Bitterness under the bus

Nicky guided a big bus over Whale Oil in 2014, and John key and National walked away. Cameron Slater is still bitter in a big way.

Slater used to promote politics done as dirty as possible, and tried to drive a few buses over others – most notably Len Brown immediately after the 2013 mayoral election, trying to upset a democratic result, and also Colin Craig in 2015. Slater seemed to revel in doing maximum damage and seem to care nothing about destroying reputations and careers both as a game and as a mercenary.

But he is not so keen when on the receiving end – the Whale has been wailing every since Nicky Hager bussed him, and since he was left in the dust by National.

His bitterness has been apparent in the recent election campaign, wishing disaster on National and on Bill English and National MPs and staff.

And he still holds a bus sized grudge over John Key deserting him.

Yesterday he posted: No hard feelings John, but no one gives a stuff what you think anymore

That’s kind of ironic, given how many stuffs are given to what Slater thinks now.

John Key’s phone must have stopped ringing, so he’s decided to come out and offer up his advice for coalition negotiations.

Key was opening of a new Trading Room at the Business School at the University of Canterbury and was asked. He didn’t write multiple blog posts every day.

What a dickhead. He saw this coming and bolted for the door that’s how much he cared about the situation. Now he has the temerity to offer up his opinion.

Piss off. He quit, that means STFU.

No it doesn’t, it means he is free to do and say what he likes.

We don’t care anymore what he thinks. What an attention seeking effwit…phone stopped ringing eh John?

No hard feelings, eh?

Sounds very much like projection of Slater’s on situation . He seems to hate that his phone stopped ringing three years ago, and still holds a grudge.

Comments and ticks were carefully scathing of Slater.

Christie’s comment was strongly supported:

He was opening the new Business School at Canterbury University. His comments were made probably in response to a journalist asking if he was in touch with Bill English. My belief is that he resigned when he did for the reasons he stated – particularly when there was another election coming up.

Bill English’s family have been treated with some respect by the media, but John Key’s kids were always fair game. Perhaps he felt – like many of us did – that a local rapper, being paid public money, writing a song about raping his daughter was a bit too much for him. Who could blame him? I don’t blame him for resigning – I just wish he hadn’t.

George Carter’s too:

Whether it was part of a speech or in a response to a journalist his point is fairly light and non intrusive. We’ve heard far more from other ex-PM’s and MP’s so i’m not sure why you’re so dismissive of his comments.

SpanishBride joined the wailing in response:

Probably because when John Key threw him under the bus after we were hacked and our private e-mails turned into a book for profit by Nicky Hager after working with the criminal Rawshark, John Key sent a message to him saying “No hard feelings.”

I suspect she misinterprets what “no hard feelings” meant there.

Wanarunna sort of supported the post:

Quite understand Cam’s reaction here. People don’t have to agree with it, and I don’t, but hey, this is Cam’s blog where Cam says what Cam thinks. Sometimes when I read comments on this blog I get the impression that some people think that Cam speaks for the Whaleoil Community (if there is such a thing), and if he says something they don’t agree with, then somehow he has it wrong. No, he’s just seeing things from his perspective, not yours.

A response to that resulted in a thinly veiled threat from Slater…

WhaleOilNoHardFeelings

…but those two responses have now disappeared.

Such is the thin skin and censorship at Whale Oil. Slater has obviously got hard feelings after three years of being belted by a bus, and shows a lack of hardness when the political booting is from the other foot.

His attacks on Key and English and National are petty and largely impotent.

Slater claimed that National without his support would tank, and he predicted them polling in the thirties. One of the more notable outcomes of the election was how well National’s support held up in the mid forties, unprecedented in attempting to win a fourth term.

They seem to be managing quite well without Slater’s dirty politics.

Whale Oil survives as a popular niche blog, but not as a political player of any importance.

Sellman, Swinburn, Bradbrook v Slater, Graham, Rich

Stuff: Whale Oil blogger, former MP, and PR specialist could face jury

Blogger Cameron Slater, Food and Grocery Council head Katherine Rich and PR specialist Carrick Graham have failed in a bid to get a defamation claim thrown out of court.

The case was brought by public health professionals Dr Doug Sellman, Dr Boyd Swinburn and Shane Bradbrook, who alleged they had been defamed in a series of blog posts on Slater’s Whale Oil blog, and comments Graham allegedly left on the posts.

They also alleged Graham had organised the posts’ publication and authored one of them himself, and Rich – a former National MP – and the New Zealand Food and Grocery Council had paid Graham for his services.

The case was prompted by allegations made in Nicky Hager’s 2014 book Dirty Politics.

In a decision released this week, the High Court at Auckland declined the defendants’ bid to have the case struck out.

They had argued the case was filed too late as it was brought more than two years after the first publication of the statements.

However, Justice Matthew Palmer said as the statements were still available on Slater’s blog, they had, in effect, been published multiple times.

This is an interesting and important ruling.

[40] In relation to defamation proceedings Parliament reconfirmed in 2010 that a standard limitation period of two years is appropriate – less than for other claims. That reflects a policy that a person who has been defamed ought to take legal steps to vindicate his or her rights relatively quickly after the defamation has been published, or after he or she reasonably becomes aware of its publication. That may be two years after a blog is first posted. But if the blog is still up on the web, and the publisher cannot show the post has not been accessed in the past two years, I see no reason why a defamed person should not be able to sue for the continuing publication of a blog in order to vindicate their reputation. Accordingly, I consider the multiple publication rule is the law in New Zealand.

