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Weakness in National's third line of defence has spread to the front line - will it be able to regain credibility to critique the Government's Covid-19 response?

Weakness in National's third line of defence has spread to the front line - will it be able to regain credibility to critique the Government's Covid-19 response?
Todd Muller fielding questions on the Covid-19 patient detail leak on Wednesday during a roading policy announcement

By Jenée Tibshraeny

National is continuing to disarm itself in the face of what was always going to be tough election battle.

The party lost some of its ammunition on Tuesday, when it came to light Hamish Walker leaked the personal details of Covid-19 patients to media.

The revelation silenced National for most the week, removing its ability to attack the Government after a man, later found out to have Covid-19, abscond from managed isolation for 70 minutes.

But it’s ok, Leader Todd Muller told us, the incident represented terrible judgement from a somewhat junior MP from the cursed, safe seat of Clutha-Southland. What’s more, the information came from former National President, Michelle Boag, who Muller said he had little to do with.

Never mind the fact she was heavily involved in Nikki Kaye’s campaign for Auckland Central. Let’s move right along…

Come Friday, the problem in the party’s third line of defence spread to the front line.

National’s health spokesperson Michael Woodhouse admitted to receiving four unsolicited emails from Boag with Covid-19 patients’ details. Rather than notify the Ministry of Health, he throughout the week attacked the Government for its lax management of sensitive information.

To make matters worse, it came out on Friday that Woodhouse on Tuesday told Muller he’d received the information from Boag. Muller kept his mouth shut, denying during the week that Woodhouse had the information too.

Muller’s narrative that the poor judgement was contained to Walker and Boag, no longer stacks up.

He cannot tell us he’s better placed than Jacinda Ardern to lead the country through a global pandemic when he hasn’t been forthcoming with the truth, nor fought to protect patients’ privacy by reporting the leak to the Ministry of Health.

National didn't on Friday put out any PR on the news a man escaped from managed isolation in Hamilton to buy alcohol. Nor did it have a go at the Government for the $16 billion deficit reported in the Crown accounts for the 11 months to May.

The party has disarmed itself.

It can rightly criticise the Coalition Government for failing to deliver cornerstone projects like KiwiBuild and light rail, and question whether it can pull off the infrastructure projects planned to give people jobs. But Covid-19 has diluted the salience of these attacks. The world has changed and the challenges are new.

Boag and Yang going don't put end to 'dirty politics' label

The leaks have also opened National up to being criticised for championing dirty politics - a label that quite frankly doesn’t suit “Brand Muller”. Part of his likability, which doesn’t get captured on TV, is that he isn’t a stereotypical slick politician. He comes across as genuine, sometimes to the extent he says the wrong thing or seems boring.

But Boag relinquishing her National Party membership doesn’t change any cultural issues the party may have, nor get rid of the toxic label.

What’s more, Boag is only going because she was outed. Had things stayed under wraps, she’d still be there.

One also has to question whether National list MP, Jian Yang, would be retiring from politics at the election, had he not come under renewed scrutiny for refusing to talk to New Zealand media - particularly about his ties to the Chinese Communist Party.

Even if the party pushed him, on the basis he was seen to be damaged goods, it hasn’t rid itself of the image that it’s beholden to Chinese donors.

Indeed, despite having keyhole surgery on Thursday, NZ First Leader Winston Peters was on Friday well enough to challenge National to publicly commit to not taking any more donations facilitated by individuals with links to the Chinese Communist Party.

Muller can be grateful it’s a Friday afternoon in the midst of a two-week political recess. Had today’s events unfolded when the House was sitting, his disarmament would’ve been more obvious.

In an age where a day feels like a week, Muller will be hoping that by July 20, when the politicians return to Wellington, enough drama would have unfolded for him to have regained credibility to critique holes in the Government’s Covid-19 response.

But ultimately, getting some solid policy on the table to back up his claim that National would do a better job than the Government, is what’s needed.

Afterall, when Muller became leader, he did say he wasn’t interested in “opposition for opposition's sake”.

We welcome your comments below. If you are not already registered, please register to comment.

Remember we welcome robust, respectful and insightful debate. We don't welcome abusive or defamatory comments and will de-register those repeatedly making such comments. Our current comment policy is here.



"The leaks have also opened National up to being criticised for championing dirty politics - a label that quite frankly doesn’t suit “Brand Muller”. " Really? National is still running misleading attack ads on social media.


