Speaker rules Key should have answered Slater/feral question

The Speaker has reviewed Question Time on Wednesday where Russel Norman quizzed John Key on the amount of contact he had with Cameron Slater. See Question Time – Norman versus Key.

David Carter has ruled that Key could legitimately refuse to respond to most of the questions as the contact was ” None in my capacity as Prime Minister” (although Key’s evasiveness wasn’t a good look).

However the Speaker says that as there was a direct connection with his job as Prime Minister with one question he should have given an answer.

NZ Herald reports Key should have answered WhaleOil question – Speaker:

Mr Key said he did not speak with Mr Slater in his capacity as Prime Minister and therefore was not obliged to answer drawing fierce criticism from Dr Norman and Labour’s Chris Hipkins.

Having reviewed Mr Key’s responses overnight, Mr Carter today said that was likely correct for most of Dr Norman’s questions. However, one where Dr Norman asked if Slater was correct when he said Mr Key had told him the mother of a car crash victim was “the same woman f-ing feral bitch that screams at him when he goes to Pike River meetings” should have been answered.
The question “made a connection to the actions of the Prime Minister in response to Pike River Mine Tragedy,” Mr Carter said.

“A connection having been made to a matter of ministerial responsibility an informative answer should be given.”

This question was not specific enough for Key to have to answer:

Dr Russel Norman : Did he call Cameron Slater to discuss the backlash Slater received after describing a young car crash victim as a feral who deserved to die; if so, what did he tell Slater about the dead man’s mother?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : I have never rung Cameron Slater in my capacity as Prime Minister.

After points of order had been made about Key’s evasiveness these questions were asked.

Dr Russel Norman : Why did he tell Cameron Slater that the dead man’s mother was the same woman who sometimes confronted him at Pike River meetings?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : I am not going to describe conversations I have in capacities other than those as Prime Minister.

Dr Russel Norman : Was Cameron Slater correct when he said that the Prime Minister told him that the dead man’s mother—so these are the Prime Minister’s own words—was “ … the same woman f—ing feral bitch that screams at him when he goes to Pike River meetings.”? Is Cameron Slater correct that that is what the Prime Minister said?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : I made clear at the time that that was not correct.

The Speaker says of that last question “A connection having been made to a matter of ministerial responsibility an informative answer should be given.”

No doubt Norman will be sharpening his question son this for the next Question Time.

Today’s NZ Herald editorial is fairly scathing of Key’s avoidance and the potential precedent it sets in Speaker gives PM, ministers a licence to duck for cover:

The simple fact is that most people assume the Prime Minister is fulfilling just that role. If they took a telephone call from Mr Key, they would not think to ask whether he was speaking as the Prime Minister or as the leader of the National Party. The obvious exceptions to this preoccupation are his involvement in party conferences or election campaigns. Then, quite clearly, he is a party leader.

As much should have informed Mr Carter’s examination of the transcripts of the question-time exchange. This makes the outcome of the Speaker’s quick inquest and his effective sanctioning of the Prime Minister’s behaviour all the more unsatisfactory.

Mr Carter said yesterday that Mr Key’s non-informative responses were correct for nearly all Dr Norman’s questions. The only exception involved one dealing with the Pike River tragedy, in which a clear connection was made with ministerial responsibility.

In large part, Mr Carter has invited the Prime Minister and his ministers to don their hat of choice at any time as a means of evading awkward questions.

It is hardly a recipe for integrity or the engendering of a greater degree of public respect for the nation’s politicians.

And they point out a potential problem for Key.

The Prime Minister began his third term by warning National MPs and ministers that he did not want to see any hint of arrogance creeping into their behaviour.

Fast-forward a month and that very trait was implicit in John Key’s response to questions in Parliament about the nature and frequency of his conversations with Cameron Slater.

Key risks voter wrath if he keeps avoiding addressing the degree of his association with Slater.

Question Time – Norman versus Key

Russel Norman probed John Key on dirty politics links in Question Time yesterday – see previous post Key does a Runner from attempted Norman conquest.

Key avoided answering but it raised some issues (via Norman and Chris Hipkins) that the Speaker said he would consider.

It was good to see reasonable points of order rather than the more common cantankerous attacks on the Speaker. Making a good case is far more likely to succeed than hissy fitting.

Transcript:

3. Prime Minister—Communication with Blogger

[Sitting date: 22 October 2014. Volume:701;Page:4. Text is subject to correction.]

3. Dr RUSSEL NORMAN (Co-Leader – Green) to the Prime Minister : How many times since November 2008 has he spoken with blogger Cameron Slater on the phone and how many times, if any, has he texted him?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): None in my capacity as Prime Minister. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER : Order! [Interruption] Order! When I remain on my feet, I do not expect interjections to continue from my left.

Dr Russel Norman : Given the Prime Minister’s previous statements to say that he regularly talked with Mr Slater on the phone, is the Prime Minister now claiming that when he talked with Mr Slater he was talking with Mr Slater as the leader of the National Party, not as the Prime Minister; and does he wear a different hat when he takes those phone calls?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : I am not now claiming that. That has always been the claim.

Dr Russel Norman : Did he call Cameron Slater to discuss the backlash Slater received after describing a young car crash victim as a feral who deserved to die; if so, what did he tell Slater about the dead man’s mother?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : I have never rung Cameron Slater in my capacity as Prime Minister.

