A big day for Simon Bridges

Yesterday was an awful day for Simon Bridges, and for the National Opposition, but I actually think Bridges handled the mess reasonably well, stepping up in difficult circumstances, showing he may have some leadership abilities after all. To me he came across ok at his media conference, speaking better than normal – having to speak off the cuff on important matters, and no lame scripted platitudes nor his normal boilerplate criticism of the government.

There were signs of solid support from other National MPs like Judith Collins and Maggie Barry. I can imagine most if not all National MPs being very pissed off at what Jami-Lee Ross had inflicted on them, their party, and on their prospects in the next election. It was a possible sign of real solidarity rather than feigned fawning.

How Bridges handles today may determine whether he survives as National leader or dives irrecoverably.

The National caucus will meet to consider what to do about Ross over what now looks like his very likely leaking of Bridges’ expenses (the original offence), him almost certainly being the MP who sent messages asking for the inquiry to be called off because of mental health pressures (was that real or was it a desperate attempt to escape exposure), and his very clear deliberate damaging of Bridges and the National party yesterday.

Bridges also referred to other matters:

I also discussed with Jami-Lee other matters concerning his conduct that have come to my attention and suggest, together with the leak, a pattern.

MP Maggie Barry gave more of an indication what this referred to:

What a disloyal disgrace this flawed & isolated individual has become. Having now read the PWC report I personally believe the unpleasant & bullying pattern of behaviour of Jami Lee Ross has no place in an otherwise united National Caucus under our leader Simon Bridges.

I think that Bridges and National caucus have no option but to dump Ross from the caucus, on his behaviour yesterday alone.

How Bridges manages this publicly will show his mettle as a leader. If he is as decisive as he is able to be it may end up enhancing his leadership prospects.

There are limits. Ross cannot be removed as an electorate MP by anyone but himself or the voters at the next election. He could continue to spit the dummy, causing ongoing problems for Bridges, but his credibility is wrecked and if Bridges does ok handling it then he may build his leadership mana.

From what I’ve seen so far I don’t think the stuff yesterday about donations is a big deal. MPs and parties (plural) fiddle their donations, usually within lax rules, and generally the public don’t care much.

Yesterday looked more like an attempted hit job on Bridges. That may not harm him.

Ross also claimed to have a secret recording of Bridges “discussing with me an unlawful activity”. As Judith Collins said, he needs to “put up, or to shut up”. It also raises the question of whether making a secret recording is an unlawful activity itself. It is certainly political career ending action or threat.

Bridges has a chance of coming out of this ok, of actually looking like a leader. There will be difficulties and repercussions for National, but that’s what leaders have to deal with. If Bridges does it well his job may be more secure.

On the other hand if he fluffs it he will be toast.

So it’s a crucial day for Bridges and his leadership, and also for the National Party.

There’s an old saying in politics that goes something like ‘it’s not the original issue that causes the damage, it’s how it is handled’. The same could apply here.

I think voters know leaders will find themselves in difficult situations dealing with difficult people. That’s politics. The key here will be whether Bridges steps up as a leader to sort things out or not.

There were glimpses yesterday that this  could be the un-wimping of Bridges.

Mallard and Parliamentary Services cleared of Bridges leaked

A lack of evidence connecting Trevor Mallard or Parliamentary Services to the leak of Simon Bridges’ expenses makes more of a mountain out of what looks increasingly like a mole in the National Party.

RNZ:  Bridges’ expenses inquiry narrows down possible leakers

Mr Mallard initially called a Parliamentary inquiry into the leak but that was overtaken by political events.

His inquiry ended in August after RNZ revealed the person claiming to be both the leaker and a National MP contacted Mr Bridges and Mr Mallard pleading for it to be stopped for the sake of their mental health.

Subsequently, a National Party inquiry was launched – the findings are expected in the next week.

Mr Mallard arranged a forensic investigation of emails and relevant databases connected to his office and those staff involved in the preparation of the expenses – about 20 staff in total.

KPMG, who carried it out, has concluded there is no evidence that Mr Mallard or any Parliamentary Service finance staff were responsible for the leak.

“On the basis of this independent review there is no evidence that staff in the office of the Speaker, Mr Speaker or Parliamentary Service finance and corporate staff released details of this quarterly expense disclosure report to any unauthorised parties,” the report said.

