Winston’s partner problem

Winston Peters was found by a High Court judge to have contributed to an unclearly filled out form and an incorrect amount of Super being paid to him for seven years.

The judge found it was a mistake and not deliberate deception on Winston’s part (I think that’s a fair assessment on the evidence available), but I think it was quite careless, on three counts.

The incorrectly completed form

The question is: Do you have a partner?

To the left of the question is this text:

Partner

Q26 note: A partner is your spouse (husband or wife), your civil union partner, or a person of the same or opposite sex with whom you have a de facto relationship.

We need partner information even if your partner is not being included because it affects your rate of pay.

Whether or not Peters read the clarifying note,  I think that most people would regard a person they were currently living with in a de facto relationship as their partner, and not someone who they had lived with at some time in the past, whether still legally married to them or not.

The judge found:

At the time, Mr Peters was living separate and apart from his former wife (they were not divorced). His answer to the subsidiary question was therefore literally correct. He was living apart/separated from his wife. But he had a partner, Ms Trotman. The form, as completed, was actually incomplete as the primary No/Yes response was not completed. The form should not have been processed as it stood. Mr Peters should have completed the primary question, and Ms S should have asked him to complete the answer to the primary question, rather than leaving it incomplete.

I won’t argue with “literally correct” from a legal point of view, but from a social point of view it seems quite wrong.

I can’t imagine Peters introducing Jan Trotman in a social setting as “this is who I’m shacked up with, but the person I left x years ago and haven’t gotten around to divorcing yet is literally my partner’.

According to this article “Trotman has always been protective of her privacy. When the couple bought their three-level five-bedroom St Marys Bay villa in 2008” – so they had been partners at least two years before the Super application.

Peters made another mistake on the form in two later questions:

33. Do you want to include your partner in your New Zealand Superannuation?

34. Is your partner receiving a current benefit?

The judgement says:

Mr Peters had ticked “No” in response to both questions but then the tick has been crossed out and “Yes” has been ticked.

I accept the evidence of Ms S that Mr Peters must have crossed them out. I do not place any weight on the fact they were not initialled as the other alterations to the form were initialled. Mr Peters’ attempted reliance during cross-examination on the fact he had not initialled the alterations to suggest the form could have been filled in by Ms S, not him, was a clear case of post fact reasoning and contrary to his earlier evidence-in-chief when he said he had completed the questions in issue.

Peters had tried to blame the WINZ staff member for this. It was inconsequential but another mistake.

In summary, an error was made in the completion of the application form. The error arose because Mr Peters did not fully complete question 26 and Ms S did not require Mr Peters to complete the answer to the primary question in question 26. Mr Peters’ apparent failure to read the explanatory note to question 26 which set out the definition of partner contributed to the error. The combination of errors led to Mr Peters receiving NZS at a higher rate than he was otherwise entitled to.

You only get to apply for Super once in your lifetime so I think most people would take care to get things right. Peters got more than one thing wrong. It just seems careless.

Not noticing he was being paid more than he was entitled for seven years 

I think that most people applying to get a significant amount of money regularly for the rest of their lives will work out what they expect to receive. And if they end up getting something different to that amount, they would find out why.

Peters may have not checked it out and may not have cared how much he got, but I think that seems quite unusual.

The current difference (it would have been less but proportional in 2010) per fortnight after tax (what you see credited to your account) is $782.44 (live with someone 18 or older) and $652.04 (a couple when only one of you meets the criteria for NZ Super and you don’t include your partner in your payments). This presumes Peters wasn’t being paid at the higher rate which is currently $847.66 (live alone or with dependent child).

I think most people would notice that sort of difference in amount.

Disregarding or not understanding a letter after four years asking him to confirm his status

On 18 March 2014, the MSD sent a standard letter to Mr Peters which included a request that asked him to check the
following details:

Relationship Status:     You are single.
Your living situation:    You are not living alone.

Mr Peters did not respond to the letter. He has no recollection of it but accepts he would have received it. He says he understood the letter was asking if there was any change in his circumstances.

This sounds contradictory.   I don’t know how Peters can have no no recollection of the letter, but can remember what he understood about the letter (past tense).

If Mr Peters had paid more attention to the letter, he would have realised there was an issue with the MSD’s records regarding his initial application.

The judge appears to assume Peters did see the letter but didn’t pay enough attention to it. If Peters did pay any attention it should have been obvious that “You are single.” was incorrect. There’s no way of knowing what Peters actually did or thought pr paid attention to, and it seems he can’t be relied on to be accurate (it was five years before the trial so most memories would struggle with one letter).