Chris Hipkins : Has he ever phoned or texted Cameron Slater on a phone funded or provided by Ministerial Services?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : I am not 100 percent sure of that, but what I can say is that—as Prime Minister Helen Clark would have told him—that is not the test of whether it is in my capacity as Prime Minister.

Dr Russel Norman : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. [Interruption] Mr Speaker—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER : Order! I do not need the Leader of the House’s assistance at this stage.

Dr Russel Norman : The Prime Minister gave an answer to the primary question on notice, on the basis that he never called Mr Slater as the Prime Minister. We have now established that there are occasions where he used the prime ministerial phone to call Mr Slater. I would ask you to rule as to whether the Prime Minister’s original answer was within the Standing Orders of the House, given that he himself has now acknowledged he used a prime ministerial phone to call Mr Slater.

Mr SPEAKER : Order! In regard to the answer given by the Prime Minister to the first question, that answer was definitely in order.

Rt Hon Winston Peters : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. There is something particularly disturbing about the Prime Minister’s answer, because it would appear that any Minister can make this claim and say: “Not in my capacity as a Minister.” Around about now, we have got no accountability at all in this Parliament if you allow that to stand.

Mr SPEAKER : In regard to the very first question that was asked, the Prime Minister is perfectly entitled to answer it in the way he did. He is then responsible for that answer. Further supplementary questions have been asked that attempt to tease this issue out. They are equally in order.

Dr Russel Norman : Why did he tell Cameron Slater that the dead man’s mother was the same woman who sometimes confronted him at Pike River meetings?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : I am not going to describe conversations I have in capacities other than those as Prime Minister.

Dr Russel Norman : Was Cameron Slater correct when he said that the Prime Minister told him that the dead man’s mother—so these are the Prime Minister’s own words—was “ … the same woman f—ing feral bitch that screams at him when he goes to Pike River meetings.”? Is Cameron Slater correct that that is what the Prime Minister said?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : I made clear at the time that that was not correct.

Dr Russel Norman : Is it not the truth that until the Dirty Politics book came out, he chose to have regular dealings with Cameron Slater, a man who is a hired gun for the tobacco industry, whose blog subjected a public servant to death threats, and who celebrated the death of a car crash victim, calling him a feral?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : Over the time I have been Prime Minister, the answer to that question is no.

Dr Russel Norman : Is it appropriate for the Prime Minister or his staff to use an attack blogger like Cameron Slater as a platform to “get their message out”, as the Prime Minister’s spokeswoman described it on 12 December last year?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : The Government and Ministers do talk to bloggers, for a variety of reasons. The reason we talk to social media is that they are part of the overall media that communicates with New Zealanders. That would be no different from other political parties. I have seen that member quoted on numerous blog sites. One assumes that he and his office talk to them, and I am sure he and his office probably talk to Nicky Hager.

Dr Russel Norman : Did he instruct his staff to cease all links with Cameron Slater after the blogger accused an alleged sexual attack victim of bringing it on herself, or after Slater described a car crash victim as a feral who deserved to die? Did the Prime Minister direct his staff to cease all contact with Cameron Slater after Slater made those comments?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : No.

Dr Russel Norman : Does he not think that he should set a standard for the Prime Minister’s office by directing his staff to cease all contact with the attack blogger Cameron Slater, after Cameron Slater accused an alleged sexual attack victim of bringing it on herself, and Slater described a car crash victim as a feral who deserved to die? Would it not set a standard for the Prime Minister’s office to direct his staff to no longer have contact with Cameron Slater?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : I have made it clear that we do not endorse many of the stories or comments that are run by a range of different bloggers, but, no, I will not be instructing my staff to do that.

Dr Russel Norman : Is he saying it is business as usual for the Prime Minister of New Zealand and his staff to deal on a regular basis with the most vicious and notorious blogger in New Zealand and for his staff to leak information to that blogger in order to intimidate public servants and silence his political opponents?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : I do not believe that to be an accurate statement.

Chris Hipkins : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I ask that after question time you review the overall question here today, because I suspect this issue is going to arise again around the distinction between the Prime Minister’s other capacities and his capacity as Prime Minister. The issue that I would like you to consider—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER : Order! This is a point of order.

Chris Hipkins : —is that, in fact, it is the content of the communications and not the means by which they are transmitted, or the hat that the Prime Minister claims to be wearing at the time that he makes the communication, that is at issue here. So if the Prime Minister is communicating with someone about matters relating to his role as Prime Minister and about activities he has undertaken as Prime Minister, then they are, by nature, prime ministerial activities that he should be answerable for. So I ask you to give some further consideration to the interchange today, and, in fact, perhaps come back with a more substantive ruling on the matter, because it seems to me that the Prime Minister could stand up and give any answer to any question and say: “Well, I wasn’t doing that as Prime Minister.”, and therefore would not be held to account.

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : I think it has been well established in this House for a very long period of time that Prime Ministers wear a variety of different hats, and that includes as leader of the National Party, and can include as a citizen. I fondly remember sitting in this House for years hearing Helen Clark saying that she made statements, or had conversations, or undertook actions as the leader of the Labour Party. I happen, for the record, to use my Ministerial Services – funded cellphone to ring my wife. When I ring my darling wife and when I put the cat out at night, I do that in my capacity as a husband, not as Prime Minister. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER : Order! I am on my feet. In regard to the very first point Chris Hipkins raised, I certainly give an assurance I will review the interchange today. As to the appropriate course of action following that review, I will be bound. If it is necessary to come back with a further more substantive ruling, I will consider doing so.

