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National, Sabin, Osborne, train wreck

National’s Northland candidate Mark Osborne was the treasurer on ex-MP Mike Sabin’s electorate committee so will obviously have had some contact with Sabin. It has been asked (and will keep getting asked) what he knew about the police investigation of Sabin that resulted in a court case.

Osborne was interviewed by Sean Plunket on RadioLive yesterday – NORTHLAND CANDIDATE KNEW ABOUT SABIN RUMOURS.

Plunket: What political experience have you got?

Osborne: Oh look I’ve been a member of the electorate executive up here for the last three years as treasurer and Northern Zone chair.

Plunket: So you were involved in the selection of Mt Sabin?

Osborne: No I wasn’t, no I wasn’t involved back at that point.

Plunket: At all?

Osborne: No, not at all.

Plunket: Didn’t know about it. Did it just happen while you were away or something?

Osborne: Oh look it happened before my time, so ah I’ve been…

Plunket: I thought you’d been there for three years.

Osborne: Yes but ah…

Plunket: Ok, but what about his re-selection or confirmation as candidate before the last election, where you involved in that?

Osborne: Yes, yes…

Plunket: Ok so you were involved. Did you know anything about the shadows that hung over him?

Osborne: Not at all. Not a thing.

Plunket: Nothing? You didn’t, hadn’t even heard a rumour?

Osborne: Oh I saw the rumours and the…

Plunket: Oh there were rumours. And you had heard the rumours?

Osborne: Oh yes.

Plunket: Yes. Did you ask Mr Sabin or did anyone ask Mr Sabin to clarify those rumours when he was re-selected as the candidate?

Osborne: Well I can’t speak for anybody else, but ah I asked if he was ok.

Plunket: Well what do you mean, did you ask if there was anything that might damage his candidacy or the National party?

Osborne: No no I didn’t, no I just…

A novice in an awkward situation trapped by an old pro. If the timing was awry he should have jumped on it straight away.

Plunket: Why on earth not?

Osborne: Why on earth not.

Plunket: Yeah. If you’d heard the rumours.

Osborne: Well I just wanted to make sure that he was ok.

Plunket: So you wanted to make sure that he was ok, rather than the party was ok, or that he would be in a position to serve the electorate if he would be re-selected and elected as the MP.

Osborne: Oh well look this was at the very end of last year after he’d been re-elected so ah it was more just as a treasurer you know just saying you know are you ok…

Plunket: So when did you first hear the rumours Mark?

Osborne: Ah right at the very end of last year when they were in the newspaper.

Plunket: Didn’t hear them before he was re-selected…

Osborne: Oh no not at all. I knew nothing.

Still no denial that it wasn’t a known issue pre-election though.

Plunket: Ok. So you knew nothing even though you were on the executive?

Osborne: That’s right no, nothing until it was in the media…

Plunket: The executive knew nothing?

Osborne: Ah well I can’t speak for them but I certainly knew nothing.

Plunket: Well why not? You must have had meetings.

Osborne: Well we never had any meetings that discussed that.

Plunket: But when you, ok when did you confirm his re-selection as candidate before the election?

Osborne: (pause) Well I ah, I was the treasurer so ah I didn’t reconfirm his selection.

Plunket: Where you at meetings where it was discussed?

Osborne: Ah no.

Plunket: Ok. All right. So no one knew. It was just suddenly then after the election ‘Woh, there’s a problem?

Osborne: That’s right. Well from my perspective absolutely had no knowledge whatsoever.

That oozes implausible deniability.

Osborne left wide open the possibility, perhaps probability that this was a known issue before the election, but claims it wasn’t discussed at all by the executive in any meetings.

And that he knew nothing until it was in the media. Even from Dunedin I had heard rumours a month or two earlier. There have been many reports of rumours swirling in Northland.

Key’s and National’s handling of the Sabin issue has been abysmal.

The feeling I get from this is that National chose a candidate who could deny knowledge of or complicity in the Sabin issue.

Of their own doing the Sabin train had very wobbly wheels. And now they have installed a novice driver to try and drive down a very shaky track with the National Party ducking for cover en masse.

I can see a high risk of political wreckage.

Winston was always very adept at political opportunism.

     ^ likely votes  –  National’s Northland train

UPDATE: the train has a stoker – John Key to boost National’s Northland by-election campaign

He’s stuffed up on his handling of the Sabin issue so far so he may add fuel to the Sabin fire.

