Hager response to Soper article

There has been a lot of discussion today about the Barry Soper article in the Herald – Another shadow over Nicky Hager and Jon Stephenson’s book (some things in the article may have changed through the day) – especially over the the photo from Hager’s book


Originally that was shown with the bottles mostly cropped, as i had taken a copy of the original picture here Cartridge challenge to ‘Hit & Run’ claims.

Update: See letter from Hager to the Herald below.

The article also now has a response from Hager:

Nicky Hager responds:

“The book does not claim that those weapon cartridges came from the SAS and indeed in another illustration (on page 49) the authors explain that they are Apache helicopter weapons.

The illustration in the book shows objects collected by the villagers after the raid and the caption refers only to two drink bottles pictured, which the villagers thought were left by snipers. There was no suggestion that the weapon cartridges were from the SAS.

But the photo caption implies by association that if the bottles were left by snipers the cartridges would also have been left by the same sniper/s. I think it is reasonable to assume the two went together.

Hager clarifies that the objects were gathered (are claimed to have been gathered) after the raid with no proof of them being associated with the raid, or any or all of them having been left by the attacking forces – “which the villagers thought were left” is all that is claimed.

I wonder why snipers would leave rubbish like that behind.

If we had been asked before the story was printed, we could have cleared up this misunderstanding.”

This is somewhat ironic given that Hager is renowned for publishing books having made no attempt to seek input from those he makes serious accusations about.

This is pointed out by journalist Martin van Beyen in Can we trust claims by Hager and Stephenson about SAS raid?

Another issue is that Hager’s method is not to seek comment or reaction from the people he is accusing before publishing. There are sometimes good reasons for that but if he worked for a newspaper his stories would not run without the allegations being put to the authorities.

Karl du Fresne also covers this in Let truth and falsehood grapple over the Hager-SAS stink

Hager doesn’t bother with balance. He and co-author Jon Stephenson didn’t approach the Defence Force for its side of the story before publishing Hit and Run.

This is consistent with Hager’s previous modus operandi. I don’t think he gave Cameron Slater a chance to respond to the claims made in Dirty Politics either, or Don Brash when he published The Hollow Men.

Cameron Slater has frequently complained about not being given a chance to put his side of the Dirty story.

Hager would probably argue that the reason he doesn’t approach the subjects of his books is that it would give them an opportunity to obstruct publication, possibly with legal action.

But newspapers take that risk every time they run a potentially damaging story about someone. It doesn’t stop them seeking comment from the people or organisation they’re about to take a whack at.

One thing certainly seems different to how Hager handled the aftermath of Dirty Politics – this time both he and Stephenson are getting involved with a lot of defending and trying to justify what they wrote.

Hager in particular seems sensitive to people making assumptions about debatable and less than solid evidence.

UPDATE: the letter from Hager to the Herald (not sure why Stephen price’s name is in it) that prompted the added response from Hager:

——– Forwarded Message ——–
Subject: complaint against Herald story
Date: Fri, 31 Mar 2017 10:32:42 +1300
From: Nicky Hager
To: Steven Price

Hi Shayne,
I am writing to complain about a story and associated comment by Barry Soper relating to our book Hit and Run. The story says that we were wrong about a type of weapon cartridges pictured in a
photo in the book and that this casts a shadow over the accuracy of the the book.

However the basis for the criticism is something that the story says is suggested and inferred by the book when neither of these is what we actually said in the book. It was just someone jumping to conclusions on the basis of an illustration caption. We have been advised there are grounds for a complaint to the press council, however we would much rather sort this out by you adding a comment to the story there and then a follow up story that presents our position on these claims.

Can you please add the following words near the top of the current news story and Barry Soper may like to amend his opinion piece accordingly?

“The book does not claim that those weapon cartridges came from the SAS and indeed in another illustration (on page 49) the authors explain that they are Apache helicopter weapons. The illustration in the book shows objects collected by the villagers after the raid and the caption refers only to two drink bottles pictured, which the villagers thought were left by snipers. There was no suggestion that the weapon cartridges were from the SAS. If we had been asked before the story was printed, we could have cleared up this misunderstanding.”

Then a follow up story could present the same points.

