Key shark bite yet to come?

The key unanswered questions in relation to the @Whaledump/Rawshark hacked data releases is how close to the action John Key was.

Key has tried to distance himself while notably failing to openly condemnwhat has been revealed. This may be as much to do with the timing as anything, he will be trying to minimise the impact on his election campaign.

But is a Key Rawshark bite yet to come?

Evidence revealed so far suggests not, despite Hager’s attempt to link this right up to the top of the political chain. His Key exposé could be a fizzer.

The revelations keep dribbling out. For obvious reasons centred on Cameron Slater the latest ones have inconclusive links with Judith Collins.

The major new interest is on whether Mark Hotchins bankrolled a smear campaign against the Serious Fraud Office and the Financial Markets Authority while they were investigating him.

But the big question remains unanswered – what level of involvement did John Key have in the ‘dirty politics’? Was it an ongoing dirty political campaign as suggested by Hager in his book, either directed or at least mandated by the Prime Minister?

Or was it some peripheral players who inflated their level of influence in tandem with their egos?

Significant parts of Hager’s book – chapters two and three and the last two chapters – cover Key and Beehive involvement. This was obviously Hager’s biggest area of interest, but he was far from conclusive. There was no smoking gun pointing at Key.

There is a significant potential link through Jason Ede, but there is no evidence that he was a major part of Key’s communications. Hager referred to Ede as a ‘senior staffer’ in Key’s office who was leading ‘black ops’ in close association with bloggers.

Ede can’t have been that vital a part of Key’s office he has moved out and now works for the National Party. And I have doubts that liaison with bloggers would have been a top communications priority, blogs remain relatively small peripheral players in the world of political communications.

Despite Hager’s focus on Key using bloggers via Ede he failed to pin anything damning on Key. Hager has insisted he has seen all the data and was given all the political material. David Fisher reported at NZ Herald:

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.

If Hager has seen everything, and was given all the ‘political stuff’, and his main target was Key, then surely he would have used the most damaging material and nailed Key if he could.

But there are some doubts Hager has seen everything. Rawshark seems to be drip feeding Fisher at the Herald and also provided Matt Nippert with a major story in the latest Sunday Star Times, but that targeted Hotchins – largely non-political material.

There are rumours that @Whaledump will release all the material related to the Key link, communications involving Jason Ede, but that’s not what @Whaledump has indicated.

On August 22 he tweeted:

Last last political post later today.

Yesterday (1 September) he announced a return from a week on holiday and tweeted:

Thank you for your patience. Like I said, this isn’t all about party politics.

He then released a few communications involving Mark Hotchins and followed with this tweet:

This is a corrupt network of politically-connected individuals who launder political & media influence for money, power & personal revenge.

He has specifically stated he has posted the last of his political material and Hager insists he had access to all the political material.

Unless @Whaledump/Rawshark has lied in Twitter and has lied to Hager and retained data that damns Key it would appear as if there is no key shark bite to come.

If that’s the case it would suggest that the hack missed getting evidence that would condemn Key – or Hager had more agenda than facts to back up his Key case.

Slater’s long game as good as pig shit

Cameron Slater has often claimed to be playing a ‘long game’, as he stated in a recent blog post: “You people know I play a long game.”

His ball is now seen as toxic and many people will have been rapidly re-assessing their willingness to play with him in the future.

His short game is in tatters with his friend Judith Collins’ career teetering on the edge of a cliff largely of Slater’s making. And National’s election chances have been severely dented, as noted by ‘Mark’ on Kiwiblog:

Key and the National leadership have very little time to try to get the election agenda back onto policy issues. The concept of a Labour/Greens coalition ruining the country is an awful prospect but thanks to Collins apparent indiscretions what looked highly unlikely is now becoming a very real threat

Despite Labour’s awful second term and Cunliffe’s inherent lack of popularity Collins and Slater may have achieved a defeat for National.

