Pressure on budget spending, except for NZ First policies

Bad Labour, good cop NZ First? Or perhaps that should be tough accountant Labour, generous giver NZ First.

Labour has been highlighting unforeseen shocks putting pressure on budget spending in health and education, but NZ First seems to have no problems getting money to burn for it’s policies.

They had already scored $1 billion a year to hand out to regions, where many NZ First votes come from.

The Government has now announced a $1 billion increase (over four years) in foreign affairs funding, which feeds policies championed by Winston Peters.

Stuff – Budget 2018: ‘Pacific reset’ will increase foreign affairs funding to $1b over four years

New Zealand’s foreign service has been given a massive boost in funding – taking its total four-year vote to near $1 billion – to cater for the Government’s “Pacific reset” and the reopening of an embassy in Sweden.

Foreign Minister Winston Peters has unveiled his department’s Budget allocation, at a special announcement ahead of next week’s Government Budget reveal.

The funding boost for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) will also see New Zealand’s diplomatic corps increased by another 50 positions.

Peters said the announcement reflected the “critical role” MFAT played in keeping New Zealand safe and prosperous.

MFAT would receive an operational expenditure increase of $150.4m across four years, and an additional $40.3 in capital expenditure, which would allow for the new embassy that was closed by former National Minister Murray McCully in 2012.

The Government would also be bracing for some big investment in the Dubai World Expo in 2020, and New Zealand’s hosting of the Apec forum in 2021.

Peters also announced a whopping $714.2m allocation to the Official Development Assistance fund – or foreign aid – that will be heavily prioritised towards the Pacific.

He said the funding was a “clear demonstration” to the international community that New Zealand was serious in addressing global and regional challenges and helping people in need”.

“Increased investment will enable New Zealand to deliver on our Pacific Reset. It will bolster our efforts to tackle priority issues like climate change in the region,” said Peters.

This is thought in part aimed at competing with China’s influence in the Pacific.

Peters on The AM Show:

“We don’t have an option, either we step up or someone else will”

“There are countries that have shown interest in the Pacific”

“We cannot just as some people advocate, walk away… that is a futile action to take”

“We’ve got things we’re standing up for and we’re doing it”

Barry Soper: Foreign Minister Winston Peters has the power and he’s using it

Peters has the power and he’s using it and if you agree with the idiom that you’ve got to spend money to make money, then he’s on the mark.

He impressed his audience of diplomats and NGOs last night, underscoring this country’s place in the world. Peters said on the world stage that people look over your shoulder looking at what you’ve spent and said to have to cope with a budget where this country was heading he’d rather give the job to somebody else, it was so embarrassing.

It’s true McCully significantly cut the foreign affairs spend, shaving a hundred diplomats by Peters’ count, and acting like deserters in our Pacific neighbourhood.

The new minister’s going on a diplomat recruitment drive, reopening our embassy in Sweden where he reckons we can do business in that region, and pouring the lion’s share of his new money, more than $700 million, into Pacific aid.

This re-energised Foreign Minister’s adamant the Pacific must remain peaceful, free from the shafts of strife and war that affect many other parts of the world and he reasons if we’re not there some other influence will be. Given the growing influence of China, maybe he’s too late.

He didn’t mention China, he didn’t need to. But this man, who in his last Foreign Affairs incarnation opposed the lucrative free trade agreement with the People’s Republic, has been converted on the road back to the Beehive, declaring “we are a country that trades or dies”.

Except he strongly opposed the TPPA, until he got into Government.

Peters only has the power because Ardern and Labour are allowing it. He doesn’t have many numbers in Caucus and Parliament, but he is being allowed to use them to his advantage.

NZ donations to Clinton Foundation

On the surface a revelation by the Taxpayers’ Unionthat New Zealand has given donations to the Clinton Foundation and intends to donate more sound quite questionable, but it may not be as bad as first impressions may give.

Government Set to Give Clinton Foundation Another $5.5M

First I’ll deal with the last paragraph:

Given New Zealand’s faux pas in co-sponsoring the UN Security Council resolution condemning Israel on Christmas Eve, and the heavy criticism of New Zealand which has resulted, the continued support of the Clinton Foundation risks even more damage to New Zealand’s ability to wield any influence in the US.