The obvious thing to do was to check the story with us, which was after all based on assumption, not anything we wrote in the book. The story says that a reporter tried unsuccessfully to contact Jon Stephenson, but they could have contacted me. Also, the point I make here is obvious and so even without contacting us should have made a reporter wonder whether the story was correct.

We have no problem with critical comment about the book, of course, but it needs to be based on accurate information and be balanced and fair.

best wishes,


I’m kind of gobsmacked by this from Hager. He is demanding a different standard regarding rights of reply than he gives people he writes about in his books – he gives them no chance of any fact checking or contesting prior to publishing, and arranges his launch PR to give him a considerable advantage over his targets.

And balance is absent – in his latest book as past books he has a fairly strong agenda against one side of the story.

English favourite but not confirmed

Last night Patrick Gower called English as the next Prime Minister, citing a ‘senior MP’ claiming 45 MPs backed English.

I’m very sceptical about this – anonymous sources with vested interests in leadership contests, trying to push a majority five days before the caucus vote takes place, shoukld be viewed with extreme caution.

Yesterday afternoon:

Ok, no mucking around, Paddy Gower will name the new Prime Minister tonight on live at 6.

And Gower went full bore on his big scoop of 45 for English. Matthew Hooton has just called this ‘a big lie’.

RNZ is more factual and feet on the ground in Bill English appears front-runner in National leadership contest:

So far 14 MPs, including Mr Key, have publicly declared they are putting their weight behind the finance minister for the top job.

That’s about half what English needs – but there is no guarantee they will all stick with that public position.

National Party MPs will meet at Parliament on Monday to vote for a new leader and deputy.

It’s a secret vote.

Barry Soper remembers some history involving English in Support for English could easily become daggers of defeat:

Ironically it came when they were doing the numbers after his disastrous election defeat of 2002 when the dapper doctor Don Brash was sharpening his knife the following year.

Holmesy asked me if English was a dead man walking and I said no, more like a twitching corpse. Within minutes the phone was ringing and the invective flowed. When the torrent eased, he was told the numbers for him holding on to the leadership were stacked against him, but for a man who is obviously good with numbers, he insisted they weren’t telling him the same thing.

Later that day Don Brash was installed as leader and Bill English rightly felt cheated, he’d been lied to by some of his colleagues, and gave serious thought to calling it a day and going back to the farm.

The point is, those running for a political job determined by their colleagues can never know for sure of the support they’ve got until the scrutineers do the count, and even more so if the winner’s in the position to determine their future, like a Prime Minister contemplating his Cabinet.

More than half of National’s caucus are looking for favours, they haven’t had the call up for Cabinet and they’ll be sounding out the candidate who can offer them the most.

So it’s not a done deal until the votes are counted next Monday.

English is the front runner for sure, but there’s time for back bench discontent to grow, especially away from Parliament over the weekend.

There could be a backlash over what looks like a jack up – English as Prime Minister, Paula Bennett as deputy and Steven Joyce as Finance Minister looks like a small cabal at the top of National manipulating the leadership.

While they would probably be a competent rearrangement of the same old minus Key it is hardly a fresh new look.

And Brexit/.Trump – there is growing discontent with the political establishment in other parts of the world. Is there any chance of rebellion in the National caucus?

Parliament impeding social reform

An advantage of MMP and it’s moderating effect on policies can turn into a disadvantage when it comes to social reforms that have a lot of popular public support. There are several current reform issues that our Members of Parliament (our representatives) are very reluctant to deal with.

Barry Soper points out that Parliament the problem stopping social reform.

The problem with Parliament and social reform is that is that it’s wrested in the hands of too few people. And there’s a lot of reform itching to get out of the political starting blocks.

Cannabis law reform’s one area that’s unlikely to see the light of day with the current crop.

Labour’s Andrew Little appeared recently to warm to the idea in an interview with student radio but then appeared to back track when it made it on to the mainstream media platform indicating it wasn’t a priority.

There’s no way it’s going to be a starter with John Key who’s vehemently opposed and his associate health spokesman Peter Dunne’s not disposed either.

That’s perhaps unfair to Dunne who seems intent on pushing things as far as he can within the current laws (especially with medicinal cannabis) that National seem to have no intention of allowing and relaxation.

Parliament is at least listening on euthanasia, but whether this will lead to taking a serious look at reform is yet to be seen.