This doesn’t surprise me – why on earth would Mallard or anyone in Parliamentary Services leak expenses information that was due to be officially released a few days later? It defies logic.

With those possibilities ruled out that leaves National MPs and their staff or someone in the National Party.

Mr Bridges has repeatedly insisted none of his MPs were responsible but now that Mr Mallard has all but cleared his own name, his office staff and the Parliamentary Service staff involved in the preparation of the expenses, the finger of blame is pointing to the National Party.

The National Party’s own investigation is being led by PWC and Simpson Grierson.

It will consider both the original leak to Newshub and the subsequent text sent by someone citing mental health issues.

PWC will conduct the forensic work and lawyers at Simpson Grierson will be responsible for filtering what information is and is not passed onto Mr Bridges and his deputy, Paula Bennett.

So this bizarre issue will keep festering away for Bridges for a while yet.

If the leaker is discovered and revealed to be a National MP that will be tricky for Bridges to deal with.

If Bridges decides not to reveal the outcome of the inquiry it will be tricky for Bridges.

It’s hard to see a good outcome for Bridges. He may have created a mountain of a mess from a mole in his party.

Kavanaugh inquiry seems like a political sham

Both Democrats and Republicans have dragged the Supreme Court nomination process down into a debacle, and the rushed and hobbled FBI inquiry has just added to a spectacle that should be an embarrassment to the United States.

It looks like the limited inquiry has just initiated more controversy, which is hardly surprising given how rushed it was.

Fox News: White House receives FBI report on Kavanaugh, ‘fully confident’ he’ll be confirmed

The White House on Thursday announced that it has received the FBI’s supplemental background investigation into President Trump’s pick for the Supreme Court, Brett Kavanaugh, and is “fully confident” that he will eventually be confirmed to the Supreme Court.

The FBI was tasked by Trump last week to look into allegations of sexual misconduct leveled against Kavanaugh by three women. The investigation commenced after Dr. Christine Blasey Ford — the first woman to come forward — testified before the Senate Judiciary last week about her claims against the federal judge.

Raj Shah, the principal deputy press secretary for the White House, said the FBI report is currently “being transmitted to the Senate.”

“With [Senate Majority] Leader [Mitch] McConnell’s cloture filing, Senators have been given ample time to review this seventh background investigation,” Shah said in a statement posted to Twitter.

‘Ample time’ is a joke.

“This is the last addition to the most comprehensive review of a Supreme Court nominee in history, which includes extensive hearings, multiple committee interviews, over 1,200 questions for the record and over a half million pages of documents.”

Shah said the “White House is fully confident” Kavanaugh will be confirmed to the Supreme Court in the Senate vote.

Fox News: Grassley says new FBI report backs Kavanaugh, urges Senate to send him to high court

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, declared earlier Thursday that nothing in the document changed his mind, and that it was time to vote to confirm Kavanaugh.

“I’ve now received a committee staff briefing on the FBI’s supplement to Judge Kavanaugh’s background investigation file,” Grassley said Thursday. “There’s nothing in it that we didn’t already know. These uncorroborated accusations have been unequivocally and repeatedly rejected by Judge Kavanaugh, and neither the Judiciary Committee nor the FBI could locate any third parties who can attest to any of the allegations.

Republican swing senators on the Brett Kavanaugh nomination indicated Thursday they were satisfied with the FBI’s investigation into sexual assault allegations against the Supreme Court pick, stirring speculation they could back the embattled judge in the end.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, who has stayed mum on her Kavanaugh stance, said Thursday that the bureau’s supplemental background probe “appears to be a very thorough investigation.”

And Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., who originally requested the FBI re-open its investigation into the claims leveled against Kavanaugh by Christine Blasey Ford, agreed.

“No new corroborative information came out of it,” Flake said on Capitol Hill Thursday. “Thus far, we’ve see no new credible corroboration—no new corroboration at all.”

But Flake continued to keep the public guessing, returning to view the report again saying he has “more reading” to do. He pulled a surprise last week when he publicly backed Kavanaugh, and then demanded the FBI probe before a final vote.

