Farrar, Morton have denials of accusations by Peters put on record

On 22 July Winston Peters made allegations against several people in Parliament about what he claimed was “the truth about the leak of my superannuation”.

In 2017 he had taken allegations against different people, including National Ministers Paula Bennett and Anne Tolley (as well as heads of Government departments), to court and failed to provide evidence. He conceded that Bennett and Tolley had not leaked the information. Substantial costs were ordered against him.

The allegations in a General Debate in Parliament last month:

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Deputy Prime Minister): Today, I am going to outline the truth about the leak of my superannuation. There have been news reports about the case. The matter is not sub judice. But a source totally connected to both the ACT Party and the National Party has revealed that the leak was one Rachel Morton.

Morton heard about the case because she was present when former Minister Anne Tolley told her ministerial colleague Paula Bennett about it—not outside by the lifts, but in a ministerial office. Ms Morton then, thinking it would be kept in confidence, told ACT Party leader, David Seymour, but, desperate for any sort of attention, Mr Seymour contacted Jordan Williams of the wage subsidy – receiving taxpayer union fame. Williams—no stranger to dirty politics—told John Bishop, father of National MP Chris Bishop, and the details were then leaked to Newsroom’s Tim Murphy.

Williams also told another dirty politics practitioner, National Party pollster David Farrar. Farrar tried to shut it down, seeing the risk it exposed to the National Party, but then went along anyway, although he later tried to steer the story away from National’s guilt, which is its usual modus operandi.

Peters versus everyone he hasn’t already lost in court against

Both Rachel Morton and David Farrar have had responses to these allegations recorded in Parliament.


Application for response to be incorporated in the parliamentary record

  1. On 22 July 2020, David Farrar applied for a response to be incorporated in the parliamentary record under Standing Orders 159 to 162.
  2. The application relates to references made by Rt Hon Winston Peters during the general debate on 22 July 2020.
  3. The speech is reported at New Zealand Parliamentary Debates, Vol. 748, pp. 19678 – 19679.
  4. The applicant was referred to by name.
  5. Having considered the application, I have determined that a response submitted by David Farrar should be incorporated in the parliamentary record.

Rt Hon Trevor Mallard
SPEAKER

Response presented under Standing Orders 159–162 on application of David Farrar relating to references made by Rt Hon Winston Peters on 22 July 2020

The Right Honourable Winston Peters on the 22nd of July 2020 stated in the General Debate that I was told by Jordan Williams about Mr Peters’ superannuation and that I was involved in breaching Mr Peters’ right to privacy.

The statement by Mr Peters is incorrect. I did not discuss or disclose, in any way or form, details of his superannuation prior to reports appearing in the media about it. I know this for a certainty as I was totally unaware of there being any issue around Mr Peters’ superannuation until it was reported in the media.


Application for response to be incorporated in the parliamentary record

  1. On 31 July 2020, Rachel Morton applied for a response to be incorporated in the parliamentary record under Standing Orders 159 to 162.
  2. The application relates to references made by Rt Hon Winston Peters during the general debate on 22 July 2020.
  3. The speech is reported at New Zealand Parliamentary Debates, Vol. 748, pp. 19678 – 19679.
  4. The applicant was referred to by name.Having considered the application, I have determined that a response submitted by Rachel Morton should be incorporated in the parliamentary record.

Rt Hon Trevor Mallard
SPEAKER

Response presented under Standing Orders 159–162 on application of Rachel Morton relating to references made by Rt Hon Winston Peters on 22 July 2020

The Right Honourable Winston Peters on the 22nd of July 2020 stated in the General Debate that I gave details of his superannuation to Act Leader David Seymour and that I was involved in breaching Mr Peters’ right to privacy.

Mr Peters claims I was aware of this information because it was discussed in a meeting that I was in with Hon Anne Tolley and Hon Paula Bennett. I was never in a meeting with Mrs Tolley and Mrs Bennett where this was discussed, and I never gave any information to Mr Seymour.

The statement by Mr Peters is categorically not true.

Peters versus everyone he hasn’t already lost in court against

Winston Peters already seemed tetchier than usual over the weekend and since. Perhaps it was his recent operation that unsettled him, or the smaller than usual attendance at his campaign launch speech on Sunday, or the awarding of $320K costs against him on Friday, or the exposure of him employing the services of misinformation hit men from the UK after first denying it, or the poor poll results for NZ First, or staring down the barrel of being dumped from Parliament again.

Maybe all of that.

And it’s likely the constant digging at him by David Seymour has worn thin, because that’s who he launched an attack on under the protection of Parliamentary privilege yesterday.

Here is the court case he lost: PETERS v BENNETT & ORS [2020] NZHC 761 [20 April 2020]

Lawyer Graeme Edgeler thinks that Peters had a legitimate grievance about his overpayment of his super (despite the obvious question about how Peters failed to fill in a form properly and failed to notice an overpayment for years), but he points out that if Peters was really concerned about fixing the ‘no surprises’ procedure rather than political utu there was a far cheaper and more effective way of dealing with it:

There is another option, of course: the no surprises principle isn’t “law” – it’s simply stated in the Cabinet Manual, which Cabinet could change. Peters is the deputy prime minister, and a member of Cabinet: and as he didn’t have success in the Courts in vindicating his rights, he could push for it to be changed for the rest of us. That wouldn’t fix the breach of privacy that occurred in his case, but it would hopefully make similar breaches less likely in the future.