In the meantime people, like the desperately ill former trade union leader Helen Kelly, puffs away on black market weed while the cops rightly turn a blind eye.

And while they’re puffing their way to a less painful death, the politicians are at the moment hearing submissions on whether the desperately ill should be allowed to end it all through assisted suicide.

The death last year of Wellington lawyer Lecretia Seales who was suffering from brain cancer, just after a High Court denied her plea for an assisted death because it was a matter for Parliament to decide, wasn’t in vain.

An inquiry into euthanasia’s underway but don’t hold your breath that it’ll lead to change, again because the power wrests in the hands of too few.

Even though John Key supported the last Parliamentary ballot on the issue 13 years ago, which was lost by just two votes, he’s not willing to promote a Government bill on the topic to allow MPs to exercise their consciences.

Labour’s on the same side with Little instructing one of his MP’s voluntary euthanasia bill to be dropped musing it was about “choosing the controversies that are best for us at this point in time.”

So the two major parties are not willing to step up on considering social reform that is very important to many people.

Now it would seem the only hope for those who want the right to die with dignity, at a time of their own choosing, is ACT’s David Seymour’s bill which is sitting gathering dust, waiting to be drawn from a ballot, which of course may never happen.

The terminally ill would argue it’s not a question of when they die, it’s how they die. But at the moment those who have the power to possibly make it easier for them have other more important issues, like the plain packaging of cigarettes, to deal with.

And whether airports have to advertise lost property in newspapers or not. That was a National MP’s bill drawn from the Members’ ballot while Seymour’s somewhat more important Dying With Dignity bill gets nowhere.

Social reform can be very contentious but there needs to be a better way of a dealing with important social issues without them being swept under the parliamentary carpet by gutless, self interested politicians.

It doesn’t mean social reforms will happen, that should depend on proper inquiry and majority public approval, but they should at least be given a decent chance.

Mateparae to be High Commissioner?

Current Governor General Jerry Mateparae is tipped to be appointed as New Zealand’s next High Commissioner in London, replacing Lockwood Smith.

Barry Soper at Newstalk ZB:

Exclusive: Sir Jerry Mateparae expected to be named as next High Commissioner to London

The Government is expected to appoint the Governor General Sir Jerry Mateparae as our next High Commissioner to London.

Newstalk ZB understands talks have been held with Sir Jerry about the job and he’s expressed an interest.

That’s fairly non-definitive language but presumably Soper has a good source for naming Mateparae for the role.

Sir Jerry was a popular choice from across the political spectrum when he was announced as Governor-General back in 2011.

The 61-year-old has expressed an interest in doing something after leaving Government House in August after a five-year term, and John Key says this is an opportunity to take the London role out of the political arena where incumbents have been drawn from in the past.

The current incumbent, former speaker Sir Lockwood Smith’s term finishes in London later this year.

Did Winston Peters know about this? If so his swipe at David Carter over the role could be seen as somewhat devious.

The timing of this leak is likely to have been prompted by Peters’ grandstanding.

Key on The Edge, or over it

There’s been a lot of criticism of John Key performing on radio at The Edge.

Key endears himself to many with his ordinary blokishness. But he sometimes goes over the edge, as he seems to have allowing himself to be drawn into ponytail banter and what is alleged to be joking about prison rape.

Claire Trevett: John Key’s good-sport shtick becomes uncomfortable

Prime Minister John Key’s good bloke routine has worked for him for seven years straight, helping foster the image of him as a good egg, a bit of a joker, a good sport.

Key has made his informal interview slots on commercial radio a major part of his media strategy. Politically, it is is a good tactic. Commercial radio reaches people who don’t give a poop about the more serious side of politics. Key knows that and plays to his audience accordingly.

The problem is his audience inevitably ends up being a lot wider than the one he originally plays to. It gets on social media and news sites.

It is usually harmless fun, however much his opponents might bridle at it. Some of us have even egged him on in such antics.

But he has a startling tendency to go overboard. He can not even blame the hosts who come up with the ludicrous things they get him to do. He’s been in the game seven years and has the choice of saying “no”.

He presumably says no to doing some media related stuff.

