More on Peters versus journalists

More comment on attempts by Winston Peters to obtain the communications of journalists through legal proceedings.

RNZ:  Peters’ attempts to obtain journalists’ phone records over leak ‘wrong’

The deputy Prime Minister’s attempt to obtain the emails and phone records of two journalists is outrageous and could have a chilling effect on democracy, media freedom advocates say.

Winston Peters is seeking the journalists’ communications in a bid to find out who leaked details of his pension overpayments.

The former chair of the Commonwealth Press Union and former editor of the New Zealand Herald, Gavin Ellis, said Mr Peters’ actions were outrageous and it could have a chilling effect on democracy.

“When a politician starts placing his hands on what should be confidential phone records, confidential notes and recordings and so on, our ability to hold power to account – and that’s a fundamental role of the journalist in a democracy – is compromised.

“There’s no doubt about that.”

The International Federation of Journalists’ New Zealand representative Brent Edwards said what Mr Peters is doing is disturbing.

“He ought not to be going after journalists. It’s fine for him to chase those political figures he believes might have been involved, or thinks they might have been involved, but absolutely wrong to chase the phone records journalists.

“Particularly in an absolute fishing expedition and that, where he seems to expect he’ll get all of their material, well you know that would really have a chilling effect.”

It could have a chilling effect if it deters journalists from investigation anything involving the deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, or of reporting on or commenting on any coverage that may be critical of Peters.

The Listener: We deserve better than Winston Peters’ legal stunt

Winston Peters was all furious denials when a journalist alleged during the election campaign that he might use his likely kingmaker power to further a quest for utu. His opening salvo towards formal legal action this week points to just such a quest, and one that bodes ill for the effectiveness and reputation of this country’s first minority coalition Government.

The Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is likely to have concerns about what this might do for the reputation of her government.

It’s bad enough that the Deputy Prime Minister has filed legal disclosure claims against four senior MPs in the National Party, with which he negotiated, supposedly in good faith, to form a Government just last month.

It’s also appalling that he has included a senior public servant and two former political staffers in his discovery claims, knowing, as he must, how hard it is for such employees to defend themselves in a politically charged situation.

And it’s an ogreish and futile act for any politician, as Peters as done, to demand that journalists disclose sources.

But the fact that he reportedly filed the paperwork for the claim the day before the election reeks of bad faith. It’s now hard for him to defend his assertion that he went into coalition negotiations with National with genuine intent.

Ardern has said it’s a personal issue for Peters, but it can’t easily be separated from how her government was formed – and how it may have been used to extract a higher price from Labour in negotiations. Deceiving your coalition partner is not a good way to start a governing relationship.

It may not have deceived Ardern and Labour, Peters may have fully informed them, but that still means the public was deceived into thinking a genuine two way negotiation was taking place. Peters was still claiming he was unsure whether to go with Labour or National just prior to making his announcement.

…he was grievously wronged by the disclosure that his superannuation had been mistakenly overpaid. Given the leak’s timing, it appears to have been malicious rather than inadvertent. It may well have damaged New Zealand First’s vote, and the leakers deserve to be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

When told of it, Peters swiftly returned the overpayment, and Work and Income is adamant he was blameless. The affair reminds us how fine the balance can be between the public’s right to know a public figure’s relevant personal information and the catastrophic damage that can occur if the information is wrong or conveyed out of context. Peters’ reputation was damaged, and the subsequent contexting of the initial leak can never fully compensate him.

However, for him to proceed with this action now does far more to lower his reputation than the pension controversy – a quickly extinguished brushfire – ever could have done. It will fuel the worst fears of voters already uneasy about his role in the formulation of the Government. Peters is seen by many as having thrown his weight around to an extent unjustifiable by his party’s modest 7.2% vote share. This legal action confirms he harboured a material distrust of National.

How can we not believe he simply used those talks for bargaining leverage, with no intention of doing a deal with National?

That’s an obvious possibility, and Peters won’t comment to clarify while the proceedings are sub judice, leaving things open to ongoing speculation.

Given this election disclosed a sizeable mood for a change of Government, Peters began this term with every chance of earning the public’s respect – or at least the benefit of the doubt. That he has yet again been unable to show restraint or decorum, and is futilely pursuing a personal grudge, is extremely disappointing. His co-parties in Government, and the country, deserve better.

It gives the impression that Winston First takes precedent over the Government or the country.

