More heads should roll | The Jackal

22 Aug 2013

More heads should roll

Today, the NZ Herald reported:

Two senior ministers chose to break their silence - and break ranks in the process - in the full media glare of a meeting of Parliament's privileges committee.

Justice Minister Judith Collins and Police Minister Anne Tolley were in high dudgeon, making it abundantly clear they were less than impressed with the actions of the David Henry inquiry into the leaking of the report by Cabinet secretary Rebecca Kitteridge into the workings of the Government Communications Security Bureau.
The privileges committee has moved with commendable speed in launching a probe into the Henry inquiry - for which Key has responsibility - particularly its requests for assistance from Parliamentary Service in retrieving data detailing Dominion Post journalist Andrea Vance's phone logs and movements around the parliamentary complex. 

The pair rounded on Henry for not weighing up the constitutional implications of an informal inquiry rummaging through a minister's communications. As a former senior public servant, Henry - more than anyone - should have been aware of the need to tread very carefully. 

It seems strange that all the mainstream media reports concerning this privileges committee hearing have ignored one of the most important facts to come out so far...that David Henry was specifically given authorization by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (DPMC) to look at Ministers communications.

That those communications would potentially be discoverable under the Official Information Act should have taken some wind out of the two ministers' billowing sails.

And Henry should not have been their only target. The Prime Minister's office told ministers to co-operate fully with the inquiry - and that Key expected nothing less. That effectively gave Henry much more muscle in his hunt for the leaker.

What has been uncovered during the first faze of the hearings is that the Prime Ministers Chief of Staff, Wayne Eagleson, informed David Henry that he had explicit permission to access Ministers communications. Whether that permission included journalist Andrea Vance's communications is yet to be resolved.

It turns out that Eagleson didn't have that permission and had mislead David Henry. Therefore, making Henry the scapegoat for Eagleson's misconduct isn't what I would call good reporting. Such propaganda only serves to undermine democracy and let those who are at fault off the hook.

But then Collins and Tolley were also treading carefully yesterday. Key's response to their gripes was short and to the point.

The two ministers were entitled to their point of view. But he had approved the Henry inquiry's terms of reference. If any minister had a problem with those, they had been free to complain. But none had.

Armstrong is really trying to spin this one away from the main culprits.

Firstly, Wayne Eagleson lied to David Henry about what he was permitted to access. It also appears that he instructed Parliamentary Service to undertake illegal spying. This occurred after the terms of reference were released. Clearly the DPMC interfered with the inquiry on as many as four occasions. The terms of reference did not outline that the DPMC would instruct Parliamentary Service and David Henry to breach people's privacy without their permission.

Secondly (and perhaps more importantly), the DPMC has withheld an email sent by Wayne Eagleson to Parliamentary Service on the 9th of May. That email, which instructed them, isn't even referred to in the DPMC's timeline of events. This is a significant issue that the Department of the Prime Minister's Chief of Staff, Andrew Kibblewhite, had no explanation for when questioned by the committee.

I for one hope that Collins, Tolley and the other committee members get to the bottom of what has occurred, because by all appearances the DPMC is trying to coverup their and the Prime Ministers misconduct.