Report into Covid privacy breach

The Heron report into the Covid privacy breach has been released.

Media release:

Findings of investigation into COVID-19 active cases privacy breach

Deputy State Services Commissioner Helene Quilter has today announced the findings of an investigation into a breach of privacy regarding sensitive personal information.

The investigation looked into who or what caused the disclosure of the information, and what might have prevented the information from being disclosed and what, if any, improvements might prevent that happening again in the future.

The deputy commissioner said the investigation, led by Mr Michael Heron, QC, found that sensitive personal information was passed to someone who was not authorised to see it, who then placed it in the public arena.

The breach happened after the then Acting Chief Executive of the Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust, Ms Michelle Boag, passed on the information, without authorisation, to Mr Hamish Walker, MP. Mr Walker subsequently passed the information on to the media.The report findings around Ms Boag, the Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust (ARHT) and Mr Walker have raised privacy issues which are outside the deputy commissioner’s jurisdiction. Ms Quilter has therefore referred the report to the Privacy Commissioner. In particular, she has referred the actions of Ms Boag, the ARHT and Mr Walker for specific attention. Mr Walker’s actions may fall outside the jurisdiction of the Privacy Commissioner but that is for him to determine.

The deputy commissioner has also shared the report with the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the Leader of the National Party, who are referred to in the report and who may have jurisdiction.

In relation to matters under the Commissioner’s jurisdiction, Ms Quilter said the policy around the security of personal information within the Ministry of Health could have been tighter and the agency should have reviewed this earlier.

The Director-General of Health, Dr Ashley Bloomfield, has assured the Commission that the agency is fixing the areas identified in the report for improvement.“The Ministry’s policy should have been reviewed when the context shifted and it was not,” said Ms Quilter.

“I am not going to criticise the Ministry of Health beyond that when lives have been saved as a result of their actions on the broader COVID-19 front.

“The information should not have been placed in the public arena. The Ministry of Health did not place it there.”

Report Executive Summary:

Ms Boag and Mr Walker were each responsible for the unauthorised disclosure of this sensitive personal information. Their motivations were political. Their actions were not justified or reasonable. Each acknowledged their error publicly and cooperated fully with this inquiry.

The Ministry of Health policy and process in notifying emergency services of active cases was a considered response to the pressures arising during the early stages of the crisis. Whether the policy was appropriate in the circumstances applicable in April 2020 will be the subject of further review by the Privacy Commissioner. The policy and process should have been reviewed once there were no longer cases in the community and the dissemination to emergency services of the personal information ought to have stopped. In any event, there ought to have been better protection over the personal information.

On Boag and Walker:

The statements of Ms Boag and Mr Walker indicate that the cause of the leak was, first and foremost, deliberate and politically motivated. Both have expressed their sincere regret at their poor judgement in distributing this sensitive personal information to others. I was contacted by a COVID-19 patient to convey their shock and dismay that such information would be passed around in this manner. The Ministry was aware of the risks of unauthorised disclosure of such information and the harm that could be caused. Given its sensitivity, disclosure of such personal information requires clear legal authority and careful judgement.

The Privacy Act is unlikely to apply to Mr Walker in these circumstances. Section 2 of the Act states that an “agency… does not include… a member of Parliament in his or her official capacity.” Mr Walker considers he received and disseminated the information in his capacity as an MP. He says and I accept that he sought to hold the Government to account with respect to the countries from which new cases were originating and with respect to the lack of security around personal information. Mr Walker accepted that the spreadsheet did not assist to prove the first point. In my view, however, Mr Walker was acting in his official capacity.

Ms Boag’s actions in disseminating the personal information would not have been compliant with ARHT policy.

The State Services Commissioner could consider a formal referral of Ms Boag and the ARHT to the Privacy Commissioner, who is the appropriate statutory body in their case. The Privacy Commissioner is, however, already reviewing the question of whether the Ministry policy was appropriate and can investigate this matter with or without a referral or complaint.

On Michael Woodhouse:

Ms Boag had earlier provided similar personal information (but different spreadsheets) to Michael Woodhouse, MP. I received information relating to those other occasions from Ms Boag and proactively from Mr Woodhouse. Mr Woodhouse advised he did not forward such information on and has now deleted it. I considered whether I should pursue the deletion further with Mr Woodhouse, but ultimately because the information was similar in nature and it was not central to my inquiry, I determined it was not necessary to pursue it. I accept Mr Woodhouse deleted the information. Ideally, he would have counselled Ms Boag not to disclose such information and/or alerted the Ministry or Minister.

Full report:

Walker stepping down, Muller steps up, but National down and out of contention

After admitting sending personal details of Covid cases to several media outlets National MP Hamish Walker took the only course open to him – yesterday he pre-empted a Party board meeting considering a request to dump him from the party by announcing he wouldn’t stand in the Clutha Southland (now Southland) electorate in September’s election.

Personal Statement From Hamish Walker

Today I am announcing that I will not be standing for re-election for the Southland electorate at the upcoming 2020 election.

