Peters in court versus Government departments and National MPs next week

Winston Peters is expected to be in court or up to three weeks beginning on Monday when his case against the Attorney-General (on behalf of the Ministry of Social Development), the ministry’s chief executive, the State Services Commissioner and former ministers and national MPs Anne Tolley and Paula Bennett.

This is over an alleged leak of details of an overpayment to Peters of Superannuation from 2010 until 2017. He received a single person’s Super but was living in a relationship.

Peters actually outed himself after journalists were given the information and started asking questions.

I’m not sure how everyone taken to court by Peters can have leaked the information.

There are a number of bizarre aspects to all this.

Newsroom:  Peters’ day job on hold as he sues the Crown

Winston Peters will take time off his day job as Acting Prime Minister next week when his high-stakes court action begins against the head of the public service, a top mandarin, a government agency and two former National ministers.

His case alleging a breach of his privacy in the leaking in 2017 of his seven-year national superannuation overpayment starts in the High Court at Auckland on Monday.

Peters’ case has moved from an initial focus against the two National politicians for leaking the details of his overpayment, to now claiming the government departments and officials breached his privacy in advising the ministers. Further, he has accused the officials of being reckless and acting in bad faith, and the Crown is defending that allegation with vigour.

This seems to have been a fishing expedition with Peters trying too discover who leaked the information. As information was provided he seems too have changed his targets.

Newsroom and Newshub were two media organisations that received anonymous calls alerting them to the overpayment and were initially subject to Peters’ legal demand to reveal phone, electronic communication records and any journalistic notes. The demand was refused and Peters abandoned that action.

Peters should have known that journalists are able to protect the identity of sources. He seemed to think he could legally bully them into revealing who provided the information.

The Deputy PM wants $450,000 in damages from each of the named defendants, meaning a total of $1.8 million if he pursues all of those monetary claims listed in early court documents.

That’s a lot being claimed. I have no idea what his chances are of getting anything like that amount. This is an unusual case so there are unlikely to be similar precedents.

Any damages awarded would be covered by the taxpayer under an arrangement authorised by the Cabinet. Taxpayers are also paying for the two Queens Counsel and legal teams.

Regardless of whether damages will be awarded this is an expensive exercise. Peters is at risk of it backfiring.

Peters has implied publicly that MSD made the error in which he was recorded on that application as single rather than in the de facto relationship with Jan Trotman that he was in at the time. Court documents show that in ‘interrogatories’ – or questions asked by the Crown in advance of the hearing – Peters acknowledged he could have received a letter in 2014 asking him to check the details on that 2010 application, but does not recall that and did not read it if it did arrive.

I doubt that not reading a letter is a solid defence for not being aware he was being overpaid.

It is odd that he received an overpayment for years without knowing it was more than he was eligible to receive.

Peters’ lawyers filed the first application in this case – featuring the various National Party figures named above – the day before the September 2017 election and he then proceeded to negotiate ‘in good faith’ with both National and Labour, before serving the papers on the National MPs and others after the Labour coalition was formed.

I suspect National knew that Peters was simply using them to push a better deal with Labour. It’s hard to see serious intent to negotiate a coalition agreement with National.

It was alleged recently that Peters had offered to drop the legal action if Paula Bennett retired from politics. That can’t be true – but if it was it sounds like a form of extortion.

In past election campaigns Peters has insisted he wouldn’t indicate which parties he would consider going into coalition with. It would be even more farcical if he tries that again next year.

Bennett and Tolley could be in the witness stand from Thursday, and can also expect to be cross-examined by Peters’ lawyer Brian Henry, a one-time advocate for the former Dirty Politics blogger Whaleoil, aka Cameron Slater.

Slater is now bankrupt, presumably owing Henry a some sort of amount for representing him (unsuccessfully) versus Matt Blomfield.

It had seemed odd that Peters’ lawyer represented Slater, and at the same time Slater promoted NZ First on Whale Oil. There is another connection there, Simon Lusk, who has used Slater and Whale Oil to promote political clients and attack opponents of clients, and is apparently now advising NZ First.

as previously indicated, this whole situation is has a number of bizarre aspects to it.

 

 

NZ Super and our rapidly ageing population

It’s February already. As you get older time seems to go faster, which means we feel like we are ageing more rapidly. One way to combat this is to watch all speeches in Parliament (replays if the House isn’t in session), so that time slows down to a long drag.

