Excuses and ethics for Hager don’t stack up

There have been very polarised views on Nicky Hager’s book Dirty Politics, from lauding him for exposing some of the dirtiest politics being practiced (including me with some reservations) to condemning him for playing as dirty as those he exposes using illegally obtained information (including me to an  extent).

Some have strongly defended and praised Hager, like Sacha at Public Address, endorsed by Sofie Bribiesca :

…an internationally-respected investigative journalist who has never had a single fact in any of his books successfully challenged.

Hager may be internationally respected as a journalist in some circles but this book was very shoddy journalism at best.

It was pointed out be me and others that Dirty Politics was also factually shoddy – there were few facts, it comprised mostly of a selected collection of online conversations.

A number of errors or contestable claims were cited. This resulted in what is common on blogs, they gave up their argument and turned to attacking the messenger. Dirty politics, albeirt on a different scale to Whale Oil but also clearly intended to intimidate, bully and shut up.

Sacha also said in the same comment quoted above:

Why else do you think people like the PM go straight to personal attacks on Hager (which when repeated often enough may result in people who do not do their homework forming an impression of a ‘controversial reputation’, exactly as intended)?

That’s rather ironic. Sacha was one of the ones who joined in the personal attacks.

One of the main criticisms of Hager’s book is his non-journalistic method of stitching together conversations to make damaging insinuations – David Farrar points out one example in How Hager got it wrong on The Princess Party and concludes:

If Mr Hager is doing reprints of his book, I would appreciate it if he could make the appropriate corrections.

And perhaps this is a lesson to everyone out there, not to take everything in the book at face value. If he has got this wrong, what else has he got wrong? Again this is what happens when you don’t verify anything or give people a chance to respond.

‘Toad’ commented on that:

If Hager had interviewed anybody, word would have got around and he would have been injuncted to prevent publication.

Yes, that may cause some inferences to be drawn from the emails that are based on hearsay and therefore not entirely accurate.

Real journalists make sure they have investigated properly and checked both sides of their stories so injunctions won’t be  unnecessary.’Nookin’ responded to toad.

Hager is on record as saying that journalists have a non-negotiable obligation to be accurate and fair and to protect their sources. See the link to his article on the thread about Goff. Are you saying that non-negotiable must be read “subject to the proviso that timing is everything and accuracy and fairness must succumb to the over-riding goal of kicking National in the slats”?

The link is to “Where are you, ethically?” A speech to the to the Records Management Association of Australasia conference, 10 September 2007 on Hager’s website. In this he says:

I was given the speech topic “Where are you, ethically?” and asked to challenge all of you to think about the ethical issues involved in your work. It feels presumptuous to launch into challenging other people about their ethics, so I thought it might be good to start off as an example by talking about the kinds of ethical issues and decisions that come up in my work. I will be trying to show the way that we all face ethical decisions in our work.

My work involves researching difficult subjects such as military operations, intelligence agencies, PR companies and the less open sides of politics. My research involves writing freedom of information requests, conducting fieldwork, reading archives, locating specialist or lateral sources of public information and interviewing people. For subjects that are very secret, I sometimes have to seek people inside organisations who will talk to me unofficially and sometimes leak information to me. There are lots of challenging ethical issues involved in this.

On privacy:

There are lots of interesting ethical issues involved that are at the heart of understanding which records the public has a legitimate right to see and which it does not.

The first issue is about privacy. I am well known for being an advocate for people’s rights to privacy. My first book revolved around those issues. So what am I doing publishing someone’s private communications? Where am I, ethically?

The answer lies in the meaning of ‘privacy’. ‘Private e-mails’ can mean two very different things. ‘Private’, in the sense of personal privacy, refers to people’s families, personal relationships, health information and so on. I believe there has to be a very, very strong reason before anyone has a right to intrude on other people’s privacy and accordingly I included no such information in my book on the National Party. There were no private e-mails in that sense.

I hope you agree that respecting and protecting people’s privacy is a fundamental ethical and professional issue for anyone in your profession. I think some organisations are too blase or careless about the protection of the personal private information that they hold.

However the other meaning of private e-mails is completely different. This is ‘private’ in the sense of something being kept confidential, as in ‘private ministerial meeting’ or ‘private diplomatic talks’. It is secrecy, not privacy. I regularly obtain and use private documents in this sense of the word. I couldn’t do my job properly if I didn’t. The National Party book contained hundreds and hundreds of this sort of private document.

