to be taken at face value. By all accounts National acted swiftly to ensure the right approach was taken under the circumstances; engaging professional mental health advice and police.

But mental health issues are not a free pass to avoid accountability either and Mallard’s decision makes it hard to shake the impression that Parliament’s institutions are now that much more susceptible to manipulation or worse, blackmail.

Mallard has absolved himself of any responsibility for a mental health meltdown. These sorts of threats are unlikely to happen often if at all again, but it leaves questions hanging.

In a statement, Mallard seemed to suggest that the case appeared to be closed and Parliamentary Service all but absolved. Not quite.

None of the questions that prompted the inquiry to be called, have been answered. While it does at least seem more likely than not that the culprit was within the National caucus, it is not proven.

This story can’t just be swept under the carpet in the hope that it will be forgotten.

Whether it was a National MP or not, suspicion hovers over all of them.

As the axe fell on Curran and the leak investigation, Ardern and Mallard probably thought they were taking decisive action to draw the curtains on separate sagas they clearly did not want to be involved in.

Instead, a foreboding fog of unfinished business is settling in the air.

Something for journalists to get to work on.

Jonathan Milne already has worked on it:  Public can have no confidence in broadcast minister – and neither can Prime Minister

Both meetings came as the Government prepared to take significant decisions affecting those broadcast organisations: whether to fund Radio NZ to set up a new public service TV channel; whether to support Government MP Clayton Mitchell’s private member’s bill guaranteeing New Zealanders free-to-air sports.

So it is not just Curran’s performance in the open government and digital services portfolios that should be called into question, but also her transparency as broadcasting minister.

It is entirely possible that the words “free-to-air” or “piracy” were never mentioned in that evening meeting in the Beehive office; that Curran and Handley were focused on his application for the role of Chief Technology Officer of NZ Inc.

But with no notes of the meeting disclosed, no advisers present, and a track record of unreliable answers from the Minister to Parliament itself, the public can have no confidence.

And neither can the Prime Minister.

 

28 Comments

  1. robertguyton

     /  August 26, 2018

    The whole “leaking Nat” story is crazy !

    • Gezza

       /  August 26, 2018

      Old news. The new news is why did Mallard really cancel the enquiry, why has Curran still got any portfolios, and why didn’t Jacinda promote a competent female up into the Ministerial ranks when Curran got the elbow from Cabinet. Alison Mau wants to know. This is how it starts: #whynotifthegreenscandumpblokes

  2. Ray

     /  August 26, 2018

    So the next time some person is being hounded by the media ( think John Campbell on one of his hobby horses) all they have to do is play the mental health, self harm card and it will stop.
    As I said about Greg Boyed, it was great that the media can show group compassion when it is one of their own but when will they show the same compassion when it is one of the unwashed, us.
    Maybe this is the start, maybe but as we don’t know who the person is, in this case but some of the media do know, draw your own conclusions.

  3. Loki

     /  August 26, 2018

    A number of things bother me about the expenses leak.
    Cancelling the inquiry is bullshit, as is the “mental health” angle.
    The media just falling into line with Mallard cancelling it (while on holiday in Ireland FFS).
    Themedia really have gone full noise at costing up to the govt from Tova and her original biased reporting to Trevett holiday in Nuie with Shane Jones wife and ending with Mallard getting a free pass from Ireland at cancelling inquiry and declaring a Nat did it.

  4. George

     /  August 26, 2018

    I don’t buy the ‘mental health’. or ‘the Nats did it’ for a moment.
    For something that was going to be published anyway ?

    • NOEL

       /  August 26, 2018

      Wonder if Snopes would be interested?

    • duperez

       /  August 26, 2018

      It’s nothing to do with National, it’s nothing to do with mental health issues.

      Eureka, there’s the new angle! Let’s get the story out there – the leaker was a perfectly rational, mentally well Labour MP. Better still, a perfectly rational, mentally well Minister. Well, almost as good even an NZ First one.🙃

  5. Johnno

     /  August 26, 2018

    What has escaped some here, is that there is now evidence of two leakers in the Nat’s caucus. One, the original leaker, who dropped Bridges in it to Newshub, and a second, who leaked the existence of the texts to RNZ. It’s not too much of a stretch to suspect there is some dissatisfaction and plotting within their caucus.