So a blog post is an ongoing publication. This must surely also apply to news items posted online by media, as well as tweets and comments in social media like in Facebook.

The judge also found that what Slater claims is ‘colourful language’ is potentially defamatory.

[85] Third, I consider the terms “trougher”, “rorter” and “ripping off”. Where these terms are used in the statements complained of here, the plaintiffs plead that, in its natural and ordinary meaning, the statement means and has been understood to mean, that the relevant plaintiff “has misused public funds”, “has misappropriated public funds”, and “has used public funds for his own benefit, to ‘enrich’ his own life and not in the public interest”. The defendants offer more innocuous meanings, as noted above.

[86] I consider an ordinary reasonable person would understand references to “troughing” and “troughers” to have connotations going beyond the meaning of being funded publicly. The same is true of “rort” and “rorter” and “ripping off”. I consider the ordinary reasonable person, with the attributes identified by Blanchard J, would infer those terms to carry a pejorative connotation of wrongdoing in the use of funding; being, in some sense, morally or legally illegitimate.

[87] These terms do not take their meanings only from the tone or adjectives that
qualify them. And their meanings are not altered by, or an ordinary part of, a context of the robust political debate. The dictionary definitions suggest “rorter” and “rip-off” may have a more fraudulent connotation than “trougher”. Rort, for example, can support a meaning of fraudulent or dishonest. For each, a derogatory meaning is part and parcel of the ordinary meaning of these terms in New Zealand. That seems likely to be why they were used. The reader is likely to think worse of their subject, in a more than minor way.

I think that has often seemed to be the intent of whoever writes and posts at Whale Oil.

[89] The terms “trougher”, “rort” and “rip-off” are capable of bearing the meanings alleged by the plaintiffs here, in the specific passages identified in the annex. Whether they are, here, is a question for trial.

So the applications to strike out were denied.

Result
[125] I decline the applications to strike-out the causes of action except in relation to the pleaded meanings identified in the table annexed to this judgment.

[126] I am inclined to let costs lie where they fall, since each party has had a measure of success.

[127] Because this proceeding could be the subject of a jury trial, and it is important the jury’s minds not be prejudiced, as the parties requested, the contents of the allegations in pleadings should not be publicly reported. The contents of the allegations are largely contained in the table annexed to this judgment.

So another defamation trial looks likely for Slater, this time accompanied by Graham and Rich.

The full judgment: https://www.courtsofnz.govt.nz/cases/sellman-ors-v-slater-ors/@@images/fileDecision?r=352.466892743

More from Newsroom: Whaleoil, ex MP, PR man to face jury trial

It will be interesting to see whether a Court accepts claims that Whale Oil has been used to attack people for payment, as claimed by Nicky Hager in ‘Dirty Politics’.

However it may not be ready to go to trial yet.

[123] Prior to the hearing I had directed the parties to propose further timetabling directions for the substantive hearing. The defendants indicated they would seek a stay pending the outcome of any appeal of this judgment, if the strike-out applications were declined. The plaintiffs indicated they would press for their proposed timetable to be ordered.

This is just one of a number of cases considering the use of Whale Oil as an attack blog.

Whale Oil was integral to the defamation case between Jordan Williams and Colin Craig. This initially resulted in a record jury award against Craig, but that was quashed by the trial judge and a retrial may be forthcoming.

Slater is also waiting for the judgment in the related defamation cases between him and Craig.

There is another case involving Slater and Whale Oil that is presumably ongoing. A judgment in July:

[2] Mr Slater has applied to strike out Mr Blomfield’s proceeding on grounds of delay. Mr Blomfield applies for further discovery, on an “unless” basis. Both applications are opposed. Mr Blomfield contends that the delay in prosecuting his claim to hearing has largely been caused by Mr Slater’s own actions.

This case has taken a long time.

[26] The primary reason why the case has taken so long to get to trial is the need to resolve an important question of law about whether s 68(1) of the Evidence Act 2006 (protection of journalists’ sources) applied to a blogger such as Mr Slater. That question was first addressed by the District Court in a judgment given on 26 September 2013 by Judge Blackie It was the subject of Asher J’s judgment on appeal. Subsequently, Mr Slater applied for leave to appeal to the Court of Appeal. An application to adduce further evidence was dismissed on 19 November 2015. Ultimately, on 17 May 2016, the substantive application for leave to appeal was abandoned.

[27] In the meantime, there were also contempt applications brought by Mr Blomfield in respect of alleged breaches of an undertaking by Mr Slater not to publish certain material relevant to the proceeding. Those applications were dealt with in two judgments given by Asher J on 10 February and 18 February 2016.

Slater’s application to strike out the proceeding was also struck out.

Judgment: https://forms.justice.govt.nz/search/Documents/pdf/jdo/d4/alfresco/service/api/node/content/workspace/SpacesStore/1f0d30c0-f211-43f2-840a-00b90faf848d/1f0d30c0-f211-43f2-840a-00b90faf848d.pdf

In yet another legal action involving  Slater and Whale Oil and also Carrick Graham to attack people: Lawyer Jeanne Denham who tried to destroy ex-husband Peter Clague’s career suspended

Denham was found guilty of misconduct earlier this year over her decision to pursue a private prosecution of Clague for assault which the judge called an “abuse of process”.

