Another day and more bad press for National over dirty politics. John Key is now claiming, without irony, that an assault on our democracy is occurring. There is, but not from the sources that he claims. The attack on our democracy has come from the National Party who has politicised the public service, abused its relationship with the press, and fed sensitive information to an attack blogger who has then smeared away to his heart’s content.
A Herald Digipoll has recorded a significant drop in support for John Key and a significant gain for David Cunliffe in the preferred PM stakes. It appears that more and more citizens are realising that the attacks on Cunliffe are part of a dark ops smear campaign from within the Beehive. As David gets more public exposure I expect support for him to grow. And if he performs as well as he did in this Herald video interview then he and Labour will do well.
Yesterday there was a lot of analysis of Key’s knowledge that sensitive information concerning Phil Goff was declassified and handed to Cameron Slater. I thought that we had the smoking gun proving that Key knew about the OIA release by the SIS to Cameron Slater. But Enough is Enough pointed out that the evidence was not quite there.
A plain reading of the letters released by
Tony Manhire Felix Marwick yesterday clearly suggested that Key, as opposed to his office, had been briefed on the decision to release the SIS documents to Cameron Slater. But then Ombudsman Beverley Wakam and former SIS chief Warren Tucker came out and claimed that the language used in both letters is a particularly Wellington form of English and that it meant Key’s office was briefed and not him personally despite the clear plain english used.
So can John Key honestly claim that he did not know about the decision to declassify and release sensitive and politically loaded SIS documents to Cameron Slater?
The Herald has reported this morning on the following video which is from a press conference back in 2011.
Key is quoted as saying:
What happened is Warren Tucker didn’t come to me, he went to his legal adviser and his legal advisers told him this is the process they have to follow and when he was going through that process it was at that point he told me he’d release it because he has to tell me that under the no-surprises doctrine.”
Another aspect to the story that is now very clear is that Tucker released the document to Slater only because Key had referred to the document publicly. Tucker’s letter to Slater says “the [NZSIS] would not normally release such information because disclosure may breach the confidentiality of advice tendered by officials. In this case, however, the existence and some of the content of such briefings have already been made public.”
So Key’s claim that Slater’s OIA request did not come over his desk has to be wrong. And his role in the actual release needs to be investigated further.
Of course this debate avoids the bleedingly obvious. By refusing to do anything except conceding reluctantly that Collins’ actions were unwise Key is effectively sanctioning the Dirty Politics exposed in the book. People should lose their jobs, starting with Collins, and continuing with chief of staff Wayne Eagleston and continuing with Jason Ede. Their continued presence on various payrolls shows what Key thinks about their tactics and behaviour.