The Andrea Vance phone records scandal rolls on. Yesterday the PM tabled an email in Parliament appearing to support his ‘cock-up by low level contractor’ version of events. It shows the Henry inquiry administrator requesting the phone records for ‘any contact’ between a number of Ministers and Andrea Vance’s phone number, the Parliamentary Services contractor replying with Vance’s phone records attached, and the inquiry administrator’s reply insisting that they didn’t request that information and they’re not interested in looking at it.
But there are still a few problems. In no particular order:
- Last week the Speaker’s office claimed that the Henry inquiry requested Vance’s phone records but Parliamentary Services refused to supply them. Now we’re told that Parliamentary Services supplied them, but the Henry inquiry didn’t request them. That seems like a weird and significant thing to get wrong.
- Peter Dunne’s name isn’t on the list of Ministers whose records were requested in the email tabled by the Prime Minister
- Peter Dunne alleges that Henry told him they could match his phone records against Andrea Vance’s
- There’s also the email Patrick Gower obtained from the PMs CoS Wayne Eagleson. I don’t understand the significance of this email – it is clearly about Ministers and their staff, not journalists. But other people seem to think it’s important.
Here’s my working theory: there must be other requests for records from the Henry inquiry to Parliamentary Services that the PM has not yet released. At the very least they requested Peter Dunne’s phone and email records. Let’s say they also requested Andrea Vance’s phone records and the head of Parliamentary Services knocked them back and rapped their knuckles. Then, a few days later a ‘low level contractor’ supplies them with Vance’s phone records anyway, in a reply to an email that didn’t actually request them. So the inquiry sends a response elaborating that they didn’t ask for that data, because they were reprimanded about requesting it a few days earlier.
So Henry now has Vance’s phone records, and he mentions this to Peter Dunne. But in a semantic sense he doesn’t use Vance’s phone records because he doesn’t need to: he has Dunne’s phone records – and email logs – documenting Dunne’s communications with Vance.