New Zealand First leader Winston Peters is seeking money for damages from those behind the leak of his superannuation details - including two journalists and a top civil servant - according to a new Statement of Claim filed in the Auckland High Court yesterday.
Peters is claiming that his privacy was breached when details of his superannuation overpayments - which he has since repaid - were passed on by the head of the Social Development Ministry Brendan Boyle to Government ministers, and subsequently published by Newshub and Newsroom during the election campaign.
Earlier this month, Peters filed court papers seeking information about who had leaked the details. As well as Boyle, the papers named Newsroom's Tim Murphy and Newshub's Lloyd Burr, and senior National Party MPs including Bill English, Paula Bennett, Steven Joyce, Anne Tolley, former National Party chief of staff Wayne Eagleson and former communications manager Clark Hennessy.
The National Party has refuted any suggestion it had any involvement in the leak.
At an earlier court hearing, Peters' lawyer Brian Henry told the court that the operation had been a political setup designed to damage Peters in the election campaign. The court asked him to file a Statement of Claim to clarify what Peters was alleging.
In a Newsroom article, Murphy said the draft Statement of Claim was filed in court yesterday. It said that Peters was seeking general damages, and costs, from all the "intended defendants".
Peters, 72, applied for his superannuation in March 2010 in person with his partner, Jan Trotman.
Peters believes that the overpayment was disclosed in a "no-surprises" briefing between Boyle and then-Social Development Minister Anne Tolley and then-Deputy Prime Minister Paula Bennett.
The Statement of Claim, Murphy reported, said that the public interest in the information did not outweigh Peters' right to privacy, and National Party ministers should not have shared the information, nor should the media have published it.
It said the meeting between Boyle and the ministers unlawfully breached his privacy, adding that Boyle "knew or was reckless if he did not know" that the ministers would use the information "for political purposes, including discrediting the intended plaintiff in the forthcoming general election".
It said the leak was made to journalists "who were part-of and/or sympathetic to the National Party campaign to be re-elected — or alternatively would be reckless as to their obligations". It also called Burr a "National Party political activist".
Peters is also seeking phone records, notes and documents from Murphy and Burr. Journalists can claim journalistic privilege under section 68 of the Evidence Act to protect sources, but Henry has previously indicated that he may challenge that.
Peters declined to comment on the case this afternoon, saying it was a matter before the court. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has also declined to comment, other than to say that it is a "personal matter" for Peters.
A hearing is set down for March.