Jacinda Ardern says using people’s private health details for political gain is “never acceptable” following revelations National MP Hamish Walker leaked confidential details about Covid-19 patients in New Zealand to the media.
“What we have an example of here, though, is someone who has, for political reasons, used people’s personal information as a weapon,” the Prime Minister said.
“That is never acceptable in New Zealand.”
Mr Walker, MP for Clutha-Southland, announced this afternoon that he won't stand at the next election.
Ms Ardern said the inquiry into the leak, headed by Michael Heron QC and due to report back in three weeks, is still required to give the Government the assurance information is “appropriately shared” with the right parties.
“New Zealanders deserve better right now. It may be an election year but we’re in a global pandemic.”
It comes as Michelle Boag admitted being the original source who passed the information on to the National MP, having abused her position as acting CEO of the Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust. Ms Boag was formerly the National Party president.
Ms Ardern said, from her understanding, it wouldn’t have been unusual for the helicopter trust to have the information as a “health body”.
She said the inquiry would ensure people had correct access to information they required.
In accepting Mr Walker's decision to withdraw his candidacy, National Party leader Todd Muller said, “there was a clear breach of trust, which goes against the values National holds as a party”.
On TVNZ1's Breakfast this morning, Mr Muller said he no longer wanted Mr Walker to run as the party's candidate in the Clutha-Southland electorate.
“From my perspective, his approach is completely unacceptable. It doesn’t meet New Zealand’s standards of behaviour.”
National Party deputy leader Nikki Kaye has told 1 NEWS that Michelle Boag has stood down from her roles in the party. She was on the Auckland Central electorate executive and the National Party campaign committees.
Health Minister Chris Hipkins said yesterday the leak by Mr Walker was "very disappointing" and has "a ring of dirty politics to it".
National Party president Peter Goodfellow said he wanted to “apologise for any distress caused to the individuals concerned as a result of the actions of one of our Members of Parliament”.
He said a new candidate would be found for the Southland electorate for the election, with the selection process to start “almost immediately”.
“We look forward to a robust and democratic process.”