This is interesting, because the email and Facebook conversations used by Hager in Dirty Politics were private, they were not ‘secret’ or confidential ministerial or Government records. They were from private individuals.

Some people would say, ‘if it’s a good story, just publish it’. Publish and be damned. But I believe that wherever our action or decision — or inaction or avoidance of a decision — might affect other people, we have a responsibility to think carefully and do what we think is best.

There’s justifiable claims that Hager just published this – perhaps under too much time pressure. David Fisher writes in Tidal wave of dirt that could swamp election:

“I heard a rumour about someone who had some stuff,” says Hager, whose books on spies have generated contacts in IT circles. “He already had a plan in his mind to set up a Twitter account and splash it all out there.”

Hager says he spent weeks talking the person into letting him see the material and use it to build the narrative which became Dirty Politics.

The hacker, says Hager, gave him everything. “I’ve seen everything. I’m 100 per cent sure.” The hacker then expressed a desire to keep back some material for himself. “We kind of negotiated how much,” he says. “I said ‘can I have all the political stuff’.” Hager got what he asked for and so, the book was written.

So Hager published his book ‘ethically’ removing personal details – even that’s debatable, he revealed identities and made damaging insinuations that were far from a journalistic standard – knowing full well that the whole contents would be revealed soon afterwards anyway.

Hager knew that his book was just a part of a greater degree of private revelations, but he chose to take part anyway.

Not only do the excuses for Hager not stack up, Hager’s own ethics are severely challenged by his involvement in this.

Hager may have overstated Key-Slater relationship

I’ve skimmed through the Slater/Lusk and Slater/Bhatnagar data dumps. It doesn’t sound like any of these three are widely liked in the National Party, and they certainly don’t sound close to John Key or the Beehive.

And Slater said he tried to get funds from National but they wouldn’t buy him – this debunks a common rumour that he was funded by the Beehive.

I think Hager may have overstated the Key-Slater relationship. They seem more like uneasy alllies prepared to use each other when it suits them.

Comments made by Slater on Q & A last weekend also support the impression that Slater and Key aren’t that big an item.

Susan Wood: You must realise now that from the Prime Minister’s perspective you’d be pretty toxic. He’ll be wanting to keep away from you to distance himself. Surely he will be doing that won’t he, and you’ll find yourself out in the cold?

Cameron Slater: “It’s of no concern to me. Prime Ministers come, Prime Ministers go. You know in my lifetime I’ve met and dealt with almost every Prime Minister from Robert Muldoon till the present day. Long after John Key has disappeared from the political scene I’ll still be involved.”

And on Monday Slater posted Key’s not my guy either and said:

As Key knows, he’s not my guy either. But we do happen to have common problems, and that’s when you appear to be working together closer than you really are.

That could be more accurate than what Hager has tried to portray. This is is what Hager says on his Dirty Politics website.

They show us a side of Prime Minister John Key and his government of which most New Zealanders are completely unaware. Key has constructed an easy-going and relaxed public image, declaring to the public that ‘there’s no room for negative campaigning in New Zealand.’

The reality is very different. His government has worked hand in hand with Slater and his collaborators in a sustained campaign of personal attacks against their political enemies, a deliberate but hidden strategy to avoid being held responsible for negative campaigning.

There may be other communications that lend more weight to this but on what I’ve seen in the detailed communications Slater had his own private agenda alongside Lusk. 

This morning Slater also distanced himself from the Prime Minister’s office regarding the OIA request that’s currently been madly distracting the media – see Slater’s version of OIA request.

This makes it more baffling why Key hasn’t  doen anything like this: John Key statement against dirty politics

John Key statement against dirty politics

From NZ Herald:

“Look, at the end of the day this reflects badly on political and media culture in New Zealand.

“I don’t necessarily agree with the conclusions Hager draws, and I denounce the illegal manner in which this private correspondence was stolen.

“There is, however, no denying that it exposes something most ordinary New Zealanders would disapprove of.

“I deplore the modus operandi of Slater and his associates. I’d like to think we’re better than that.

“I’m standing down Jason Ede from his new role in the National Party office pending a review of the way the Prime Minister’s office operates.

“We all have to examine and rethink the way we do business, and I invite leaders of other parties to similarly ask these questions about their own operations.”