Andrew Little buys into Hager and Dirty Politics

Andrew Litttle has bought into the Nicky Hager myths that dirty politics is just a John Key Government problem, and that Hager has a perfect record.

Responding to the Pacific spying ‘revelations’  from  Hager via NZ Herald Little was reported in ‘A MASS INVASION OF PRIVACY’::

Nothing Hager had said in the past had been proven to be false or incorrect, Little said.

That is a false and incorrect claim. Hager himself admitted making mistakes in “Dirty Politics”, and other accusations (notably about Rodney Hide and David Farrar) have been strongly disputed and remain (as far as I know) unproven.

Little has also spoken strongly against ‘Dirty Politics’, as in Dirty Politics: John Key ‘in denial’ over SIS report:

In a snap debate yesterday Mr Little said it would be easy for Mr Key and his Government to draw a line under what he described as “the dirtiest, filthiest, grubbiest, vilest operation we have ever seen in New Zealand politics”.

“Simply by having John Key stand up publicly and saying to all New Zealanders, I got it wrong. I should not have had a smear machine operating out of my office … please forgive me.

“Is he man enough to say I got it wrong? He won’t because he has been in denial,” Mr Little said.

There’s no denying that Key and his office have been involved to some degree in playing dirty. But is it “the dirtiest, filthiest, grubbiest, vilest operation we have ever seen in New Zealand politics”?

We’ll probably never know, but there’s a lot of competition for that dishonour. The Muldoon versus Moyle accusation in 1976 comes to mind. And Helen Clark and her office were not averse to playing political hardball, including underarm.

And Chris Trotter wrote in 2010 (back in the era that ‘Dirty Politics’ harks back to):

The Smiling Assassin: Pete Hodgson’s mastery of the dark arts of politics goes back a long way, but his latest scalp – Pansy Wong’s – was taken in a ‘sting’ operation that came pretty close to perfection.

And Hager’s involvement in dirty politics hasn’t been all white versus black ops either. His latest spying data sources were illegally obtained. His data sources for “Dirty Politics” were illegally obtained.

Hager has claimed the timing of last year’s book release was purely coincidental to the start of an election campaign. That’s hard to believe. And yesterday’s launch of his latest political crusade just happens to coincide with the start of a by-election campaign.

Of course Hager can time his revelations however he likes, but claiming elections have no influence on his timing sounds disingenuous. He was open about the intent of “Dirty Politics”, to inform the public about how bad John Key and his Government were. And it’s clear he wanted Key to lose the election.

Hager claims to be an investigative journalist, but that is shaded by his political activist hat.

Much of his work involves collating data, often illegally obtained. And due to the mass of data involved he has to cherry pick what he thinks is pertinent. Doing that it’s pretty much impossible to not pick the bits that suit your aims or agenda.

So while it could be claimed that it’s factual that Hager quotes material he has obtained there is often no guarantee what he is using and what he selects are facts. In the case of Slater’s data some of it at least was embellished bragging.

And a major problem with the Hager approach is deliberately avoids trying to check facts. He claimed that he didn’t do this before publishing Dirty Politics to avoid people taking action that might prevent publication.

So unlike good journalists he doesn’t verify his claims very well – he only seeks verification from people friendly to his side of the argument.

Some would call this one-sided approach lying by omission.

Back to Little. He is running a risk of his righteousness over dirty politics blowing up in his face. He at least has a pot/kettle problem.

Little has chosen to retain the services of Matt McCarten as his chief of staff.

Lind Clark on McCarten in  Matt McCarten: better red than dead last year (just after Cunliffe appointed him his Chief of Staff):

She also said, “I absolutely adored him. He was so charming, and he was such a terrific leaker. He would always tell you what was really happening in caucus.” I thought of that when I called Matt Robson. He had called McCarten “treacherous”.

Matt Robson is a now bitter ex-colleague. He commented in that same feature:

He stole other people’s ideas… He has a propensity for dishonesty…

He spent all his time running down the MPs, saying they’d sold out, and [were] not left-wing enough… Constant attacks… Constant intrigues…

Sounds much like dirty politics.

McCarten may have mellowed by retains close links with the harder left, plus now has obviously close links with Little and his office. This is a risk for Little, especially if he keeps complaining about dirty politics.

Just prior to last year’s election Richard Prebble wrote:

There is some evidence connecting Hager, Dotcom and Rawshark to one Matt McCarten in David Cunliffe’s office. Prior knowledge of Dirty Politics would explain the sudden and strange decision by Labour to campaign under the odd slogan “Vote Positive”.

