Todd Muller says he doesn't want MP Hamish Walker to run again after Covid-19 patient details leak

Source: 1News

National Party leader Todd Muller says he doesn't want MP Hamish Walker to run as the party's candidate in the Clutha-Southland electorate after it was yesterday revealed he leaked confidential Covid-19 patient details to media.

Mr Muller also told Breakfast host John Campbell this morning that it is his personal view that Michelle Boag should step aside from her involvement with the party after she confessed she gave the details to Mr Walker, just minutes after Mr Walker's own confession yesterday evening.

Ms Boag, who is the former National Party president and still an influential party member, confessed it was her who'd given Mr Walker the information, having abused her position as acting CEO of the Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust.

Mr Walker said the reason for leaking the confidential and private patient details was to "expose the Government’s shortcomings so they would be rectified".

"It was never intended that the personal details would be made public, and they have not been, either by me or the persons I forwarded them to," he said.

However, Health Minister Chris Hipkins called the leak "very disappointing" and said it had " a ring of dirty politics to it ".

"Obviously there is an investigation underway at the moment and that will continue," Mr Hipkins said yesterday.

“From my perspective, his approach is completely unacceptable. It doesn’t meet New Zealand’s standards of behaviour, it doesn’t meet my standards of behaviour and it doesn’t meet the National Party’s standards of behaviour,” Mr Muller told Campbell this morning.

“I have demoted him and taken his portfolios off him. I’ve also last night written to the board, expressed concern over the behaviour and judgement – serious lack of judgement – that I’ve seen in recent days, and the board are meeting today to reflect on it.”

It comes after the Clutha-Southland MP landed himself in hot water after he sent out a press release claiming 11,000 people from high-risk countries, specifically India, Korea and Pakistan, could be coming to town. Mr Walker was accused of racism, but stood by his comments last week. 

When asked by Campbell this morning if Mr Muller would like to see Mr Walker not be his candidate in the Clutha-Southland electorate, said personally "yes".

"I'm hugely disappointed, angry really, that we have been let down in this way but ultimately these are board matters.

“You can draw the conclusion that two people made a fundamentally appalling error and will be held accountable for it.

“You certainly can’t draw any conclusions other than I am the leader of a National Party that does not stand for that sort of behaviour, neither do my caucus and neither do the tens of thousands of National Party supporters around the country.

“It’s not how we operate, it’s not the values that underpin us and when you do have rogue behaviour, as this is, you call it out and consequences ensue and that is clearly what’s happened and what will be happening.”

Mr Muller said Mr Walker told him about the situation at lunch time on Monday, but the reason it wasn’t brought to attention sooner was because both he and Mr Walker were seeking legal advice.

Yesterday, a police spokesperson told 1 NEWS they had noted media reporting around the matter.

"If a complaint is received it will be assessed to determine the necessary action, if any, police will take," the spokesperson said.

"We will not be making any further comment at this stage."

State Services Commissioner Peter Hughes also responded to the admission in a statement that said the inquiry is ongoing.

"We need to establish all of the facts here. I will be making no further comment until the investigation is completed," he said.

As for Ms Boag, Mr Muller said “this is a serious breach of trust” and that, in his personal take, she should step aside from the party all together.

“Ultimately that is a matter for her and it is a matter for the board if she does not choose to step away.

"The fact is, they've made a serious error of judgement. Those people who are suffering enough, bluntly, of having Covid, New Zealanders suffering enough of having Covid, having their personal details released like that - obviously the media did not pass them on and that form - but that fact is that they were still given to the media, is unacceptable, completely unacceptable."

Also on Breakfast this morning, Megan Woods, the minister in charge of Covid managed isolation, called the leak "hugely disappointing". She said every patient has the right to privacy.

"They have an absolute right to believe that their private and confidential information won’t be used by politicians for political gain.”