23 Mar 2012

ACC not involved in releasing name, says chairman

7:15 pm on 23 March 2012

Accident Compensation Commission chairman John Judge says he has no idea how, or by whom, the name of the woman at the centre of Nick Smith's resignation as a cabinet minister was released.

Dr Smith resigned on Wednesday after admitting he had written a reference under ministerial letterhead for Bronwyn Pullar, who is a friend, and failed to declare a conflict of interest when dealing with the case.

Ms Pullar has had a long-standing disagreement with ACC about its support for her.

She has accused the corporation of leaking her name and information to the media in an attempt to destroy her privacy and reputation after an email was accidentally sent to her, detailing hundreds of ACC claimants.

Mr Judge told Morning Report he doesn't believe the release of Ms Pullar's name has anything to do with the corporation but said if she has evidence to the contrary he would be pleased to receive it and deal with it.

"I don't think it has anything to do with ACC at all as far as I'm aware. I have absolutely no idea how it appeared in the media."

Mr Judge says Dr Smith was straightforward to deal with and never raised any questions about individual claimants.

The chairman has complete faith that his staff are not, and would never be, subject to undue political influence.

Mr Judge says clearly a mistake was made with the email to Ms Pullar, but he's been impressed with the way ACC's chief executive handled the issue. The board will co-operate fully if the Auditor-General investigates governance issues at the corporation.

Prime Minister John Key has rejected opposition calls for such an inquiry though Dr Smith supports an investigation.

Ms Pullar issued a statement on Thursday in which she outlined how she ended up being emailed the details of more than 6000 ACC claimants.

She believed it was a genuine mistake.

Ms Pullar also apologised to Nick Smith, saying it is regrettable he had to resign, and she knows he was only trying to help a friend.

'Common' consequence of head injury

In her statement, Ms Pullar said Dr Smith had fallen victim to her condition of repetitive behaviour and pestering - a direct consequence of her head injury.

An ACC law specialist, John Miller, says that kind of behaviour is common among head-injury patients.

He says he can see why Dr Smith gave in to the pestering, but it does not appear that even his attempt to help or that of former National Party president Michelle Boag has helped Ms Pullar.