Court insists that Peters provide answers

Winston Peters is finding out that he can’t avoid answering questions in a legal proceeding – unlike his frequent fobbing off of media questions.

He has been ordered to pay “modest costs” for failing to adequately answer questions.

Peters was paid a single person rate since 2010 while living in a de facto relationship, until his partner claimed Superannuation in 2017.

Court documents have confirmed that MSD  sent Peters a letter in 2014 asking him to check the details he had supplied. Peters says that he doesn’t recall receiving the letter. He failed to answer whether he had contacted MSD after receiving the letter.

This came out in a High Court hearing last Friday.

Newsroom – Judge to Peters: Answer the questions

Court documents have confirmed New Zealand First leader Winston Peters was sent a letter by officials four years into his seven-year overpayment of national superannuation asking him to check details he had supplied, including that he was ‘single’.

He continued to receive the higher rate of superannuation for ‘single, shared accommodation’ rather than his actual ‘de facto relationship’ for three further years.

In answer to questions by Crown lawyers in a case brought by the Deputy Prime Minister to prove departments and two former ministers breached his privacy by sharing in 2017 information on his overpayment, Peters says he does not recall receiving the letter “but I do not doubt I would have received it”.

Peters had to repay around $18,000 to the ministry after the overpayment came to light months before the 2017 election, when his partner applied for her own superannuation. An unknown whistleblower alerted media but Peters announced the overpayment himself before the news could break.

The question and answer over the March 2014 letter asking him to check what he had told MSD in 2010 is included in a new judgment in the case, dealing with a Crown request for the court to order Peters to give answers.

Chief High Court Justice Geoffrey Venning has now ordered Peters to supply answers by Friday to several questions he had not adequately addressed.

He also ordered Peters to pay “modest” costs over this round of the case.

While the judge did not make Peters give further answers over his filling out and initialling of the original superannuation application from 2010, or specify for how many years before then he had been in his de facto relationship, he did order more information from the MP.

For example, the judge found Peters’ answer to the Crown lawyers’ question of “As at March 18, 2014, were you living with Ms Janet Trotman in a de facto relationship?” was “general in the extreme” and “is to be answered”.

He also had failed to answer the Crown’s question on whether he had contacted MSD after the 2014 letter.

Further, Peters had not answered if he told MSD officials at their office in Ellerslie on July 26, 2017, that his claim on his original superannuation application that he was ‘single’ was incorrect. “The question is to be answered,” the judge said.

Peters had not answered a question over whether at that meeting “you agreed that you were not and had never been, entitled to receive National Superannuation at the rate you had been receiving it (the ‘single, sharing accommodation’) rate.” The Judge said he must now answer.

The NZ First leader had also not answered a direct question of “who disclosed the issue of the overpayment of New Zealand Superannuation to you to the media?” Justice Venning said: “The question requires an answer. If the answer is the plaintiff does not know, then that should be recorded. The question is to be answered.”

This is in preparation for a full hearing due to start on 4 November.

Defendants are:

  • the former Minister of State Services, Paula Bennett
  • the former Minister of Social Development, Anne Tolley
  • the State Services Commissioner, Peter Hughes
  • the Attorney General on behalf of the Ministry of Social Development
  • the chief executive of the Ministry of Social Development, Brendan Boyle.

Peters was embarrassed by the overpayment and repaid it in 2017. His court action is airing it all again, and he is at risk of further embarrassment.

He filed court proceedings against Bennett and Tolley just before beginning coalition negotiations with National following the 2017 election.

Court decisions currently available publicly:

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12 Comments

  1. Duker

     /  17th October 2019

    Love to see the Questions asked for Ms Bennett and Ms Tolley. looks like their lawyers are playing games , as its not Peters who breached the privacy ‘laws’ under which Social Welfare operates and is being sued.
    This question is weird.
    “The NZ First leader had also not answered a direct question of “who disclosed the issue of the overpayment of New Zealand Superannuation to you to the media?”

