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Leaking Covid-19 patient details 'backfired terribly' for National MP Hamish Walker - commentator

National MP Hamish Walker's decision to leak the private information of New Zealand's current Covid-19 patients "backfired terribly", according to a prominent New Zealand centre-right commentator.

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Centre-right commentator Ben Thomas says the leak appears to be “purely about personal ambition”. Source: Breakfast

National leader Todd Muller says he's written to the party board stating his wish to remove Mr Walker as Clutha-Southland candidate, a traditionally safe National seat which he currently holds.

He's already stripped Mr Walker's portfolios from him after the revelations yesterday.

While Mr Walker said in a press statement yesterday he leaked the data to show the Government didn't have a secure system, RNZ - one of the leak's recipients - reports he did it to back up a previous statement about arrivals from "India, Korea and Pakistan".

Commentator Ben Thomas says he's not sure how Mr Walker thought another "racist leak" would vindicate him.

"This was not public interest information. This was not information needed to show what the Government had made a mistake. This was just targeting individuals, New Zealanders, and disclosing their private confidential health information in the most appalling way," he told TVNZ1's Breakfast this morning.

"I suspect Hamish Walker thought he was doing the right thing for Hamish Walker.

"And as we discovered from RNZ this morning, this data leak was his attempt to prove those allegations, what we could call an Indian-sounding names scandal."

The information was initially leaked to Mr Walker by former National party president Michelle Boag. 

She's now stood down from her position as acting CEO of the Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust, through which she received the data, and from all National Party roles.

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Michelle Boag quits National Party roles following Covid-19 patient info leak

Mr Thomas thinks she chose Mr Walker as the recipient to help build a relationship.

"I think she told somebody in the party, if they had thought it was useful information, a more senior figure would have retailed it to the media," he says.

"Or they would've said, 'Delete this immediately and never speak to us about this again,' which I think is much more likely. 

"Politics, in a lot of ways, runs on a currency of trading secret information. It's the sort of thing you dole out as patronage and you can trade with journalists and other politics."

Mr Thomas says it appears to have been "purely about personal ambition" and Mr Walker may have gotten carried away.

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The National leader also told Breakfast he thinks former party president Michelle Boag should step aside from any involvement with the party in the wake of the Covid-19 privacy leak scandal. Source: Breakfast

"He would be providing confidential information to journalists. That improves your relationship. That makes you a bit of a bigger man around Parliament," he says. 

"That would have been his thinking. It's obviously backfired terribly for him."

Mr Walker's future in National is now on the line, with his party leader trying to get him removed from his seat at the election.

The National board is meeting today to decide his fate.