That is exactly what I would expect from a responsible Prime Minister. Unfortunately that ‘quote’ was preceded by:

Bafflingly, John Key has chosen not to say anything like:

I’m baffled too, and very disappointed.

Source: Toby Manhire: Amid the dirt, here’s a glossary

 

Slater’s version of OIA request

The media is in a frenzy over the OIA release from the SIS to Cameron Slater but they are ignoring the primary source – Slater. He has been cold shouldered, but that ignores the most important part of the story.

He has just given his version at Whale Oil:

I watched Phil Goff on TV slam into the SIS about not being briefed about the situation with Israeli tourists. I thought to myself…that can’t be right, he is the Leader of the Opposition he must have been briefed. So I decided to write an OIA.

In the meantime several sources, none of which work in the PM’s or any other Minister’s office or indeed any National MPs office contacted me, about the very same thing.

When politicians dump on civil servants who cannot speak for themselves then sometimes they get pushed too far.

I put in the OIA and within hours I was being pressured by the PM’s office and others senior in the government to withdraw the request. I refused. I was told that people wouldn’t speak to me etc. I said so what. I won’t be told what to do by anyone. About the only person who can even try to tell me what to do passed away two years ago.

So I waited, and I waited. I was then phoned to be told that the release was coming and that It was being posted to me, it was also being released to other media the same day by post…I was livid. I was the first one to put in an OIA. Selwyn Manning was a couple of days behind me I’m told. I was livid because it was being posted…and being in Auckland I was at a distinct disadvantage.

I received the letter the next day and scanned it and rang TV3, they agreed to a joint release and at 6pm that night the story broke.

Far from the mad conspiracy theories of Phil Goff, the government actually tried to stop me asking the OIA.

I am happy to swear under oath what happened, and then I expect a personal apology in writing for publication on the blog from Phil Goff for lying about me.

I haven’t seen anything yet that contradicts this.

While it’s possible the SIS leaked to him or someone in the Prime Minister’s office leaked to him (John Key emphasised that was an imprisonable offence it’s quite feasible that someone outside of those with experience of OIA and perhaps the SIS gave him advice on the best way to request the information.

This possibility should at least be considered seriously.

Poll hits dirt, rewards clean

There can be many reasons for poll movements but whether by coincidence or not the parties most associated by dirty smear politics have all dropped in the latest NZ Herald poll, and parties not associated with dirt have gone up, especially the Greens.

Dirty parties:

  • National 50 (down 4.9)
  • Labour 25.2 (down 1.3)
  • NZ First 4.3 (down 0.3)

Clean parties:

  • Greens 13.7 (up 3.8)
  • Conservatives 2.6 (up 1.4)
  • Maori Party 0.7 (up 0.2)
  • Act 0.6 (up 0.6)
  • United Future 0.4 (up 0.4)

Others

  • Mana-Internet 2.1 (down 0.1)
  • Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis (down 0.1)

Having made that point poll to poll movements are not as important as trends.

Herlad poll trends Aug14

  • National’s last poll result may have been an outlier.
  • Labour continue to trend down.
  • Greens have surged but time will tell if it is temoporary or becomes a positive trend.

Herald poll trends small Aug14

  • Winston Peters has been struggling to sustain a profile in a very competitive media.
  • Conservatives will be hoping they are on the rise but 5% is a long way up from there.
  • Internet-Mana climbed initially but may be leveling off.
  • Maori, Act and United Future will be grateful for any scraps they can get.

The poll of 750 respondents was conducted between August 14 and 20 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.6 per cent. On the party vote questions 12.5 per cent were undecided.

Source: Greens spring in polls as National takes hit

Goff blatantly lies about ‘dirty politics’

Phil Goff blatantly lied on Campbell Live last night when asked if he ever got involved in dirty politics. Goff said “No, no, not at all”.

Goff has a history of misleading and leaking and accusing others of lying. He has been involved in:

  • Leaking and misleading over the Don Brash ‘gone by lunchtime’ statement in 2004.
  • His office leaks from MFAT in 2012 which led to a fight through the courts to hide the identity of the Labour associated leaker.
  • A Goff office leak led to the forced resignation of National MP Richard Worth in 2009.
  • Goff “appears to have broken the law by releasing pages from a suppressed Court of Inquiry report into the death of a Kiwi soldier in Afghanistan” in 2013.
  • Accused SIS director Warren Tucker of lying about briefing him in 2011.

