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

John Key plays down apparent Budget breach after lockup photos posted

Prime Minister John Key. Photo / Greg Bowker
Prime Minister John Key. Photo / Greg Bowker

Prime Minister John Key has downplayed an apparent breach of strict Budget Day lockup rules by his staff after photos from the lockup were posted on National's Facebook page before it ended.

Photos of the lockup were posted to National's Facebook page well before the 2pm embargo lifted, including one of a computer screen which had the password for a secure WiFi network on it.

Several of the photos were later deleted. Although the photos did not include the contents of Budget documents, the rules of the lockup are strict and specify "there must be no communication to anyone outside the lockup or transmission of information" by any means until the embargo lifted at 2pm.

Despite the strict no-communication policy, Mr Key said it was only the information that was embargoed, not photos of the location of the lockup, and even suggested journalists could take selfies and post them while the lockup was underway.

He had not seen the photos in question but admitted it "would not be good" for a WiFi password to be shown that could give people nearby outside access to the Budget documents to be shown.

"I'm sure they will cease and desist from taking such graphic scenes in future."

Earlier this year, the Reserve Bank called a halt to its lockups after a MediaWorks reporter was caught sending an embargoed story on the official cash rate to the newsroom before that lockup ended. Another staffer then passed on information about the rise to a blogger, who later reported it.

Treasury opted to go ahead with the Budget lockup but warned it was under review. The WiFi network at the lockup provided access to a locked Budget intranet site and was enabled to allow internet access ten minutes prior to 2pm. Treasury warned it would keep the lockups under review.

- NZ Herald

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