She also conducted an elaborate PR campaign against both her ex-husband and Kristin School, with the assistance of controversial PR man Carrick Graham and blogger Cameron Slater.

From NEW ZEALAND LAWYERS AND CONVEYANCERS DISCIPLINARY TRIBUNAL

[8] Ms Denham engaged the services of a public relations consultant, Mr Carrick
Graham, who in turn provided press releases which were approved by Ms Denham, to the blogger Cameron Slater for the “Whaleoil” blog.

[9] Having equivocated and (she acknowledged in evidence before us) being concerned about the harm she was likely to do to her former husband, his reputation and the reputation of his employer Kristin School, Ms Denham determined in any event she ought to proceed with the media strategy.

[10] On 18 October 2012 she filed a complaint with the police regarding the alleged assault on 10 September 2010. The timing of this complaint was that it shortly followed the response (and opposition) by Mr Clague to her relationship property claim. Some six days after this complaint the first blog post on Whaleoil appeared stating that the head of Kristin School was being questioned by police regarding a
charge of male assaults female.

[11] The blog also named the Chair of the Kristin School Board of Governors and stated that the school had known about the allegations and done nothing.

[12] On 25 October 2012 Ms Denham texted Mr Graham saying “Carrick – Cameron’s blog is starting to generate interest in the Kristin community. It’ll spread like wildfire now!” Two minutes later the response from Mr Graham read “Excellent. We’ll talk more tomorrow about what else we can run on there!”

Many more details followed, including:

(6) That Ms Denham was paying a public relations agent and in turn a blogger (Cameron Slater) to publicise what would otherwise be private matters (at least until aired in Court), is a clear indicator that “justice for a crime committed” would not appear to be the dominant purpose. In examination about Mr Slater’s involvement in her payment to him, both in the District Court criminal trial and before the Tribunal, her evidence was evasive and unsatisfactory. Furthermore she misled the Tribunal in her affidavit dated 30 November 2016 where she stated “I did not have any editorial input into the Whaleoil postings and did not have any real understanding of who “Cameron” was at the time or the true nature of his Whaleoil blog”. Emails to Carrick Graham in late October 2012, in which she seems to have a clear view that her reputation might be tarnished by a connection with Mr Slater, and in which she certainly refers to editorial input to the press releases, if not the blog itself, discredit this assertion.

And from

[74] For example, at paragraphs [31-33] when discussing the Whaleoil blog that referred to “the fool” avoiding “a whole world of pain and trouble (not to mention public attention) by settling the issue when they separated”. His Honour commented at [32]:

“[32] It is difficult to interpret this as anything other than a blatant attempt to
apply pressure to the defendant to settle the complainant’s relationship property
claim, given the timing of the posting, with the affidavits in reply on that claim
due, given the complainant’s acknowledgement that she was aware of the
material which was going up on the Whale Oil site and given that she was
paying Mr Slater for his services.

[33] The complainant denied any input into these postings but against the
overall background as I have set it out I find that impossible to accept.”

Of course the defamation case between Sellman, Swinburn, Bradbrook and Slater, Graham, Rich is yet to be decided, but the latest judgment has found that it should not be struck out and should be tested in court.

Slater must have confidence in his defence, posts attacking those taking this case against him using some of the language detailed by the judge are still published on Whale Oil.

Blog responses to CB poll

It’s interesting to see blog responses to polls. With some it depends very much on the results.

Last night a Colmar Brunton poll showed a significant swing for National and against Labour.

Whale Oil tends to be slow reacting to news, especially news they don’t like. So far they have only one post on the poll, and it’s bizarre – Face of the Day:

Meet Gary Morgan.  The Man At The Top at Roy Morgan Research.  He may be, in the end, the most powerful influencer of how this election turned out.

That on it’s own is an odd claim.

Well, I think he should hide in his office for the day.  Even though I have no doubt there has not been anything shady going on, the end result is that the widely swinging poll, and specifically its timing, is hugely damaging to the Labour party.

That has to be the shoddiest bit of polling yet.   It wouldn’t surprise me if the left will accuse Roy Morgan of deliberately screwing with the election in favour of National.

The shoddiness is in the post.

That’s last night’s Colmar Brunton poll. Roy Morgan has nothing to do with it.

And it is dirty and devious to use ‘the left’ to imply a deliberately screwed poll.

Has ‘Whaleoil Staff’ really got confused between Roy Morgan and Colmar Brunton? Or is it deliberate confusion to attack the pollsters and the poll result?

Meanwhile The Standard is usually very quick to have posts on Labour friendly polls, but as is common last night’s poll has not appeared anywhere apart from in last night’s Daily Review 20/09/2017.

Instead Anthony Robins continues his posts attacking National:

Is NZ doomed to lying politics now?

Bill English and the Nats are now running firmly on a platform of lies – Gower calls them on this for a second time this week. Should the political left get down in the gutter too? Is NZ doomed to lying politics now?

Sounds defeatist.

Nats “discovered poverty last week” – and will forget it just as quickly

Ardern’s jab that English “discovered poverty last week” was the line of the debate. After the election National will forget it again just as quickly, if the record of the last nine years is anything to go by. Do you want to vote for that?

Why do Labour supporters put so much effort into attacking National at The Standard when they have a largely left wing audience.