I wish to thank the people of Clutha-Southland who I have loved meeting, assisting and representing over the past two and a half years.

I sincerely apologise for my actions.

I will be making no further comment.

Todd Muller Accepts Hamish Walker’s Decision Not To Stand In 2020

National Party Leader Todd Muller has today accepted Hamish Walker’s decision to withdraw his candidacy for the seat of Southland and not stand at the upcoming election.

“Rachel Bird, the National Party’s Southern Regional Chair, has received a letter from Hamish confirming he will withdraw as the National Party candidate for Southland.

“There was a clear breach of trust, which goes against the values National holds as a party.

“The National Party Board will still meet today to discuss the selection of a new candidate.”

Statement From Peter Goodfellow, National Party President

Yesterday evening I received a letter from Leader Todd Muller, asking the National Party Board of Directors to urgently meet and consider some very serious, publicly reported, issues concerning Clutha-Southland MP Hamish Walker.

The Board met at midday today (Wednesday 8 July) via videoconference and was advised that Mr Walker has now formally resigned his candidacy for the National Party in the Southland Electorate for the 2020 General Election.

A selection process will therefore begin almost immediately to find a new candidate for the Southland Electorate, and we look forward to a robust and democratic process.

On behalf of the National Party Board of Directors, I would like to apologise for any distress caused to the individuals concerned as a result of the actions of one of our Members of Parliament.

RNZ: Hamish Walker’s exit from politics ‘was the only option’ – Todd Muller

In an announcement on transport this afternoon, Muller said the board will be looking at installing a new National Party candidate for Southland in the coming days.

“This was the only option because as we have well traversed the events of the last few days have not reflected from my perspective the appropriate National Party behaviour and values.

“He has worked very hard for his community over the last three years, and ultimately it was an error of judgement, a serious error of judgement that has cost him his career.

“It’s the right decision and I acknowledge that and now of course we seek to move on.”

He said he would not talk through the advice Walker had received, which was in a letter between himself and Walker.

Muller said Walker’s judgement was “fundamentally flawed”.

“And I’m on record a number of times now confirming that, and he’s paid the ultimate price of doing that.

“This is an isolated incident and we’ve got to see it through that lens, and I have acted very swiftly and we’ve got the right outcome.”

He said his MPs were clear around the expectations of them and they reflected a party with a “fine tradition of values, of achievement for this country and every one of us knows that we are there because at the last election well over a million people supported our cause and our view that the government is stronger when we’re in control”.

“Hamish Walker went behind my back and made his own judgement, and I’m sure that he is ruing it today.

“We have had one MP who made a serious error and has paid the ultimate price in terms of his political career. I think that talks to a party that does have high standards and when people breach them there is consequences.

“It was totally inappropriate for that personal information to be leaked to the media, because they are New Zealanders who are suffering because they have Covid and are in a constrained environment.”

But he said National would continue to critique the government’s “every day glitches” in the managed isolation programme.

“The government continues to demonstrate by the day actually that their border management is still not at the expectations that New Zealanders have of keeping us safe.”

What Michelle Boag and Hamish walker did reflects very poorly on the National Party. Walker is a first MP but especially after his Clutha Southland predecessor Todd Barclay crashed and burned his political career Walker should have been well aware of the dangers of stuffing up.

Walker should have also been well aware that personal information given to MPs has special privacy requirements.

Boag has shown that her long history of political involvement is a risk to any other work she does, as she has put political dirt first. She is likely to be shunned by National from now but she knows a lot of people in the party and it will be hard for her to be separated from it.

Leader Todd Muller has had a disaster to deal with, and I think he has dealt with it about as well as he could have. He made it clear he was totally opposed to what happened, and he made it clear that he had lost confidence in Walker and that Walker should resign, which he did.

In an adverse situation Muller looked reasonably principled and decisive, considering he had to allow Walker and the party to make decisions, and had to deal with legal issues.

But despite looking more sort of like leader material Muller has to now deal with his party in a dire situation. National’s chances of succeeding this election looked a long shot before this happened, but it now looks like they are virtually out of contention.

Unless Jacinda Ardern resigns or does something terrible, or someone in Labour does something as bad as Walker and it is handled poorly by Ardern and the party, or Covid turns to custard in New Zealand, then it looks likely now Ardern and Labour should cruise back into power.

Labour are sort of vulnerable on the economic risks, but that looks well covered with wage subsidies running through to September, and large amounts of money are being dished out around the country to try to keep the economy from crashing. It would take a major turn for the worse in the next two months for this to risk labour’s re-election.

So Muller and National are left to try to rescue as much support as possible to prevent their caucus from being decimated. It is too early to tell how bad the Boag/Walker effect will be, but National will struggle to get over 40% this election, and could easily crash to under 30%.

Evolving Boag story on Covid privacy leak

Michele Boag now says that she was sent daily emails by the Ministry of Health to her private email, and this is how she got the personal details of Covid cases.

After Hamish Walker admitted sending personal health details to media on Tuesday, Boag followed up with a statement claiming:

Today I am announcing that I am the person who passed on details of current Covid19 cases to Clutha Southland MP Hamish Walker, who then passed on that information to a number of media outlets.

