Collins, SIS claims to be investigated by panels

TRACY WATKINS, MICHAEL FOX, HAMISH RUTHERFORD AND AIMEE GULLIVER
Last updated 17:40 01/09/2014

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Two more inquiries are being launched to scrutinise claims following hacked emails leaked by the mysterious hacker Rawshark.

Prime Minister John Key said today an independent inquiry will be held into the allegations surrounding Judith Collins, who resigned as justice minister on Saturday amid claims she tried to undermine the Serious Fraud Office.

Key said he would announce full details of the inquiry tomorrow but confirmed there would not be a Royal Commission of Inquiry. He said the inquiry would probably chaired by a retired judge and witnesses would be compelled to give evidence under oath, however.

SIS INQUIRY

The Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security, meanwhile, says she will conduct an "in-depth and robust inquiry" into claims Security Intelligence Service (SIS) information was used for political purposes.

Today in "recognition of public interest" Cheryl Gwyn, took the unusual step of providing an update during the course of an inquiry, into how a briefing between the head of the SIS with former Labour leader Phil Goff was passed to Whale Oil blogger Cameron Slater.

Gwyn confirmed she was summoning a number of individuals to appear and give evidence on oath to her inquiry.

Conducted in private in accordance with section 19(6) of the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security Act 1996, the individuals would appear separately over a period of more than a week. The individuals would not be named until the report was completed.

Gwyn was "committed to an in-depth and robust inquiry" and she had ordered the production of a large amount of documents to assist the inquiry.

"The scale of the inquiry is significant - it involves access to a variety of IT systems, documents, phone records and so forth. I then need to analyse that information, discard what is irrelevant, and then take into account the evidence from those summoned," she said. "

It is important that the inquiry is comprehensive, fair and independent. I will not be cutting any corners. I am not in a position to estimate the timing for the conclusion of the inquiry until all relevant information has been received and carefully considered."

COLLINS INQUIRY

While Key wouldn't disclose details of the Collins inquiry today he said the terms for reference would broadly be about the conduct of a minister. He ruled out extending it to address other claims in Nicky Hager's book Dirty Politics.

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Hager's book drew on thousands of emails hacked by a mystery figure called Rawshark to document National links to Slater, whom he claims was used as a front for National Party smear campaigns.

One of Hager's allegations is that Collins passed on the name of a public servant, who later received death threats.

Key said a lot of those matters had already been addressed and refuted.

"We're not going on a witch hunt, we're going on a genuine attempt to find out if there was inappropriate behaviour by a minister," Key said.

Broadening out the complaint was not warranted, he said.

“I think the opposition will want to make those claims because they simply want to try and use this as a way of either making the thing bigger than it is or smearing the government. I mean if you go and have a look at the broader issues I stand by the view they are either old issues, the conclusions are wrong, or alternatively they are not of such great significance that they would warrant that.”

Key said that if anyone had concerns about the integrity of the Serious Fraud Office investigation they should take those to the police, though he would not be. 

Key said he was confident he had made the right decision and believed the public would back his stance.

He refused to say if the inquiry would be broadened if further concerns were raised.

If Collins was exonerated it was possible she could return to Cabinet.

Key said he had not given his MPs advice on future dealings with Slater, saying MPs on the left also spoke with “hard-hitting” left-wing bloggers.

Key said the nastiness of left-wing and social media meant he avoided them where possible.

“I could show you lots of left-wing blogs that could do my head in if I wanted to… Unfortunately it ain't just true of one side of politics it’s true of all sides of politics and I think everybody in this room knows that.”

Labour leader David Cunliffe said an inquiry that only looked into suggestions that the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) and Financial Market Authority (FMA) investigations into Bridgecorp may have been smeared was not broad enough.

"I don't think that's good enough at all," Cunliffe said in Christchurch this afternoon.

"The New Zealand public want this cleared up. We cannot clear this up unless we can shine sunlight on it and that's got to cover all of the relevant offices and issues."

He wanted a "broad, rapid and impartial" inquiry.

"New Zealanders deserve to know the truth before they cast their votes."

Cunliffe also indicated that Labour would try to convince police to investigate.

"Labour will be writing to the police. We will be stating that we totally respect this is a judgement that the police must make, and we recognise their operational independence but we do believe that there are serious grounds for inquiry and we hope that they will seriously consider those," Cunliffe said.

Asked if that meant Labour would be laying a complaint to police, Cunliffe said: "You could call it that."

"We're writing to the Police Commissioner to set our views out about potential breaches of the law that may have occurred and asked him to consider whether they may want an investigation."

Labour wants to be consulted on the terms of reference for an inquiry into the alleged smear campaign against the SFO.

"There is a well embedded constitutional convention that requires the Prime Minister to consult with the leader of the opposition this close to an election on a matter this serious. I would expect to be consulted on the terms of reference."

Labour was writing to Key with proposed terms of reference, which would be sent to other political parties and made public.

"The key issue at the moment is what is the scope of the inquiry. It needs to be more than just the Minister of Justice's office, because we know that the threads of this potential abuse of ministerial office go beyond one office.''

OTHER INQUIRIES

There are several other inquiries pending over details revealed in Hager's book and the hacked emails that form its basis:

- Slater has complained to the police about the alleged illegal hacking of his emails earlier this year, by the person who goes by the pseudonym Rawshark and tweets from the Twitter username WhaleDump. The hacker provided Hager with copies of Slater's correspondence with senior National Party members, including Judith Collins.

- Slater has complained to the Privacy Commissioner about the Prime Minister's office releasing an email of his which led to the resignation of Judith Collins. The message said Collins was "gunning for" then-head of the Serious Fraud Office Adam Feeley. Collins was minister in charge of the SFO at the time.

- ACC whistleblower Bronwyn Pullar has also laid a complaint with the Privacy Commissioner against Judith Collins. Dirty Politics alleges Collins leaked confidential but false details about Pullar to Slater which he passed onto a friend.

- The Green Party has lodged a Privacy Commission complaint over Collins leaking the name of public servant Simon Pleasants to Slater. Collins thought Pleasants was behind leaking information about Bill English's housing allowance to the Labour Party. She emailed Pleasants' name, job title, and phone numbers to Slater, who then posted Pleasants on WhaleOil. Pleasants was vilified on the blog, and the police became involved.

- Stuff

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