Dr Russel Norman : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER : Order! This is a point of order. [Interruption] Order! We just need to get the rules straight for everybody. This is a point of order, and it will be heard in silence.

Dr Russel Norman : Thank you for that ruling. Given that it related to my questions, I would just like to make one point with regard to the point that Mr Hipkins made, which was that the issue was about John Key acting as Prime Minister—

Hon Gerry Brownlee : What’s the point of order?

Mr SPEAKER : Order!

Dr Russel Norman : The point of order is that it is relevant to this question because he was acting as Prime Minister in the Pike River capacity. That is why it is relevant to this question.

Mr SPEAKER : The attempt to raise a point of order is not actually adding to the situation. I have given an assurance following the point of order raised by Chris Hipkins that I will have a look. I always review the transcripts of question time. As to what action may then be required, that will be determined by the conclusions I make in that review.

Dr Russel Norman : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER : Is it a fresh point of order? I have dealt with this matter. If it is a fresh point of order I am happy to hear it, but we are not going to relitigate this matter any further.

Dr Russel Norman : Thank you, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER : Is it a fresh point of order?

Dr Russel Norman : Yes. Mr Speaker, while you were on your feet, and several times while I was trying to make a point of order, the Prime Minister interjected even after you had directed him not to. It seems to me that if we are going to have order in this House, it is very important that the Prime Minister in particular should set an example of not speaking while the member with the call is trying to speak.

Mr SPEAKER : That is a reasonable point of order to raise. I did not actually hear the Prime Minister continuing in a conversation. I did hear it from another frontbencher of the Government. The member is making a fair point. I do not want to get into a habit of ejecting many members on any day, but points of order should be heard in silence, particularly when I call the House to order and ask for the point of order to be delivered. For members to continue to interject is going to create problems and leave me with no choice but to ask that member, be it a Minister or a Prime Minister, to leave the Chamber.

 

Key does a Runner from attempted Norman conquest

When Russel Norman questioned John Key about contact with blogger Cameron Slater in Parliament yesterday Key did a Road Runner.

It was inevitable that “dirty politics’ would be raised early in the new Parliament and Norman laid into Key in the first Question Time of the term yesterday. Key avoided answering questions about how much phone or text contact he’d had with Slater, saying his contact had not been as Prime Minister.

While unsuccessful at getting answers Norman very successfully re-kindled the ‘dirty politics’ controversy.

Key’s lack of response was widely criticised in social media. Many had been waiting for the opportunity to stick the boot into political dirt perceived by many to come from the Prime Minister’s office (while this has been strongly implied in Nicky Hager’s book but remains unproven).

Jane Clifton described it as an Acme dodge in Prime minister only when he wants to be.

When Greens co-leader Russel Norman tried to pin John Key down on the nature and frequency of his conversations with blogger Cameron Slater, Key simply dialled up one of his favourite, infuriating Road Runner-style getaways: he had not spoken to Slater “in my capacity as prime minister”.

This is an Acme dodge, as a prime minister need only account to Parliament for things done in the capacity of prime minister. As party leader, MP or citizen, he has no accountability.

It didn’t matter how Norman phrased it, or which of the unsavoury items from the blogger’s stolen emails were put to him, Key insisted he had not been the prime minister for the purposes of any conversations with the notorious WhaleOil blogger.

This denial mode is in contrast to earlier in the year when Key was reported as saying he regularly contacted Slater.

He confirmed he and Slater spoke regularly, including this week when they discussed Dotcom, but Key hedged when asked if Slater was his source.

Key said he regularly called Slater, who broke the story of the Len Brown affair, “to see what he’s got on his site and mind”.

Key said he was not deterred by the controversy around Slater, who last month received death threats for calling a man who died in a car accident a “feral”.

From Looks like Slater is Key’s Peters source

Key looks deterred from any admissions now.

Slater confirmed he was the source.

“If the prime minister said that’s the case, that’s the case,” Slater said.

Controversies surrounding Slater should not preclude the pair from having a professional relationship, Slater said.

From what Slater is saying on Whale Oil it appears that that “professional relationship” has diminished somewhat, if not stopped altogether.

But if Key now keeps refusing to respond to questions about his past Whale Oil links and if he avoids openly distancing himself from the dirtier Slater tactics then continued holding to account is likely to keep Key running – but he has nowhere to hide.

If Key keeps refusing to admit the boil this looks likely to keep festering. Norman is unlikely to just let it go.

And left wing activists pinned a lot of hope in promoting “dirty politics” – it failed to swing this year’s election but the 2017 campaign has begun. Expect both sides to remain unclean.

Backlash against Whale Oil continues

Two things significantly affected Whale Oil over the last couple of months.

One is obviously Nicky Hager’s “Dirty Politics – for all it’s flaws the book seems to have initiated major reassessments on the risks of being associated with Cameron Slater, especially by media and journalists, and also apparently by the National Party.

Another is the prolific banning of commenters at Whale Oil, often for seemingly very trivial reasons.