Mistakes were made by a number of people, but multiple mistakes were made by Peters filling the form out in 2010, and again with the letter in 2014 (at least a mistake of ignoring it or not paying attention to it).

Not noticing the incorrect amount for seven years may have just been someone with more money than they need already getting a bit more off the taxpayer and not caring how much it actually was.

I’m sure I would be quite unpopular with someone if I referred to someone I had separated from some years ago as my partner.

Leave a comment

56 Comments

  1. Blazer

     /  21st April 2020

    is this a Kangaroo Court?…disgraceful.

    Reply
  2. I think that most of us would be unpopular if we did that. My ex is a lot older than I am, so it would be nice if I was included in his Super payment. I can’t see it happening, alas. His current partner might be rather put out.

    I didn’t think that WP was defrauding WINZ, but it’s a serious worry if he’s signing things without reading them properly, and as a lawyer he should know how important this is. He said once on the news that he signed papers that he hadn’t read at all, which is a real worry. What has he put his name to as Deputy PM without reading it first ?

    Reply
    • Blazer

       /  21st April 2020

      Maybe Winston was like English…and just given the wrong advice.

      Reply
      • The wrong advice from whom? His partner?

        The fact the form is dated 11 April 2010 is consistent with Mr Peters completing the form at home the day before he attended the service centre the next day, Monday, 12 April 2010.

        Maybe you’re playing your squirrel tricks again.

        Reply
        • Blazer

           /  21st April 2020

          this thread is easily the biggest Squirrel ever on YNZ.

          Reply
          • Funny. I have no idea how you can squirrel your own post.

            If you really want to go nuts check this out at The Standard: https://thestandard.org.nz/winstons-worries/

            Reply
            • Blazer

               /  21st April 2020

              I hope this irony is not lost on you….cannot call Boris Johnson Bojo or a clown,yet you can call me a ..squirrel…which is certainly not..complimentary!

            • I didn’t call you anything, I described your actions with a common term that you should know well from your past ‘Look a squirrel!” attempts at diversions, which is what your’re continuing to do here. You’re right about one thing, it isn’t complimentary.

          • Alan Wilkinson

             /  21st April 2020

            Well, what is the problem? That should please you. Or are you jealous?

            Reply
        • Blazer

           /  21st April 2020

          pointing out double standards and inconsistencies is hardly diversion.

          Reply
          • Creating diversions and carrying them on looks like diverting on steroids to me. Please address specifics of the post if you want to continue commenting on this thread.

            Reply
            • Blazer

               /  21st April 2020

              Sure…it is crystal clear that Winston DOES NOT have a partner problem,by any rational measure.

            • How common do you think it might be to think of or refer to an ex as your partner when you have been living in a defacto relationship with someone else in a co-owned property for years?

            • Blazer

               /  21st April 2020

              not that common.
              Whats the relevance today 21/04/2020?

            • The court decision is very topical – I’ve just seen it covered on 1 News, the cost of the proceedings is about $1.2 million, that’s a lot of costs inflicted on taxpayers with no evidence identifying a culprit.

              I did the second post because of comments on the first post, I thought the mistakes made on the Super eligibility could do with some clarifying, and look how popular it has been, 34 comments already, plus 52 on the other post, so there’s obvious interest in the topic.

  3. David

     /  21st April 2020

    As the champion of the pension system and oldies favorite I find it extraordinary that he didnt know what he was doing. Its hard to know if to be outraged that he ripped the system for years or that he didnt know he was ripping the system. Either way he would have had a couple of days of batting away journalists and the story would go away quickly, going to court with nothing more than a hunch when you are deputy PM is absurd.

    Reply
    • Duker

       /  21st April 2020

      “going to court with nothing more than a hunch when you are deputy PM is absurd.”
      “Peters said he welcomed Justice Venning confirming it was ”a deliberate and malicious breach of privacy done with the intent to damage my reputation and cause harm”.

      Thats is why he went to court…. i hope his lawyer appeals the judges findings that the senior officials were justified in telling [deleted]

      Reply
      • Duker

         /  21st April 2020

        Reply
      • I presume he means nothing more than a hunch of who was the leaker, which was a fundamental failure.

        Reply
        • Duker

           /  21st April 2020

          ” res ipsa loquitur ” – the legal principle that the mere occurrence of some types of accident is sufficient to imply negligence.

