Tuesday, July 02, 2013


So what was the legal authority for John Key spying on Peter Dunne's emails? According to answers he gave in Question Time today (link to follow), which were in turn based on answers to Parliamentary written questions, it was basically that "he didn't object":

The Chief Executive of DPMC wrote to Mr Dunne on 22 April requesting his cooperation with the Inquiry. Mr Kibblewhite also forwarded a copy of the Terms of Reference which stated that the Inquiry would include “reviewing communications and copying equipment and records, log books and any other material considered relevant of the persons (and/or their offices) who had or were likely to have had access to the compliance review report”. The inquiry team, itself, did not seek permission from Peter Dunne before it obtained his email logs.

(A similar response to a question about other Ministers is here).

This is appalling on several levels. Most importantly, neither the Prime Minister, nor the Chief Executive of DPMC, seems to be able to distinguish between Ministers and employees of DPMC. The latter have no real privacy rights over what they do on their employer's network, and such a process is perfectly normal in the feudal corporate world. But Ministers are not employees. They are elected representatives, serving the people of New Zealand, not DPMC. DPMC services them, but it cannot claim to own their communications in the same way that they can, for example, for a policy advisor.

There's also a troubling belief that absence of objection equates to consent for a serious violation of privacy. I'll let that speak for itself.

Finally, in Parliament today, Key claimed (from my rough transcript, but I'll link eventually) that Henry accessed Dunne's email logs "on authority invested in him by myself". So our Prime Minister apparently thinks he has kingly powers to create search rights where none exist in statute. That's as legally laughable as it is constitutionally objectionable.

As it stands, the Henry inquiry appears to have violated Parliamentary Privilege. It has also clearly violated democratic norms and our constitutional principles. Those responsible need to be held accountable.