Slater keeps repeating that “Dirty Politics” was just a plot to silence him. He tweeted about it yesterday:

it’s a slogan designed to try to shut up opponents, and its not working

A slogan like “Politics is mean, it is dirty, it is often like wrestling with pigs and more importantly nice guys finish last”? (from Why the saying “play the ball not the man” is gay)

that isn’t a slogan, it is the truth

Apart from the obvious irony about trying to shut up opponents Slater also contradicts himself. He plays mean, he plays dirty, but if someone tries anything similar against him it’s unfair.

There’s another garbled post by Slater today – In times of trouble you find out who your real friends are, often they are the ‘enemy’.

What was most interesting about ‘Dirty Politics’ was most of my calls for support and checking on my health and well beings while under the cosh from a politically motivated criminal conspiracy were from members of the opposition.

The ones who have previously curried favour, sucked up and generally used my acquaintance were nowhere to be seen and still aren’t.

More interesting was the lack of support from those who had built their careers off the back of my tips, sources and accurate information. Watching them scuttle and lie to defend themselves has been amusing. Unfortunately for them one must tell the truth to inquiries and more importantly provide evidence, there really is no hiding from the evidence.

That said I have been very and pleasantly surprised by those who rallied for support, often despite being political foes, and those who cut and run.

I will remember that support in coming years.

He seems to be wallowing and floundering.

Reading between the lines it sounds like MPs may have been warned that continued relationships with Slater may have a negative impact on political prospects, and some of his business has subsequently dried up. Vague threats are unlikely to reverse that.

And comments on Whale Oil indicate that Slater is losing the support of those who remain able to post there. This in General Debate today from ‘la la land':

I have mulled over the latest posts etc this weekend and have come to the decision that I don’t want to stick around to watch Cameron go after John Key like he did Dotcom. John Key is our Prime Minister not some German crook and I for one still rate him. If it goes badly for him further down the track well that’s that but I don’t want to be a part of bringing him down. I have really enjoyed reading this blog and all your comments. Thanks and goodbye.

It is significant that this has so far received 30 positive ticks. It was responded to by yet another lengthy defence by moderator Pete Belt which received some replies:

The decision to put Key under some scrutiny was taken before the election. As a blog, we wouldn’t be honest with ourselves and our audience if we continued to artificially suppress what we want to talk about. We did so to get past an election. That’s pragmatic enough. But we’re not a National Party mouthpiece. In spite of many rumours to the contrary, we neither receive money nor do we work for them. At times the National Party and Whaleoil’s aims align. At that point, it looks like we’re working together. Funny that.

To Jason Ede’s eternal frustration, he couldn’t control a bloody thing about Whaleoil. All he could do was make us aware of certain stories in the media or perhaps a poll that was coming up – that sort of thing – and we would pick and choose what we were interested in.

(Now there is a shocking revelation!)

The alternative is to end up at a point where it all comes out anyway (as it will), and people will look to us and go “well, you kept THAT quiet, haven’t you?”

If you’re scared of the truth, then perhaps it’s better to go hide. John Key isn’t a saint. He’s a good bloke, but he can do with a bit of scrutiny. I honestly don’t see why we should pretend he poops diamonds to keep people like you in your comfort zone.

Nobody cringed when we get stuck into Hekia Parata or Murray McCulley, but somehow John Key is untouchable?

No way. Not on this blog.

kiwibattler:

As long as any questioning of John Key is done in a manner that doesn’t appear just plain vindictive then I think most readers of the blog welcome some insight into the inner workings/ possible issues within the National party. No one is exempt from informed criticism.
With Cam’s connection to Judith Collins it all comes down to how this criticism of Key is delivered.

Mrs_R

Criticism of Parata and McCulley didn’t raise eyebrows because it was justified based on their performance. I would expect very few here would complain if negative revelations concerning JK were brought to light if they were factual and truthful. The real concern is that if it is only a smear campaign without substance, then many will see it for what it is and make a decision accordingly.

Pete Belt:

How can they not be factual and truthful? This is the same problem the left have with this concept.

Factual and truthful = things you agree with
Smears = things you don’t agree with, yet still factual and truthful

This was all triggered by a post on Saturday – Beware the cult of personality, and the legacy they leave – addressing criticism of John Key.

Apparently my audience will be affected negatively by criticising John Key. He also is the saviour of the National party and without him National would be stuffed.

Ignore the fact that he shamelessly used one of my private emails to conduct a personal hit on a friend, and ignore the fact that he thinks I should just accept it as “mo hard hard feelings”. I say ignore those because they have absolutely no bearing on my criticism of John Key.

I criticise him because I am alarmed that National is falling into the same traps that Helen Clark fell into.

The trap of creating a cult of personality.

A number of vague claims were made:

Caucus meetings have become tedious and one way traffic. I know this because many caucus members are whining about it and if they are whining about it in the open then there is a problem. Caucus meetings are a forum to debate issues but have actually become a lecture from the throne with Steven Joyce or Bill English deputising. Many members of caucus wonder why they even bother turning up now.

Anyone who speaks against the utterings of John Key or even offers a slightly contrarian opinion is usually sent a message…from someone senior…and told how their career could be in jeopardy if they continue.

“Many caucus members”, “anyone who speaks against” – all vague and unsubstantiated.

