Bridges calls on Treasury Secretary to resign and wants Robertson to apologise after Treasury revealed National’s ‘hack’ was not a hack and Police had called off its Inquiry. Bridges says Government dishonest and incompetent.

9:00 am –  ‘Resign’ – Simon Bridges is calling for heads to roll over Treasury’s handling of the Budget leak, calling it “deeply dishonest”.

On Thursday morning, Bridges called for the resignation of Finance Minister Grant Robertson and Treasury Secretary Gabriel Makhlouf.

Bridges said the two had “played politics” with the leak, and Robertson did not have the moral authority to deliver the Government’s Budget.

The opposition leader has addressed media this morning, following the leak saga, in which the Treasury has now confirmed was not an illegal hack.

Bridges said the Government’s handling of the events was “unprecedented” and showed “bumbling incompetence”.

The Treasury’s response to the leak, was “deeply dishonest” and “the most contemptible behaviour”, he said.

What was in the 8 Things email earlier this morning…

The big news in the political economy this morning is that the hack was not actually a hack.

Grant Robertson and Gabriel Makhloufnow must explain why they used the ‘hack’ word in their comments on Tuesday and called in the police so quickly.

This is a big tactical win on the day for Simon Bridges,who is due to hold an 8.45am news conference, having accused Robertson and Treasury yesterday of bumbling incompetence, and calling for Robertson’s resignation for smearing National and telling lies.

The latest is Treasury announced at 5am that Police had called off their hunt for a ‘hacker’ because the Budget 2019 information obtained by a Parliamentary Service IP address on Sunday and Monday was found through Treasury’s search tool and was not obtained illegally.

Here’s my latest report this morning on what Treasury has just said, including that the State Services Commission has now launched an investigation in Treasury’s IT system vulnerabilities. It will only investigate public servants.

There’s much more below on yesterday’s dramas and we’ll be updating our Pro Live article on Newsroom Pro through the day. And by the way, the actual Budget 2019 is released at 2pm and we’ll publish the details in an email and on the website soon after. All the Newsroom team in Wellington will be in the lockup from 11am to 2pm. Wish us luck.

Some changes – A quick announcement for our thousands of Newsroom Pro subscribers. From next Monday we won’t be publishing BusinessDesk articles on our site or via Pro Monitor. They’ve chosen to go their own way and we wish them the best. We’ll be ramping up our own coverage of business, economic and governmental news in a freshly updated Pro Live feature through the day, along with RNZ articles.

1. Riffling around in Treasury’s clone website

At Treasury’s offices (above) a clone website was built, and as each Budget 2019 document was finalised it was added to the cloned site, which was designed to be publicly inaccessible.

It is from this website that Treasury now says the leaked Budget documents were obtained, after “deliberate, systematic and persistent searching of a website clearly not intended to be public” managed to return small amount of content from the embargoed Budget documents.

The weakness exploited was that the index on Treasury’s live site also contained entries for content that was only published in full on the private, cloned site. A carefully designed search would return a short section of text from the 2019/20 Estimates documents that surrounded the search phrase.

Police have told Treasury they are not planning further action as exploiting a search tool in this way “does not appear to be unlawful”.

Three IP addresses were identified that performed the searches: one from the Parliamentary Service, as well as 2degrees and Vocus addresses. Here’s more detail in my report.

This was one of the scenarios identified by Thomas Coughlan in his piece on how “a hack” can be many things, which went out on Newsroom Pro yesterday.

Newsroom Pro’s political editor Sam Sachdeva also wrote yesterday of the political machinations and potential ramifications of the past two days’ events.

2. Budget preview: trying to make ‘fetch’ happen

As Thomas Coughlan writes in an excellent preview of today’s inaugural Wellbeing Budget, it was the Government’s best chance to make the concept of ‘wellbeing’ stick in the public and economic consciousness as an alternative to the old economic yardsticks such as GDP.

The sideshow (or should that be sh*tshow?) of the Budget leak has only made that task harder.

You can read about Robertson’s challenge here on Newsroom Pro.

3. Mental health funding: the devil is in the detai

Mental Health was supposed to be the flagship announcement of the Government’s inaugural Wellbeing budget, but for a myriad of reasons it’s not.