          Reply
        • David

           /  21st April 2020

          Yup what else could it be ? but its Duker so lets deliberately misread and go for the jugular.

          Reply
      • Duker

         /  21st April 2020

        I hope Peters appeals the part of the judges finding thus:

        [279] The disclosure by the fifth defendant to the SSC and by both the second and fifth defendants to their Ministers were, in the particular circumstances of this case,
        for a proper purposeand the Ministers had a genuine interest in knowing the details of
        the payment irregularity

        Reply
        • David

           /  21st April 2020

          We all know who was told about it but there was no evidence other than a bitter politicians hunch that it had to be from a certain source.
          I would imagine that it was hot gossip at MSD that Peters lied on his form so could easily have come from there.

          Reply
          • Duker

             /  21st April 2020

            Hunch ?
            [53]Ms Tolley also told her (Bennett) she had told the Prime Minister’s chief of staff
            [56]Ms Bennett said she told Mr English she thought the story was going to be about Mr Peters, not her. She then disclosed that she had been told Mr Peters had been overpaid NZS but had paid it back
            [61]Following the briefing, Ms Tolley spoke to her senior adviser at the time, Mr Harvey, and advised him what Mr Boyle had told her.
            [62]When Ms Tolley returned home to Ohope at the end of the week, she also mentioned the briefing to her husband
            [64][Ms Tolley said that her sister was the only other person she mentioned the matter of Mr Peters’ overpayments to.

            Theres 5 in this section alone, this is information protected by the Social Welfare Act Confidentiality

            Reply
          • Duker

             /  21st April 2020

            In politics the classic way to hide your involvement in leaking is to make sure as many others know as well. It leaves a lot of reasonable doubt.
            This is why the bone can be pointed to someone with the most street smart skills… [deleted an attempt to indirectly implicate]

            Reply
            • False ‘bone pointing’ could easily be seen as malicious.

            • Duker

               /  21st April 2020

              The Prime Ministers ‘office’ via Eagleson knew , Bennetts ‘office’ knew’, English knew ( late)
              “Mr Peter’s claim against all defendants fails as he is not able to establish that they were responsible for the disclosure of the payment irregularity to the media” said the Judge
              Not all the people who the evidence states were told were defendants

              We can recall there was a previous MSD Minister who released beneficiaries private information for her own purposes
              https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?
              https://www.kiwiblog.co.nz/2012/08/bennett_v_fuller.htmlc_id=1&objectid=10587255
              perhaps my comment should have been -‘if the cap fits wear it’

            • Which is a totally unreasonable assumption in a court of law.

              If ‘if the cap fits’ were proof of anything where would we start with Peters? The SFO? No, that’s still to play out this year, but Peters has been quite inconsistent with his claims on donations and the NZ First Trust.

            • Duker

               /  21st April 2020

              Evidence of previous privacy breaches that are provable can always be evidence in court of ‘propensity’
              Plenty of people have made much of Peters previous lack of financial disclosures when covering his present involvement in political donations.
              Thats nothing wrong with them doing that …if its provable …so far its isnt.

              This also seems to involve Bennett in some form
              “When Social Housing Minister Paula Bennett’s press secretary titillated a senior journalist with the news that the marae chairman, Hurimoana Dennis, a police inspector and national Maori strategic adviser for NZ Police, had been stood down on full pay since last September and was under investigation by his police bosses,”
              https://www.nzherald.co.nz/brian-rudman/news/article.cfm?a_id=1&objectid=11660714

              Why protect Bennett when I have shown she has previous ‘propensity’ and as a politician she doesnt have much protections against ‘honest opinion’ on political matters.
              I think Bennett could say herself she was street smart, plenty have used the description
              https://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO0908/S00011/panel-discussions-led-by-paul-holmes.htm
              https://www.nzherald.co.nz/bay-of-plenty-times/news/article.cfm?c_id=1503343&objectid=11762911

            • Propensity is not raised at all in the judgment, so it wasn’t an issue in this case. And even if it could have been used, on it’s own it wouldn’t have been enough anyway. There was no evidence provided of who leaked.

              If propensity in relation to leaking in Parliament was enough to convict they may as well turn the House into a prison.

            • Duker

               /  21st April 2020

              It wasn’t raised in court, but should have been . Doesn’t mean we can’t raise it here, that was my point about honest opinion and pointing bones.
              I can understand your caution but a certain name keeps popping up when there’s leaks of private information. A certain name we know well.