Cameron Slater on McCarten about the same time:

Matt is an absolute cold blooded master at the Dark Arts, but even he knows the numbers aren’t moving the way they need to be moving for his golden boy to be in with a chance.

Slater in November in Correction:

The statement about McCarten being involved in Dirty Politics and the statement about people involved in Dirty Politics trying to kill me were separate and distinct.  The criminal conspiracy was large enough for some of them not to know what others were planning in parallel.

McCarten was involved in the whole sordid Vote Positive campaign that was to augment the release of the Dirty Politics book.  All of that was the product of criminal conspiracy.

Slater in December:

I’m glad he got the respect of staff and MPs…it will make it even more delicious when I tip him over for his role in Dirty Politics.

When someone has to take the blame I suspect it will be McCarten.

Who would believe a few cherry picked quotes from Cameron Slater?

Nicky Hager did. That is what his ‘Dirty Politics’ was built on.

And Andrew Little seems to have bought into this perfect approach to investigative journalism.

And he has also bought into McCarten’s expertise.

At his own risk. Dirt doesn’t always just go in one direction.

Open Forum – Saturday

7 March 2015

This is open to anyone with any topic. It’s a mostly political and social issues blog but not limited to that, and views from anywhere on the political spectrum are welcome. Some basic ground rules:

  • If possible support arguments, news, points or opinions with links to sources and facts.
  • Please don’t post anything illegal, potentially defamatory or abusive.
  • Debate hard if you like but respect people’s right to have varying views and to not be personally be attacked.
  • Don’t say to a stranger online anything you wouldn’t say to their face.

Moderation will be minimal if these guidelines are followed. Should they ever be necessary any moderator edits, deletes or bans will be clearly and openly advised.

Silence on the Sepuloni case

Last week (25 February) it was announced that charges had been laid against the mother Labour’ spokesperson for social development Carmel Sepuloni. Carmel was stood down from the role.

The Labour Party has stood down its social development spokesperson Carmel Sepuloni – following charges of benefit fraud being laid against her mother.

Labour Party leader Andrew Little said the charges against her mother meant Ms Sepuloni had a conflict of interest in the social development portfolio.

Mr Little said she would remain Junior Whip and remain at number seven on his front bench.

Ms Sepuloni had assured him she did not know her mother was facing charges until today, he said.

Yesterday the court case was reported, which included guilty please from Sepuloni (senior) and her partner.

Mother of Labour MP Carmel Sepuloni admits $100K benefit fraud

The mother of Labour MP Carmel Sepuloni and her partner have admitted 23 benefit fraud charges totalling nearly $100,000.

Beverley Anne Sepuloni and partner Michael Charles Rangi entered guilty pleas to the charges, committed over more than a decade until last year, when they appeared before Judge Allan Roberts in the New Plymouth District Court today.

The charges arose from neither defendant informing government agencies that they commenced a relationship in October, 2003.

The court heard that Rangi was on the dole and also getting an accommodation supplement, while Sepuloni was on a sickness benefit and getting an income-related rental rate for her Housing NZ house.

Sepuloni faced 19 charges of defrauding the State for a total of $33,856 and Rangi four charges totalling $62,351.

Carmel Sepuloni will remain stood down from the social development role until after sentencing but is expected to be reappointed.

When last week’s news broke there was a post at The Standard – Carmel stood down for possible conflict of interest.

The prompt action of Andrew Little in standing Carmel down was mentioned, and I agree that that was a refreshingly good look.

However many comments were trying to blame Paula Bennett for making the charges public – but they would obviously have come out at last week’s and this week’s court appearances anyway. Sepuloni is not a common name.

Ed:

Pete got the wrong end of the stick. Obviously the thought was that perhaps Paula Bennett had been advised of an upcoming prosecution, and seeing a fairly unusual name made further enquiries. If that is the case (and it may of course not be), I hope the reporter does let Carmel know where the information came from . . .

DoublePlusGood:

I think it’s also possible that Bennett ordered some digging on the Sepuloni name, and went after the mother.

They went to the extent of talking of using OIA’s to try and find blame. lprent:

Of more interest, as pointed out above, will be when the political arm of the National party became aware of it from the WINZ staff, and who they told. After all we have the horrible Paula Bennett and her attitudes to spreading private information from WINZ to reporters as an example.