The information was made available to me in my position as then Acting CEO of the Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust, although it was sent to my private email address.

This was a massive error of judgement on my part and I apologise to my colleagues at ARHT whom I have let down badly.

I take full responsibility for my actions and have resigned as Acting CEO of ARHT…

At midday yesterday Walker announced that he wouldn’t stand for re-election in Clutha-Southland (now Southland).

Meanwhile Boag didn’t respond to media requests for further information, but it was announced by National deputy leader Nikki Kaye that Boag was stepping down from Party roles. RNZ: Michelle Boag stands down from roles with National deputy leader Nikki Kaye

High-profile former National Party president Michelle Boag has resigned from her campaign and electorate roles for Auckland Central MP and National deputy leader Nikki Kaye.

Kaye said Walker had “displayed a number of very significant errors of judgement and I think his position is pretty difficult in the future.”

Kaye has known Boag for many years and said she was ” absolutely gutted” and “hugely disappointed” that she was behind the leak to the MP.

Then last night Covid-19 privacy breach info came from Health Ministry, Michelle Boag says

Former National Party president Michelle Boag says the Ministry of Health sent her the private details of people infected with Covid-19.

Boag told RNZ the Ministry of Health had sent daily emails to her private email, which included the sensitive details of the country’s Covid-19 cases.

Boag couldn’t explain why it was sent to her private email, but suspected it was because she was only temporarily in the role of chief executive.

The government has already confirmed emergency services were regularly sent the details of the country’s active cases, so they could take the proper precautions if responding to a call-out where someone with Covid-19 was present.

The Ministry of Health and the Health Minister both declined to comment when contacted by RNZ this evening.

This morning Ministry of Health silent on Michelle Boag’s Covid-19 patient detail source claims

The Ministry of Health is refusing to confirm if it supplied the former National Party President Michelle Boag with a daily list of people infected with Covid-19 and their private information.

“I was sent it [the private patient information] legitimately by the Ministry of Health,” Boag said.

She received a daily list of Covid-19 patients, and their personal details, as the acting chief executive of the Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust (ARHT), Boag said, but added it was sent to her personal email.

Boag said she would then forward the list to “people in the organisation who needed that to do their work”.

Boag couldn’t explain why it was sent to her personal email, but suspected it was because she was only temporarily in the role of chief executive.

Despite receiving sensitive emails daily, Boag said she only ever shared one with Mr Walker.

Boag refused to explain why she did when asked by RNZ.

“Well I’m not going to go into that, but that is the subject obviously of the investigation,” she said.

The Ministry of Health and government ministers declined to comment when contacted by RNZ last night.

But the minister in charge of managed isolation Megan Woods has already confirmed emergency services have been supplied the names of people infected with Covid-19 since the start of the government’s response.

“That is an operational procedure that is standard and that’s because if emergency services need to come into contact with someone who has tested Covid positive for whatever reason, be that an airlift or whatever, that they have that information and make sure their staff is protected,” Woods said.

The Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust made a statement yesterday:

In the wake of Michelle Boag’s revelation concerning the leak of Covid-19 patient information, Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust Chair Simon Tompkins says Ms Boag’s resignation as Acting CEO and Trustee has been accepted.

“The breach which has been admitted by Ms Boag was of an email that was sent to her personal account. As an administrative resource, Ms Boag has never had access to any clinical or patient data held by ARHT.

“ARHT is an integral part of the health system and we are entrusted with information about our patients which is properly protected by protocols which only enable access to those who need this data to care for the patient. We have reviewed these protocols and are confident that none of this patient information has been subject to any privacy breach.

“Nevertheless we take our responsibility for patient confidentiality very seriously and continuously seek to improve our protocols and procedures,” Tompkins says.

“We want to reassure the New Zealand public and, most importantly, our patients and their families that patient care remains our top priority. Any information we hold on patients is private with access on a restricted basis and has not been breached.”

This seems to conflict with what Boag has claimed.

Unless Boag or ARHT  or the Ministry of Health give furhter details we may have to wait until the outcome of the Mike Herron investigation to learn what actually happened.

RNZ: Inquiry still going ahead

The minister for state services, Chris Hipkins, said the ongoing state services inquiry would look at how many people received the sensitive information from the Ministry of Health and whether or not it was appropriate they did.

“We do want to get to the bottom of exactly what happened here and I don’t think the government should rely on what comments people make to the media to draw a line under it, we actually want a proper thorough investigation so that all of the facts can be put on the table so that everyone can be clear what happened,” Hipkins said.

Before Boag and Walker publicly confessed, the inquiry led by Mike Heron QC was expected report back with answers by the end of July.

But the past 48 hours is likely to have make his job a lot easier – and faster.

It is still likely to take a week or two.

Boag says she only passed one email on to Walker – but that doesn’t minimise her actions, that email happened to contain all the details of current Covid cases including personal details.