Meanwhile, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, who also is considered a swing vote, was going to view the document Thursday afternoon. “I’m going to read it myself,” Murkowski said on her way to read the report for the first time. “I’m gonna go in with my eyes to it.”

But Fox News: Ford’s lawyers slam FBI investigation after McConnell signals Kavanaugh vote later this week

Attorneys for Dr. Christine Blasey Ford late Wednesday slammed the FBI background investigation into President Trump’s Supreme Court pick, Brett Kavanaugh, after it was revealed that the agency’s probe appears to be over.

“An FBI supplemental background investigation that did not include an interview of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford– nor the witnesses who corroborate her testimony– cannot be called an investigation,” the statement read. “We are profoundly disappointed that after the tremendous sacrifice she made in coming forward, those directing the FBI investigation were not interested in seeking the truth.”

Sources previously told Fox News that Senators and some aides would be able to start looking at the FBI’s background investigation on Thursday morning and that Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and committee member Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., would be given the first chance to look at the report.

It sounds like conclusions have been reached before most people have had a chance to read the report.

Business Insider: ‘Our fears have been realised’: Democrats slam FBI investigation into Kavanaugh

  • Senate Democrats condemned the FBI investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, calling it “incomplete.”
  • Democrats have accused the White House of limiting the probe, and they point to the fact that the FBI didn’t interview either Kavanaugh or his most prominent accuser, professor Christine Blasey Ford.

Senate Democrats condemned the FBI investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, arguing that the probe was limited by the White House and plagued by a lack of transparency.

After being briefed on the report, of which only one hard copy has been made available to senators under time limits and intense security, Democratic leadership called the probe “incomplete” and pushed for Republicans to release a redacted version of it and of the White House’s directive to the FBI instructing the law enforcement agency on how to conduct the investigation.

“We had many fears that this was a very limited process that would constrain the FBI from getting all the facts,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said during a brief press conference on Thursday morning. “Having received a thorough briefing on the documents, those fears have been realised.”

Schumer said that he disagrees with Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley’s description of the report as containing “no hint of misconduct.”

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, called the report “a product of an incomplete investigation” and accused the White House of blocking the FBI from “doing its job.”

“The most notable part of this report is what’s not in it,” she said during the press conference.

Democratic lawmakers were given one hour on Thursday morning to view the report in a secure room in the Senate.

A rushed inquiry and rushed reading are very poor ways of dealing with such an important nomination.

Fox News: GOP senator said he urged Trump to pick someone other than Kavanaugh

During a passionate speech to his Senate colleagues, Republican Sen. Ben Sasse told lawmakers he “urged” President Trump earlier this summer to consider choosing another Supreme Court nominee after discovering Judge Brett Kavanaugh was his top pick.

Speaking about the #MeToo movement and the rancorous debate over Kavanaugh’s confirmation and the sexual assault allegations against him, Sasse said on the Senate floor Wednesday he asked Trump to “make a different choice” for the nation’s highest court as early as June. He also sharply rebuked the president for mocking Dr. Christine Blasey Ford — the woman who accused the federal judge of sexual misconduct more than 30 years ago.

Sasse, from Nebraska, didn’t reveal who he asked Trump to nominate but did hint it was a woman. Amy Coney Barrett and Joan Larsen were considered on the short list for Trump’s consideration.

“Part of my argument then was that the very important #MeToo movement was also very new and this Senate is not at all well prepared to handle potential allegations of sexual harassment and assault that might have come forward,” Sasse said, adding his warning “was absent of knowing a particular nominee.”

The inquiry may may now lead the way to a vote for the appointment of Kavanaugh, but it is unlikely to calm the controversy down.

There have been a number of reports like this from the New Yorker: The F.B.I. Probe Ignored Testimonies from Former Classmates of Kavanaugh

Frustrated potential witnesses who have been unable to speak with the F.B.I. agents conducting the investigation into sexual-assault allegations against Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, have been resorting to sending statements, unsolicited, to the Bureau and to senators, in hopes that they would be seen before the inquiry concluded.

NBC News reported that dozens of people who said that they had information about Kavanaugh had contacted F.B.I. field offices, but agents had not been permitted to talk to many of them. Several people interested in speaking to the F.B.I. expressed exasperation in interviews with The New Yorker at what they perceived to be a lack of interest in their accounts.

