Two political polls with similar results

Newshub released a Reid Research a poll on Sunday with ridiculous headlines and claims. 1 News released a Colmar Brunton poll last night with less dramatic but still over the top claims. Polls are just polls, especially this far from an election, but they try to get value from the expense of polling by making stories out of them that aren’t justified.

Last time the two polled the biggest talking point was how different their results were. The Reid Research poll was regarded as an outlier, being quite different to any other polls this term.

The most notable thing about the polls this time is that the results are very similar, taking into account margins of error of about 3% for the larger results, and the fact that Colmar results are rounded to the nearest whole number.

  • National: RR 43.9% (+6.5%), CB 47% (+2)
  • Labour: RR 41.6% (-9.2), CB 40% (-3)
  • Greens: RR 6.3% (+0.1), CB 7% (+1)
  • NZ First: RR 4.0% (+1.2), CB 4% (+1)
  • ACT: RR 1.4% (+0.6), CB 1% (-)
  • TOP: RR 1.1% (+1.0), CB 1% (-)
  • Maori Party: RR 0.7% (+0.2), CB 1% (-)

I don’;t think it’s surprising at this stage to see National a bit ahead of Labour, Labour has had a mixed month or two and is struggling to make major progress due to the restraint of coalition partner NZ First.

Green support looks at a safe level, but is well below what they were getting last term (about half).

NZ First are still polling below the threshold and will be in a battle to stay in Parliament.

Is is fairly normal these days there are a number of borderline governing scenarios with these numbers, with National+ACT and Labour+Greens thereabouts but not certainties.

A lot may depend on whether NZ First make the threshold or not next election. Both other times they have been in a coalition government they have lost support at the next election.

Trends from Opinion polling for the next New Zealand general election (Wikipedia):

That shows the last Reid Research anomaly well.

Preferred Prime Minister:

  • Jacinda Ardern: RR 38.4% (-10.6), CB 38% (-3)
  • Simon Bridges: RR 6.7% (+2.5), CB 9% (+3)
  • Judith Collins: 5.2% (-1.9), CB 5%
  • Winston Peters: CB 4%

Ardern a bit down, Bridges a bit up but still a big difference.

Newshub also did a poll on performance:

  • Ardern: performing well 62.4%, performing poorly 23.1%
  • Bridges: performing well 23.9%, performing poorly 52.7%

UPDATE: 1 News/Colmar Brunton have also started asking a similar question:

  •  Ardern handling her job as Prime Minister:  +33
    approve 62%
    disapprove 29%
    don’t know or refused 8%
  • Bridges’ handling his job as National Party leader: -22
    approve 29%
    disapprove 51%
    don’t know or refused 20%

Ardern performance is well above her party support, while Bridges is well below National support (about half).

  • Newshub-Reid Research Poll was conducted between 2-9 October 2019.
    1000 people were surveyed, 700 by telephone and 300 by internet panel
  • 1 News-Colmar Brunton poll conducted between 5-9 October
    1008 eligible voters were polled by landline (502) and mobile phone (506)

So both now rely on some polling by something other than landline, Reid Research 30% by internet panel and Colmar Brunton 50% by mobile phone.

1 News link here.

Newshub/Reid Search links here and here.

The Newshun headline says “Jacinda Ardern, Labour take massive tumble in new Newshub-Reid Research poll” but a more accurate description would have been “Newshub poll looks more likely following last rogue poll”. It wasn’t a massive tumble for Ardern, more like a large correction by Reid Research.

Stupid National policy: fining parents of school leavers

My disappointment with the direction National is going in has increased even more.

Stuff: Fines for parents of school drop-outs considered for National Party policy

Fines for parents of school drop-outs are among several tough welfare policies the National Party is floating ahead of the 2020 election.

National leader Simon Bridges says New Zealanders know there’s deep-set poverty and welfare dependence problems, and is promising to take Labour on with policies that show “backbone”.

While Bridges wouldn’t speak directly to the policies being considered, it’s understood they include fines of up to $3000 for parents of children who leave high school and don’t enter further education and training.

