The Privileges Committee inquiry into the leak inqiuriy

August 23rd, 2013 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

My interpretation of the two days of hearings into the leak inquiry is that it was basically a SNAFU. By that I mean there was no malicious intent by everyone – just that many parties involved made incorrect assumptions, and/or didn’t check.

I think the first error was not an appreciation that this inquiry was a bit different to other leak inquiries as the major focus was on whether a Minister leaked it, not a government employee (like in the MFAT leak). When you are dealing with employees a leak inquiry is on far more solid ground – the employers have total authorised access to all work data around their employees – their swipe card records, their e-mails, their photocopier logs and the like. But Ministers and MPs are different, as are journalists when it involves their use of parliamentary resources.

So some criticism to DPMC for not seeing (but hindsight is wonderful) that this inquiry is different to others, and having more specific terms of reference and powers about what the inquiry should and should not be able to seek.

Some criticism also to David Henry for not setting clear processes around seeking of data with agency chief executives. It seems the approach as along the lines of let’s ask for everything we can think of, and up to them to say no. Again, no appreciation of the senstivity when dealing with MPs that they are not in the same constitutional position as employees.

And also some criticism for Parliamentary Service for not having clear policies on when data can and can not be released, and who should be consulted or approve any release. Also the fact that data was being exchanged it seems at pretty much a junior staff level. PS should have recognised the sensitivity of such requests and made sure no data was handed over unless it was operating on a clearly understood basis of who should be saying yes to what.

So no malice involved anywhere, just a lack of overall co-ordination both within agencies and between them. I hope will have some useful recommendations on how to avoid a repeat.

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34 Responses to “The Privileges Committee inquiry into the leak inqiuriy”

  1. lazza (381 comments) says:

    Yep just another cock-up. Geez when will our public services (local as well as central government) pull finger and properly perform.

    Answer … WHEN WE INSIST UPON IT!

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  2. alloytoo (542 comments) says:

    I disagree, Ministers are our employees. (otherwise we shouldn’t have to pay their inflated salaries)

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  3. Bob R (1,375 comments) says:

    Apart from journalists & MP’s I wonder if many people find the fuss over this to be blown out of proportion? Certainly most of the letters I saw, after Vance wrote about how angry she was, didn’t express much sympathy for her.

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  4. Redbaiter (8,823 comments) says:

    How about a ruling on so called journalists, and one that makes it clear to them that if they engage in any dishonesty, they will be prosecuted the same as any other NZ citizen would be.

    If she is a suspect in any law breaking event, then Andrea Vance’s emails should be looked at, the same as anyone else’s.

    After all, these hypocritical scum never gave a damn about publishing Don Brash’s emails.

    I think the leak of the Kitteredge report should be more fully probed, and if in the end it proves that Dunne and Vance were behind it, then jail both of them for five years.

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  5. Ian McK (237 comments) says:

    Redbaiter: You are right on the money, the likes of Vance are nothing but scum, and stoop to any depths to appease their filthy left-wing ideals.

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  6. Pete George (23,562 comments) says:

    I think the first error was not an appreciation that this inquiry was a bit different to other leak inquiries as the major focus was on whether a Minister leaked it, not a government employee …

    The first significant error comes before this – choosing to focus almost entirely on one Minister with no evidence, just (false) assumptions.

    The leaker could as easily be an employee as a Minister. That’s still unknown.

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  7. flipper (4,060 comments) says:

    alloytoo (195) Says:
    August 23rd, 2013 at 1:13 pm
    I disagree, Ministers are our employees. (otherwise we shouldn’t have to pay their inflated salaries)
    *****

    Oh horse shit.
    You clearly do NOT understand the constitutional position.

    Yes, we elect MPs. Some are then chosen by themselves to be ” Ministers”. At that point their roles and responsibilities evolve to cover their respective portfolios.

