Little buckles under pressure as he and Twyford keep digging

Andrew Little threw a bit of a hissy fit when Patrick Gower questioned him on “cooked up data”.

Video and a short report from 3 News: Video: Andrew Little snaps over Chinese buyer data questions

The Labour leader took exception to a question that included the phrase “cooked-up data”, telling Mr Gower: “I’m not going to stand here and have a desperate TV3 reporter use inflammatory language on this. Cooked-up, what was cooked-up?!”

Mr Little added: “You don’t understand. You’re making stuff up.”

That’s also very ironic considering the way Phil Twyford followed by Little have made stuff up.

Ad it wasn’t just when the story broke last week. They are both still digging a hole, repeating made up claims that are not supported at all by the data they analysed.

Stuff report: Chinese officials concerned about Labour’s foreign buyer data

Chinese officials have raised concerns with Deputy Prime Minister Bill English about the “tone” of Labour Party data based on foreigners buying property in the overheated Auckland housing market.

There’s a number of reports of concern from Chinese ethnic groups and individials in New Zealand. Damage is still being done, but Labour keeps digging.

Labour’s housing spokesman Phil Twyford said the analysis the party did of the Barfoot and Thompson data predicted the probability of the surnames predicting ethnic origin, and he stood by that.

“And that is it has a high level of accuracy, and the result that we came up with that 39.5 per cent of houses sold during that three month period went to people of Chinese descent.

Rob Salmond claims the surname analysis was about 95% accurate and that’s not being disputed.

“We never ever made the claim, and we made it clear that we did not go and knock on the doors of those individual people and ask them if they were foreign speculators,” Twyford said.

But Labour failed completely to quantify how many buyers might be foreign Chinese, or total foreign buyers. Littl;e said “You’re making stuff up” – that’s what he and Twyford have done.

Twyford also expressed regret that some people in the Chinese community were upset by the debate, but said it was not racist.

“A fact cannot be racist – a fact is a fact. It might make you feel uncomfortable, but we need as a country to be able to have debates about these kinds of things without allegations of racism.”

It’s not the facts that have made people uncomfortable – and angry. It’s the making stuff up on the proportion of overseas Chines buyers that has been a disaster for Labour, as they have been told over and over – but they don’t seem to want to listen.

And it’s the targeting of Chinese and ignoring everyone else, and making excuses for a bit of racial/ethnic damage.

“Yes, I do care, very much,” Little said, when asked if he cared what the Chinese government thought.

But he said the Labour Party could not be constrained about putting information into the public arena because people did not want to upset the Chinese government.

“That’s not the basis on which we conduct debates in New Zealand.”

Labour shouldn’t be trying to conduct debates by making unsubstantiated guesses (if they were even guesses, they way they continue to act on this could be an attempt to divert from deliberately misleading.

Ethnic constituents had also expressed concern to Little about the way the debate had unfolded in some areas.

“We always knew, given the nature of the information, if we released it, that was one not just possible response, but a likely response.”

So Little admits knowing that offending people would be a likely reaction.

He denied that was concern at the Labour Party’s characterisation of the data, or the way the party had conducted the debate.

Asked if he felt bad about people feeling the data was racist, Little said he was “concerned that some people have felt that because of their ethnicity they have somehow been singled out – that does concern me”.

Failing to accept any responsibility, this is worse than the ;sorry if anyone was offended’ apology, because there is no sign of any apologies.

“But then we looked at the information and what it was telling us – the gap between a 9 per cent Chinese ethnic population in Auckland and 40 per cent of the purchasers of Auckland properties over a three month period being of Chinese ethnic descent.

“That was too big of a gap to say ‘we’re too afraid to release this information’.”

It’s a pity they weren’t afraid to make stuff up about the information – they piled unsubstantiated ‘guesses’ in  a classic example of cynical wedge politics, using the New Zealand Chinese community as a scapegoat.

The Auckland market has a major problem  with the impact of non-resident foreign buyers, which the Government was ignoring, Little said.

“We’re not going to [ignore it] – as uncomfortable as it is, and as crude as our information might have been, the conclusion that the non-resident foreign buyer is having a huge impact on the Auckland housing market is real, and people are concerned about it.”

He admits the information was ‘crude’ – it wasn’t the very limited information that was crude, it was the way Labour embellished it substantially, knowing it would be a Chinese bashing that was crude.

All this has been pointed out over and over again to Labour over they last ten days. Often very  explicitly.

So I find it incredible that Twyford and Little are still pushing their divisive drivel.

And now Little has shown sign he is buckling under the pressure he has brought upon himself.  Lashing out at a journalist is just going to make things worse.

Labour have dug themselves deep on this, and now the sides of the hole are caving in on them.

I have no data to base this claim on, but I think that for every day Little and Labour continue to keep digging there will be another year before this is forgotten. If the Labour Party lasts that long.

And it’s hard to see Little becoming Prime Minister on this performance.

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.