That’s even worse than fining parents if students leave early. If an 18 year old left school and didn’t enter enter further education and training would National really consider fining their parents for not forcing them to do something they obviously don’t want to do?

There’s more:

National is considering are: more obligations and sanctions for beneficiaries, cutting the number receiving welfare by 25 per cent, and requiring gang members to prove they don’t have illegally-sourced income before receiving the benefit.

Beneficiary bashing is not new, but seems to be a swing back to pandering to people who are unlikely to switch votes anyway.

Bridges said: “It’s no secret. We hate gangs … We are thinking about how we can crack down on gangs.”

Why stop at gangs? It’ would be hard to legally define ‘gang’ anyway. Why not make everyone prove they don’t have illegally-sourced income? And include illegally sourced political donations.

RNZ: Will National propose fines for parents of truant teens? (with audio):

Should parents of teenagers who leave school early and don’t go into education or training be fined?

It’s one of the policies the National Party is reportedly looking into as part of its social policy review.

Other policies under consideration are requiring gang members to prove they don’t have illegal income before getting a benefit, and reassessing the obligations of people who are on the benefit.

Leader Simon Bridges is being coy about the specifics – but says these are priority issues for National.

Priority issues for National? I think a higher priority issue for National is leadership – or more specifically, a lack of decent leadership. Bridges seems to the best chance of getting Labour and Greens in power next year.

I have a better proposal – fine MPs who waste time and (taxpayer) money on stupid policies. Especially party leaders.

 

 

Bridges cherry picking and evasive on poll results

The two polls announced on Sunday gave quite different party results. Not surprisingly Simon Bridges likes the 1 News Colmar Brunton poll has National improving and just ahead of Labour, and is less happy about the Newshub Reid Research poll that suggests a slump in support for National.

The two polls were consistent on one thing, the dismal level of support for Bridges as ‘preferred Prime Minister’, but Bridges has tried to divert away from those results.

RNZ: Political polls ‘simply can’t both be right’ – Simon Bridges

Mr Bridges told Morning Report today that while the polls “simply can’t both be right”, the 1 News Colmar Brunton poll was the most similar to the party’s own polling.

But Bridges gave no details about his own party’s polling, so what he implies on that is meaningless. And while promoting the Colmar Brunton party result he tried hard to avoid any discussion on Colmar Brunton’s 5% for him as leader (Ardern was 45%, Judith Collins 6% and Winston Peters also 5%).

But he refused to comment on what the polls said about his personal rating and whether he had been in discussions with Ms Collins regarding the leadership of his party.

“What matters in polling ultimately is where parties are at, that’s what determines power and we’ve got a situation where there are two polls,” he said.

“It’s an interesting phenomena, a lot of ink has been spilled on it, one of them can’t be right, but ultimately what these polls show is the National Party up, they show a Labour Party down…

He then launched into a political speech, diverting from his inaccurate claim.

National was up 4 to 44% in the Colmar Brunton poll, but that is still short of where they need to be without potential coalition partners.

But National were down 4.2 to 37.4% in the Reid Research poll.  Even if this is a bit of an outlier or a ‘rogue poll’ it is still what should be a very worrying result for National, and for Bridges.

And in both polls Bridges was lower than Judith Collins on a paltry 5%.

And Bridges’ performance in the RNZ interview is unlikely to have helped his lack of popularity.

Is Judith Collins damning you with faint praise there? Simon Bridges:

No. Look, the reality is I’m comfortable with my leadership. I’ve got the great backing of a great team. And I’m focussed on holding the Government to account and our positive plans and policies.

Uninspiring political palaver.

…as I say to you, I’m focused on New Zealanders and what they want. And I think the reality is, you said the polls were damning,  actually what the poll there from Television New Zealand  and which we are seeing as well shows is National up, Labour down, and that’s very easy to understand because Labour is not delivering on it’s, it;s failing to deliver on it’s promises.

The reality is that most New Zealanders are far from focused on Bridges as a potential Prime Minister. Bridges can try to divert all he likes, he is not delivering on likeability, credibility or leadership.

He then launched into more diversion from leadership to his over-repeated political talking points. He then claimed poll success.