    Are they accountable?
    Yep, but apart from the Parliament, only to a private citizen with pockets as deep (and liquid) as the Todd Family, Douglas Myers, Alan Gibbs, Bob Jones, Hart and the like. Only folks like them can really challenge Ministers and Departments via a JR. The Crown, when that situation has arisen in the past, has looked for an escape route. But the Crown (Collins) has made a mistake on Bain/Binnie because essentially Reed is acting pro bono, and is assisted pro bono, by Professor Joseph (CU), the nation’s foremost authority on public law. The JR will have Collins scalp unless she plays Pora as her ” get out of jail card”

    Salaries ..Peanuts.
    Not one Minister approaches the salary level of a well paid local Govt. or departmental head. That is wrong.

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  8. flipper (4,060 comments) says:

    Geez Red1080bait……..
    What did you buy at the legal high stores this morning?

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  9. smttc (752 comments) says:

    I thought the issue here was journos and Ministers, not MPs in general. And I agree with the PM that he is entitled to expect his Ministers to cooperate with an inquiry. Otherwise they must hand in their warrant.

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  10. UglyTruth (4,551 comments) says:

    If she is a suspect in any law breaking event, then Andrea Vance’s emails should be looked at, the same as anyone else’s.

    After all, these hypocritical scum never gave a damn about publishing Don Brash’s emails.

    Suspicion and warrant are two different things.

    If you base your own standards of action on those of a hypocrite then you are no better than them.

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  11. Bob R (1,375 comments) says:

    ***The first significant error comes before this – choosing to focus almost entirely on one Minister with no evidence, just (false) assumptions.***

    @ Pete George,

    What false assumptions? Also, Dunne invited suspicion by his refusal to release some of his correspondence with Vance.

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  12. Pete George (23,562 comments) says:

    Bob R – Henry directed all his suspicions at Dunne before Dunne refused to release the contents of the emails.

    I wonder how Key would have felt if he or his staff had been suspected by Henry and an increasing amount of metadata and contents were accessed from them without them knowing. Henry’s reason for suspicion were very flimsy.

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  13. Bob R (1,375 comments) says:

    ***Salaries ..Peanuts.
    Not one Minister approaches the salary level of a well paid local Govt. or departmental head. That is wrong.***

    Indeed. The departmental heads are overpaid.

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  14. backster (2,171 comments) says:

    Had Henry not conducted his enquiry in the manner he did he would have got no result, just a waste of money and time as most of the previous enquiries into similar leaks have been. Parliament should decide whether it wants results or it wants procrastination and waste. Well done David Henry.

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  15. Pete George (23,562 comments) says:

    backster – Henry got no result apart from insinuation and accusation based on no evidence. Despite (according to many) exceeding his authority he found no evidence of who leaked.

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  16. nickb (3,687 comments) says:

    And it is that kind of use of the facts which will serve our PG well in his bid to enter politics.

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  17. BeaB (2,123 comments) says:

    I think Dunne and Vance have far more questions to answer.
    As for her journalistic ethics, don’t make me laugh. Flattering and flirting with a silly, vain middle-aged man and then slipping into his office when she knew he was out.

    Like the Labour crowd. All professing loyalty, support, happiness with the polls and leadership – and now this. What liars they all are.

    And how ready to stab anyone in the back despite all the outraged squeals about privacy.

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  18. Boglio (78 comments) says:

    What a useless way to hold a hearing where the parties being looked at do not have to produce what could give a result. With the Ministers and Journalists having their communications privileged and not accessible it begs belief why they should waste our money on a toothless inquiry

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  19. peterwn (3,271 comments) says:

    The biggest issue, and the one most easily addressed by MP’s (especially via Parliamentary Services Committee) is Parliamentary Services itself. A second issue is whether the various ‘groups’ such as MP’s, Ministers and Press Gallery should share phone and IT services – there is a big factor of convenience here (eg in the pre Beehive days, Ministers’ offices could not be accessed via the Parliamentary switchboard – they had quite separate outside numbers). However if the CEO of Parliamentary Services had produced policy on this, there would not be a problem – eg PM can access Ministers’ metadata, newspaper managers/ editors Press Gallery info, leaders respective MPs’ information, much of the problem would go away.