  4. David

     /  21st April 2020

    I would like to know if its the NZ First foundation who picked up his legal bill. I want to be assured that Andrew Little will be going after him for costs seeing as the taxpayer is million out of pocket.
    Sets a dangerous precedent otherwise as folk will just line up to start suing the government.

    Reply
    • Duker

       /  21st April 2020

      His privacy breach was confirmed to be malicious by the judge

      Reply
      • David

         /  21st April 2020

        So what, of course it was malicious but why should the taxpayer have to pick up the tab when Peters had absolutely no credible evidence that who he decided to sue played any part in the media leak. He was suing NZs top civil servant not just ex politicians.
        Peters is a lawyer with plenty of experience and is represented by very seasoned counsel so would know if he failed there would be costs awarded against him if he lost badly, its a risk he took.

        Reply
        • Duker

           /  21st April 2020

          The Costs havent yet been decided , and the Judge will rule when they make their representations.
          This is normal process..have you swallowed another wasp today and getting every grabled again.

          Reply
          • Not necessarily – “Costs are reserved. If counsel are unable to agree, costs will be dealt with on the papers. “

            Reply
            • Duker

               /  21st April 2020

              Solicitor General runs crown law not Little, plus the other defendants had their own lawyers including Nationals legal Mr Fixit Kiele

          • David

             /  21st April 2020

            You need to apply to the court for costs. Crown law need to do that and take instruction from Little.

            Reply
      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  21st April 2020

        That doesn’t carry any weight in the absence of a defendant to contest it.

        Reply
        • Duker

           /  21st April 2020

          Thats what the case was about Peters Privacy …you really have some scrambled legal ideas
          His central claim is :
          [7] “Mr Peters says that the public disclosure of the payment irregularity was a
          breach of his right to privacy. He says the defendants had a duty to keep the details of
          the payment irregularity confidential. In disclosing the payment irregularity to others
          Mr Peters says the defendants breached that duty.3
          He seeks declaratory relief and damages

          Reply
          • Alan Wilkinson

             /  21st April 2020

            Can you please explain how a judge can rule on motive where no defendant is available to challenge the allegation? On second thoughts, don’t bother. I’ve read enough rubbish from you on the law. Go read that constitution again.

            Reply
            • Duker

               /  21st April 2020

              That was the central claim of Peters
              “He seeks declaratory relief and damages”
              he got his declaratory relief but not the damages. The whole case was about his loss of privacy . The 5 defendants had their own lawyers to argue against what Peters claimed. It wasnt something that was added at the end.
              Its a civil case , the law says he a right to privacy and the defendants actions meant that was breached
              Its abundantly clear in the details.For some reason you dont follow any legal reasoning what so ever. I dont agree with the judges reasoning in some instances, but I get how he got to it.

            • “the defendants actions meant that was breached”

              That’s not right, that was not determined.

              Yes, it was found that Winston’s privacy was breached. But then he breached the rights of others not to be accused and taken to court without evidence.

              Which was worse, a privacy breach which turned out to not be a particularly big deal since it was determined to be a deliberate receipt of too much Super?

              Or false and/or unsubstantiated accusations and huge expense in a misguided tit-for tat political hit?

            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  21st April 2020

              I can’t imagine any of the defendants’ lawyers making any comment about the motive of some unknown person who is not their client. That’s fatuous.

            • Duker

               /  21st April 2020

              Well Bennetts and Tolley lawyers made submissions on whether Peters privacy was breached by their actions. Plus the officials lawyers.
              Its [94] onwards

              The Judge said
              [111] Further, while Mr Peters may have consented to the MSD “accessing his private information for the purpose of dealing with and investigating the matter”, he did not consent to it being released more publicly and certainly not to the media.
              [112] Mr Peters’ situation can be contrasted with that of Ms Turei. Ms Turei voluntarily and deliberately disclosed her fraud. She sought publicity about it for her own political purposes. Mr Peters’ actions were not fraudulent and he reasonably expected that details of the payment irregularity would be kept private.”
              Later it was looked into and the lawyers made submission about whether the breach of privacy was offensive.
              Its in simple english but as usual you deny reality

              Because a single person in the media couldnt be fingered doesnt mean the ‘co-conspirators’ cant be held accountable. Its just a technicality over the awarding of damages

            • I don’t know what point you are trying to prove. Your comment doesn’t make sense.

              [131] For the reasons given above, I accept that disclosure to media outlets with the intention that information concerning the MSD investigation would be publicised would meet the test and would be considered offensive by a reasonable person, but that does not directly address the disclosure by the first and third defendants.