The Standard (resident trolls and moderators) actively try to drive away anyone judged to be a National supporter. Even those in the centre, or non-aligned, or deemed to be not left enough get attacked and banned.

So they are hardly going to swing many votes away from National by attacking them.

And there is a stark contrast between Jacinda Ardern’s ‘relentlessly positive’ and The Standard’s ‘relentlessly negative’.

Note that there are some positive Green posts at The Standard these days but Green supporters are prominent in their negative attacks.

Blogs hard out on attack

Political blogs tend to cater for their own audiences much of the time, but in an election campaign tend to put a lot of effort into attacking the other lot. That’s certainly evident at this stage of the campaign.

Kiwiblog is run by David Farrar, who has close associations with National. He can be critical of National and praise other parties, but is mostly posting praise of national and attacks on others. Posts over the last day:

Farrar should be considering displaying an authorisation statement under the Electoral Act, something The Standard displays as a precaution. Recent posts there:

For some time the Standard posts have been promoting the Greens and attacking National, and have recently rediscovered their Labourness joining the Ardern adoration club.

Whale Oil has been noticeably anti-National and pro-Winston for months, but recently has been spreading attention across the spectrum, attacking Ardern and Labour, the Greens, TOP – pretty much anyone but NZ First.

The Daily Blog is a mess of messages. Authors are out in force trying to promote their favourite issues.

John Minto doesn’t see much hope in Who to vote for?

Voting involves a moral choice.

In a capitalist economy you either vote with capitalism’s winners or with the losers. With those who have used the system to enrich themselves at the expense of others or those forced to struggle at the margins.

After this election the new government will be dominated by either National or Labour – not the dramatic choice it should be because Labour brought only a tentative, watery policy mix to the election and capitulated on tax before the first vote was cast.

Labour by itself won’t make a significant difference. Ardern has addressed the desperate social situations of child poverty and homelessness with the usual hand wringing rather than policies.

Labour talks values but these are useless without policies to give them meaning.

The best hope for a half-way decent, policy-driven, progressive government comes with a strong Green Party in coalition with Labour.

Greens are the only option this election for left wing revolutionaries.

Anyone voting National this election has a personal moral deficit.

Trying to attract voters by shaming them? Negative political attack is the fall back option for political activists, and that is evident across the blogs.

Slater implications on Peters Super leak

Cameron Slater continues to make vague accusations and implications about who leaked information about Winston Peters’ superannuation overpayments, claiming to know who leaked but also saying he is unable to say who it was. Given his changing claims in reaction to news it sounds most likely to be bluster and bull.

But yesterday Slater went further with another implication, this time of his source of information.

He posted So, if it wasn’t IRD then who was the leaker

If not IRD then who?

I’ll bet MSD has the same result. That then leaves Anne Tolley, Paula Bennett, Wayne Eagleson and several staffers on the hook. If it wasn’t the civil servants then it has to be one of that lot.

That sounds like spraying around accusations without having any idea who leaked.

It isn’t that anonymous…everyone knows who did it.

If ‘everyone’ includes Slater, if he knows who did it, why is he spreading the mud around so much?

They might be able to hide behind the OIA but they won’t be able to hide behind court discovery. National are just being cute. They leaked it and that will come out. If it wasn’t IRD or MSD then it can only be ministers or ministerial staff.

Back to vague again.

As is happening more often at Whale Oil, Slater was challenged on this in comments.

WhaleOilIRDLeak

So Slater has made vague insinuations against a number of people, claims ‘everyone knows’ who did it, and then says “you don’t know what I know’.

That all sounds very lame.

Not so lame is the implication by Slater that a source of information for him on the leak is Winston Peters’ lawyer, who also represented Slater in his defamation case against Colin Craig.

Slater has often claimed to be hard up, has often asked on Whale Oil for donations to help him pay for legal expenses, has often said how expensive defamation cases are…but that’s another story.

Slater has also been pimping for Peters and for NZ First for months, and has been throwing mud at the National and Bill English and various National Ministers and MPs…but that’s largely another story too.

What is of particular interest here is that Slater has implied that Peters’ lawyer may be providing Slater “what I know” about the Super leak.

Stuff on August 28: Winston Peters has investigators working on who leaked info about his pension overpayment

NZ First leader Winston Peters says he won’t stand by and let someone get away with “blatant dirty politics” after information about his superannuation overpayment was leaked.

“Someone decided they would break the law and leak it in a political way and some of those tweets and other comments point to knowledge out there that it was malicious and politically dirty,” Peters told media following a candidates meeting in Northland on Monday night.

Peters said he had investigators working on uncovering the leak and would let the public know who it was – “I’ve got my deep suspicions”.

Peters had also implied that a number of culprits were responsible for the leak, starting with IRD according to RNZ but that has now been ruled out.

There is no indication here that Peters’ lawyer is involved in the investigation. I think it would be extraordinary that he would give details to Slater at all, and especially knowing how loose with his fingers Slater is on Whale Oil.

Would Peters himself pass on information to Slater? I think that’s doubtful too.

Peters has a history of spraying around accusations, claiming to know who is responsible for things, claiming to have facts, but often failing to front up with any evidence.

In that regard Slater is very much the same. I don’t think his implication to fact ratio is very high. He is high on dirt and innuendo, and low on credibility.

I doubt that any lawyer will appreciate being name dropped by Slater trying to sound credible.

