OPINION: It is appalling that two National Party ministers, the Prime Minister's chief of staff, two government department bosses and the Solicitor General knew about Winston Peters' pension overpayments.
The ministers were informed by the heads of the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) and the State Services Commissioner under what's called the 'no surprises policy'.
The policy is designed to prevent ministers looking stupid or being blindsided about things like management issues or budget blowouts.
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It is not designed for political intelligence gathering.
It is not designed for ministers to be told about private matters involving rival MPs months out from an election.
It beggars belief both Anne Tolley and Paula Bennett accepted the advice without asking questions.
Former ministers have told me they are not compelled to accept all 'no surprises' information given to them by their ministry bosses.
If they knew it involved a senior MP and it wasn't a governance matter and wasn't an urgent ministerial matter, they should have showed the ministry bosses the Beehive door.
If they knew it was a private, personal, operational matter, they should have declined the briefing.
What business does a minister have in knowing of a pension overpayment blunder? Errors happen all the time with welfare payments. Ministers aren't told of every single one.
What's even more bizarre is that Minister Tolley passed the information on to the Prime Minister's chief of staff Wayne Eagleson.
It is also astonishing that Peters' pension issue was elevated seemingly straight away within the Ministry of Social Development in the first place.
Why did the matter need to be sent up the management ladder from Peters' pension clerk all the way to MSD chief executive Brendan Boyle?
And why did Boyle feel the need to tell State Service Commissioner Peter Hughes?
And why did they both feel the need to seek advice from the head of Crown Law, Solicitor-General Una Jagose?
Why didn't they just leave it as a departmental, non-political matter?
Is it because they are all so terrified of experiencing the wrath of their respective ministers?
The Government and the ministers deny leaking the information. But perception is everything.
It looks dodgy. It looks like dirty politics.
And it has made Winston Peters look like the victim of a politically motivated privacy breach.
Rather than ruin Peters, it has given him what he craves - airtime.
So not only was it bad, but if it was a politically motivated leak - then it has backfired too.
Lloyd Burr is a Newshub political reporter.