NZ First Leader Winston Peters yesterday served court papers setting out the details of a what he alleges was an elaborate conspiracy involving various National Party Ministers and officials who he claims leaked details of his superannuation overpayments.
Because the papers were originally filed with the Auckland High Court before election day, the claims have raised questions about whether NZ First was ever serious in its Government formation talks with National and that it always intended to go with Labour.
Peters denied that last night.
The papers were served yesterday on Tim Murphy, the co-editor of the Newsroom website; Paula Bennet, the former deputy Prime Minister; Steven Joyce, National’s campaign chair and former Finance Minister; Wayne Eagleson, former Chief of Staff to the Prime Minister; Anne Tolley, former Social Development Minister; Bill English, former Prime Minister; Brendan Boyle, CEO, Ministry of Social Development; Llyod Burr, Newshub journalist and Clark Hennessy, National’s election campaign communications manager.
The papers consist of an affidavit from peters’ lawyer, Cliff Lyon.
The essential claim is that the original news stories in late August saying Peters had been incorrectly paid the single superannuation rate when he was in a long-term relationship breached his privacy.
His writ says it was clear from the media details that someone had leaked the details of a meeting he had with the Ministry of Social Development to discuss the overpayment.
“The most likely reason for the leak was to damage his reputation in the forthcoming election,” the papers say.
The writ singles out the former Chief of Staff to Bill English, Wayne Eagleson, as being the architect of the conspiracy.
Peters and Eagleson have clashed from the time Peters was a Minister in the Bolger Government, and Eagleson was one of Bolger’s private secretaries.
The writ claims Eagleson would have learnt of the overpayment from Anne Tolley or Paula Bennett after they were advised of it by their officials.
The writ claims Eagleson would then have advised English of the overpayment as part of a deliberate plot to damage Peters’ reputation.
It then alleges the National Party Campaign Communications Manager, Clark Hennessy, learned of the leak and in turn leaked the information to media.
The writ says: “The most likely explanation is that the leader of the National Party has sanctioned the leaking of my client’s dealings with MSD in a manner designed to damage my client’s reputation.”
The writ adds to the conspiracy by claiming that Newsroom’s Co-Editor, Tim Murphy, “a long time media detractor of my client” was “boasting” he had the mother of all scandals “and my client was apparently the target.”
Steven Joyce “was heard at the National Party conference that weekend to claim there was a ‘full load’ story coming out about my client.”
The writ says Peters was fortunate “that reputable senior journalists like Barry Soper on the breaking of the story analysed what was happening and realised the leak for what it is, a deliberate political trick to damage my client’s reputation. The reports by experienced journalists have reduced the damage suffered.”
But the question last night was how such a bitter condemnation of key individuals within the national Government might have influenced the coalition negotiations.
On the Sunday after the election, POLITIK spoke to senior NZ First sources who maintained that the leaking of the super details would make it difficult for Peters to agree to go into Government with National.
Those sources repeated that claim last night and said Peters was aware that media were being briefed after the election along those lines and approved of the briefings.
The blogger, Whaleoil, who is close to Peters, wrote yesterday: “Court documents obtained by WOBH (Whaleoil) show that the papers were filed in the High Court at 4:59 on September 22, the day before the election.
“From that alone, we can surmise that Winston Peters had absolutely no intention of going with the National party.
“This also shows that the deliberate leaked attack against Winston Peters, those involved, and the subsequent actions show where the election was lost.”
POLITIK put these claims to Peters last night.
He replied by text from Viet Nam that the claims that he had predetermined the outcome of the Government formation talks were incorrect.
There was a sound reason in law for filing the papers when they were filed, he said.
“Not everything in life is that obvious,”
He said the filing meant he reserved his right to act.
“Beyond that, the matter is sub judice, and therefore I can’t answer.”
POLITIK understands that the serving of the papers yesterday may only be the beginning; that there is at least one other recipient likely to receive service.