“So you believe Colmar Brunton?”

Yeah because it’s very similar to what we are seeing. And you know look there will always be variety in these things, I mean it’s sort of a new phenomenon isn’t it, we’ve seen it in Australia and America and other countries. But I know we have very strong polling and is very similar to what we’re seeing in TV New Zealand, and frankly when you look at this budget…

Diversion again.

“So the Reid Research, it’s is an outlier as far as you’re concerned?”

Well I think you’ve got a situation where you’ve got variation haven’t you, you’ve got one poll is very different to another, they simply can’t both be right.

“Are you also in your poll looking at rating as preferred Prime Minister?

We look at all sorts of things, but I’m not going to talk about that…

“Are you also in your polling looking at rating as preferred Prime Minister?”

We look at all sorts of things, but I’m not going to talk about that…

He was happy to talk about his own polling being ‘similar’ to a more favourably public poll, but doesn’t want to talk about specifics or about unfavourable polling. This just comes across as evasive.

“You said broadly speaking that the polling is reflective in terms of the party vote. Is it also reflective in terms of your personal rating?”

I’m confident and comfortable in my leadership. I’m focused on Kiwis blah blah blah…

“…what about your personal rating?”

My answer is, that’s not what I’m focused on. I’m focused on [repeated political palaver].

“Nonetheless you’re very happy to share…that aspect…Mr bridges we’re trying to talk about polling…

…and I’m trying to talk to you Suzy about what New Zealanders care about.

“I know but the questions I’m asking you about are about your polling…”

And I answered them.

“No you haven’t. You’ve been very open about your party vote, but you haven’t been very open about your preferred Prime Minister status, Why is that?”

I haven’t actually told you a party vote.

He’s correct about that.

What I said it was similar. Because, because what matters in polling ultimately is where parties are at. That’s what determines power….

And what determines to a large extent where a party is it is it’s leadership.

…ultimately what these polls show is they show a National Party up…

False. One up, one down. And even the up poll is within margin of error stuff –  and importantly, National 44%, compared too Labour+Greens on 48%, meaning they have prospects of forming the next Government alone, and National has little prospect of forming a government even on the favourable poll result.

The discussion waffled around, then:

“What is it like for you to be consistently polling behind Judith Collins in the preferred Prime Minister stakes?”

It is great that we have a fantastic team with Judith, with Paula, with Mark, with many people who are, in fact, wha…

A poor, evasive, uninspiring performance from Bridges. I don’t see him lifting his polling or prospects – he’s stuck in the leadership death zone.

Head of Safe and Effective Justice calls for cross-party consensus

While Chester Borrows was an ex-National MP he is also an ex police officer and lawyer, so was a good appointment as head of the Safe and Effective Justice advisory group set up by the Labour led government.

The group has just released it’s report after extensive consultation – see Te Uepū report – Transforming our Criminal Justice System

Borrows is now calling for cross-party consensus on reforming the justice system.

RNZ: Time for cross-party consensus to transform justice system – Borrows

The head of a group that found racism embedded in every area of the criminal justice system says it’s now time for a cross-party consensus to tackle to the issue.

Māori were over-represented as both victims and offenders of crime, with Māori making up 51 percent of the prison.

Chairperson of the government’s Safe and Effective Justice advisory group, Chester Borrows, told Morning Report the report highlighted the need for “transformational change” and said any political party would be foolish to disregard the report’s contents.

He said the legacy of colonialism had meant Māori entered prison after being socially and economically disenfranchised.

“People tend to think that this is something that is really historic,” he said. “In fact, if you take away the economic base of a community and them under-educate them in a foreign language it’s not surprising that a few generations down the track they are corralled into the lowest decile suburbs failing in every area of the social sector.

“What we have in New Zealand is people don’t really touch the justice system until they’ve been failed by all those other areas such as health. education, welfare, the economy and employment… We’ve allowed that to happen. It’s a pattern and we’ve done nothing about, in respect to prisons, in 30 years.”

The former National minister said it was now time both political parties and government departments came together to untangle the legacy, so that policy and its implementation reflected one purpose. He said a transformational change in the way government and political opposition looked at justice was key to success.