Yesterday morning Phil Goff claimed John Key was lying about not having been briefed by the SIS prior to an OIA release to Cameron Slater. During the day Key’s version was supported by ex-Director of the SIS Warren Tucker and Ombudsman Beverly Wakem – see Goff versus Key, Tucker and Wakem.

Last night Goff was interviewed by John Campbell. The prelude on Campbell Live did not give all the details this. It began:

Campbell: Phil Goff, who was at the centre of all this because these SIS documents were about you and they were really embarrassing for you and they were a big judder bar in your campaign in 2011 weren’t they.

Goff: Let me come back to what the Prime Minister said because it’s fascinating. This is somehow a smear campaign from the left. No, this is a campaign against smears and dirty tricks of which there is abundant evidence shown in the emails leaked from Cameron Slater. So that’s the critical point John

In the morning Goff said “It’s important because John Key is not being truthful in saying that he wasn’t told”. He seems to have moved on from that accusation.

Campbell: I couldn’t agree more that there is abundant evidence that Cameron Slater smears and is thoroughly unpleasant…

Goff: …and gets information from the Prime Minister’s office.

Campbell: Absolutely. Where does that lead back to the Prime Minister because I stood in that media conference as he answered question after question after question and he was emphatic he didn’t know?

Goff again ignores this and moves the story onto to something else.

Goff: What do we know about this for certain. We know that material was leaked from Security Intelligence to Cameron Slater. There were two possible sources. One is the SIS itself, and the second is the Prime Minister’s office. 

Now I’m not so conspiratorial that I would think that the SIS would leak that material. The Prime Minister’s office had the motive to do it and the close links with Cameron Slater. Any reasonable person will come to the conclusion that that leak came from the Prime Minister’s office. 

But Tucker the SIS were highly annoyed with accusations Goff had made about them so also had motive – in fact the SIS suggested that journalists make an OIA request after Goff had said effectively accused Tucker of lying – “I never read that document. Warren Tucker is wrong”.

Campbell: Can I ask you a question? You were a leader of the Labour Party, up against and extraordinarily popular Prime Minister John Key.

Did you ever seek to do what you’re accusing him of doing, or use your office to do it, which is to get really dirty behind the scenes, arms length?

Goff: No no not at all…

Campbell: Never, not once?

Goff: No, no, because fundamentally to me the integrity of our political system is important.

That’s an emphatic denial from Goff. It is brazen lie.

Goff was prominent in an MFAT leak in 2012.- this had similarities to the current issue because it involved someone closely linked to the Labour Party.

Documents leaked to Labour foreign affairs spokesman Phil Goff showed a reworked plan for the ministry would cut 146 jobs, down from 304.

He had also been leaked documents from trade negotiation staff which showed the restructuring had dented staff confidence.

There was la lengthy legal battle to keep the identity of Goff’s leaker secret. David Farrar in Opposition parties may look silly over Police complaints:

Yet in this case Labour have spent months arguing the leak should not be pursued, and that a leak inquiry is a waste of money. Flagrant hypocrisy. And I hope one day, we will be publicly able to publish why Labour is so frightened about the leaker’s identity being revealed, and any links back to them.

Someone with strong Labour Party links leaked to Goff.

Goff misled with his “gone by lunchtime” leak that was damaging to Don Brash. TVNZ in 2004:

Goff said Brash told the US delegation New Zealand’s current ban on allowing nuclear powered or nuclear armed ships into its ports would be lifted  “by lunchtime” if the National Party were voted in to power.

The comments were noted down by a Foreign Affairs Ministry official present at the January meeting, according to Goff.

Goff said of Brash’s comments: “That is deceit that is dishonesty and the public would expect that to be revealed.

“…either he was not telling the truth to the delegation or subsequently he was not telling the truth to the New Zealand public.”

More accusations of lies from Goff – and it turns out he was not being truthful again himself, as Fran O’Sullivan wrote:

Goff’s problem is that he is embarrassed by the WikiLeaks revelation.

He had no compunction using notes of a private meeting between former National leader Don Brash and a visiting United States delegation to claim New Zealand’s anti-nuclear policy “would be gone by lunchtime” under a National government.

The WikiLeaks documents have something to say on this score too.

