Peter Williams: Treasury incompetence leads to Budget hack

Opinion 29/05/2019

By Peter Williams, Magic Mornings host.

The hack of the budget information. There are fingers being pointed in all directions. The police have been called in.

But David Farrer, the Kiwiblog founder, the owner of the Curia polling company and former National Party staffer has a really intriguing take on it. He says his theory is a pure guess and he doesn’t actually know what happened, but he goes back to his time working in Parliament nearly 20 years ago when he was on the staff of the then opposition National party.

He remembers waiting for the crime statistics to come out and knew that the government would try to put a positive spin on some bad news.

Farrar went to the police website, found the stats from the previous year, and also from the year before that. He saw that they were in the same URL format in both of those years. So he used the same URL format for the current year, and there they were. Hey, presto, he says.

Farrar had the official crime stats four hours before the government was due to release them.

Which allowed the shadow minister to embarrass the government who were furious about the so-called “leak.”

So David Farrar is guessing that the same thing has happened again.

The budget information was put up on a website of some sort, and someone found it using a bit of detective work.

And later Farrar’s guess was confirmed by the blogger Idiot Savant on the website No Right Turn who showed that if you googled “estimates of appropriation for 2019-2020” you would have got all the information - before the mistake was discovered and the link and all the information taken down.

So what we have here it seems is not a “hack” at all.

It’s really just incompetence on the part of the Treasury.

The treasury who put the information on-line early without the necessary security to hide it. The Treasury boss admitted as much this morning on The AM Show. Gabriel Mahklouf said that the Budget was on the web, but locked. 

Someone has got through the lock, albeit after about 2000 attempts.

My question is: why was it online in the first place?

Could they have not waited till tomorrow - the day of the Budget itself - to upload to the Treasury website? It’s a big file, but the government has big servers and fast upload speeds. Why have it up two days early?

It is, of course, hugely embarrassing for the government and the Treasury. The big question is how much more stuff does the National Party have?

As for the role of the National Party in this? Well, they were like a pig rolling in the mud yesterday. It’s extraordinary - but quite expected of course - that Labour supporters would be furious and be accusing the opposition of not playing fair and being irresponsible by releasing this material before the Budget.

But get real - this is politics.

Oppositions exist to oppose and disrupt the government.

They had a good day yesterday. Frankly, they needed it.

But what’s worse are the ramifications for our government security systems. If stuff like this highly top secret budget information can be found and released so easily, what else might be available?

It actually makes you shudder.

Peter Williams is host of Magic Talk Mornings, 9am - midday weekdays.