Tova O'Brien: Bridges should have called off inquiry himself

OPINION: When a person is upset, struggling with mental health issues and asking for help always - ALWAYS - err on the side of supporting that person and ensuring their safety and wellbeing.

Do NOT question their sincerity or do anything that could put them at further risk.

I was sent the same text message Simon Bridges and Trevor Mallard were sent last week by the leaker of Bridges’ expenses.

It was desperate and devastating - a clear plea for help.

The inquiry was called because there was concern about a leak from within the parliamentary system - a weakness which could undermine the sanctity of the parliament and therefore our democracy.

The leaker’s message was simple, in their words:

"There is no security breach in the parliament or problem to be fixed in the system."

They wanted the inquiry called off:

"Just say you know there is no security breach".

They shared anecdotes from National Party caucus meetings that only National Party MPs would know in an attempt to prove that they’re an MP, and that the leak shouldn’t be dealt with at a Parliamentary level overseen by a Queen’s Counsel or High Court judge.

This is a National Party issue that should be dealt with by the National Party. As the Speaker just made clear by calling off the inquiry. Bridges should have got in before Trevor Mallard and requested the inquiry be called off himself.

Having received that same text as Simon Bridges I was surprised that he not only chose to push on with the witch hunt, but suggested the person should be named and even called into question whether the message was genuine.

Newshub chose not to report on the text message after we received it last Thursday. I held grave concerns for my source’s safety and wellbeing.

We cooperated with National and the Speaker and made it clear we would do whatever was needed to mitigate any risk to that person.

We sought and received assurances they were being fully supported.

It was worrying to see details of the text reported this morning. Newshub’s decision not to report it was based on genuinely held concerns about the risk it would place a vulnerable person in.

I would like to make it clear that when I was leaked Simon Bridges’ expenses I was completely unaware of my source’s history of mental health issues.

We reported the story on Monday and Tuesday last week. As soon as I received the text on Thursday the focus around this issue was squarely on the person’s safety.

With the full support of my bosses at Newshub - who shared my concerns - we chose not to report on the message.

With some details of the text having been cherry picked, leaked and then discussed by Simon Bridges we have made the decision to release other elements to balance and include our source’s voice. 

Tova O’Brien is Newshub’s political editor.