Judith Collins' office made haste on OIA

MATT NIPPERT AND TRACY WATKINS
Last updated 05:00 01/09/2014
Collins
KENT BLECHYNDEN/Fairfax NZ

MORE REVELATIONS: Judith Collins' office processed an OIA request in just two days to release an email embarrassing then SFO head Adam Feeley in 2011.

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Judith Collins' office processed an Official Information Act request in just two days to release an email embarrassing then Serious Fraud Office head Adam Feeley in 2011.

The revelation comes as ripples from the Dirty Politics saga widened during the weekend after a series of bombshells including:

■ Collins stepped down as Justice Minister after an email handed to the prime minister's office raised questions about her involvement in what leaked emails appear to suggest was a campaign by Right-wing blogger Cameron Slater and others to undermine Feeley while he was SFO boss.

■ Prime Minister John Key confirmed there would be an inquiry into Collins's actions in relation to Feeley, with details of the inquiry to be announced today.

■ Senior staff in the PM's office were summoned on Friday by Inspector General of Intelligence and Security Cheryl Gwyn to a closed-door inquiry to give evidence under oath about declassified information allegedly supplied to Slater which proved embarrassing to Opposition leader at the time Phil Goff.

■ Slater lodged a Privacy Act complaint over Key releasing his email.

In October 2011, Feeley was embarrassed after emails leaked by his former prosecutor showed he had toasted the prosecution of Bridgecorp managing director Rod Petricevic with Champagne obtained from the offices of the failed finance company.

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Emails obtained by Fairfax Media, alongside one released by the PM's office, appeared to show controversy over the incident was in part stoked by Slater and fellow blogger Cathy Odgers who had talked of being being paid - it appeared from the emails - by Hanover Finance's Mark Hotchin to attack the SFO.

In the aftermath of the controversy, Collins - at the time minister responsible for the SFO - criticised Feeley's behaviour.

On October 17 Collins disclosed Feeley had emailed her an apology, but she expected him to travel to Wellington to deliver it in person.

An OIA request by the National Business Review for the email was processed and the email released the following day.

Yesterday Feeley said criticism of the incident was overblown, and he wasn't kept informed of the fast-tracked release of his apology.

"It was a genuine apology as we didn't need the distraction of the over-reaction the media had to it. I didn't know it was going to be made public that quickly, but wasn't that surprised or bothered," Feeley said.

Key was back on the campaign trail yesterday but the repercussions from Nicky Hager's book Dirty Politics are threatening to derail National's re-election chances.

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Key will be hoping that Collins's resignation will draw a line under the controversy but there is speculation of more allegations to come. He would not be drawn yesterday on questions about Hotchin.

"It's nothing to do with the Government other than the fact that we've had a minister that was mentioned in an email as potentially playing a role with a chief executive. That would need to be fully investigated."

But Key said there was no evidence yet to suggest Collins had acted inappropriately. "She's utterly refuted it, but as you know, she's recently resigned and there'll be a full inquiry into that, but in terms of anything else, it's not a matter for the National Party." Key welcomed the Security Intelligence watchdog's inquiry, meanwhile, and said his office would co-operate fully.

Hager's book also alleges a staffer in Key's office, Jason Ede, acted as a conduit between the Beehive's ninth floor and Slater, and tipped him off about the Security Intelligence Service document that embarrassed Goff. The inquiry is considering whether or not Slater was given special treatment after lodging an OIA request for the document.

Senior staff in Key's office are expected to have been summoned, including chief of staff Wayne Eagleson, Ede and others. But Key said he had not personally been asked to appear though he had no problem doing so. He did not know the date but Slater confirmed he had been summoned to give evidence under oath on September 11.

Meanwhile, Collins did not return calls yesterday but Slater said he was confident that any inquiry would exonerate her.

- The Dominion Post

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