Former United States ambassador Bill McCormick wrote in November 2006 that Goff had “misquoted” an Mfat staffer’s notes from the meeting to claim that Brash had promised the nuclear ban would be “gone by lunchtime”.

“Brash denied he intended to get rid of the ban without a referendum, but was unable to respond credibly when Labour said that must mean he was planning to scrap the legislation, which many Kiwis view as an iconic part of the country’s identity,” McCormick said.

It’s notable that Goff refused the Herald’s request under the Official Information Act to release the full notes of the meeting that Brash had with the six visiting Republican senators.

Goff’s office leaked a rumour that led to the resignation of Richard Worth in 2009. NZ Herald:

It is obvious that Goff’s office first leaked the rumour to the Press Gallery that Labour had already warned Key of allegations of sexual harassment by Worth of another woman, who we now know is Neelam Choudary.

No one has come out of this business with their reputation enhanced by what now must be seen as a Labour Party dirty trick.

Goff has ducked for cover, after a couple of weeks of drip-feeding juicy tidbits to the media and taking the moral high ground. That can only be seen as an admission he was wrong.

Common elements – leaks from Goff’s office, moral high ground, dirty tricks, Goff.

In 2013: Goff leaks secret army death report:

Labour MP Phil Goff appears to have broken the law by releasing pages from a suppressed Court of Inquiry report into the death of a Kiwi soldier in Afghanistan.

Mr Goff has released part of the report into the death of Corporal Doug Hughes which he says reveals “critical deficiencies in the training and deployment of Kiwi troops”.

Phil Goff’s hands are dirty. It is dishonest of him to deny being involved in dirty politics.

It’s perhaps not surprising he is laying all the leak blame on Key’s office – Goff has a history of leaking from his own office.

No wonder much of the public dismiss all this with “they are all as bad as each other”. Goff and his staff and Labour friendly leakers look to be as bad as anyone.

Goff’s lying while reminding of Labour dirty tricks is not helping Labour’s Vote Positive campaign. Has he gone rogue or is he pushing this to keep a separation between dirty politics and David Cunliffe?

 

Goff versus Key, Tucker and Wakem

Although an inquiry is under way as to how Cameron Slater might have been tipped off to submit a specific OIA to the SIS to get information that would embarrass Phil Goff (this happened three years ago, in 2011) Goff has raised it as an issue. He claims that Key must have been involved. Stuff reports:

Labour MP Phil Goff says he has evidence the prime minister was briefed about a decision to release Security Intelligence Service documents to WhaleOil blogger Cameron Slater.

John Key, who is also the minister responsible for the SIS, has denied his office had anything to do with the release in 2011 of the documents used to embarrass Goff, who was then Labour Party leader.

Goff had denied being briefed by then SIS director Warren Tucker on a security matter, but the documents showed he had been fully briefed.

A letter was produced today saying three times that SIS head Warren Tucker had advised ‘the Prime Minister’ about the OIA release.

On Firstline this morning Phil Goff was scathing, including accusing John Key of lying.

“It’s important because John Key is not being truthful in saying that he wasn’t told,” says Mr Goff. “Warren Tucker says in this letter three times not that he notified the office of the Prime Minister, but that he told the Prime Minister himself.”

Mr Goff says the letter proves Mr Key was “manipulating the Security Intelligence Service for his own political ends”, and if an upcoming inquiry “finds the fingerprints […] this is resignation material”.

But Key has strongly refuted this:

“The standard process for the NZSIS is to inform the Prime Minister’s office of any significant OIAs which may result in media coverage being released on a ‘no surprises’ basis,” she said in a statement. “They consider this to be informing the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister stands by his statement yesterday that his office knew about the release of the OIA, but he didn’t”.

Then a letter from the Ombudsman was produced in which it states:

Mrs Wakem is of the view that there is a good reason to withhold Dr Tuckewr’s full recollection of his discussion with the Prime Minister…

(See here for documents and details).

It’s easy to see how people deduced that Tucker personally met with the Prime Minister, but this has been ‘clarified’ by Tucker who has backed Key’s version:

Dr Tucker also put out a statement, saying the “convention relating to Official Information Act requests was to brief the Prime Minister through his office”.

“The reference to the PM in this context means the PM’s office.”

The Ombudsman Beverly Waken also made a verbal statement.

I am very clear that the Director of Security communicated with the offices of the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition [Goff] on this matter.

