The ACC saga

March 20th, 2012 at 2:40 pm by David Farrar

I’d not yet blogged on the saga as there were not enough facts out there to form conclusions on. I also have been wary as I know reasonably well several of the people involved – , and .

Like  many in National I knew Bronwyn before her head injury nine years ago. Head injuries can leave people massively affected, and this has been the case for Bronwyn.  My mother practised as a neuropsychologist and was involved in the Head Injury Society, so through her I have gained a reasonable lay understanding of head injuries, and especially how many people never fully recover from them.

It is precisely for injuries like Bronwyn suffered that we have ACC. Now Bronwyn has felt for some years that she had been badly treated by ACC, and also her private insurers off memory. Her battles with them have to some degree become quite consuming for her. I don’t know the details of all the issues, but I will say that from what I do know I think Bronwyn has had some legitimate grievances. That doesn’t mean all the grievances are legitimate – I am not in a position to judge that.

Having set out that background, I do believe Bronwyn made an error of judgement when she was accidentially e-mailed an ACC spreadsheet which included some client details. The correct thing to do would be to immediately notify ACC, and delete the file. It would be fine to perhaps record down a few details from them as proof the data breach occurred, and complain to the Privacy Commissioner. But retaining the data was unwise.

The fact that there is a dispute over who was laying down conditions over its return, reinforces to me that deleting or returning the data was what should have happened.

There has been some focus on the role of Michelle Boag. Yes Michelle is a former National Party President, but that was a decade ago. For much longer than that she has been Bronwyn’s friend. I do not accept that a former party president can not be a support person to someone dealing with a government agency.

It is entirely natural, and in fact advisable, that someone with a head injury has a support person along.

Then we have the letter from Nick Smith, which the Herald has online here. As Nick has now conceded it was an error of judgement. You can quibble over the fact the letter was to independent medical assessors, not ACC. But the reality is Nick should have declined to write the letter at all, just as he had also declined to intervene with ACC. There were many other people who could write a letter about how Bronwyn was before her accident.

Doing the letter on parliamentary letterhead compounded the failure of judgement.

While a failure of judgement, I was pleased to see a journalist tweet that David Shearer had declined to say he thinks the lapse in judgement was serious enough to warrant resignation. It isn’t, and it is good to see Shearer not trying to beat this up, beyond the rightful criticism that is due. If there was some suggestion of self-gain, then it would be a different matter.

The Privacy Commissioner is going to investigate this issue, and she is independent. It remains to be seen how wide her terms of reference will be. I’m not actually against a fuller independent inquiry, because while I do not think anyone has acted with malign motives, the perception is that it is very murky and sunlight is the best disinfectant. However it might be that the Privacy Commissioner inquiry will be wide enough.

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41 Responses to “The ACC saga”

  1. CJPhoto (218 comments) says:

    So in summary, this maybe the first ever event where the only person in the right was David Shearer.

    Good to see – not everything is about political point scoring.

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  2. excusesofpuppets (134 comments) says:

    Now Shearer says that it was stupid and he would expect one of his ministers to resign if they had done something similar…

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  3. Bevan (3,965 comments) says:

    Wait, David Shearer would expect one of his ministers to resign if they wrote a letter of reference?????

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  4. flipper (3,768 comments) says:

    Thanks for that DPF

    Errors and poor judgment all around.
    Boag – An “over-dressed” non issue, even though the media wishes to create one.
    Pullar – Sad about the head injury. I had not grasped that point before. I presume that this injury has resulted in on-going and consequential problems for Pullar. If that is so, it would be appropriate for some folk to moderate their stance and let enquiries take their full course.
    Nicky Smith – Silly man, but was his letter as an MP on HoR paper or as Minister for ACC?

    [DPF: It was his MP for Nelson letterhead, but does mention his ministerial portfolios]

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  5. Scott Chris (5,947 comments) says:

    A minor error of judgement on Nick Smith’s part. Very minor. No big deal.

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  6. tvb (4,234 comments) says:

    Boag went along to send a message that Pullar has “friends” in the Government – why else take her. And if you did NOT want to send that message then DON”T take Boag of all people. Yes sure take Boag to any old meeting as a support person but not to THAT meeting when you are applying pressure on the Corporation over their information sent in error. This is bad very bad. I am unsure whether a criminal offence was committed but no doubt the Corporation is looking into it. As I have said Boag every now and then causes problems for the National Party. That woman has very poor judgment.