But this is a diversion from what this post is about. Read this instead:

Dr M. Claire Dale (Newsroom): Time to address our rapidly ageing population

The Retirement Commissioner has a statutory obligation to produce a report on retirement income policies every three years. This year’s review has had little fanfare so far and the terms of reference have only just been released. The report is expected by December 2019, which allows little time to properly examine the pressing issue of suitable policies for our rapidly ageing population.

In line with this Government’s emphasis on wellbeing and sustainability, the terms of reference stress that the review must assess “the effectiveness of current retirement policies for financially vulnerable and low-income groups, and recommendations for any policies that could improve their retirement outcomes”.

With respect to retirement income policies – the crux of the review – an Official Information Act request to the Ministry of Social Development revealed that more than 41,000 of people receiving New Zealand Superannuation also need the Accommodation Supplement to pay their private rental costs. They join with the other 249,000 people receiving the supplement, costing the Government more than $27 million a week. This suggests both that NZS is inadequate and private rents are too high.

We have been encouraged to save for our retirements to supplement NZ Super for a long time.

Critically important topics include the impact of current retirement income policies on current and future generations, and the fiscal sustainability of current NZS settings. An ageing population means a shrinking number of working-age people to support a growing number of old and increasingly frail people, which imposes obvious fiscal challenges.

And political challenges.

National under John Key and Bill English refused to address the age of eligibility of NZ Super.

Labour proposed Super changes leading into the 2014 election but were hammered from the left so dropped them by 2017.

NZ First secured a ‘no change’ clause in their coalition agreement with Labour.

The international environment needs to be brought into any discussion of these topics, as many countries, including Australia, have already increased their qualifying age for the pension above 65 and are in the process of increasing it further. Any discussion of this needs to recognise that not all sectors of the population have the option or ability to work past 65.

Or in some cases up to 65. United Future secured an agreement from National to look in to ‘flexi-super’ where you could choose the age you started receiving Super, but that turned out to be a farce as National had no intention of actually changing anything.

The hope is that this time the review is substantial, its recommendations are debated widely, and the Government has the courage to introduce policies appropriate for a rapidly ageing population.

I doubt that will happen. Winston Peters is likely to stand fast opposing any change unless it is for more Super for his voters. And Labour is likely to keep it in it’s ‘not a priority’ basket (or under their ‘ignore’ carpet).

 

A rich man’s benefit entitlement

Who decided to call talkback radio ‘Magic Talk’? Seems a very strange attempt at branding, but that’s another story.

Whether it was a deliberate attempt to attract attention, or just an unplanned flare up, duel hoists Sean Plunket and Peter Williams dueled over benefit entitlement on air.

Stuff – Magic Talk clash: Sean Plunket attacks ‘greedy boomer’ colleague Peter Williams

Plunket ignited a feud with Williams, who he called a “greedy boomer”. But Williams, a former TV host, hit back saying his generation deserved the benefit because they worked and “saved hard”. He said they also never indulged in coffee culture, or “smashed avocado”.

Good grief.

“You are a greedy boomer. You are just a greedy boomer,” Plunket repeatedly said during the heated on air debate between the two hosts.

His remark came after Williams, who is 64, said he would sign up to receive superannuation when he turns 65.

Plunket: “You are, without batting an eyelid, going to suck on the public tit for the rest of your life when you’ve got enough money to live quite comfortably”.

Williams: “I don’t care. Yes, that’s true, so what?”

Plunket: “You should not be taking money from other taxpayers. Let’s be honest Peter, you don’t need this”.

Williams: “I probably don’t need it. For Godsake, do you expect me not to sign up? It’s free money! Mate, I’m not John Key. I am entitled to this.”

Everyone is eligible to receive National Superannuation when they turn 65 in New Zealand, but it isn’t automatic, you have to apply for it. So it’s a choice.

An interesting definition from the Oxford dictionary:

entitled

Adjective

Believing oneself to be inherently deserving of privileges or special treatment.

‘kids who feel so entitled and think the world will revolve around them’
‘his pompous, entitled attitude’

I never listen to talkback radio but I thought that Williams was an odd appointment. He wasn’t exactly riveting as a news reader. There must be younger people who can talk on radio, but perhaps the primary tallback demographic is entitled old men.

And Plunket is hardly a spring chicken, although he has ten years to go before he needs to consider his entitlement to super handouts – unless the age of eligibility has been raised by then.

So what is Magic Radio? “We Bring You Back The Magic With Your Favourite Music.”  And talkback hosts?

Some interesting information from Magic Radio FAQs:

Why does MediaWorks need my personal info?

