Dunne winners and losers

Wow, what a day. Who would have picked that Kim Dotcom would indirectly claim Peter Dunne as a victim. Of course in this case Dunne really victimised himself.

I thought I would look at the winners and losers in this affair. As part of that I should say that I am assuming that Peter Dunne did in fact leak the GCSB report to Andrea Vance, despite his denials. Sure he may not have given her a copy, but it seems clear he was the source for her story.

The probability that Dunne and Vance e-mailed 80 odd times in two weeks, mainly re the GCSB, that they were due to meet up the day before she published her story, that he admits he contemplated leaking it but changed his minds – well it would be an incredible coincidence that she happened to have a second source who also had a copy. I sadly have to conclude Peter Dunne is not telling the truth when he says he did not leak the report – or he is using a Clintonian definition of leak.

  Positives Negatives
Winston First Winston is the big winner in this. He gains two things he badly needs – credibility and relevance. One can say he is like a stopped clock – still accurate twice a day, but the reality is basically no-one believed him and he was right. The Henry report was always going to out Dunne, but Peters has managed to claim credit for it.


The other win for Winston is that with United Future all but dead electorally, that gives National one fewer option post 2014, which makes NZ First a more compelling option.

The only real negative for Winston is his churlish attacks on inquiry head David Henry. He accused the inquiry of being a cover up effectively, when in fact it forensically made its case against Dunne.
David Henry He did his job well, and exposed behaviour by a Minister incompatible with remaining a Minister. His reputation is enhanced. A worry that presumably a member of his team was leaking to Winston. Will there be an inquiry into the leak from the leak inquiry?
David Shearer One less option for John Key, puts Labour in a slightly better position, and Shearer’s chances of being PM elevated. Has been near invisible on this issue, and Peters stole the show.
John Key Commissioned an inquiry that actually found the leaker. Took decisive action and effectively sacked the Minister. The revelations around Dunne will dominate headlines for some days or weeks, knocking the Government’s good economic news to the back pages.


One less option post 2014 will increase speculation that a deal with NZ First will be needed.


Dunne remaining an MP and voting for the Government may be an issue for some. However the fact he is an electorate, not list, MP makes this less of an issue.

Peter Dunne Basically none. One could try to polish a turd and say his decision to release (most of) his e-mails, but protest the ones Vance sent to him is gentlemanly. Also now he is no longer a Minister, his swing vote will become more sought after. And he has finally managed to shake the gray man image.  But these are all trying to see a silver lining. Basically his political career is over. United Future is over. I can’t imagine Dunne will contest Ohariu again, and his record of being a moderate sensible MP who could serve constructively in Bolger, Clark and Key Governments is over-whelmed by this indiscretion. A sad end to a career of good service.
Andrea Vance Vance is shown as a reporter who can develop and use sources to get exclusive stories.


She has become a household name.

She has become a household name.


Other potential sources will be rather wary of her in future.


Speculation on the nature of her relationship with Dunne is unpleasant to deal with. I’ll comment on this in more detail below.

Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga
Todd McClay
Paul Goldsmith
One of them could become the new Minister of Revenue outside Cabinet. Two of them won’t be. Also possible Key will just reassign portfolio to an existing Minister such as Coleman or Joyce.


The leak inquiry report has resulted in much speculation as to why Peter Dunne did it. Not only did he destroy his career, the actual leak was hugely inconvenient for the Government he was a member of. It over-shadowed the PM’s trip to China, and the unauthorised leak was quite destructive.

There is speculation that the relationship between Dunne and Vance may be more than professional. Normally this stuff would not be something I’d blog about – but when the result is a ministerial resignation due to a leak inquiry, it does become the elephant in the room.

Patrick Gower asked during the Dunne press conference if Dunne was besotted with Vance. He denied this, and said their relationship was professional.

The Herald editorial wonders aloud:

If it was Mr Dunne, which is the only conclusion available from his withholding an 86-email exchange with the Dominion Post reporter, what did he or his party have to gain? Was it the thrill of beating the Prime Minister to the punch, or the desire to stop the GCSB spinning its activities in a more favourable light? Or something not political at all?

John Armstrong also asks:

Why did he tell Vance he was about to be briefed on the contents of the report?

