Foreign Affairs leak not from Beehive says PM
ANDREA VANCE AND KATE CHAPMAN
Leaked Foreign Affairs documents did not come from the Beehive, Prime Minister John Key and Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully say.
Paula Rebstock spoke to Trade Minister Tim Groser in regards to her investigation into who leaked documents about the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade change process.
She was also believed to have been interested in talking to staff in Mr McCully and Mr Key's offices.
Mr Key said it was not unusual for ministers to be spoken to when such investigations were done.
He pointed to his own input when the Auditor-General carried looked into the Sky City casino deal.
"In that regard, of course Tim would be spoken to."
Mr Key said he had no problem with Ms Rebstock talking to his staff.
"Of course, if they came to my office, no problems whatsoever."
He had not asked his staff but said the leak had not come from his office.
"I don't need to cause they won't have been... I trust my staff."
Mr McCully denied rumours that he would not let Ms Rebstock interview his staff.
"There's no question of anyone in the Beehive being under suspicion as far as I'm concerned."
He had not asked his staff because he had "complete confidence" in them.
Asked whether that meant it was a ministry-level leak, Mr McCully said people could draw their own conclusions.
But it was clear that for the sake of completeness, Ms Rebstock and her team may want to speak with Beehive staff, he said.
"And it's been made very clear by me that we should cooperate."
Mr McCully said he has had discussions with Ms Rebstock but would not detail her contact with other staff members.
He had his own suspicions about the source of the leak.
"All I can say is this is not a new phenomenon and if you go to motive you can usually start to work a few things out."
Mr Groser is believed to have voiced concerns about the planned changes at the Foreign Affairs ministry.
"I myself wrote a four page letter instructing that certain matters were to come off the table.
"I don't think you can convict anyone for disagreeing with some of the contents of the Mfat change proposal."
The review was commissioned by the State Services Commission.
GROSER 'BREACHED RESPONSIBILITY'
Groser has breached cabinet collective responsibility by speaking to public servants about the ''botched'' restructuring at Foreign Affairs (Mfat), Labour's Phil Goff says.
The restructuring plans caused ructions after the initial proposal contained up to 300 job losses and said 600 people would have to reapply for their positions.
A Cabinet paper prepared by Foreign Minister Murray McCully was leaked to Goff in May and confirmed decisions to scale back the number of job losses from 304 to 146.
It also referred to closing the New Zealand embassy in Stockholm by the end of June, followed by posts in the Netherlands and Spain
Groser yesterday confirmed he had been spoken to by the inquiry into the leak of a Cabinet paper. It also emerged he is to seek the top job at the World Trade Organisation.
Goff said the ''witch hunt'' into leaks has ''backfired'' and is calling for an urgent debate at Parliament today into the ''serious allegations'' made against Groser.
It is understood that Groser's conversations with top civil servants about proposed restructuring at MFAT have become a focus of Paula Rebstock's investigation into the leaks. Groser is alleged to have expressed reservations about the controversial proposals to a number of people.
Groser said last night he had a ''preliminary discussion about two or three months ago'' with Rebstock, but has not been asked to formally appear.
Earlier in the day a number of questions were put to Groser about the inquiry but his office said he was travelling overseas and was unable to respond.
Less than two hours later, news broke that he was putting his hat in the ring for the WTO job.
By phone, Groser refused to confirm that. ''I'm just about to get on a plane. I'm not in a position to talk about that.''
He said ''You know far more than me...I've no idea what's going on with the inquiry.''
Asked if he expressed concerns to public servants about the plans, he replied: ''I have senior conversations with public servants all the time. Thanks very much, I'm getting on the plane now.''
Staff summoned to see Rebstock have been asked about their conversations with Groser. Sources say she is also interested in his staff and those working in the Prime Minister's office and for McCully. A limited number of people, understood to be around 10, had access to the Cabinet paper.
But the scope of Rebstock's inquiry was later widened to cover "all the relevant background facts surrounding the development of the Mfat change programme".
That included "the environment within which Mfat was operating during this period" and "who may have been responsible for earlier unauthorised disclosures during the development of the Mfat change programme".
Goff said he could ''scarcely blame'' Groser for speaking out. He understood Groser eventually drafted the Cabinet paper which made a U-turn on the controversial proposals.
''What was being opposed was universally opposed because it would create long-term damage within the Ministry,'' Goff said.
The allegations represent ''a fundamental breach of Cabinet collectives responsibility and confidentiality',' he said. ''Mr Groser is now in the gun ... now he faces the risk of dismissal from Cabinet for a breach of Cabinet rules, when he did the right thing in campaigning against what the New Zealand business community itself has come out publicly describing as a disaster for the country.''
- © Fairfax NZ News
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