And this is likely to drag on. Mai Chen: No quick resolution in Winston Peters superannuation leak case

Lawyers for Winston Peters have served an application seeking the discovery of documents on the former prime minister, the former deputy prime minister, two former ministers and other advisers, officials and journalists.

In each case, the application seeks to discover the same basic information: the identity of the person or persons responsible for disclosing during the election campaign details of Peters’ national superannuation overpayment.

At common law, breaching privacy can result in an award of damages if the court agrees that disclosure of private facts is highly offensive to a hypothetical objective reasonable person.

However, before he can issue his proceeding for damages, Peters has to address a problem. He does not know who to sue because the identity of the person or persons responsible for the leak is currently unknown.

The action Peters has taken must mean he doesn’t know the identity of the person or persons responsible, although when the story was being reported he made claims he knew who had done it. That may have just been bluster, something peters isn’t a stranger to.

He can say with reasonable certainty who had access to the information and who first reported it in the media, but not who actually disclosed it.

The High Court Rules provide a mechanism expressly designed to deal with Peters’ problem: the right to apply for pre-commencement discovery.  Under Rule 8.20, any person intending to issue proceedings in the High Court can apply for pre-commencement discovery if it is impossible or impracticable to formulate the claim without access to documents (which must be specified in the application), and there are grounds to believe that the person served with the application has the documents in his or her possession.

That suggests he can’t just ask generally for communications.

The Rule strikes a balance between the right of intending plaintiffs to have access to justice through the courts to enforce their legal rights, and the right of others to maintain possession, control and confidentiality of their documents.

The court will need to decide whether the orders sought are wider than necessary to allow Peters to formulate his claim, and whether there are in fact sufficient grounds to suspect that each of the respondents served with the application actually has possession of the documents in question.

The journalists are also likely to claim privilege under section 68 of the Evidence Act 2006, which allows them to withhold information that might disclose the identity of an informant.

That privilege is limited and can be overruled by the court if it considers it would be in the public interest to do so, and the court has exercised that power in the past to require journalists to disclose the identity of informants who had committed serious criminal offences.

However, the court may be less inclined to do so in a private damages claim, particularly as it raises questions about freedom of expression under section 14 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990.

Further, the respondents may try to argue that there should be no discovery because Peters’ substantive claim will fail, either because disclosing the information about his superannuation was not highly offensive to start with, or because the disclosure was in the public interest having regard to Peters’ position as leader of the NZ First Party.

The likelihood is that it will take several months for the court to determine the matter – longer if there are appeals.

So this may hang over the credibility of the Government for some time.

MSD, DIA say no Super leak from them

Following an Inland Revenue investigation that found no evidence of a leak of Winston Peter’s super over payment – see  Inland Revenue “could not have been the source” of Super leak – both the Ministry of Social Development and the Department of Internal Affairs also found no evidence of a leak from their departments.

Ministry of Social Development releases investigation finding:

MSD on Winston Peters super leak investigation

Following information regarding Mr Winston Peter’s Superannuation payments entering the public arena, the Ministry launched an investigation to assess whether there was any indication that a Ministry employee may have been the source of the information.

That process is now complete, and we can confirm that all staff that had access to the relevant information had a reasonable business purpose for accessing it, and there is no evidence that this information was passed to a third party.

The Ministry holds a great deal of very personal information about people and their families that New Zealanders trust us to safeguard.

Both data searches and staff interviews were employed in this investigation.
If further information relating to this matter comes to light, MSD will make further investigations as necessary.

 

DIA statement: Privacy investigation complete

Department of Internal Affairs investigation into Peters leak

We investigated whether any Ministerial Services staff received or passed on information regarding the Rt. Hon. Winston Peters’ superannuation matter.

The investigation process included a search of digital records and a series of interviews with Ministerial Services staff. It found that five Ministerial Services employees had received the information before it was reported by media.

There was no evidence that the information was provided to media or third parties by these staff members.

The Department takes privacy seriously, and upholding the confidentiality of information forms part of the Code of Conduct all employees sign.

If further information comes to light, the Department will undertake further inquiries as necessary.

Peters claims he was alerted to the leak before it happened by a ‘very senior National Party person’ but no details or names have been given.

