Adam Bennett

Adam is a political reporter for the New Zealand Herald.

Inquiry head first to speak in journalist email probe

Peter Dunne . Photo / Mark Mitchell
Peter Dunne . Photo / Mark Mitchell

The man at the centre of the stoush over the controversial release of a journalist's phone calls and movements around Parliament to a GCSB leak inquiry will lead off submissions to the parliamentary committee probing the matter today.

Parliament's Privileges Committee meets this morning to hear from those involved in the incident which saw Fairfax reporter Andrea Vance's phone and swipe card records released by the Parliamentary Service to an inquiry into how a report on spy agency the GCSB was released to Ms Vance days ahead of schedule.

The inquiry, findings of which prompted the resignation of United Future Peter Dunne from his ministerial portfolios, was conducted by former top public servant David Henry, who is the first to appear before the committee this morning.

The morning's final submission is from the Parliamentary Press Gallery, which has objected strongly to the release of Ms Vance's records.

In the submission to be presented by Press Gallery chairwoman and Herald deputy political editor Claire Trevett, the body representing New Zealand's political reporters said Parliamentary Service had no authority to hand over the swipe card information - which could be used to track Ms Vance's movements around the parliamentary complex - or logs of which numbers she called from her office phone.

As well as asking Parliament to recognise the central role of the news media in a healthy democracy the Press Gallery has asked that, where in future Parliamentary Service is asked for information it holds on any accredited political reporter, it refers the request to the Speaker of the House for further consideration and consultation with the reporter, his or her employer and the Press Gallery.

The Press Gallery is not strongly challenging the fact that some of Ms Vance's emails to Mr Dunne were handed over to the inquiry.

Fairfax Media and Ms Vance have made submissions to the committee but will not appear today.

In its written submission to the committee, the Media Freedom Committee, which represents editors of major newspapers, magazines and broadcasters, said Parliamentary Service's decision to supply the information to the Henry inquiry was "unprecedented" and "an outrage against the workings of a free press".

It urged the committee to "recognise the importance to democracy of a free and unfettered Press Gallery" and to develop clear rules to prevent a repeat of such actions.

- NZ Herald

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