Labour points finger at National over website

DAVID CUNLIFFE: Labour leader.
DAVID CUNLIFFE: Labour leader.

The Labour Party has released an email it claims directly contradicts Prime Minister John Key's public assurances that National was not involved in breaching Labour's website databases.

Author Nicky Hager claims in his book Dirty Politics that Key adviser Jason Ede and Whale Oil blogger Cameron Slater conspired over information relating to Labour Party membership details, including credit card records, after a security flaw was discovered on the Labour website in 2011.

Key denied a number of times during the week that the National Party was involved in the removal of data from the labour website, Labour Party president Moira Coatsworth said in a statement today.

She referred to a comment by Key on Thursday, when he said: ''What I know is for a simple fact all that stuff around the Labour Party was done by Cameron Slater and it wasn't from the National Party.''

Coatsworth said following the 2011 breach, Labour had proof that material had been downloaded to a National Party site and wrote to National asking for confirmation they would not breach the private nature of the material.   The National Party general manager, Greg Hamilton, responded on June 13th 2011:

''We do accept that one of our staff visited your public website ... and read files that were publicly available. It appears that he downloaded a file named Labour Newsletter and several compressed files with the view of reading later. In fact the compressed files remain un-opened''.

Coatsworth said the two statements were directly at odds and the public was entitled to clarification from the Prime Minister on two important questions: Did he now accept the National Party was involved and was he still asserting that Ede, ''at all material times a staff member in his office'', was not involved?

Labour leader David Cunliffe called for a public apology as Key had misled the public on a number of occasions over the allegations made in Hager's book.

As far as Labour was aware this was the only time its systems had been infiltrated and it had doubled its security.

Cunliffe said Key had also misled the public when it came to the release of confidential SIS information to Slater under the Official Information Act. He said Key would have known the information had been released as he would have had to have signed off on it.

Cunliffe said Labour was still considering how it would react to the revelations.

"I think what's really important that New Zealanders first get their heads around the substance of this, this is a very very serious matter and it is one of a number of times that the Prime Minister has misled New Zealanders over the last two days on revelations in Mr Hager's book."

Cunliffe said Slater had been given preferential treatment by the National Party.

Labour was also calling for the Prime Minister to stand down Justice Minister Judith Collins.

Collins had made comments "of a most distasteful nature" and admitted to being involved in a smear campaign against Internal Affairs official Simon Pleasants, Cunliffe said.

Key had previously said Collins was on her last warning and he would stand her down if she put a foot wrong.

"She's put both legs wrong on this one," Cunliffe said.

If no heads rolled there was something "deeply wrong" with the state of the National Party, he added.

Cunliffe said the Prime Minister had to take responsibility for the "apparatus" he had built up during the past six years.

"I mean, this is not behaviour that is becoming of any New Zealand politician nor the systems for which they are accountable.

"This has got to stop, the Prime Minister has got to take accountability for it and New Zealanders need to move forward in confidence by changing the government."

New Zealanders did not want National's "dirty politics", he said.

National's campaign manager Steven Joyce has rebutted Labour's claims about the email.

Joyce said the email sent by National in 2011 "confirms only what the National Party stated openly at the time. That a National IT staffer accessed publicly available information on Labour's website which the Labour Party had not properly secured.

"The National Party was open with the Labour Party, the public, and the media about this back in 2011 - this is old news."

Joyce said: "The Prime Minister's statements are fully consistent with the National Party's.''

* The headline on this story has been updated since it was first published as the word "hacking" was used in the wrong context.