A Budget leak, and the biggest teacher strike in NZ history have taken the shine off what was supposed to be a momentous announcement for Health Minister David Clark and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, following the 18-month, $6 million national Mental Health and Addiction Inquiry.

But those in the mental health sector told Newsroom’s Laura Walters the Government’s response is lacklustre for another reason – it’s lack of detail and specific commitments.

The coalition has accepted 38 out of 40 recommendations from the inquiry, and has committed to significantly increasing funding for services and creating new services to address gaps.

In principle that sounds great, but without further detail or dollar figures New Zealand will have to continue to wait – at least until this afternoon’s budget.

Read Laura’s analysis here.

4. The radical pro-gun lobby gets a new opponent

Sticking your head above the parapet is dangerous when it comes to the gun debate, as Laura Walters writes on Newsroom Pro.

She reports on a new gun control group set up to be a voice in opposition to the dominant pro-gun lobby.

Gun Control NZ has primary objectives: the creation of a gun register; strengthening the ban on semi-automatic weapons; and shortening the licensing period from 10 years to three years.

But, as Laura writes, it can expect vociferous backlash. See her full story here.

5. Is it time for a women’s issue party?

Women continue to be under-served by policymakers and harmful narratives about women remain acceptable discourse, so do we need a political party focused on women’s issues? asks The Workshop’s Jess Berentson-Shaw in her column on Newsroom Pro.

6. Economic weather report

Not that confident— Business confidence is up 6 points to – 32 percent according to ANZ’s monthly survey. Measures of own activity were up 2 to +9 percent.

Untaxed — Residential construction intentions were down 7 points to a net 27 percent expecting lower activity, despite the Government ruling out a CGT.

Meanwhile, The Detail, Newsroom’s daily podcast co-production with RNZ, today looks at the Chinese Belt and Road initiative – what is it and what is the potential for infrastructure development? Read and listen more here. iPhone users can subscribe here and Android users can subscribe here.

7. Coming up this week…


IkeGPS releases its earnings at 8.30am.

Stats NZ releases its April building consents figures at 10.45am.

The Government releases the Budget at 2pm after a lockup starting at 11 am. Newsroom’s Wellington team (Lynn Grieveson, Sam Sachdeva, Laura Walters, Thomas Coughlan and myself) will be in there and will produce a special email shortly after 2pm.

The Economic Development, Science and Innovation Select Committee holds a public briefing on blockchain at 9.40am, followed by a petition to extend Schedule 4 of the Crown Minerals Act 1991 to include the entire Coromandel Ecological District and to and to ban further blasting, underground and open cast mining within residential zones in the Coromandel/Hauraki region at 10.30am.

The Justice Select Committee holds a public hearing of a petition to make it unlawful for police officers to provide information to crown prosecutors as to whether potential jurors have criminal convictions at 11.40am followed by a public inquiry into elections at 11am.

The Primary Production Select Committee holds a public briefing about vocational training in agriculture at 10.30am.

Wellington Drive holds its AGM from 3pm.


The Council of Trade Unions hosts a post-budget briefing and analysis at Rutherford House on Bunny Street, on the Victoria University Campus at 10am.

The Overseas Investment Office summaries are expected on Friday.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson delivers a post-Budget speech at 8am.

Moa releases its earnings at 8.30am

ANZ releases its consumer confidence index at 10am.

Victoria University of Wellington hosts a Women in Business pink ribbon breakfast at Karaka Café at 8am.

Next week

June 10 – Platinum Partner Gibson Sheat Lawyers hosts a post-Budget Breakfast with Finance Minister Grant Robertson.

And one fun thing …

Have you noticed the ‘b’ and ‘v’ keys are together on the keyboard, and more importantly, are very, very close together in your smartphone’s ‘soft’ keyboard.

Thomas Coughlan now knows this after a ‘fat finger’ error a few days ago.

On Tuesday he tweeted:

“The wellbeing budget might only be the beginning of budget reform, with Treasury preparing advice on further changes to the budget process including how Vaselinefunding is allocated. GR will announce more on Thursday.”

Grant Robertson responded a few minutes later (and a few minutes before National ‘leaked’ the Budget: “I can confirm there will be no vaselinefunding. It would be a slippery slope.”

Ah. Quieter and gentler times. Those were the days. That happened on Tuesday. Here’s the thread for some light relief.

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