Details and timeline at RNZ: Third probe fails to find leaker of Peters’ super info

Slater implications on Peters Super leak

Cameron Slater continues to make vague accusations and implications about who leaked information about Winston Peters’ superannuation overpayments, claiming to know who leaked but also saying he is unable to say who it was. Given his changing claims in reaction to news it sounds most likely to be bluster and bull.

But yesterday Slater went further with another implication, this time of his source of information.

He posted So, if it wasn’t IRD then who was the leaker

If not IRD then who?

I’ll bet MSD has the same result. That then leaves Anne Tolley, Paula Bennett, Wayne Eagleson and several staffers on the hook. If it wasn’t the civil servants then it has to be one of that lot.

That sounds like spraying around accusations without having any idea who leaked.

It isn’t that anonymous…everyone knows who did it.

If ‘everyone’ includes Slater, if he knows who did it, why is he spreading the mud around so much?

They might be able to hide behind the OIA but they won’t be able to hide behind court discovery. National are just being cute. They leaked it and that will come out. If it wasn’t IRD or MSD then it can only be ministers or ministerial staff.

Back to vague again.

As is happening more often at Whale Oil, Slater was challenged on this in comments.

WhaleOilIRDLeak

So Slater has made vague insinuations against a number of people, claims ‘everyone knows’ who did it, and then says “you don’t know what I know’.

That all sounds very lame.

Not so lame is the implication by Slater that a source of information for him on the leak is Winston Peters’ lawyer, who also represented Slater in his defamation case against Colin Craig.

Slater has often claimed to be hard up, has often asked on Whale Oil for donations to help him pay for legal expenses, has often said how expensive defamation cases are…but that’s another story.

Slater has also been pimping for Peters and for NZ First for months, and has been throwing mud at the National and Bill English and various National Ministers and MPs…but that’s largely another story too.

What is of particular interest here is that Slater has implied that Peters’ lawyer may be providing Slater “what I know” about the Super leak.

Stuff on August 28: Winston Peters has investigators working on who leaked info about his pension overpayment

NZ First leader Winston Peters says he won’t stand by and let someone get away with “blatant dirty politics” after information about his superannuation overpayment was leaked.

“Someone decided they would break the law and leak it in a political way and some of those tweets and other comments point to knowledge out there that it was malicious and politically dirty,” Peters told media following a candidates meeting in Northland on Monday night.

Peters said he had investigators working on uncovering the leak and would let the public know who it was – “I’ve got my deep suspicions”.

Peters had also implied that a number of culprits were responsible for the leak, starting with IRD according to RNZ but that has now been ruled out.

There is no indication here that Peters’ lawyer is involved in the investigation. I think it would be extraordinary that he would give details to Slater at all, and especially knowing how loose with his fingers Slater is on Whale Oil.

Would Peters himself pass on information to Slater? I think that’s doubtful too.

Peters has a history of spraying around accusations, claiming to know who is responsible for things, claiming to have facts, but often failing to front up with any evidence.

In that regard Slater is very much the same. I don’t think his implication to fact ratio is very high. He is high on dirt and innuendo, and low on credibility.

I doubt that any lawyer will appreciate being name dropped by Slater trying to sound credible.

I think it’s most likely that Slater is guessing, he has no real idea who leaked, but he is trying to sound like he’s in the know to defend his accusations to readers who challenge him on “making accusations here based on nothing substantive”.

If the leaker is revealed then both Peters and Slater will probably claim to have been right – given the number of accusation’s they make the chances are one of their targets could be close to the mark.

 

Inland Revenue “could not have been the source” of Super leak

Inland Revenue says that the leak of Winston Peters’ super overpayment can’t have come from them because they never had the information.

Peters was reported by RNZ as saying “he believed Inland Revenue was to blame for the privacy breach”:  Investigations over pension leak as Peters plans complaint

Mr Peters has confirmed his fortnightly pension had been overpaid for several years and when he was notified in July he repaid it within 24 hours. He has not disclosed the sum but said it was less than the $18,000 reported in some media.

Both the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) and Inland Revenue (IRD) are trying to find the source of the leak and Mr Peters plans to lay a complaint with the Privacy Commissioner.

Mr Peters has told RNZ that he believed Inland Revenue was to blame for the privacy breach. Pension entitlements are calculated by Work and Income but payments are administered by the IRD.

Peters went on to blame MSD and the National Party, but Inland Revenue went ahead with an investigation. They have now reported on that.