Muller knew about the leak on Tuesday when Wodehouse informed him about the email from Boag. He did not inform the police, but continued as if he knew nothing and denied anyone had the information,. What does this imply about his integrity ?


It doesn't imply, it proves low integrity. And he is one of the better ones. Thank God they are not in power

He has dug himself into a hole in his visit to Christchurch, portraying how National did a great job in the earthquake recovery. Nothing is further from the truth as several reporters have stated. I wouldn't like to be near him at the Crusaders vs Blues game as there will be a lot of very annoyed cantabrians in his vicinity. It could also be detrimental to a possible Blues victory.

If he thinks that, let alone says that, then he is total dud.

He must know deep down that have been way more negatives than positives during his time as leader and there is only one option.
So he must be wondering, when is the best time to pull the rip cord.

Seems to be a good solid, stolid bloke, but not one to plumb any great depths. All we are getting are platitudes and cliches delivered in the stereotyped plodding style of his supposed mentor former PM Bolger. No initiative, unimaginative. Those days are way gone, he may want to hark back to them and think that’s just the ticket, but it ain’t going to bring home the bacon.


Muller and Woodhouse are either stupid or for not realising Boag was the leak while continuing to criticise the Government's protection of patient information or devious while sitting on that information (or deleting as Woodhouse did) and continuing to criticise.

So if you vote National you need to decide whether you're supporting fools or scum.


Who? ACT are a bunch of flaky libertarians too much influenced by Yankee gun nuttery, and the New Conservatives are frankly religious wierdos.

I was thinking maybe Labour but to each their own.

Well not Labour who has well publicised issues with sex at youth camps, and in the PMs offices and not the Greens who had a beneficiary cheat in their midst and have brought the C word back into parlance. And let’s not trawl over NZ First while they are being investigated. Did I miss anyone?

Join the crowd of national supporters who will just stay at home this election.

Honestly EE that's old news. The voting public have long forgotten those issues

oh whew, that makes it ok then

What about voting for your electorate candidate who you feel would best represent your electorate in parliament?


You are being completely disingenuous here. A review into the alleged assaults found nothing to back the complaints. No charges laid. And materia turei was crucified by a rabid media for pointing out how awful and difficult it is to be a solo mum at a time when national were extremely punitive on beneficiaries.

Complete false equivalence to the utter corruption we see here.

National has a long history of dirty politics. Desire of power at any cost. They and their followers need to own this part of their identity, it seems to be part of their dna.

You missed the Legalise Cannabis Party. When the referendum passes on election day we'll need a party competent enough in Parliament to implement it! ;-)

You missed Young ACT, re complaints of sexual harassment not taken seriously.

ACT are not nearly as libertarian as they originally were, which I think was far more honest than what they are morphing into

Indeed, when the libertarian rubber hit the road they turned out to be simply the Epsom Homeowners Association.

Seymour's bleating in favour of continuing with a massive government subsidy for private business Rio Tinto. That's about as non-libertarian as you can get.


What a trainwreck. Where's the McGullicuddy Serious Party when you need them?? If this is the measure of NZs politicians (and I fear it is) we're all in a handbasket to hell. This particular lineup of politicians, from both sides, would have to be the biggest collection of incompetence ever visited on NZ in the 40yrs I've been allowed to vote.

'would have to be the biggest collection of incompetence ever visited on NZ in the 40yrs I've been allowed to vote'

It's up there. Things were a bit average at times during the 90s, too.

Haha Fritz, true that, But I think this current crop have taken it to new heights vs the '90s. Back then we had aunty Helen tellings us what to do, now the current mob have absolutely no idea.

Until MMP we had only 90 of them. Royal Commission knew something, no need to increase the numbers. Well here we are then. Serves us right then.

Auntie Helen is still there. Do you not see the curtain wobbling behind Jacinda at press conferences? I thought I saw her shoe toe below the curtain at one.

*Scratches head* The Helen Clark govt did not take power till December 1999 (edited, thnx oldbloke1). So about the 90's again?

December 1999!

True, that was the intent of the head, but the failing of the fingers thought otherwise


It could be worse, look at America! 300M plus citizens and they get to choose between two geriatric crazies and possibly a rapper with a part time pornstar for a wife!

Apart from labour who have managed very well the crisis with Jackie showing real leadership

Part of his likability, which doesn’t get captured on TV, is that he isn’t a stereotypical slick politician. He comes across as genuine, sometimes to the extent he says the wrong thing or seems boring.

Thanks for confirming he's National's version of David Shearer.