Some caucus members have received calls from Bill English and told to get new friends. These are all the hallmarks of a caucus under the thumb of a dictator, one who will brook no nonsense and has his stasi member enforcing discipline when none is needed.

Again the irony considering Slater’s approach to quashing disagreeable voices at Whale Oil along with the help of his helpers “enforcing discipline”.

Caucus members shouldn’t need to be advised by Bill English to “get new friends”. They should have already figured out that being too closely involved with Slater is not good for their political future.

And if it hasn’t dawned on them yet it will when he does the dirty on them if he thinks he’s being hung out to dry. Vindictness and utu are just more strings to Slater’s “”Politics is mean, it is dirty” bow.

Slater has been innovative, ground breaking and in some ways very successful with his political campaigning and his blogging.

But he has stomped on too many toes. For someone who claims to be so politically astute it’s surprising to see him sound so bewildered now he is getting the boot.

As he inevitably continues to lash out it is likely the backlash against his brand of dirty politics continues.

Disgraceful Key admission on OIA delays

John Key has admitted delaying the release of official information as long as possible if the Government thinks it’s in it’s interests to do so. This is very disappointing.

Radio New Zealand reports PM admits using delaying tactics.

Prime Minister John Key has admitted the Government sometimes delays releasing official information right up to the deadline if it is in its best interest to do so.

Legally, it must respond to requests as soon as reasonably possible.

…ministers and government departments must respond to a request as soon as reasonably possible and no later than 20 working days.

The principal of deliberate delays is bad enough, that it is flaunting clear legal and moral requirements is disgraceful.

Mr Key has always maintained that when it comes to requests for official information, his ministers act within the law.

But he has now revealed a strategy which appears at odds with that.

“Sometimes we wait the 20 days because, in the end, Government might take the view that’s in our best interest to do that,” he said.

It appears to be much worse than delaying releases up to 20 working days.

Mr Key’s admission comes just days after the release of official advice on child poverty which Radio New Zealand requested 17 months ago.

That sort of delay is a huge concern. The public deserves much better than this from Government (and from Key and National).

Chief Ombudsman Dame Beverley Wakem said they were not allowed to delay right up to that 20-day deadline for political purposes.

“It’s pretty clear. It couldn’t be much clearer than that… As soon as you have made a decision as to whether you’re going to respond to the request or how you’re going to respond to it, you ought to convey that.”

However, there are no sanctions for deliberately delaying the release of official information.

There shouldn’t need to be sanctions, the public should be able to expect that Government will comply with the law – and be willingly open and transparent.

She stressed she had not heard of ministers delaying responses within the 20-day timeframe but said it would be hard to prove.

“That’s the sort of thing that I expect we’ll pick up as we consult. And we’ll be consulting widely, including media, so that we can identify any blatant or egregious attempts to dodge responsibility, but… I’m not aware of any of that sort of thing going on at all.”

Dame Beverley said her review would not be a witch hunt but would look into agencies’ practices and highlight any misinterpretations or difficulties.

Highlighting “misinterpretations or difficulties” might be worthwhile.

But it’s not good enough. The public deserves better.

I think we should get a genuine assurance from John Key that his Government will fully and willingly comply with the clear intent of the Official Information Act.

If he doesn’t assure us – and demonstrate that he’s serious in practice – then this third term Government will be burdened by suspicions of being cynical, manipulative and abusive of laws that are there to promote the public good.

Hide versus Hager, and poxy houses

Rodney Hide speaks some truths about the “speaking truth to power” of Nicky Hager and the supporters that think Hager can do no wrong.

To the anointed left, Hager is an investigative journalist. He is good and true. Blogger Cameron Slater is a smear merchant and paid shill. He is evil and false.

That’s how it appears. To an extent it’s true, Hager is an investigative journalist at times – but so is Slater (at times). And both sometimes speak “truth”, but they also both speak falsely at times, despite claims from some that Hager has never been proven incorrect.

An anonymous hacker stole Slater’s emails and Facebook messages.

Hager then published them in Dirty Politics to implicate Prime Minister John Key in dark and evil plots. The links were tenuous at best.

Some have taken Hager’s claims against John Key and National as gospel but they are tenuous and have not proven much apart from the nastiness of Slater and associates – which was already known.

I warranted a brief chapter myself. Hager alleges Slater blackmailed me to resign the Act Party leadership. It’s not true.

The first I knew of any allegation or blackmail was Hager’s book.

Hager never rang to check his allegations. He published them without a rudimentary check. Left-wing commentator Chris Trotter publicly defended Hager’s not checking his allegations. That would alert those he maligned who might then injunct his book. And so Hager denied his victims the usual rights and legal protections.

Hager made allegations which Hide has strongly denied. Hager didn’t fact check, he made a case without checking both sides of the story. At best that’s sloppy journalism.

The extreme left has no problem with that. The anointed have no need for legal process. They have no need to provide rights of reply. They have no need to check facts. They are right. The rest of us are wrong.

To an extent at least that appears to be true, you just have to read threads at The Standard and Public Address to see this.

Hager pored through stolen private and personal information. There were emails to the wife. Messages about a sick and dying mum.

Hager then decided what was public interest and published it. We do not know what became of what he regarded as personal and private.

To me, it’s clear a crime was committed. Slater duly complained.