OIA time…

There were many comments on themes of National and Bennett being to blame for something.

And there were also assumptions of innocence. Murray Rawshark:

Standing down is the right thing to do in these circumstances, even though her mum is most likely innocent. Many cases of so-called benefit fraud arise because WINZ are so useless and incompetent.

But yesterday since the guilty verdicts were announced what has been talked about on this at The Standard?

Nothing. Nada. Funkstille. Silence.

3 News coverage of Labour’s Willow-Jean Prime

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A search on Willow-Jean Prime (Labour’s Northland candidate) at 3 News returns:

3NewsWillow-Jean

Compare with Winston Peters coverage (page 1):

3NewsWinston

And National’s Mark Osborne:

3NewsMarkOsborne

This looks like disgracefully out of balance by-election coverage.

Paddy pimping Peters

Winston Peters has a campaign bus on the road in Northland. And some of the media seems to be actively pushing the Peters blusterbus while they sideline some other candidates and ignore the rest.

Media driven democracy at it’s worst.

Leading the charge is 3 News political editor Patrick Gower, who even commissioned a poll for Peters. Ok, it wasn’t ‘for Peters’ but the nature and timing means it was virtual pimping.

The appearance is that some media are actively promoting Winston’s chances and want him to win the Northland seat. And they rule the rest out of anything like equivalent coverage.

Labour’s Willow-Jean Prime announced her candidacy nearly a month ago and launched her Labour campaign nearly two weeks ago. The media, especially the television media, seems to have virtually ignored her.

National’s Mark Osborne was selected last Saturday and seems to get little other than incidental coverage, and his inexperience is often emphasised.

In start contrast Winston Peters announced he was standing last Saturday. He had already arranged (and been given) promotional slots on TV3’s The Nation on Saturday and 3 News’ Q&A on Sunday.

Peters launched his bus campaign on Tuesday near lead news television coverage.

He was given a slot on 3 News Frontline on Wednesday morning.

And yesterday he was to the forefront of 3 News with a poll result, presented by a seemingly ecstatic Gower. It’s not surprising that the poll result favoured Peters, 35% to Osborne’s 30%. Peters has been splashed all over the headlines and the other candidates have been barely mentioned or ignored comparatively.

This is media driven political campaigning at it’s worse.

3 News website headlines yesterday:

Peters: ‘Labour can’t win – we can’

Winston Peters is calling on Labour voters in Northland to give him the tick in the upcoming Northland by-election.

Peters on track to win Northland seat

A 3 News political poll has found Winston Peters is on track to deliver National a shock defeat in the Northland by-election.

It appears as if plenty who voted for National in the last election feel wronged and are holding a grudge.

The latest 3 News-Reid Research poll shows Mr Peters with a clear lead over National’s Mark Osborne.

A poll taken pretty much before the campaign has started with a result of 35% to 30% is not “on track to deliver”, unless Gower means he is on track to deliver the campaign to Peters on a platter.

And the margin of error for the poll is over 4%. meaning there is substantial overlap on the potential response.

The poll is certainly a significant boost to Peters chances but the way it has been promoted is far from balanced coverage.

And the pimping of Peters continues today with Age no barrier for Winston Peters.

Going back to Tuesday the 3 News headlines:

You have to go back to Sunday to find a headline on a Peters opponent:

Ok, that’s not an opponent, it’s John Key’s view and doesn’t mention the National candidate tell near the end of the article, tacked on after another promotion for Peters:

However, Mr Peters says the National Party is panicking because of how much support he has from its own members.

NZ First had a record of achieving outside of government, he told the programme.

He had brought bridges to Tauranga and could bring roads to Northland, Mr Peters said.

“Northland has been a forgotten province. It needs a voice and we’re being asked to put our hands up put it all on the line for Northland and I intend to do just that.”

The by-election on March 28 is a four-way contest with National’s Mark Osborne, Labour’s Willow-Jean Prime and ACT’s Robin Grieve also standing.

And even that’s factually incorrect. There are eleven candidates. 3 News has chosen to ignore seven of them. Candidates have no show if the media chose not to include them in coverage.

This is media driven democracy at it’s worst.

Paddy pimping Peters is very poor political coverage.

Herald slant on Pacific reaction to ‘spying’

NZ Herald released ‘EXCLUSIVE” details about New Zealand spying on Pacific countries yesterday. Today they have a slanted article on reaction from Pacific countries.

