Spinoff’s spin on Hager

Toby Manhire has an interview with Nicky Hager at The Spinoff – “A Kick Back Against Government Intolerance” – an Interview with Nicky Hager.

Nicky Hager tells The Spinoff about his case in the High Court, Dirty Politics a year on, and his next book – “one of the most important projects that I could imagine”.

It allows Hager to ask some hard questions, but asks no hard questions of Hager.

What will happen next with the judicial review?

In the very near future, I think, there will be a decision coming out which is about my case but is really about journalism in New Zealand. Like all countries, we are experiencing a new intolerance to whistleblowers and people who provide leaked information. So this court case is happening at a really critical time for whether or not people who collect that information feel safe and whether or not people who provide that information feel safe.

I’m hopeful we’re going to have a decision which is a sort of kick back against the current intolerance from the government.

But no word on any kickback against the intolerance of left wing activists.

It’s over a year now since Dirty Politics, and to some degree at least it feels as though things have gone back to business as usual. Do you accept that, and if so is it because people didn’t grasp the detail or because they grasped the detail but don’t care?

The Minister of Justice who had to resign because of the book has not come back, the main dirty tricks person in the prime minister’s office [Jason Ede], who had to leave the job because of this, has not come back. When people say everything has gone back to normal, they’re possibly not realising how much did change, and what they’re perhaps really meaning is the Prime Minister, who was in many ways at the centre of the distasteful politics, has so far survived it.

Jason Ede escaped the scrutiny he deserved, although he did lose his job and influence.

John Key also escaped the scrutiny his involvement should have received. This was partly due to his avoidance, but it has as much to do with the way Hager launched his book into an election campaign. Voters reacted against this slanted interference in the democratic process, and then the election took over, letting Key off the hook.

I think that when people say John Key got away with the book, and never had to answer the question – and of course he has got away with not having to answer the question so far – I think they’re not being optimistic enough. I think we may still see in the long run it will be seen to have bitten him badly and he hasn’t got away with it.

Hager may be hoping for lingering hits on Key but the timing of his big hit meant that it didn’t have the impact Hager and his supporters had hoped.

Do you think then that the way people do politics has changed as a result of the book?

I wrote a book about one area of politics, and there is absolutely no doubt that things have changed quite a lot. For example, at the time I wrote that book, quite a considerable number of journalists and news organisations were in extremely unhealthy relationships with this rightwing attack blogger, who was acting as a tool of various commercial interests and also of the prime minister’s office, for covert attacks on their opponents.

Most of those journalists have stopped doing that. Many of those media organisations have more or less apologised publicly for getting caught up in it. If one book can do that, I’m really happy with it, and that’s not the only change at all.

The book seems to have been very successful warning journalists off having anything to do with Slater, and that has been reinforced by Slater’s own actions.

Do you read the Whaleoil blog?

No. I’ve spent a year and a half recommending to people that they don’t dignify it by looking at it, because it is not a genuine source of news and analysis. It’s a political tactic: to smear and discourage and hurt people, and so I don’t believe that I want to go there.

I will take anybody’s legitimate, public, owned criticism and I’ll think about it, but anonymous comments are the worst of people, and I don’t need to let them into my head. So I don’t go to the Whaleoil site, and I don’t go to many of those places where I’m just going to hear, you know, anonymous tigers behind their keyboards saying ridiculous things about me.

It hasn’t just been “anonymous tigers” asking questions of the way Hager played his Dirty Politics cards. By blaming criticism of him on anonymous people he’s avoiding real concerns over his actions.

Since his launch of Dirty Politics Hager has played to friendly audiences, and he has done is PR via friendly journalists (like Manhire here).

Would he be prepared to face scrutiny of his actions and agenda?

Both he and Key still have important questions that should be answered.

No extra flag choices – tough

Yesterday some journalists belatedly woke up to the fact that they had dicked around with the flag change process and suddenly realised that they didn’t like the final four flag choices.

Quite a bit of media and social media had not taken the flag change process seriously, or they thought that if they criticised and ridiculed enough it woukd all go away.

But many people did take it seriously and submitted proposals. The flag consideration panel took their responsibilities seriously and consulted and listened to feedback and polled and came up with a short list of four.