The police are investigating. In the course of their investigation they convinced a judge to grant a warrant to search Hager’s house.

The search was subject to the law. It was authorised. Hager’s personal information is to be protected. It won’t be made public.

Presumably the raid on Hager’s house was done correctly and lawfully, but there remain questions about whether it was on a scale that was justified.

Any alleged wrongdoing will have to be backed by evidence to be tested in court.

Those alleged to have done wrong will be presumed innocent. They will have their day in court.

Yes – but police action can have a major effect on their targets, including legal costs and in this case the confiscation of computers and information that Hager requires to do his work can be significant.

If only Hager’s victims had been afforded such rights.

Of course, there’s no need: his victims are made guilty by their politics.

Slater’s computer was ransacked. Information was taken. The hack was illegal, furtive and anonymous.

Hager then published the stolen information, wrapped his own story around it, and gave no right of reply.

Hager tried to convict Slater, John Key and associates in the court of public opinion. He failed to do what journalists are usually expected to do – allow those being accused to give their side of the story.

It has been claimed that this was necessary so those being accused wouldn’t injunct Hager’s book.

Journalists don’t usually package a grand conspiracy claim in a book and inject it into an election campaign. Journalists should normally check both sides of a story, give a right of response and publish revelations as they come to hand. Then there can be immediate reactions and follow up additions, corrections and counter-claims.

Journalism doesn’t start and end with a one-sided book that it’s supporters claim is beyond reproach.

Hager raised some important issues in his book, but it was not good journalism, it looks more like political activism.

His evidence was never checked or tested.

That’s not true.

Martyn Bradbury claims to have been interviewed while the book was being written. Bradbury is a far left activist and an adversary of Slater.

Lyn Prentice is a left wing activist and a long time strong critic of Slater. He claims to have been involved in researching the book. He sponded to a comment by RRM at The Standard:

Big old BS – the e mails were STOLEN, it is as simple as that.

Political-type people will make of that what they will.

Perhaps if Hager had interviewed a few people, instead of just writing a book of one-sided allegations ABOUT them, based on STOLEN e mails, and published at a slightly less cynical time than a few weeks before the election, he might not be in this position today?

[lprent: Based on reading the blog posts of the various people that were referred to in the emails passed to him. You really can't get much more independent that the actual actions of arseholes.

Plus doing a pretty widespread verification among many people who read those blogs and keep an eye on Slater, Odgen, Farrar, Ede, and others of that dirty brigade. Like me and the score of people that I pointed to and introduced to Hagers people.

Why would you ask Slater? He is currently saying that yes he made those statements in those emails, but that he was lying and bullshitting. What makes you think that he wouldn't lie or bullshit to a journo or for that matter the police or a judge?]

Hager appears to have got “verification” from “various people” who were the political opposite of Slater and had been feuding bitterly with Slater for years.

Hide concludes:

But that’s okay. That’s because those he attacked have their politics wrong.

What’s not okay is the police investigating the crime and exercising a lawful warrant.

As far as the extreme left is concerned, Slater has no rights and Hager enjoys super ones.

And they wonder why we laugh at them.

I don’t laugh at them. I think it’s a sad reflection on politics and those involved at the extremes.

Has Hager used the left in a major political hit job? Or has he been used by the left? Possibly a bit of both.

Some of the revelations in Hager’s book bring attention to the very sad side of Slater, Whale Oil et al. But the nature of the book and it’s political one-sidedness and it’s attempt to bring down a government doesn’t look flash either.

Hager’s hit job was a poor advertisement for both political activism and for journalism.

All their houses look poxy.

“The Downfall of Kim Dotcom”

Political junkie Geoffrey Miller details The Downfall of Kim Dotcom – How the Internet entrepreneur’s venture into New Zealand politics went off the rails.

Kim Dotcom’s foray into the tiny and normally rather placid world of New Zealand politics brought global interest to the South Pacific nation’s recent election – culminating with the involvement of other outside heavyweights, including NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden and Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.

Ultimately the über-wealthy German immigrant went head to head with the country’s prime minister – and lost. Dotcom ended up failing spectacularly – describing himself as political “poison.” His Internet Mana alliance, personally bankrolled by Dotcom to the tune of nearly NZ$5 million ($3.9 million), failed to win a single seat in New Zealand’s 120-seat parliament in elections held on September 20.

He summarises:

In May, Kim Dotcom described his pet political party as his “gift to New Zealand.” On election night, he was forced to concede that his very brand had been toxic. For John Key, Dotcom turned out to be the gift that kept on giving. New Zealand voters’ loathing of Kim Dotcom and his tainting of the country’s left played no small part in delivering Key’s center-right National Party a landslide victory.

After the election, a jubilant Key had only one piece of advice for the defeated Dotcom. “Go away.”

http://thediplomat.com/2014/10/the-downfall-of-kim-dotcom/

Key’s intention “in the interests of every New Zealanders”

An open letter from John Key outlines the Prime Minister’s aims and aspirations in his third term of Government:

Elections are a chance for people to assess what party has the best plan, policies and vision for the future. My assessment is that voters remain focused on the issues that matter to them and their families — the economy, law and order, health, education and the environment.

So although a lot of media attention can focus on peripheral issues, it takes a lot to distract voters from these core issues.

