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Prime Minister’s chief of staff needs to step aside

3 August 2013

Prime Minister’s chief of staff needs to step aside

“The latest Henry Inquiry revelations show that the Prime Minister’s chief of staff, Wayne Eagleson, bears responsibility for the release of the of Dunne/Vance emails to the Henry Inquiry. Mr Eagleson must now step aside until the full facts have been established by the Privileges Committee,” said Green Party Co-leader Dr Russel Norman today.

“Mr Eagleson told the Parliamentary Service that Mr Key wanted it to make available to his inquiry whatever “relevant material” it requested. It was Mr Eagleson’s authorisation that led to the Parliamentary Service releasing that information.

“It is clear that the Prime Minister’s office put undue pressure on the Parliamentary Service to comply with the demands of the Prime Minister’s inquiry. Mr Eagleson and Mr Key cannot turn around and act shocked when it turns out that the Parliamentary Service gave the Henry Inquiry everything it asked for.

“Geoff Thorn has resigned for releasing Ms Vance’s private information at the request of the Henry Inquiry. But he released that information under the authorisation that Mr Eagleson purported to give him. It is ultimately the Prime Minister and his chief of staff who told Mr Thorn to release Ms Vance’s information.

“There are many unanswered questions, not least of which is whether Mr Eagleson was directly relaying Mr Key’s instructions or acting beyond his remit. Mr Key and Mr Eagleson cannot carry on as if nothing has happened. Mr Eagleson now needs to step aside until the Privileges Committee inquiry finds the answers.

“I do acknowledge that Mr Eagleson did make some efforts to limit the harm caused but ultimately it was his authorisation of May 9th that led to Ms Vance’s private data being handed over. If Mr Key genuinely believes that the release of this information was unacceptable then how can he leave his chief of staff in place when it was Mr Eagleson whose authorisation led to that release?” said Dr Norman.

The evidence trail:

Authorisation from Prime Minister: On the 9th of May, Mr Eagleson wrote to then head of the Parliamentary Service Geoff Thorn to “confirm that the Prime Minister would like Parliamentary Service to make available to the Inquiry team records from Ministerial Office photocopiers and any other relevant material requested”.

The emails: On the 20th of May, the Inquiry asked the Parliamentary Service for “all emails between [Ms Vance’s email address] and Hon Peter Dunne between 22 March and 9 April”. The full emails were provided by Parliamentary Service on the 22nd of May. On the 21st of May, Mr Eagleson says he spoke with Mr Thorn and said he could not authorise the release of Mr Dunne’s emails and then called Mr Dunne’s office regarding the release of the emails. Mr Eagleson received an email on the 23rd of May from Mr Thorn saying that Mr Dunne’s chief of staff said it’s “all OK”. Mr Dunne says he did not give consent for release of the content of his emails. Ms Vance’s permission does not appear to have been sought at any point.

The building access records: On the 26th of May, the Inquiry asked the Parliamentary Service for “building access records for certain people”, which included Ms Vance. Those records were released with Mr Thorn’s authorisation on the 28th of May.

ends

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