IR completes investigation into leak allegation

Following information regarding Mr Winston Peters’ National Superannuation payments entering the public arena, Inland Revenue (IR) carried out an investigation to determine whether an IR staff member was the source of the information. The allegation that Inland Revenue had been the source of the information had been made and subsequently withdrawn by a journalist while interviewing Mr Peters.

New Zealanders trust IR with their personal financial information. It is essential that we can assure New Zealanders their personal information is respected and protected at all times.

Our investigation has found that IR does not hold the information that became public in relation to Mr Peters’ National Superannuation payments, and therefore could not have been the source.

If further information relating to this matter comes to light, IR will make further investigations as necessary.

 

Changing accusations on who leaked Peters Super overpayment

There has been a slew of accusations about who leaked information about the superannuation overpayment of Winston Peters.

Peters initially blamed the IRD. Then he moved to MSD, Bill English, Anne Tolley, Paula Bennett and public servants. By yesterday he was calling for mass resignations.

Stuff: Winston Peters calls for heads to roll over superannuation overpayment leak

Winston Peters wants heads to roll over his superannuation overpayment being leaked, including Social Development Minister Anne Tolley and State Services Minister Paula Bennett.

The NZ First leader told media following a finance debate in Queenstown on Wednesday night that those who have said they knew about his overpayment have “breached the privacy laws”.

When asked if Tolley, Bennett, State Services Commissioner Peter Hughes and Prime Minister Bill English’s chief of staff, Wayne Eagleson, should all lose their jobs, Peters said “of course they should”.

“They’re all in breach of the privacy laws of this country and there has to be consequences – they have just been so badly caught out,” he said.

Peters has never resigned over breaches of privacy but he has different rules for himself.

Also yesterday: Shane Jones takes aim at social development boss: ‘Writing’s on the wall’

NZ First candidate Shane Jones has launched a scathing attack on a senior civil servant, who he has accused of being at the centre of politically-motivated leaks in two separate elections.

Ministry of Social Development chief executive Brendan Boyle has confirmed he briefed his minister Anne Tolley that the department had settled a matter with NZ First leader Winston Peters’ on the overpayment of his pension.

“The man is no stranger to breaches of privacy. He was in charge of the internal affairs department when in the midst of the 2008 election there was a massive dump of documents.

“It was a file of a matter I dealt with, pertaining to Bill Liu – right in the middle of an election.

“Now the man is in the middle of a major privacy breach in this election,” Jones said.

Risky for Jones to bring up Bill Liu.

It emerged just before the 2008 election, then Labour Immigration Minister Jones granted the controversial Chinese businessman New Zealand citizenship despite an Interpol warning.

And it seems that after being distanced from National Cameron Slater has shifted his dirty politics to trying to help Peters and NZ First.

Like Peters his accusations have evolved, suggesting they are dirty speculations.

He originally thought the big revelation was something else.

Then when the Super  story broke he accused Anne Tolley. He has since piled into Bill English and his staff, also Steven Joyce.

And apparently he has now blamed someone ‘very close to Paula Bennett’.

If the leaker is revealed both he and peters will probably claim to have been right – if they accuse enough people their odds must be good.

It has long been a tactic of both Peters and Slater of making public accusations without any evidence, it seems to be aimed at trying to flush out a culprit.

Dirty politics from both of them. It was dirty to leak the information but whoever leaked is just wrestling in mud with political pigs.

Peters pursuing Super leaker

Winston Peters is trying to find out who leaked the information about him being overpaid superannuation for a number of years.

There is some irony in the king of leak-mongers getting so upset over a leak but Peters as some justification for being grumpy.

There has been a lot of speculation about who leaked and who was responsible for circulating the leak to media. Inevitably ‘dirty politics’ has been suggested.

On Monday morning in an interview with RNZ Peters, referring to a conversation with Newshub’s Lloyd Burr, said “he did drop, what I did know or did suspect but he dropped it, the informant was IRD”.

Newshub now report:  Anne Tolley given heads up over Winston Peters’ pension overpayment

Newshub can reveal Social Development Minister Anne Tolley was given an early heads up about Winston Peters being overpaid superannuation.

Mr Peters met with the Ministry of Social Development on July 15 – one month later, on August 15, Ms Tolley was alerted under the No Surprises Act.

Newshub received an anonymous phone call just three days later on August 18. Ms Tolley says the leak did not come from her office.

So it took over a week for the story to come out.