I am very grateful to the million plus voters who gave their party vote to National. Thank you for your support and encouragement — and the endorsement of the past six years.

An election is when people vote for a particular party; however the elected Government should work in the interests of every New Zealander and it is my intention to do so.

There will be times when people will disagree with decisions we make, but that is true of core supporters as well.

Over the past six years we have been transparent and straightforward about our decisions and the direction we have taken.

Although we are likely to have an outright majority in Parliament, that won’t change. We’ll continue to do what we said we would do, and will not embark on any agenda we have not campaigned on. We have been, and will remain, a centre-right Government.

Now we are reaching out to other political parties to form a bigger buffer than the one-seat majority from election night. This will give the Government depth and breadth.

Once we successfully negotiate the Confidence and Supply agreements, I will look at forming a new Cabinet. There are two vacant spots in the existing Cabinet, which gives us room to bring in new talent, and in some cases it makes sense to change portfolios around.

Although the core economic team of Bill English in Finance and Steven Joyce in Economic Development won’t change, there are options for Ministers looking for new challenges.

Once the Government is sworn in, we will be getting to work quickly on our priorities. These include implementing our education reforms to lift professional standards, and our housing programme, which will see young first-homebuyers build a deposit through KiwiSaver HomeStart.

We will also continue to fast track the release of land and building through special housing areas.

We will continue to diversify and build productivity in the economy. That’s about more training places and apprenticeships in high-skill areas.

We’d like to finalise our Free Trade Agreement with Korea and will work hard on an FTA with the United States and other partners who are looking to form the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

The country’s infrastructure build will continue at a rapid rate, including the expansion of ultra-fast broadband and the rural broadband initiative. We will work tirelessly on Christchurch’s rebuild, finalise those unsettled Treaty of Waitangi claims, and I want to work on the referendum process for a potential change to the New Zealand flag.

Welfare reform will continue to be a priority, as will health. One of our first targets will be to see hospice funding increased to 70 per cent, and we will also speed up the cancer treatment process so 90 per cent of sufferers receive treatment within 62 days of their first referral.

One of the messages we picked up on the campaign trail was that New Zealanders want us to do more for the most vulnerable children in our society. We will continue to try to move people from welfare-based homes to work-based homes, however we acknowledge there is potentially more we can do and we will be looking at ways to do that.

There is enormous opportunity over the next three years to continue to develop the job market in New Zealand. Over the next two years we expect to see about 150,000 jobs created.

Over the next three years we expect the average wage to move from $55,000 to $62,000 and expect to lift the minimum wage every year we are in office. We want to finalise our tax-cut programme and implement modest cuts for low and middle income New Zealanders from 2017.

This is while we continue to build surpluses, pay off some nominal debt by 2017 and reduce ACC levies.

In the time I have been Prime Minister I have marvelled at the creativity, ingenuity and generosity of New Zealanders. This is a remarkable country and there are enormous opportunities for us all. I am optimistic and ambitious for this country — and you have every reason to be as well.

- Herald on Sunday

On changing the flag

One of John Key’s third term ambitions is to change the flag. I support this. I think a distinctive New Zealand flag will give our country a proud identity.

Stuff reports Key moves for poll on change to flag:

Prime Minister John Key has started laying out his third term agenda, including a vote on changing the flag next year.

Key flew into Wellington’s gale force winds yesterday with the intention of putting his third term government together by the end of the week.

He confirmed a flag debate next year, the same year Kiwis mark Anzac Day 100-year anniversary commemorations at Gallipoli.

“I’d like to complete the whole process next year. I don’t think it’s one of those things we want to hang around,” Key said.

The debate will be decided by referendum, and Key has already started making the case for change, labelling the current design of a Union Jack and the Southern Cross a relic from New Zealand’s colonial past.

But the Returned and Services Association has already lined up against any change.

The flag will be keenly debated.

NZ Herald report Key wants flag vote by 2015:

Mr Key had made an election promise to hold a referendum before 2017 if re-elected and said yesterday that he would bring it forward.

He had outlined a plan for a cross-party group of MPs to recommend the best process for referenda and a steering group to ensure the public had the opportunity to engage in discussion on the flag, and submit designs.

Mr Key suggested a two-stage referendum; first a vote for the best alternative flag from three or four options. Then, the winning design would run off against the existing flag.

Critics argue that the present flag is easily confused with those of other former British colonies, including Australia.

See flag examples below.

But supporters say it would dishonour the memory of New Zealanders who had fought and died under the flag if the design was changed. The Returned Services Association had said it would oppose any change.

National president Don McIver, who could not be reached yesterday, had earlier said the flag held a special status for soldiers who had fought under it and it should not be changed.

I’ve posted on how closely related the silver fern has been in our military history:

And here’s a repost on flag alternatives:

There’s been a number of alternative New Zealand flags suggested in the past.  One popular version is this Kyle Lockwood design.

Kyle Lockwood flagDavid Farrar has posted Another flag design at Kiwiblog:

NZ-flag-suggestion-600x330I prefer the latter with black, this connects more with the very familiar fern on black but still retains connections with the current flag colours and design.

The Lockwood design was also featured in An alternate flag design at Kiwiblog:

New-Flag-LineupThe distinctive Canadian maple leaf was a successful change from one of many similar designs. That’s the Australian flag at the back, which is often confused with this:

NZ flagThat shows one of the main drawbacks with the current flag, many people find it hard to be sure if it is our flag, the Australian flag or one of the other similar flags.

