Cyber security is another consideration as the Curran controversy continues

Does   the  Ardern  government have a  ticking  time-bomb inside  its ranks?

PM   Jacinda  Ardern’s  first priority on her return  from  Nauru  would  be an all-out  effort to  find out and defuse it.

Her government may even have called  for officials  from its intelligence  agencies to do some cyber  checks.

The problem emerged in  Parliament when Clare Curran, already stripped  of her Cabinet  ranking for  failing to disclose  sensitive meetings on issues related to her portfolios,  put in another abysmal performance at  question time on Wednesday. 

Answering National MP Melissa Lee, she revealed she had used a personal Gmail account for official Government business.

All  ministers are  understood  to have a security clearance, and Curran’s portfolio in communications means she did have some responsibilities relating to cyber security and secure information.

It is unclear whether any sensitive materials were handled on her personal account.  If they had been, it  could mean they were  open to   cyber attacks  by  foreign agents.

According to  Stacey  Kirk  on Stuff, Curran stumbled over her answers in Parliament, as she was forced to admit  Government business was conducted on her personal email.

She was not forthcoming with a response about why she used her Gmail account for official business from “time to time”.

To the question “what Government business has she conducted via her Gmail account” (Kirk  reported),  Curran appearing flustered as she claimed she’d answered the question, only to be told by the Speaker she had to answer it directly.

She then pleaded for Lee to ask it again and then answered:

“To the best of my recollection, um, ah, ah, I haven’t, um, I haven’t used my, um I’ve answered um OIA, ah, ah, OIA responses and personal, um and parliamentary questions correctly and to the best of my recollection, um, ah, you know, that, that has, that’s what I’ve done.

There  is  little  doubt  Curran  has  become  an  embarrassment  for the government  and  poses  a   risk  to  the  authority of  the   PM.

Some  commentators say Ardern  was  lenient  in  retaining  Curran  in  her ministry, perhaps  because  of   earlier close  associations.

Any  further  performances   like that on  Wednesday can only compound  the  Curran  misery  for the government and – more particularly – for Ardern.

The meeting that led to Curran’s demotion was with well-known entrepreneur Derek Handley over the role of the Government’s chief technology officer (CTO).

If   Handley  is  confirmed  in the  post,   he will  carry  a  stigma  that  will  almost certainly be   difficult to  overcome.

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