NZ First leader accused of bluff and guesswork over private messages between former minister and reporter.
Prime Minister John Key has accused NZ First leader Winston Peters of "bluff and bluster" over claims he has seen electronic communications between United Future leader Peter Dunne and a Fairfax reporter that led to Mr Dunne's resignation last week.
Mr Key said he did not believe Mr Peters had seen emails or other communications between Mr Dunne and the reporter, Andrea Vance, which Mr Peters has claimed contained personally embarrassing material.
"It's normal modus operandi for Mr Peters, bluff and bluster and claims to have lots of information."
Mr Peters identified Mr Dunne as the prime suspect early on in the leak of a GCSB report, but Mr Key suspected Mr Peters was simply guessing because there was talk at the time about the communications on Twitter between Mr Dunne and Miss Vance and information was emerging about who had spoken to the inquiry into the leak.
Mr Peters again refused to say what information he had, but said there were "countless examples" of others doubting his word in the past and he had proved them wrong.
Mr Dunne resigned as a minister after refusing to hand over about half of the 86 emails between himself and Miss Vance to David Henry for the inquiry. Mr Dunne denied leaking the report, but said he had considered it and had shown other lapses of judgment.
It is understood Fairfax senior staff in the Press Gallery spoke to Mr Dunne some months ago because of the attention he was paying to Miss Vance on Twitter, which was starting to be talked about in political circles.
Fairfax group editor Paul Thompson would not comment on that but yesterday on stuff.co.nz he rejected any suggestion Miss Vance had acted unprofessionally.
He said Fairfax would fight to ensure the emails were not released. Miss Vance went overseas for a month-long Jefferson Fellowship trip on Sunday, but has tweeted describing some of the remarks as misogynistic and criticising TV One for failing to contact either her or Fairfax "after defaming me pretty much all day". That was believed to relate to comments by Michelle Boag about Miss Vance on Q+A. Miss Vance also criticised NBR for the "grubby questions" they had asked, and asked if they would have put the same questions up if she was a male reporter.
Labour leader David Shearer has asked the Speaker to refer Mr Dunne to the Privileges Committee, saying that committee has the power to force those emails to be produced which could reveal the truth about whether Mr Dunne was the leak.
Labour is trying to protect two sources of its own, relating to a GCSB leak about a visit to the agency by Mr Key, and leaks related to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs restructure, but Mr Shearer said Mr Dunne's case was different because he was a minister. Mr Dunne did not return calls yesterday.