The FBI did not interview either Kavanaugh himself, nor Christine Blasey Ford.

I’ve just heard a very slanted speech by Mitch McConnell who lauded Kavanaugh and slammed accusers. He said that the FBI couldn’t find any corroborating witnesses, but there have been a number of claims from people that they were ignored by the FBI.

This nomination is a mess that reflects very poorly on politics and justice in the US.

One thing seems sure – this will do nothing to calm the controversy down.

 

National target Government over committee can kicking

The National opposition has increased criticism on the Government over the many working groups, reviews, inquiries and committees they have set up. Labour has tried to play down the assistance they have sought.

The big news from Jacinda Ardern’s business confidence speech yesterday was the announcement of the setting up of a ‘business advisory council’. A chairman only has been announced so far.

This was a day after National launched this Twitter campaign:

Simon Bridges reacted to the Business Advisory Council announcement:

This means a third of the economic announcements so far from this Govt are working groups.

That brings the total number of working groups set up by this Govt on business issues to 10 & counting. This gives businesses no certainty.

I think the PM needs a new rubber stamp. The “set up a committee” one is wearing out.

The Government have a problem reacting to this, as the results of the many committees will not be known for months or years.

The Opposition campaign has been running for months.

The bill for the Government’s constant outsourcing of its job to 152 working groups and reviews has reached $170 million so far, with a third still to be costed, National Leader Simon Bridges says.

What’s worse is the Government doesn’t know the cost of over a third of the 152 working groups and reviews announced to date.

“This is a Government caught badly unprepared and New Zealanders are now paying an exorbitant price. And now we know Ministers are ordering reviews and setting up groups without even knowing what they will cost, while the reviews are coming back with recommendations for more reviews.

The Government has sometimes responded.

I saw Ardern disputing National’s numbers last week but can’t find coverage of that.

Every Government sets up external groups too help them research and set policies and to investigate issues of concern. When National took over Government in 2008 they used a lot of committees etc.

But it does seem that there have been a lot announced since the Labour led Government took over last year, and national will no doubt keep highlighting any new ones.

The Government will have to get some tangible outcomes, but that may be some time off yet.

One of their major reviews is on the tax system, but whatever that recommends Labour has committed to make no tax changes this term.

The Government is at risk of being seen as synonymous with committee can kicking down the road. Until they start getting tangible outcomes from all these advisory groups and reviews the Opposition are likely to keep hammering away.

Bridges keeps pushing on leak, challenges Speaker and PM

Simon Bridges seems determined to keep the leak of his expenses issue alive.

NZH: Simon Bridges says if leaking issue is not resolved, Trevor Mallard is to blame

National Party leader Simon Bridges has lashed out at Parliament Speaker Trevor Mallard for cancelling an inquiry into the travel-expenses leak 24 hours after confirming it was going ahead, and suggested he had been influenced by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

He said if Mallard or Ardern had any new information, they had a duty to share it with National.

If the issue remained unresolved, National blamed Mallard, Bridges said.

This is upping the ante somewhat. That’s a serious accusation aimed both at Mallard and Ardern. It pretty much guarantees that the Speaker will not be able to walk away from the inquiry and wash his hands of the issue.

On Thursday last week Mallard named Michael Heron QC to conduct the inquiry into the leak.

On Friday afternoon Mallard cancelled the inquiry – more than a week after the alleged leaker sent a text pleading not to hold the inquiry.

That did seem to be an odd sudden reversal of Mallard’s position.

“Nothing had changed fundamentally on the Friday other than that the Prime Minister said it was an internal matter for the National Party,” Bridges said.

“Surprise, surprise, Trevor Mallard then changed his position.

“I know of nothing that gives any good reason for his change unless the Prime Minister or he knows something we don’t and if they do, they should be sharing it with the National Party,” he said.

“I believe he is obliged as Parliament’s Speaker, not a partisan one, to tell us what he knows unless there is an exceptional reason not to.”

This should force Mallard too do something in response.

Mallard appointed Heron to conduct the inquiry, despite having received the text the previous week.

The existence of that text was not revealed until last Friday – and later that day Mallard issued a statement cancelling the inquiry.

