Thursday 30th May 2019
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National Party leader Simon Bridges accused Treasury secretary Gabriel Makhlouf of “calling the police on the Opposition” over the website security flaw that allowed the National Party to gain access to Budget secrets.
The Treasury secretary’s position was “untenable” and he should resign, said Bridges, who conflated various statements by Finance Minister Grant Robertson, Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters, and Makhlouf to allege that National had been accused of a criminal act in finding the materials.
“This is the most contemptible moment in New Zealand politics,” he said.
Neither Robertson nor Makhlouf made such an allegation, although the Treasury’s decision to call the police led to a swift conclusion that there had been no hacking of the website. Makhlouf has initially suggested there was systematic hacking.
Bridges labelled Robertson “a highly political minister” who must have been aware yesterday of the extent to which the Treasury’s claim that it had been hacked was in fact a security breach achievable by anyone with access to a keyboard and internet connection.
At an early Budget day media conference, Bridges confirmed what had become apparent overnight: that the National Party itself had obtained the Budget information by typing search terms relevant to the 2019 Budget into the search engine on the Treasury’s website.
As Makhlouf confirmed in a 5am statement this morning, this allowed access to a ‘cloned’ version of the site where the Treasury had been uploading Budget documents in what it believed to be a cyber-secure environment.
All the information released by National as a result of the website flaw related to detailed Budget allocations in about half the Votes covering government departments and agencies.
No major announcements were revealed by the security breach on a document which, while once filled with price-sensitive information, is these days kept secret more as a matter of political convention that strict security need.
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