His end-of-year slots this year were a case in point. The first was only embarrassing, mainly for him. Confronted at The Edge by a lineup of women with ponytails and told he had a choice of pulling a ponytail or singing All I Want for Christmas, the only real option was the latter. The second on The Rock was more marginal. Asked to get into a cage with comedian Tom Furniss, the danger signs should have been flashing.

Just as Caesar thrice refused the crown, Key resisted requests to get into the cage three times. But then he caved. Once in the cage, the ‘drop the soap’ jokes came out and Key played along, analysing the soap.

Key may have been oblivious to the prison rape references and crude Deliverancequote involved. But no Prime Minister should put himself in a cage, let alone one that ends up with jokes about prison rape.

Not a good look for Key – or a good sound bite.

Barry Soper: Has John Key gone a step too far?

Does John Key go a step too far?

All he needs for Christmas is a good break and perhaps a bit of time to reflect on how he can avoid putting himself into cringe making situations.

But then again his unusual antics don’t appear to have done him any harm, so perhaps that’s what he’ll be reflecting on!

Key runs the risk of eeaching a tipping point where significant numbers of people (voters) start to turn off his more edgy performances.



Futile protection of the victim of Craig allegations

Cameron Slater and ‘Whale Oil Media’ have made a futile point of not naming the victim of Colin Craig’s alleged sexual harassment in EXCLUSIVE: THE POEM COLIN CRAIG DOESN’T WANT YOU TO SEE.

Editor’s note: comments on this article will be moderated carefully.  Remember that we are dealing with an innocent victim which WhaleOil Media will not be naming.

This was also attempted in the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story but is just as futile.

It was very clear who the story refers to, and other media have inevitably named the victim.

The Whale Oil article refers to:

“a former staff member”

“relied on one element of the claim, a series of unpaid invoices or a dispute in relation to the employee’s hourly rate”

“the staffer”

I’m not aware of there being more than one former employee or staffer of the Conservative Party. And the staffer I know of left in sudden and controversial circumstances:

Conservative Party Press Secretary Resignation

The Conservative Party is given to understand that this morning Press Secretary, Miss Rachel Macgregor resigned althought no formal advice of this has yet been received.

The Party expresses its gratitude for all the hard work and effort that she has put in to the campaign. “The campaign puts stress on everyone and Miss Macgregor has been party of a wonderful team that have given 110%” says Colin Craig.

That was two days before last year’s election. Craig was apparently advised of the resignation by media.

NZ Herald reported Colin Craig’s press secretary quits, reportedly calls him a ‘manipulative man’.

When questioned by media this morning Mr Craig said he did not know Rachel MacGregor had left her job, Newstalk ZB reported.

He told reporters he thought she was having a day off when she failed to turn up for work this morning and said he would talk to her this afternoon.

Ms MacGregor told Newstalk ZB she had left the party as of this morning. Newstalk ZB’s political editor Barry Soper, who broke the news, said she was very upset and had described Mr Craig as a “manipulative man”.


“Colin Craig does campaign on being this wholesome, out-there sort of a bloke, that’s all encompassing, that really is the sort of person we should be looking up to,” Soper said this morning.

“Now if he can’t get his own house in order in terms of staff in the Conservative Party then you’ve got to ask questions.

“It’s really difficult to read too much into it given that there’s simply a very upset press secretary without giving any reasons why she resigned, so it’s really out there. She’s taking public relations advice now, and I don’t think we’ve heard the last of this story.”

He admitted news of her resignation had come as a surprise to him. “This morning she said she wasn’t going to go with me to the interviews, I haven’t had a conversation with her yet [about her resignation] so I’ll find out.”

He continued to insist she was simply taking the day off, saying: “I’ve had a number of staff who’ve had rest days in this last week”.

But pushed on her resignation, said: “I hope that she’ll un-resign, of course, because of the great work that’s gone on, but until I have a conversation with her I’m not going to pre-judge what the concerns that she might have are.”

They also reported on a Q & A held that same day.

While he didn’t directly respond to questions about why Rachel MacGregor quit as his press secretary this morning, he did answer one which asked: “Do the ethics you profess extend to your own behaviour with your own staff?”

Mr Craig responded: “Indeed.”

Another asked him: “How the hell don’t you know a staff member quit? Colin please.”

Mr Craig replied: “I was in media interviews for about 2 hours straight. The resignation occurred during that time. Haven’t developed mind reading skills yet.”