Haha, the commentator seems to assume a level of "likeability".. unsubstantiated at this point I would submit. Personally I'll vote on the referendii, but for the first time in my life I won't be voting for a candidate or party. What a sad state of of affairs we find ourselves in.

Not at all - I'll vote for the party I usually support, without a qualm.

So you'll vote for the party you usually support despite their failings?.. Bah bah little sheep, I have some hay for you.. your nice fluffy coat needed to come off anyway

Blue for life...are they born that way?

Vote TOP?

No votes fo Gareth Morgan.

Interesting idea.
I wasn't aware you could do that.
How are you looking to vote re: referendum


Muller is poked. He had a chance if he didn't put a foot wrong. He flubbed it today. I'm not confident he'll be the leader come election time tbh.


I think he'll make the election ( and obviously lose) but to be honest you could put a blue painted chihuahua in there and not diminish your chances

My son's analysis was that Muller had to come out a day or so after his appointment, with a speech like Brash's foreshore and seabed one, to establish his brand, and get noticed. He didn't.

How old's your son? 30? His analysis is so flawed it's beyond critiquing.

I think you've taken my comments to heart - you're certainly showing why few people like rightwingers.

NZ isn't a place that tolerates "right wingers" and rightfully so. We ( NZ) need some employment strategies, which means we have to support employers. Paying people to chop down wilding pines, plant trees ( more pines), and upgrade cycle tracks is hardly a particularly forward looking employment strategy.

You start out saying we don't support right wingers and then criticize classically left wing Mc-Job creation schemes. What are you trying to say?

Maybe we could build a whole lot of $650000 houses for poor people, or introduce CGT, or put in a new railway for Auckland.

I'm not quite sure how you jumped from me saying your son doesn't know what he's talking about, to your rightwingers comment, Bit of a leap

Don't take it personally, his comments are always angry.

We don't really seem to have genuine right-wingers (genuine conservatives). Merely "socialists" of a slightly different flavour.

He's toast. But post-election.
Who's next for the guillotine? Can't see anyone of much merit waiting in the wings.

St Christopher, just waiting for the parachute to be fitted.

St Chris!!!! Yes another loser. A monkey could have run air Nz in the good times. What makes him a political force. Just seems like a great hope for the Nat voters now. Party will still be full of arrogant and dishonest folk.

Look at NZX and Charities, these dropkicks will end up on most boards. No wonder we had the ANZ saga, mates looking after each other. There is a genuine lack of ethics in the National Party.

He'll be toast if he doesn't sit on the sidelines and learn the ropes. Luxon in 2026 maybe.

This is keys fault really for not planning for the future and bringing in talent through the ranks

Clark failed in the same way.

No. Bill won the last election. but was principled enough to refuse to compromise with Winston, unlike Jacinda. Normally Labour would be out at this election, with their achievement record, or lack of it, except for Covid-19, and National grimly doing everything it takes to minimise their own votes and chances.

FPP thinking, now 24 years out of date.

Yeah, it's bizarre. Like arguing someone did well by bringing a knife to a gun fight.

Has Yang been recalled to CCP headquarters to be briefed for his next mission? Perhaps his intelligence gathering in NZ has been put on the back burner, so he can head over the ditch to look into those rascals in Aussie that dare push back against the glorious CCP!

He's been quietly asked to resign. Big Boss Todd found that he was spending too much work time on the internet, especially as commenter X.... on this website.

Wrong and wrong. He had actually been placed further up the party list so its come as a surprise to them that he has resigned.

Maybe time to move on to your next conspiracy theory.

You thought I was being serious? Ah ha ha

I think the Nats, and Mr Yang, have realised that anti-Chinese feeling in their heartland will cost them votes. But like it or not, our future is inexorably bound to China/India/S Korea/Japan. We have a significant Asian population here, from all parts of that vast continent, and it will only continue to grow. In the main, it has been a positive thing. But hey, we need to protect our autonomy, and our way of life, after all, that's a big reason people move here. An Asian All Black would help meld our communities... -- worth a read.
And this one too,

Is Todd really his boss??

Nah, we just pay him to do a job, like most Polyticians........but as they all failed in the entire process, would not vote in any one of em.

We need a Benevo-lent Dictator, with a life time desire to keep the Ball Rolling for The Party. I was gonna suggest Mr Putin or Mr Xi, but they already have Stated and Full Filled their Hearts desire, so we need someone who can match their eternal desires.

We could join in collaboration with both and I will put myself up for "President for Life and yes"""Liberty". That is my slogan and you heard it here first.

