Breaking News: Winston starts dropping lawsuits on media and Nats

Tim Murphy (right) with Mark Jennings

Winston Peters has started dropping lawsuits on those he believes responsible for the leaking of his private information.

All the politicians named in the documents have been served just after lunch and it is believed that Lloyd Burr was also served via email as he is in Australia covering the Melbourne Cup.

The papers show that Tim Murphy, Lloyd Burr, Bill English, Paula Bennett, Wayne Eagleson, Steven Joyce, Anne Tolley, Brendan Boyle and former National party staffer Clark Hennessy are being sued by Winston Peters.

Brendan Boyle is the Chief Executive of the Ministry of Social Development and Clark Hennessy has previously worked in Paula Bennett’s office as well as Mark Mitchell’s office. Hennessy has form with leaks having previously come to light as one of those involved in Paula Bennett’s attack on Te Puea marae chairman Hurimoana Dennis. During that episode Paula Bennett admitted, as she did in Winston’s case, that she shared information with her staffers.

Clark Hennessy

Clark Hennessey is Paula Bennett’s other press secretary, and the one who has been accompanying her on all public occasions since the story broke.

He is likely to be one of the “three or four” political staff that Paula Bennett says she informed of the disclosure by Hurimoana Dennis.

Bennett made this statement over Peters’s privacy breach.

This time, Ms Bennett says the leak didn’t come from her office.

“So, do we think someone from the Beehive put on a different voice and rung an anonymous tip off to the media? I mean it’s just ridiculous,” Ms Bennett told Newshub’s Emma Jolliff.

“I don’t actually go around the back scuffling around doing leaks. I actually, if I’ve got something to say, I say it directly and up front and kind of bluntly. ”

“I hold confidential information. I do that with respect, and I have not leaked.”

She may well have been being cute with the facts. She may not have leaked personally, but it appears that people associated with her were….and that they have form in leaking.

Anne Tolley

Anne Tolley and Brendan Boyle will come under the heaviest scrutiny as it can only have been her ministry and his staff who knew about the details, and we know that Brendan Boyle admitted taking the issue to his minister and also to the State Services Commission who referred matters to the Solicitor-General. This may prove problematic for Anne Tolley today as she was expected to be nominated by the National party for a role as Deputy Speaker.

Brendan Boyle has had to answer questions before about data breaches, and his minister at the time was Paula Bennett.

Social Development Ministry chief executive Brendan Boyle has admitted they did not act on earlier warnings, after blogger Keith Ng revealed he was able to access its servers through public kiosks in a Work and Income office.

Boyle is the weak link for the named parties. He is a civil servant who will be wanting to keep his job, and he also has new political masters he may well want to please.

Brendan Boyle (left) with Paula Bennett

Winston Peters signalled this action prior to the election:

Winston Peters has told media he will “lodge a serious action” when his lawyer returns from an overseas holiday today.

“This is humbug. It’s tawdry. It’s dirty. It’s filthy, and they should not succeed on that”, Mr Peters said.

Mr Peters said “they would try and impute my character straight away. That’s exactly what the typical what I might call ‘band of rascals’ went out to do.”

“I’ll find out every last thing.”

Court documents obtained by WOBH show that the papers were filed in the High Court at 4:59 on September 22, the day before the election. From that alone we can surmise that Winston Peters had absolutely no intention of going with the National party. This also shows that the deliberate leaked attack against Winston Peters, those involved, and the subsequent actions show where the election was lost. No doubt the discovery process will find that it was in fact a deliberate strategy of National, and one which ultimately backfired. It was a poorly executed and ultimately short-sighted smear job on Winston Peters by the so-called “brains trust” of National’s campaign team.

It also shows that the real dirty politics players inside National, who have never appeared in any of Nicky Hager’s books, are in fact those aligned with Bill English. They are the very people who have claimed all along, as each Hager book came out, that they weren’t involved in any such actions. Reality is proving to be embarrassing to them now.

Bill English has also made claims that he knew nothing, but this is a civil case now and runs on the balance of probabilities. He may have difficulty claiming he didn’t know when his Chief of Staff knew, his Deputy Prime Minister knew, his Finance Minister knew, his Social Development Minister knew and his Communications Director knew. A court would surely find that on the balance of probabilities Bill English knew.

Anne Tolley and Brendan Boyle will have some explaining to do as it can only have been her ministry and his staff who knew about the details, and we know that Brendan Boyle admitted taking the issue to his minister and also to the State Services Commission who referred matters to the Solicitor-General.

The documents served today are seeking pre-proceeding discovery under High Court rule 8.20. That is, they believe that documents exist which will prove those involved. Those documents will of course include cellphones, cellphone records, call records, and other meta data. Several of those named in proceedings were also known to carry two cellphones, so discovery may well become interesting.

Paula Bennett may well be regretting her silly Facebook video stunt from yesterday now. The so-called “brains trust” of the National party cost them the election with this ham-fisted and poorly executed stunt; it will now have its finale in the high Court.

What you need to know:

  • July 15 Winston Peters meets MSD officials to discuss the overpayment of his superannuation
  • July 31 Social Development Minister Anne Tolley is informed of Mr Peters’ overpayment
  • August 1 Ms Tolley tells the Prime Minister’s chief of staff, Wayne Eagleson
  • August 15 MSD tells Ms Tolley of Mr Peters’ outcome
  • August 18 Newshub received an anonymous phone call saying Mr Peters had been overpaid superannuation
  • August 26 Politics reporter Lloyd Burr asks Mr Peters whether he was overpaid superannuation
  • August 27 Mr Peters releases a statement saying the superannuation error had been “concluded to the Ministry’s satisfaction”
  • August 29 IRD and MSD launch investigations into leak of information
  • September 22 Winston Peters files papers in the High Court naming Tim Murphy, Paula Bennett, Steve Joyce, Wayne Eaglseon, Anne Tolley, Bill English, Brendan Boyle, Lloyd Burr and Clark Hennessy.
  • 7 November Winston Peters serves those named ahead of parliament opening.


-Newshub, Fairfax

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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.

To read Cam’s previous articles click on his name in blue.