‘There needs to be consequences’, says Muller over NZ MP’s covid leak

New Zealand's opposition National Party leader Todd Muller previously claimed the leak was “loose, shabby and a reminder these guys [Labour-led government coalition] can’t manage important things well”. Image: RNZ

By RNZ News

The opposition National Party leader says he has written to the party’s board asking them to remove MP Hamish Walker from the party after it was revealed he leaked private health information to New Zealand media.

It was revealed yesterday that former National Party president Michelle Boag was responsible for leaking confidential covid-19 patients details to Hamish Walker, who then passed that information on to media.

Prior to that revelation, National Party leader Todd Muller described the leak as “loose, shabby and a reminder these guys can’t manage important things well”.

READ MORE: ‘Privacy breach has ‘ring of dirty politics’ – Hipkins
LISTEN: ‘It’s completely unacceptable” – Todd Muller

“The problem is when you’ve allowed a culture of sloppiness and clumsiness to take over and become pervasive, you know, really history suggests you need a new broom to be able to sort and set the tone from the top,” he said just a few days ago.

Minister of Health and State Services Chris Hipkins said he was disappointed about the leak and said it had “a ring of dirty politics about it”, but he did not want to prejudice the investigation.

Walker, who admitted the leak late yesterday afternoon, has already been stripped of his portfolios.

Muller told RNZ Morning Report there needed to be consequences and he has written to the party’s board asking it to remove Walker from the party.

“This behaviour is completely unacceptable,” Muller said.

Awaiting legal advice
“Muller said he became aware that Walker was responsible for the leak on Monday and was awaiting legal advice before passing that information on.

He said he had not spoken to Boag about the issue and he was not sure what the arrangement between her and Walker was.

“It doesn’t support the values I bring to the role, and it doesn’t support the values of the National Party I know.”

NZ Herald front page
Today’s New Zealand Herald … opposition National Party leader Todd Muller “hugely angry” with own party’s involvement in the covid privacy breach. Image: PMC screenshot

“I am personally, hugely angry. This is not the politics who reflects who I am as a person. It does not reflect the National Party.

The board will meet to discuss the matter today.

“Ultimately it’s a board decision, but he’s shown some serious lapses of judgement. It’s totally inappropriate.”

Privacy Commissioner John Edwards agreed it was an appalling lack of judgement.

‘Using unwell individuals as pawns’
“It’s really difficult to justify using unwell individuals as pawns in that kind of game.”

Edwards said MPs were exempt from privacy legislation so it falls to the National Party leader and board to administer discipline.

Boag, however, may have breached the Privacy Act, he said.

“I will be thinking about what, if any, response we make to that… those decisions are yet to be made.”

Edwards said he was a little surprised the Auckland Helicopter Trust had access to the details.

“It’s not immediately obvious to me as to why they would need information about people under quarantine.

“I’m very interested in understanding the breadth of that distribution of the information.”

Up to National to deal with
Quarantine Minister Megan Woods told Morning Report the matter was one for the National Party to deal with.

“We’ve been really clear, leaking of that information is really disappointing, these are New Zealanders who had returned home to be safe, they have a right to assume their data won’t be leaked to the media.”

Emergency services across the board are supplied the names of people who have covid-19, she said.

“That is because if emergency services need to come into contact with someone who has tested covid positive for whatever reason, be that an airlift or whatever, that they have that information and make sure their staff is protected.”

This article is republished by the Pacific Media Centre under a partnership agreement with RNZ.

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