Monday, May 29, 2006

Hurricanes: Wimpier than the ...?

In the Press today:
Masoe then turned and allegedly punched [the victim] in the jaw.

"He just hit me in the side of the jaw. I was real shocked. I thought `what the hell'. It just came out of nowhere," the man said.

"...Then Umaga hit him a couple of times with the handbag as if to say `you idiot'. Masoe started crying. It was crazy."
I've been googling for incidents where Margaret Thatcher laid waste with a handbag. Not once can I find anything like the recipient bursting into tears as a result.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Dog bites man...

...and the Crusaders win the Super-12 again.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Purgewatch: Sunday Star Times goes stirring

The Sunday Star Times had a front page article about Helen Clark wanting to purge the ranks of old labour for fresh blood. The only named source in the article is one Mark Blackham, who once worked in the Prime Minister's staff but now works in some consultancy. I get the impression this was the result of a liquid lunch in which he agreed to have his speculations printed for the record rather than being an authorized tip from the ninth floor.

Let's see to what he says:
Mark Blackham [...] said he understood MPs Russell Fairbrother, Dianne Yates and Jim Sutton would be gone by the end of the year.
He picked Jill Pettis and Ann Hartley as further candidates for the chop.
Gee whiz. These names were widely bandied about in the Herald, the Press and even this blog. If this was truly a tip from Helen Clark, one would have supposed that instead of dropping hints, she start wielding the hatchet. Jim Sutton, for example, was supposed to have resigned his Cabinet posting at the end of last year and he is still there.

What's interesting in this article are the denials. Dover Samuels:
Associate Maori Affairs Minister Dover Samuels is widely believed to be in firing line, but he denied it, saying: "It's the first time I've heard of that... I'm here till 2008."
If it's the first time Dover's heard of that, what did he think was going on when Helen offered to make him the new High Commissioner to Niue? Or for Russell Fairbrother:
But Fairbrother [...] said [he] had no intention of resigning and had not been asked to do so.


Fairbrother accepted people might point the finger because "I'm 61 and I lost Napier".
Not to mention being passed over for a cabinet posting in favour of somebody who was later found to have dubious business ethics. But this supposes that Helen Clark would ask people outright for their resignations when she actually hasn't the authority to do so. What really would have been interesting if he had had discussions with Helen about the possibility of taking up some appointment elsewhere.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

The Budget

Upon hearing the details of the budget, I think it's fair to say that the Labour Government has "reached a turning point and failed to turn". The scope is there for ample tax cuts (not as large as National was offering but ample nevertheless) but because Micheal Cullen refuses to consider the possibility, his colleagues are forced to follow. The announcement of the unbundling of the local loop would have hid its deficiencies well but thanks to Michael Ryan, this budget has no camoflage.

Helen Clark is well aware of the need for a change of direction in the Finance Portfolio. But since it took her six years to get rid of an incompetent George Hawkins, she lacks the ability to remove a minister that was once a pillar of her administration but now stuck in a rut.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

More Telecom news

David Cunliffe, the Minister of Communications, probably wishes that he had kept his mouth shut after he stated that Telecom should be prepared to reduce its dividends in order to increase its investment. For starters, the Share Market was listening and Telecom lost a further 3% of its value. Now the Securities Commission is looking at his comments and he had to endure a grilling in the House.

Michael Ryan, the Leaker, has finally been sacked. He originally offered his resignation but that was refused as a sacking was felt a more appropriate ending. The police are now investigating and hopefully they will turn up something far more believable than the somewhat unconvincing explanation offered to the State Services Commission.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Leaker identified

The State Services Commission has announced that Leaker that gave classified budget documents is one Mark Ryan, a messenger at the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. Lest this be interpreted as evidence that Helen Clark authorised the leak, I should point out that this department is separate from the Prime Minister's Office and is a parallel agency to the State Services Commission and the Treasury. More soon once the report is digested.

UPDATE: I just find myself puzzled at what supposed to have happened. Michael Ryan is supposed to have worked for the government for many years. Furthermore in a previous government job, he had been "privy to Cabinet papers" which he never "took advantage of" [both quotes come from paragraph 39]. These points, among others, had persuaded his employers that he was the best person for the position [paragraph 40].