    I think Mallard has taken the only course that was left to him. The Speaker’s role has traditionally had some degree of cross-party pastoral care to it. They are often approached by individual MPs from all parties for advice and counselling on personal matters, from marriage difficulties, to alchohol/susbtance abuse, to internal party bullying. The Speaker has to take the MP’s self-described mental health issues at face value. My suspicion is that Mallard actually knows who the original leaker is, most likely because they have approached him.

    • High Flying Duck

       /  August 26, 2018

      Not necessarily. The same leaker could have leaked the texts – although they sent them to Tova O’Brian in the first instance. And the leaker still does not necessarily come from the Nat’s.
      It is only Labour wanting to shut down the inquiry.
      Definitely could be a Nat, with 56 in the caucus there is plenty of scope for a dissatisfied troublemaker.
      But there are also staffers and opposition MP’s who could have done it.

      • Blazer

         /  August 26, 2018

        so who would be in favour of an inquiry costing tens of thousands into who leaked the LOTO’s legitimate expenses 3 days before they became publiic?

        The Police know the perp ,Mallard knows and so does Bridges,who has a talent at chopping off his own legs.

        • chrism56

           /  August 26, 2018

          Bridges does not know – Blazer other wise they would have been disappeared if the were National and all hell broken loose if it wasn’t. . Mallard probably knows who it is- likely to be Clare Curran.

          • Blazer

             /  August 26, 2018

            Curren doesn’t seem suicidal..terminal in portfolio if she doesn’t smarten up though.

            • chrism56

               /  August 26, 2018

              That suicidal comment was only a comment made by the texter after the enquiry was announced in an effort to get the investigation called off. Unless the person was identified, there is no way of ascertaining the real situation. If it was Clare, she could have told the cops I will kill myself if this becomes public. Is that suicidal?

            • Blazer

               /  August 27, 2018

              well Chrism, Curren would still be in Cabinet if she used the don’t expose me or I’ll check out line.

              Could become a very popular …sidestep.

            • chrism56

               /  August 27, 2018

              It would help if you were able to spell, but Ms Curran has form of smear jobs. And the police didn’t report how credible the threat was.

            • Blazer

               /  August 27, 2018

              how do the Police gauge credibility…if the person dies=they meant it…if they don’t=they were bluffing!!

  6. Aunty Podes

     /  August 26, 2018

    Why is there an assumption that the leak was from a Nat member? I have neither seen nor heard any evidence for this. In any case, the whole thing is a storm in a teacup with no real significance whatever.

  7. Duperez

     /  August 26, 2018

    The assumption that it is from a Nat member is because those closer to the details than us have suggested they know enough to make it not worth investigating. By you not having seen or heard anything, do you think all the information known to those close to the situation should be delivered to your door or on the front pages of the papers?

  8. PartisanZ

     /  August 26, 2018

    Odd that we tolerate a deviant form of politics where this even happens let alone has any major implications or consequences … and call it democracy …

    • Gezza

       /  August 26, 2018

      We don’t tolerate it happening. Why on earth do you think so many people are going on about it?

  9. robertguyton

     /  August 26, 2018

    C’mon, Natty MP leaker-guy, fess up!

    • PartisanZ

       /  August 26, 2018

      … “guy”?

    • Gezza

       /  August 26, 2018

      A proper investigation might have turned up a Green sleeper mole in Parliamentary Services who bugged the tea trolley.

      • Ray

         /  August 27, 2018

        Well the claim of mental fragility certainly make you wonder if that was a possibility.
        Let’s not forget the Greens believe that the science is proven on climate change but not for vacccination, or genetic engineering, or the replacement of soil minerals taken by farming.
        Hard to believe that doesn’t lead to some mental stress.

        • Blazer

           /  August 27, 2018

          lets also not forget Nationals propensity for dirty politics.
          They even have an M.P who falsified his residency application with the breathtakingly ,feeble rationale,that someone told him …to!

          • chrism56

             /  August 27, 2018

            You mean like the Labour MP for New Plymouth who that had to pass a special law for to keep their majority.
            Stop spinning Blazer.

            • Blazer

               /  August 27, 2018

              aren’t you guys shit scared of Communists …though…surely raising heaps of funds doesn’t allay your fear!Bol.

  1. Bridges leak and Curran semi-demotion: more to come? — Your NZ – NZ Conservative Coalition