The statement said: “The text is from someone who is clearly very disturbed and today’s publicity will almost certainly make that worse.”

Mallard said the person who sent the text was the leaker. “He or she has details of events that it is unlikely anyone outside the National Party would be privy to.”

So a day after appointing a QC to conduct the inquiry Mallard has reversed his decision based on his judgement that it would be “unlikely anyone outside the National Party” would be involved. That seems quite unusual.

Speaking on Friday, Ardern said the inquiry should be stopped if it was proven the individual had mental health issues, and it was an internal matter for National.

“I would want to deal with that internally but that is a matter for the leader of the National Party.”

“If indeed this is an issue that’s come out of the caucus, and if there are indeed mental health issues, it would strike me it needs to be dealt with really sensitively. It is perhaps best dealt with internally than externally.”

This was also an unusual involvement of Ardern, saying much the same thing that Mallard had said in justifying scrapping the inquiry.

It does seem odd that Ardern and Mallard are saying much the same thing. The Speaker is supposed to act independent of any party.

It seems to be high risk for Bridges to escalate this issue into a likely confrontation with the Speaker, given that whatever the outcome this is an awkward issue for him and National.

Does he have information that he hasn’t disclosed that justifies his challenge of both Mallard and Ardern? He has as good as accused them of collusion in scrapping the inquiry.

This is all becoming increasingly messy, and seems to be far from over.


Bridges is just now being interviewed on RNZ.

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.

Inquiry into leak of Bridges’ expenses

I’m not sure whether most of the public will care much about the leaking of Simon Bridges’ expenses, but it seems to have been a big deal for Bridges, for the Speaker, and for political journalists who have given it a lot of coverage.

RNZ:  Inquiry launched into leak on Simon Bridges’ expenses

Parliament’s speaker, Trevor Mallard, said a Queen’s Counsel would lead the inquiry with the help of an employment lawyer and also someone with forensic IT skills.

Mr Mallard said he spoke to Mr Bridges and they agreed there was an issue about the security of information, which could potentially be quite serious.

“The inquiry will look at who forwarded [the information] to whom, and also who else had access to the data which was very specific data at a very specific point in time and who did access it and for what purpose,” Mr Mallard said.

“The general manager of the Parliamentary Service has used his authority to give full access to all of the core Parliamentary Service computers for that purpose, so there is not a question of having to ask people’s permission.

“As far as [MPs] are concerned there are matters of privilege and consent or a waiver will be necessary.”

Mr Mallard said he would ask Mr Bridges to make sure all his MPs signed the waiver allowing access to their computers.

“I’m not putting a start date or a finish date on this inquiry – it might well be the fact that the level of expertise that is coming into it causes someome to put their hand up, because unless they have incredible expertise – they will be identified.”

Asked whether all of the National MPs would sign the access waiver, shadow leader of the House Gerry Brownlee said “yes they will – we’re pretty hot under the collar about it”.

If it turns out an MP has leaked the information – their identity will be made public, but if it is a Parliamentary Service staff member Mr Mallard said that would be an employment matter.

RNZ – Simon Bridges spending leak: Consensus over need for inquiry

Not even Mr Mallard was free of the waiver – although he said it was already on the record that neither he nor his office received the travel expenses electronically, which was how they were leaked to media.

Mr Mallard said there was no escaping cyber experts.

“The inquiry will look at who forwarded [the information] to whom, and also who else had access to the data which was very specific data at a very specific point in time,” Mr Mallard said.

“The general manager of the Parliamentary Service has used his authority to give full access to all of the core Parliamentary Service computers for that purpose, so there is not a question of having to ask people’s permission.”

Mr Brownlee welcomed the investigation and said National had no issues with any of the inquiry’s waiver requirements because they were all “hot under the collar” about the leak.

“Anything that goes into a server stays there no matter what you do with it.”

A Queen’s Counsel will lead the inquiry with the help of an employment lawyer and a forensic information technology expert.

I don’t remember seeing this level of cooperation and determination to identify a leaker.

It’s interesting that Bridges is making such a big deal of it, as his big spending was the focus of the leak.

It would be embarrassing if the culprit turns out to be a National MP, and will ignite inevitable claims of disunity – but if that’s the case Bridges may benefit in the longer term if an enemy within his caucus is outed.

