Twyford, NZ Herald, TV3 and Chinese surnames

On Thursday Cameron Slater made serious accusations of collusion of media with Labour, even story creation, against Herald on Sunday and The Nation/Mediaworks inSOMEONE ISN’T TELLING THE TRUTH AND MY PICK IS IT IS PHIL TWYFORD.

It’s quite a long (edited here) story.

Yesterday, before the ratbag agent was outed, I hypothesised that the whole story about housing in Auckland was a Dirty Media/Dirty Politics stitch up.

Firstly that the agent in question, Grant Hargrave, has denied handing any data to the Labour party, or speaking with anyone in the Labour party. He even says he doesn’t know them.

The newspaper who kicked this all off wrote:

Mr Hargrave said he did not want to be interviewed on this issue. “I very much would rather not talk about it, I’m sorry.”

But he did say that he had no idea how Labour had obtained the information he was sacked for passing on.

“I don’t know them. I don’t know the Labour people. I honestly just don’t know (how the party got it).”

So who did give the data to Labour then?

If you go back to the newspaper’s first story on the issue they said at the time:

The Weekend Herald has seen the leaked sales figures data and reviewed Labour’s methodology. The party updated its figures based on our feedback. We were not able to redo the analysis independently, as it relied on data sets such as the electoral rolls database, which is only available to political parties.

So, we know that the Herald worked with Labour before publishing the story which is surely against all journalistic ethics. When I say worked, they closely shared information and refined the data together.

We also know too that The Nation was heavily involved, because they prepped a show and arranged people to appear on it like Phil Twyford before the story was even run. That must include producer Tim Watkin.

Slater posted more commentary and quotes, heading towards:

Right now the focus should be on NZ Herald staff, in particular Anne Gibson, and staff on The Nation programme including Tim Watkin who is the producer.

They have a problem, because both outlets have shilled this data and had prepared in advance and worked with the Labour party on this data in order to get a comprehensive media uptake of the story.

And:

We have statements from Peter Thompson, denials from Grant Hargrave and contradictory statements from Phil Twyford.

All this means is that the data was laundered, by persons unknown, so far.

Hargraves handed over the data to media. The focus is now on Anne Gibson and Tim Watkin to explain how it was that they came to work with the Labour party when the leaker of the data says he never gave it to them and it was only supplied to media.

Phil Twyford has made many media statements now and they simply don’t hold water. I think it is safe to assume that he is lying about the involvement he claims about a whistleblower.

We also know that Labour data man Rob Salmond extensively worked on this data. So Labour’s involvement seems to be well after the fact and well after media got their hands on the data.

What is interesting too is the snippets of info I have gleaned today from other media sources, one of which told me that David Fisher was gloating, along with several of his fellow Herald staff members about “his” big real estate and housing story coming up. This was several weeks ago. So we know that the Herald has been working on this now for more than two weeks, possibly more.

To the final accusations:

What we have here now is the nub of the real story. That the Herald and The Nation got hold of some data, they knew that data was illegally obtained and would breach privacy laws. They needed clean hands and so they fed the data to Labour, then worked on it with them (self admitted) and then ran the story contemporaneously across their networks, all with Phil Twyford claiming that they were the source of the data all along.

We now know those claims are false and that Phil Twyford is lying at worst, or being economical with the truth at best.

What is more alarming now, given what has transpired and we have found out, is that the NZ Herald, in collusion with The Nation and the Labour party have laundered stolen data to give it a “public interest” wash, and removed themselves from the original crime of obtaining the data all to run a political hit job on the government.

There is a name for this, Nicky Hager coined it, it is Dirty Politics. It is also combined with my phrase Dirty Media.

Slater often tries to spread the Dirty tag around. To an extent it’s a fair point to make.

There simply is no other explanation for events.

Media contacts must have fed this to Labour in order to sanitise the data and give them clean hands, but the ham-fisted manner in which it begun, clearly with a trail that IT experts were able to quickly follow and then with Phil Twyford machinations have led to this unpacking on them all.

You have the largest print outlet seemingly involved in manufacturing a political story, working hand in glove with a political party and another media outlet, Mediaworks (The Nation) involved as well.

These are serious accusations against NZ Herald and Mediaworks and The Nation. They usually try their best to ignore Slater.

However Bill Ralston picked up on it on Twitter, asking questions.

Interesting ethical questions being raised about and giving the leaked housing data to @PhilTwyford

Ethical mainly although legal is also a possibility but seems nicked data is fair game.

Actually we can settle this quick. did you or Tim Watkin give the Asian housing data to ?

The Nation and producer Tim Watkin responded:

Oh that all. Not even going to honour that with a click, but FYI the data came from Labour to us

Yes we can. No. And it’s bloody insulting to suggest I’d favour a party.

Thanks for your speedy reply. Just asking the question and looking for the facts.

Sure. But you know I’d have to sack myself if so. & why think WO knows anything?

It would be unethical (& dumb) for journos to leak data to a party & dress it as its data

It seemed an astounding post and deserved your strong denial.

Mate, if I had that data, why would I give away the scoop?!

Ralston put the question to the Herald again:

Thanks for that. So did you give the data to ?

I can’t find any response from anyone from the Herald.

But Labour’s surname cruncher and data analyst Rob Salmond added:

Labour had data first & passed to both and . WO 100% wrong. Who knew, right?

