Audrey Young

Audrey Young is the New Zealand Herald’s political editor.

McCully not embarrassed by release of hacked emails

Murray McCully. File photo / Natalie Slade
Murray McCully. File photo / Natalie Slade

Foreign Minister Murray McCully says he is not embarrassed by the release of emails hacked from his private account last year, including one from MP and former diplomat John Hayes suggesting ways to help people in the region to "resist China."

Mr McCully said he saw no need to be contacting anyone about the emails.

"I don't think it is going to keep anyone awake in bed at night," he said today.

Mr Hayes was well known for his "plain speaking," Mr McCully said, adding that he was not confirming the authenticity of anything or commenting on material that was stolen.

The email, sent in April last year, is critical of the spending of two regional organisations, the Secretariat for the Pacific Community and the Pacific Islands Forum and says there is a case to bring them together.

"It would lessen dependence on Fiji and bring the whole region and its entities together in a way that might help people resist China."

Mr McCully's private account with Telecom's Xtra was hacked in April last year and has now been deactivated.

The emails were sent this week to TV3 by someone claiming to be part of the Russian hacking group The Comrades.

Mr McCully said he did not believe the hacker was Russian but would not elaborate on who he thought was responsible.

The message to TV3 was signed by someone called Yuri Petrov describing himself as "the leader of The Comrades, a back hat hacking group formed long ago in Russia."

Labour foreign affairs spokesman Phil Goff said the Government would be hugely embarrassed by the Hayes email.

It showed that assurances Mr McCully gave to Prime Minister John Key that there had been nothing sensitive in the emails had been misleading.

"China is going to read that as an understanding that its the Government's policy that they should be resisting Chinese influence in the Pacific, shared between the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the chairman of the foreign affairs select committee.

"It will be very embarrassing to them because that is not the sort of language or the sort of message they will be giving directly to those organisations."

Mr Hayes, who specialised in the Pacific, is now Mr McCully's parliamentary private secretary.

In the email he also suggested areas in which the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade could be overstaffed.

Ministry chief executive John Allen will today outline a plan to staff that could see 200 jobs cut.

Mr McCully said last night it was an honest attempt by Mr Allen and his senior team to focus the ministry's resources to serve New Zealand's interests in a modern world.

"As far as I am concerned, it is not a budget driven process. It is a process designed to modernise the ministry."

He said he had not taken Mr Hayes' advice on staffing cuts "but it would be fair to say that over a significant period of time I have been made aware of his views."

- NZ Herald

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