30 Jul 2013

PM 'disappointed' records released

9:30 pm on 30 July 2013

Prime Minister John Key says he is very disappointed with Parliamentary Service for releasing a Press Gallery journalist's phone records.

Parliament's Speaker David Carter on Tuesday personally apologised to Fairfax Media's Andrea Vance, after her phone records were provided to a ministerial inquiry led by David Henry into the leaking of a report on the Government Communications Security Bureau.

John Key.

John Key. Photo: RNZ

Last week, Mr Carter said the records were not handed over, but on Tuesday said he had been made aware that a Parliamentary Service contractor inadvertently provided three months' worth of Ms Vance's phone records to Mr Henry.

The Parliamentary Service had earlier denied giving David Henry access to the journalist's phone records, but said it had provided information about where she had used her Parliamentary swipe card.

Mr Carter said the Henry inquiry did not ask for the Vance records and did not use them. He has referred the matter to the Privileges Committee and instructed Parliamentary Service to look at its procedures to ensure that private information can't be released.

Prime Minister John Key said journalists should not be subject to surveillance.

"They got it wrong, they made a mistake and they should never have released that information. What it also shows you, of course though, is that the Henry inquiry fully understood the breadth of their mandate. They didn't access the information, they didn't look at the information and it was quite clear they didn't want the information."

Peter Dunne.

Peter Dunne. Photo: RNZ

Independent MP Peter Dunne was also investigated as part of the inquiry into the leaked GCSB report. He told Radio New Zealand's Checkpoint programme on Tuesday that his conversation with David Henry implied that Mr Henry would be accessing Andrea Vance's phone records, as well as his own.

"When I met Mr Henry on the 31st of May, he asked for access to my landline records for the period 27 March to 9 April because he wanted to compare those with Andrea Vance's records."

But Mr Henry said on Tuesday that he did not request Ms Vance's phone records and the GCSB inquiry did not request or access the information at all.

The Labour Party said it is completely unacceptable for a Press Gallery journalist's phone records to be intercepted. Leader David Shearer wants to know who asked for the phone records to be released and it's looking like a cover-up.

"If it wasn't the Henry inquiry, then who was it? Was Mr Key's office involved in this and did Mr Key have some direct involvement himself?"

The Green Party said it is deeply disturbing that the phone records were provided to a ministerial inquiry. Co-leader Russel Norman said there was obviously enormous pressure coming from the Prime Minister's Office on to the Parliamentary Service to provide information to the Henry inquiry.

"Let's remember that the Chief of Staff of the Prime Minister's Office contacted Parliamentary Services to tell them to hand over a bunch of information about (independent MP) Peter Dunne, for example. We don't know how much pressure the Prime Minister's Office was putting on with regard to Andrea Vance."

Fairfax welcomes apology

Fairfax Media group executive editor Paul Thompson welcomed the Speaker's personal apology to the journalist.

"We appreciate the fact that David Carter took the time to apologise in person today. I think his endorsement of the important role of the media in Parliament and the need for them to go about their job without this kind of interference is really welcomed."

Mr Thompson told Checkpoint the issue should be examined by Parliament's Privileges Committee.

"I don't really know what to believe - it's an absolute shambles. And David Shearer's saying there's a smell of a cover-up - I'm not sure about that, but there's certainly a stench of a cock-up."