However, he avoided such questions as, “What part of your manipulative behaviour was your secretary referring to?”

Barry Soper broke that story and was one of the first journalists after Slater to discuss yesterday’s revelations, saying:

um you know like Cameron said they’re pretty well known to those of us who are involved in politics.So ah it came as no surprise really.

And this morning NZ Herald makes it clear who the likely victim is.

Press aide’s resignation one of issues facing Craig

The circumstances surrounding former Conservative Party press secretary Rachel MacGregor’s resignation are a factor behind Colin Craig’s decision to stand down as leader, board member Christine Rankin says.

Mrs Rankin said there were a range of issues behind Mr Craig’s decision, and Mr Craig’s and Ms MacGregor’s falling-out was one of them.

“Of course it’s an issue for the party,” Mrs Rankin told the Weekend Herald.

Ms MacGregor made a surprise resignation from the party two days before the September election, accusing Mr Craig of being manipulative. At the time, Mr Craig denied any mistreatment of his press secretary.

Both Mr Craig and Ms MacGregor said they could not comment. The pair are thought to have reached an agreement over their dispute.

It would appear that that agreement may have been broken wide open by these revelations. Slater has referred to a l$100,000 or more settlement:

Slater: …he has settled with a former staff member a large sum of money, I’m told it runs into six figures, and this is for allegations of sexual harassment and the complaint was actually laid with the Human Rights Commission.

Williams: What do you know about this settlement? I take it it was a confidentiality agreement?

Slater: Well i don’t know the exact number and a number of other people who are my sources can’t disclose the exact number but everybody says it’s six figures. Now you don’t do six figure sums for settlement of employment matters which is what Colin Craig told the board, and he also told the board a substantially lower amount of money as well.

I think it would be unusual to have a settlement of that size without a confidentiality agreement, something Slater didn’t rule out.

Slater must have been aware that revealing what he has risked a backlash if an agreement had been broken. And it would almost certainly have attracted significant media interest.

And in this case it is so obvious who the victim must be that “an innocent victim which WhaleOil Media will not be naming” is a futile attempt – almost certainly a knowingly futile attempt – to make it appear as if they value the protection of the victim’s identity.

Soper on the Craig harassment allegations

Following Larry William’s interview of Cameron Slater on Newstalk ZB – Slater on the Craig harassment allegations – he interviewed Barry Soper, who corroborated Slater’s allegations and said that Craig is finished politically.

Williams: Barry Soper our political editor has been listening to that. All right Barry, you interviewed Mr Craig last night and you put those allegations to him didn’t you.

Soper: Yes I did Larry, and essentially he talked around them and wouldn’t address the actual allegations but um you know like Cameron said they’re pretty well known to those of us who are involved in politics.So ah it came as no surprise really.

No surprise? And it hasn’t been reported until now?

Soper: I guess what happened today, um, I did though expect him to turn up at the board meeting but there was so much dissatisfaction with him that ah he would have been rolled if he didn’t go.

And um the very notion that he may come back as a leader is ridiculous even though he’s poured several million dollars into this party.

It’ll be interesting to see now, I mean there’s been talk about this money being a loan from Colin Craig. Well I think he’d find that very hard now to argue.

Um it’s a very sorry saga ah from the start to the finish and um really ah Colin Craig I’m sure, and I’ve talked to him like you have Larry on a number of occasions, he’ll be hanging his head in shame at the moment, because this is the last thing that anyone ah involved in politics wants to come out.

Williams: Now does this effectively kill the Conservative Party off?

Soper: That’s the big question. Now as I understand it the person who was his biggest supporter in the leadership of the Conservative Party was Christine Rankin. She’s very upset and disappointed by this. And as I understand it she won’t be sticking around, ah so she was something of the glue that held them all together ah through what was a terrible situation.

Ah whether they can survive, I guess you know my view is there’s a possibility of survival because they have that Christian element…

That Craig kept downplaying.

… and there’s always a Christian vote out there and I think even though Colin Craig sort of put that to one side he, i think he in a way collared that vote to an extent.

Um and it’s rather sad because you’ve seen other Christian leaders in the past fall by the wayside like Colin Craig.

Um you know um whether it can survive I think probably yes it will but certainly Colin Craig will not be at the head of the party.

