Judith Collins misinterprets privacy ruling

AIMEE GULLIVER
Last updated 11:20 27/08/2014
judith collins

UNDER FIRE: Judith Collins is no stranger to controversy.

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Justice Minister Judith Collins says she got it wrong when she claimed she'd been cleared by the Privacy Commissioner over giving a public servant's name to WhaleOil blogger Cameron Slater.

Collins said last night she had been cleared by the Privacy Commissioner John Edwards of any wrongdoing after he had ruled the information she passed on was not private.

This morning a spokeswoman said the minister had interpreted that from media reports.

"The Minister understands her interpretation was incorrect, as should a complaint come directly from Mr [Simon] Pleasants - the Privacy Commissioner would consider it," the spokeswoman said.

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As detailed in Nicky Hager's book Dirty Politics, Collins emailed Slater the name, title and contact details of Simon Pleasants, a public servant she thought was behind the leak of information about Finance Minister Bill English's housing allowance.

Pleasants denied leaking the information to the Labour Party. After Slater posted Pleasants' name on his WhaleOil blog, death threats were directed at man and his family. The police were also involved in the matter.

The Commissioner said he refused to investigate the complaint, which was lodged by the Green Party, as it didn't come from the person who was the subject of the disclosure.

Edwards advised the Greens he was exercising his discretion not to investigate as the party did not "have a sufficient personal interest in the subject matter of the complaint."

Pleasants said he had not made an approach to the Privacy Commissioner, and would not comment further.

Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei said the party would provide the Commissioner with more information, as there was more information available now after Collins had admitted passing on private information to Slater.

"My concern is that there is a major public interest here, in whether a Cabinet minister has been deliberately releasing information about public servants, in breach of the Cabinet Manual and the Privacy Act."

The Commissioner was the best person to investigate the "politically volatile" matter, as he was outside the current election campaign environment, Turei said.

"The Prime Minister has refused to investigate her behaviour, so she has his backing there 100 per cent, but the public still have no confidence, and can't have any confidence in her or her actions or John Key until a proper investigation has been undertaken."

Prime Minister John Key has described Collins' actions in the matter as "unwise".

He put Collins on her second final warning over the incident, the first coming after she withheld details of a dinner in China with senior members of Oravida, a company linked to her husband.

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