Also thanks to Slater Collins’ long game appears to be in tatters. She may be able to recover to Minister level but I doubt Key would giver her that back if National cling on. But Collins must have slipped down the National pecking order significantly, and any leadership ambitions must be burnt toast.

And Slater is toxic damaged goods. His revenue options must have been severely affected. And who in politics with serious ambitions would want to be seen to be associated with him. Apart from Collins the other MPs assisted by Slater and Lusk are remaining very quiet on any links. If they have any ambition or sense they will have cut their mentors off altogether.

When you keep abusing and kicking the referee, all the players of the other team and many players of your own team once the ball has burst as it has done future game prospects must be severely limited.

In a recent blog post Key’s not my guy either Slater wrote:

As Key knows, he’s not my guy either.

He also repeated something he often says:

You wrestle with pigs, two things are certain. You get dirty, and the pig likes it.

But sooner or later the number of people willing to go near or be associated with the sty will dry up.

On Q & A two weeks ago Slater seemed to suggest he was bigger than the current Prime Minister.

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.


What future Prime Minister or prospective party leader or Prime Minister would want to be associated with the dirty politics of Slater?

Slater has always been and remains unrepentant about his methods, but they must surely be consigned to a less than savoury part of our political history.

He may well be still involved in the political scene after Key has departed but his ambitions of being a major player must be as diminished as his credibility.

Bloggers come, bloggers go.

And hopefully the Slater style of dirty politics is as good as gone. It’s not the long game most people want in a decent modern democracy.

Slater may see his future as wrestling in mud but his long game is as good as pig shit.

John Key’s choice – Collins or Peters

After the latest revelation (or publicity seeking stunt) from Winston Peters – see Peters slams dirty politics, then gets dirty – I think John Key has two clear choices.

If Peters can prove (don’t hold your breath) that Judith Collins has totally flipped and tried something this ludicrous then Key should dump Collins.

If Peters can’t prove this was anything more than a casual hypothetical quip loosely related to Collins then Key should make it clear who won’t do any deals with Peters after the election.

If Key doesn’t act then whoever is at fault here will get away with doing something disgraceful.


Disappointing debate, pointless polls

I was disappointed with the leaders debates. Maybe I just wasn’t in the mood for it, but I didn’t see anything that I thought wouold make difference.

Cunliffe held his own so won’t have been harmed by it. He interrupted too much and too many preachy wee speeches. Pros and cons on points made.

Key looked strained but probably won’t have harmed his chances, Some pros and cons as well, nothing remarkable.

Hosking allowed too much talking over each other, sometimes all three were trying to compete. Often seemed messy.

I doubt many minds would be changed.

The online and text polling and online metering were a farce, totally meaningless. There is no way of knowing who was voting or measuring responses so no way of knowing how biased the participants were.

The National minions seem to have been busier on TV1’s text poll and Labour’s on Newstalk ZB’s online poll. Or something. Tells us nothing useful.

They were worse than pointless, they add useless noise to commentary on the debate.


Collins staunch with Slater

Judith Collins has reiterated her friendship with Cameron Slater and won’t condemn his “dirty politics”. Radio NZ reports:

Judith Collins digs in over Dirty Politics

Justice Minister Judith Collins is defending her friendship with right-wing blogger, Cameron Slater, saying she supports her friends no matter what.

She has admitted emailing details about public servant Simon Pleasants, including his personal phone number, to Mr Slater in 2009.

Mr Pleasants was subsequently abused on Mr Slater’s Whale Oil blog and also received death threats.

…she told Radio New Zealand she did not condone the death threats.

She would not say whether she approved of Mr Slater’s post.

Ms Collins refused to be drawn on whether she had effectively facilitated cyber-bullying by passing on Mr Pleasants’ details.

Obviously she couldn’t condone death threats but by not condemning how the information she supplied was used she appears to remain complicit.

Friendship defended

Ms Collins last night also defended her friendship with Mr Slater.

“Just because he is a friend of mine – as by the way are many hundreds of other people – does not mean to say that I condone everything that anybody who is a friend of mine does,” she said.