    [DPF: Tim, she took Michelle because she is her friend. I suspect she has taken Michelle for many years as her advocate, even when there was a different Government.

    The details of who said what at that meeting are murky. I look forward to the investigation]

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  7. Nostalgia-NZ (4,993 comments) says:

    Qualified letter, and harmless enough in any event. Don’t particularly like the speculation about the effects of the injury.

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  8. Adolf Fiinkensein (2,815 comments) says:

    A gift for the PM who now will be able to shuffle the hapless Smith to one side and, in a year or so, quietly kick the ETS into touch, following on Tony Abbot’s repeal of Gillards damn fool carbon tax and its ensuing ETS.

    Ain’t politics a bitch?

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  9. tvb (4,234 comments) says:

    Nick Smth’s involvement underscores my deep misgivings on his political skills generally. Now he is to handle Local Government reform. I hope John Key keeps a very close eye on that and questions Smith very very closely on his political strategy. [Smith will not have one beyond treating them like naughty children].

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  10. plebe (271 comments) says:

    Im not from the left or right ,im just a member of the public voting anyway, but god damn it,Michelle Boag and Nick Smith look really bad and your friend Pullar(Mr Farrar)she could face time(i would charge her)What is it with Smith a old fart from the past NO BRAINS, do they all want to trough out, and CANDYFLOSS key has sweeped it under the carpet.What a piss into the wind govt rules us.even the dompost says NZ is in the doldrumsIE WE ARE FUCKED
    KEY the man bringing unemployment to you soon, a candyfoss money marketdealer with no ideas and vision.
    ps look over your shoulders national supporters, redundancy could be comming. :O))

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  11. PaulL (5,969 comments) says:

    Plebe….pull the other one. Not from the left or right. Heh. Still laughing.

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  12. big bruv (13,454 comments) says:

    Please let this whole saga result in the resignation from the house of Nick Smith. The man is more suited to the Greens and Labour anyway.

    On another subject, does anybody know why the Whale has such a hard on for Boag?

    I don’t really care what the reason is as I am indifferent it just seems that Cameron is vicious in his pursuit of her.

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  13. tvb (4,234 comments) says:

    David you and I will have to disagree about Boag’s role. Boag went to send a message to the Corporation that Puller has friends in the Government. And if it was NOT intended to send that message then Boag should not have gone. I am sure Puller has other “friends” surely.

    [DPF: For the record, Michelle has been attending meetings with Bronwyn for many years as her support person, including when Labour was Govt. Your suggestion she was doing it to show she had friends in Govt is unfounded.

    If you ever had a head injury, you would probably hope to have a friend who will help advocate for you]

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  14. PaulL (5,969 comments) says:

    tvb: other friends who know their way around govt? If I was going into a meeting like that, I’d take someone who knew what tricks the bureaucracy would pull. I think you’re looking too hard for sinister motives.

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  15. Inky_the_Red (743 comments) says:

    I can’t see how any reasonable minister would think that is ok. Has the PM lost the plot?

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  16. lastmanstanding (1,233 comments) says:

    Nothing to see here Move on

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  17. tvb (4,234 comments) says:

    PaulL this was an attempt at forcing the Corporation to pay money to get their information back. The lawfulness of that is questionable. Puller would be better placed to take a lawyer rather than a thug with lipstick on.

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  18. Paul Marsden (989 comments) says:

    Perception is everything which makes this oh so wrong, no matter how you look at it. Smith continues to err and needs to go asap, taking with him the largest scam the world has ever known.

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  19. graham lowe_nz (11 comments) says:

    boag beat cams dad to become the nat president

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  20. grumpyoldhori (2,412 comments) says:

    Time for the ACC to video all meetings with so called clients and so called supporters then if there is ever a hint of blackmail the video can go straight to the cops.
    And yes in my view it passes the smell test for blackmail so the cops should be involved.
    As for Smith, jeez wayne we pay these people well for their expertise, what expertise.

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  21. Sofia (826 comments) says:

    It is obvious that at some point Bronwyn Pullar asked ACC for some reference material in relation to her case and was sent the sensitive information instead.

    The question surely is – Did she do anything other than sit on it and possibly intimate something was required of ACC for its return or deletion?
    In that regard has Pullar, and Boag, attempted blackmail?

    and
    • Should the staff member who sent the material by mistake be dismissed?
    • Why did the sensitive material exist as that file anycase
    • How was it available to the staff member that it could be so mistakenly sent [like just sitting in her computer with easy access?]
    • It has been suggested the file is a monthly compilation – why and who normally gets such a sensitive compilation?
    • Why has one ACC client received apologies from nine ACC staff when she was assured that only three staff would be the most to ever see her information?

