Fran O’Sullivan lays a lot of the blame for Bronwyn Pullar’s current predicament fairly and squarely at the feet of Michelle Boag:
Thousands of ACC claimants have good reason to be incensed at the way former National Party insider Bronwyn Pullar and her “support friend” Michelle Boag allowed them to be used as leverage in a failed power play.
It is crystal clear that Pullar – with Boag’s implicit agreement – retained the confidential ACC records file she was accidentally sent last August. This file is said to have contained details of claims filed by 6700 individuals among them 250 claims from injuries resulting from sexual abuse or sexual assault.
Many claimants will be incandescent with rage at the obvious – even if accidental – breach of privacy.
But even though Pullar maintains she has been fighting a decade-long battle to screw a better deal out of ACC and has alleged her own privacy was breached by officials on 45 separate occasions, she did not immediately alert the corporation that the file had turned up in her inbox.
Nor did she return the file or delete it from her own email cache. (It became public when the file turned up in an investigative reporter’s hands six months later).
Boag knew this when she agreed to go with Pullar as her “support friend” to an ACC meeting last December. The file quickly became a point of contention.
I pointed this out yesterday…that as a support person for a person with a head injury it was incumbent on her to act in the claimant’s best interests, not actually egg her on toward destruction.
It was alleged that ACC offered Pullar two years’ payments so she could re-establish her business on the condition the file was returned. ACC denies this.
But in an email to ACC Minister Judith Collins last week, Boag maintained a verbal agreement was discussed after she and Pullar urged an investigation of the privacy breach “for the sake of your ministry, your board, your CEO”.
The Boag email is reported to have said it was “verbally agreed” the information would be returned “on agreement on the way forward”.
Boag went on to say ACC should deal with the privacy breach internally – “I am a supporter of this Government and I also call [former ACC minister] Nick Smith a friend. I don’t want him embarrassed. I have friends on the ACC.”
Anyone who can’t see the implicit threats delivered up toward Judith Collins and to the ACC board in Boag’s comments is out of their head. What we have seen this week probably wasn’t what Michelle Boag was thinking would happen when she made those threats.
Any Cabinet minister sitting in “The Crusher’s” shoes – particularly a politician with as strong an instinct for self-preservation as Collins has – would quickly have worked out the impact of Boag’s email was they were also likely to be dragged into the same mud-pool which subsequently swallowed Nick Smith.
The ACC Minister would quickly have reached the conclusion that all Boag’s email did was to compromise her.
Hence she sent it to the ACC .
Collins’ fingerprints will not be directly attached to the copy of the Boag email that was later leaked to the Herald on Sunday.
Michelle Boag threatened the wrong person, a lawyer and all round tough nut. She brooks none of the stand over tactics that Boag is so accomplished at.
Pullar is currently in the public spotlight. But a great deal of the blame for this fiasco has to be put at Boag’s door.
A political “hard ass” of the first order, her style is to get extremely aggressive when cornered. Hence her fury at finding out from the Herald on Sunday that her email had been leaked. What did she expect?
A more skilful operator would have insisted that Pullar return the file before the December meeting so there could never be any suggestion that the pair were trying to blackmail ACC into dishing out more benefits.
But Boag’s approach is clumsy.
Most bullies are clumsy, they prefer aggression to nuance. It eventually comes unstuck when just one person isn’t prepared to put up with their antics any longer.
Fran O’Sullivan then lay out the reverse midas, everything Boag touches turns to crap, touch of Michelle Boag:
I challenge anyone to find for me a single good headline for National to have ever some from the actions, machinations and intimidation of Michelle Boag.