“That is the nature of friendship. You put up with your friends no matter what if you’re a loyal friend. And I’m a very loyal person.”

Loyalty to friends can be important but by refusing to distance herself from Slater’s behaviour she remains severely tainted by association with his dirty politics. Slater is now politically toxic.

Mark Mitchell, National MP for Rodney, is distancing himself, denying he paid Slater for assistance in his successful candidacy bid in 2011. See Conflicting claims over National’s Rodney selection.

Collin’s political career looks like being on life support so she may feel she has nothing more to lose by being seen to be remaining closely associated to Slater. That’s her call.

Slater often talks about one of his ‘rules’ – if you wrestle with pigs you’ll get dirty and the pig will enjoy it. Slater obviously enjoys getting dirty.

Collins has chosen to remain closely associated with this.

It’s a shame that Collins has been and remains tainted. By many accounts she has generally been a more than competent Minister of Justice.

In my own limited experience with Collins she has been approachable and helpful – earlier this year I asked for some information and she arranged for it to be provided – no OIA involved. Few ministers respond to requests like this.

But she has done a number of unwise things. The latest to be highlighted, and her continued loyalty to a friend who likes playing dirty means mud remains stuck to Collins as well.

She should hold her electorate easily as she got a close to 10,000 majority in Papakura last election.

She is currently Minsister of Justice, ACC and Ethnic Affairs and is National’s fifth ranked Minister, and is number 6 on their party list for this election. But it is predicted that if National retain power John Key will have to reduce her position and responsibilities.

It could be very awkward for National to have someone closely associated with Slater making the final decision (as Minister of Justice) on Kim Dotcom’s extradition – Slater has been waging a bitter public battle against Dotcom.

Collins is on a last last chance with Key and by continuing to remain staunch with Slater she may well be seen as a high risk and a liability, especially for a third term government.

If Collins lasts until and survives the election we’ll see then how she fares. And from then through the term whether her remaining staunch with Slater drags her (and National) down further.

Sticking by friends is laudable, but sticking by mud may tank her political career.

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


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?

A rugby analogy Key may understand

John Key seems to be missing the point about widespread fed-up-ness about dirty politics. Like really annoyed fed up pissed-offedness about how appallingly some of our politicians and their hangers on carry on.

Key seems to like rugby analogies so here’s one that might help.

Back in the old days rugby was much dirtier, and not just because fields were much muddier. The dark arts of the game were legend.  Most players didn’t stick the boot in but a mongrel minority got away with moronic mayhem.

Then television came along and gradually exposed it. So the authorities clamped down on foul play. It took a while but it worked. 

Today rugby is played harder and more competitively, but without much of the past nastiness and dirtiness.

Back in the old days politics was dirty – it was equivalent to a type of rugby where punching and stomping and back road-mapping and eye scratching and ball crushing was rife.

Then television came along and played along, so it kept on happening. The authorities didn’t do anything about it because they made their own rules and led the carnage.

Then social media came along, giving them another means of playing dirty. Some thugs rose through the medium. And they took things too far, and are now getting exposed.

Richie McCaw is one of the toughest rugby players in the world, and he plays to the limits of the law. But he’s not dirty – he enjoys a robust but fair contest. And he won’t accept dirty play from his players, because that lets the team down.

What New Zealand needs now is leaders – not just the Prime Minister but leaders of all parties – to drain the swampy fields and pledge to play a clean and fair brand of politics. Some of the current thugs may feel aggrieved and dumped on but too bad.

Rugby would not have survived if it had stayed a dirty game.

Our democracy is struggling to survive right now.

Is it too late to get Richie to explain? The spectators are already deserting the stands. They want a test of skills, not a mess of spilled political blood.

People want captains and political teams they can respect, not despise. 

And ban the thugs in the stand who only come to make trouble and start brawls. 

Key links to dirty politics confronted

On Radio New Zealand Guyon Espiner has strongly challenged John Key of his stance and apparent acceptance of dirty politics as played by Cameron Slater on Whale Oil.