Now the New Zealand First Leader is on the warpath, sending out investigators to try and find the source who leaked he was overpaid superannuation.

Stuff:  Winston Peters has investigators working on who leaked info about his pension overpayment

NZ First leader Winston Peters says he won’t stand by and let someone get away with “blatant dirty politics” after information about his superannuation overpayment was leaked.

“Someone decided they would break the law and leak it in a political way and some of those tweets and other comments point to knowledge out there that it was malicious and politically dirty,” Peters told media following a candidates meeting in Northland on Monday night.

“I’ve been flat out, as you know, on the campaign of issues and when I’ve got time I’ll turn my mind to it, but I’m not going to stand by and let someone get away with blatant dirty politics and breaking the law.”

Peters said he had investigators working on uncovering the leak and would let the public know who it was – “I’ve got my deep suspicions”.

He has a right to try to find out who breached his privacy.

But again, it’s highly ironic that Peters is so affronted by being embarrassed by a leak, when he has so often used leaks and even hints of leaks to embarrass political opponents.

He knows how to play dirty politics as well as anyone.

Peters seemed very flustered in interviews when this story broke, and it is highly embarrassing for him, so it seems very unlikely he would have ‘leaked’ this story himself to try to get some media attention and some voter sympathy.

But when politics gets dirty nothing should be ruled out.

Trump’s obsession with himself

Another leak, this time of transcripts of President Trumps conversations with Australian and Mexican leaders early this year, have shown again how obsessed with himself and his image that Trump is.

He said “I am the world’s greatest person” to Malcolm Turnbull in January.

And recent reports show how he seems to have trouble understanding the difference between leading a company, where the boss can dictate what he likes, compared to the complexities of the US system of government.

Reuters:  Trump, frustrated by Afghan war, suggests firing U.S. commander: officials

During a July 19 meeting in the White House Situation Room, Trump demanded that his top national security aides provide more information on what one official called “the end-state” in a country where the United States has spent 16 years fighting against the Taliban with no end in sight.

The meeting grew stormy when Trump said Defense Secretary James Mattis and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Joseph Dunford, a Marine general, should consider firing Army General John Nicholson, commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, for not winning the war.

“We aren’t winning,” he told them, according to the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Some officials left the meeting “stunned” by the president’s vehement complaints that the military was allowing the United States to lose the war.

Trump seems to have a habit of firing if he isn’t ‘winning’.

CNN: Trump’s Russia statement proves he doesn’t understand separation of powers

On Wednesday, President Donald Trump signed the Russia sanctions bill that the Republican-led Congress had approved overwhelmingly. But he made sure everyone knew he wasn’t happy about it — and in so doing revealed, again, that he has either little understanding of or little care for the separation of powers built into the US government.

What makes Trump’s derision of the division of power between the executive, legislative and judicial branches different is both how brazen he is about it and how many times he has expressed sentiments in his first six-plus months in office that suggest he simply doesn’t understand the fact that everyone in the government doesn’t work for him.

And the latest leaks from Washington Post: The Post’s latest bombshell 

Produced by White House staff, the documents provide an unfiltered glimpse of Trump’s approach to the diplomatic aspect of his job, subjecting even a close neighbor and long-standing ally to streams of threats and invective as if aimed at U.S. adversaries.

With Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull:

The Jan. 28 call with Turnbull became particularly acrimonious. “I have had it,” Trump erupted after the two argued about an agreement on refugees. “I have been making these calls all day, and this is the most unpleasant call all day.”

Before ending the call, Trump noted that at least one of his conversations that day had gone far more smoothly. “Putin was a pleasant call,” Trump said, referring to Russian President Vladi­mir Putin. “This is ridiculous.” … “This is going to kill me,” he said to Turnbull. “I am the world’s greatest person that does not want to let people into the country. And now I am agreeing to take 2,000 people.”

With Mexican President Peña Nieto:

“On the wall, you and I both have a political problem,” Trump said. “My people stand up and say, ‘Mexico will pay for the wall,’ and your people probably say something in a similar but slightly different language.”

Trump seemed to acknowledge that his threats to make Mexico pay had left him cornered politically. “I have to have Mexico pay for the wall — I have to,” he said. “I have been talking about it for a two-year period.” …

Peña Nieto resisted, saying that Trump’s repeated threats had placed “a very big mark on our back, Mr. President.” He warned that “my position has been and will continue to be very firm, saying that Mexico cannot pay for the wall.”