For an organisation that purports to be political independent  that’s a curious slant on this, taking a swipe at the UN vote which has pretty much nothing to do with the donations.

The Taxpayers’ Union can reveal that the Government has budgeted to give another $5.5 million dollars of taxpayers’ money to the controversial Clinton Foundation, despite Mrs Clinton’s failed US Presidential bid and controversy over improper ties between the Clinton Foundation, the State Department and donations from foreign governments to the foundation while Ms Clinton was US Secretary of State.

Figures obtained by the Taxpayers’ Union under the Official Information Act show that to date Kiwi taxpayers have forked out $7.7 million to the Clinton Foundation’s “Health Access Initiative” with $2.5 million and $3 million earmarked for 2017 and 2018 respectively.

Given the lessons of the Saudi Sheep saga, we are staggered that MFAT appear to still think handing out money for diplomatic purposes is sensible.  Even worse, this money comes from the NZ Aid budget which should be going to programes which are the most effective at helping the world’s poor – not sidetracked into political objectives.

Again, this has little if anything to do with the Saudi sheep ‘saga’.

No proof is provided that the Clinton Foundation donations have “political objectives”.

It is possible that officials have reason to believe that the Clinton Foundation’s work does provide good value for money, although given the controversy in the US that seems unlikely. The refusal to front up and explain leaves a stench of buying political access.

More loaded comments.

The Taxpayers’ Union provide a copy of a letter explaining what the donations are for.

mfatclinton1

mfatclinton2

That doesn’t sound bad at all.

Is the Taxpayers’ Union trying to play politics with straight forward aid?

Their media release is loaded with a number of political issues that  may have little or no relationship to this sort of aid donations.

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.

TPPA Roadshow today

The TPPA Roadshow will be held in Dunedin today. I’m going as an interested observer.

The Government will run a number of events on key TPP outcomes. These will be aimed at ensuring businesses are able to prepare to take advantage of new opportunities presented by TPP’s entry into force, and to provide information of interest to the wider public and other stakeholders (see next steps for more information about the timing of entry into force). These events follow the extensive public consultations carried out during TPP negotiations.

Protest action is planned in the Octagon and presumably outside the venue (just off the Octagon).

TPP Action Dunedin:

Tomorrow MFAT is having the roadshow in town. There will be picket action, petitions, factsheets on the TPPA, info on knowing your rights should you be arrested, flyers for upcoming events, stickers and a couple of speakers. There is also a talk by Tim Hazeldene at 730pm tomorrow night open to the public. (you don’t have to register lol) Come on down!‪#‎TPPAFREEZONE‬ ‪#‎TPPANOWAY‬

picket starting at around 8.45am

It will be interesting regarding both the Roadshow and the protests.

UPDATE: protests very low key, three people politely handing out material.

108 seats slowly filling, presume they match the number of registrations. Needed photo ID and registration paperwork to get in.

When David Walker got up to speak a woman played some music and said “it’s a circus” and was escorted out without incident.

Turei and a Pharmac fallacy

There’s been a lot of speculation about Pharmac in relation to the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement. And misinformed comment and misinformation.

In a column (MP’s View) in Dunedin’s The Star Metiria Turei wrote:

Is the TPP agreement good or bad?

There are many questions about what it means, largely because we have been kept in the dark. The agreement has been negotiated in secret and that has made it hard for everyone on both sides of the debate to really understand the impact of it.

Until the Agreement was agreed on of course it was difficult to know what the impact might be. But it was finalised and the full text was made available last year.

So now the text has been released, we can all, for the first time, really look at what is negotiated and make our own judgements.

Let’s look at Pharmac for example. There are many people who are concerned about maintaining access to free and cheap medicines.

So, we are seriously concerned about then increased cost of medicines, especially the new and better ones emerging called biologics. As more of these become available in New Zealand the cost will rise.

It’s unclear what she means by that. Of course if there are more of a group of medicines the cost of that group will probably rise.

The Government estimates a $1 million annual cost to Pharmac but says nothing about increased costs of new medicines.

It’s likely new medicines will be more expensive with or without the TPPA. Medine costs have been rising for decades.

The Government also estimates $4.5 million for the set-up cost and a $2.2 million annual cost of a process to allow Pharmac decisions to be reviewed by other agencies.

Even the most conservative analysis from MFAT shows costs rising but little benefit to sick New Zealanders needing help.