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  20. Paulus (2,627 comments) says:

    But it fails to answer my real problem. This is all flim flam.

    Who Leaked the Kitteridge Report to Vance ?

    I get the impression from Fairfax that somebody did.

    Was it really Dunne – I am still most unsure that he did it, and accept his word when he said he did not.

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  21. Sadu (129 comments) says:

    An inquiry into the inquiry?

    This sounds a lot like a Dilbert cartoon.

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  22. NeutralObserver (95 comments) says:

    Yes Iazza – why can’t they do the job properly like..I don’t know…Fonterra, South Canterbury Finance or Lehman brothers

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  23. Redbaiter (8,823 comments) says:

    “Was it really Dunne – I am still most unsure that he did it, and accept his word when he said he did not.”

    Why did he resign?

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  24. tas (625 comments) says:

    An inquiry into the inquiry leak inquiry? This is getting ridiculous.

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  25. smttc (752 comments) says:

    Redbaiter, don’t be disingenuous.

    Dunne resigned to avoid the embarrassment of having his emails disclosed. But probably not for the reason you insinuate.

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  26. doggone7 (801 comments) says:

    All the fuss, all the to do. All the very highly paid people. People being paid money many can only dream about. People working in the Parliamentary industry whence regularly come the calls to the citizenry about accountability and shortage of money.

    Ignore assumptions and suspicions. Who did the leaking?

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  27. Ian McK (237 comments) says:

    Your heading appears to have been entered by a Fairfax employee!

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  28. tvb (4,421 comments) says:

    No one should have a blanket exemption but it depends on the nature of the leak. This leak inquiry was in the nature of the breaking of an embargo. Though it was important to eliminate the possibility the journalist could have got the top secret appendices. It seems she did not because her source did not have them. But if a journalist got top secret material that could cause grave damage to our interests who is to say that journalist will NOT place that material in the wrong hands. Blanket policies cannot apply everything must be on its merits.

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  29. peterwn (3,271 comments) says:

    flipper

    Re Bain – The judiciary (via judicial review) can only indicate the matters to be considered, the steps that should be taken and the relevant law in considering a compensation claim. While the judiciary at the most might possibly be able to put words into her mouth on what she should advise Cabinet, the final decision would be at Cabinet’s discretion. Also as far as I can see, the Cabinet is not bound to abide by the Cabinet Manual – it is not an enactment. Anyone doing ‘business’ with the Cabinet eg Ministers, Cabinet Committees, departments, etc needs to abide by the Cabinet Manual or the submission may not make it to the Cabinet table. IMO Judith Collins has the perfect answer to Bain’s claim if she chose to give it – “I am not even going to take it to Cabinet”. As far as Professor Joseph is concerned, he is advocating on behalf of David Bain, so of course he will try and argue hard that Judith Collins and Cabinet are constrained in how they reach a decision. If he is advocating for someone else later he may whistle an opposite tune if this suits the case.

    The Bain claim is a political matter at the end of the day. The ‘legal action’ being taken is probably more application of public relations pressure rather than in the belief that the courts will tell Cabinet what to do..

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  30. flipper (4,060 comments) says:

    Peterwn..

    But you forget Susan Couch do you not?

    Cabinet’s manual is nothing but an administrative handbook which has no force in law (and no one has been able to show otherwise to my knowledge). Ergo its statements in relation to compensation are wishful thinking by Crown Law (which is why they opposed adoption if the Law Commission’s recommendations on an independent tribunal) and applicable only to half-hearted applicants.

    As I have said on other matters, were it an argument involving, say, the Todd family, Douglas Myers, Bob Jones , and the like, the crown would bail out – quickly. Those folk have deep, deep pockets.