So the death knell for Craig in politics.

The Conservative Party is likely to survive in some form but that 5% threshold looks a high hurdle to reach now. They will have to do a lot more fundraising – it’s hard to see Craig pouring so much cash into it – and will somehow have to overcome a major falling from grace of another conservative political leader.

Audio from Newstalk ZB: Slater, Soper: Allegations against Colin Craig

See previous interview: Slater on the Craig harassment allegations

Brendan Horan versus Winston Peters and Barry Soper

It was reported yesterday in NZ Herald that police had received fresh complaints against Brendan Horan regarding his mother’s estate.

Independent MP Brendan Horan says another complaint about him to police is “fantastic” as it gives him another chance to clear his name.

NewsTalk ZB this afternoon reported Police had received a complaint from Mr Horan’s brother Mana Ormsby that the former NZ First MP had inappropriately taken funds from his dying mother’s bank accounts.

Police earlier this month confirmed they were assessing a similar complaint from Mr Horan’s former boss NZ First Leader Winston Peters which was referred to them by the Serious Fraud Office .

This afternoon Mr Horan told the Herald he had not heard from Police today or in the two weeks since news of the initial complaint broke.

He said he would welcome the chance to speak with them if they chose to investigate the latest complaint.

Horan has also commented on Twitter, which resulted in an exchange with Barry Soper from Newstalk ZB.

Horan: I’ve been in my Mt Maunganui office all day and have not heard all from the Police about a new complaint. I welcome any investigation ASAP because another investigation will serve to clear my name yet again.

Soper: Who “cleared” you the “first” time?

Horan: The forensic investigation

Soper: Well that’ll come as a surprise to everyone associated with this case, with perhaps one exception: You!

Horan: I feel sorry for you Barry. Have a nice day.
Time for @barrysoper to put the audio online because he didn’t ask for comment and he didn’t ask any questions.

Soper: Why would I run audio of you hanging up on me?

Horan also suggested:

The reality is my speech Wednesday hit too close to the bone for a certain someone. Here’s the link http://inthehouse.co.nz/node/22718

The transcript of that speech is here: Brendan Horan blasts NZ First

Going by the Newstalk ZB report ( that attributes Soper)…

Police are looking into whether they will investigate Brendan Horan over a complaint laid by his brother.

They say they’re assessing a referral from the Serious Fraud Office, which will dictate whether there is an investigation.

At the moment, no official investigation has been launched.

It’s understood the former New Zealand First MP’s brother has made a complaint over money allegedly missing from his late mother’s bank account.

An earlier complaint was made by Winston Peters to the Serious Fraud Office who handed it on to the police.

Police confirm they are currently assessing the complaints to establish any criminality.

…the timing could be coincidental if it has just been referred to police by the Serious Fraud Office, who shouldn’t be influenced by Parliamentary speeches. I don’t think the SFO are likely to jump if Winston Peters prods them.

But Newstalk ZB is not entirely clear about the current complaint, whether it is via the SFO or from Horan’s brother.

Nevertheless, the Twitter exchange between Soper and Horan is curious.

Sir Bruce Ferguson’s distaste for scrutiny and Key

Remarkable comments from Sir Bruce Ferguson via Barry Soper’s political report:

One person who found it hard to disguise his distaste of his former
political boss is the super spy who served under the State Homie for his
first two years in office.

Sir Bruce Ferguson told me he’s sick of public servants being slam
dunked by politicians, knowing they have no right of reply. Now that
he’s retired, he’s exercising it saying Key had little interest in the
GCSB, in fact he was disinterested unlike his predecessor Head Girl
Helen who crossed every T and ticked every i, right down to giving him
marks out of ten for his reports and even writing on one that he could
do better.

But Sir Bruce says there are many politicians that make you feel like
washing your hand after shaking theirs. He was asked whether than
included the current PM and he said he respected the office but stopped
short of saying the same for the man.


Ouch indeed, seems like someone’s pride is hurting. It’s remarkable for an ex spy chief to be so outspoken.

But this further highlights how much Ferguson is upset at the current scrutiny of the GCSB – which of course involves scrutiny of his directorship there.

And it’s not hard to see how much Ferguson favours Helen Clark (who selected him to head the CSB in 2006) and either loathes or fears JohnKey.