Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: The Letter

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  • Russell Brown,

    For those who haven’t been following it on Twitter.

    Immigration minister Michael Woodhouse told Laura McQuillan today that he got the Cunliffe letter on May 9. That’s a day after Jared Savage filed his request – which was refused on June 16. Savage filed a more specific request on the day of the refusal and only then got what he was after.

    All OIA requests are notified to the minister’s office. But Woodhouse seems to have said he made his own request. Confusing.

    Woodhouse also told McQuillan he had not told Key and had no idea how Key knew – and then came back to her and said that his office had briefed Key.

    It's all very … complicated.

    But we seem to have a situation where the government gets the information immediately and can make use of it while a journalist is made to wait nearly a month before being refused.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22756 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole, in reply to Russell Brown,

    But we seem to have a situation where the government gets the information immediately and can make use of it while a journalist is made to wait nearly a month before being refused.

    But, but, neutral and impartial public service!

    Auckland • Since Mar 2007 • 4097 posts Report Reply

  • Peter Green, in reply to Russell Brown,

    But we seem to have a situation where the government gets the information immediately and can make use of it while a journalist is made to wait nearly a month before being refused.

    The Gov't get it under no surprises, but the Opposition doesn't. And then the Gov't get to spin this as them being more competent.

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2011 • 21 posts Report Reply

  • Chris Waugh, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Confusing, complicated indeed.

    Did Woodhouse OIA his own department? If so, why?! And why does his office seem to be communicating with Key's office without his knowledge?

    And am I reading too much into this, or has National been busy using its status as government raking up mud on the opposition? If so, is that legal or ethical?

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 2401 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Russell Brown,

    But we seem to have a situation where the government gets the information immediately and can make use of it while a journalist is made to wait nearly a month before being refused.

    Um, wait a minute Russell you're saying there's something somehow untoward about a department promptly responding to a ministerial request?

    And, yeah, too many people in local and central government think the provisions of the Official Information Act are suggestions rather than statutory obligations. That's not exactly new, and a separate issue.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Also, from the Herald this morning: "Mr English said he had no knowledge of the letter, and as far as he knew the National Party was not involved in making it public."

    And that's how you do a denial.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22756 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

    Um, wait a minute Russell you’re saying there’s something somehow untoward about a department promptly responding to a ministerial request?

    It's unclear to me exactly what happened, but if Woodhouse's office was notified about Savage's request, used the knowledge to file its own request and got the info inside 24 hours while Savage was made to wait nearly a month before being knocked back ... yeah, that's not great.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22756 posts Report Reply

  • Chris Waugh, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

    Um, wait a minute Russell you’re saying there’s something somehow untoward about a department promptly responding to a ministerial request?

    Considering that this is no ordinary immigrant, that Donghua Liu's relations with various National people had been used to cause the government a bit of trouble, and that David Cunliffe is a big, juicy target, I think the question is more about Woodhouse's motives in asking for that particular letter than the department's speed in fulfilling his request.

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 2401 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Chris Waugh,

    I think the question is more about Woodhouse’s motives in asking for that particular letter than the department’s speed in fulfilling his request.

    Gee, what kind of minister would possibly want to find out about any more potential Liu-shaped turds in the punch bowl before he heard about them on Morning Report? A competent one, Mr Waugh -- who might just have got lucky. I know that's not as much fun as the "Tory Dirty Tricks" conspiracy theory, but it's no more or less plausible.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Chris Waugh, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

    And you may well be right, Mr Ranapia, but there's something about the way this story has broken that just smells bad to me.

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 2401 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel, in reply to Russell Brown,

    It’s all very … complicated.

    Show me the time stamps!

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7892 posts Report Reply

  • izogi, in reply to Russell Brown,

    But we seem to have a situation where the government gets the information immediately and can make use of it while a journalist is made to wait nearly a month before being refused.

    On the topic, are there any guidelines or rules around politically motivated use of the extensive powers and oversight which Ministers have?

    For me it's fine that a Minister sees what's going in and out of their department, generally speaking, but this (if true) seems to be more about abusing that privilege when there's a clear conflict of interest between doing the appointed job and winning an election.

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 1139 posts Report Reply

  • Alex Coleman,

    The 'no dirty tricks who us?' theory doesn't explain how frequent WO flunkies were all up on the story before it broke though.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 247 posts Report Reply

  • Kumara Republic,

    With each passing hour, the whole thing's looking more and more like a swiftboating. And again, even then Cunliffe's still not off the hook by a long shot.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5420 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Alex Coleman,

    The ‘no dirty tricks who us?’ theory doesn’t explain how frequent WO flunkies were all up on the story before it broke though.

    And David Farrar and Hamish Price. It seems to have been quite the gossip in National Party circles.

    My guess: Woodhouse’s office requested and received the information as any minister’s office has a right to, but then failed to keep it confidential to the extent that lots of National Party activists had information about Cunliffe that had been obtained under ministerial auspices.

    This still wouldn’t prove that it was a dirty tricks trap set by the government, but it’s disgraceful behaviour and an abuse of the powers of a ministerial office if that’s what happened.

    Herald managing editor Tim Murphy seemed unimpressed on Twitter earlier. We may well hear more of this.

    Otoh, if the same centre-right chatterers (the Prime Minister included) have it right, we may also hear of embarrassing large donations to Labour from Liu. We'll see.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22756 posts Report Reply

  • Kumara Republic,

    This just in: Hone Hardware, sorry, Harawira, thinks it’s a Labour Party inside job. If he's proven right, then it needs its equivalent of Michelle Boag who's got the cojones to tell people to know when to quit. Then again, a Boag-esque cleanout would have the complicating factor of the need to balance the factions.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5420 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Russell Brown,

    simplest answer- Ede.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19688 posts Report Reply

  • Keir Leslie,

    Hang on, a letter to the Minister of Immigration as Minister of Immigration isn’t something Woodhouse has to OIA. It’s a letter to his office!

    Since Jul 2008 • 1452 posts Report Reply

  • Alex Coleman, in reply to Sacha,

    simplest answer- Ede.

    Well Woodhouse's office did mention it to the PM's office without any Ministers being in the loop, we're told.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 247 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Alex Coleman,

    The ‘no dirty tricks who us?’ theory doesn’t explain how frequent WO flunkies were all up on the story before it broke though.

    Back on this planet, people gossip in Wellington too. I certainly know a few Labour folks who (very quietly) thought it was a matter of when not if someone dug up evidence that Liu was spreading himself around, so to speak.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Alex Coleman,

    one has people to handle that sort of stuff you know

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19688 posts Report Reply

  • Alex Coleman, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

    "Back on this planet"

    I withdraw my obviously demented point then.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 247 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Just tweeted by Tim Murphy:

    Donghua Liu: more details in @nzherald tomorrow on the Labour minister and the chartered boat trip up the Yangtze River.

    Barker again, presumably.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22756 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

    Back on this planet, people gossip in Wellington too.

    This seems unusually pervasive partisan gossip and the fact that some of it apparently comes from information obtained with the powers of a ministerial office is a bit creepy.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22756 posts Report Reply

  • Chris Waugh, in reply to Russell Brown,

    the Labour minister and the chartered boat trip up the Yangtze River.

    Ooooh, I'm looking forward to this one!

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 2401 posts Report Reply

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