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

Reporter 'mad' over phone scandal

PM's chief likely to face a grilling at inquiry, as reporter speaks out for first time

Andrea Vance, right, says she's "mad as hell" over the release of her phone records to an inquiry into who leaked the GCSB report. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Andrea Vance, right, says she's "mad as hell" over the release of her phone records to an inquiry into who leaked the GCSB report. Photo / Mark Mitchell

The reporter at the centre of a Parliamentary spying controversy is "mad as hell'' that her phone records were accessed during the Henry inquiry into a GCSB leak.

In an opinion piece printed in Fairfax media this morning, Andrea Vance said she was left "reeling'' when Speaker David Carter admitted on Tuesday that a three-month log of calls she had made to people around Parliament were released to the inquiry.

''... I'm mad as hell. Anyone who has had their confidential details hacked and shared around has the right to be angry.''

Vance also had her movements around Parliament tracked, through use of her swipe card.

She said while her conversations were not disclosed, a lot of information can be gleaned from the "metadata'' by matching phone numbers and the time and the dates of published stories.

"Now the Speaker and Prime Minister John Key claim cock-up (by a low-level contractor) over conspiracy.

"Forgive me if those assurances ring hollow,'' Vance said.

Mr Carter apologised to Vance and her employer, Fairfax, but said the phone records had neither been sought by inquiry chair David Henry nor used in the inquiry.

He said Mr Henry had recorded that fact immediately the information was received.

But Vance wondered how she could be confident her records were not viewed because they were held on a Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet server until Tuesday night.

"I'm suspicious why on June 5, less than a week after the unauthorised release, NZ First leader Winston Peters was making some startling allegations about phone records in the House.

"Neither the prime minister's office, the Speaker or Parliamentary Service have been able to offer a guarantee that there was no leak to Peters.''

She called on Mr Key and Mr Henry to take responsibility for the "unreasonable activities'' undertaken by that inquiry, which undermined press freedom.

PM's chief of staff faces grilling

The Prime Minister's chief of staff, Wayne Eagleson, is expected to face a grilling at a privileges committee inquiry this month on his part and his boss' role in getting the Parliamentary Service to release Ms Vance's emails, phone records and swipe access records.

Opposition MPs may well try to get John Key himself to appear as it steps up attacks on the way the inquiry was conducted.

However, National and two support parties have a majority on the committee and could block such an appearance.

The privileges committee inquiry was announced yesterday as the first part of a two-stage inquiry into "the use of intrusive powers within the parliamentary precinct".

Chaired by Attorney General Chris Finlayson, it is expected to call Mr Eagleson, Mr Henry, Mr Dunne, Ms Vance, the Parliamentary Service general manager Geoff Thorn and its contractor who released Ms Vance's phone records.

The hearings will be public and begin on August 21 at Parliament. It will first try to establish the facts of what happened.

It will then try to determine some protocols about access to information of MPs and journalists.

After the Parliamentary Service originally questioned whether it should provide information to the inquiry, Mr Eagleson sent an email on May 9 telling it that "the Prime Minister would like [the] Parliamentary Service to make available to the inquiry team records from ministerial office photocopiers and any other relevant material requested. I note that this may relate both to ministers and their staff."

Mr Key has been on the defensive this week after Speaker David Carter revealed that Ms Vance's phone records had indeed been accessed and sent to the inquiry without her permission.

He says it and her swipe card access records to Parliament should not have been sent.

Mr Key yesterday produced an email showing that as soon as the inquiry received the reporter's phone records, it replied to the Parliamentary Service that it had not sought the records and would not use them.

But Labour and the Greens seized upon one of the emails - from the inquiry to the Parliamentary Service - which said it was "interested in any contact between the below ministers' personal landlines and these numbers: 1. A Vance landline; 2 A Vance extension; 3. A Vance mobile."

Labour leader David Shearer said the term "any contact between" did not denote records only from ministers but the phone records of Ms Vance as well.

The players

David Henry - Ran the inquiry into the leak of the Kitteridge report into the GCSB spy agency. Henry is a former Commissioner of Inland Revenue, former Chief Electoral Officer and served on the Pike River Royal Commission of Inquiry.

The Henry inquiry, announced on April 15, was commissioned jointly by the director of the GCSB, Ian Fletcher, and the chief executive of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. He reported on June 5. Peter Dunne resigns as minister on June 7.

Wayne Eagleson - Chief of staff to John Key, otherwise known as the PM's enforcer.

After the Henry inquiry was set up, he wrote to the ministers who had received a copy of the Kitteridge report saying the Prime Minister expected them and their staff to co-operate with the inquiry. He also wrote to the Parliamentary Service on May 9 telling it John Key wanted relevant material to be made available to the inquiry team. Deputy chief of staff in the Jim Bolger government.

Geoff Thorn - The Parliamentary Service general manager since 2007.

The civil servant responsible for running Parliament, including MPs' phones, computers and security system. Responsible for handing over Dunne's email and mobile metadata to the inquiry and Andrea Vance's phone records and swipe card records.

Answers to the Speaker but did not seek the Speaker's advice on co-operating with the inquiry. Dealt with the PM's chief of staff.

Formerly GM of the Commerce Commission and before that manager of the special investigations branch of the Military Police. In the NZ Army for 20 years.

David Carter - The Speaker and the minister responsible for the Parliamentary Service. The Parliamentary Service runs Parliament for MPs but is not subject to the Official Information Act. It also runs some services on behalf of Ministerial Services which is subject to the OIA.

Carter was not consulted by the Parliamentary Service over which information it should give to the inquiry. Initially referred questions about inquiry to the Parliamentary Service. In responding to written questions from MPs he was given wrong information by the Parliamentary Service about what data it had given to the inquiry. Doesn't know if it was an error or a cover-up. Was forced to correct answers and say phone records of Fairfax reporter Andrea Vance were given to the inquiry. Referred whole mess of whose information belongs to whom to the privileges committee.

Chris Finlayson, QC - Formidable Attorney-General and chairman of privileges committee.

Fresh from doing battle against Japanese whaling at the Court of International Justice in The Hague, Finlayson will relish putting his legal and political skills to the test in chairing a public inquiry to find out exactly what happened, entitled "Inquiry into a question of privilege regarding use of intrusive powers within the parliamentary precinct". Will have to contend with Winston Peters as a member of the committee who feels no sympathy for Dunne because Dunne sat on the privileges committee in 2008 that found Peters knowingly failed to declare a $100,000 donation from Owen Glenn. Peters seemed to have access to Dunne's phone records in May.

- NZ Herald

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