“Any party would be foolish to disregard this report, which is so comprehensive, I think this is where people in the middle of the political spectrum are. The changes that need to be made are fundamental.

“We have no single driver of the justice sector and yet we’ve got five different departments who are in it, all measuring themselves against their own KRA, but not with one single goal in mind and that’s a ridiculous place to be… If they are not all facing the same thing and heading towards a common goal then they are stuck but they start.”

He acknowledged this would be difficult, due to the criminalisation of Māori and a punishment-based focus on the criminal justice system being made political positions at election time. But said the public was now sick of that approach. “It is too important for it to remain political all the time,” he said.

It will be difficult reaching political consensus on major reforms of the justice system, but it shouldn’t be difficult for all parties to work together on this.

Simon Bridges is a lawyer and has been a Crown prosecutor. He could use that experience, and show real leadership by ensuring that National engages positively on seeking reform.

Mark Mitchell is National’s spokesperson for justice. I haven’t seen either him or Bridges respond to the Safe and Effective Justice report. I hope that means they are seriously considering contributing to finding solutions.

Polls hardly help Simon bridges

While one of the poll results just released may give Simon Bridges some confidence he may hang on to his job as National leader the rest of the results remain dismal for him, with his personal results very low (and lower than Judith Collins), and National slumping to 37.4% in one party poll.

The good news:

  • Colmar Brunton has National bouncing back to 44% (up 4), close to Labour on 42%.

The bad news:

  • Colmar Brunton ‘preferred Prime Minister’ – Bridges 5%, Collins 6%, Ardern 45%
  • Reid Research – Labour 50.8%, National 37.4%
  • Reid Research – ‘preferred PM’ – bridges 4.2%, Collins 7.1%, Ardern 49%
  • Reid Research – government performing well 72.5%
  • Reid Research – “Was National right to seek out and release Budget details before Budget Day?” yes 32.6%, no 55.4%

Poll: Most New Zealanders think National was wrong to leak Treasury Budget details

“We did the right thing in exposing weaknesses in the Government,” Bridges said.

“I think it’s something you can’t be driven on polls by.”

His near future as leader may depend on what Natikonal’s internal polls are saying. If they are anything like Colmar Brunton then Bridges may hang on for a while yet, but if they are closer to Reid Research then National may decided that decisive action is required.

At Kiwiblog in A tale of two polls David Farrar focuses on the poll discrepancies and ignores National’s and Bridges’ results and says:

Bottom line is that at least one of those polls is wrong. They can’t both be right.

What he doesn’t say (and can’t really) is how National;s internal polls compare. His Curia Research does these polls for National.

One comment (Captain Mainwaring):

Looks like TV3 did their poll at the teachers union HQ and TV1 did theirs at the RSA.
Polling is expensive, got to do it the cheapest way possible.
But whichever one you believe, Bridges is toast. Lets get it over quickly and cleanly, preferably by QT Tuesday.

Most other references involving Bridges are complaining about Tova O’Brien emphasising the poor polls for Bridges (she and Newshub have habits of trying to make big news out of little numbers) – National nosedives into dreaded 30s, could trigger leadership coup

Matthew Hooton (@MatthewHootonNZ):

Great night for . We all get to choose our poll to suit our spin. Except on one matter.

  1. The leadership situation in reminds me of that in until a couple of weeks ago. It is obvious the current leadership is unsustainable and that there is only one alternative that would be credible to the party membership, media and public.
  2. However, that alternative scares or is opposed on other grounds by sufficient numbers of MPs to prevent the change, keeping the incumbent in the job.
  3. In both cases, the incumbent does not have any genuine support in the party except a very small group of advisors whose own careers depend on hers/his.
  4. But the opposition to the only credible candidate prompts fantasies of other alternatives, and those being speculated about to get their hopes up.
  5. While the MPs waste their time on naval-gazing, the party’s position only gets worse. Moreover no real policy progress can be made because everyone is waiting for the leadership change.
  6. There are even those who say “well, the next election is obviously lost so we are better to let the incumbent take the blame for that and then the successor can take over after that”. This is an insult to those who genuinely see Ardern/Corbyn as needing to be defeated.
  7. Eventually what happens is that the situation gets so bad it forces events. That has happened with the but not with .
  8. Those in the National caucus taking the cynical “Simon can take the fall in 2020” attitude need to search their consciences. They have a responsibility to take whatever steps are needed to maximise the chances of defeating a totally incompetent and increasingly corrupt govt.
  9. Just as Boris Johnson is the candidate most likely to defeat Corbyn, is the candidate most likely to defeat . She has a duty to step up. And the caucus has a duty to back her even if some of them don’t like her very much. More tomorrow.

