Bryce Edwards ' Opinion

Bryce Edwards is a lecturer in Politics at the University of Otago.

Bryce Edwards: Political round-up: Leaks and denials

Corrections Minister Judith Collins.  Photo / Sarah Ivey
Corrections Minister Judith Collins. Photo / Sarah Ivey

It's a sure sign a political scandal is about to get messier when politicians and bureaucrats start breaking ranks in obvious attempts at self-preservation. That's the feel the ACC quagmire is beginning to develop, as it threatens to engulf more victims.

The Prime Minister, having lost a senior minister only a week ago, has twice sought assurances from Judith Collins that she is not responsible for the leak of personal information sent to her by Michelle Boag - see John Hartevelt's Key seeks pledges on ACC mystery.

After last week's dithering, Key will be mindful that he needs to stay on top of Chapter 2, and it's little wonder he is seeking reassurance. Lianne Dalziel was forced to resign as a minister after falsely denying that a leak came from her office, so that bar has already been clearly set. To lose Collins now, just a week after Smith, would be a disaster - probably one that would set the tone for the remainder of National's second term.

As Patrick Gower reports in Speculation rife over ACC leak that with a limited number of suspects 'The other parties involved all deny the leak; while the intention seems to have been to discredit Bronwyn Pullar, it ended up wiping out Nick Smith. And whoever did it knows if they get found out, they will be next'.

Michelle Boag has reacted angrily to the implication by Collins that she may have leaked it herself, and fired back with 'When you can't send a communication to a Government minister without fearing that the privacy of that communication is going to be breached, that's very, very dangerous' - see Adam Bennett's Boag angrily denies leaking ACC email. Collins appears to be hedging her bets by not expressing unqualified confidence in ACC chairman John Judge, despite assurances from Judge that ACC was not the source of the leak - see TVNZ's ACC denies leaking information.

Greg Presland is on the case of this whodunit, examining the timing, motive and opportunity for the leak and concludes that the Herald probably received it from a 'friendly right wing blogger', which will make finding the original source more difficult - see: Was Nick Smith shot by friendly fire?.

In Dumber than a sack of hammers right wing blogger Cameron Slater attacks Boag and says anything sent to a Government minister is discoverable under the Official Information Act and, therefore, there is no privacy breach. The National Party is traditionally much better than Labour at closing ranks and containing divisions, but Robert Winter thinks this is clearly 'a faction fight and personal vendetta all rolled into one within the National Party' - see: Ms Boag points finger: Will Ms Collins resign?. And if you are still mulling over the rights and wrongs of Nick Smith's resignation the Political Scientist blog has an interesting discussion on the definitions of corruption and cronyism - see: The banality of corruption.

It would have been fascinating to know what was going through Judith Collins' head yesterday as she announced an overhaul of the Privacy Act. There is broad agreement that the 20-year-old law needs an overhaul, particularly with the massive changes in technology during that period - see: Paloma Migone's Privacy laws to be overhauled. Privacy Commissioner Marie Shroff is concerned, however, that many important recommendations from the Law Commission are not included, particularly increasing the Commissioners investigative powers and ability to force compliance on those who breach the act - see: Radio New Zealand's Urgent changes 'missing' from privacy overhaul and listen to Shroff interviewed here). In light of Chris Cairns' recent defamation case, centred around a Twitter comment, lawyer Mai Chen lists a number of recent privacy issues involving social media. Chen argues that updating the legislation, resources and powers of the Privacy Commissioner needs to be an urgent priority - see: Regulators need to run to catch social media.

In other articles of note, Gordon Campbell (as always) has a timely and detailed backgrounder on the problems other countries have with Huawei, the Chinese multinational involved in building New Zealand's ultra-fast broadband network - see: On the Chinese cyber security threat; Chris Trotter looks at the system that has produced companies like Huawai and finds our refusal to acknowledge its advantages a problem in Pragmatic capitalism 'works' - it built New Zealand; Brian Rudman calls the Tea tape saga a waste of police time; Robert Winter has a guesstimate of around $21 million loss for the Ports of Auckland if the dispute goes all the way to May, as appears likely - see: Cost of the Ports Dispute?. Although a rough figure, it may be the best on offer as No Right Turn has discovered via an Official Information Act request that no one at the Auckland Council or its subsidiaries appears to have made any attempt to calculate the cost of the dispute - see: Asleep at the wheel.

Finally, in The obfuscutory art of knowing nothing Jane Clifton compares Gerry Brownlee to the Hogan's Heroes character Sergeant Schultz for his 'I know nuz-ZINK!' stance in the House yesterday. It's a sentiment that a lot of Finn's would probably agree with at the moment.

Bryce Edwards

Bryce Edwards is a lecturer in Politics at the University of Otago.

Bryce Edwards is a lecturer in Politics at the University of Otago. He teaches and researches on New Zealand politics, public policy, political parties, elections, and political communication. His PhD, completed in 2003, was on 'Political Parties in New Zealand: A Study of Ideological and Organisational Transformation'. He is currently working on a book entitled 'Who Runs New Zealand? An Anatomy of Power'. He is also on the board of directors for Transparency International New Zealand.

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