We need your information so we can better communicate with you and ultimately provide you with more content we know you’ll like. It’s also to help improve our advertising service.

Advertising is a feature of the Magic as it enables us to make the shows available to you for free. Knowing who you are means we will be able to show you advertising that is more relevant to you.

When you log in using Facebook, we only gather your basic profile information (name, email address, gender, year of birth and profile picture) to create a MediaWorks ID for you.

What do they want your profile picture for?

Is my information safe and protected?

Yes, we keep your information safe and protect it from any unauthorised access. We use a specialist outside service who use best practice encryption and other security practices to hold and keep your data secure.

Only a small group of people at MediaWorks will have access to your personal data.

Does that small group of people include Plunket or Williams, who know what your age is? Do callers feel safe and protected from the hosts?

Having to dish out personal details is more reason for me not to go there.

 

Stemming the surge in superannuation costs

The cost of providing universal superannuation has been contentious for decades. As the 65+ population grows, so does the already considerable costs.

Attempts have been made in the past to make changes.

UnitedFuture tried to nudge National towards ‘flexi-super’ where people could choose the age they started to get super (with varying rates) a couple of terms ago. National fobbed this off by allowing an investigation that was always going to achieve nothing under John Key’s leadership.

In 2013 Labour proposed an increase in the age of eligibility to 67 but got hammered by the left so dropped their proposal. With NZ First holding the balance of power there seems no way that the age will be increased this term.

But a NZ First MP has proposed a change that will cut the costs.

ODT: Cutting cost of superannuation

Last month, a New Zealand First private members’ Bill in the name of MP Mark Patterson, who is based in Clutha-Southland, was put forward. It proposes increasing the minimum residency requirement from 10 to 20 years after the age of 20, so a childhood in New Zealand would not count. The current 10-year law only stipulates five of those must be after the age of 50.

Given the last National-led government proposed an increase to 20 years, there should be sufficient support for a Bill to pass. Mr Patterson cites Berl research which says the change to 20 years could save $4.4 billion over 10 years.

That will only reduce the ongoing costs slightly.

And it’s fair to ask why NZ First staunchly defend the age of eligibility for non-immigrants while they want to toughen things up for immigrants.

But is even 20 years enough? The 2016 policy review by retirement commissioner Diane Maxwell recommended 25 years, noting an average in the OECD of 26. Any change would not apply to those living in New Zealand now. She calls for action now in part because of the time lag. Superannuation cost $30 million a day and that would rise to $98 million in 20 years’ time, she said.

The 10-year rule goes back to 1972. Most migrants were from Britain and the UK state pension could be taken off NZ Super. But these days many come from the likes of China where there is no state pension. There is a clear monetary incentive for Chinese residents to try to bring out their parents under family reunification. After only 10 years they can be receiving this country’s state pension, as well as public healthcare.

It may look racist trying to double the residency requirement now there are proportionally a lot more Asian immigrants, but a lot of other things have changed since the 1970s. The age of eligibility was increased from 60 to 65 in the 1990s.

Twenty years is still a long time. To be eligible for super at 65 you would have to be resident in New Zealand by age 45.

How else can the increasing cost of superannuation be limited? Or should it?

Peters files legal action over super overpayment leak

Winston Peters has filed  new papers over the alleged leak of his superannuation overpayments, seeking $450,000.

He has dropped journalists  Tim Murphy and Lloyd Burr from the action, as well as Bill English, Steven Joyce, former PM chief of staff Wayne Eagleson, National Party staffer Clark Hennessey and former Minister of Social Development Anne Tolley.

He has added two public servants.

ODT (NZME):  Peters back to court over super payment

…Winston Peters has begun new legal action seeking $450,000 for alleged breach of privacy in relation to the leaking of details of his superannuation overpayment, including against the Ministry of Social Development.

He is going after the chief executive of the Ministry of Social Development, Brendan Boyle, State Services Commissioner Peter Hughes, the Attorney-General on behalf of the Ministry of Social Development and Paula Bennett, the former National State Services Minister.

Hughes and the Ministry of Social Development are new targets in Peters’ legal action.

The timing of Peters’ action is extraordinary given that he about to become Acting Prime Minister in the next week or so when Jacinda Ardern takes leave to have her baby.

All targets of his action are entitled to apply to the Cabinet to have their legal fees paid – the Cabinet which Peters will be leading.

The whole thing is extraordinary.

The Peters Super leak, and how to get away with it

Documents obtained under the Official Information Act don’t reveal who leaked the information about Winston Peters’ Super overpayment (and neither has Peters despite claiming to know who did it albeit with changing targets).