There will no doubt be more about the National leadership.

See:

Bridges claims ‘deceit and dirty politics’ – but who did the dirty?

Simon Bridges and National continue to go hard out on the leak of budget information two days before Budget day.

But who is playing dirty here?

RNZ Week in politics: National set the trap and Robertson walked into it

National used the information it found on Treasury’s website to set a trap – and it worked far more effectively than Simon Bridges could have imagined after Gabriel Makhlouf made his “we have been hacked” announcement.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson walked into a trap set by National when he linked the Budget “leak” to illegal hacking.

It was no such thing, and National had known it all along. A simple website search had given the Opposition details of some of the spending in yesterday’s Budget.

At the same time, Mr Bridges was giving a hand-on-heart assurance that National had acted “entirely appropriately” while refusing to say how it had obtained the information.

At that point, National had probably expected the usual response to a leak – condemnation of such behaviour and the announcement of an inquiry.

What it could not have expected was Treasury Secretary Gabriel Makhlouf dramatically announcing that his department’s website had been systematically hacked, and that he had called in the police on the advice of the GCSB.

That was a game-changer, and Mr Robertson seized it. “We have contacted the National Party tonight to request that they do not release any further material, given that the Treasury said they have sufficient evidence that indicates the material is a result of a systematic hack and is now subject to a police investigation,” he said.

The implication was obvious – National had either hacked the website or received the information from someone who had. Whoever did it, their actions were illegal.

It turns out what National did wasn’t illegal – but I still think it was highly questionable. They were trying to do a dirty on the Government to grandstand prior to the budget going public.

Mr Bridges raged about unjust smears on his party and accused Mr Makhlouf and Mr Robertson of lying. The Treasury secretary’s position was untenable and Mr Robertson should resign.

He claimed Treasury had quickly discovered the huge chink in its security and had “sat on a lie” while his party was being accused of criminal behaviour.

This leaves some very big questions which have not yet been answered. If Treasury’s IT people knew what had happened, why did Mr Makhlouf go public with his hacking announcement?

Was he misled by his own department, by someone who didn’t want it known that a blunder had been made with the uploading? That’s hard to believe, because it must have been realised that National was going to blow the whistle on the website search.

Did Mr Makhlouf make the decision to call in the police on his own? Mr Robertson says he didn’t know until after the fact, but Mr Bridges rejects that. It’s unthinkable, he says, that a department head would make a call like that without first informing his minister.

The way Mr Bridges sees it, the hacking was a cooked up story to smear National and take the heat off the government and the Treasury.

But the whole thing was cooked up by National in the first place.

Bridges acted offended when accused of hacking, but he hasn’t hesitated accusing Robertson, without any evidence. And he is also accusing Treasury.

RNZ:  Treasury knew there had been no hack on Budget information – National Party leader

The National Party is confident the investigation into Treasury’s claim Budget information had been hacked will prove that Treasury “sat on a lie”.

National Party deputy leader Paula Bennett, who asked the SSC to investigate, said her party would let the inquiry play out but stands by its assertion that Mr Makhlouf mislead New Zealanders.

It has previously said Mr Makhlouf should resign.

Mr Makhlouf says he acted in good faith.

National Party leader Simon Bridges told Morning Report today there were two possible scenarios, and the situation was likely a bit of both.

“You’ve either got bungling incompetence, and I think we can all believe that could well be the situation, or you have some broad form of deceit and … dirty politics.

“And we need to see what’s going on here.”

