Written By: - Date published: 8:50 am, December 25th, 2014 - 25 comments
Categories: Abuse of power, Deep stuff, john key, journalism, Media, national, newspapers, peter dunne, same old national, spin, you couldn't make this shit up - Tags: andrea vance
Twas the day before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
Except for officials from the DPMC and the PS
Who were busy at work drafting a press release that could attest
That Andrea Vance’s rights of privacy
Had been breached in a way that was egregiously
But not a word of apology came from John Key the PM
Who never apologises unless it is to his best mate Cameron
This Government is reaching peak cynicism with the decision to apologise to Andrea Vance the day before Christmas for breaching her rights of privacy. Stuff reported yesterday:
In a statement, both Parliamentary Service and the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet (DPMC) acknowledged “the personal hurt and humiliation that Ms Vance suffered as a result of personal information about her being accessed and released”.
“While the agreement is confidential, we can say that the Parliamentary Service unreservedly apologises for its part, and DPMC regrets any part its actions played in contributing to that position,” a spokesman said.
The apology relates to the release to inquirer David Henry by Parliamentary Services of Vance’s swipe card usage, telephone calls and email metadata in an attempt to find out who leaked the Kitteridge Report. Vance was the reporter to break the story of the report’s contents. Peter Dunne subsequently resigned as a Minister although he refused to admit that he was the leaker.
The incident attracted heavy criticism from the Dominion Post’s editor Paul Thompson. He said in an editorial in August 2013:
Fairfax has no confidence in the way this matter is being handled and we feel we have to take the matter further. This will include requesting, under the Privacy Act, a full account of how Andrea’s private information has been handled.
The release of information detailing Andrea’s swipe card usage, telephone calls and emails to the Henry inquiry was highly inappropriate and intrusive. There has also clearly been an attempted cover up. This has all put enormous pressure on Andrea who has been unfairly targeted for doing her job.
We hope the privacy commissioner will cut through the Government spin and provide Andrea with some redress.
The incident inspired anger amongst the press gallery. John Armstrong had this to say:
It goes without saying that journalists are by nature deeply suspicious of politicians and the motives which drive them – and vice versa.
Thrown together in the rabbit warren which passes for the parliamentary complex – a veritable hothouse fuelled by rampant ego, unrequited ambition, never-ending rumour and constant intrigue – MPs and media nevertheless have to establish a degree of trust for their mutually parasitic relationship to function effectively.
That trust works on many levels, be it MPs feeling they can talk off-the-record confident they will not be shopped to their superiors, to journalists respecting embargoes, to Cabinet ministers not blocking the release of sensitive documents sought by media under the Official Information Act.
That trust can take a long time to establish. It can be destroyed in a matter of seconds.
Even so, when trust does break down, it usually amounts to little more than a pin-prick on the fabric of democracy.
Not so this week, however. The prevailing sound was of the democratic fabric being ripped asunder.
The trawling of a Press Gallery reporter’s phone logs by parliamentary authorities is a breach of trust of such mega proportions that it may well place a lingering chill on politician-journalist contact.
The complaint was made in August 2013 and resolved now, some 16 months later. And note there is no sign of an apology from John Key himself.
Compare this to another allegation of breach of privacy although this one is not so clear because one of the persons who was a party to email correspondence voluntarily handed it to the Prime Minister’s Office. Publication happened on August 30, 2014 and a personal apology from the man himself was made to Slater around three months later. It was made during a time that Parliament was sitting and allowed Andrew Little to brand Key with #CutTheCrap.
National’s handling of privacy breaches concerning the media is appalling, undemocratic bordering on fascist and this apology is cynical in the extreme. Yet its handling of privacy breaches concerning Key’s BFF borders on the obsequious.
One could ask why …