Illiberal left

09/06/2013

Do LabourGreen and New Zealand First understand what they’re doing in calling for a police investigation over the leaking of the GCSB report?

Politics lecturer Brent Bryce Edwards rightly says they’re being illiberal:

“There’s always problems when the police get involved in the political and media realm. It can have a very chilling affect on politics and journalism,” Dr Edwards says.

Threshold not reached
Generally those that regard themselves as politically liberal will not want the police involved unless utterly necessary, says the Politics Daily compiler.

“Therefore the threshold for calling the cops into Parliament and newsrooms should be very high. It’s hard to see that this threshold has been reached in this case,” Dr Edwards says.

“Normally those that call the police in on their political opponents are from an authoritarian political philosophy. By contrast, liberals generally regard those that leak government department reports as heroic whistleblowers that are enabling the freedom of information and the right of the public to know what those in authority are doing.”

That was certainly the case when, Tracy Watkins reminds us,  Labour’s Phil Goff was gleefully leaking sensitive Cabinet documents relating to Foreign Affairs.

He almost certainly got the papers from a public servant who, like an MP, is supposed to keep confidential matters in confidence and, unlike an MP, be non-partisan in his/her work.

Jane Clifton reminds us:

The affair does underline the dichotomy we in the political firmament face over the issue of leaks, though. Labour and New Zealand First are harrumphing like scandalised Wodehousian aunts about Dunne’s behaviour. Yet both have received, publicised and gloated over similarly spicey leaks in their time.

Leaks have come to the Opposition from two of the most sacred departments, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Government Security Communications Bureau, at times in farcical quantity. Information from these bureaucracies have the potential to harm this country’s security and trade.

It’s a very unhealthy sign that such officials are prepared to undermine the Government by leaking information that could also undermine the welfare of the country. Yet the Opposition has trafficked in them with abandon, and never has a single Labour, Green or NZ First politician called the police about such documents, as they have done over the Dunne situation.

Clifton goes on to remind us that leaks are undeniably desirable for the media and the public who learn from them.

Calling for a police investigation is at best baffling and definitely hypocritical when all three parties have benefited from leaks, the most recent being of the Henry report to Peters.

Would he like an investigation into that one too?


If Dunne didn’t who did?

08/06/2013

Peter Dunne has resigned as a minister but says he didn’t leak the Kitteridge Report on the GCSB inquiry.

“While I did not leak the report, and challenge Fairfax to confirm that, some of my actions after I received an advance copy of the report were extremely unwise and lacked the judgement reasonably expected of a Minister in such circumstances.

“I accept full responsibility for that.

He also justifies not releasing all the relevant emails:

“The sole reason why I did not disclose the full content of my emails was because of my strong belief that citizens, be they constituents, members of the public or journalists, ought to be able to communicate with their elected representatives in confidence if they wish, and we tamper with that right at our collective peril. . . “

I have a great deal of sympathy for the right to communicate with any MP in confidence, but I thought any communication with a minister was subject to the Official Information Act.

The Henry report which precipitated Dunne’s resignation identified three people who had access to the leaked report and contact with the reporter, Andrea Vance, who wrote the story on the leaks.

10. In relation to the two public S9I’\/BUYS I have obtained all the information I required, including the content of emails exchanged with the reporter over the period 22 March to 9 April (inclusive). I have established those contacts were entirely commensurate with their official duties.

11.The third person identified was the leader of the United Future political party- the Hon Peter Dune MP. Mr Dunne had a copy of the Kitteridge report from 27 March 2013 onwards. He is a minister outside cabinet.

12.l have not obtained all the information I required from Mr Dunne. I advised him that I considered it necessary for the purpose of this inquiry to have access to the full text of 86 email exchanges between him and the reporter during the period 27 March to 9 April. Mr Dunne has declined to allow me to read those emails. . . 

The case against Dunne is unproven, but if he didn’t leak the report who did?

The reporter could clear up the question but journalists will usually fight for the right to keep their sources private.

Two other questions as yet unanswered are: who leaked the information that Dunne was a suspect to Winston Peters and why, if he was so sure of the information, wouldn’t he repeat the allegations outside parliament?

He had a lot to gain from Dunne’s downfall, but who had anything to gain from leaking the information to him?

Dunne has said he will continue to support National for supply and confidence so this government is no less stable than it was.

But if Dunne doesn’t stand again it could make forming the next government more difficult.

Labour might well be delighted that a Minister has resigned, but it could make it more difficult for the party to form a government without Dunne’s support.

If he doesn’t stand again it will make it more difficult for National to form a coalition.

Dunne could stand again of course, but if he did, the voters Ohariu might be a lot less keen to split their votes than they have in the past.


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