    This could divert and waste ACC funds for quite a while yet

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  22. publicwatchdog (2,227 comments) says:

    Perhaps it’s time for an enforceable ‘Code of Conduct’ for NZ MPs – so that there are clear guidelines to help guide their behaviour?

    Especially given that MPs help make the rules for everyone else?

    And especially given the international ‘perception’ that NZ is ‘the least corrupt country in the world’?

    Penny Bright

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  23. big bruv (13,454 comments) says:

    Penny

    Perhaps it is time for people like you to be prosecuted for your illegal acts.

    Why is it that you think the law should apply to everybody but you?

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  24. graham (2,250 comments) says:

    Penny

    Perhaps it’s time for an enforceable ‘Code of Conduct’ for self-proclaimed “public watchdogs” – so that those who steal water and encourage others to do the same, and threaten to steal electricity; who stand for public officeand vandalise billboards of the other candidates; would realise how out-of-line they really are …

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  25. publicwatchdog (2,227 comments) says:

    Perhaps it’s time you PUT up or SHUT up, ‘Big Bruv’ and ‘Graham’?

    If you think that I have broken the law – DON’T JUST WHINE ABOUT IT – lay charges.

    Don’t just talk about it – DO IT.

    If John Banks thought that I had ‘vandalised’ his election hoardings – why didn’t he lay charges?

    I wasn’t exactly secretive about stapling my (authorised) message on top of his hoardings – and was prepared to defend what I had done in Court.

    You remember those LOVELY photos?

    http://www.pennybright4epsom.org.nz

    So – why DIDN’T John Banks lay charges?

    And if John Banks didn’t lay charges – why don’t you whine at him for not doing so?

    (yawn………………)

    Penny Bright
    ‘Anti-corruption campaigner’

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  26. wreck1080 (3,787 comments) says:

    The more I think about this, the more I believe Nick Smith should resign or be fired.

    His actions were outrageous. It is not just a slip, he sent this in his elected capacity as the minister of ACC to apply pressure to accept this womans claim.

    The only alternative explanation could be that Nick Smith is a dimwit.

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  27. big bruv (13,454 comments) says:

    Penny

    How do I lay charges against a squatter?

    What address do I use?…..C/O Aotea Square?

    By the way….how is the occupation going these days Penny?

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  28. Tom Barker (124 comments) says:

    “Nothing to see here Move on”

    I was wondering who would be the first to pull out this phrase. Which means, in this case – “Nothing we want our political opponents to see here – move on.”

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  29. the deity formerly known as nigel6888 (857 comments) says:

    No. Bad call DPF.

    This is an open and shut case of standover tactics against ACC. Nick Smith may be just guilty of stupidity, but Boag and her mate knew exactly what they were doing.

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  30. Joseph Carpenter (210 comments) says:

    Nick Smith fires from the hip without engaging his brain, again. Any chance Nick will repay the NZ taxpayers the $209,000.00 he still owes them for his personal defence in the Osmose case? waiting, waiting….

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  31. Keeping Stock (10,161 comments) says:

    Irony alert; Penny Bright tells someone else to “put up or shut up”

    Glad I didn’t have a mouthful of coffee when I read that, or I’d need a new keyboard!

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  32. bka (135 comments) says:

    At http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/6603029/Sacking-call-over-ministers-ACC-letter in the section where they have apparently been talking to Nick Smith “She had come back to him to say ACC was claiming she was not employable or not in a fit state of health prior to the accident.” His letter directly addresses this issue.
    In his letter he says “It would be inappropriate for me to comment on Bronwyn’s ACC claim issues as a friend, given my current role as Minister.”

    It is not really a failure of judgement when you know something is wrong but you do it anyway.

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  33. Manolo (13,514 comments) says:

    Failure of judgment? I doubt it. More like incompetence.
    Smith should and must be sacked.

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  34. RandySavage (199 comments) says:

    Ill ignore the opening statement because its a terrible piece of hand wringing, ass covering crap
    Smith should go, end of story

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  35. wreck1080 (3,787 comments) says:

    Not incompetence, it is corruption. Minor corruption, but, corruption nonetheless. And, even the tiniest amount of corruption is unacceptable unless we want it to escalate. You see, thats how corruption works.