But Sam Sachdeva uses the papers to show how to leak and get away with it, perhaps.

Newsroom – Inside the Peters leak: how to escape the net

During last year’s election campaign, the New Zealand First leader confirmed he had received higher superannuation payments than he was entitled to for seven years, after a number of media outlets including Newsroom received anonymous tips about the overpayment.

MSD, the Department of Internal Affairs (which has responsibility for ministerial staff) and Inland Revenue all launched investigations to determine whether their staff had been the source of the leak (all ultimately failed to find any leaker).

Copies of the final MSD and DIA reports outlining investigators’ work, released to Newsroom under the Official Information Act after months of delays, offer nothing in the way of a smoking gun but show the lengths they went to and the difficulties they encountered along the way.

Journalists love Government leakers as they can provide juicy and often exclusive stories. Sachdeva helpfully provides some helpful hints.

How to leak (and get away with it)

Handily, the documents also offer some hints on how a budding Deep Throat in waiting could share an issue of concern with their friendly neighbourhood media outlet.

Both departments relied in large part on digital records, turning to sweeps of email accounts, cellphone records and landline logs of staffers who had accessed or knew of Peters’ superannuation details.

MSD used “footprinting” of its IT systems to determine who had accessed Peters’ files and whether they had a valid business reason for doing so; that would appear difficult to circumvent, meaning a public servant wishing to share details with the media had better have a legitimate reason for knowing about it in the first place.

MSD and DIA also searched for any emails or phone calls between their staff and Newshub (which broke the story) or Newsroom (identified by MSD as an “early chaser”).

MSD’s email searches were initially based on “headline information” such as the sender, recipient and subject headline (so leakers might want to avoid putting anything too incriminating in there).

That turned up little of any value, in part due to a shortcoming identified by Jong: as searches were conducted only on records, networks and devices managed by Ministerial Services or the Parliamentary Service, he had to rely on “signed attestations” that information was not shared through other means, such as social interactions or a private device.

While Newsroom would of course advise against false declarations, that shows using a personal phone or computer – or better yet, a face-to-face encounter – may be the best way to share information while avoiding detection.

MSD also acknowledged “significant limitations” in its use of document-tracking in ministry systems to determine whether any reports had been shared with outside parties.

“A person with intent to use these documents (or remove them from the ministry) could use any number of options to remove these documents without leaving any footprint e.g. they could simply print it and walk out with it.”

We may live in a digital age, but it appears analogue methods can be best when it comes to staying off the radar.

Of course there’s a much higher risk of leaving digital footprints if using photocopiers or printers that are logged, or emails or other means of electronic communication.

Taking photos using personal devices and not sending them while at work have obvious advantages if trying to avoid detection.

Slater implications on Peters Super leak

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

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

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

If not IRD then who?

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

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

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

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

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

Back to vague again.

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

WhaleOilIRDLeak

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

That all sounds very lame.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IR completes investigation into leak allegation

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

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

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

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

 

Changing accusations on who leaked Peters Super overpayment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Risky for Jones to bring up Bill Liu.

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

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

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

He originally thought the big revelation was something else.

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

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

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

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

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

Questions over ‘no surprises’ policy

Audrey Young writes Peters’ case highlights an abuse of the ‘no surprises’ policy

No story with Winston Peters at the centre of it was ever going to be a one-day wonder.

And it just got a whole lot more serious.

There are disturbing and unanswered questions about his superannuation overpayment, whether you think he is the victim of a media beat-up, or are not willing to accept his assurance it was an error without proof.

The Government is now at the centre of the controversy after an admission by Social Development Minister Anne Tolley to the Herald.

She said she was told on August 15 by an official about MSD’s private meeting with Peters and what the subject of the meeting was – well after the meeting, well after he had paid back the money.

She was technically told under the “no surprises” policy, in which the public service chiefs and SOE boards forewarn ministers of issues that could suddenly become news and which will require their response. The “and” is important.

The fact that Tolley is unwilling to discuss the issue any further because it is a private matter is evidence enough that she should not have been told in the first place.

It is an abuse of the no-surprises policy. No minister should have been privy to that sort of information any more than the Health Minister should receive reports on any hip replacement operation Peters might have.

If Tolley had no expectation of receiving such information, she should say so publicly and conclude that the ministry’s decision was a misjudgment.

If she doesn’t, it is safe to assume that she and ministers have created an expectation they should get information like that.

This on it’s own is an important issue.

