Let’s bust some myths over National’s hit job on Winston Peters

by Cameron Slater on August 31, 2017 at 8:30am

Credit: Luke @ Whaleoil

For the past few days, there have been many, many new commenters on the site.

All pushing one agenda or another, but almost all what I would describe as two ticks National.

They all have various theories as to who leaked what and who benefits. None of them can even remotely accept that it was National’s hit and that they botched it spectacularly.

Let’s look at the various scenarios and scotch some myth and pop some bubbles.

Myth 1 –  The disgruntled Green/Labour worker

Anyone who knows government department systems and especially MSD and IRD systems knows that this is total, unadulterated bull crap. It simply can’t happen. The audit systems in place for sensitive files and the tax and MSD files of MPs amongst others would be classified as sensitive, are very strict. There simply isn’t access to their files in the system for Gemma the disgruntled Green or Liam the disgruntled Labour staff members to get this information. If they did manage to access the files then alerts, warnings and system lock out occur. I know this to be the case because of two sources, very senior in both departments.

This myth is just that and anyone pushing it is either willfully ignorant or just plain stupid.

Myth 2 – Labour did it

We know Labour didn’t do it because they are very good at hit jobs. They surely did the Turei hit job, and they got their target. They were of course helped by Turei’s own hubris, but they knew that when they played the hit. Winston Peters is way too wily to get hit by Labour and in any case, they need him more than National needs him. Think about that for a minute. If it is true that National was trying to nobble Winston so they could govern alone then Labour doing it would have spiked any chance they had of forming a government.

Secondly, how would Labour have obtained the information? Quite simply, they couldn’t have. See Myth 1 above.

Myth 3 – Winston did it

This is one of the more ridiculous myths out there. No politicians willingly risk a hit on themselves, because once in the wild there is no controlling the narrative as media write their own stories. The number of people complicit in that would render that hit dead faster than a cat shot with a .22-250. When the law suits start flowing you will know that Winston didn’t do this himself.

So, where does that leave us?

Well, Occam’s Razor is helpful here:

Occam’s razor (or Ockham’s razor) is a principle from philosophy. Suppose there exist two explanations for an occurrence. In this case, the simpler one is usually better. Another way of saying it is that the more assumptions you have to make, the more unlikely an explanation is.

Let’s put it simply. Who had the information, other than Winston Peters?

  1. The CEO of MSD, Brendan Boyle. He saw fit to decide he should tell his minister. Not only that he sought legal advice from the Solicitor-General.
  2. The Solicitor-General, Una Jagose QC, who gave a legal opinion.
  3. Anne Tolley as the Minister of Social Development. She was told by Brendan Boyle, who also gave her a second briefing. More on that later.
  4. Peter Hughes, the State Services Commissioner. He was briefed by Brendan Boyle and was the one who told Boyle to get a legal opinion. He later briefed Paula Bennett.
  5. Paula Bennett, the Minister of State Services and also Police and the Deputy Prime Minister. She says she told no one, which is scarcely believable as she has form on leaking personal information obtained from government departments. She released personal details of two beneficiaries and an ex-police officer helping at Te Puea marae.
  6. Wayne Eagleson, the Chief of Staff for the Prime Minister. He was briefed by Anne Tolley. He says he never spoke tot eh PM, despite him being the Chief of Staff. This simply is not believable.
  7. Steve Joyce, Finance Minister. When asked about the pending scandal before it broke, he told several people that it involved Winston Peters and superannuation overpayments. I have spoken to several sources who confirm this.

All of that is public knowledge and admitted by all except Steve Joyce. I won’t call him a liar, but I will say he is being economical with the truth.

Compare that with all the myths outlined above. Those are facts, all the myths are simply conjecture.

Using Occam’s Razor the simplest explanation is that apart from three senior civil servants, all the other fingerprints on this hit job are National party ministers or senior staff.

It might be uncomfortable for readers to realise, but I have been telling you all for three years that National has serious problems and that those were exacerbated by the election of Bill English to leader.

The unpalatable truth is that the only people who had the motive, inclination, and information to perform this outrageous abuse of someone’s privacy was the National party.

Now, about that second briefing. For those who don’t know, ministerial briefings are scripted. They go something like this:

The CEO arrives and explains to the minister that they have several agenda items and that one of them is sensitive. They go through the items and when they reach the sensitive one the room is cleared and maybe one trusted aide remains. Then the details are given. Usually, the minister, if they are smart, asks a simple question. “Is this issue resolved to the satisfaction of the department?”. If the answer is yes then the next question to ask is “Is there anything that the Cabinet needs to know about this?” If the answer is in the negative then the briefing is concluded and the CEO goes back to his office and writes a butt covering diary note about the briefing should anything untoward happen. That diary note is discoverable under the OIA. Media will already be after those.

Now, Tolley was briefed twice. That can only mean one of two things. At the first briefin, she asked the CEO to keep her updated on progress, which he subsequently did. Or, and this is more likely, she told the CEO that she would elevate this higher and will get back to him on what to do. She then went to Wayne Eagleson who wanted more information and so Tolley told the CEO to get more information. This information was then conveyed during the second briefing. Boyle will have kept note and almost certainly those will now become subject ot an inquiry. Being a competent civil servant he will have covered his butt.

Now, can we please dispense with all the myths, ideas and conspiracy theories. You need to understand that Bill English’s government is rotten from the top down.

There is no way that his Deputy PM, Campaign Chair, Deputy Campaign Chair, Senior Minister, and Chief of Staff never said a word to him.

Occam’s razor says this was a National party hit, and everyone except sycophants realise this. I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad tidings, but you haven’t been listening to me. Perhaps you will start now.