JT makes some good points about the leak of Winston’s private details

John Tamihere makes some good points in his Waatea column:

Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters and the New Zealand public has every right to find out who used private information for political purposes and benefits. That’s why the main story this week was the serving of legal documents on people involved in breaking the Peters story of his superannuation overpayments. His writ requests the source of the journalists story but for some reason, people in the media are describing this as a “chilling attack” on the rights of the media.

What is more “chilling” is that a citizens private information, known only to a very few number of beaurecrats in the Ministry of Social Development and Work & Income, was made known to National Ministers Paula Bennett and Anne Tolley.  

Winston’s litigation has nothing to do with media freedom – it has everything to do with his right to privacy. It has got everything to do with the integrity and credibility of our political system. Somebody in the senior beauracray or in the National Party took winston’s information and gave it to someone friendly in the media who was prepared to run with it.

The use of this information and smear campaign right in the middle of an election period is unprecedented.

The media can squeal all they like. They’ve set up the situation and environment where writs like this can succeed. For too long they have hidden behind “source protection” as they trawled through people’s private lives with prurient interest under the guise of public interest. Now people are sick of it and are coming for them. They don’t like it.

We all knew it was going to be a hotly contested election and the polls between National and Labour were closing. A third party, New Zealand First were in the box seat to decide who governed following the election.

No one was going to out Winston unless they had primary source documentation that could verify their story and up their reputation. Media integrity and credibility is important but clearly those handed this information on a platter determined it was too good not to use during the campaign. This was a knowing breach of an individuals right to privacy – but worse than that, it was tailor made to destroy the integrity and credibility of the New Zealand First Leader in the middle of a hotly contested election.

That is what is chilling and that is what must be investigated and that is why any court you would think would provide Winston with the order to obtain access to those who passed on that information in an attempt to corrupt the New Zealand election process.

As Brian Henry said in court, this wasn’t dirty politics, this was illegal politics.

People are overloaded with information through social networking and get most of their news from headlines. There is no doubt that this story damaged Winston and his electoral numbers. There is no doubt that it was premeditated to do this and there is no doubt that either the National Party Ministers or their senior beaurecrats individually or collectively plotted to ensure the demise of the New Zealand First Party.

The incoming government must start a range of inquiries into the way in which the last government conducted itself on a number of fronts. If I was a supporter of Winston’s, I would petition the Prime Minister for a Commission of Inquiry, headed by a judge or Queen’s Counsel.

This is not about Winston – not about New Zealand First. It’s about the integrity and credibility of our democratic processes, practices and the ethics of those that hold significant private information and are prepared to release it in advancing their own narrow interests.

I don’t agree there should be a Commission of Inquiry, but I do agree that the courts are the best place for this to be arbitrated. Of course, it could all go away if those responsible were actually honest for once in their miserable lives and resigned.

 

-Waatea

 


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