I think it’s most likely that Slater is guessing, he has no real idea who leaked, but he is trying to sound like he’s in the know to defend his accusations to readers who challenge him on “making accusations here based on nothing substantive”.

If the leaker is revealed then both Peters and Slater will probably claim to have been right – given the number of accusation’s they make the chances are one of their targets could be close to the mark.

 

Another questionable poll

There are many very questionable polls run online. There is no way of knowing how inaccurate or slanted or rigged they are.

Here is some strong and generally justified criticism of some polling two election campaigns ago.

Colin Craig and his dodgy polling, Ctd

Colin Craig is at it again, using dodgy polling to justify his own agenda.

…That all sounds interesting until, yet again, it turns out that it is not a representative sample and there is a margin of error of 6.9%.

Colin’s strategy is flawed.

Here is another flawed polling strategy.

POLL: Will National get your 2017 Party Vote?

Whaleoil is running a  regular poll to see where those who supported National during the 2014 election are likely to go this year.   We aim to detect any shifts throughout the year leading up to September.

If you did not vote for National in 2014, and you do intend to do so for 2017, then this poll isn’t for you.  We are looking to measure the “restlessness” among 2014 National supporters.

But it is a self selecting poll there is no control over who responds to the poll, so no way of knowing who respondents voted for in 2014.

Normally running political polls on partisan blogs is pointless.

Not just normally.

Asking our audience who they will vote for and assuming that is a fair representation of the nation would be beyond stupid.

But in this case Whaleoil is somewhat representative of the most committed and interested in politics that normally would support the centre right of politics.

There’s no way of knowing that with any accuracy.

As such, measuring a shift in our audience will be significant as an indicator of what National supporters are considering at large.

A rough indicator at best. The poll:

WOPoll

A decent number of responses. The poll results:

WOPollResult

Oddly the number of responses has dropped by a about 20%. Results from all polls this year:

Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug A Aug B Sep
Other 5 5 4 5 5 4 3 3 3
WILL vote National again 53 55 48 52 57 55 68 76 78
MIGHT vote National again 23 21 20 17 15 16 13 8 7
WON’T vote National again 19 19 28 26 23 25 16 13 12

This was from a 1900+ voter sample*.  The voters are Whaleoil readers.

It isn’t a sample. “A sample survey is a process for collecting data on a sample of observations which are selected from the population of interest using a probability-based sampledesign. In sample surveys, certain methods are often used to improve the precision and control the costs of survey data collection.”

It is self selecting  survey with no way of knowing anything about the quality of those who responded.

Based on this non-scientific but strongly indicative Whaleoil poll, National will get 39-41% of the party vote in September, depending on the proportion of wasted votes being distributed from parties such as TOP and the Conservatives which will not make it to parliament.

It isn’t strongly indicative, it is roughly indicative at best. There is no indication what the assertion “National will get 39-41% of the party vote in September” is based on.

Even if the survey could have limited respondents to people who voted for National in 2014 this only tries to measure the number of people who intend to vote National again, or who intend to not vote National.

It has deliberately tried to exclude anyone who voted Conservatives, ACT, UF, NZ First, Labour, Greens or the Internet Party last election and who may now be considering switching to National.

It tries to exclude people who could have voted last election but didn’t. It tries to exclude first time voters.

It may (or may not) be a coincidence that for months Cameron Slater has been claiming that National support will drop and they are likely to go as low as the thirties, and that is what this suspect poll analysis somehow arrives at.

The survey and the analysis/assertions should be taken with a big bucket of salt. It could be as shonky as Craig’s self promoting polls last campaign.

Winston Oil irony

At Winston Oil on today’s Face of the Day:

WOIrony

Slater has been going hard out over the last few days making serious accusations and claims but providing no evidence. Just like his new best buddy politician, Winston Peters.

If Slater or Peters had any evidence backing their claims they would produce it, wouldn’t they?

Peters didn’t produce any evidence of his claim the leak came from IRD, and he changed  his accusations as the emerging story changed,.

The Whale Oilers are not playing ‘Yay Winston!’ ball, Slater is getting challenged often, and he is losing the uptick battle by a long margin.

Questions over ‘no surprises’ policy

Audrey Young writes Peters’ case highlights an abuse of the ‘no surprises’ policy

No story with Winston Peters at the centre of it was ever going to be a one-day wonder.

And it just got a whole lot more serious.

There are disturbing and unanswered questions about his superannuation overpayment, whether you think he is the victim of a media beat-up, or are not willing to accept his assurance it was an error without proof.

The Government is now at the centre of the controversy after an admission by Social Development Minister Anne Tolley to the Herald.

She said she was told on August 15 by an official about MSD’s private meeting with Peters and what the subject of the meeting was – well after the meeting, well after he had paid back the money.

She was technically told under the “no surprises” policy, in which the public service chiefs and SOE boards forewarn ministers of issues that could suddenly become news and which will require their response. The “and” is important.

The fact that Tolley is unwilling to discuss the issue any further because it is a private matter is evidence enough that she should not have been told in the first place.

It is an abuse of the no-surprises policy. No minister should have been privy to that sort of information any more than the Health Minister should receive reports on any hip replacement operation Peters might have.

If Tolley had no expectation of receiving such information, she should say so publicly and conclude that the ministry’s decision was a misjudgment.