In the letter that was written on my behalf while I was away but which had been discussed with me, the word discussion has probably been loosely used, and may have given rise to an impression that there was a direct approach.  There wasn’t, and there hasn’t been.

Why is Goff trying to make an issue of it? He said on Campbell Live tonight that he would rather be talking about policies, but that is contradicted by what he’s trying to do with something already subject to an inquiry.

‘Tinakori’ explains how OIA requests can be handled in practice:

it has been native custom forever that agencies and Ministers can release at any time within the 20 day max. Reasonably practicable can cover an awful lot of things including a release minutes after the request and a release after multiple extensions of the 20 day limit. Some agencies are faster than others and often the big ones have so many requests that most significant written requests for information take the max time. For them that is the reasonably practicable period. For others, when the information is easily available or is simple – like did Goff get briefed or did he not – the time period can be anywhere from minutes to a couple of days.

Also, Goff placed the SIS in the political crosshairs and relied on them covering up his untruth, a matter contradicted by the Agency’s records. The fastest way to get out of that situation was to release, not withhold.

All the crap about what did Key know and when did he know is just utterly beside the point. It doesn’t matter if the Minister (of the SIS) wanted it out or the agency wanted it out. Both had the power to do so.I wouldn’t have given it to Whaleoil – it seemed a waste to me to do so. Far better to give it to all media, but there you go, people make different decisions.

As to whether the Minister (Key) knew or not that is also besides the point. Agencies – even agency heads – don’t go straight to Ministers when dealing with this sort of thing. They discuss it with staff and the staff might then discuss it with their Minister.

Some Ministers let their staff deal with most of it, others micromanage and some simply don’t have the time and ruthlessly prioritise what they see and don’t see. They might know only after the fact or as something occurs. Most PMs are in the latter category, though Helen Clark was an exception and was a famous micro-manager in media matters, as so many have testified in the last few days. Guess which category John Key might be in.

The SIS stuff is all a wonderfully entertaining and successful political gotcha by Nicky Hager that relies on the public and media’s ignorance of how the world actually works and uses the aura of a secret intelligence agency to to create an atmosphere of intrigue and high stakes. It was just an attempt by an opposition politician to mislead or lie (or very charitably, forgot) and who had his bluff called. No more.

Goff did it when Foreign Minister to Don Brash in a far more serious case.

John Campbell asked Goff if he was ever involved in ‘dirty politics’. The example above was the leaking of the “gone by lunchtime’ quip that Goff leaked in 2004.

Foreign Affairs Minister Phil Goff on Friday released Brash’s alleged remarks after the National leader waived his rights to privacy.

Goff said Brash told the US delegation New Zealand’s current ban on allowing nuclear powered or nuclear armed ships into its ports would be lifted  “by lunchtime” if the National Party were voted in to power.

The comments were noted down by a Foreign Affairs Ministry official present at the January meeting, according to Goff.

Goff said of Brash’s comments: “That is deceit that is dishonesty and the public would expect that to be revealed.

“…either he was not telling the truth to the delegation or subsequently he was not telling the truth to the New Zealand public.”

Goff’s office leaked a rumour that led to the resignation of Richard Worth in 2009. NZ Herald:

It is obvious that Goff’s office first leaked the rumour to the Press Gallery that Labour had already warned Key of allegations of sexual harassment by Worth of another woman, who we now know is Neelam Choudary.

No one has come out of this business with their reputation enhanced by what now must be seen as a Labour Party dirty trick.

Goff has ducked for cover, after a couple of weeks of drip-feeding juicy tidbits to the media and taking the moral high ground. That can only be seen as an admission he was wrong.

Goff was prominent in an MFAT leak in 2012.

Documents leaked to Labour foreign affairs spokesman Phil Goff showed a reworked plan for the ministry would cut 146 jobs, down from 304.

He had also been leaked documents from trade negotiation staff which showed the restructuring had dented staff confidence.

In 2013 Goff leaks secret army death report:

Labour MP Phil Goff appears to have broken the law by releasing pages from a suppressed Court of Inquiry report into the death of a Kiwi soldier in Afghanistan.

Mr Goff has released part of the report into the death of Corporal Doug Hughes which he says reveals “critical deficiencies in the training and deployment of Kiwi troops”.

Phil “The Bucket” Goff seems to catch plenty of leaks.

Who to believe in Goff versus Key, Tucker and Wakem?