Funnily Newshub – who published the leaked Bridges expenses, yesterday published expense details of all National MPs, but that seems to have been largely ignored. Most attention was given to the leak inquiry.


Newsroom: Will ‘Limogate’ investigation reach top gear?

(I think -gate labels like this are dated and stupid, especially when used for relatively trivial issues).

After all, this was not classified or confidential information: it was already due to be released as part of a wider disclosure regime, with the leaker simply jumping the gun by a few days.

There’s no suggestion that Bridges has been misusing taxpayer money by taking his Crown car on personal joyrides.

After all, this was not classified or confidential information: it was already due to be released as part of a wider disclosure regime, with the leaker simply jumping the gun by a few days.

As for National leader Simon Bridges’ spending, as highlighted by Newshub – the organisation which received the leak – that’s also less than thrilling.

There’s no suggestion that Bridges has been misusing taxpayer money by taking his Crown car on personal joyrides.

It’s not the “what”, but the “who” and “why” which is most intriguing.

Why leak something which is going to be released all and sundry anyway? It seems a high risk, low reward move, given the likely punishment if they’re caught.

The Speaker seems intent on making it a big deal, presumably to warn off other would be leakers.

If someone is caught they may become a major scapegoat for what has been a common part of politics.

Haumaha contacted witness of alleged bullying

The Herald continues their pressure on the the appointment of Police Deputy Commissioner Wally Haumaha, this time revealing that Haumaha contacted a police officer who witnessed alleged bullying while the Herald were investigating over the last few weeks.

NZH: Police to investigate why Deputy Commissioner Wally Haumaha phoned a staff member about alleged bullying ahead of Herald story

Deputy Commissioner Wally Haumaha contacted a key witness to an alleged bullying incident after the Herald asked questions about accusations by three women working on a joint justice project.

The witness is a senior police officer who intervened in a heated exchange between Haumaha and one of the three women from Justice and Corrections who refused to work inside Police National Headquarters because of Haumaha’s alleged behaviour towards them.

One of the three women who walked out of police headquarters — and says one alleged incident was witnessed by the police officer whom Haumaha contacted last week — now plans to make a formal complaint about Haumaha’s alleged behavior.

The Herald can now reveal Haumaha allegedly called the lower ranking officer, who previously worked directly for him in the Māori Pacific and Ethnic Services division, one night last week to ask for his support.

This was several days before the Herald published the allegations.

The officer reported the conversation with Haumaha to his district commander who in turn alerted senior leadership in Police National Headquarters.

Police Commissioner Mike Bush said his executive team was made aware on Friday of contact between Haumaha and a staff member in relation to bullying allegations.

“This will be investigated and we are currently seeking further information about what has occurred to determine what steps are required,” said Bush.

“The Police Executive, including Deputy Commissioner Haumaha, recognise the need to ensure that there is an appropriate level of independence to any investigation of all the matters raised in the media recently, including this most recent allegation.”

The new investigation comes as a government inquiry by Mary Scholtens QC will review the recruitment process which led to Haumaha being appointed as the deputy police commissioner in June.

The Herald has been all over this for weeks now. There must be concerns within the police given the information the Herald are getting to report on.

Due process needs to be followed, but looking like a growing problem for both the Police and the Government.

New appointment to head Haumaha inquiry

For some reason this isn’t on the Beehive media release website, but the Minister of Internal Affairs announced a new appointment of Mary Scholtens to head inquiry into the appointment of Wally Haumaha.

@cjsbishop:

Good to see Govt has taken our advice and appointed a highly respected independent QC for the Haumaha inquiry. Should have been case from start. Still inappropriate NZF Min Martin is the appointing Minister, terms of ref still inadequate too. And big qu’s still for Ardern/Nash.

This was announced late on Friday afternoon.

Audrey Young:  Jacinda Ardern takes charge of Wally Haumaha inquiry fiasco

A series of scoops by Herald investigative journalist Jared Savage, some astute political work by National rising star Chris Bishop and some own-goals in the Government have ensured that the issue has been kept alive.

It is a much more challenging problem for Ardern than just identifying someone suitable to find out whether the appointment panel and ministers had all relevant information – that much is known already.