If she doesn’t, it is safe to assume that she and ministers have created an expectation they should get information like that.

This on it’s own is an important issue.

But, especially with Peters on the warpath, there are possible serious repercussions in the short term.

What Tolley did with the information is not yet clear, nor how far up the chain it went and whether National’s black ops guys are back in business.

But the very fact it was fed to the Beehive will cause suspicion by Peters that National leaked the information to discredit him.

It was obvious that some suspicion would fall on National. So if someone in National is responsible for the leak it would have been very stupid – stupid isn’t uncommon when politics gets dirty.

If National are found to be responsible, or even just widely perceived to have probably been involved, it could be very damaging for their election chances, and for their chances of negotiating a coalition with Winston Peters.

Other possibilities shouldn’t be ruled out. Because it was predictable that National would be implicated they could have been set up here.

I don’t think Winston has has embarrassed himself.

Who would do that? Who has been gunning for National and English for months?

Yesterday morning on Whale Oil Face of the Day:

But what you have here is one of Bill English’s failed hit jobs.  Leaked via Tolley, the NZ Herald has tried to make it stick.

Don’t you love election time?

Oh, and it’s not dirty politics if they don’t use blogs.

That’s an accusation yesterday that it was “leaked via Tolley”. Even if it was someone seems to have leaked that information to Whale Oil. They could just have easily leaked straight to Whale Oil.

And being unable to resist bragging Whale oil has more today: “The Herald can reveal” something Whaleoil published yesterday

It was leaked to “the media” days after it was “leaked to Whaleoil”.   We sat on it for the weekend, but first thing Monday morning, we wrote…

…what I have quoted above.

And as we know about the New Zealand Herald, first they will take the leak and make it a story and then they make the leaker a story.  Two stories for the price of one, especially when the first hit fails.  Winston ends up being the victim here instead of the villain.

God what a bunch of amateurs on the 9th floor.  Especially Eagleson.  You’d think he’d have learned a thing or two back in the day.   It seems not.

Now they are all running for cover and doing Sgt Shultz impressions.  And you know what I always say:  It’s not the original offence, it’s the cover-up that gets you.   

Anne Tolley will have been told she’ll be looked after if things get too bad.   You see, it’s never the likes of Eagleson or English that will go down for this.  Releasing private MSD information on a political opponent is a career ending move.  And Tolley was told to do it.

Whenever John Key phoned he always made sure that I was to know that if Wayne called me that he was for all intents and purposes the same as Key… He would say “When Wayne speaks he speaks for me”.

So now Tolley has been told to hang in there.  She’ll be ok.  Just  look how that worked out for Jason Ede and Todd Barclay.

She has this morning to throw Eagleson under the bus and save her career.   Doubt she will have the smarts to do it.

Bill English is causing a lot of stress inside National.  As I predicted he is effing up the unlosable election and loyalty becomes paper-thin once people feel their own jobs are on the line.

If I knew about this before the Herald did, just think about how unhappy the people around Bill must be.

Of course, I decided to sit on it for a bit.   No point helping Bill out.  He’s too busy working his way into opposition.  Attacking Winston Peters like this has all but assured a Labour/NZ First government.

And I say this without a trace of smugness or satisfaction:  you all didn’t believe me.  You thought it was personal.  I told you Bill English is exactly what you are seeing now.  He was the wrong man for the job.   And I will not vote for National while he is in charge of it.   The man is not capable of being a party leader.

His real problem is that he’s lost the confidence of his team.  I knew days before the Herald knew.  And the Herald was leaked to as well.   These are the hallmarks of a power structure crumbling and falling to dust.

Whale Oil claims it was leaked to them first and they did nothing with it. That seems out of character going by past attention seeking.

They could be right, they could have been informed before anyone else, did nothing about it and waited to let it all turn to custard, then claim bragging rights afterwards.

If so then National deserves to be dumped in disgrace.

But at this stage I would prefer to keep an open mind on who is responsible.

What is most credible?

That National would blatantly abuse privacy in a political hit job knowing the spotlight would be on them, and knowing there was a huge political risk?

Or that Whale Oil would bring down the Government they have openly been trying to undermine and destroy for years – pretty much since National cut Cameron Slater loose after Dirty Politics broke during the last election campaign.

Slater has been noticeably out of the political loop for a long time, but suddenly he claims to know everything that has happened and everyone responsible.

That flashes some warning lights to me. he has a habit of throwing around incriminating and false claims.

There’s certainly dirty politics going on here. What’s not so clear is who is actually responsible.

There is a lot to clear up here. One that could do with clarification – Tolley is MSD. Peters claims that the leak came from IRD.

Hager on the impact of ‘Dirty Politics’

It’s three years since Nicky Hager launched his ‘Dirty Politics’ book. He looks back on what it exposed and what the effects of it have been.

The Spinoff:  Sunlight did what sunlight does: Nicky Hager on Dirty Politics, three years on

Dirty Politics landed like a bombshell in the NZ election campaign of 2014. It may not have affected that outcome, but that was never the ambition. It has, however, made a big impact on our politics, argues Nicky Hager

Three long years ago, during the last election campaign, the book Dirty Politics revealed a political dirty tricks campaign being run out of John Key’s Beehive office. It was an ugly operation, jarringly contradicting the friendly, BBQ-guy image cultivated by Key. If you don’t know the details, it is still well worth reading the whole grubby story.

