5 Aug 2011

Parties accused of using SIS boss as political football

8:40 pm on 5 August 2011

The Public Service Association is urging parties to stop using New Zealand's top spy as a political football.

Labour Party leader Phil Goff is in a dispute with the director of the Security Intelligence Service over whether Mr Goff was briefed on claims Israeli agents were active in the wake of the Christchurch earthquake in February.

A document release by Warren Tucker to blogger Cameron Slater under the Official Information Act has a notation from Dr Tucker saying that had briefed Mr Goff on the matter.

Prime Minister John Key says it is not something Dr Tucker would lie about it and official documents show that Mr Goff was briefed by him.

Mr Key says Dr Tucker is meticulous in the way he handles his material and always ticks off each item on the agenda after it has been discussed at meetings.

He says the vast bulk of the document provided by the SIS was blocked out, but it's likely that Phil Goff has simply forgotten he was spoken to by the SIS.

"Phil Goff is a busy man, I'm busy, people forget things, it happens," Mr Key said. "My experience in politics is it's generally a lot better just to say 'hey I'm busy and sometimes I forget things' than (to) necessarily blame a senior civil servant."

But Mr Goff on Friday maintained he was not spoken to by the SIS, nor read any documents on the topic, and says it is something he would remember.

He is calling for all documents relating to the SIS investigation into the Israeli spy allegations should be released publicly.

PSA national secretary Brenda Pilott says it does not matter who said what, but a public servant should never be brought into a political debate.

Ms Pilott says the National and Labour party leaders have put Warren Tucker in a difficult position.

"The rules for public servants is that they have to keep their politics out of their job and their job out of politics. And that will only work if politicians allow them to do that."

She believes politicians are using the issue to score points in an election year.

The PSA says any concerns with the documents provided by the SIS should be brought up with the Ombudsman, not used as a political football.