Simon Bridges' expenses leak: Stakes are high for MPs amid inquiry

by Jane Patterson / 17 August, 2018

Speaker of the House Trevor Mallard has launched an inquiry into the leak. Photo / RNZ

 If a National Party MP is named as the source of the leak of Simon Bridges' travel bill their political career will come to an abrupt end.

If it is found to be someone employed by Parliamentary Service, they will be marched out of the door.

The stakes are high as the Speaker of the House Trevor Mallard launches an inquiry into a leak that has all the appearance of a political hatchet job.

It does not look like this was a breach made in error, for example an email being sent to the wrong person.

The Speaker is treating it as a deliberate act with a "forensic" investigation looking at all of the activity carried out on Parliament's servers, that includes any printing or photocopying.

National's shadow Leader of the House Gerry Brownlee thinks the perpetrator will "almost certainly" be found and then named accordingly.

The wheels of political reporting are greased by selective leaks but there are two dynamics here that have elevated this into a formal inquiry: the chance, however slim, that a parliamentary staffer - strictly bound by confidentiality - was involved, and National's active support for an inquiry.

The list of possible suspects has been whittled down and no MP from another party is in the frame.

This greatly increases the likelihood the leak came from the National Party caucus despite vocal denials from the leader and his MPs.

There are still experienced heads in the caucus and they have obviously decided the possibility of flushing out the leak, and the fall out if it is one of their own, is worth the risk of finding out who it is.

If the person is found to be a National MP, that would be clear grounds for expulsion from the caucus.

Running alongside all of this is the passage of the controversial waka jumping law, opposed by National but being pushed by New Zealand First.

It is still before the House but if it is passed before the completion of the inquiry and a National MP is named, that law would ensure any MP expelled from their caucus automatically loses their seat in Parliament.

Despite National's criticisms of the imminent law change, it could end up helping that party because at the moment expelled MPs are free to stay around at least until the next election. The waka jumping law, once in place, would make short work of any MP finding themselves out of favour.

But there is another fundamental issue at play - the protection of journalistic sources.

There was a full blown Privileges investigation after Parliamentary Service gave a Press Gallery reporter's phone and swipe card access information to an investigation into the leak of a report into the GCSB.

As a result, Parliamentary Service was given a serve, reminded about the protection of journalistic sources and that consent should always be sought first.

More recently, deputy prime minister Winston Peters named journalists in the initial part of a legal action to fund the source of who told media about his superannuation payment.

Mr Mallard assured the journalist who received the Bridges leak this latest inquiry is not about coming after them; Parliamentary Service will have also learnt the lesson of 2014 as this new investigation gets underway.

It holds an extraordinary amount of information about the movements and communications of everyone within the precinct, but there are high expectations similar information would not be handed over without question as happened in 2014.

The Speaker does not expect the inquiry into the Bridges leak to take long, and like Gerry Brownlee, expects the culprit to be caught.

If it does turn out to be an MP, hold on for the ride.

This article was originally published by RNZ.

Latest

Why Marlborough, the jewel of NZ's wine industry, is your next destination
My low-rent version of Sisyphus in hell
109522 2019-08-15 00:00:00Z Humour

My low-rent version of Sisyphus in hell

by Michelle Langstone

Michelle Langstone on being injured.

Read more
Requests denied, delayed and redacted
109441 2019-08-14 00:00:00Z Politics

Requests denied, delayed and redacted

by Mike White

Frustrations of the fourth estate.

Read more
Stats NZ could need years to regain public trust
109503 2019-08-14 00:00:00Z Politics

Stats NZ could need years to regain public trust

by Craig McCulloch

The census botch-up has prompted fears the debacle will do long-lasting damage to the public's trust in statistics.

Read more
Gentleman Jack: Suranne Jones on the remarkable Anne Lister
109439 2019-08-14 00:00:00Z Television

Gentleman Jack: Suranne Jones on the remarkable An…

by The Listener

A historical drama about a 19th-century landowner who secretly diarised her relationships with women comes to Neon.

Read more
Hannibal Lecter's creator returns with Cari Mora
108448 2019-08-14 00:00:00Z Books

Hannibal Lecter's creator returns with Cari Mora

by Craig Sisterson

In his first post-Hannibal Lecter book, Thomas Harris heads for Elmore Leonard territory.

Read more
Kiwis in the kitchen: A bite-sized history of NZ cuisine
109468 2019-08-14 00:00:00Z Food

Kiwis in the kitchen: A bite-sized history of NZ c…

by Lauraine Jacobs

Lauraine Jacobs traces the evolution of eating in NZ, from the spartan diet of the war years to the vibrant multi-ethnic melting pot of cuisines...

Read more
The chef bringing the world's cuisine to Kāeo
109526 2019-08-14 00:00:00Z Food

The chef bringing the world's cuisine to Kāeo

by Jenny Ling

Anna Valentine holds cooking workshops in the kitchen of her century-old kauri villa in Kāeo.

Read more