The knockers suddenly realised that the flag choice was happening without them.

Yesterday Toby Manhire wrote Let’s run up the red flag.

Until very recently, my response to the flag ballyhoo swithered between indifference and annoyance. Mostly annoyance. It might have something to do with the fact I fractured my fibula and no one offered to fly me to Fiji to smear leaves on it. But mainly it’s because the debate has been so annoying.

The current flag is definitely annoying. It is annoying that it is almost indistinguishable from Australia’s. It’s annoying and outdated that a Union Jack sits there, haughtily, taking up a whole quarter. Why not stick another flag in the corner of the British flag and then another in the corner of that, and so on and so on? That would be annoying but at least interesting.

But the case for change has been annoying, too. It’s been annoying to feel infantilised, herded into a nationwide social studies project. Actual grown-ups holding aloft “I stand for …” sheets of paper and smiling mawkishly, annoyingly.

The Prime Minister’s call for more “overt signs of patriotism” has been annoying.

Toby was annoyed so he didn’t taske part in the process. Until now.

In a heartfelt and constructive blog post, Wellington startup guy Rowan Simpson makes a cogent argument for the missing Red Peak (bit.ly/redpeak). He notes that it looks like a flag, not a logo, and illustrates the point by placing it, and the officially shortlisted options, alongside some other great flags. It is simple enough to be drawn by a child – one of the criteria emphasised by the panel – yet there is genuine substance; the historic, cultural, mythological and even topographic references are there if you want them.

And it just looks right. In one photograph at aotearoaflag.tumblr.com, Dustin shows it floating in the breeze at sunset. Spectacular.

On aotearoaflag.tumblr.com, Aaron Dustin shows the Red Peak flag floating in the breeze at sunset.

Red Peak has won me over. I love it. And I’m not alone – a Red Peak groundswell is building. Team Red Peak. Unfurl the fifth flag.

Red Peak should be added to the shortlist.

No it shouldn’t be added to the shortlist. I would have been happy if a flag like Red Peak was in the short list bit it wasn’t chosen.

If Red Peak was able to be added because a few journalists try to use the power of their keyboards and claim a groundswell of support there would be likely be a clamour of claims for groundswells for different flags.

But it would be ridiculous for the flag change process to be re-written because a few flag dissers suddenly realised that their dissing and dismissing had been ignored and the process had continued without them.

And it’s not as if Red Peak is a compelling choice. It would not be readily recognisable as a flag of New Zealand within New Zealand let alone around the world. It could mean anything and could represent anyone.

Those like Manhire who have suddenly realised that they had sidelined themselves in the flag change process will just have to accept that they have left their input too late.


They can join in the process and choose one of these designs:

The four flag alternatives that will be considered in the first referendum.

Or they can keep sulking on the sidelines, waving alternate flags in futility.

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


Dead kittens and spying on lightning

All of the kittens, dead? Unless we do something. Now!

Toby Manhire reviews the escalating opposition to the GCSB Bill in Spy bill do-gooders get their comeuppance.

When the namby-pamby do-gooders at the Human Rights Commission

  • expressed misgivings about the new GCSB bill and its sidekick the telecommunications interception bill, John Key showed them who was boss.

Take the privacy commissioner.

  • She may emphasise that the new GCSB powers should be “demonstrably necessary and justified”. She may argue for a postponement of the whole process, and that “a body such as the Law Commission should be asked to investigate the most appropriate shape of legislation to govern the intelligence agencies”. But, as with the bleeding-heart human rights bludgers, this argument is easy to demolish.

And the Law Commission now?

Then there’s the Law Society.

  • In a tediously detailed submission they say they’re concerned that “in the absence of compelling grounds for urgency, its use degrades the democratic quality of the legislative process”. They bemoan the lack of a “full and informed debate” and “proper analysis” on the need for “the intrusion represented by these reforms”.

The former director of the GCSB…

  • Sir Bruce Ferguson, is another who has said the legislation should not be going through under urgency.

What about the Legislative Advisory Committee,

  • appointed by the Minister of Justice and tasked with advising on good legislative practice, public law and all that? They reckon the bill lacks clarity and could do with providing greater safeguards and oversight. But they would say that.