This is a compelling interview. When I get time I’ll look at it in more detail.

Prime Minister stands by minister and staff

Originally aired on Morning Report, Monday 18 August 2014

Five days on from the release of Nicky Hager’s book Dirty Politics, the Prime Minister has told Morning Report he is standing behind his staff and ministers.

I have tweeted:

Thanks @GuyonEspiner for that interview with @johnkeypm – questions that needed asking and deserve better answers @rnz_news

See also Key’s reasonable point about the left being left out of Hager’s book but again sidestepping responsibility for National’s part in dirty politics:

PM says Dirty Politics book omits the left

John Key says if Mr Hager’s book was a serious attempt to look at politics, it would have shown Labour’s up to its eyeballs in the same activities.

That Labour do it to is a very poor stance by the Prime Minister. He should set standards, not accept that dirt in politics is ok.

Key is avoiding responsibility, he is complicit at least by association.

TRANSCRIPT: (from The Standard)

KEY: What we do know is, you know, you’ve got a a book that’s pretty selective, in its in its emails and they’re based on one perspective. And probably a bit out of context and with a whole bunch of assumptions that are either aren’t correct or are made up and now can’t be backed up.  But whose behind it? You have to go and ask yourself the question, “Who has the motivation? And who has the capabilities?” The answer is I, I don’t know the answer to those.

ESPINER: Well let’s have a look at some of those specifics in the book. Cameron Slater gets an OIA request granted from the SIS which embarrasses Phil Goff. It’s approved in a few days, which is unheard of for information to be released that quickly, especially from the highly sensitive SIS.

KEY: Well

ESPINER: Did that did that request come across your desk?

KEY: No.

ESPINER: So you’re the minister responsible for the SIS, yet you did not sign off on that request?

KEY: No.

ESPINER: You had no knowledge that a request had been made?

KEY: I knew there were requests cause, you know, I would have known cause generally they say, you know, there’s a series of requests into the into the SIS or the GCSB, but they often sign off on, well they would sign off on things on their own timetable. We’ve got slightly better processes now so they’ll tell me.

ESPINER: So, you had, I mean this is very unusual for a minister

KEY: No.

ESPINER:  not to get, not to get OIA requests put by them before they go out.

KEY: Not always, to be honest. Sometimes I I myself am amazed the stuff I see on the paper that’s been released under the SIS.  But, look, at the end of the day, I mean Phil Goff made either a genuine mistake, or he was incompetent. This is an issue from 3 years ago which probably most voters aren’t that interested in talking now but

ESPINER: So, why did Cameron Slater get the information that the general media sought, asked for, and didn’t get?

KEY: Well, you’d have to ask the SIS that. It must be to do with the way the request was written. But, and I think he actually didn’t get the information. I, look I can’t remember cause it was so many years ago now, but I think he got the [type?] of what was in there. But that was because Warren Tucker did brief him. I was saying that publicly Warren Tucker briefed him. I was saying everywhere, because we knew he was briefed on the issue. Now he either just genuinely forgot, or he was incompetent and didn’t realise it.  But what ultimately happened there, was that he was wrong, and Warren knew he was wrong and was, maybe he was offended by it but it was a pretty simple thing so he released it. Lots of OIAs go out quite quickly. It was nothing to do with me.

EPSINER: OK.  The accessing of the Labour Party computer. You have said it is OK for Jason Ede to have looked and poked around in that material.

KEY: Well, could I jus, firstly there’s a few assumptions in that in that whole thing. One as I understand it, [?] rehash the whole thing. But one is that you know somehow National hacked into the thing. That that’s just not true. Secondly it was nothing to do with us in terms of, you know, the initial sort of thing.  My understanding of it, only because generally

ESPINER: Yes but, but you, but you have conceded you think it’s OK for Jason Ede to have been looking around in that material.

KEY: Yeah, I do. Because there’s the, the point here was that there was no hacking of anything. Obviously a couple of these guys, one of which includes Cameron Slater worked out.