I don’t think anyone expected there would be definable benefits to sick people from the TPPA. I doubt MFAT made an emotional ‘analysis’ like that.

What they do say in Cost to PHARMAC of Implementing the Transparency Annex of TPP :

The analysis below outlines the estimated costs of operating new administrative procedures required under TPP. While these procedures will not change the PHARMAC model or its ability to fund, prioritise, approve or decline applications for funding pharmaceuticals, they do involve some cost to implement.

The actual operating cost to PHARMAC of implementing TPP is likely to be less than the estimates below, partly because PHARMAC may be able to absorb some of the activities required by the Annex within existing resources.

Estimated costs are then detailed, coming to the totals cited by Turei. But Turei doesn’t say that MFAT said that the operating costs are likely to be lower. And MFAT doesn’t say anything like “little benefit to sick New Zealanders needing help”.

And we have listened carefully to the arguments on both sides of this debate.

Medicines is just one example where the details give us all better information about the effects of the TPP agreement.

I encourage you to look a little deeper into it.

This exchange on Facebook has been circulating:

PharmacTPPAMueller

Pharmac director Jens Mueller said:

Any PHARMAC cost increases will be absolutely negligible in comparison to the total PHARMAC budget and the additional export revenues from the TPPA.

An MFAT Fact Sheet says:

Consumers will not pay more for subsidised medicines as a result of TPP. Most prescription medicines are fully subsidised and, with few exceptions, New Zealanders pay no more than $5. TPP does not change this in any way.

I wonder how carefully Turei and the Greens have listened to both sides of the argument. Turei is playing on people’s fears with little justification and only vague assertions.

Reports I’ve seen in media show little concern about the effects of the TPPA and medicine costs.

It looks like Turei is playing on a Pharmac fallacy.

 

Goff blatantly lies about ‘dirty politics’

Phil Goff blatantly lied on Campbell Live last night when asked if he ever got involved in dirty politics. Goff said “No, no, not at all”.

Goff has a history of misleading and leaking and accusing others of lying. He has been involved in:

  • Leaking and misleading over the Don Brash ‘gone by lunchtime’ statement in 2004.
  • His office leaks from MFAT in 2012 which led to a fight through the courts to hide the identity of the Labour associated leaker.
  • A Goff office leak led to the forced resignation of National MP Richard Worth in 2009.
  • Goff “appears to have broken the law by releasing pages from a suppressed Court of Inquiry report into the death of a Kiwi soldier in Afghanistan” in 2013.
  • Accused SIS director Warren Tucker of lying about briefing him in 2011.

Yesterday morning Phil Goff claimed John Key was lying about not having been briefed by the SIS prior to an OIA release to Cameron Slater. During the day Key’s version was supported by ex-Director of the SIS Warren Tucker and Ombudsman Beverly Wakem – see Goff versus Key, Tucker and Wakem.

Last night Goff was interviewed by John Campbell. The prelude on Campbell Live did not give all the details this. It began:

Campbell: Phil Goff, who was at the centre of all this because these SIS documents were about you and they were really embarrassing for you and they were a big judder bar in your campaign in 2011 weren’t they.

Goff: Let me come back to what the Prime Minister said because it’s fascinating. This is somehow a smear campaign from the left. No, this is a campaign against smears and dirty tricks of which there is abundant evidence shown in the emails leaked from Cameron Slater. So that’s the critical point John

In the morning Goff said “It’s important because John Key is not being truthful in saying that he wasn’t told”. He seems to have moved on from that accusation.

Campbell: I couldn’t agree more that there is abundant evidence that Cameron Slater smears and is thoroughly unpleasant…

Goff: …and gets information from the Prime Minister’s office.

Campbell: Absolutely. Where does that lead back to the Prime Minister because I stood in that media conference as he answered question after question after question and he was emphatic he didn’t know?

Goff again ignores this and moves the story onto to something else.

Goff: What do we know about this for certain. We know that material was leaked from Security Intelligence to Cameron Slater. There were two possible sources. One is the SIS itself, and the second is the Prime Minister’s office. 

Now I’m not so conspiratorial that I would think that the SIS would leak that material. The Prime Minister’s office had the motive to do it and the close links with Cameron Slater. Any reasonable person will come to the conclusion that that leak came from the Prime Minister’s office. 