Trump objected: “But you cannot say that to the press. The press is going to go with that, and I cannot live with that.”

Jennifer Rubin at WaPo: Why the leaked presidential transcripts are so frightening

It is shocking to see presidential conversations released in this way. Some in the executive branch, as Anthony Scaramucci aptly put it, are intent on protecting the country from Trump. This is a good thing, by the way. White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly has obviously failed to plug the flood leaks.

These transcripts may have been leaked before Kelly took over.

Trump is frighteningly obsessed with himself and his image to such an extent that he cannot fulfill the role of commander in chief. He cannot frame logical arguments based on public policy, and therefore comes across as, well, a fool to foreign leaders.

His desire to maintain his own image suggests he’d be more than willing to make the country’s interests subordinate to his own need for personal affirmations.

Trump’s narcissism leaves him open to flattery and threats (to reveal embarrassing material, for example). That’s the worry in the Russia investigation — namely, that Vladimir Putin has “something” on Trump, which compels Trump to act in ways inimical to U.S. interests.

Trump’s interests are paramount, so a cagey adversary can easily manipulate him.

There is no easy solution.

One cannot be impeached and removed for being an embarrassment to the United States or an egomaniac temperamentally unfit for the job (that was the argument for not electing him). Unless he really goes off the deep end, invoking the 25th Amendment is not a realistic option.

That leaves members of Congress and his administration with a few options.

And Trump keeps blaming everyone else. He recently tweeted:

But he can’t fire Congress, nor the Senate. He is stuck with the political and judicial system that the US has got. And the US is probably stuck with him until he throws a major hissy fit for not getting his own way and chucks the job in.

In the meantime it is likely that Russia, China, North Korea, and much of the Middle East will be trying to work out how they can exploit Trump’s ego.

With the amount of fire power available to lash out with this has to be a major concern.

One slightly reassuring thing – Trump seems to be relying more on generals to run his administration. They may be the best chance of keeping his flaws in check.

NZ First accused of leaking UMR poll

Winston Peters has generally trashed polls as fake and meaningless, but it looks like when they suit his purposes he isn’t averse to leaking them.

Two months ago from RNZ:  Peters calls polls fake, claims he’ll win 20% of vote

RNZ’s most recent poll-of-polls had New Zealand First sitting at 8.7 percent.

But Mr Peters said the media’s polls were fake – and his own polling put his party’s support far higher – closer to 20 percent.

“I’ve got the statistical evidence to prove it, I don’t know why the media carry on with their mindset and keep on boring people witless with scenarios that are not going to happen.”

I don’t think he produced any evidence, which isn’t unusual for him.

A week ago on RNZ:  Winston Peters says polls giving him 10% are fake

New Zealand First leader says media polls giving him 10 percent are fake and he’s going to get 20% in the election.

A Colmar Brunton poll had just been published with NZ First on 11%, up 2.

Then last Friday from Newshub:  Labour’s confidential polling leaked:

Newshub has been leaked poll results from the company that does Labour’s internal polling which show it is in big trouble, two-and-a-half months out from the election.

The results show Labour is on 26 percent support – crashing from 34 percent in May.

And New Zealand First, for the first time in three years of polling, is no longer the lowest rating party.

Winston Peters and co are on 14 percent – up 5 percent since May – just overtaking the Greens who are on 13 percent.

Peters didn’t slam this poll as fake.

The company, UMR, does the polling for Labour’s inner sanctum and the results are normally kept secret from the public.

Earlier in the year Little went public with a UMR poll that wasn’t as bad as usual for Labour.

Tonight the Labour Party and UMR said the results had not yet been released to the Labour Party and the leak must have come from a corporate client who had already been provided the results.

Today: Andrew Little accuses Winston Peters of leaking poll that made Labour look bad

Andrew Little is accusing Winston Peters of leaking poll results that are damaging to the Labour Party.

“Whenever you see something that’s reported as a leak, you look at who talks about it the most,” he told Newshub.

“I’m pretty sure NZ First has UMR as a pollster, so I think the leak – in inverted commas – is more likely from New Zealand First than anybody.”

This seems to have been confirmed by Duncan Garner.

Peters didn’t deny it, he avoided ‘reacting’.