Muller asks National board to remove Walker from party

There has been widespread calls for Clutha Southland MP Hamish Walker to be dumped. While the party leader doesn’t have the power to sack an electorate MP, Todd Muller says that the leaking of health information showed ‘serious lapses of judgment’, and ‘appalling lack of judgement’, and was ‘completely unacceptable’, and has written to the National Party board asking that Walker is removed from the party.

Muller says he us very angry about what happened.

RNZ:  Todd Muller on Hamish Walker – ‘There needs to be consequences’

The National Party leader says he has written to the party’s board asking them to remove MP Hamish Walker from the party after it was revealed he leaked private health information to media.

Prior to that revelation, National Party leader Todd Muller described the leak as “loose, shabby and a reminder these guys can’t manage important things well”.

“The problem is when you’ve allowed a culture of sloppiness and clumsiness to take over and become pervasive, you know, really history suggests you need a new broom to be able to sort and set the tone from the top,” he said on Monday.

Walker, who admitted the leak late yesterday afternoon, has already been stripped of his portfolios and is now subject to an independent State Services inquiry.

Muller told Morning Report there needed to be consequences and he has written to the party’s board asking it to remove Walker from the party.

Muller has given a lengthy interview to RNZ, they say they will post more details. Walker and Boag would not do interviews. They will be subject to the inquiry set up to investigate the leak.

The board will meet to discuss the matter today.

Muller said he learn on Monday at lunchtime about who leaked the information when Walker contacted him to inform him. He is not aware of any other National MPs being aware of who was responsible for the leak.

Muller also said the consequences will be significant for Michelle Boag, who obtained the information in her role as Acting CEO of the Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust.

Muller says that Boag did not assist him with his leadership takeover, and he’s not aware of her helping Walker on other matters.

I think that Walker should jump before he is pushed from the party, or al least announce he won’t stand for re-election in  September.

This is hugely damaging for National as it is, but if Walker doesn’t resign or withdraw the damage to the party will increase.

Muller is saying and doing about all he can in the circumstances. It must have removed any hope of success for him or national this election.

UPDATE:

He had little choice but to do this, and jumping before being pushed reduces the substantial damage he has done to his party.

Todd Muller accepts Hamish Walker’s decision not to stand in 2020

National Party Leader Todd Muller has today accepted Hamish Walker’s decision to withdraw his candidacy for the seat of Southland and not stand at the upcoming election.

“Rachel Bird, the National Party’s Southern Regional Chair, has received a letter from Hamish confirming he will withdraw as the National Party candidate for Southland.

“There was a clear breach of trust, which goes against the values National holds as a party.

“The National Party Board will still meet today to discuss the selection of a new candidate.”

Hamish Walker – admission and apology over leak

National MP Hamish Walker:

A Personal Statement And An Apology

I have spoken to National Party Leader Todd Muller and informed him that I passed to members of the media, by email, information containing Covid-19 patient details that was given to me by a source.

I did this to expose the Government’s shortcomings so they would be rectified. It was never intended that the personal details would be made public, and they have not been, either by me or the persons I forwarded them to.

I have received legal advice that I have not committed any criminal offence.

The information that I received was not password protected by the Government. It was not stored on a secure system where authorised people needed to log on. There was no redaction to protect patient details, and no confidentiality statement on the document.

By exposing a significant privacy issue I hope the Government will improve its protocols and get its safeguards right.

I made serious allegations against the Government’s Covid-19 response and passed on this information to prove those allegations.

Private health information does not have basic safeguards in place and the Government needs to immediately change its protocols and store the information on a secure, safe network that at a minimum requires a password.

I sincerely apologise for how I have handled this information and to the individuals impacted by this. I will be fully cooperating with the Michael Heron QC inquiry.

National leader Todd Muller:

Statement On Hamish Walker

Hamish Walker has informed me that he received and then disclosed health information regarding active Covid-19 cases to members of the media.

I have asked Hamish to acknowledge this to Michael Heron QC and cooperate fully with his inquiry into how the information made it into the public domain.

I have expressed to Hamish my view that forwarding on this information was an error of judgement.

While I wait for the result of the inquiry I have transferred his Forestry, Land Information and Associate Tourism portfolio responsibilities to Ian McKelvie.

Given this matter is the subject of an inquiry I will not be making any further public comment.


UPDATE: Michelle Boag has admitted passing the information on to Walker.

From RNZ: National MP Hamish Walker admits leaking Covid-19 patient details

In a statement, Boag said that handing on the patient details to Walker was “a massive error of judgement on my part and I apologise to my colleagues at ARHT (Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust) whom I have let down badly”.

“I very much regret my actions and did not anticipate that Hamish would choose to send it on to some media outlets but I am grateful that the media involved have chosen not to publish the 18 names that were contained within it.

She said she had resigned from her role at the Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust.

“I take full responsibility for my actions and have resigned as acting CEO of ARHT.”

Boag was the National Party’s president in 2001 and 2002.

Boag was also linked to the leadership coup when Muller replaced Simon Bridges.

From  memory she was also involved in the management of Todd Barclay before he exited the same Clutha-Southland electorate taken over by Walker.