While the way the Herald in particular handled the story remains questionable, depending on their degree of cooperation with Twyford/Labour, the puzzle remains about how the data got to Labour and from whom.

Twyford made it clear on a number of occasions that he dealt directly with a leaker – he describes them as a whistleblower.

Radio NZ reported in ‘Whistleblower’ sacking unsurprising – lawyer:

Housing spokesperson Phil Twyford said the individual he worked with wanted to shine a light on a very real issue.

“The whistleblower came to me out of a sense of public interest.

“The person’s motivation was that they see a massive presence of off-shore speculators snapping up New Zealand’s homes and pushing up house prices higher and higher.”

Employment lawyer Peter Cullen said the staff member was not a whistleblower, and was justifiably sacked.

NZ Herald in Property data leak: Barfoot & Thompson staffer fired:

In a statement which did not confirm whether the fired staffer was his source, Mr Twyford said: “The whistleblower who I worked with wanted to shine a light on what is a very real issue for New Zealand – foreign investment pushing up house prices and shutting people who live here out of the property market.”

He said he had not revealed his source’s name to other Labour colleagues or staff, including leader Andrew Little. “I’m not going to reveal the identity or even speculate about the identity of the person or the firm from which the information was obtained.”

“I think the whistle-blower I dealt with did Aucklanders a favour and put this information into the domain out of a sense of public duty. I think Aucklanders owe that person a debt of gratitude.”

Under the Protected Disclosures Act, there is protection for “whistle blower” employees but it only applies in limited circumstances. It applies where an employee reveals serious wrongdoing such as corruption, conduct that poses a risk to health and safety, criminal activities or gross negligence by public officials.

But the person sacked by Barfoot and Thompson says he had not contact at all with anyone from Labour.

But he did say that he had no idea how Labour had obtained the information he was sacked for passing on.

“I don’t know them. I don’t know the Labour people. I honestly just don’t know (how the party got it).”

There’s a number of possibilities including:

  • Hargrave is lying.
  • Twyford is lying.
  • There is another leaker from Barfoot and Thompson who either had direct access to the data like Hargrave, or who received the data from Hargrave, and they passed it on to Twyford.

But:

Labour’s housing spokesman Phil Twyford, who released leaked real estate figures to the Herald, said Barfoot’s decision was “extremely disappointing”.

Why would Twyford be ‘extremely disappointed’ if he had had no contact with Hargrave. Unless perhaps he knew Hargrave had passed the data to his ‘whistleblower’.

And Twyford thinks his source/sources should be protected as if he was a journalist:

Labour’s housing spokesman Phil Twyford would not discuss the source, claiming the same confidentiality claimed by journalists. “I can’t in good conscience say anything about my sources or any of my contacts with the source and I intend to protect that confidence as you would as a journalist,” he said.

But:

University of Canterbury journalism lecturer Tara Ross said politicians did not have the same liberties in relation to confidentiality as journalists.

She said journalists answered to their audiences while politicians were vying for government. “There are plenty of occasions where material comes through an electorate MP in the first instance. It’s an important relationship.

“But it’s a difficult relationship on the basis they are a party political animal.”

And with doubt about the source of the data and how many hands it passed through it also makes dfata verification difficult:

Auckland university’s Professor Thomas Lumley – who has blogged about Labour’s analysis at statschat.org.nz – said the steps between the source of the information and the analysis raised questions about the data used.

“If there is a chain of people, you have to wonder if the numbers Labour analysed are the same numbers [that were] leaked. There’s no evidence its different but you can’t tell it’s the same.”

All this to show statistically that 39.5% of one real estate company’s sales for one three month period in one city sound Chinese.

And it started a massive debate on far more than foreign property purchases.

It’s hard to know what will come right first, the Auckland property market or Labour’s data analysis credibility or racial integrity.

Leave a comment

8 Comments

  1. BUCK WIT

     /  19th July 2015

    i am backing WO on this one

    Reply
  2. Alan Wilkinson

     /  19th July 2015

    The first mystery is why Hargreaves leaked it. I’m very skeptical of the public interest answer and inclined to look for a commercial reason. He was a commercial property agent and I would first look for an angle in that field. If we found the answer to that it would probably point to the first recipient and then a politically motivated individual who pushed it on.

    Reply
    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  19th July 2015

      The kind of reason I could believe is that he was trying to use it to motivate a potential client or swing a sale. Then someone connected with that client saw an opportunity to further a political angle.

      Reply
      • kittycatkin

         /  19th July 2015

        Ohhhh…lightbulb moment. Hemay have told someone that there might be business opportunities for them because of the number of Chinese etc. But if they’re all people living here anyway, that wouldn’t make any difference to anyone, so-if you’re right, and there’s a good chance that this is the explanation-he’s lost his job and gained nothing. But as he leaked the information, which he must have known was against the company rules, he would have been sacked anyway, even if it hadn’t been used-if he’d been found out, regardless of what the motivation was,personal or political. What a fool.

        Reply
  3. Mike C

     /  19th July 2015

    Despite my own personal issues with Slaters honesty and credibility over the past few years … I am happy to put my money on Phil Twyford being the big fat liar 🙂

    Reply
  4. SteveRemmington

     /  20th July 2015

    He did originally mention political figures but has now ruled out the Labour Party. Perhaps someone within Lying Lens circle at the Council.

    Reply

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