Former National President Michelle Boag is relinquishing her membership of the party and resigning as a Trustee of the Simplicity Charitable Trust, admitting to leaking more Covid-19 patient information for political purposes.
She said in a statement that towards the end of June she sent several emails to National’s health spokesperson, Michael Woodhouse, “comprising notification of a small number of then new Covid-19 cases”.
Woodhouse confirmed this, saying that between June 21 and 25 he received four unsolicited emails from Boag containing patient details.
A National spokesperson told interest.co.nz Woodhouse told National Leader Todd Muller of these emails on Tuesday night.
However neither Muller nor Woodhouse admitted to this, with Muller saying he hadn't sought assurances from other MPs around whether they'd received private information from Boag. He said he was confident the issue was between Boag and National MP Hamish Walker.
Woodhouse explained: “Michelle told me she received this information through her role with the Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust and I was led to believe it was circulating among a number of other health agencies.
“I recognised that the information in those emails was private so I did not share it with anyone else and I subsequently deleted them.
"I can confirm that Michelle Boag is not the source of any previous information released by me in relation to the Government’s Covid-19 response."
Both Woodhouse and Boag said they would cooperate with Michael Heron QC, appointed by the State Services Commission to do an investigation following patient details being leaked to media.
After the investigation was announced on Monday, Boag confessed she leaked the information to Walker, who sent it to media – reportedly to try to justify a seemingly racist claim he made about overseas returnees. Walker resigned on Tuesday, after Muller said he wanted him gone.
It is still unclear how and why Boag received the information.
She said she received it from the Ministry of Health in her capacity as the Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust acting CEO (which she has since stepped down from), and that it was sent to a private email address.
However, the Trust said Boag never had access to patient information and it doesn’t believe it’s been subject to a privacy breach.
The Ministry won't comment while Heron's investigation is underway.
The investigation is expected to conclude in about two weeks' time.
Simplicity CEO Sam Stubbs said, "Simplicity now has 60 volunteers, and as a foundation Trustee of our charity, Michelle was one of the first.
"She has been a huge supporter, and we wouldn’t be where we are today without her input. Her understanding of the charitable sector has been very useful, and that will be missed.”
Here’s Boag’s statement in full:
The last few days have underscored for me the unhealthy relationship I have developed with politics. For 47 years, I have devoted much of my professional and personal life to supporting the party that for me has always represented the ultimate kiwi values of hard work, reward for effort, self-reliance and compassion. Unfortunately this passion has put me on a self-destructive path. This was confirmed for me as I wrote to Michael Heron QC last night to advise him that towards the end of June I had sent several emails to Michael Woodhouse comprising notification of a small number of then new Covid19 cases. My decisions to share this information were wrong, driven by my distorted view that providing that information would help the National Party to hold the Government to account. In fact it was harmful, not helpful, and it is time that the National Party and I parted ways.
Since joining the National Party at 18, I have tried, sometimes way too hard, to support the Party in any way I could. After resigning as President following the 2002 General Election, I continued to defend and advocate for the Party in many forums, including accepting invitations to provide political commentary. In none of those forums was I the official representative of the National Party, yet media and political opponents saw my comments as “the National Party” and I in turn felt the need to defend any National Party perspective.
My strong sense of obligation to others has manifested itself in extensive work for charities and individuals in need over many years, but in respect of the National Party, my loyalties have severely clouded my judgement. I was always available to defend, to support and to advocate for the Party and its MPs. I have become an unhelpful distraction in the current political environment. I apologise to all those who have been collateral damage in my quest, both inside and outside the Party and I deeply regret my actions.
I hope my resignation will allow the Party to get on with its vital task of setting out its pathway for New Zealand’s future in the upcoming General Election. The governance and direction of New Zealand, its economic stewardship and the wellbeing of all New Zealanders is the most important issue right now.
I am grateful for the many friends I have made through politics and for their recent support for me personally. Right now, my task is to assist the investigation being carried out by Michael Heron QC and face the consequences of my actions.
I will be making no further comment at this time.