This is very damaging for National regardless of how it pans out from here.


Press Statement From Michelle Boag

Today I am announcing that I am the person who passed on details of current Covid19 cases to Clutha Southland MP Hamish Walker, who then passed on that information to a number of media outlets.

The information was made available to me in my position as then Acting CEO of the Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust, although it was sent to my private email address.

This was a massive error of judgement on my part and I apologise to my colleagues at ARHT whom I have let down badly.

I very much regret my actions and did not anticipate that Hamish would choose to send it on to some media outlets  but I am grateful that the media involved have chosen not to publish the 18 names that were contained within it.

I take full responsibility for my actions and have resigned as Acting CEO of ARHT, which is in very good hands as the result of a recent restructure and the appointment of a new CEO for the Trust’s operations and the appointment of a General Manager to oversee the Trusts’s marketing and fundraising operations.

I sincerely hope that the communities of the Auckland region will continue to support the Rescue Helicopter at this time of very important need.  My actions were mine alone and should not reflect at all on the professionalism, integrity and outstanding reputation of the Rescue Helicopter staff.    They are an amazing bunch of dedicated community servants and I know they will be very disappointed in me.

Any requests for comment should be directed to me personally as ARHT bears no responsibility at all for my misjudgement.

Political operators and lobbyists being used by media promoting leadership coup

The media were always going to give a lot of coverage to a major party leadership challenge, as they did when Simon Bridges outed the challenge of Todd Muller and the subsequent showdown and change of leader. It was big political news and should have received prominent coverage.

But it also showed a major flaw of the media – their use of political operators and lobbyists to comment on the story.

Matthew Hooton is often used by the media in support of stories, even though he is a professional lobbyist. He was given a shot at promoting his agenda without having to disclose any possible involvement in the challenge.

And Michelle Boag suddenly popped up out of the woodwork to and was quoted a number of times in support of a change. She would be most unlikely to be an independent observer.

NZ Herald – Anatomy of a coup: How Todd Muller felled Simon Bridges and who helped him

This is behind their paywall, but a key part is repeated on Twitter:

Image

RNZ 18 May: Labour surges, National plummets in Newshub-Reid Research poll

“Clearly the leadership has failed. Simon Bridges is down to 4.5 percent. The public simply does not like him, that isn’t fair, the public simply did not like Andrew Little.

“He’s a perfectly pleasant person Andrew Little but the public did not like him, and so Labour had no choice in the end but to get rid of him, and National is now at that point.”

RNZ 19 May: Political poll results with Hooton and Jones

“This is a 25-point gap between National and Labour and that’s simply extraordinary. And the National Party has to take that very seriously, they are taking it seriously, although they do expect another poll to come out on Thursday from TVNZ by Colmar Brunton, and they’ll just see what that has to say.

“If it is as bad as this, I would expect there would be enormous pressure on the current leader and deputy leader to at least offer their resignations to the caucus.

However, a better showing in the Colmar Brunton polling might give Simon Bridges a lifeline, he says.

A “hunk” of National MPs are reluctant to be responding to polls, Hooton says.

“Their views on this is what’s going to decide Simon Bridges future.”

RNZ 21 May (audio): Collins key to National Party battle – Hooton  Political commentator Matthew Hooton speaks to Kim Hill.

RNZ 21 May: Simon Bridges’ tactics likely to lose him the leadership challenge – commentator

Political commentator Matthew Hooton said Bridges’ move to call the leadership vote was an own goal.

“I think it was another example of the poor political judgement that has plagued his political leadership quite frankly.

“I think Simon Bridges’ move yesterday was probably one of the most extraordinary acts of political harikari that we’ve seen.”

Hooton said Muller’s supporters would likely have lost their nerve there would have been no challenge.

“But by taunting Muller, forcing him and … Nikki Kaye to act … there is now a vote on Friday.

“And I think, the way this is going, Mr Bridges will lose and Muller will become leader of the party.

If Bridges survived the leadership vote it would cost the party any chance of winning the election in September, he said.

If Muller and Kaye failed in their challenge Bridges would demote them to the backbenches which would cost the party votes.

“He cannot afford to lose Todd Muller and Nikki Kaye from his senior team, or else he will lose support from both farmers, provincial New Zealanders, and also urban liberals in Auckland.

RNZ 22 May (audio): Commentator backing Muller to win National Party challenge Political commentator Matthew Hooton is supporting Muller to win – Kim Hill asked him how close does he expect the vote to be.

But Hooton was promoting leadership change – in a last NZ herald column last month (24 April) Matthew Hooton (column): Simon Bridges’ leadership beyond salvaging

Hooton is a regular on RNZ and in NZ Herald and is usually a worthwhile commentator, but it’s fair to ask whether his opinions promoted this week were independent of the leadership coup.

If it turns out he was working for Muller that would not reflect well on him due to lack of disclosure, but woukld also refelct poorly onn the media who give him free publicity.

Michelle Boag is not a regular on media, but managed to be given a say on the challenge too.