And why were he and Vance exchanging as many as 23 emails a day while Dunne was on holiday in the United States? Was it infatuation? The ex-minister says it wasn’t.

The public may never know exactly what happened. But Henry’s short report is long enough for people to be able to draw their own conclusions.

Another Herald story draws attention to their 300 tweets in the last six months.

There is a bit of a connection of all this to the MPs vs Media debate last month, which both Andrea and I took part in.

The debate two years ago had Darren Hughes in it, debating that politics was a grubby business. Weeks later it emerged he was under investigation by the Police over a sexual assault complaint.

In this debate there was much ribbing of Andrea over the tweets between her and Dunne. It was all in good humour, but again a few weeks later there is a revelation that there was more to it than just tweeting. That Dunne was, at a minimum, a frequent communication with her by e-mail also.

Some people think, or have assumed, there was an affair. I personally think this is not the case at all. Not because there are never affairs between MPs and journalists. There are. But because of the people involved. I know Andrea and her fiancée, whom Andrea moved to NZ to be with. Having observed them together, I would be absolutely amazed if there was any inappropriate behaviour on her part.  Even if she wasn’t engaged, I don’t think she is the sort of person into older married men – to be blunt.

Of course only two people can know for sure. And I have been wrong, as I was on Dunne not being the leaker. But I don’t think their relationship was anything beyond a journalist and a source.

Gower and Armstrong have speculated that Dunne was infatuated with her. I don’t think it was infatuation, but I do think there was probably an element that he found Vance very charming (which she is) and middle aged men will often do stupid things to please young charming women. I’m certainly proof positive of that!

It doesn’t mean you’re infatuated or besotted or even wanting anything beyond friendship, but that you just enjoy the friendship and will do things to help the other person out – and in this case to a degree that you throw common sense out the window.

Of course MPs and journalists do develop relationships for purely professional reasons also. It can be handy to an MP to have a journalist whom they can talk to off the record, and get things into the media they think deserve attention. And it is useful for journalists to have sources who will give them information. This happens all the time. Helen Clark was in fact a serial leaker (she once defended this by saying that by definition the PM can not leak). The key thing with MPs leaking to journalists is you don’t leak things that damage your own party or the Government – if you are part of it. And some things you never leak – and a GCSB report is definitely one of those.

The quantity of the e-mails between Vance and Dunne is certainly well in excess of most MP journalist professional relationships. In fact what surprised me is that they were e-mailing at all. Wasn’t Dunne aware all his e-mails are archived? That some e-mails are subject to the Official Information Act. Also often staff have access to a Minister’s e-mail account.

In one sense the fact they were e-mailing so much, lends me to conclude that Dunne is not a long-time leaker, and there was no affair. An experienced leaker would never be doing it by e-mail. And if you were having an affair, you wouldn’t be tweeting each other so much!

At the end of the day I think Vance just cultivated Dunne as a source. This is what journalists do. It’s actually called good journalism.

Finally, where does this go from here. My predictions:

  • The Police complaint will go nowhere. It is not a criminal matter. The report was not classified with a national security classification.
  • Peters or Labour may try file a privilege complaint alleging Dunne has misled Parliament with his answers at select committee.
  • Dunne’s belief that e-mails between MPs and others are private and should not be released may be tested under the Official Information Act. E-mails to an MP do not come under the OIA, but e-mails to a Minister in their ministerial capacity do. Was Dunne’s access to the GCSB report in his ministerial capacity or his party leader capacity. If the former, then e-mails to and from him may be discoverable under the OIA.
  • Labour and Winston may demand that Dunne resigns as an MP for (presumably) not telling the truth. The problem with this is the hypocrisy. Lianne Dalziel was found to have lied, and she got sacked as a Minister, not an MP. Also Peters himself was conclusively found by the Privileges Committee to have lied, and he did not resign as an MP – and in fact Labour backed him. The voters of Ohariu are the ones who will decide if Dunne remains an MP – should he choose to stand again.
  • Key is more likely to promote an MP to the vacancy, then just reallocate the portfolios.  I’d say Lotu-Iiga and McClay are most likely to step up if he does, but a dark horse could be Paul Goldsmith. Goldsmith has actually written a book on the history of taxation in New Zealand – pretty useful background for a Revenue Minister!

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