He must have a bit of stock left. Most people have moved on. The only person who keeps banging on about it is Cameron Slater.

Quite a lot of people wondered at the time whether the book might change the outcome of the election. It didn’t and some concluded that the book had had no effect. But my aims were different.

It’s hard to believe that timed a few weeks out from an election there were hopes of an impact – if not from Hager, there were certainly hopes on the left that it would be a game changer. It did nothing to make David Cunliffe electable.

The book has had an effect far beyond what I could reasonably have hoped for.

Here is my assessment of what has changed as a result and what hasn’t.

Exposing and considerably closing down the dirty tricks campaign

Before the book, the dirty politics brigade was having a huge influence over New Zealand politics. Personal attacks were cooked up in the prime minister’s office and elsewhere, drafted into nasty, drip-fed blog posts and sent out into the world through two National Party-aligned blogs: Whale Oil and Kiwiblog. An embarrassing number of journalists reprinted these attacks and came to use the bloggers, Cameron Slater and David Farrar, as regular sources for tip offs and news. The journalists were aware that the bloggers had close links to John Key and his government, and this further enhanced their status and influence.

There was some nasty stuff going on, mainly centred on Whale Oil but with the complicity of the Prime Minister’s office and mainstream media.

The most important effect of the book is that this dirty tricks campaign was exposed and largely stopped. The dirty tricks coordinator in John Key’s office, Jason Ede, was hastily removed from his job and has never been seen again. There is hardly a single journalist left who would take stories off the dirty politics bloggers. Cameron Slater and the Whale Oil blog still exist, but they have shrunk back to the margins of politics.

That particular source of dirty politics has been severely curtailed, but there’s still quite a bit of more subtle dirt mongering. The people and aims of the Todd Barclay issue still have a mucky look, aided and abetted by some media.

Revealing the attack machine to its other countless victims

Numerous people have been attacked over the years by the Whale Oil or Kiwiblog sites: politicians, journalists, academics, a public servant handing out political leaflets in his lunch hour, almost anyone doing something effective on the left side of politics. Some attacks were to help the National Party; some were commercial operations attacking private people on behalf of undeclared paying clients. The important thing that has changed is that now these people know what was going on.

Quite a few people new quite a bit about what was going on. While there were grubby details in ‘Dirty Politics’ there wasn’t a lot overall that surprised me. A lot of it was blatantly obvious.

Hager confronted it and forced change – in particular he forced Key’s office to tidy up their act and he forced the media to be more responsible too .

By understanding the game, people have been able to fight back. On page 95 of the book Dirty Politics, for instance, there is mention of an attack job done for money by Cameron Slater and his PR industry collaborator Carrick Graham against a school principal who was in a matrimonial dispute.

The person who paid Slater and Graham for the attacks was a lawyer and she has since been taken to a legal tribunal for improper behaviour. Just this month the tribunal decision was published, revealing the whole operation. It makes interesting reading.

The dirt at Whale Oil was much wider than the Prime Ministers office. The above case, recently revealed through a court decision, was not political at all, it was a presumably privately funded domestic smear job.

Revealing corporate smears for cash operations

The book revealed that one of Slater and Graham’s most lucrative freelance attack campaigns targeted public health professionals – on behalf, apparently, of unlovely corporate clients such as the tobacco industry. The public health professionals were trying to save people’s lives from tobacco, alcohol and obesity harms. The attacks seem to have been an effort to protect profits from these meddlers.

Even after these activities were exposed in the book, Graham and Slater appeared to continue the attacks. Eventually some of the health professionals took action. In June last year they launched defamation action against Slater and Graham

I presume this action is still progressing.

Diminishing the influence of the dirty tricks operatives

On this point, the results are more mixed. Slater and the Whale Oil blog, the heart of the dirty politics system, are certainly diminished. It now seems hard to believe that not long ago they were so influential. But some others have continued to be a problem.

Slater’s political attack collaborator, Simon Lusk, was seen in last year’s local government elections when he assisted with attack tactics for some mayoral candidates. His campaigns faced a backlash in some towns when people realised that a dirty politics practitioner was involved in the election campaign.

There seems to be still a market for dirty political campaigners.

Slater’s fellow attack blogger, David Farrar, is still used as a commentator by some news media, including being introduced just as a “blogger”.

I think Farrar was rocked personally far more than Slater and has been more subdued on Kiwiblog, but still uses his blog for political activism.

Williams even won a defamation case against former Conservative Party leader Colin Craig, after Craig accused Williams of being involved in dirty politics against him. Record defamation damages were awarded to Williams.

But then in April this year the presiding judge, Justice Katz, took the unusual step of setting aside the verdict, saying it would be a miscarriage of justice. She said Craig’s actions “must be viewed in the broader context that his own character and reputation were under sustained attack from Mr Williams”. The judge’s carefully argued judgement is a pleasure to read (there are extracts here).

That legal action is also presumably still progressing.

…as the list above shows, plenty has changed already. The trouble with using dirty tactics is the risk of being found out and the tactics blowing up in your face. Bit by bit, the triumphant manipulators of the 2011 and 2014 elections have been getting their comeuppance; and other people have hopefully been deciding that there are better ways to do politics than following them down that dismal road.

While ‘Dirty Politics’ has had a significant impact it takes more than one book to tidy up decades if not centuries of political skulduggery.

