Exposing dirty politics – and journalists?

No Right Turn has a post about his ongoing attempts to extract details of communications between John Key and Rachel Glucina over the ponytail saga.

This raises important issues about whether politicians’ interactions with journalists should be private or not.

Exposing dirty politics

Back in April it was revealed that Prime Minister John Key had systematically and repeatedly assaulted and sexually harassed a cafe waitress (while his police bodyguards stood around and did nothing). Shortly afterwards, dirty politics operative and sewer-columnist Rachel Glucina ran a smear-job on the victim.

When he was asked under the OIA whether he had had any communications with her about it, Key refused to respond. That refusal was one of the worst I’ve ever seen, and so naturally enough the requester took it to the Ombudsman. On Wednesday we learned that the Ombudsman was investigating the refusal. Key response to this has been to stand by his stonewalling, citing a “long-standing view” and a “convention” that his interactions with the media shouldn’t be released. The problem? None of that is in the law.

The OIA specifies a number of conclusive and non-conclusive reasons for withholding official information – and the Prime Minister having a “long-standing view” that he should be above the law isn’t one of them. And the grounds he does cite – “privacy” (his own) and “confidentiality” (offered for his own convenience) – are simply not applicable.

If the system works as it should, Key should be forced to reveal whatever information he holds (subject to legitimate redactions for privacy – things like names and phone numbers, not whether he or his minions talked to a journalist).

As for the supposed consequences, I’m perfectly comfortable with them. As I noted earlier, if Key is so ashamed of his contact with Rachel Glucina that he is blatantly ignoring the law to avoid admitting it, maybe he shouldn’t have contacted her in the first place. And if the threat of exposure deters him from making such contacts in future, then that would a victory for the OIA.

[Disclosure: I’m a party to this complaint, having complained about the refusal of my request for information regarding the existence of information]

I’m not so comfortable with the potential consequences.

Should any communications between any MP and any journalist be obtainable for publication under the Official Information Act?

While the OIA may not specifically address journalist/politician confidentiality other laws do.

The free exchange of communications between politicians and the press is a crucial part of an effectively functioning democracy.

If a blogger could successfully demand that any such communications be made public I think there will be many politicians and journalists very uneasy.

Idiot Savant wants to score a hit against Key here. Terms like “systematically and repeatedly assaulted and sexually harassed” and “dirty politics operative and sewer-columnist” suggest they are not particularly balanced on this issue.

While I have concerns about how Glucina handled the Amanda Bailey story I have greater concerns about the implications of opening up all politician/journalist communications to public scrutiny.

Especially when it appears there is a growing desire to attack and punish journalists and media who are deemed to be politicaly biased by some political activists and Winston Peters and Andrew Little.

I wonder how Peters and Little would like all their comminications with journalists open to public scrutiny?

Note: No Right Turn doesn’t allow comments but this has been reposted at The Standard so there will be comments on it here: NRT: Exposing dirty politics

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19 Comments

  1. Alan Wilkinson

     /  22nd August 2015

    This is the same sort of crap that reckons all politicians’ phone calls are public property. No. Politicians are not bureaucrats, even when they are being Ministers of the Crown. It is their job to create policies, not merely implement them, and for exactly the same reasons that international treaty negotiations cannot be successfully performed in public neither can politicians’ legitimate discussions and interactions with voters, journalists and their own and opposition party members.

    The advocates for nonsense are talking b.s. as their own politicians should be the first to tell them, but won’t be since any attack on the Government no matter how unfounded is grist to their mill in their deluded perception. The ordinary voter has a lot more sense than the beltway egotists.

    Reply
  2. jamie

     /  22nd August 2015

    I don’t know about “all communications” but I think we should know about any relationships between journalists and politicians, whether personal, business, family, social or whatever, then we can better judge for ourselves the quality of both the journalism and the politics.

    Reply
    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  22nd August 2015

      Rubbish. If you can’t tell the quality of a journalist or politician from what they say and do then certainly “knowing about their relationship” won’t help you.

      Reply
      • jamie

         /  22nd August 2015

        So if I were to say to you “x-brand of soap is my favourite soap and it cleans better than any other I’ve tried”, you would treat that information exactly the same as if I had said “x-brand soap, made by my company x-products, is my favourite soap and it cleans better than any other I’ve tried”.

        I don’t believe you would. And if you did, I wouldn’t want you doing my shopping.

