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Peter Dunne at Privileges Committee Hearing

Peter Dunne at Privileges Committee Hearing on Release of Journalist's Information
- 4 September 2013

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By Hamish Cardwell

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The Privacy of communications between ministers and the public was an “absolute right” according to United Future leader Peter Dunne who spoke at a privileges committee meeting in Wellington today.

The Committee met to hear submissions from those involved in the release of a journalist's emails and phone and swipe card records to the Henry Inquiry after a leaked report into the GCSB was published in the Dominion Post.

Mr Dunne resigned as a minister after refusing cooperate fully with the Henry inquiry.

He said the public may be disinclined to communicate with Members of Parliament if they thought those communications could be accessed.

“As a general principal I would come back to the absolute privacy of communications.”

His email metadata and phone records were given to the inquiry without his approval, and swipe card information released covered a longer period than he had given permission for.

“At no point did the inquiry have the permission to access my email metadata, let alone the contents of my emails.”

He had only released edited versions of his email conversations with Fairfax reporter Andrea Vance after persistent requests from David Henry.

Mr Dunne said it was unacceptable that information about peoples' movements around he parliamentary complex were released for reasons other than criminal or personal security.

“It was possible to determine from my swipe card records my frequency of visits to the toilet.”


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Clerk of the House Mary Harris

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The head of the Office of the Clerk Mary Harris also spoke at the committee.

She said that metadata provides a lot of information and the privileges committee could provide guidance as it should be released.

Where there are requests for information, the permission of the owner should always be sought before it was released.

She said the Office of the Clerk and Parliamentary Services were looking to have greater collaboration of strategy, and would be seeking advice from an IT specialist.

Having the beehive and parliament phone and computer systems on the same “real estate” had caused some "tensions".

The office needed to work at building its relationship with the media, Ms Harris said.


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