Predictable result

In the main the election result and sub-results were quite predictable.

Polls were a reasonable indicator but only look backwards so show trends that have happened. They can’t predict to late campaign shifts that are common.

This election was peculiar in that many decisions were put on hold until Kim Dotcom’s big reveal. When it came to nothing it strengthened resolve of swing voters to ensure National retained it’s hold on Government.

Labour dropping below poll results was not surprising. They were obviously not going to do well and non-committed voters either change their minds or simply don’t bother voting.

Claims like “but Cunliffe ran a good campaign” have been proven wrong. As David Shearer said, the end result was tragic for Labour. Cunliffe may have appeared to be campaigning strongly but he puts on a variety of acts. While they might be slick acts voters see through this lack of genuineness. Cunliffe also has a problem that is probably unresolvable – too many people simply don’t like his persona (or personas).

Greens will be disappointed to have struggled to maintain their level of support while Labour were shedding votes. Greens weren’t able to pick them up. This suggests that 10-12% is the upper limit for them. This also shouldn’t be surprising outside the Green bubble. People like to have a party promoting environmental issues but most don’t like the extreme Green stances like no drilling, no fracking, no motorways.

And Greens misread public sentiment if they think that handing out more money to poor people with no responsibilities applied will be popular. Middle New Zealand see this as imposing costs and taxes on them. Socialism is fringe ideology these days.

Winston Peters is adept at picking up protest and shedded votes. NZ First gained vote, gained MPs but otherwise gained nothing. Most of the 91% who didn’t vote NZ First will be happy with this outcome.

The 5% threshold always looked a very high hurdle for Conservatives and so it proved. This was a failure of MMP. The threshold should be no higher than 3%. I don’t personally support the Conservatives but their missing out is a travesty of democracy.

Hone Harawira losing his electorate was a bit of a shock but not really surprising given the severely compromised position of Harawira and Mana hitching their ambitions to Kim Dotcom. Dotcom’s expensive disaster was Harawira’s failing.

Internet-Mana was always a high risk alliance. They might have succeeded as a combined party but Dotcom realised too late that his brand was toxic and he couldn’t resist being prominent. His final week failure to deliver on his promises to hit John Key compounded the problem.

Laila Harre severely compromised her credibility and was still blind to this yesterday, blaming everything but reality. Her political future is very limited.

The Maori Party lost two of their three electorates as widely predicted. For the first time they had sufficient party vote to pick up a list seat to go with Te Ururoa Flavell’s retained seat. Flavell was a minor star of the campaign but will have a difficult job keeping the Maori Party afloat.

David Seymour retained Epsom as expected but also as expected ACT failed as a party. Jamie Whyte failed to step up as leader in a challenging attempt to rebuild a battered brand.

Peter Dunne held is Ohariu seat. That didn’t seem to surprise anyone but unrealistic Labourites from the electorate. As a party United Future was nowhere to be seen, and accordingly votes were nowhere to be seen, dropping to a third of the low return they got in 2011.

Just two more seats for National but this strengthens them substantially, giving them a majority vote on their own as long as they don’t lose any seats this term. They also have ACT, Dunne and Maori Party support options on standby.

Just two less seats for Labour and this weakens them substantially. The result is tragic for them and the outlook is no better. They have done very little to move on the old guard and bring in new talent. They seem out of touch with their constituency of last century. They have yet another failed leader with no obvious replacement. This was also predictable.

Labour have failed for six years to rebuild from the Clark/Cullen era. Unless someone out of the ordinary steps up their future looks bleak.

National campaigned on ‘steady as she goes’ and the voters delivered the platform for National to be a little more politically steady than expected providing outstanding issues don’t impact too much.

Judith Collins has already been sidelined and is expendable should inquiries further damage her.

Now the election is over ‘dirty politics’ should be addressed by Key. And by Labour. And to a lesser extent by Greens. Peters won’t change from his habit of attack without evidence but he will be largely impotent unless the media keep pandering to his baseless allegations.

Some embarrassments may emerge for Key and National out of surveillance and GCSB issues but they look to have been overplayed, and most people accept the need for some surveillance protection.

The simple fact is that most people don’t feel threatened by surveillance and they are concerned about about terrorism.

And it’s ironic that the supposedly net-savvy who campaign strongly against surveillance must be aware that the Google and Twitter and Facebook social media tools they willingly use are tracking what they do far more than any government.

But we can predict they will continue to fight for a free internet that gives them far more public exposure than they ever had. They claim that privacy is paramount in a very public online world.

Otherwise we can predict have much the same Government as we’ve had over the past six years. Most people will be comfortable with that.

It’s harder to predict if Harawira will make a comeback or if Mana will survive their battering and their harsh reality check.

If Dotcom pulls the plug on Internet Party funding it’s demise can be predicted. If that happens it can also be predicted that Laila Harre will find it very difficult to find another party that would risk being tainted by her lack of loyalty and sense.

It is not hard to predict that Labour’s struggle to be relevant and their lack of connection to anyone but some special interest groups will continue.

John Key has shown he is aware of the dangers to National of complacency and arrogance – it can be predicted that some of his MPs will struggle to heed his warnings. But most likely things will continue much as they have.

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