But Peters is a very political animal and having already launched attacks on partner parties Greens and Labour already this week, decided to attack ACT and National by making serious accusations – but he was only prepared to do this under parliamentary privilege, not in public without legal protection.

In General Debate yesterday:

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Deputy Prime Minister): Today, I am going to outline the truth about the leak of my superannuation. There have been news reports about the case. The matter is not sub judice. But a source totally connected to both the ACT Party and the National Party has revealed that the leak was one Rachel Morton.

Morton heard about the case because she was present when former Minister Anne Tolley told her ministerial colleague Paula Bennett about it—not outside by the lifts, but in a ministerial office. Ms Morton then, thinking it would be kept in confidence, told ACT Party leader, David Seymour, but, desperate for any sort of attention, Mr Seymour contacted Jordan Williams of the wage subsidy – receiving taxpayer union fame. Williams—no stranger to dirty politics—told John Bishop, father of National MP Chris Bishop, and the details were then leaked to Newsroom’s Tim Murphy.

Williams also told another dirty politics practitioner, National Party pollster David Farrar. Farrar tried to shut it down, seeing the risk it exposed to the National Party, but then went along anyway, although he later tried to steer the story away from National’s guilt, which is its usual modus operandi.

But Newshub wanted to control the story. Barry Soper and Newshub knew more about the story than Tim Murphy, who nevertheless tweeted about—and I quote him—”the mother of all scandals” about to break a day before the story leaked publicly. Ms Morton used to work for Newshub and Newstalk ZB. Newshub was trying its best to protect her after David Seymour tried to get the story leaked through channels not connected with Morton. Three Newshub journalists—Jenna Lynch, Lloyd Burr, and Patrick Gower—looked collectively stunned when they were told that they had burnt Ms Morton as a source. They knew they’d been tumbled.

When this was put to the Newshub reporters that it would also expose National and Jordan Williams’ dealings with Tim Murphy, one of the Newshub journalists paused and said that National were “distancing themselves” from the story, but it was an ACT-inspired hit job to damage me politically, in collaboration with a senior National Party staffer, Rachel Morton, who was the source of the leak and the source that led to Jordan Williams weaponising the information during the election campaign. Every last one of them—Morton, Seymour, Williams, Bishop, Murphy, Farrar—played dirty politics to breach my inalienable right and the inalienable right of every New Zealander to privacy.

My source also revealed that National Party members joked amongst themselves about the leak, but realised they couldn’t do anything with the “no-surprises disclosure”—their risk was too high. That, of course, didn’t prevent Ms Tolley from telling her sister, nor did it prevent 42 people being made aware of my super case. All it took was for that private information to fall into the hands of David Seymour, who craved media attention but couldn’t claim the limelight, because that would have placed a spotlight on Rachel Morton, his source.

This is what dirty politics looks like.

That’s why I have brought this case on principle, at a huge cost—the principle of privacy.

The collusion between the National Party, ACT, and these grubby figures in and around politics is what turns people off politics. The characters in the story of my super leak viewed dirty politics as their religion, but it’s the worship of jackals by jackasses.

What I now know, and I didn’t know it as I went to court, is that during my court case, there were witnesses who gave evidence who knew the truth, even as they were not speaking it, and journalists—but not Barry Soper—who sat in the court who knew the truth, but printed a tissue of lies. That I now know. Shame on them, but now they’ve been exposed for what they truly are.

Maybe Mr Seymour could tell the precise circumstances in which he was told this information. Will he tell them, or will I have to? This has been a disgrace, and Mr Seymour is now outed.

I have got the witness. I never had it until the court. The judge said to me, “But you must tell me who did it.”, as though—with all their resources—one man against them, paying for his own costs, could be expected to do that.

Mr Seymour, I am resolved that this is day one of the truth fightback, and he is going to be in my line.

DAVID SEYMOUR (Leader—ACT): I seek leave to make a personal explanation.SPEAKER: The member has sought leave to make a personal explanation. Is there any objection? Yes, there is.

So Seymour was blocked from responding directly to the allegations.

“This is what dirty politics looks like” is somewhat ironic from Peters.

Seymour has since strongly denied doing what has been accused. Morton has strongly denied, Farrar has strongly denied.

Peters says this won’t go to court until after the election. So he is putting all this out there, under protection, obviously aimed at doing as much political damage as he can as we approach the election.

He filed his original court action a day before the last election, just before going into negotiations with National ‘in good faith’.

Faith in a miracle may be all Peters has to go on this campaign. He seems to have jumped the shark. Unless he fronts up with evidence soon his claims can be dismissed as dirty campaigning.