Dirty prosecution, dirty blogging

A case involving a dirty private prosecution and associated dirty blogging has surfaced again.

NZ Herald:  Lawyer waged ‘personal vendetta’ against ex husband and Kristin School head Peter Clague

A lawyer who embarked on an “orchestrated campaign” to destroy her former husband’s professional career, cause him distress and gain advantage in a property dispute could be struck off after being found guilty of misconduct.

Jeanne Denham breached professional standards and “tarnished the reputation of the profession” through an abuse of court process, a just-released Lawyers and Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal decision has found.

The decision sets out the lengths she went to damage her former spouse, then Kristin School principal Peter Clague. It reveals private emails and texts detailing a secret media strategy against him labelled akin to “waging a personal vendetta”.

The decision is now under appeal, with Denham’s lawyer Warren Pyke warning that the events were highly personal and emotional, involving “flawed human beings” going through an intimate relationship breakup.

Denham took a private prosecution against Clague after police declined to lay charges over an alleged assault at the couple’s Greenhithe home in 2010.

The case was eventually thrown out by a judge as an abuse of process designed to inflict maximum damage on Clague and Kristin School, and to help Denham gain the upper hand in a property claim against Clague.

She was ordered to pay nearly $146,000 in costs, which remains outstanding after Denham declared herself bankrupt.

It’s not uncommon for marital disputes to turn nasty but the lengths gone to here are extraordinary, including abusing legal processes through a private prosecution – using the court as a weapon in a dispute.

And a blog was also used as a weapon.

Nicky Hager claimed in ‘Dirty Politics’ that Whale Oil was used as a paid for attack blog, and that is what happened in this case.

Evidence included a trove of emails and text messages between Denham and PR merchant Carrick Graham, who helped organise damaging, paid posts about Clague and Kristin School on the Whale Oil attack blog.

In an email exchange in November 2012, Graham wrote that the campaign had already generated media coverage, forcing the school board to issue two letters to parents.

“It would be safe to say that Clague has had the blow-torch applied to him in terms of a much wider audience being aware of his actions. In terms of reputational hits he is damaged goods.”

In another exchange after a Whale Oil post alleging Kristin board members had known about the allegations and done nothing, Denham wrote that “Cameron’s blog is starting to generate interest in the Kristin community. It’ll spread like wildfire now!”

This was back in the days when Whale Oil had some clout.

Throwing out Denham’s case, Judge David McNaughton ruled: “I am satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that this private prosecution has been brought for an ulterior motive by the complainant, that is primarily to destroy [Clague’s] career and reputation and collaterally to damage Kristin School and at the same time to obtain an advantage in pressing the relationship claim.

“Furthermore … she knowingly and actively sought to subvert the operation of suppression orders with the assistance of Mr Graham and Cameron Slater and that in itself constitutes a serious abuse of process.”

Slater has never addressed the allegations made by and detailed by Hager, but this is evidence of paid for dirty blogging.

It’s not the only example that has made it into the courts. The high profile multiple defamation cases involving Colin Craig and Whale Oil and Slater may or may not have involved money, but it looked like a political and personal hit job.

Another case that has slowly made it’s way though the courts is another defamation case alleging possibly paid for attack posts run on Whale Oil against businessman Matthew Blomfield.

This is the latest ruling in the High Court but the defamation case will be largely through the District Court (not available online).

When as a part of that legal process Slater made a legal commitment not to attack Blomfield it spilled over here in 2015, with an associate of Slater using multiple pseudonyms to attack Blomfield at Your NZ. This appeared to breach Slater’s gag order.

Slater was also involved with the attempt by Marc Spring to gag Your NZ through a court order in 2015. This appeared to be a mix of malice and retaliation.

This threatened to shut down this site and imprison me. This farce was thrown out when the judge was advised he had been duped by legal incompetents. Their claims were fabricated, they didn’t follow defined procedures, and the law they used (the Harmful Digital Communications Act) didn’t come into affect for another year.

This isn’t the only time Slater has been involved in abuse of court processes against me, and there have been threats of more recently.

There is another defamation case against Slater, and also involving Carrick Graham and the use of Whale Oil as an attack blog, that is presumably still in progress – see Blogger Cameron Slater faces defamation action from health researchers.

Three top health professionals have lodged a defamation claim against blogger Cameron Slater and PR consultant Carrick Graham alleging a long running campaign against them on the Whale Oil website.

Auckland University professor Boyd Swinburn, Otago professor Doug Sellman and the director of Maori agency Shane Bradbrook said they had filed proceedings in the High Court at Auckland on Monday.

The trio said in a statement their proceedings related to blog posts and comments published on the Whale Oil website over a number of years.

As well as defamation claimed against Slater and Graham, defendants include FACILITATE COMMUNICATIONS LIMITED, KATHERINE RICH and NEW ZEALAND FOOD & GROCERY COUNCIL INCORPORATED – see JUDGMENT OF PALMER J.

So the ‘personal vendetta’ in a marital dispute that involved Slater and Graham and Whale Oil is just one example of a history of dirty blogging.

Whale Oil is far less prominent now, and the media don’t spread their campaigns any more, but posts under the authorship of ‘Cameron Slater’ will now continue to be under some suspicion of being a part of personal vendettas and/or paid for attacks.

See also this insight from 2015 into some of the Carrick/Slater mentality and Modus Operandi: Carrick Graham: Without Apologies