Yet somehow with this trustworthy background, he decides out of the blue to mention the unbundling decision to a long time friend who had worked at Telecom and later decides to show him a copy of the briefing paper? Not only that, he allows the friend to keep the paper for a while on the condition that the paper not be copied? And during this background of friendship, he had never ever given Cabinet papers of any sort to his friend? I find the suggestion that he was naive or acted in a moment of foolishness to be almost unbelievable. Even the stupidest criminals aren't much dumber than this and that takes some doing.

One suggestion of what might have happened is contained in the report:
During the course of the recruitment process it was noted that Mr Ryan had close associations with senior government officials and representatives, and this was seen at the time as providing some additional comfort in relation to his appreciation of the importance of confidentiality.

Paragraph 40
These relationships would have arisen in the course of his previous position where he had access to Cabinet papers. I'm not so much interested in the identities of the senior government officials but rather the "representatives" by which the report writer might possibly have meant "members of parliament". Which representatives did he have close associations with?

MORE: In an attempt to find further associates of Mike Ryan, I found these two pages which list the participants in the Lake Taupo cycle challenge (the SSC report states in Paragraph 23.2 that the two shared a common interest in cycling), among them Mike Ryan and Peter Garty. However none of the other names ring a bell. They also have an interest in rugby but that search was less fruitful.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Telecom Leaker to keep job?

There's speculation tonight that the naming of the person that leaked the budget papers to Telecom could keep his job as being named would be punishment enough. The source for the speculation is one Andrew Scott-Howman, an employment lawyer. It's unclear from the report whether he thinks the argument has merit or whether it's really a feeble argument that a desperate lawyer is bound to put forward when there's nothing else to say. My guess is the latter for if his suggestion ever had serious merit, I daresay certain events would have turned out somewhat differently:
Mark Felt has today been identified as "Deep Throat", the mysterious source that leaked to Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein secret information about the Watergate Investigations. President Nixon said that Mark would keep his job as Deputy Director of the F.B.I. as publication of his name was punishment enough.
Kim Philby has been identified as the KGB mole that tipped off his fellow traitors about their impending arrest. The Home Office has decided to take no further action, not even to dismiss him from the S.I.S., as they consider public mention of his name to be punishment enough.
Or even:
Judas Iscariot has been identified as the disciple that turned his master in to the authorities for thirty pieces of silver. The remaining disciples declared that Judas was still a disciple and would not be sent to Hell for publication of his name was punishment enough.

Telecom Leak update

Given that it was recently announced that the report on the Telecom leak will be released next week, one might have expected the clues about the suspect to appear in the Sunday papers. However the offerings are scant. There's only an article in the Sunday Star Times about how the leaker, now the subject of "employment action" (apparently the latest euphemism for disciplinary proceedings), will be getting a chance to review the report before it is released. The article is padded with speculation that the leak came from either the Treasury or the Ministry of Economic Development and conjectures that it is more likely to have come from the Treasury. If the report did come from a Ministry official acting on his own then it would be embarassing for the responsible ministers, Micheal Cullen (Treasury) or Trevor Mallard (Economic Development), but not to the extent that their resignation would be required.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006


The draft of the Taito Field inquiry has been completed and is being sent to Taito Field MP for comment. This action indicates that some adverse findings have been made against him and the investigating QC, following the practice of "natural justice", is offering him the chance to respond. When will Taito respond and the report be released? Good question. There is no set time limit to respond so it could be another nine months before the QC decides that that Taito is not interested in responding and realses the report.

Judging from the careful responses to Question #3 in the House today, Helen Clark has not seen the draft but she has had a meeting with Taito about the report after he received it. However she's aware of the possibility that Taito is stupid enough to mislead her over the draft's content (a.k.a. doing a Benson-Pope) and so the situation is still uncontained.

Also in the House today (Question #1):
Dr Don Brash: If, as has been reported, Telecom has already provided the State Services Commissioner with information that includes the name of the leaker, why has that person not been suspended pending the outcome of the investigation, given that he or she is a significant security risk in the lead-up to the Budget?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I am absolutely confident that if the State Services Commissioner had information that would identify someone who was indeed a risk to the security of the Government, he would inform people very quickly. But he has informed me that right now he has nothing relevant to report to me.