Internet NZ, meanwhile,

  • witter on about the absence of provision for “meaningful, adequate, independent oversight”, as well as the “lack of sufficient checks and balances”, and something about “offending the principle of the rule of law”. But you know what these internet people are like. Hackers, pretty much. Or, worse, bloggers.

Along with Tech Liberty and a bunch of other people working in the IT sector,

  • they’ve also been banging on about metadata: about the failure to define this rapidly swelling and information-rich stuff, and the potential for its indiscriminate collection.

However, what none of these so-called experts has managed to explain is how they’d feel if their attitudes paved the way for the systematic extermination of all the world’s kittens by masked terrorist gangs. All of the kittens, dead.

One commenter says there’s more chance of being struck by lightning than being killed by a terrorist attack.

Surely far more kittens in New Zealand – and children, and adults – are scared by lightning than scared by terrorists. The Bill should be changed then. The GCSB should be allowed to spy on lightning.

Just think how many kittens that might save.

Manhire mentions Labour’s ‘C’ word

Labour’s “C” word has come up again.

In an NZ Herald column Toby Manhire details some of Labour’s bad “optics”. Rugby tests:

For the decision by a quartet of Labour MPs to accept the invitation from SkyCity to enjoy their generous hospitality and a sweet view of the first France test was staggering in its myopia.

On its own, the SkyCity box thing does not a Labour party crisis make. But it fits a pattern.

Shearer’s bank account:

David Shearer’s admission in March that he had overlooked and failed to declare several thousand dollars in a New York bank account was a nightmare for Labour, skewering two of the attacks levelled at the prime minister: that his wealth distances him from normal people, and those forgetfulness issues.

Shearer in Parliament:

In his contribution to the urgent parliamentary debate on the Peter Dunne resignation the other day – a debate Shearer personally demanded – the Labour leader appeared to be reading from a script that had been torn up and sellotaped together at random.

All examples of a wider problem.

While a handful of Labour front-benchers have creditably countered the ministers they shadow, rarely has it been knitted into a wider, cohesive argument. The Labour argument has looked as unswerving as the windsock at Wellington airport.

Like just about everyone but Labour’s caucus management the Green’s can see the problem:

On TV3’s The Nation last weekend, Russel Norman said that voters “don’t want us to carp on all the time, but they do want us to speak strongly where it’s important”. He might easily have been critiquing the Labour party. The approach is all tactics, and no strategy.

And Labour keep repeating the same tactics that have been failing, over and over.

Then Manhire mentioned the ‘C” word. That “C” word.

They need a shake. An adrenaline shot. A risk, even. It’s now seven months since David Cunliffe was sent to the naughty step – expelled from the front bench for failing to squash talk of an insurrection.

Clearly he continues to be seen as a divisive figure, but he’s also shown, even from the backwater of the tax spokesmanship, that he remains a formidable politician.

There’s little doubt that Labour’s most capable politician has been neutered – by his own caucus.

As for the – ahem – optics, the promotion of an MP who had served his time would project strength, evidence of the leader’s vaunted experience in conciliation. To those MPs who continue to feel aggrieved on Cunliffe’s part it would send a message that the infighting must end.

A risk, yes. But a necessary one. Shearer’s elevation to and retention of the leadership has been enabled, so we’re told, by the weight of the Anyone-but-Cunliffe sentiment in the Labour caucus.

Cunliffe’s capabilities should have been used straight after the leadership contest that Shearer won. But Shearer semi banished him.

Then the leadership rumours swirling around last October’s Labour conference led to further banishment of Cunliffe. Shearer’s strategists seemed to think it showed strong leadership, and in the short to some that’s how it looked.

But it further weakened Labour.

And Labour will be furtheer weakened when Liane Dalziel resigns later this year. A caucus struggling for credibility will be less one of it’s most credible MPs.

Less than 18 months out from the election, that Anyone-but-Cunliffe needs rethinking. Anything but carry on like this.

That’s how it probably looks to everyone outside the Labour caucus. But on past evidence Cunliffe will remain neutered. And Labopur will keep repeating the same failed strategies.

Shearer has re-employed Fran Mold – party communications may have been worse since she left a few months ago but they were hardly good when she was last in control. Labour are repeating the same old.

Labour wasted their first post Clark term under Phil Goff.