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  36. Manolo (13,514 comments) says:

    By tolerating and abetting Smith, Key shows he’s no different from the corrupt Clark.
    We’re destined to be ruled by people devoid of principles.

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  37. graham (2,250 comments) says:

    Well Penny, I find it interesting that every time I raise these issues, you choose to focus on the billboards rather than the issue of you stealing water.

    As far as the billboards go, I’ve offered my guess as to why John Banks didn’t bother laying charges. I suspect it was because he:
    a. is more mature than you
    b. saw it for what it really was – a mere publicity stunt
    c. realised that sometimes, when a little child throws a tantrum, it’s best to just ignore it

    I’m more interested in the stealing of water, and the threats by you to steal the Auckland City Council’s electricity.

    Put up or shut up, you say? Well, the proof of the first issue is here:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FzccHIB3paQ

    As for the second issue, it was documented in the minutes of the Occupy’s General Assembly meeting held sometime in November last year. I can no longer find these minutes on the website … now at this point, if I was you, I would probably start screaming about a CONSPIRACY (note the capital letters, they’re VERY IMPORTANT for making your point, apparently) …

    … but I can’t be bothered screaming. You see, I (and the vast majority of people on this website, I suspect):

    a. have a real job that takes up a lot of time and energy – which is fine, that’s what I get paid for
    b. find you, Penny Bright, to be unworthy of expending a vast amount of time and energy on.

    I would expand a bit on this, but I see I’ve already used up my allotted 10 minutes, so toodles. I’m back to work.

    Oh, and before you ask … why yes, I AM having a LOVELY day! :)

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  38. Richard29 (377 comments) says:

    This seems like a storm in a teacup – but just like the teapot tapes this could drag on and be unnecessarily damaging if it is handled badly.

    The party positions as stated in this article:
    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/politics/news/article.cfm?c_id=280&objectid=10793479

    National:
    “Mr Key has accepted Dr Smith’s apology for his behaviour and continues to back him.”

    NZ First:
    “Winston Peters called for Dr Smith to resign or be removed from Cabinet”

    Labour:
    “David Shearer last night called for Dr Smith to resign or be sacked”

    Greens:
    “The Greens called for Auditor General Lyn Provost to investigate the matter, and said Dr Smith should be stood down until that is completed.”

    It’s interesting that Shearer feels he needs to take a position that is more extreme than either NZ First or the Greens (Winston is saying he should be removed from cabinet not sacked) so much for a move to the centre.

    Given the way this is unravelling and new details keep coming out I think the Greens are probably right. Stand him down for a couple of months while an independent review is conducted then if it clears him he can be reinstated. The most likely scenario is that the AG gives him a rap over the knuckles for a poorly considered letter of support and that’s the end of it. It depoliticises it, kills the issue in the media, removes it as a weapon for the opposition and gives his reinstatement independent legitimacy if (or when) he is cleared.

    I suspect JK won’t do that:
    - Nick is supposed to be pushing through local government reform right now and he won’t want to change him out in the middle of it.
    - JK thinks he’s in the right and won’t want to got through the AG process to prove it (the teapot saga shows he can be stubborn and stick to his guns even when it is politically damaging when he thinks he’s in the right)
    - I’m not sure how standing him down would impact votes? Would standing him down lose his vote? National has a one vote majority to push through asset sales – so losing a single MP could serious screw with the governments agenda. JK doesn’t want to be in the situation that Helen Clark was with Winston where everybody knew he should have been sacked, but sacking Winston and losing NZ First would have cost her a majority so instead she humiliatingly backed him as progressively more and more painful details were dragged out in the media.

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  39. wreck1080 (3,787 comments) says:

    Is corruption a storm in a teacup? I think not.

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  40. KevinH (1,142 comments) says:

    Although John Key was quick to defend Nick Smith for his error of judgement, there is an element of Nick being hung out there with the release of the contentious letter.
    The Dom is reporting a change of heart from John Key:
    http://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/news/politics/6608542/Calls-for-Nick-Smiths-head-over-ACC.

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  41. unicorn (1 comment) says:

    Hey GRUMPYOLDHORI!! Your comment shows a huge lack of insight into the actual events within ACC. They couldnt possibly have videos of meetings between ACC staff and claimants (valid ones or otherwise). Otherwise, there would be proof of their (ACCs) blackmailing, threatening, bullying, and downright rude treatment of the claimants. The technology has been around for a very long time now, and have you ever wondered WHY they dont use it! DOH!!

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