He said the GCSB told Treasury and the Minister of Finance that there had been no systematic hack, but Treasury came out after this and said there had been.

“The reality of this situation is it’s pretty black and white isn’t it.

So as a result of a deliberate and concerted effort by National to exploit a data vulnerability at Treasury in an attempt to embarrass the Government we now have two inquiries, and National have called on the Minister of Finance and the head of Treasury to resign. It has also jeopardised Makhlouf’s new job in Ireland.

MSN:  Gabriel Makhlouf’s next job at Ireland’s top bank under threat

Irish politicians say they’re concerned New Zealand Treasury Secretary Gabriel Makhlouf will become the country’s next Central Bank governor amid the Budget “hack” scandal.

Pearse Doherty, finance spokesperson for left-wing Irish republican party Sinn Féin, told The Irish Times Maklouf should not start his role with the Central Bank until the investigation has concluded.

Doherty said it “wasn’t a small issue”.

“We need to make sure that someone in the highest position in the Central Bank has proper judgement,” he told The Irish Times.

Ireland’s Fianna Fáil party member Michael McGrath has also reportedly sent a letter to the Irish Finance Minister.

“The governor of the Central Bank is one of the most sensitive and important roles in our States,” the letter says.

“It is vital we have full confidence in the holder of the office.”

So National may succeed in ruining Makhlouf’s career. Robertson is unlikely to resign – and I think it would be a disturbing result if he is forced to.

Sure Makhlouf and the Government may not have handled the budget leak well. But this was a dirty politics style hit job by National, serving no positive purpose, and highly questionable as ‘holding the Government to account’.

They would have hoped to cause some embarrassment, and got lucky when it precipitated a shemozzle, leading to two inquiries and careers in jeopardy – not because of the initial problem, but because of how it was mishandled. This is classic negative politics.

For what? Some budget information was publicised two days before it was going to be made public anyway. National well know that budgets are kept secret until announced in Parliament, and there’s good reasons for this.

This sort of thing really puts me off politics – especially off politicians who try to engineer scandals that really has nothing to do with holding to account.

If there wasn’t other things keeping me going here I think I could happily pack up and go and do something else as far from politics as I can get.

This political debacle sets a very poor example. It is a form of bullying – political bullying, where dirty means are employed to cause problems that needn’t happen. Shouldn’t happen.

Another thing that may keep me involved is looking at ways of getting our politicians to set positive examples, and save the hard ball holding to account to when it really matters.

Is there any chance of that? I’m probably wasting my time here.

A pretty disappointing Leader of the Opposition

I’ve been busy on other things so have only seen bits of the political circus this week, but my impressions of the Leader of the Opposition, Simon Bridges, tend almost all towards cringe.

He has done nothing to give me any confidence in his ability to be a credible leader. Actually, this week he has reduced my confidence (it was already quite low).

Sure Bridges and his team and some supporters may think he has scored some political hits, but I don’t think he will have impressed many voters, especially voters who matter for electoral success. I think more likely the opposite.

There is an often quoted saying that the Leader of the Opposition is the hardest job in politics, but I think that’s a cop out. It can’t be that hard to not keep looking like a childish jerk.

Police say that budget leaks not unlawful

Police have conformed what has been widely claimed already about the budget leak – they say the information was obtained by ‘exploiting a bug’.  What? Online viruses exploit bugs, but that doesn’t make them lawful.

Whatever the law says on this, questions about the ethics of National publicising the material they obtained remain. As has been pointed out, they could have highlighted the flaws in information security without abusing the budget process.

Stuff:  Budget leaks ‘not unlawful’, no further police action

In a statement ahead of Thursday’s budget and an expected press conference from the National Party where leader Simon Bridges was to explain how he got his hands on budget information early this week, the Treasury said that police had advised that “an unknown person or persons appear to have exploited a feature in the website search tool” – but that this “does not appear to be unlawful”.

Police are therefore not planning further action, but the State Services Commission will undertake an inquiry into the issue.

The Treasury said it and and the GCSB’s National Cyber Security Centre has been working on establishing the facts.

