Woodhouse defends Muller over leak timeline

Dunedin National list MP Michael Woodhouse (left) and National leader Todd Muller during a visit...
Dunedin National list MP Michael Woodhouse (left) and National leader Todd Muller during a visit to ADInstruments' Vogel St headquarters on Monday. Photo: Peter McIntosh
National party leader Todd Muller knew Michael Woodhouse had received private patient details but failed to tell media when grilled on the issue yesterday.

Dunedin-based list MP and National Party Health spokesman Michael Woodhouse told RNZ this morning he informed Muller on Tuesday evening he had received emails from Michelle Boag containing private information.

Despite this Muller when grilled on the issue yesterday he said he had not asked his MPs whether they had received confidential information as Walker had.

"The issue is sorted from my perspective," he told reporters yesterday.

Woodhouse said he did not pass on the private details and had since deleted them.

Woodhouse this morning said there was "no inconsistency" with Muller's comments to media.

He said the information was not the same as what Boag released to Clutha-Southland MP Hamish Walker, who announced he was standing down this week after passing on the information to media.

Boag has this morning announced she has quit the party following the revelations she had also sent private information to Mr Woodhouse, saying she had developed an "unhealthy relationship" with politics.

Michelle Boag. Photo: NZ Herald
Michelle Boag. Photo: NZ Herald

In a statement Woodhouse said:

"Between June 21 and 25 I received four unsolicited emails from Michelle Boag containing information that, while not the same information that is the subject of the Inquiry led by Michael Heron QC, was similar insofar as it contained patient details.

"Michelle told me she received this information through her role with the Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust and I was led to believe it was circulating among a number of other health agencies.

"I recognised that the information in those emails was private so I did not share it with anyone else and I subsequently deleted them.

"I have made contact with Mr Heron to provide details to him in the event that it may be relevant to his Inquiry. If he deems it to be relevant I will cooperate fully with the Inquiry.

"I can confirm that Michelle Boag is not the source of any previous information released by me in relation to the Government’s Covid-19 response."

In a statement Boag said the last few days "have underscored for me the unhealthy relationship I have developed with politics".

"For 47 years, I have devoted much of my professional and personal life to supporting the party that for me has always represented the ultimate kiwi values of hard work, reward for effort, self-reliance and compassion. Unfortunately this passion has put me on a self-destructive path."

"This was confirmed for me as I wrote to Michael Heron QC last night to advise him that towards the end of June I had sent several emails to Michael Woodhouse comprising notification of a small number of then new Covid19 cases. My decisions to share this information were wrong, driven by my distorted view that providing that information would help the National Party to hold the Government to account. In fact it was harmful, not helpful, and it is time that the National Party and I parted ways."

She said since joining the National Party at 18, she had tried "sometimes way too hard" to support the party.

"The last few days have underscored for me the unhealthy relationship I have developed with politics," Boag said in a statement.

Boag said had felt the need to defend any National Party perspective.

"My strong sense of obligation to others has manifested itself in extensive work for charities and individuals in need over many years, but in respect of the National Party, my loyalties have severely clouded my judgement. I was always available to defend, to support and to advocate for the party and its MPs.

"I have become an unhelpful distraction in the current political environment. I apologise to all those who have been collateral damage in my quest, both inside and outside the party and I deeply regret my actions.

"I hope my resignation will allow the party to get on with its vital task of setting out its pathway for New Zealand's future in the upcoming general election. I will be making no further comment at this time."

Yesterday National Party leader Todd Muller said he had not asked any of his MPs, including Woodhouse, whether they had received the information that Boag had sent Walker.

Asked why he hadn't asked Woodhouse, Muller said: "It's very clear from our perspective there's a conversation that's occurred between Michelle Boag and Hamish Walker. We are confident from what we can see that the issue here relates to Michelle Boag and Hamish Walker."

Muller didn't ask MPs about Covid data

Yesterday National Party leader Todd Muller said he had not asked any of his MPs, including Woodhouse, whether they had received the information that Boag had sent Walker.

Asked why he hadn't asked Woodhouse, Muller said: "It's very clear from our perspective there's a conversation that's occurred between Michelle Boag and Hamish Walker. We are confident from what we can see that the issue here relates to Michelle Boag and Hamish Walker."

Muller said for that reason he had not sought assurances from his MPs that they did not have the confidential data. "The issue is sorted from my perspective."

He said there was no issue with "trust and confidence" in the National Party.

"My MPs know exactly what's expected of them. What we saw was a very unacceptable issue [with Hamish Walker].

"We dealt with it and it's resolved."

He said that Walker leaking the confidential details of 18 active Covid cases last week to media did not reflect National Party values.

How the Walker patient leak saga unfolded

Walker said on Wednesday that he will no longer stand in the Clutha-Southland seat.

"I sincerely apologise for my actions. I will be making no further comment," Walker said on Wednesday.

He had passed on the information to media to defend a statement he had released which was slammed by the Government as "racist".

He had raised concerns about people flying in from "India, Pakistan and Korea" to be quarantined or placed in managed isolation in the south, but he didn't acknowledge that only New Zealanders could fly in.

He confessed to being behind the privacy breach on Tuesday, saying in a statement that he did it to "expose the Government's shortcomings so they could be rectified".
His statement said he'd sent the document to show the information wasn't password-protected or stored on a secure system which only authorised people could access.

After learning of Walker's role in the scandal, Muller immediately stripped the MP of his portfolios and said he would be commenting further because of the ongoing Michael Heron QC inquiry.

But the following morning, Muller said that he didn't have confidence in Walker and had written to the National Party board to have him removed as the Clutha-Southland candidate.

Walker then stood down as the candidate before the board held a meeting.

Boag stood down from her role as acting chief executive of the Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust - the role in which she'd received the patient's information - as well as from her role in Kaye's campaign.

She said on Wednesday she had made a "massive error of judgement on my part".

Today she quit the party altogether.

NZ Herald and ODT

 

suv-updated-banner.jpg

Local trusted journalism matters - now more than ever

As the Covid-19 pandemic brings the world into uncharted waters, Star Media journalists and photographers continue to report local stories that matter everyday - yours.

For more than 152 years our journalists have provided Cantabrians with local news that can be trusted. It’s more important now than ever to keep Cantabrians connected.

As our advertising has fallen during the pandemic, support from you our reader is crucial.

You can help us continue to provide local news you can trust simply by becoming a supporter.

Become a Supporter