Leaks, wild allegations, privacy breaches, questions in the House, denials, urgent meetings, resignations, inquiries and now defamation action – the ACC scandal has it all, with the promise of more to come.
This morning TV3 reported that Judith Collins is starting defamation action against two Labour MPs – Trevor Mallard and Andrew Little – as well as against Radio New Zealand for comments made outside of Parliament – see: Collins eyes ACC defamation action
. Collins has also welcomed the Privacy Commissioner’s inquiry in to the leak of Bronwyn Pullar’s email – even if it includes ‘forensic examination’ of her office computers – see: Collins 'happy' for computer to be checked in ACC probe
. The investigation may be complicated by Collins’ admission to RadioLive that her office had printed and/or ‘copied’ the email – although Collin’s would not elaborate – see: ACC Minister printed leaked email
Today’s revelation by investigative reporter Phil Kitchin – who broke the original ACC privacy breach story – adds fuel to the fire. In his article, ACC worker re-viewed leaked Smith letter
, he reports that Jo Parker-Dennis – Pullar’s ACC case manager who was taken off Pullar’s case six months ago – repeatedly viewed the email containing Smith’s letter just a few days before the Herald broke the story. Pullar knew this because she apparently embedded objects in her emails to ACC that allowed her to monitor each time the email was opened and possibly who opened them. The advantage – or disadvantage, depending on your viewpoint – of electronic communications is that they are easily tracked. It is much harder to track the movements of a physical copy and to prove how, when or by whom they were passed from one person to another.
Cameron Slater has described this practice as ‘hacking.' But as a number of comments on his post point out, such mechanism are actually commonly used to monitor when emails are read and where they are forwarded.
Collins’ emphatic denials and welcoming of the inquiry suggest an unusual degree of confidence and certainty that her office didn’t leak the email according to Danyl Mclauchlan at the Dim-Post. In his post, The epistemology of political denials
, Mclauchlan says: ‘she can’t know for sure whether one of her staffers leaked Pullars’ name and then lied to her about it, unless she knows exactly who did leak it. If you follow me’.
Irrespective of who leaked what to whom, it’s pretty clear there is a fairly bitter internal faction fight going on inside the National Party. The Standard is loving it of course, and their post – they eat their own - is an intriguing account of what they believe has happened, speculating in some detail on the motivations and machinations going on behind the scandal. This blog post will be controversial and will, no doubt, draw the ire of National. In fact Cameron Slater has already responded strongly to the blog post, and is now posting numerous allegations about the personal lives of Labour MPs.
These kinds of kind of tit-for-tat revelations are part of an escalating war between the parliamentary parties, and it’s due to get a lot nastier. In recent years, New Zealand politics has become characterised by fluctuating battles over ‘scandal politics’ in which each side attempts to challenge their opponents’ political and ethical integrity. Traditionally in New Zealand, politicians have been highly reluctant to go into such fraught territory for fear of incurring counter-strikes. This mutually-assured destruction scenario has now broken down, leading to multiple political casualties.
Finally, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman has just published his views on politics
in New Zealand and Australia – see: Elephants Down Under
. His main claim about New Zealand is that our political spectrum is so moderate and left-leaning that it ‘could almost fit inside the US Democratic Party’. Toby Manhire replies here: Thomas Friedman sizes up New Zealand
, and Eric Crampton – a North American economist resident in New Zealand – has a very interesting blog post that argues New Zealand’s politics
are in fact far more progressive and intelligent than that of the Democrats – see: Antipodean Dreaming
Vernon Small (Dom Post): Government needs to take note of warning on its cost-cutting [Not currently online]
Thomas Friedman view of NZ politics
Adam Bennett (Herald): Former National MP suspect in bank assault
Geoff Bertram (Dom Post): Another approach to state asset sales programme [Not currently online]