Newstalk ZB 19 May – Michelle Boag: Bridges could be another victim of Covid-19 fallout

Michelle Boag says it’s no surprise people have responded positively to the Prime Minister – whose ratings shot up to almost 60 percent.

She told Chris Lynch Arden’s been visible everywhere during the pandemic and Bridges hasn’t.

“There is no doubt there’s a good chance of him becoming yet another victim of Covid-19.”

She says that will be up to the Caucus to decide the leader’s fate.

RNZ 21 May: Former National Party president Michelle Boag on leadership challenge Former National Party president Michelle Boag speaks to Corin Dann.

RNZ 21 May: Simon Bridges’ tactics likely to lose him the leadership challenge – commentator

Former National Party president Michelle Boag told Morning Report Bridges shot himself in the foot by holding the vote tomorrow rather than next week.

This was because it made it harder for other leadership contenders to jump into the race, and those unhappy with Bridges’ leadership could rally around one candidate rather than their votes being split between a number of challengers.

However calling for the leadership vote was the right decision, she said.

“I think it’s the right thing for the National Party to get this sorted as quickly as possible and I think the caucus will be really pleased to have an early opportunity to do that.”

She said the need for a leadership vote was not solely prompted by the recent poll.

“It is about months and months, and sometimes years, of these MPs having negative feedback about their leader, not only from party members but from constituents.

“So while the poll may have been the thing that sparked [it] – the catalyst for this challenge – there’s no doubt this has been building for a long time.”

Boag popping up in media is a sure sign that she is promoting some sort of outcome.

I think that with important political issues, and leadership changes rank right up there, media should take care not to promote people with interests in the outcomes.

Cameron Slater, one of the most agenda driven political operators around, was given some oxygen by John Banks on radio during the week to talk about the National leadership challenge, but the only leader Slater seems interested in promoting these days is Winston Peters.

Water debate continues

PDATE

Labour left themselves open when they announced their water tax policy when they didn’t say how much would be charged. They said that would be decided at a later date (after the election) by an ‘expert group’.

As a result many claims and assertions and concerns have been made.

Stuff: Grapegrower blasts Labour water policy

Water royalties could put the $1.6 billion industry at risk, says Marlborough grower.

Some claims have been ridiculous.David Parker was interviewed on Q+A yesterday for clarification.

Michelle Boag made some claims on the Q+A panel that seemed to be serious miscalculations

The great water debate with our panelists Michelle Boag and Matt McCarten.

“Each apple would cost $2.80” says Michelle Boag.

That would mean you’d have a million litres to do a cabbage says Matt McCarten.

1 News: ‘They’d have to be the thirstiest cabbages on the planet’ – David Parker hits back at Horticulture NZ over water tax

Mr Parker said on TVNZ’s Q+A this morning that Labour’s new water tax would likely be 1 or 2 cents per thousand litres of water meaning the cost to the consumer “would be less than a quarter of a cent”.

It comes after Horticulture New Zealand claimed Labour “hadn’t done their homework on the issue of water tax” and it would be “like a speed camera on healthy food.”

Mr Parker said the statement was a “level of scaremongering that would make Donald Trump blush” and said Labour’s new water tax would raise “about $100 million across the whole of the country each year.”

When asked why he wouldn’t raise the tax on large foreign corporations like Coca-cola Mr Parker said they already pay “a dollar per thousand litres” and “we’re not going to charge them twice.”

Labour have a history of half baked policy announcements and leave themselves open to exaggerated criticisms.

UPDATE: Stats Chat looks at actual costs in Meters and litres

So a 1c or 2c per cubic metre water charge would come out to less than a cent per litre of milk.

I found an estimate that, it takes 237L of water to produce 1kg of cabbage, ie, less than a quarter of a cubic metre, so less than 1 cent.

Sounds a lot more believable.

Butcher, Bridger and Boag

The mad furore over Peter Leitch (the mad butcher), Lara Bridger and Michelle Boag continues into the end of the week – it has become a lot of news coverage for an off hand remark on a wine tour.

Michelle Boag acted as spokesperson for Leitch and gave the story another day or two – she says she thought she was making ‘off-the-record’ comments to a journalist but they are now very much on the record. She shouldn’t have been careless.

It’s now got to Editorial level with the Press having a go in What does a ‘white man’s island’ look like?

What does a “white man’s island” look like? Is it the sort of place fair-minded New Zealanders would want to inhabit in the 21st century?

The questions arise because of a controversial encounter between Sir Peter Leitch and a young Maori woman on Waiheke Island during a wine-tasting event.

In Lara Bridger’s account, Leitch, the benighted Mad Butcher and Rugby League patron, approached her family, advised them against drink-driving and commented that they were not local. Bridger responded that, in fact, she was born on the island and was tangata whenua.

To give Leitch the benefit of the doubt, from his generational viewpoint he may have intended to be more casual than racist but, if reported correctly, his words were inappropriate in this day and age, and they caused offence.

But the people who responded with hate and threats, forcing Bridger to take down her post, were also in the wrong.