But, especially with Peters on the warpath, there are possible serious repercussions in the short term.

What Tolley did with the information is not yet clear, nor how far up the chain it went and whether National’s black ops guys are back in business.

But the very fact it was fed to the Beehive will cause suspicion by Peters that National leaked the information to discredit him.

It was obvious that some suspicion would fall on National. So if someone in National is responsible for the leak it would have been very stupid – stupid isn’t uncommon when politics gets dirty.

If National are found to be responsible, or even just widely perceived to have probably been involved, it could be very damaging for their election chances, and for their chances of negotiating a coalition with Winston Peters.

Other possibilities shouldn’t be ruled out. Because it was predictable that National would be implicated they could have been set up here.

I don’t think Winston has has embarrassed himself.

Who would do that? Who has been gunning for National and English for months?

Yesterday morning on Whale Oil Face of the Day:

But what you have here is one of Bill English’s failed hit jobs.  Leaked via Tolley, the NZ Herald has tried to make it stick.

Don’t you love election time?

Oh, and it’s not dirty politics if they don’t use blogs.

That’s an accusation yesterday that it was “leaked via Tolley”. Even if it was someone seems to have leaked that information to Whale Oil. They could just have easily leaked straight to Whale Oil.

And being unable to resist bragging Whale oil has more today: “The Herald can reveal” something Whaleoil published yesterday

It was leaked to “the media” days after it was “leaked to Whaleoil”.   We sat on it for the weekend, but first thing Monday morning, we wrote…

…what I have quoted above.

And as we know about the New Zealand Herald, first they will take the leak and make it a story and then they make the leaker a story.  Two stories for the price of one, especially when the first hit fails.  Winston ends up being the victim here instead of the villain.

God what a bunch of amateurs on the 9th floor.  Especially Eagleson.  You’d think he’d have learned a thing or two back in the day.   It seems not.

Now they are all running for cover and doing Sgt Shultz impressions.  And you know what I always say:  It’s not the original offence, it’s the cover-up that gets you.   

Anne Tolley will have been told she’ll be looked after if things get too bad.   You see, it’s never the likes of Eagleson or English that will go down for this.  Releasing private MSD information on a political opponent is a career ending move.  And Tolley was told to do it.

Whenever John Key phoned he always made sure that I was to know that if Wayne called me that he was for all intents and purposes the same as Key… He would say “When Wayne speaks he speaks for me”.

So now Tolley has been told to hang in there.  She’ll be ok.  Just  look how that worked out for Jason Ede and Todd Barclay.

She has this morning to throw Eagleson under the bus and save her career.   Doubt she will have the smarts to do it.

Bill English is causing a lot of stress inside National.  As I predicted he is effing up the unlosable election and loyalty becomes paper-thin once people feel their own jobs are on the line.

If I knew about this before the Herald did, just think about how unhappy the people around Bill must be.

Of course, I decided to sit on it for a bit.   No point helping Bill out.  He’s too busy working his way into opposition.  Attacking Winston Peters like this has all but assured a Labour/NZ First government.

And I say this without a trace of smugness or satisfaction:  you all didn’t believe me.  You thought it was personal.  I told you Bill English is exactly what you are seeing now.  He was the wrong man for the job.   And I will not vote for National while he is in charge of it.   The man is not capable of being a party leader.

His real problem is that he’s lost the confidence of his team.  I knew days before the Herald knew.  And the Herald was leaked to as well.   These are the hallmarks of a power structure crumbling and falling to dust.

Whale Oil claims it was leaked to them first and they did nothing with it. That seems out of character going by past attention seeking.

They could be right, they could have been informed before anyone else, did nothing about it and waited to let it all turn to custard, then claim bragging rights afterwards.

If so then National deserves to be dumped in disgrace.

But at this stage I would prefer to keep an open mind on who is responsible.

What is most credible?

That National would blatantly abuse privacy in a political hit job knowing the spotlight would be on them, and knowing there was a huge political risk?

Or that Whale Oil would bring down the Government they have openly been trying to undermine and destroy for years – pretty much since National cut Cameron Slater loose after Dirty Politics broke during the last election campaign.

Slater has been noticeably out of the political loop for a long time, but suddenly he claims to know everything that has happened and everyone responsible.

That flashes some warning lights to me. he has a habit of throwing around incriminating and false claims.

There’s certainly dirty politics going on here. What’s not so clear is who is actually responsible.

There is a lot to clear up here. One that could do with clarification – Tolley is MSD. Peters claims that the leak came from IRD.