Jacinda Ardern denies GCSB warned Beehive before Treasury 'hack' statement

Jacinda Ardern has denied accusations the Beehive was told Treasury hadn't been hacked before Treasury issued a statement saying it had been. 

The Prime Minister said during her post-Cabinet press conference she was confident ministers were informed by the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) after Treasury issued its statement. 

"What I am happy to clarify now is of course that at the time the statements were made by Treasury, and indeed the Minister of Finance, no minister received any advice at that point by the GCSB at the time those statements were made."

Ardern made the clarification following drama during the week of Budget 2019, when the National Party unveiled details of the Budget two days before the full details were due to be released. 

It prompted Treasury boss Gabriel Makhlouf to issue a statement at 8pm on May 28 - the day National released the information - saying Treasury had "sufficient evidence that indicates the material is a result of a systemic hack and is now subject to a police investigation".

But it wasn't until May 30 that Treasury issued a statement to say it hadn't been hacked, not long before National leader Simon Bridges revealed a search tool on the Treasury website was used to uncover the Budget material.

GCSB Minister Andrew Little was accused last week of knowing Treasury hadn't been hacked before Treasury released the statement. It was alleged in a report by NZME that he was informed by GCSB director-general Andrew Hampton before the statement was issued. 

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and GCSB Minister Andrew Little.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and GCSB Minister Andrew Little. Photo credit: Getty

But Ardern said the Beehive was informed "later in the evening" and said it "was absolutely after Treasury put out their statements and after the Minister of Finance put out his". 

Little's office did not respond to Newshub's request on Friday for confirmation that he had been contacted by Hampton ahead of the release of Treasury's initial statement.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson issued a statement after Makhlouf's initial statement in which he named the National Party and echoed the Treasury secretary's description of a "systemic hack".

He later defended himself saying he was relying on the advice of Treasury, which the Prime Minister echoed in her defence of the Finance Minister.

A spokesperson for Finance Minister Grant Robertson told Newshub last week he knew nothing of the concerns before releasing his statement. 

Ardern insisted: "We all found out at similar timeframes, all of it was after the fact, though."

"We knew there was a dispute over the language that was being used, you'll notice from then on ministers used the words 'unauthorised access' and that was very deliberate."

The debacle sparked an investigation by the State Services Commissioner, Peter Hughes, who is looking into the "adequacy of Treasury policies, systems and processes for managing Budget security".

Hughes told Newshub he will look at the "advice [Makhlouf] provided to his Minister at the time; his basis for making those statements and providing that advice; and the decision to refer the matter to the police".

Bridges said Treasury's admission that no hacking occurred was an embarrassment and he mocked the agency for referring the "hacking" to police when only the search function was to blame.

He said on Monday he planned to probe Ardern on the scandal in Parliament.