ESPINER: But it was supposed to be private material though isn’t it?

KEY: No.

ESPEINER: But you think it’s OK for one of your staff members to go looking around in it, even if it was mistakenly improperly secured.

KEY: So are you genuinely saying Guyon, if National made a bit of a mistake, and on its website, where people can donate to us or where there’s a there’s information about our members, if we, if we took our security off, made a mistake and left it open, and that a left wing blogger became aware of that, very much like

ESPINER: No, your own staff member and you haven’t.  No one’s denied this,


ESPINER: Your own staff member picked through the information.

KEY: No, no, but let’s say a left wing blogger, because we had that

ESPINER: Well, no we don’t need to deal in hypotheticals, because we’ve got a real scenario right here. What is appropriate about the fact that someone in your office, was poking around in another party’s private information?

KEY: Take a breath for a second, and let’s just let me finish. OK so if a left wing blogger, went around and found out that there was a situation where the security had been taken off, right. And we’ve been told that to, I don’t know, someone who works in David Cunliffe’s office, would they potentially go and have a look? And the answer is , Yes, and that would be totally fine. If theall.  If the Wallabies, on Tuesday night, left their starting line-up, up on, on, on their website, on their private website, would the All Black’s go and have a look? The answer is yes. And the reason I know that is it’s happened. And

ESPINER: So this, this is just a way that dir, that politics is, now is it? This is dirty politics, but it’s OK?

KEY: Well

ESPINER: This is the moral leadership you seem to be presiding over here? Oh, well, it’s fair game, the door was open, so we came in and had a look around.

KEY: Well, a left wing blogger worked out that the WINZ sites were open. And went.

ESPINER: And so you uphold the same standards as some blogger do you, as the Prime Minister of New Zealand?

KEY: No, what I’m saying to you,

ESPINER: Well they are the analogies you’re giving me.

KEY: No, they’re not, what I’m saying to you is, that a whole lot of assumptions were made in the book, or were cast that way, that were either would knowingly have been wrong because Nicky  Hager must have known that was wrong: this is [?] that was broken into, or he was, you know, in such a rush to get the job out that was basically gone and run roughshod over the facts. But what I’m saying to you is that in the end, yeah, look, at the end of the day, people do look at things, and that’s just, that’s just the way it works.

KEY: I mean

ESPINER:  OK. Well what about the behaviour of your minister Judith Collins?  Is it acceptable for her to divulge the name of a public servant, because he may have leaked details ?

KEY: Well I don’t have the details on that one

ESPINER: she suspected he did.

KEY: I just don’t

ESPINER: Well, why don’t you ask her?

KEY: Well because I. A: it’s very. Sorry it’s.  Look to be

ESPINER: In fact, in fact, with respect, Mr Key, she has admitted that. She conceded she did pass on that name.

KEY: Yeah, but I don’t know the details under, of all of that scenario.

ESPINER: So why don’t you ask her?

KEY: Because, at the end of the day, we’re five weeks out from an election, people can see that Nicky Hager’s made a whole lot of things up in his book. He can see that he can’t back a lot of them up.

ESPINER: Well, I’m talking about one that can be backed up. You’re not going to get away with that.

KEY: See he

ESPINER: Because, because, this is one that can be backed up, because the Justice Minister of New Zealand has conceded publicly, that she did pass on the name of a public servant.  That resulted in him getting some pretty severe death threats. And you think that’s, OK?

KEY: And people can see that


KEY: And people can see

ESPINER: Yes or no? Is it OK?

KEY:  And people can see that this


KEY: People can see

ESPINER: Is it OK that Judith Collins did that, yes or no?

KEY: And people can see that this is a smear campaign by Nicky Hager and

ESPINER: I’m not asking you for a critique about Nicky Hager’s motivation

Key: Well I

ESPINER: I’m asking you about something that is publicly in the arena. Judith Collins has said, “I passed on the name of this public servant.” And we know what happened after that.