“As part of its preparation for Budget 2019, the Treasury developed a clone of its website. Budget information was added to the clone website as and when each Budget document was finalised,” it said in a statement.

“On Budget Day, the Treasury intended to swap the clone website to the live website so that the Budget 2019 information was available online. The clone website was not publically accessible.

“As part of the search function on the website, content is indexed to make the search faster. Search results can be presented with the text in the document that surrounds the search phrase.

“The clone also copies all settings for the website including where the index resides. This led to the index on the live site also containing entries for content that was published only on the clone site.

“As a result, a specifically-worded search would be able to surface small amounts of content from the 2019/20 Estimates documents.

“A large number (approx. 2000) of search terms were placed into the search bar looking for specific information on the 2019 Budget.

“The searches used phrases from the 2018 Budget that were followed by the ‘Summary’ of each Vote. This would return a few sentences – that included the headlines for each Vote paper – but the search would not return the whole document.

“At no point were any full 2019/20 documents accessible outside of the Treasury network.”

The Treasury said the evidence shows “deliberate, systematic and persistent searching of a website that was clearly not intended to be public”.

So there seem to be problems that need resolving.

But what about what National did with the information they obtained?

Lawyer Stephen Price yesterday – Budget leak: Nats’ behaviour “entirely appropriate”?

I’ve just been listening to Simon Bridges’ press conference at Parliament about the budget leak. His main point was to deny that the leaked budget material was a result of a hack. But he made the broader claim that the Nats’ behaviour throughout was “entirely appropriate”. He said there had been “nothing illegal or anything approaching that from the National Party.” He denied that their conduct was at any point unlawful.

I think he’s wrong. I think the Nats have probably engaged in  unlawful behaviour from the get-go. That’s regardless of whether the budget material they released was hacked. The Nats have broken the law relating to Breach of Confidence.

That’s not a crime. It’s a civil claim, like defamation or negligence. But it is the law.

If information is confidential in nature – that is, not in the public domain – and was created and shared in circumstances in which those possessing it knew is was supposed to be confidential, and was then disclosed without permission, that’s a breach of confidence. That obligation of confidence will usually bind anyone else who comes into possession of the information.

There is a public interest defence. That’s what usually protects the media when they receive leaks. Otherwise, as you might have noticed, almost all leaks to the media (especially from employees with clear obligations of confidentiality) fall foul of this law. But usually, there will be some substantial justification the media can use. They will be able to point to some significant way the public is being served by the release of the information that would otherwise be protected by the obligation of confidence.

Is there public interest here? I can’t see it. The information was to be publicly released in two days. The National Party could freely criticise it then. How are the public really made better off by learning of these criticisms two days in advance? Is there really any benefit to a matter of legitimate public concern that overrides the obvious – and perhaps even constitutional – confidentiality that attaches to budget papers?

Nor can National argue that it needed to release the information to hold the government to account for its bungling in allowing the leak. It could have made that case without actually releasing the data.

I think there is a better argument that it was against the public interest for National to have publicised the budget information they obtained.

What could National argue? The best I can come up with is: “We felt it was in the public interest to prick the balloon of spin that the government was floating about the budget being a ‘wellbeing’ budget, and itself revealing bits of it in advance, by providing the public with information that revealed these claims to be misleading. In this we were fulfilling our constitutional duty to hold the government to account. And we didn’t release any market sensitive information.”

I don’t think that works. They could make those arguments in two days time and the public would be no worse off. I also note that it turns on the accuracy of the criticism. If the numbers are wrong, or taken out of context, or do not really reveal any misleading government behaviour, that would undermine any attempt to say that the releases were in the public interest. Finally, the fact that the National Party was drip-feeding the leaks tells against any claim that the public needed to have the information urgently and couldn’t wait two days for the budget.

Treasury has been embarrassed by the leak of budget information, whether it was obtained legally or not.

I think that National could have acted with integrity in pointing out the flaw, but they went much further than this by playing politics – they acted on heir own interests rather than public interests. Except that if the public doesn’t like the way they have done things it may not be in their own interests.

I don’t think it enhances Simon Bridges’ leadership credentials. If he wanted to prove himself as a responsible leader he would have highlighted the bug without exploiting it for some short term (two day) political gain.

