The person suspected of leaking confidential Cabinet papers about restructuring at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade has appealed against a decision that could have identified them.
It is not clear yet whether leading public servant Paula Rebstock, who heads the leak inquiry, intends to name the person she suspects. She acknowledges she does not have proof.
Drafts of her report into the leak, which happened in May last year, do not name the person known only as "A", but States Services Commissioner Iain Rennie, who ordered the report, already knows who "A" is.
"A" took action in the High Court about the way the inquiry has progressed, and to protect his or her identity.
Justice Robert Dobson's decision was made public yesterday. He said "A" did not have legal grounds for complaint if the report was going only to Mr Rennie.
But if it was to be made public, "A" should be given more information about the grounds for Ms Rebstock's suspicions, should have a chance to respond and have it considered.
"A" has already filed an appeal against Justice Dobson's decision. No date has been set for hearing the appeal.
The judge had intended to publish details of where "A" worked at the time, previously and presently, but lawyers for "A" succeeded in keeping the lid on those details.
The identity of the leaker, whilst suppressed, is not unknown. He/she has let the public service down.
Every public servant signs a confidentiality agreement. Breaches of confidentiality are generally regarded as serious misconduct, and often lead to instant dismissal. The more senior a person is in a public service organisation, the more likely they are to have access to sensitive information, and the standards of behaviour expected of them are higher.
Leaking information for political purposes is an aggravating factor. The public service is proudly political neutral, and the overwhelming majority of public servants serve whoever is in political power even-handedly. In this case, the leaker allegedly copied Cabinet papers among other things, and sent them to Labour's Foreign Affairs spokesman Phil Goff.
This is not the first time that Goff has been the recipient of leaked information. The infamous "gone by lunchtime" quip that Labour repeated with glee was a comment made in a private meeting between Don Brash and American officials. Ironically, the Wikileaks release in 2010 cast doubts on the veracity of the comment. Said Fran O'Sullivan in December 2010:
Goff's problem is that he is embarrassed by the WikiLeaks revelation.
He should look closer to home.
He had no compunction using notes of a private meeting between former National leader Don Brash and a visiting United States delegation to claim New Zealand's anti-nuclear policy "would be gone by lunchtime" under a National government.
The WikiLeaks documents have something to say on this score too.
Former United States ambassador Bill McCormick wrote in November 2006 that Goff had "misquoted" an Mfat staffer's notes from the meeting to claim that Brash had promised the nuclear ban would be "gone by lunchtime".
"Brash denied he intended to get rid of the ban without a referendum, but was unable to respond credibly when Labour said that must mean he was planning to scrap the legislation, which many Kiwis view as an iconic part of the country's identity," McCormick said.
It's notable that Goff refused the Herald's request under the Official Information Act to release the full notes of the meeting that Brash had with the six visiting Republican senators.
For Goff it's been the Christmas quid pro quo he didn't expect.
Phil Goff may have another problem as well. Blogger and Truth editor Cameron Slater reports:
The second reason is our story about the complaint against Phil Goff breaking suppression orders to the Police.
POLICE HAVE been asked to prosecute Labour MP Phil Goff for allegedly breaching suppression orders relating to the death of a Kiwi soldier in Afghanistan.I decided to go lay the complaint because of the bizarre public statements by Police who said that they weren’t investigating his breach of suppression orders because no complaint had been laid.
Last week Goff appears to have broken the law by releasing pages from a suppressed Court of Inquiry report into the death of Corporal Doug Hughes which he claimed revealed “critical deficiencies in the training and deployment of Kiwi troops”.
In February, Coroner Gordon Matenga released his report into the April 2011 death of Hughes, ruling it was a suicide, and an inquest was not necessary.
All other details of the report were suppressed, “including the report of the Court of Inquiry, in the interests of justice and on the basis of personal privacy”.
On Friday Truth editor Cam Slater filed a formal complaint with police alleging Goff had breached suppression orders in the case. Slater – who has nine convictions for breaching suppression orders – wants Goff prosecuted.
No complaint was ever laid against me but the Police managed to trot around to my house very early in the morning to summons me to the police station.
Labour politicians have a bad habit of breaking the law and thinking they can get away with it. If it was good enough for the Police to drop a ton of bricks on top of me for breaching suppression orders then it should be the same for Phil Goff.
We commend Cameron Slater for taking this action against Phil Goff for what is on the face of it a flagrant breach of a court-ordered suppression, again for political means. Here's hoping that the police will find that there is a prima facie case against the former Labour Party leader and prosecute him, as they did Slater.
No-one is above the law or above consequences be they a politician or a public servant. We will be following the outcome of both these cases with a considerable degree of interest.