KEY: But the

ESPINER: I’m asking you a simple question. Was that appropriate, Yes or No?

KEY: context  is totally relevant, because at the end of the day, I don’t know all the context of what happened here and in all those situations

ESPINER: You know the context here, Prime Minster. Please answer the question.

KEY: We don’t know

ESPINER: Was it appropriate for your Justice Minister to pass on the name of a public servant doing his job, who was then severely sanctioned on a website?

KEY: So, I don’t know all the details behind all of that. But what I do know, is that this is a series of selected pieces of information. Many of which can’t be backed up. I know that this was

ESPINER: I’m asking you about one of them.

KEY: Yeah, well, I’m not going to go into your individual ones, because in the end, this is a smear campaign, about which, I gotta say, started the week with with people, you know, out there

ESPINER: No, I’m not, you’re not going to talk about burning effigies, etc, because it has nothing to do with this.

KEY: Well, it does [voice hits a squeaky note]

ESPINER: I’m talking No

KEY: to do with this, because, at the end of the day,

ESPINER: No. this is about the behaviour of your Justice Minister. Do you stand by her today?

KEY: Yeah [slightly squeaky voice] I stand by her. And in the end, it does have a lot to with it, because we started the week with burning effigies. Then we went into, into, sorry, FU videos. Then we went into into burning effigies, then we went into Bill

ESPINER: OK, we’re not going to traverse the whole history.  Here’s a final question for you.

KEY: but

ESPINER: Were you aware that Jason Ede was running, effectively, a dirty tricks campaign from your office? Did you know about that?

KEY: He’s he’s been briefing bloggers and, of course he briefs people on the right – just as people – I’m in the Labour leadership over the years have briefed people on the left.

ESPINER: Yeah, but he’s not just briefing a blogger. There’s a guy who writes, “Feral dies in Greymouth did world a favour”; calls people in Christchurch after the earthquake a a scum

KEY: Yeah b

ESPINER: Are you happy to associate yourself with Cameron Slater of Whale Oil?

KEY: Well at the end of the day, he’s not, he’s not my guy, Cameron Slater. I don’t run anything. Anyone who knows Cameron Slater, knows that he’s a force unto himself. And at the end of the day, yeah, he gets

ESPINER: Yeah. And what do you think of him?

KEY: information from a whole bunch of things. I’m not here to, to either defend the guy

ESPINER: But you are, because you engage with him and your office was in a systematic campaign of feeding him information.

KEY: No, no, what happens is, there’s certainly. Of course we would brief bloggers and talk to bloggers. And there’s a whole wide range of them. And so does the left. And if they don’t, then you’re either naïve or

ESPINER: Do you respect the work he does?

KEY: That’s not for me to critique his stuff. What I have to

EPSINER: Well, it is because you engage with him. You’ve told us that.

KEY: I’m not a political

ESPINER: You text him and you talk to him.

KEY: OK. I’m not a political commentator. What I have to do is be aware of what’s on blog sites.  And the truth is, Guyon, you and I would have fifty thousand more conversations than I have with that guy. So, you can deny that if you want

ESPINER: So, are you

KEY: even though


KEY: In your previous


KEY: roles I’ve spoken to you


KEY: I hardly the talk to this guy

ESPINER: So are you equating the work that journalists at Radio New Zealand, Television New Zealand, TV 3 and the other mainstream media do, to a guy who says “Feral dies in Greymouth did world a favour” and calls people in Christchurch scum

KEY: Well I don’t agree, I don’t agree with those comments. But he’s a shock jock right wing

ESPINER: Are you equating him with with the work that most mainstream journalists do, and the public listening to this, who consume their material? Are you saying to the public of New Zealand, “That’s just the same as Whale Oil”?

KEY: Well, all I’m saying is, whether we like it or not, social media is part of the overall media network these days. And I have to deal with those issues, just like  anyone else.

Hat tip: Karol Muddying the waters: transcript Key on RNZ

See (hear) also Marcus Lush with Our Leader John Keys weekly chat.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 230 other followers