Prime Minister John Key is standing by United Future leader Peter Dunne and says he accepts the revenue minister's word that he did not leak a report into the Government Communications Security Bureau.
NZ First leader Winston Peters today used parliamentary privilege to accuse Dunne of leaking the report by cabinet secretary Rebecca Kitteridge to Fairfax Media.
The report revealed that more than 80 New Zealand citizens may have been illegally spied on by the bureau.
An investigation was under way by former top public servant David Henry to try and find the source of the leak.
Speaking of Dunne today, Key said: "He's given an absolute categoric assurance he didn't do this; I accept him at his word.
"I've worked with him for a long period of time and the entire time I've worked with him I've found him to be extremely trustworthy."
Appearing at the finance and expenditure select committee in his capacity as revenue minister, Dunne was repeatedly questioned by Peters about the leak of the report.
Dunne flatly denied leaking the report.
Peters asked whether Dunne had been interviewed as part of Henry's investigation.
"Mr Henry has spoken to me," Dunne said, later adding that the evidence was not sworn.
After having attempts to question Dunne repeatedly thwarted, with committee chairman Todd McClay ruling that the questions were beyond the scope of the hearing, Peters directly accused Dunne of leaking the report.
"My assertion is you did leak the report," Peters said.
Speaking to reporters outside the hearing, Dunne again denied leaking the report or knowing why Peters had made the accusation.
"I have no idea why he asked me those questions," Dunne said.
He said he had been interviewed by Henry about his handling of the report, as had everyone who had access to it.
Dunne said "I kept it under lock and key, effectively, in my home" until the day after the report was released publicly.
One staff member had seen the report the day after he released it. He believed it would be difficult for someone to get a copy of the report as it was locked at home while he was overseas.
Dunne dodged questions about whether an MP should resign if they were found to have leaked the report.
"That's a matter for the prime minister," he said.
"As I say, I'm clear in my conscience as to what happened with regards to my handling of the report and you know, we'll see what happens."
Fairfax group executive editor Paul Thompson said the company never commented on its sources.
"We're certainly not going to get into a game of ruling people in or out," he said.
Key accused Peters of making an allegation under parliamentary privilege without any evidence to support it.
He added it was not unusual for ministers to take reports home to read.
"It's a matter of national security," Key said.
"He's on the intelligence and security committee. He takes those matters seriously and reads his papers."
Labour leader David Shearer said it was legitimate to ask questions of who leaked the report.
"There's lots of rumours floating about, you don't put any stake into rumours," he said.
"But it is right to ask questions and seek reassurance, particularly from the prime minister, that any of his own ministers is not leaking any documents."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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