You know don't you that a benevolent Dictator, does not take any Pay, nor have any "Ulterior, nor Exterior Motive" and will work himself to Death for the Good of the Land.

So I will take heed and beg you all to consider joining my Party and we will never ever have to Vote Again, waste not want Not, nor bring any harm to anyone in my entire lifetime.

I might need a Private Jet to send me to the Stars and meet the rest of the United Nations of Benevo-lent Dicktators, so I can Party with the Top Guns and leave all you Non-Voters to carry the can and fulfill my Hearts Desire.

Your Truly...Presidential Lie. Follow my lead.......or I will cry.....Foul....OH and Free Cannabis and Canapiz.....for life.( I forgot the Freebies).

(I will lock up anyone who disagrees with my Stance).

I suspect they have seen how hopless the nats chances are and have found a new project for him.

That was his route TO New Zealand..... after doing a stint in Canberra (theoretically) as a 'student' in international relations at ANU.

Nats need a change of direction and a more dynamic leader. Bring in Chris Bishop or Dan Bidois. Nikki Kaye has been MIA in the last 2 weeks. Absolutely underwhelming

Chris ‘thank you for smoking’ Bishop.

If bishop or bidios are your best options then there is something wrong. Amazing how the tide has turned, the nats were unbeatable not so long ago.

Seems to me they face the same problem that is facing the right elsewhere, including the UK. They have stopped offering conservatism.

Actual conservatives are looking for revitalisation that recognises the importance of country and family, and passing on a good society to future generations:

National need to turn around 180-degrees and start offering conservatism with such values.

They need to burn the thing to the ground and start over, because Nat party now too corrupt to reform itself.

"Country and family"? You know, that is what many of the manifestos of mass murderers start with, basically.

Yes, and Hitler was a vegetarian too, thus vegetarianism is evil.

Bishop pings my creep radar for some reason. I have no evidence for it beyond gut feeling, but wouldn't be surprised to look in his car boot or wardrobe and find it full of underwear stolen off clotheslines.

Maybe Nikki has realised she has made an error and is backing away as fast as she can..
Amy Adams, on the other hand, is maybe thinking 'I sense an opportunity here' !!!


Muller is Toast now, so is Woodhouse.
Michelle Boag made sure of that outcome. What an ugly and horrible piece of work she has been. Why did National leaders put up with her for three decades. Watch for the book to come out. It will make Judith Collins book look like a nursery rhyme.
Lying on National Television is something you cannot come back from. Muller should resign now. I wouldn't be surprised if he lost his own seat. It is very near my electorate, people I know are not very impressed.
Bring on Crusher Collins- what a tough caretaker role for her to slip into as all National MP's are under a cloud. This could be National's worst election result in history.
Luxton may not be so interested in the leadership for quite sometime as this smell is going to hang around for quite some time.

Judith Collins is waay to smart to go anywhere near the Leadership, Luxon is the same. They're both smart folks and will be quite happy to let NZ wallow in it's mediocrity for at least 1 more election cycle post September '20. Look for them in '25

I really don't know whether people will be that interested in Luxon. I certainly won't be too keen on a National Party he leads if it's going to break back to social conservatism.

I don't know enough about him to comment. At the very least he needs a few years of parliament experience under his belt.

His business acumen is top class and he can communicate well at any level which showed on the AM show when he won the contest for the Botany electorate and his time at AirNZ.
However, he did not communicate well with certain maintenance departments at AirNZ.
Time will tell............


No matter how the Tory spin doctors try to slice and dice it - Muller lied to NZ on television. Simple as that!

Yes he was sweating and going red. I feel for him. I don't think he is a natural liar but he had gone too far and carried on. He should have stopped himself and been honest. It would have counted for a lot.

He's not on his own there I can recollect Ardern telling an untruth on national television prior to the last election.

Hate to say it as I can not stand her but she is needed to lead. Deliver or get sacked instead of the no accountability at present..

So replace incompetent with crooked, yeah right, Way. To. Go. And if you think a fundie is the right person for PM, heaven help us all.

Crusher's got her own skeletons, and she's disliked in the caucus. So, no go.

The revelation silenced National for most the week, removing its ability to attack the Government after a man, later found out to have Covid-19, abscond from managed isolation for 70 minutes.

No worries, the fearless forth estate were more than capable. Several senior reporters, both seasoned health reporters and experienced political reporters commented, "we are just glad to be doing our job" and "critical investigation & analysis, reporting of fact is in our DNA, it's what we do"

Never fear.. this National party bluster will blow over.. we will have more Labour party ineptitude to poke fun at next week.