 

 

 

Treasury refer claimed hacking to police following budget leak

The budget leak publicised by National yesterday has got a lot murkier, with Treasury now saying they have been hacked. The matter has been referred to the police, but Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges is unrepentant for trying to hijack Thursday’s budget announcement.

The leak looks embarrassing for the Government, and also for Treasury, but I think the leak stunt also reflects very poorly on Bridges and National. Bridges has demanded that Minister of Finance Grant Robertson resign over the leak.

1 News: Budget 2019 leaks by National came after Treasury was ‘deliberately and systematically hacked’

Earlier today the National Party leaked what it claimed were highly secretive details of the Government’s wellbeing Budget, due to be delivered on Thursday.

Treasury has confirmed in a statement it was the source of National’s Budget 2019 leaks today after its “systems were deliberately and systematically hacked”.

Confirming the hack this evening Treasury released the following statement:

“Following this morning’s media reports of a potential leak of Budget information, the Treasury has gathered sufficient evidence to indicate that its systems have been deliberately and systematically hacked.

“The Treasury has referred the matter to the Police on the advice of the National Cyber Security Centre.

“The Treasury takes the security of all the information it holds extremely seriously. It has taken immediate steps today to increase the security of all Budget-related information and will be undertaking a full review of information security processes.

“There is no evidence that any personal information held by the Treasury has been subject to this hacking.”

Responding to confirmation of the the hack, Finance Minister Grant Robertson said is a statement:

“This is extremely serious and is now a matter for the Police. We have contacted the National Party tonight to request that they do not release any further material, given that the Treasury said they have sufficient evidence that indicates the material is a result of a systematic hack and is now subject to a Police investigation.”

But Bridges continued on the attack:

If it turns out that budget documents were hacked from Treasury will Bridges resign for using hacked material to try to undermine the Government?

 

Budget leaked

National claims to have been leaked the budget ahead of it going public on Thursday. If National have obtained a copy, that’s bad. But it is also bad that they are making parts of it public.

I can’t remember a budget leak before this.

RNZ – Budget leak: Embarrassing error or conspiracy?

A major pre-Budget bomb has dropped on the Beehive with top level Budget information ending up in the hands of the National Party.

The Prime Minister’s regular media stand-up at Parliament this morning was ticking along with questions about mental health, funding for dentistry and the Debbie Francis report when the news broke – the timing was of course no coincidence.

Jacinda Ardern was blindsided and reporters had just enough time to digest the document released by National before heading to leader Simon Bridges’ regular Tuesday question and answer session.

“National reveals Budget details” screamed the headline on the media release.

With it was a document claiming to reveal the funding for 18 policy areas for the next financial year.

It spanned major portfolios including health, defence, overseas aid, customs, Maori development and justice.

“This is not the Wellbeing Budget it’s the Winston Budget”, declared Mr Bridges.

That’s a reference to Deputy Prime Minister and New Zealand First leader Winston and a $1.3 billion spend on defence assets in National’s documents.

But Mr Bridges was a lot more reticent when asked about how National had come across the information – “cock-up or conspiracy?” asked one reporter.

One possibility is that someone within the Government deliberately leaked the material to National.

Mr Bridges talked about a “loose and incompetent” government and would not go as far as calling it a leak, so that seems less likely.

More likely is that someone has been careless with the information and it has ended up with National through human error.

The Finance Minister Grant Robertson hastily convened a media conference where he said some of the figures were right, but some were wrong.

The “major new initiatives”, he said, were not in the National Party document.

The only specific comment he made was about the defence spending, confirming it does includes the purchase of Boeing P-8A Poseidon Aircraft, which had already been announced.

But other than that he refused to say which other parts were right or wrong, or even how much of it was accurate.

The hunt for who was responsible will only begin in earnest once the Budget has been delivered on Thursday, but Treasury is already investigating.

There is actually serious financial implications of part of budgets being leaked ahead of the official release date.

And it is a serious matter if the budget has been deliberately leaked to the Opposition.

Circus politics seems to be getting worse.