It is mired in complexity and even a resignation by Haumaha, which does not appear to be imminent, would not cauterise it.

Underlying it is the public’s confidence in the police and the public’s confidence in the Government to deal with challenging issues.

It involves Ardern’s confidence in Police Minister Stuart Nash, and Nash’s confidence in the judgement of Police Commissioner Mike Bush, who sat on the panel.

There were signs of trouble at the outset when Winston Peters was dealing with it as Acting Prime Minister.

The delay was in finding a suitable reviewer who would have the confidence of the Police, Maori and feminists.

That in itself is a reflection of the identity politics that is more important in this Government configuration.

National would have quickly found a retired judge or QC, which is what Ardern did last night in getting respected QC Mary Scholtens to undertake the inquiry.

Scholtens was Counsel assisting the 2004 Commission of Inquiry into Police Conduct, and has conducted an inquiry for the last Labour Government into how the whistle-blowing laws have operated. Scholtens is not considered a political risk at all – she is the wife of former National minister John Luxton and has worked for Governments of both hues.

Scholtens was on the list of ten names put forward to head the inquiry. It would have saved a lot of grief if she had been selected in the first place.

Kingi controversy re inquiry into the appointment of Wally Haumaha

Questions were raised over the independence of Dr Pauline Kingi , who was appointed as chair of the Government inquiry into the appointment of Wally Haumaha as the Deputy Commissioner of Police. It was claimed that Kingi had ‘endorsed’ Hauhama on his LinkedIn profile 23 times.

There was a reaction of surprise and concern on Twitter and in Parliament.

RNZ: National calls for inquiry head to step down

Pauline Kingi is leading an investigation into the process that led to Mr Haumaha being made deputy police commisssioner – despite comments he made defending police officers accused of rape in 2004.

Dr Kingi has endorsed 23 of Mr Haumaha’s skills on the professional networking platform LinkedIn, including law enforcement, crime prevention and leadership development.

National’s police spokesperson Chris Bishop said that constituted a conflict of interest and she must go.

“She simply has no credibility to chair the inquiry. It’s a blatant conflict of interest, she must stand down or Tracey Martin must sack her,” he said.

Ms Martin is the minister overseeing the inquiry, and said Dr Kingi signed a form declaring there was no conflict of interest.

Martin made some odd statements in her defence of Kingi.

Ms Martin said she was frustrated that National had sunk to this level.

“A LinkedIn profile, a networking digital platform, that somehow is supposed to be the judge of a person’s character? Have you seen this lady’s CV?” she asked.

Ms Martin said the suggestion that liking somebody on Facebook or endorsing them on LinkedIn made somebody unqualified was frustrating.

Endorsing someone many times does raise valid questions about their independence.

Acting Prime Minister Winston Peters described LinkedIn as a career enhancing utility. He said everyone endorsed everyone else, and the only person that had not been endorsed happened to be himself – because he did not have a profile.

That’s crap. I’m on LinkedIn and I don’t recall having endorsed anyone. Certainly nowhere near 23 times for one person.

Mr Peters said he had complete confidence in Dr Kingi and the process.

“It’s not like writing a fully-fledged reference, and sending it off with a signature on it. It’s social media after all and you know how skitterish that can be.”

That’s a skitterish defence.

11. CHRIS BISHOP (National—Hutt South) to the Minister of Internal Affairs: Does she have confidence in the process that led to the appointment of Dr Pauline Kingi as chair of the Government inquiry into the appointment of Wally Haumaha as the Deputy Commissioner of Police?

Hon TRACEY MARTIN (Minister of Internal Affairs): Firstly, the premise of the question is incorrect—there is no inquiry into Mr Haumaha. There is, however, a Government inquiry into the appointment process for a Deputy Commissioner of Police. Having said that, I can confirm that the process used to establish the independent Government inquiry into the appointment process for a Deputy Commissioner of Police is the same as that used for the chair of any other inquiry. It is a process run by the Department of Internal Affairs and supported by other agencies. It is the same process established by the previous National Government in November 2009, and was updated by the National Government in 2013 and used by that Government to establish the whey protein concentrate contamination incident in 2013, the royal commission of inquiry on the Pike River coal mine tragedy in 2012, and the Government inquiry into the Havelock North drinking water.