If New Zealand is to move forward as a harmonious bicultural and multi-cultural society, we need to treat each other with more respect.

We should give more thought to words and phrases and attitudes that could be offensive.

But the degree to which people take offence, especially on social media, has become a problem that amplifies things far more than they deserve.

Everything we all say and write can’t be filtered through a cultural sensitivity censor.

ODT: Reasons for offence

Auckland woman Lara Bridger (23) posted a video on social media on Tuesday, claiming Sir Peter had told her Waiheke Island was a ”white man’s island”.

In a statement, Sir Peter said he was ”extremely disappointed” a young woman had misinterpreted some light-hearted banter.

Sir Peter claimed he was joking with the young woman’s group about not drinking too much because there were lots of police on the island. Ms Bridger said she was tangata whenua and could do what she liked and Sir Peter said he responded with a joke about Waiheke being a white man’s island.

”When she later informed me she was offended by my comment, I apologised unreservedly. There is no way I can ever be accused of being racist.”

The matter should have ended there but social media whipped up a storm of controversy.

In the Internet age in which we live anyone could become the target of intense online and media attention for bugger all.

Unfortunately for Leitch his public exposure was made worse by his spokesperson, Michelle Boag.

However, instead of the matter dying away after a full apology, for some reason professional PR woman Michelle Boag – not unknown for causing controversy – got involved on behalf of Sir Peter. Ms Boag decided to describe Ms Bridger as ”barely coffee coloured”. Ms Boag also said Ms Bridger came forward because she wanted to be famous, telling media later her ”flippant” comments had been taken out of context.

Ms Boag claimed she was having a casual chat to the Maori Television journalist, except the conversation was held on a speaker phone and everyone in the Maori Television office was listening. After 40 or so years of dealing with the media, Ms Boag should have known better.

Quite a few people should now know better than to use Boag to speak on their behalf. Her mind might have been still half on holiday but she butchered her PR patch up job.

The most concerning part of the story is, for many, how soft we have become as a nation.

But if, as a people, we get upset by an older man remaining who he is, rather than who other people want him to be, then New Zealand really is becoming a strange place in which to live.

This has become a real issue in the online world. We haven’t become soft ‘as a nation’, what has changed is some people now have more opportunity to go public over offence taken. This is fine if it is done reasonably.

But when a bunch of online activists blow things out of proportion there is a real risk that both the offender and the offended get over exposed and publicly hammered.

The responsibilities lie not just with people who might say something that could be offensive to others, and not just with people who publicly show they are pissed off. These are natural human behaviours.

The new part of the problem that can make it far worse are those who jump in and take sides on their own accord, and make things far bigger than they deserve to be.

At 72, Sir Peter is at least two generations older than Ms Bridger who now, unfortunately, will have her private life scrutinised by some to find any weakness in her story or background to be exploited online.

Leitch made an off the cuff comment, Bridger was annoyed and said something about it on Facebook. Fair enough – neither had the time or took the time to think through the possible repercussions.

But those who had ample time to think through their actions, online social warriors and do gooders (who often do badly) and journalists, use a spat between others to promote their own agendas.

In New Zealand, haters will hate and Sir Peter and Ms Bridger are likely to be in for a tough few days until the news cycle dies. But thanks to social media and Ms Boag, Sir Peter will now pop up in online searches as an old white racist knight.

The wider issue here is the haters who seem to love to not just hate, but to amplify and spread that hate as much as they can.

New Zealanders need to look deeply into their reasons for offence and discover what really matters to them, other than light-hearted banter.

This is important on social outings on Waiheke Island, but more important in both traditional and social media.

Three ill judged words don’t justify three or more days of headlines and online over exposure.

Bill English NOT on Q & A

Bill English, our Prime Minister next week, will be interviewed and analysed On Q+A today:

New Zealand will have a new Prime Minister on Monday. We’ll have in-depth interviews and analysis on what a Bill English led Government will do and how the landscape for next year’s election has changed.

englishqaa

Panel: Dr Raymond Miller, Marama Fox, Michelle Boag and Matt McCarten

Boag is an English fan so may give us more gushing than insight.

It will be interesting to hear what Fox (Maori party has to say, and also McCarten given that he is organising Labour’s election campaign in Auckland.

UPDATE: Some false advertising by Q & A – English pulled out but they haven’t updated their advertising on Facebook.

Steven Joyce stood in for a brief interview.


McCarten starts the panel by saying that we now have ‘an even contest’. That’s between National and Labour+Greens+?

Fox says the Maori Party is optimistic, English has been will yo work with them and Bennett is part Maori.

David Seymour is next up for an interview. He is pretty much campaigning for ACT.

Next up is Andrew Little – and he is in campaign mode as well, same old recitals.

James Shaw addresses the issues of the day more, saying English+Joyce won’t change much, but then goes to standard dissing, saying National have been grey and doing a minimum that they could get away with doing.

 

National battles in Clutha-Southland

There seems to be some taking of sides in the Clutha-Southland electorate after it was reported yesterday that someone is challenging MP Todd Barclay for the very safe seat that Bill English vacated in 2014.