But Tucker the SIS were highly annoyed with accusations Goff had made about them so also had motive – in fact the SIS suggested that journalists make an OIA request after Goff had said effectively accused Tucker of lying – “I never read that document. Warren Tucker is wrong”.

Campbell: Can I ask you a question? You were a leader of the Labour Party, up against and extraordinarily popular Prime Minister John Key.

Did you ever seek to do what you’re accusing him of doing, or use your office to do it, which is to get really dirty behind the scenes, arms length?

Goff: No no not at all…

Campbell: Never, not once?

Goff: No, no, because fundamentally to me the integrity of our political system is important.

That’s an emphatic denial from Goff. It is brazen lie.

Goff was prominent in an MFAT leak in 2012.– this had similarities to the current issue because it involved someone closely linked to the Labour Party.

Documents leaked to Labour foreign affairs spokesman Phil Goff showed a reworked plan for the ministry would cut 146 jobs, down from 304.

He had also been leaked documents from trade negotiation staff which showed the restructuring had dented staff confidence.

There was la lengthy legal battle to keep the identity of Goff’s leaker secret. David Farrar in Opposition parties may look silly over Police complaints:

Yet in this case Labour have spent months arguing the leak should not be pursued, and that a leak inquiry is a waste of money. Flagrant hypocrisy. And I hope one day, we will be publicly able to publish why Labour is so frightened about the leaker’s identity being revealed, and any links back to them.

Someone with strong Labour Party links leaked to Goff.

Goff misled with his “gone by lunchtime” leak that was damaging to Don Brash. TVNZ in 2004:

Goff said Brash told the US delegation New Zealand’s current ban on allowing nuclear powered or nuclear armed ships into its ports would be lifted  “by lunchtime” if the National Party were voted in to power.

The comments were noted down by a Foreign Affairs Ministry official present at the January meeting, according to Goff.

Goff said of Brash’s comments: “That is deceit that is dishonesty and the public would expect that to be revealed.

“…either he was not telling the truth to the delegation or subsequently he was not telling the truth to the New Zealand public.”

More accusations of lies from Goff – and it turns out he was not being truthful again himself, as Fran O’Sullivan wrote:

Goff’s problem is that he is embarrassed by the WikiLeaks revelation.

He had no compunction using notes of a private meeting between former National leader Don Brash and a visiting United States delegation to claim New Zealand’s anti-nuclear policy “would be gone by lunchtime” under a National government.

The WikiLeaks documents have something to say on this score too.

Former United States ambassador Bill McCormick wrote in November 2006 that Goff had “misquoted” an Mfat staffer’s notes from the meeting to claim that Brash had promised the nuclear ban would be “gone by lunchtime”.

“Brash denied he intended to get rid of the ban without a referendum, but was unable to respond credibly when Labour said that must mean he was planning to scrap the legislation, which many Kiwis view as an iconic part of the country’s identity,” McCormick said.

It’s notable that Goff refused the Herald’s request under the Official Information Act to release the full notes of the meeting that Brash had with the six visiting Republican senators.

Goff’s office leaked a rumour that led to the resignation of Richard Worth in 2009. NZ Herald:

It is obvious that Goff’s office first leaked the rumour to the Press Gallery that Labour had already warned Key of allegations of sexual harassment by Worth of another woman, who we now know is Neelam Choudary.

No one has come out of this business with their reputation enhanced by what now must be seen as a Labour Party dirty trick.

Goff has ducked for cover, after a couple of weeks of drip-feeding juicy tidbits to the media and taking the moral high ground. That can only be seen as an admission he was wrong.

Common elements – leaks from Goff’s office, moral high ground, dirty tricks, Goff.

In 2013: Goff leaks secret army death report:

Labour MP Phil Goff appears to have broken the law by releasing pages from a suppressed Court of Inquiry report into the death of a Kiwi soldier in Afghanistan.

Mr Goff has released part of the report into the death of Corporal Doug Hughes which he says reveals “critical deficiencies in the training and deployment of Kiwi troops”.

Phil Goff’s hands are dirty. It is dishonest of him to deny being involved in dirty politics.

It’s perhaps not surprising he is laying all the leak blame on Key’s office – Goff has a history of leaking from his own office.

