Claire Trevett

Claire Trevett is the New Zealand Herald’s deputy political editor.

Ministry and commission to investigate foreign service leaks

Phil Goff. Photo / Janna Dixon
Phil Goff. Photo / Janna Dixon

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has confirmed it is investigating the leaking of documents to Labour's foreign affairs spokesman Phil Goff and has called in the State Services Commission to help.

Mr Goff was leaked two Cabinet committee papers this week which set out the revised proposals for the restructuring of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs - before the papers even made it to Cabinet.

Yesterday Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully said it was up to Mfat's chief executive John Allen to deal with the leak as it was his ministry. He had not seen the documents, but would expect Mr Allen to take the leak of a Cabinet paper more seriously than other documents "but any leak of documents is serious".

He said he still had confidence in Mr Allen.

"I've got confidence Mr Allen is making a very solid attempt to do a very difficult job at the moment, made very much more difficult by some very unprofessional behaviour by one or two people."

Mr Goff said the leak was astonishing given Mfat had always been one of the most non-partisan and professional government departments, under both National and Labour, and was not prone to leaking documents.

"So this shows how disillusioned, demoralised and angry people are."

Mr Goff said Mr McCully should take responsibility for the bungled process. "I don't think you can simply blame the CEO. He's a servant of the minister and it's the minister who gives the broad directions on this."

When asked about the morale of the staff in Parliament yesterday, Mr McCully suggested that if there was low morale, Mr Goff should look in the mirror to find the cause. He said he had made it clear to Mr Allen that the original proposals went too far. He said aspects of the proposal were still under negotiation and still required Cabinet sign off.

In the papers, Mr McCully says the original proposal had contained "too many moving parts, too much change upfront, and did not achieve the required buy-in from staff, particularly at a senior level".

Mr McCully had written to Mr Allen after the consultation period ended suggesting some of the proposals in the plan were unrealistic, including the proposed cuts to overseas diplomats' allowances, such as family allowances.

The backdown followed opposition from diplomats, including a letter signed by almost all heads of mission warning that the cuts would result in an exodus of experienced diplomats and trade negotiators and damage New Zealand's international reputation.

The papers revealed that 146 jobs would still go, down from 304. That included 53 foreign policy jobs, although Mr McCully said that was still under negotiation and half of those would be already vacant positions.

The expected saving from the revised changes was $12 million rather than $24 million.

- NZ Herald

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