Muller: No other National MPs received Boag leaks

(This story first appeared on rnz.co.nz and is republished with permission)

National MP Michael Woodhouse also received Covid-19 patient emails from Michelle Boag, and deleted them when he realised she was implicated in a separate email scandal.

National Party leader Todd Muller says no further MPs in his party received confidential information from Michelle Boag, after revelations today that Michael Woodhouse also received four unsolicited emails.

Boag, the former party president and prominent activist, confessed to leaking the personal details of 18 people in Covid-19 managed isolation and quarantine to National MP Hamish Walker, who then leaked it to media. On Friday morning, Woodhouse revealed he deleted four unsolicited emails from Boag.

Boag said she received the emails legitimately from the Ministry of Health, as the acting chief of the Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust, adding they were sent to her personal email.

Asked at a media stand-up this afternoon whether anyone else received any information, Muller said he had made it clear that if anyone in his caucus did, his office should be made aware.

"Looking back, and I've made this very clear to my caucus, there should be a requirement that if you do receive personal information it should be brought to my attention."

Muller said he received information on Tuesday evening from Woodhouse that he had received emails a couple of weeks ago, and it sounded similar to the information that Walker had released publicly.

He said the next day he had a chat with Woodhouse and they agreed it would be appropriate to brief Michael Heron QC, who is conducting an inquiry into the Walker leak, to make him aware of that.

Muller said the two MPs were dealing with "very different issues".

He said Walker released private, personal and sensitive information to the public which cost him his political career, while Woodhouse received the information and did not act on it.

Boag has this morning resigned from being a National Party member after 47 years. The Simplicity Charitable Trust has also accepted her resignation as a trustee.

Earlier, Boag resigned from her positions as acting chief executive and trustee at the Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust, and her National Party campaign roles.

Muller said Boag made her own decision to step back from all party roles. He said he did not write to the National Party's board, but her call "was the right decision for her".

Walker announced on Thursday he would not stand for re-election for the Southland electorate at the upcoming 2020 election.

Woodhouse told Nine to Noon Boag called him on Sunday June 21 to tell him she had information that could be "pertinent" to the Covid-19 response and "helpful" to him.

"I opened that email, realised what it was, realised it was not appropriate for me to have it or use it, and I closed it down."

He said three more emails were sent after that but he never opened them. 

He deleted the emails on Monday or Tuesday after he realised she was the source of the leak. He said he thought it was the right thing to do.

He also deleted the emails from the trash folder.

Asked whether he thought it was appropriate to delete emails that could be pertinent to a QC's inquiry, Woodhouse said it could equally be inappropriate to have the emails.

"I understand the information I have is different from that essential to Michael Heron's inquiry."

Speaking at a media conference this afternoon, Health Minister Chris Hipkins said he would not be drawn on whether Muller had lied about not knowing that fellow opposition MPs had received patient information from Boag.

"It is clear, however, that over the course of the last week the National Party have had a lot of information that they have chosen not to share that could have cleared things up much more quickly. Over the weekend both Mr Muller and Michael Woodhouse made some very strong comments about the release of this information and how unacceptable it was when it was clear they knew how it had come to be released and chose not to share that information.

"It's absolutely legitimate to call out if there's been a failure of information handling, it is not legitimate to release that information or to sit on that information and not do anything about it."

Hipkins said incidents like the Boag one distracted the Government from doing the job of protecting the public from the pandemic.

He said he has asked the Ministry of Health and all of the relevant agencies to look at who it sends its patient lists to and whether any changes to be made.

(This story first appeared on rnz.co.nz and is republished with permission)

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