No wonder much of the public dismiss all this with “they are all as bad as each other”. Goff and his staff and Labour friendly leakers look to be as bad as anyone.

Goff’s lying while reminding of Labour dirty tricks is not helping Labour’s Vote Positive campaign. Has he gone rogue or is he pushing this to keep a separation between dirty politics and David Cunliffe?

 

Doubts on MFAT and Malaysia

Have we been told what really happened between MFAT and Malaysia? Unless an employee has screwed up badly and their Malaysian counterparts went along with it without questioning it, or there’s more to this story than we have been told.

An ex-MFAT employee commenting on Kiwiblog defends staff at MFAT but goes on to doubt the veracity of the stories we’ve been told.

CryHavoc  says:

I’m not sure why I’m going to do this, but here goes…

To the extent anyone gives a shit you will see from my comments made on kiwiblog that I am far from left-wing – a Government consisting of the current opposition is genuinely scary to me. I am also ex-MFAT and, take it from someone who looked out for such things, MFAT is not a hive of left-wing activity. Without question there are well-meaning, cardigan-wearing Otago polsci grads who believe fervently in climate change and the efficacy of the UN, but there are plenty of neoliberals too.

In this case the old saying of never attributing to conspiracy what can be put down to cock-up I think rings true. Not that that excuses at all what has happened here (though I will be very interested in what exactly has happened, and if McCully hasn’t been more involved than he is claiming I will be flabbergasted), but some of the rhetoric here and on yesterday’s thread is OTT.

It’s relevant that of the seven MFAT alumni in parliament now, four are Nats (Groser, Hayes, Parata, Foster-Bell), two are Labour (Cunliffe, Robertson) and one Green (Graham) – yeah we weren’t proud of all of them (where do you think the nickname “silent T” was thought up?). And on policy, the agency that brought you the China FTA, the closest relationship we’ve had with the US in 30 years, and now the TPP, is hardly working towards a socialist paradise.

Forgive this rant – despite historical loyalty I am well gone from MFAT and very happily in the private sector earning more money for less work – but some of the abuse is warranted; much of it isn’t. The vast majority of MFAT staff are working bloody hard for little recognition and yes, not that much money.

CharlieBrown says:

CryHavoc – you seem to be quite balanced and know a lot about MFAT so you might be able to answer my question. Is it possible or likely that NZ is just going along with the Malaysians version of events to avoid embarrassing that government and souring relations with them? I know its a gross generalization but South East Asian countries don’t have a great reputation when it comes to corruption and the fact that we produced a very clear and definitive written statement of what the Malaysians insisted on and the best that they come up with is a description of informal talks and emails. If it meant bringing a man to justice I would quite happily go along with that.

Can journalists request to see these emails or transcripts of talks with all involved using the official information act?

CryHavoc (42 comments) says:

Hi CharlieBrown – thanks for your comment, I’ve been pretty angry about this all week so I’m glad I seem balanced! In truth I read it exactly as you have said above. It’s absolutely par for the course for countries like Malaysia to latch on to any excuse to save face.

Here’s how I break it down. The Malaysians have had the option since day one to waive the guy’s immunity. MFAT made a formal request via Third Person Note (so called in the trade because it is highly formal and represents the “official view of the Government”) that asked the Malaysians to waive immunity. The Malaysians responded ten days later saying that they would not… oh and please cover up all the evidence. It seems clear to me that they had no intention of letting the guy face trial here.

Subsequent to that, just as the thing is blowing up (like this week I.e. A month or so later) in Malaysia and there’s a heap of domestic political pressure on the Government of Malaysia (because their young, westernized, savvy population has the same view of sex-pests that we do and they’re all saying he should be tried here) they say “Oh, we had been led to believe that it would be ok if he came home.”

I call bullshit on this. In the diplomatic game it is all formal and you don’t assume a country’s view until it is on paper. If they thought there was ambiguity, and they genuinely gave a crap about whether the guy stayed or not, they would have sought clarification from NZ before sending him home. There is just simply no way that a mid-level official in MFAT saying “um, well, it might be ok if he faces a court martial in Malaysia” would trump the formal exchange above.

[Now I have no idea what the nature of those informal conversations was, so I could be completely wrong – but I still can’t believe they wouldn’t seek formal clarification.]