        Reply
      • How I treated it would depend entirely on what I thought of you, not on the difference between the statements. And there is vanishingly little chance of my doing your shopping!

        Reply
        • kittycatkin

           /  22nd August 2015

          If I was doing your shopping, I’d buy what you said was your favourite soap,of course. The info would be irrelevant, as I’d be buying it for you, not me. This is a silly hypothesis !!! I like Sunsilk shampoo, and I’d expect you to buy that for me, even if you thought it was terrible and

          Reply
          • kittycatkin

             /  22nd August 2015

            you never use it.

            It would depend upon whether you were trying to sell the soap or just say how much you like it.

            Reply
            • jamie

               /  23rd August 2015

              I think you are unnecessarily focused on the (attempted) joke at the end of the analogy 🙂 Your final sentence is more to the point, which is that if you don’t know I own the company, you will never know whether I’m selling soap or just telling you about it.

            • kittycatkin

               /  23rd August 2015

              I agree; anyone who didn’t know would think that John Key had repeatedly and publicly bailed up an unlucky waitress and subjected her to indecent assaults and disgusting demands.

        • jamie

           /  23rd August 2015

          Alan, “what I think of you” is not some innate sense of your being with which I was born. It is based on the information I can access about you. Imagining that you were a journalist, your relationships with the people you are telling me about is an important part of that information. If you were to keep your conflicts of interest secret, you would be denying me information on which to base my “what I think about you”.

          Reply
          • Alan Wilkinson

             /  23rd August 2015

            Nope. If I know your character I will know what weight to give your opinion irrespective of whether you own the company or not. It seems to be news to you that people who own companies span the same range of integrities as others while probably having greater average competence.

            Reply
  3. Budgieboy

     /  22nd August 2015

    Politician speaks to media, on the record, off the record, discretely, in discretely, asks for a favour, gives them a serve…so what???

    Where’s the news here???

    All of the above has been going on since time immormorial – whoop de chook – who cares?

    Happens everywhere all the time… been happening long since before John Key got here and will be happening long after he’s gone.

    Reply
    • kittycatkin

       /  22nd August 2015

      I don’t believe that John Key spoke to Rachel Glucina, either discreetly or indiscreetly. He’s not that stupid or naive. He’s the Prime Minister, and would have learned to be discreet a long time ago.

      Reply
  4. Then Idiot Savant puts in an OIA demanding that all Helen Clarks and heather Simpsons phone calls to journos are outed then i will take this seriously.

    Its all reached the level of mania…….

    Reply
  5. kittycatkin

     /  22nd August 2015

    No Right Turn is so grossly distorting the facts that their views on these are worthless. The ponytail thing is stale news, and has been for a long time. Rachel Glucina did an interview with Amanda Bailey who must have known that it was one. I doubt if John Key set this up.

    Anyone who seriously believes that John Key systematically assaulted and sexually harassed a waitress while his police bodyguards stood by and did nothing is either batty or has never known anyone who has really been assaulted and sexually harassed. It’s an insult to real victims of this sort of abuse.

    Reply
  6. traveller

     /  22nd August 2015

    This is the man who does his best to persuade anyone who’ll listen that dirty politics is limited to the right – so if that is his baseline he’s quite the deluded commentator.

    “The institutional Left centred in the Labour Party may gossip about their rivals across the aisle and backstab each other in factional disputes, but even then there are limits to where they will go in the pursuit of “winning.”

    ” In contrast, Left activist groups may sputter about “direct action,” hold demonstrations and on occasion undertake animal liberations or environmental defense by climbing into trees or blocking trains, but they do not systematically attempt to uncover dirty laundry in order to smear, blackmail or undermine opponents within and outside their partisan ranks.

    He blithely dismisses the left’s politics as innocuous and chummy in comparison to the right and anyone who describes ponytailgate as “…systematically and repeatedly assault(ing) and sexually harassed a cafe waitress” is barking mad or partisan to the core.

    As he takes gross exaggeration and framing language to suit one’s agenda to quite another level I have never been able to take him seriously as a voice on the left worth listening to.

    http://www.kiwipolitico.com/2014/08/why-thrown-in-the-towel-a-brief-response-to-trotters-cynicism/

    Reply
    • kittycatkin

       /  23rd August 2015

      Sorry, I gave a thumbs down by mistake. I agree-the man’s a raving loony. Either that or he’s lived a very sheltered life somewhere where tweaking a ponytail is considered to be an indecent assault and sexual harassment.

      Reply

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