    Now to return to Bain:
    • Bain sought compensation for wrongful imprisonment.
    • Bain agreed that if an independent authority (inquiry) were appointed to review his application, he would accept the outcome – which ever way it went.
    • Cabinet and S. Power appointed an internationally respected jurist, I. Binnie.
    • I Binnie found in favour of and, and recommended compensation.
    • I Binnie noted that it was for the Cabinet to determine quantum.
    • Collins and her conspirators unilaterally rejected Binnie, and engaged in a process that is contrary to natural justice – and to the pre inquiry agreement.
    • All Collins’ actions are reviewable (JR) by the HC (plus any appeals to CoA and SC)
    • Currently the Crown is shit scared of the consequences. The more they dig themselves in the worse it becomes.
    • Internationally, the NZ Judiciary and leading QCs are feeing heat over the treatment of Binnie by Collins, Police Crown Law and Fisher.
    • At the end of all this, if the Crown does not follow Muldoon on Thomas (over the dead body of CL/Police) a BORA action, a la Couch, will surely follow.
    • Binnie’s report and possible personal evidence would inevitably be part of that.
    Others may be able to argue it better, one way or the othrer. But the traditional Crown Law/Cabinet brick wall has already been breached. If is in danger of complete collapse. That would be a very good thing for New Zealand, and far more important to a modern democracy than all the GCSB crap we have heard from the MSM over recent months.

    Nice, nice Saturday afternoon here. :)

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  31. flipper (4,060 comments) says:

    Peterwn…
    One further thing, I understand on good authority, that Ian Binnie has been kept informed of developments, including comment outside legal/judicial circles.

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  32. burt (8,269 comments) says:

    I can hardly wait for Winston to start grandstanding about the highest court in the land – if he does somebody remind him that after he was found to have misled parliament and the public that his punishment was to re-file his incorrect electoral returns and then he had to … wait for it …. tell us to move on.

    He didn’t resign… he wasn’t fined…. there was no accountability – he was proven to be a liar and dear leader Clark was quite happy to keep his vote and he was happy to stay pretending the privileges committee outcome was irrelevant to his god given right to keep his snout in the trough.

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  33. Nookin (3,341 comments) says:

    “…a BORA action, a la Couch, will surely follow.”

    Couch has absolutely nothing to do with Bain, Thomas, BORA or the cabinet manual. Couch took an action for exemplary damages alleging negligence of a nature that entitled her to exemplary damages. She was not entitled to compensation because it is precluded by the ACC scheme. The crown was a defendant in civil proceedings based on a recognised cause of action. It chose to settle.

    Not all of Collins’ decisions are reviewable. The present action is novel and will define the parameters. (There is a distinction between bringing an action on the one hand and a court determining that the decision should be overturned on the other. )

    Even it the court finds that Collins acted beyond her powers ( which would be unusual because those powers are not defined) the Court still has a discretion to interfere or let the decision stand. It may very well say that regardless of whether Collins had a preconceived view or acted inappropriately, the Crown was justified in questioning the Binnie report (because of deficiencies) and there is no point in giving relief.

    Other possibilities include a direction that the Bain team be given the opportunity on commenting on the Fisher report although I doubt whether that would achieve a great deal.

    As Peterwn says, this is a matter of cabinet discretion

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  34. lazza (381 comments) says:

    Hey “Neutral_Observer Man/Girl?

    I did not exclude-exempt private Kiwi firms (although Fonterra is just a Gummint Dept in drag) from my remarks (above).

    But like the sign at the Pub says … “If our standards of service are not acceptable to you … then lower your standards”.

    NZ with its 100% Pure BS, its dodgy unaccountable Councils and the frankly dangerous deficiencies of many of Government Departments (Mines/CAA/Audit) … ALL of us are in the same boat.

    Manyana and Sheel be right is alive and well still, (Stuff it all, lets just go fishin!).

    We could! “do it” … witness the excellence of the multi-hull sailing San Fran bay at the minute.
    that we insisted at ALL levels on principled independently assessed performance improvements … just like I said OK? (above).

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