So… What has happened this week, as far as I can see, is that the Malaysians have found themselves in the shit. They’ve sent a shitbag to NZ and he’s caused a major embarrassment to them. They’ve therefore reached for the only remaining excuse they have – some flimsy bollocks about informal conversations – and said oh no it’s ok, we’ll send the guy back, we’re the good guys here (ignoring all the time that they could have played this card at any stage… and of course knowing that the guy is some low ranking bloke who’s expendable), and hence regained the moral high ground. McCully, much to my disdain, has allowed them to do it – aided and abetted by the singularly stupid and insular NZ media for whom finding a scapegoat is the key objective, rather than doing any analysis.

So that’s just my take. And to answer your other question, yes, absolutely everything on the MFAT record is OIAable on this. It will no doubt be heavily redacted to prevent the Minister taking any flak, but there should be a record of every conversation that has taken place on this issue. Not transcripts per se but file notes of everything.

Something abnormal certainly seems to have happened here, we just can’t be sure what.

MFAT immunity muck up – are there more?

The MFAT muck up over the Malaysian immunity case raises enough questions of it’s own, up through the ranks of the Ministry to Murray McCully.

Vernon Small touches on possible wider problems in Buck needs to stop for Mfat’s botch-ups.

There are some other questions that go beyond the official level too which the Government needs to address.

Would the public ever have been informed of the “immunity waiver” without media inquiries in this and other cases?

The signals coming out of the Beehive are “probably not”.

These cases should routinely be disclosed because the public have a right to know when the judicial system has been thwarted by the Vienna Convention and which countries invoke immunity, and in what circumstances.

There is no reason to shield any country from the New Zealand public’s right to judge their actions in such instances, particularly where alleged criminality has occurred against a member of the public.

Some things are simply beyond any “diplomatic” instinct to repair and smooth relations.

How was the Herald informed about the case and why? It seems to have been leaked information which is a very poor way to deal with this out of a diplomatic organisation where following protocols are supposed to be paramount.

And there’s a big question that needs to be asked.

Have other criminal cases been swept under the diplomatic carpet?

This was probably an unusually serious case, but the public and possibly our politicians simply don’t know. We should.

There needs to be full and open disclosure from MFAT on what if any other cases involving immunity there have been. We need to know if there have been more muck ups and if there have been more cases kept secret from the public.

Rebstock Report

MFAT leak accused previously worked in Labour research unit and was a temporary clerical assistant at SSC – Iain Rennie

Report to the State Services Commissioner on the Investigation into the Possible Unauthorised Disclosure of Information Relating to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade

The State Services Commissioner, Iain Rennie, has released the findings of the investigation into the unauthorised disclosure of information relating to restructuring plans at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) in 2012.  The full report and the State Services Commissioner’s response to the report are attached under Related resources, to the right. See also: Media statement from the State Services Commissioner on release of the report.

Findings of the Investigation into the Possible Unauthorised Disclosure of Information Relating to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade

The State Services Commissioner, Iain Rennie, today released the findings into the  unauthorised disclosure of information relating to restructuring plans at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) in 2012.  The Cabinet papers were provided in confidence to senior officials at MFAT, the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, the State Services Commission, Ministry of Justice and the Treasury.  Key Findings

Disclosure of Information report released

Thursday, 12 December 2013, 12:09 pm Press Release: State Services Commission

Findings of the Investigation into The Possible Unauthorised Disclosure of Information Relating to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs And Trade

The State Services Commissioner, Iain Rennie, today released the findings into the unauthorised disclosure of information relating to restructuring plans at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) in 2012.

The Cabinet papers were provided in confidence to senior officials at MFAT, the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, the State Services Commission, the Ministry of Justice, and the Treasury.

Key Findings

• Systems and processes for protecting sensitive information are highly variable between departments and need improvement.

• Ms Rebstock has reported a strong suspicion that the leak of the three Cabinet Committee papers was made by a temporary staff member working within the State Services Commission (SSC). The investigation was unable to find definitive evidence of who was responsible for the unauthorised disclosure of the Cabinet papers.

• The report has identified conduct by a group of senior public servants at MFAT during the change process that fell below the standards expected of people in their position.

• Specifically Ms Rebstock finds that the behaviour of some Tier 3 managers in MFAT created a perception in the department that it was acceptable for opposition to the proposed changes to be aired outside the department and used for political purposes.