“I’ve got no reaction to that. I couldn’t give a rat’s derriere what he says,” the NZ First leader told The AM Show on Monday. He wouldn’t reveal if NZ First used UMR for its polling.

“We don’t divulge who we talk to on the issue of polling… That’s not information you’re privy to… It’s none of your business.”

Mr Peters has been talking up the poll regardless, suggesting he’ll soon have the right to call himself leader of the Opposition.

“If [Labour] go from 26 down to 22, that’s it. Andrew is not in Parliament,” Mr Peters told The Nation on Saturday. “So why would you make these statements, that he’s the next leader of the country? Or the leader of the Opposition?”

It’s not unusual for politicians to trash polls and news they don’t like and then hypocritically promote what suits their purposes.

But UMR is just one poll, a Roy Morgan poll also published last week had NZ First on 8%. Peters would probably call that fake.

Peters has usually been staunch in not predicting election outcomes. On the Nation on Saturday:

Look, you know, one thing is very important in life, and that’s this – don’t count your chickens before they hatch.

But in another break from Peters tradition, in his speech to the NZ First congress on Sunday he closed with:

“So spread the word. This time, in our 24th year, we are going to transform the electoral system and we will be most definitely the Government.”

However he hasn’t produced a poll that backs that up yet.

Dirty local body politics?

A story of ‘political skulduggery’ in Marlborough from Stuff: Marlborough councillors brand Whale Oil leak ‘despicable’

Political skulduggery has again rocked the council chamber in Marlborough as lawyers are called in to investigate a secret recording of a committee meeting leaked to a right-wing blog. 

The leak to Whale Oil could see heads roll at the council, as councillors who attended the meeting are made to front up on Monday.

A recording of a tense behind closed doors discussion about the cash-strapped ASB Theatre was published on the blog site on Friday.

Council chief executive Mark Wheeler said if a councillor had leaked the public-excluded discussion he or she could be asked to resign. 

The committee meeting took place in April. 

Councillor Peter Jerram said the leak was “absolutely orchestrated” and smacked of “dirty politics” emerging in Marlborough. 

“Party politics are definitely involved. But worse than that, it’s gutter politics.” 

Marlborough Mayor Alistair Sowman said the post was a clear attack on mayoral frontrunner Leggett, after a “very successful” attack on Sowman himself. 

Whale Oil involved in local body politics in Marlborough might seem a bit odd, they don’t usually do much about the provinces and most will have no idea who the current mayor of Marlborough is and who the candidates are.

But Whale Oil has had a number of posts on Marlborough local body politics over the last few months. Why? The Stuff article has a hint.

Political strategist Simon Lusk, who has links to Whale Oil, spoke at a local government seminar in Marlborough earlier this year attended by several council candidates. 

Lusk said at the time fighting for transparency was meaningless unless candidates opposed bad news being hidden in publicly excluded council meetings.

Lusk did not confirm or deny whether he was involved when contacted on Saturday. 

He was told information had come through on the blog’s tip line, he said. 

Why Lusk or Whale Oil might have such an interest in Marlborough local body politics is anyone’s guess.

There’s an unusual number of posts on Marlborough issues at Whale Oil going back to about June. No other regions have had this much attention so they stood out.

I never took much notice of the Marlborough posts apart from noticing they were there, they seemed local and not very interesting.

But what we have now is a story of wider interest:

  • a secret recording of a closed Marlborough District Council meeting in April
  • details of the recording published on Whale Oil in September, on the day that local body election voting papers are sent out
  • council chief executive Mark Wheeler said if a councillor had leaked the public-excluded discussion he or she could be asked to resign

Being asked to resign three weeks before the election closes might be horse bolted timing.

What if the leaker is a candidate for the election? Their name is already printed on the ballot and posted to voters, but it could affect votes.

The Marlborough Express (Stuff) has followed up with Marlborough council announces investigation into Whale Oil leak ahead of final meeting

A secret recording of a private council meeting has triggered an investigation into all councillors and staff who were at the meeting. 

The investigation will require everyone at the behind closed doors discussion in Marlborough to sign a statutory declaration saying they were not behind the recording or it being leaked to a right-wing blog. 

It is a criminal offence to knowingly make a false declaration.

They are taking it very seriously.

Meanwhile Whale Oil had a string of posts on it yesterday too.

As predicted yesterday the Marlborough Express has written an attack piece on me. They didn’t even call for comment.