    Other background is
    “Peters’ lawyer Brian Henry has advised Newsroom journalist Melanie Reid, who was involved in reporting the original news of the overpayment, and Newshub’s press gallery reporter Jenna Lynch that they will face subpoenas to appear at the hearing next month to give evidence.”
    https://www.newsroom.co.nz/2019/10/17/863277/soper-to-give-evidence-for-peters
    Paula Bennett – Melanie Reid – does that ring a bell in other instances?

    Reply
  2. I looked up NZ Super, and people do have to say if they have a partner even if the partner isn’t sharing the Super payments.

    As a lawyer, he has no excuse for not reading forms properly. He, of all people, should know the importance of never signing anything that hasn’t been checked; a variation on ‘Measure thrice, cut once.’

    He was also quite blatant about signing forms that he hadn’t read at all, or so he claimed on the news.

    Reply
    • Gezza

       /  17th October 2019

      Well, it will be interesting to see how it all turns out in the end. The way the post reports it, Peters only got sent 1 letter bt MSD in 2014. Folk on benefits get asked to confirm their status, income & other details every year, don’t they?

      He has repaid the overpayments, which is usually the only “penalty” applied to people overpaid through error, & it’s quite likely imo that Peters might’ve signed a form without reading it, lawyer or not. I doubt he’d have tsken the risk of taking proceedings if he couldn’t back up that defence. Unless MSD can prove mens rea – i.e. that he deliberately, knowingly misled MSD & defrauded them, then there’s no crime.

      I don’t like the man but I don’t entirely blame him for wanting to find out who leaked the details to the media.

      Reply
      • David

         /  17th October 2019

        It could literally been anyone of the 4000 staff at the Ministry, the 300 at a gossipy parliament, any number of people Peters has slighted over many decades. The guy looks ridiculous as does his party.

        Reply
        • Gezza

           /  17th October 2019

          Well I certainly wouldn’t disagree with the claim that he’s ridiculous and in my opinion that same applies to anyone who votes for him or his party.

          Nevertheless, it shouldn’t have occurred. I haven’t been following developments. Have the respective employers of all these folk carried out full investigations to identify the culprit?

          Reply
        • Blazer

           /  17th October 2019

          Bennett has prior form and the schadenfreude to do it ..again.The ex truck stop waitress who never deliberately mislead Social Welfare is a horrible…creature.

          Reply
          • Peters has form for making unsubstantiated and never proven accusations, and for trying ruin other MPs political careers.

            In this case a court will decide if there is substance to his claims.

            Reply
            • Blazer

               /  18th October 2019

              His prtemise that his private information was leaked to the public is…UNDENIABLE.

            • It is undeniable that it was leaked to the media. Peters outed himself to the public before the media went public.

              There is no evidence who leaked to media. Court documents show that journalists claim to have been given information by someone who was anonymous.

              Peters has made claims and assertions but they are not backed by any publicly known facts.

              So unless you have facts to support accusations of who could be responsible don’t claim to know. Making false or actionable accusations here puts me at legal risk.

  3. Duker

     /  17th October 2019

    Peters went to the Winz office with his partner, so seems weird that he was put down as single. As we know Winz never make mistakes.
    As regards the change of circumstances letter, mostly that was for those get accomodation supplement as well as the super payment. Originally the head of social welfare said when this became public that Peters wouldn’t get follow up letters . Now he was supposed to have a letter for his circumstances.
    Anyway he’s not the one on trial, it’s [deleted, that is an accusation without proof. PG] . Newsroom writing about this is like a Turkey writing about Xmas….a glaring conflict as they were [deleted]

    Reply
    • Gezza

       /  18th October 2019

      Peters went to the Winz office with his partner, so seems weird that he was put down as single.

      Possibly they thought she was his support person, because he was scared of WINZ? Maybe?

      Reply
  1. Court insists that Peters provide answers — Your NZ – NZ Conservative Coalition

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