              [133] As noted, both Ms Bennett and Ms Tolley gave evidence. Neither of them had anything to do with the disclosure pleaded in [13] of the amended statement of claim.

              [135] Ms Bennett and Mr Tolley’s evidence about their disclosures of the payment irregularity was not seriously challenged. It was not put to either Ms Bennett or Ms
              Tolley in cross-examination that they were the source of the disclosure of the payment irregularity to the media. Moreover, in closing Mr Henry accepted that Mr Peters
              could not say they were.

              [136] I accept that Ms Bennett’s disclosure of the information was for a proper purpose.

              [137] The disclosures Ms Tolley made to Mr Harvey, Mr Eagleson and her husband were for the purposes of taking advice about the payment irregularity and particularly,
              whether she should request a written briefing. They were reasonable and not made for the purpose of embarrassing Mr Peters.

              [138] The disclosure to Ms Tolley’s sister was indiscrete but, on Ms Tolley’s unchallenged evidence, it was in general terms and lacked the detail necessary to have
              been the source of the disclosure to the media. Further, as noted, it came after the initial disclosures to the media so could not have been the source.

              The judgment then goes on to say that Peters failed to make a case using Res ipsa loquitur.

            • Duker

               /  21st April 2020

              Thats a lot of the Judges claims seem counter intutitive. probably needs a deep legal background to decipher.
              The plain meaning is there however
              Wilco doesnt seem to accept the defendants lawyers made submissions on these issues at all, and the judge decided on his own whim

            • [154] Mr Peters’ pleaded case against the first and third defendants is based on the reasoning that the first and third defendants were members of a political party opposed to Mr Peters so that the information must have been leaked by them to persons who disclosed it to the media.51 But Mr Henry did not pursue that case directly in closing submission.

              Peters’ lawyer had given up trying to link Bennett and Tolley to the leak.

              Winston Peters’ has accepted in the High Court that two former National ministers he had been suing for $450,000 for breaching his privacy were not the source of the leak or responsible for it.

              In his closing submission today, Peters’ lawyer Brian Henry said both Anne Tolley and Paula Bennett denied in their evidence leaking information on Peters’ seven-year overpayment of superannuation – and the lawyer for the Ministry of Social Development and public servants did not challenge those denials.

              “That left the MSD in the position that they now cannot avoid a finding that the breach was on MSD,” Henry said. “The plaintiff was expecting a challenge from MSD to the ministers, but the MSD has not challenged the evidence that they [the ministers] did not leak.

              “That dual denial removed two of the options that the plaintiff, when it opened its case, was expecting to have examined in the court.”

              That means Peters is no longer suing the National pair for damages.

              https://www.newsroom.co.nz/2019/11/13/909071/peters-accepts-national-ministers-didnt-leak

            • Duker

               /  21st April 2020

              That Bennett and Tolley didnt leak themselves doesnt mean others they spoke to didnt leak. The judge just says they werent ‘direct leakers’ .

              Like I said Bennetts advisor was told , he wasnt a defendant .
              English was told , he wasnt a defendant .
              Eagleson was told and not a defendant.

              Surely you know Political leaks 101 , always make sure the politician isnt the ‘direct’ leaker by getting some one lower down the food chain to do it.
              Can works in reverse upwards too. Official reports are ‘never read’ by Ministers where possible, they just get an adviser to read them and brief them . That way the Minister can truthfully say “I never read that report”
              You are very politically aware , Im surprised to have to spell this out

            • All vague speculation though. Peters couldn’t have named all political enemies as defendants, the trial would have taken a year or two – and he still had no evidence so wouldn’t have succeeded.

              Who did Peters tell? They could have been the source or leaked to the source. The judge raised the possibility it could have been a Green supporter. It could have been a Labour supporter who didn’t want Peters holding a Labour led government to ransom.

              No evidence, no case. It just leaves it open to political stirrers to make things up and wildly speculate.

            • There’s no reference to ‘direct leakers’ in the judgment.

              “doesnt mean others they spoke to didnt leak” could apply to anyone, including Peters.

            • Duker

               /  21st April 2020

              Vague speculation?
              The names I gave came from witness testimony, mostly Tolley. Are you saying she was vague. Check my comment further up where I gave paragraph numbers of Judge adrresing witness testimony of those names.
              Same goes for direct leakers , I can’t search on this tablet easily but it’s there

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