“Not as bad as Whale Oil”

Since the release of Nicky Hager’s book ‘Dirty Politics’ there has been much discussion and condemnation of what has been revealed – even though much of the dirtiness of Cameron Slater was already well known. He has boasted about his political uncleanliness.

Last year after the Len Brown revelations just after the local body elections Slater said on The Nation:

Mr Slater argued that Auckland politics was “a dirty disgusting despicable game”.

“It involves dirty disgusting despicable people at all levels,” he said.

“And to have this high and mighty belief that New Zealand politics is clean, it isn’t.”

(Frontpage)

He repeated this on his Whale Oil blog recently. He often quotes ” Never wrestle with pigs, two things are for certain if you do. You will get dirty and the pig will enjoy it”, along others from his list of ‘rules’.

Whaleoil’s Rules of Politics

1. If you are explaining, you are losing

2. Utu is good, even necessary

3. Never hug a corpse – it smells and you end up smelling like the corpse too

4. Always know where the bodies are buried

5. Don’t let mongrels get away with being mongrels

6. Don’t mess with The Whale or Cactus Kate

7. Never wrestle with pigs, two things are for certain if you do. You will get dirty and the pig will enjoy it.

8. Never ask a question if you don’t already know the answer

9. Speak plain, Speak Simple

10. Remember, I’m telling this story

11. Never trust a politician if you aren’t close enough to them to hit them in the back of the head with a bit of 4×2

12. Never trust a politician with a moustache or a hyphenated name

There might be a lot of people, especially politicians, giving serious consideration to rule 3 right now.

Slater’s personal attacks and vindictiveness are well known. There’s no one who comes close to his media prominence and dirtiness in New Zealand politics.

So all other bloggers can comfortably claim they are “not as bad as Whale Oil”. But that sets the bar very low and should not excuse lesser levels of dirtiness.

One of the more long serving and respected bloggers Russell Brown posted  We can do better than this at Public Address and concluded:

In one of the early reports that annoyed me, Radio New Zealand’s political editor Brent Edwards, talked about smears being unleashed to “blogs” and “the blogosphere”.

Actually, we’re not all like that. The multitude of bloggers, political bloggers included, have no part in this. And while the cynical side of politics is not new, I do believe that the scope, scale and nature of what is described in Hager’s book is unprecedented.

It doesn’t have to be this way. We can, all of us, do better than this.

Russell is right, we’re “not all like that”. No one else is as bad as Whale Oil. I agree that “the scope, scale and nature of what is described in Hager’s book is unprecedented” – although it shouldn’t really have been a surprise to Russell if he was aware of what Whale Oil has been doing for years.

But in comments Russell seems to think that the ‘all of us” in “We can, all of us, do better than this” doesn’t apply equally to all of us.

It’s over to you, Pete, to identify a left-leaning blogger with even a tenth of the venality and vindictiveness of WhaleOil.

I feel kind of icky agreeing with Pete (sorry, Mr. George) but if our baseline is “not as bad as Whaleoil” that’s a depressingly low bar you can clear without lifting your feet.

Which is really just a morally elevated way of saying “everyone does it”. It’s simply not true. What has happened in and around Whaleoil these past few years is actually of a different nature.

He seems to be claiming it’s not true that everyone doesn’t do it, despite calling for “all od us” to do better.

Some of what Whale Oil has done has been of a different nature” and of a more extreme nature, but there are many examples of dirt mongering across the blogosphere. Russell moderates Public Address fairly well but even his own blog shouldn’t be exempt from criticism. There’s dirt at different levels but there’s dirt – there were even mild attempts to attack me personally to divert from the issues being discussed on that thread (eg ScottY and Kracklite).

Public Address is relatively mild but still allows personal political attacks and dirty comments. The other major left wing blogs The Standard and The Daily Blog allow and promote a lot of abuse and attempts to emulate some of Whale Oil’s “success”.

Lynn Prentice (lprent) at The Standard often boasts about his nastiness:

That is because in my sysop role I’m deliberately a nasty vindictive mean old man with abuse of power issues, whose only redeeming quality is that he is too lazy to be bothered exercising those traits, but who often and almost randomly goes totally over the top when roused.

And as chief moderator that sets the tone for blog with support of a one sided attack culture.

And Martyn Bradbury is well know for over the top rants and abuse, as well as doing party promotional blog posting without revealing he is being paid by or seeking payment for his work, one of the things Slater is correctly criticised for.