Are they deliberately trying to justify what they have published? Or are they oblivious to their emphasis on one side of limited  response?

The headline is NZ breached our trust – Tongan PM.

First paragraph:

Leaders of Pacific nations are beginning to speak out about claims New Zealand has been keeping too close an eye on their people and one prime minister has called the move a breach of trust.

As will be shown later the Herald is seeking comment from them, which is different to “speaking out”.

Tongan Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pohiva, who was elected last December, said he would raise the issue in his first meeting with Prime Minister John Key.

“It means New Zealand breached the trust that has been established between the two countries,” he told Radio NZ’s Checkpoint programme.

However, Mr Pohiva said if New Zealand authorities felt the information they had gathered needed to be shared with other world leaders, then that was up to them.

“Remember Tonga is small and we have nothing to hide. It may be a serious matter for superpowers.”

Headlines involve cherry picking, but “breach of trust” is part of what otherwise seems a moderate and unconcerned response once you read past the “however”.

Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi slammed the media for sensationalising the issue and supported any monitoring of his country.

“Samoa doesn’t have anything to hide. Our daily lives are an open book. We follow good governance principles of transparency and accountability,” he said.

“As the leader of this country, I maintain frank and open lines of communication with all our diplomatic connections.”

Tuilaepa acknowledged the matters of a small island nation in the Pacific probably had no significant value to the world’s top leaders.

“We are not a security risk to any small island nearby and I’m sure the phone conversations by an old matai [chief] and his son in New Zealand for a taulaga [money] envelope will not be of interest to the FBI of the great USA.”

The Herald didn’t choose ‘Samoan Prime Minister slams media sensationalising‘ for their headline.

Commentators have also pushed the idea that China’s growing influence within the Pacific – particularly in Samoa and Fiji – has a lot to do with monitoring information in the region.

Commentators “pushed the idea” while the Herald just put balanced information out there? Yeah right.  They pushed their sensationalised exclusive while seeming to grudgingly tack on some alternate reality on the end of their self justification.

Auckland University Professor of Pacific Studies Damon Salesa said there was a shift happening within the region that world leaders were starting to catch on to.

The increase in spying was in keeping with “the intensification of interest in the Pacific with the rise of China,” he said. “We should consider it disappointing we are acting this way among our closest allies but most people working in this sphere are not naive about it.”

What would be disappointing about Pacific neighbours being helped and potentially protected by New Zealand intelligence gathering?

Requests for comment from leaders from Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Tuvalu, Nauru, Kiribati, French Polynesia, Niue, Solomon Islands and the Cook Islands went unanswered last night.

So after the lead phrase “Leaders of Pacific nations are beginning to speak out ” we find out that the Herald is requesting responses but most Pacific leaders approached have chosen not to “speak out”.

- additional reporting: David Fisher

Fisher has written articles opposing intelligence gathering and ‘spying’ for yonks and was credited with the revelation articles.

David Fisher David Fisher is a senior reporter for the NZ Herald.

EXCLUSIVE: GCSB collects phone calls, emails and internet data from NZ’s closest and most vulnerable neighbours, secret papers reveal

New Zealand is “selling out” its close relations with the Pacific nations to be close with the United States, author Nicky Hager has said.

Hager, in conjunction with the New Zealand Herald and the Intercept news site, revealed today how New Zealand’s spies are targeting the entire email, phone and social media communications of the country’s closest, friendliest and most vulnerable neighbours.

So it appears that David Fisher is doing follow-ups that support his exclusive revelations, that he worked with Nicky Hager on.

Hager is well known as an ‘investigative journalist’ who opposes intelligence gathering, and who has a habit of cherry picking data (illegally gathered in this case and for his ‘Dirty Politics’ election bomb last year) to support his activist slant.

This is a shame. There’s some aspects of this that deserve public attention, but appearing to be driven by an agenda does make it appear slanted.

Open Forum – Friday

6 March 2015

This is open to anyone with any topic. It’s a mostly political and social issues blog but not limited to that, and views from anywhere on the political spectrum are welcome. Some basic ground rules:

  • If possible support arguments, news, points or opinions with links to sources and facts.
  • Please don’t post anything illegal, potentially defamatory or abusive.
  • Debate hard if you like but respect people’s right to have varying views and to not be personally be attacked.
  • Don’t say to a stranger online anything you wouldn’t say to their face.

Moderation will be minimal if these guidelines are followed. Should they ever be necessary any moderator edits, deletes or bans will be clearly and openly advised.

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