The Prime Minister must be open and transparent about what questions she has asked her Finance Minister since spurious allegations were made that National acquired Budget documents through criminal activity, Deputy Leader of the Opposition Paula Bennett says.
National has written to State Services Commissioner Peter Hughes requesting the SSC widen its Budget investigation into Treasury and its Secretary to address a number of serious questions about the behaviour of both the department and the Finance Minister.
“The GCSB’s National Cyber Security Centre has said publically that it told Treasury its computer system was not compromised, yet both Gabriel Makhlouf and Grant Robertson chose to issue statements implying National carried out a ‘systematic hack’,” Ms Bennett says.
“Among the many questions that still need answering is what information Treasury and the Finance Minister had at their disposal before they issued those statements.
“The SSC inquiry should also include a complete review of all communications between the Finance Minister’s office and the Prime Minister’s office under the ‘no surprises’ approach.
“It took 36 hours for Treasury to come clean that it was sitting on a lie, and the Prime Minister needs to explain why she allowed her Government to mislead the public for so long.
“Did she and Grant Robertson ask the right questions of Gabriel Makhlouf, or did they take a ‘see no evil, speak no evil’ approach to all of this?
“It is concerning that even after Treasury admitted the Budget information was obtained without any hacking, its statement failed to offer an apology or take responsibility, and continued to disparage the Opposition in an entirely inappropriate way. . .
John Armstrong isn’t waiting for an investigation he’s calling for resignations:
The chief executive of the Treasury, Gabriel Makhlouf, must resign.
It might have been Budget Day, thereby making his departure hugely inopportune for the Labour-led Government. That’s just tough. Makhlouf has to go. And forthwith. His exit on the most important date in the Treasury’s calendar may have piled humiliation on embarrassment.
It left Grant Robertson’s shiny new wellbeing budget feeling somewhat sick on its first public appearance. That’s just too bad. Makhlouf has to go. He has no choice in the matter. . .
He has to go — and for two simple reasons. Budget secrecy is sacrosanct; Budget secrecy is paramount. That is the bottom-line. It is non-negotiable. Any breach is sufficient grounds alone for heads to roll.
In Makhlouf’s case, there is another factor which should have sealed his fate — competence.
The ease with which National extracted Budget-connected information from the very heart of the (usually) most infallible branch of the Wellington bureaucracy demonstrated the shocking inadequacy of the Treasury’s cyber security.
It seems it is no exaggeration to say that the protections currently in place to guard that information have been at best lax and at worst non-existent. . . .
On top of that, the department’s handling of the aftermath of the breach of security raised further questions of competence.
The rapidity with which Makhlouf referred matters to the police following the hacking which soon enough turned out not to be hacking conveyed the impression that he believed National was responsible.
Although he endeavoured to avoid making that insinuation, in process, he veered dangerously close to soiling the Treasury’s neutrality.
While he might well be as neutral as he ever was, he is no longer seen as neutral. That is unacceptable. . . .
But this isn’t the only resignation Armstrong thinks should happen:
Should Robertson also be tending his resignation as a Cabinet minister or be sacked by the Prime Minister? The answer is an emphatic “yes”.
A breach of Budget secrecy — especially one of this week’s magnitude — is something so serious that resignation is mandatory.The applicability of ministerial responsibility demands nothing less. But it ain’t going to happen.
Robertson is exempt from having to fall on his sword. That exemption is by Labour Party decree. He is just too darned valuable.
Both he and the Prime Minister have made it very clear that they will move mountains to ensure Robertson emerges from this episode as untarnished as possible by placing responsibility for the breach fairly and squarely in the Treasury’s lap. . .
It’s been fascinating following commentary from the left which is trying to paint Simon Bridges as the wrong-doer in the botched Budget saga.
While we are mentioning Bridges, let’s deal with the bogus claims of his critics that his accessing of Budget documents was unethical, even if it was not unlawful. That is nonsense. Since the dawn of time, it has been incumbent on Opposition parties that they expose faults and failings in the policies and procedures adopted by the government of the day.
In revealing that the Treasury’s notion of what passes for Budget secrecy is screamingly flawed, Bridges has acted in the public interest.
Can his critics in Labour’s ranks put their hands on their hearts and affirm they would do things differently if they faced the same circumstances in Opposition? Of course not.
Bridges has simply been doing his job. On this week’s form, it is conceivable that he is going to be doing it a lot longer than both friend and foe have been predicting.
The machinations may be of little interest to any but political tragics but the botched Budget provided the Leader of the Opposition with an opportunity to shine in a week when the spotlight ought to have been on the Finance Minister and his leader, and shine he did.