Josie Pagan is very familiar with how nasty the left wing blogs can get, they have blasted her a number of times. She recently posted The politics of vilification.

Nicky Hager’s book exposes both the politics of demonisation and the National Government’s role in facilitating it. The right wing blogs have been more extreme, more violent and more coordinated with the parliamentary party and so the book is their comeuppance. 

I agree with that. Whale Oil is obviously the main culprit but Kiwiblog can be very nasty in it’s comments and I think the generally and widely respected David Farrar would admit to overstepping lines of decency at times (as most if not all bloggers do to varying degrees).

But imagine how much harder would it be for the government to deflect some of the disgusting stuff they’ve been involved in if some on the left blogs had not spent so much energy vilifying and demonising people they disagree with.

I’ve been suggesting to left wing blogs for a long time thatthey would be fdar more credible and effective if they cut down on the crap – I’ve been banned from The Standard for giving them advice along those lines.

At least Farrar recognises problems and has pledged ttake measures to try to improve Kiwiblog – Some changes for Kiwiblog.

Josie concluded:

But there is also a wider lesson to everyone about the way politics is conducted. 

As I wrote back in December, “The fundamental principle of the left is our compassion…. Ours is the politics of redemption, forgiveness and humanity.” 

Or, as Nicky Hager elegantly stated on The Nation this morning, “if anyone is doing it, they should stop.

It’s hard to see Whale Oil changing it’s degree of nastiness but if we are to improve political discourse in New Zealand it’s up to all of the rest of us to do what we can to improve – bloggers and politicians.

Directing all the blame at the other lot and demanding action from them ignores those shitting in our own nests.

Yes Russell, we can, all of us, do better than this. ‘All of us’ means not opting out because we’re are not as bad as Whale Oil.

UPDATE: Russell has responded via Twitter:

Thanks for another droning restatement of what you’ve already said. I’m at a loss as to what I’m supposed to do about it.

I replied: Try using your stature showing some leadership in the blogosphere in raising standards perhaps?

RM Poll – National not damaged (yet)

The latest Roy Morgan polls has National up slightly and Labour down slightly.

  • National 48% (up 2%) 
  • Maori Party 1% (down 0.5%)
  • Act NZ 0.5% (unchanged)
  • United Future 0.5% (unchanged)
  • Labour 27.5% (down 2.5%)
  • Greens 11.5% (down 0.5%)
  • NZ First 6.5% (up 1.5%
  • Internet-Mana Party 2.5% (unchanged)
  • Conservative Party of NZ is 1% (unchanged)
  • Independent/ Others 1% (unchanged).

http://www.roymorgan.com/findings/5747-roy-morgan-new-zealand-voting-intention-august-20-2014-201408200128

Electors were asked: “If a New Zealand Election were held today which party would receive your party vote?” This latest New Zealand Roy Morgan Poll on voting intention was conducted by telephone – both landline and mobile telephone, with a NZ wide cross-section of 809 electors from August 4-17, 2014. Of all electors surveyed 6.5% (unchanged) didn’t name a party.

Whaledump to continue disemboweling data

Yesterday @Whaledump assured there drip feed wouldn’t be all about party politics.

This is not all about party politics. Be patient. You’ll see.

This morning rumours circulated in several media reports that a data dump today would be about Labour candidate Stuart Nash.

Whale Oil claimed this was nonsense – he lashed out at a selected messenger who happened to be National Minister Steven Joyce, incorrectly accusing Joyce of saying he would be releasing the data:

Steven Joyce has made allegations that Whaleoil is going to release information about Stuart Nash. Joyce says it is to balance things up. This should be called out for what it is.

It is an out and out lie.  

I know nothing at all about Stuart Nash doing anything other than he is a bloody good politician who scares National.

Whaledump, obviously following Whale Oil, also denied:

trololololol! wtf?? I don’t have anything on Nash. Somebody is black opsing somebody.

WO v me? WO v Joyce? Joyce v me? WO v Nash? v all? lolololololol

This is truly some next level black ops shit.

Someone certainly seems to be playing games with this. But the big game is set to continue:

More politics today. I said “be patient”. Not “its coming out tomorrow”.

More on this as it comes out.

The next dump is here: http://pastebin.com/Kzu0C673

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 226 other followers