Confusing. How to reconcile it with Telecom's statement that the State Services Commission's investigation should be "swift"? I can only think of the following possibilities, none of them all that persuasive:
a) The SSC knows through Telecom where the report came from but not the identity of the person who leaked it.

b) The SSC knows who leaked the document but does not consider him or her to be a risk to the security of the government.

c) Helen already knows the identity of the leaker before the SSC reported to her so that her statement that he had nothing relevant to report is literally true.
In a press conference, Helen has said that she is taking a "hands-off" approach towards the investigation, which is a radical change from her documented practice during the Doone inquiry. Lastly contrary to earlier statements, it's now not clear that the document actually came from a minister's office. Helen understands that that particular document "went beyond minister's offices", whatever that is supposed to mean.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Leak Inquiry Length

Confusing signals have been emitted about how long the Leak Inquiry will take to investigate the recent budget leak. Telecom has completed its investigation and handed over its results to the State Services Commission on Friday, two days after the leak. It expects the SSC investigation to be "quite swift" as a result. Mark Prebble, on the other hand, expects that the SSC investigation will be completed "within a month".

Even if parallels to the Taito Field inquiry (projected time: nine days, actual time: nine months and counting) are discounted, this is an extraordinary long time to conduct an inquiry given that Telecom has confessed. Even evaluating the report and questioning the possible suspects named or implied by Telecom should take no more than a week. Secondly given that the report is to be handed to the Prime Minister and the Minister of State Services, Annette King, it'll probably be another year or two before the report is released to the public.

Friday, May 05, 2006

More on the Leak

Telecom has now destroyed the leaked paper on legal advice. I would have thought that sending it back to the Prime Minister's and Cabinet Department would have been the wiser thing to do but it seems they could no longer have the reasonable belief that it would have been secure there.

More information has emerged about the content of the paper. It was leaked the day before before the Cabinet Policy Committee met and contained a letter from David Cunliffe to Helen Clark. That means it was one of the papers sent out to all Ministers on the weekend for discussion in Monday's cabinet meeting. Telecom got the paper on Tuesday night and tried to find out whether it was true while the Committee meeting didn't take place until Wednesday.

The list of suspects is now somewhat larger. Most of the previously excluded ministers can still be eliminated but a new suspect appears. Clayton Cosgrove has ties with TelstraClear as he had once worked with Clear as their Public Affairs Manager. Ordinarily this would preclude him from being the source of the leak but the longer time frame makes me pause. What if there were two leaks? One from the Cabinet to TelstraClear and a second from a Telecom mole within TelstraClear to Telecom? Food for thought.

UPDATE: Telecom has clarified its earlier comments about destroying the document by saying that it has destroyed copies of the document but that "one document" has been retained.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Who leaked?

The spectacular bungling of the announcement unbundling of the local loop has been a big blow to the solidarity of Clark's cabinet. Originally intended to be announced in the budget, the policy was leaked to Telecom within a few hours of it being signed off by the Cabinet Policy Committee. Telecom then informed the government who had to make an impromptu announcement. Because of this, Telecom lost about 10% of its value (or a billion dollars) on the sharemarket today. Some blow to Telecom's value was inevitable but coming in the way that it did only worsened the impact.

So who leaked the documents to Telecom? TVNZ reported tonight that the source of the leak was the office of a Cabinet Minister. There is always the possibility that a staffer cocked up but the sheer magnitude of the leak suggests deliberation with the Minister's deniable acquiescence. The short period of time that it took between the making of the decision and the leaking, the leak can probably be narrowed down to the office of one of the Ministers at the meeting. From the website of the Cabinet Office website, the members of the Policy Committee are:
Helen Clark
Michael Cullen
Jim Anderton
Steve Maharey
Phil Goff
Annette King
Trevor Mallard
Pete Hodgson
Parekura Horomia
Mark Burton
Jim Sutton
However David Cunliffe would probably attended as the meeting concerned his portfolio while Trevor Mallard was India and Jim Sutton was visiting Korea and China.

I'm inclined to rule out Clark, Cullen and Cunliffe - the first two because any leaks would make their government look bad while the last would be have to be daft to screw up his own portfolio for politics. Parekura Horomia simply hasn't got the nous while Annette King was being mentioned as leading the witchhunt which might mean that Clark knows it wasn't her. I would be surprised if it was Jim Anderton as his conduct as a cabinet minister has been spotless (as opposed, say, to his autocratic conduct as Party Leader). So that leaves Steve Maharey, Phil Goff, Pete Hodgson and possibly Mark Burton on the short list of suspects.