Adam Bennett

Adam is a political reporter for the New Zealand Herald.

Leak suspect's position revealed

Office worker's fight to exclude parts of Rebstock report on Mfat breach appears to falter before judges.

Paula Rebstock. Photo / NZPA
Paula Rebstock. Photo / NZPA

The public servant suspected of embarrassing the Government by leaking sensitive documents about staff cuts to the Opposition last year is a "clerical assistant", it emerged yesterday.

The public servant, who has name suppression and is known simply as "Applicant A", is fighting to prevent his alleged involvement being detailed in Paula Rebstock's report on the leak to State Services Commissioner Iain Rennie.

Those efforts appeared to suffer a setback yesterday as Court of Appeal judges blasted his lawyer's argument that Ms Rebstock's suspicions should not be part of the final report.

The Court of Appeal's Justice Mark O'Regan, Justice Rhys Harrison and Justice Ellen France also ruled media could report Applicant A's occupation as "clerical assistant".

Ms Rebstock was last year asked to investigate the leak of Cabinet papers about cuts to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade's staff.

Suspicion fell on A after records at his place of employment showed that on May 1 last year he scanned documents with the same number of pages as Cabinet papers shown to media the next day by Labour's foreign affairs spokesman, Phil Goff.

The papers detailed an embarrassing backdown on restructuring plans which were opposed by diplomats.

During an interview with Ms Rebstock via Skype, the public servant did not recall scanning the papers but Ms Rebstock observed he had difficulty answering questions.

In a letter late last year, Applicant A was told Ms Rebstock had reason to believe that it was more likely than not that he was responsible for the leak.

Applicant A went to the Court of Appeal after failing to persuade the High Court to suppress parts of the report dealing with his alleged involvement.

Lawyer Jason McHerron yesterday told the judges suspicion was not sufficient basis to blame his client.

Justice Harrison doubted whether there was anything wrong with Ms Rebstock setting out accepted facts and making a finding based on them.

Justice Mark O'Regan said Ms Rebstock's draft report contained "ample evidence to make the finding she made".

For the Crown, Deputy Solicitor-General Una Jagose said in her submissions the investigation had been conducted in a way that was scrupulously fair to Applicant A.

"There really is nothing left for a fair process other than to allow Ms Rebstock to complete her report and deliver it to the commissioner."

She noted Applicant A had made a statutory declaration that he was not responsible for the leak and that was likely to be noted by Ms Rebstock in her final in the report.

The judges have reserved their judgment and the High Court's suppression of Applicant A's name and employment details will continue at least until they return that judgment.

Mr Rennie has indicated the public servant's name will not be disclosed in any public version of the report.

- NZ Herald

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