John Key’s reaction to the revelations in “Dirty Politics” is straight out of Orwell’s classic 1984. Orwell however got one thing wrong – describing the principles of Newspeak he says “It was expected that Newspeak would have finally superseded Oldspeak (or Standard English, as we should call it) by about the year 2050.” In Key’s National government, it’s here already.
So when Warren Tucker in 2011 wrote – “I notified the Prime Minister,” “I advised the Prime Minister.” “I informed the Prime Minister,” we are asked to believe he didn’t mean he actually spoke to the Prime Minister. When Beverley Wakem’s deputy signed her letter where she says Tucker had “discussions with the Prime Minister” she has now clarified that she didn’t actually mean that Tucker discussed the release with the Prime Minister. And now we hear from the PM’s spokesperson that when the Prime Minister said that Tucker “discussed the release with me, as he had to under the no surprises rule” he didn’t actually mean that they spoke to each other!!!
Unbelievable – but scary.
Orwell’s prescient warning to the perils facing democracy is why the issues revealed in Hager’s book, and even more in these political and official reactions, are so important. If we cannot rely on the absolute impartiality of the final arbiter on what may be revealed as official information in the Chief Ombudsman, and the political neutrality of the keeper of the secrets in the Director of the SIS, then our democracy is indeed under threat.
Juvenal wrote “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes” (Who will watch the watchmen?)” in his famous Satires. Eddie wrote about it here in 2011, ironically in relation to Key’s comments on another of Nicky Hager’s books, Other People’s War. Some quotes:
Mr Key did not deny the report existed. “I have no recollection of reading it,” he said….He was totally confident the departments were following Government policy. “I have no reason to believe otherwise.”….So, on what basis does Key dismiss Hager’s book. “He said his officials had read the book and advised him.”
Hmm. Anyone else see a pattern here?
We can but hope that Rebecca Kitteridge now heading the SIS, and Cheryl Gwyn now investigating the release of Tucker’s briefing notes to Cameron Slater but not to other media are cut from different cloth. We need some independent and courageous watchers. And to hang on to Oldspeak.