They have pretty much wasted half of this term under Shearer. And that looks like continuing.

It may take another election loss to jolt them into genuine rebuilding. If they’re lucky.

Labour may blunder into Government after the next election – and as weak as they are now holding together a coalition with Greens and Winston Peters when they can’t work together themselves looks likely to be a disater waiting to happen.

Not just a disaster for the coalition.
Not just a disaster for Parliament.

But also a disaster for Labour. It could be enough to bury the party. Labour’s “C” word may be “carked”.


John Tamihere versus journalists

An attack by John Tamihere on a Herald journalists is getting significant criticism from other journalists, for example Russel Brown @publicaddress::

 Despicable conduct by John Tamihere and his mates. Really, really creepy

@waateanews What the hell are you doing enabling the intimidation of a fellow journalist? #Tamihere

Toby Manhire just added “Thug”.

Of course journos will be a bit disturbed by an attack on a journo’s family. From NZ Herald:

Tamihere’s media challenge

Journalist and family became target in paparazzi-style photos.

roadcaster and Waipareira Trust chief executive John Tamihere has not taken kindly to investigations made by a Fairfax journalist into his personal business dealings, and his retaliation this week has caught the ire of his MediaWorks bosses.

Tamihere was embroiled in legal action in the Auckland High Court last month involving dealings with property developer Brent Ivil and a $500,000 personal loan on his West Auckland home. Justice Pamela Andrews has reserved her decision on the case.

However, the Labour Party hopeful took to RadioLive’s airwaves and website this week to turn the tables on business journalist Matt Nippert.

In a personal statement issued on the MediaWorks website, Tamihere accused Nippert of “spin” and invited him to go head-to-head on his RadioLive show.

“I don’t have a problem being put under scrutiny, but I’d like to know whose agenda is being pushed. I’ve had photographers jump out of the bushes to get shots of me and my family,” Tamihere wrote.

However, any sympathy Tamihere may have courted was quashed when Nippert and his family became his target of attention in paparazzi-style photos.

Three pics were uploaded to the RadioLive website, alongside Tamihere’s statement. They included a secret snap of Nippert, the street he lives on and the house he shares with his wife and young baby.

Tamihere says Nippert has an “infatuation with Waipareira and its business”.

But what business is it of RadioLive, and parent company MediaWorks, to allow one of its radio jocks to use its website and airwaves as his own personal platform?

Nippert didn’t want to comment about Tamihere’s online statement, nor the paparazzi photos, but he told The Diary Tamihere had an opportunity to comment in “the two stories I wrote, but he refused to answer questions”.

Tamihere did not return calls, but a rep for MediaWorks told The Diary the offending material was removed immediately when RadioLive bosses became aware of it.

“The online statement and photos came down as soon as management became aware of them. We don’t condone our hosts settling disputes of a personal nature on air or on our website,” said Rachel Lorimer. New processes ensuring it does not happen again were being examined.

However, Tamihere’s statement and the paparazzi pics remain on the Waipareira Trust’s home page.

That report is by another journo (Rachel Glucina in The Diary) , but it doesn’t sound good from Tamihere. Personal attacks on Journalists and their families is bad enough, but it is also an intimidation on freedom of speech.

There are already suggestions this will quash (or should quash) any chance of Tamihere standing for Labour next election, including from Labour supporters:

Alex Coleman@ShakingStick
Some calls are tough to make, whether Labour should select Tamihere to stand for them again as a candidate is not one of those calls.

On the bright side that should put an end to the John Tamihere Labour Party candidate selection bid.

Tamihere’s return as a Labour Party member was already highly controversial. This won’t help his chances of getting preferential ranking for the next election – or if he does get a good list ranking it will rankle in an already cranky party.

No reason to doubt John Banks telling is the truth

While it may be as difficult to actually prove as births in Honolulu I think we have to accept John Banks’ most frequent claim – there’s really no reason to doubt he didn’t come up the river on a cabbage boat.

Toby Manhire covers this important aspect  in John Banks and the whole cabbage boat saga.

That’s obviously not John Banks, the white dude is far too tall.

 Of cabbages and king hits, self inflicted. But it does divert from the question of 50,000 cabbages. Banks seems intent on being known as the cabbage politician.


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