ODT/NZME: Horse-trading begins ahead of Election 2017

Simon Flood,  a 52-year-old former Merrill Lynch investment fund manager, plans to challenge Clutha-Southland incumbent Todd Barclay.

It is understood Mr Flood was widely expected to get the selection in 2014 but pulled out at the last minute for family reasons.

Mr Barclay’s first term has been blemished by resignations of long-standing staff and reports of disputes.

Barclay was rated 2/10 by the 2016 Trans Tasman MP report.

 

John Key is staying neutralish: Bill English refuses to back embattled MP Todd Barclay

Prime Minister John Key says he has met Mr Flood before, but didn’t know him at Merrill Lynch, where he also worked.

“Firstly, he came from a different division of Merrill Lynch, it’s worth noting that,” he says.

Mr Key rejects the challenge against Mr Barclay has been orchestrated by the National Party hierarchy.

“We don’t engineer challenges, or stop them. If someone decides to go and challenge a sitting MP, they’re free to go and do that.

“If you’re a sitting MP who’s working hard, that’s developing your electorate, then the cards are stacked in your favour,” says Mr Key.

Bill English too: Bill English refuses to be drawn on Todd Barclay’s future

Finance Minister Bill English, who held the seat for 18 years before going list only, is declining to make any specific comments on Mr Barclay’s situation, or even saying whether or not he endorses him.

“I’m not a delegate, I’m not participating in it. It is a matter for the local party, that’s how the National Party runs these things.”

When specifically asked if Mr Barclay had done a good job in the role, Mr English said “he appears to have done a good job.”

But National MPs were prepared to state a preference. Judith Collins:

judithcollinstweetbarclay

That was ‘liked’ by MPs Barbara Kuriger, Kanwaljit Bakshi and Sarah Dowie.

maggiebarrytweetbarclay

That was ‘liked’ by MP Tim McIndoe

Cameron Slater is clearly taking sides. Is this just a continuation of bad blood feuds or a vested interest?

Board skullduggery in the Clutha Southland Selection

There is skullduggery going on  in Clutha-Southland with a shabby move against Todd Barclay which is being orchestrated quietly by the former MP, currently residing in Karori, and assisted by at least one stroppy board member intent on taking the presidency.

This is a challenge being orchestrated by National Party Board Member Glenda Hughes, who is trying to muscle into the democratic processes of electorates selecting their own candidate, to force out Todd Barclay, the current MP. Hughes wants to appoint her chosen outside candidate, imposing her will on the Clutha-Southland electorate.

This is an absolute disgrace.

The National Party board should not be involved in selections in any partisan way. They should not be involved at all, except to undertake their constitutional duties and ensure local electorates select the person they think best suits their electorate. Board Members with integrity will not be involved the kind of tearing down of MPs that Glenda has been doing.

If Glenda Hughes wants to play political games in National Party selections she should do the honourable thing and immediately resign her board position. If she continues to interfere we will be forced to continue to draw readers attention to Hughes’ hamfisted attempts in other electorates selections, not just Clutha-Southland.

The last time the board tried meddling in a local selection it turned into a PR disaster for them. Do they really want that again?

Slater has a history of trying to meddle in candidate selections, prepared to dish out dirt to try to destroy the chances of some people. He tried this in Northland for the by-election. His motives weren’t clear there, but it would be odd if he tried to orchestrate a Winston win.

Is Michelle Boag spinning against Todd Barclay?

Hot on the heels of the attack on Todd Barclay in the ODT came a predictable attack on him on Radio Live. Radio Live reckon that Barclay is going to be beaten by challenger Simon Flood, “a Merrill Lynch Banker”.

The tip line is saying that Glenda Hughes’ ally Michelle Boag is all over this. Boag is forever meddling in electorates she has no business being in, and Hughes is stupid to get an Aucklander involved in the deep south.

Funny, is he aware at all of his hypocrisy? Slater is an Aucklander getting involved in the deep south. Does he have business there?

The article is from a journalist who simply doesn’t understand the National Party selection process, or who has spent any time on the ground in Clutha-Southland.

How does Slater know how much time Eileen Goodwin has spent “on the ground in Clutha-Southland”? She has been around down here for quite a while, reporting on Barclay’s employment issues earlier this year , and also on Clutha-Southland during the 2014 election campaign – see here.

What Glenda Hughes wants doesn’t matter. It is what the large number of delegates from around Southland want that matters. The media should stop buying into Glenda Hughes’ bullshit.

This could be just ongoing hits on Hughes and Boag, who Slater has bitterly attacked a number of times in the past.

Slater hasn’t always favoured Barclay. Last year he posted ‘Todd Barclay is a gutless little twerp.

English said, “It is a matter for the local party, that’s how the National Party runs these things.”

So why is there so much interest from Hughes, Boag and Slater?

Interestingly Boag is credited with helping recruit John Key as a candidate – along with Slater’s father, John.

Key went on to successfully challenge long serving MP Brian Neeson for selection to stand in Helensville.

Will history repeat itself in Clutha Southland?