Chris Bishop: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That was an interesting traverse through the last few years of Government inquiries, but it didn’t really go to the question of whether or not the Minister has confidence in the process.

Mr SPEAKER: I think it did. Does the member have a supplementary?

Chris Bishop: How can she have confidence in the process that appointed Dr Pauline Kingi when she has publicly endorsed Mr Wally Haumaha 23 times for a range of attributes, including for leadership, governance, public safety, crime prevention, and stakeholder management?

Hon TRACEY MARTIN: Dr Kingi has declared that she knew Mr Haumaha in a professional capacity when she was a highly respected public servant. She has also declared that she attended a tangi either in 2015 or 2016—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member will resume her seat. This is a very important answer that goes to the integrity of at least two people, and will be heard in silence.

Hon TRACEY MARTIN: Dr Kingi has declared that she knew of Mr Haumaha in a professional capacity when she was a highly respected public servant. She has also declared that she attended a tangi in either 2015 or 2016 that Mr Haumaha also attended. Dr Kingi has signed, as is standard procedure, a declaration confirming that she has no conflict of interest in relation to the appointment—which, I remind the member, is into the process by the State Services Commission around appointment processes. If the member if asking if LinkedIn is a usual port of call for Government departments to ascertain the suitability of an inquiry chair, than I would have to say no. Rather than resort to social media, this Government looks to the substantial CVs of candidates and the fullness of their service to their communities and their country, and Dr Kingi is a New Zealander that has given great service to her country. I would suggest this is why the 1999 Shipley-led National Government awarded Dr Kingi the Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit.

Chris Bishop: When Dr Pauline Kingi was appointed to lead the independent inquiry into the appointment process around Mr Wally Haumaha, was she aware that Dr Kingi had publicly endorsed Mr Haumaha 23 times on LinkedIn, for every skill Mr Haumaha has listed on that website, and in some cases being the only person to endorse him, and that Mr Haumaha has endorsed Dr Kingi on at least three occasions for her skills listed on the LinkedIn website?

Hon TRACEY MARTIN: I was unaware of the LinkedIn endorsements until my office was contacted by media this morning. I requested that the chief executive contact Dr Kingi to clarify the suggested conflict. While Dr Kingi could not remember making these endorsements, she did confirm—

Hon Members: Ha, ha!

Hon TRACEY MARTIN: This is important. Would you like to listen? The integrity of a highly respected public servant is being questioned; it’s important that her answers be placed on the record. She did confirm that she had, like many New Zealanders, set up a LinkedIn account when it was first launched, and that at time it was—

Hon Simon Bridges: Are you that useless?

Hon TRACEY MARTIN: —common practice for Māori professionals to—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member will resume her seat. The Leader of the Opposition will stand, withdraw, and apologise.

Hon Simon Bridges: I withdraw and apologise.

Hon TRACEY MARTIN: It was common practice at that time—16 years ago—for Māori professionals to support each other on this new medium, through endorsement.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is it a fact that not only did Dr Pauline Kingi get a substantial honour from the National Party, but so did Wallace Haumaha—not once but twice?

Mr SPEAKER: Order! This member has no responsibility for that.

Chris Bishop: Further to that answer, is the member aware that the endorsement function on LinkedIn was only invented and established in 2012, so references to LinkedIn profiles 15 years ago are an utter irrelevance?

Hon TRACEY MARTIN: My understanding is that LinkedIn was developed in 2002, 16 years ago. It may be that the member is more au fait with social media than I am because I spend most of my time working on things important to New Zealand, not on Twitter.

Chris Bishop: Can the Minister give a categorical assurance that Dr Pauline Kingi was not involved in recommending promotions or appointments of Mr Haumaha in her role as a member of the Auckland district advisory taumata and her role assisting the Auckland district police with police recruitment?

Hon TRACEY MARTIN: I can give an assurance of the complete and proper process around the appointment of Dr Kingi as the chair of an independent inquiry into the process by which the State Services Commission provides information to Ministers for appointment. I can also direct the member to the Office of the Auditor-General’s Managing conflicts of interest: Guidance for public entities if he would like to avail himself of that information with regard to how conflict of interest is managed in this country.