I think this National Noise is going stay around the traps for quite some time.

Michael Reddell rips in to National on its China ties. Fierce.

Never come across this guy before. Very good blog, shame about Jesus Christ, though. Economics is the only true religion, lol.

I think one thing to bear in mind is that within National, the real leader is the party president and executive. They are the ones who need replacing. There’s a lot of back room heft that is unaccountable. That’s true of the Greens, too.

And the spin doctors. Boag gone so one less now, but Hooten must have taken a hit as well. Muller's line about not being an opposition for opposition's sake, was a noble and correct direction for them. But that didn't last long.

Yes, the Green Party who are wholly internally democratic with most decisions of note being devolved fully to the members.

Religion and the CCP are front and center with National and it shows.

Jenee: Listen to Michael Woodhouse being interviewed by Katherine Ryan on RNZ on Friday morning.
Well able to sort out what he should do amongst the barrage of things that get thrown at every MP.
Considered and responsible, after listening you might end up voting for him. The sort of MP we need.

Every time he gets close to any position of responsibility he'll be asked "So, Micheal. When did you realise that the Homeless Man Myth was a pack of lies and why didn't you say so?"

So what is the information you have on that BW? That the rest of us don't.

"Well able to sort out what he should do". Interesting statement. What should he do when he finds confidential personal information being leaked from a government department?
"Considered and responsible". Really? What about the homeless man claims, and sitting on information about potentially infectious people? Ill considered and irresponsible.

And deleting the emails at the same time as an inquiry into the leaked email to Walker was announced. This having received the emails from Boag days before and not deleting them.

He answered that well oldman. Listen to the interview.
All parties MPs get blitzed with delicate info, but dodgy and unusable. Best ignored.

Katherine Ryan interviewed Woodhouse TWICE! I heard a completely different one to you, obviously

Clearly you heard different. Why is that?

Don't know, but if memory serves, I cleaned my ears just before it

Clearly you heard different. Why is that?

I hate to say it as Im from a long line of National voters, National is in bed with the CCP and the church.
They need to walk away from the CCP, National means this country, not someone elses. The days of religion in politics are over, less than 50% of the population are religious and National needs wake up and purge them from their controling position in the party.

I don't know, people might love religious puritans dictating how they must live and controlling their private life. I'm sure National has their priorities right, all we need as a country is repressive religious beliefs and some sweet money from our benevolent friends in the CCP.

Brighter future together!

According to that, they better hurry up & sack their [religious] leader then.

What part of my comment was cause for deletion? The woman part? The non delivery part? The profligate spending part? The rescuer complex part? Or the incentivizing grievance culture part?

The being correct part.

I think what we're witnessing is our political leadership's gross incompetence of all colours & persuasions, right across the board. While it's sometimes fun throwing stones at the other side, let's try & remember that we're all in this together, whether we like it or not. Labour got lucky. Twice. They were hand picked before failing dismally for 2 years then lucky again with a tailor made crisis for their socialist leanings. National have been getting worse for some time now, as Key's reign exposed, but their lack of planning is being shown up for what they've become, greedy. If they weren't so greedy they wouldn't be so Chinesed, but they are. My (many) earlier comments re our political systems not being fit for purpose are surely plain for all to see. Many years ago, before politicians got paid very much at all, I remember people saying "Well, if you pay peanuts, you'll only get monkeys!" These days we pay some of the best salaries in the country to our politicians & their state'ist colleagues & we've still got a zoo full of monkeys. We need a new constitution. And quickly.

Yang was put in there by Key to grab the votes of new ethnic Chinese migrants who came from mainland China during Key's years. In that sense, he did his job well by being a symbolic figure as most of the mainland Chinese migrants (probably including Yang himself) consider politics as a one-way process since it's how things work in the PRC. Meanwhile, he did little to none for the broader ethnic Chinese community. In summary, he is utterly incompetent as a politician. Winston figured it out and used the spy allegation to attack him. Instead of coming out and facing the allegation by talking to the mainstream media, Yang chose to hide. Until now, he had almost no interaction with the mainstream media, which is incredible considering he's been an MP for so long. His own reactions gave rise to Winston's claim.

Boag was set up , and she walked right into it

She set herself up. No one was going to railroad National's election chances to spite an ex-party President with that little influence.

Please post whichever newsletter sent you this idea. I must subscribe for the entertainment.