John Armstrong is the Herald's chief political commentator

John Armstrong: Opposition's glee missing the point


Committee's report touted as evidence of lack of credibility, but PM may have the last laugh.

The Opposition says John Key is to blame for the many failings of the Henry inquiry, including accessing the phone logs of journalist Andrea Vance (right). Photo / Mark Mitchell
The Opposition says John Key is to blame for the many failings of the Henry inquiry, including accessing the phone logs of journalist Andrea Vance (right). Photo / Mark Mitchell

So - according to the Opposition's script - it was all the Prime Minister's fault.

He set up the Henry inquiry into the leaking of the Kitteridge report on the workings of the Government Communications Security Bureau. He is therefore responsible for the inquiry's failings which are highlighted in the report released yesterday by Parliament's Privileges Committee.

Moreover, responsible and to blame, given the help offered to David Henry by the Office of the Prime Minister in securing the emails and phone records of ministers in order to track down the source of the leak.

Or so the Opposition parties would want you to believe. They helped write the committee's report and then wheeled it out as ammunition for yet another go at undermining John Key's credibility.

That is clever. But all's fair in love and war.

The report takes in important matters that go far beyond the merely partisan - such as press freedom, privacy, and the role of the Speaker and the "mystifying" failure of his officials to tell him of the demands being made by the Henry inquiry for access to the communication records of ministers plus a lone journalist.

The Greens' Russel Norman even cited the actions of the Henry inquiry to resurrect his absurd claim that Key is "Muldoonist" in his "abuse of power".

Were Sir Robert Muldoon still in charge, however, it is unlikely the comedy of errors surrounding the leak would still be playing six months after the event.

Sure, Henry did not stand on ceremony. But he got a result - or something so close to one that it makes no difference.

You can probably count the number of people who believe Peter Dunne did not leak the Kitteridge report on the fingers of one hand.

The same people also believe the moon is made of cheese and you will find fairies at the bottom of your garden.

It is both audacious and outrageous for Dunne to claim the Privileges Committee report vindicates him.

Dunne was not sacked as a minister solely because he refused to hand over emails and phone records to Henry. He was fired because Key had made it very clear that he expected all ministers and their staff to fully co-operate with the Henry inquiry when the terms of reference were announced.

Key had no choice but to ask for Dunne's resignation. Paradoxically, Key may be using the Privileges Committee's report as cover for reinstating Dunne into his old ministerial post outside the Cabinet. Funny old business, politics.

- NZ Herald

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John Armstrong is the Herald's chief political commentator

Herald political correspondent John Armstrong has been covering politics at a national level for nearly 30 years. Based in the Press Gallery at Parliament in Wellington, John has worked for the Herald since 1987. John was named Best Columnist at the 2013 Canon Media Awards and was a previous winner of Qantas media awards as best political columnist. Prior to joining the Herald, John worked at Parliament for the New Zealand Press Association. A graduate of Canterbury University's journalism school, John began his career in journalism in 1981 on the Christchurch Star. John has a Masters of Arts degree in political science from Canterbury.

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