• Ms Rebstock finds that two Tier 3 managers developed strategies to oppose the change proposals, and to disrupt or stop the change process outside of the staff-in-confidence consultation process.

 

• Ms Rebstock further considered it probable some MFAT staff leaked a variety of staff-in-confidence material to the Labour Party Spokesperson on Foreign Affairs and Trade, and to the media.

The person referred to as Person X in the report sought judicial review of the Inquiry’s findings where he was known as “Applicant A” and a suppression order was imposed by the High Court. That order prohibits publication of any details that might lead to X’s identification. The High Court has altered the suppression order so that details of his place of work at the time and his previous place of employment may be revealed. Other identifying details remain suppressed.

“I need to be able to assure Ministers, and any future Government, that confidential information will be protected and that Public Servants are trustworthy and will act with integrity,” Mr Rennie said.

In reference to the suspected involvement of a former SSC temporary staff member, Mr Rennie said he was “extremely saddened and disappointed” that the leak of the Cabinet papers may have come out of the Commission.

“I am proud of my team and the way they handle sensitive information with discretion and professionalism every day. If the leak came from within SSC then the individual who chose to behave like this has badly let down his colleagues,” Mr Rennie said.

“While I believe that SSC has generally robust systems in place to safeguard sensitive information, changes have been made to improve our work in this area. I am confident this has reduced the risk of an individual behaving like this again,” he said.

In addition to the handling of secure documents, Mr Rennie was particularly concerned about the behaviour and action of senior public servants within MFAT, while acknowledging that change processes can be challenging for all staff.

“I fully support public servants actively engaging with change processes. However, I expect that staff will engage with these processes through proper channels and will treat the process with respect and professionalism,” Mr Rennie said.

“Deliberately leaking information and working to undermine and publicly embarrass your Chief Executive is not appropriate and can never be justified.”

“Senior public servants are expected to act with a high level of integrity in the way they conduct themselves in undertaking their work. This includes acting responsibly and objectively at all times, “ he said.

“I intend to reiterate to Public Servants what their obligations are in relation to the handling of government information,

“I will also be discussing the findings and recommendations with Chief Executives so they can be considered with regard to processes for managing sensitive information and when planning any future change processes.”

The cost of the investigation and costs incurred by the Commission defending legal proceedings related to the investigation are $510,000.

Leaker has name suppression

No, this obviously isn’t about Peter Dunne, but it’s similarity (except for suppression) is interesting, especially as Labour’s Grant Robertson wants police to force Peter Dunne to give evidence.

Leaker’s identity remains secret

The mystery continues over the identity of the person suspected of leaking sensitive cabinet papers about plans for restructuring the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The person, known in court proceedings as “A”, will go to the Court of Appeal to protect details about their identity.

In High Court judgments made public this morning Justice Robert Dobson said “A” planned to appeal, and suppression orders would continue in the meantime.

The judge had intended to release where the person worked at the time, previously and presently, but lawyers for “A” succeeded in keeping those details suppressed as well.

Paula Rebstock was appointed to head an inquiry after Labour foreign affairs spokesman Phil Goff claimed under parliamentary privilege to have been given leaked details of plans for restructuring at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

The details came from sensitive Cabinet committee documents.

“A” is alleged to have scanned and copied the documents on May 1, last year, but has repeatedly denied distributing them.

Dunne has had no opportunity to have name suppression, and appealing is out of the question, the political kangaroo court has already made up it’s mind and Labour want a forced confession.

As David Farrar says in Opposition parties may look silly over Police complaints.

Now let us compare this leak to the leak of a Cabinet paper on MFAT restructuring. Unlike the Kitteridge report, the Cabinet paper was not a paper about to be released to the public. Cabinet papers are for Cabinet, and that paper was leaked even before it got to Cabinet (off memory).

That leak is clearly just as “bad” a leak as the Kitteridge report, and arguably worse.

Yet in this case Labour have spent months arguing the leak should not be pursued, and that a leak inquiry is a waste of money. Flagrant hypocrisy. And I hope one day, we will be publicly able to publish why Labour is so frightened about the leaker’s identity being revealed, and any links back to them.

Perhaps Grant Robertson can change his stance on the police inquiry he wants for Dunne.