Exclusive to Radio New Zealand
It is a major development in the saga over who leaked Mr Bridges’ expenses and raises huge questions about the stability of his leadership and disquiet among National MPs.
Sources have told RNZ that National Party Leader Simon Bridges and Parliamentary Speaker Trevor Mallard both received an anonymous text message recently from a person claiming to be responsible for leaking the information to Newshub.
Mental Health Problems
The author of the text warned that they suffered from mental health problems in the past and said being exposed publicly could push them over the edge and put their life at risk.
The appeal came after Mr Mallard launched an inquiry into who leaked the expenses and promised to name and shame the person responsible.
The text, which RNZ has not seen, detailed a number of conversations and pieces of information from National caucus meetings over a period of weeks in an attempt to prove the author was a National MP.
In the message, the author said that they had leaked the expenses because they disagreed with Mr Bridges’ leadership style, describing him as “arrogant,” and wanted him to be held to account for his spending of taxpayers’ money.
Mr Bridges was contacted but he declined to comment. He has repeatedly said he was confident the expenses’ leak did not come from within the National Party.
The original leak
Newshub first ran a story that Mr Bridges had spent nearly $114,000 of taxpayers’ money on transport and accommodation over the April to June period.
The information was released just days before it was due to be made public but prompted Mr Bridges to call for an inquiry to get to the bottom of whether Parliamentary Service, the Speaker’s office or one of his own MPs had leaked the information.
RNZ understands that Mr Bridges and Mr Mallard held meetings on Thursday, August 16 about how to handle the text message but it hasn’t resulted in the inquiry being stalled or scrapped.
QC to lead inquiry
Mr Mallard was contacted about the text message but he refused to comment. Soon after, he announced the appointment of Queen’s Counsel Michael Heron to lead the inquiry.
The investigation’s terms of reference are to be released in the first week of September when MPs return to Parliament.
The second leak
RNZ was approached by a person with details of the text message.
They said that they were speaking out as they were worried for the safety of the text’s author and the potential impact of the investigation.
While Mr Bridges has maintained an inquiry is necessary to ensure that information is safe within the Parliamentary precinct, questions are being raised as to whether the real purpose is to protect Mr Bridges’ leadership at whatever cost.
The source said that they were concerned Mr Bridges and Mr Mallard were not taking the text message seriously because the inquiry was still pressing ahead.
Mr Mallard has the formal authority to put a halt to the inquiry but if Mr Bridges really wanted it stopped, he could influence that decision.
RNZ has since verified the existence of the text and its contents with another source.
Jo Moir is Political Reporter at Radio New Zealand. Indian Newslink has published the above Report and Picture under a Special Agreement with www.rnz.co.nz
Details of Simon Bridges expenses were leaked (Photo: VNP/Phil Smith)