After we busted John Leggett and the Marlborough Express tried to ignore the story there still remain a number of unanswered questions that I am sure the ratepayers of Marlborough wants answers to.

The Marlbourgh Express doesn’t seem to know the first rule of politics. Explaining is losing.

That’s funny considering the number of posts explaining everything.

Locals don’t dare speak out because their lives will be made hell.  Local news doesn’t dare speak up because their commercial viability is under threat if they speak up against their biggest advertisers.

More explaining. They could be important issues for people in Marlborough, but that’s local stuff that most people are unlikely to be interested in.

So they act like they are violated, scream “Whaleoil” and hope that voters will forget what it is really all about.

What an utter waste of rate payers’ money to try and figure out who helped the truth get to the public.

Stop screaming my name, and start taking responsibility for your own words and actions.

That’s more interesting, to me anyway.

A secret recording was taken of a closed door council meeting and supplied to a media outlet and published during an election campaign.

The recording is a serious matter. If it was a councillor they could be asked to resign. If it was a staff member  I expect it would potentially be a sackable offence.

But Cameron Slater and Whale Oil don’t think that how the information was obtained matters, or is excusable as the story they want to tell is what is important.

Nicky Hager thought something similar when he published Dirty Politics.

Another thing that puzzles me about this – how much influence would Whale Oil have on the Marlborough election?

Most people are barely or not interested in local body elections. Most Marlborough voters are unlikely to read Whale Oil.

I’m baffled as to why Whale Oil is giving so much coverage over several months for a relatively low interest issue that can hardly be attracting many clicks or much advertising to the blog.

It will be interesting to see whether Whale Oil sees their whistle blowing coverage of sufficient importance and interest to continue their coverage after the election.

Ombudsman on MFAT leak inquiry

The Ombudsman has been scathing of an inquiry into leaks from MFAT and how the Government handled things, which seriously compromised the careers of MFAT employees.

Stuff: Damning inquiry points finger at the Government, State Services Commissioner

Ombudsman Ron Paterson has told the Government it should compensate a former top diplomat whose career ended in tatters after he was targeted by the inquiry, which was instigated by the State Services Commission.

He has also recommended a formal apology.

The 2013 inquiry has already cost taxpayers as much as $1 million, including lawyers costs and fees paid to the woman who headed it, Paula Rebstock.

The 2013 inquiry headed resulted in senior diplomats Derek Leask and Nigel Fyfe  being singled out , despite evidence the leaks that sparked it originated from within the State Services Commission itself. The person responsible cannot be identified because of suppression orders.

While they were not named in the State Services Commission-ordered inquiry, Leask and Fyfe were easily identifiable and their conduct was publicly  criticised by the State Services Commissioner and Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully after personal emails were published revealing their opposition to restructuring of the ministry.

Paterson says the SSC acted unreasonably during the inquiry  and pointed out flaws including:

* the findings in relation to Leask exceeded the inquiry’s terms of reference.

* Leask was not given fair notice prior to his interview that his conduct would be examined.

* Insufficient material was provided him about the applicable standards against which his behaviour was being measured

* He was not treated fairly.

* The evidence relied upon by the inquiry did not reasonably support some of the criticisms made about him in the final report and some highly relevant evidence was not properly addressed

* The manner in which Leaks’s actions were addressed in the final report was disproportionate when compared with the comments about the actions of other senior MFAT managers.

* Publication of the report, in a manner that identified him and contained unfair criticisms of him, was unjust

* State Services Commissioner Iain Rennie’s public statement about Leask was unreasonable.

Paterson recommends Leask receive compensation for harm to his reputation caused by the deficiencies in the inquiry and publication of the report.

This has raised serious questions.

Stuff: Top diplomat: Serious questions to be answered about the government’s misuse of power

Neil Walter, a former top diplomat, says serious questions are raised by the Ombudsman’s report into flawed government inquiry.

In the view of three Queen’s Counsel, the investigation team’s report was riddled with errors of fact and contained a number of accusations that had little connection with either the inquiry’s terms of reference or the evidence produced.

The Privacy Commissioner has separately ruled that Rennie breached the Privacy Act.

I expect more questions will be asked about all this. Serious questions need answers and appropriate remedies.

I think one thing in particular that needs to be addressed is the apparent propensity of the current Government to attack and discredit public servants and others to protect themselves, to divert from serious issues or to discredit arguments or evidence that is inconvenient to them.