Whistleblower, yeah, nah

? Karl du Fresne

Karl du Fresne has written what is probably the best assessment so far on Bronwyn Pullar and her shabby dealings with ACC.

When Ms Pullar failed to get what she wanted from ACC through the normal channels, she started pulling political strings. This is not an option for run-of-the-mill ACC claimants. It?s available only to privileged political insiders.

Ms Pullar?s decision to exploit her political contacts ended up claiming some high-profile casualties. The then ACC Minister Nick Smith, in a spectacular lapse of judgment, was persuaded to write a letter of reference for her on a ministerial letterhead and lost his Cabinet job as a result.

The deputy chairman of ACC, John McCliskie, whom?Sixty Minutes?described as a contact from Ms Pullar?s political days, made an equally unwise decision to intervene in her case by setting up a meeting with corporation managers. Now Mr McCliskie has gone too. Both men should have stayed well away.

Since the controversy became public as a result of a media leak (one of several, the sources of which remain murky), Ms Pullar has portrayed herself not as being driven by self-interest but as a public-spirited whistle-blower concerned about the plight of ?vulnerable? claimants and determined to expose what she saw as a rotten ACC culture. ?This was never about me,? she told TV3 reporter Melanie Reid.

Well, I don?t buy it. When the normal channels failed her, Ms Pullar leaned on her high-powered political connections to get a settlement that was favourable to her. It strikes me as convenient to now present herself as having been motivated by an altruistic urge to help the vulnerable.

Sixty Minutes?left some important questions unanswered, such as how much money Ms Pullar has already received from ACC. The programme presented her in a very sympathetic light, showing her overcome with emotion. But Ms Pullar is no helpless victim. To be frank, neither does she come across as a champion of the powerless. She and Ms Boag are two tough customers who know how to play the system and don?t exactly seem stricken with remorse over any collateral damage inflicted along the way.

The ACC culture may well be in need of an overhaul, as Ms Pullar asserts, but the starting point for this political drama was that a determined and disaffected claimant used her inside knowledge, contacts and influence to push for a beneficial outcome.

There?s nothing illegal here, but it smacks of cronyism. And it strikes me as highly ironic that some politicians on the Left, notably Labour?s Andrew Little, have taken up Ms Pullar?s cause. Since when did Labour, the party that champions egalitarianism, throw its weight behind privileged insiders seeking special treatment?