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Ambrose to sue Key

Written By: - Date published: 7:41 am, December 9th, 2014 - 76 comments
Categories: accountability, john key, journalism, Media - Tags: ,

Key is carrying plenty of baggage now. Haunted not only by dirty politics, but also the scandal of the election before, the teapot tapes. As reported on RNZ this morning:

Ambrose to sue PM over teapot tape

A freelance journalist is seeking $1.25 million in damages from John Key, claiming the Prime Minister has defamed him.

Bradley Ambrose is the freelance reporter at the centre of the so-called teapot tape incident in November 2011. He has brought the legal action against John Key in the High Court in Auckland.

According to legal documents obtained by Radio New Zealand, Mr Ambrose says Mr Key made defamatory comments about him on three occasions. Documents filed by the Prime Minister’s lawyer say the comments are true and that they were John Key’s honest opinion.

The case is the latest development in the saga of the staged “cup of tea” between the then ACT Party candidate for Epsom, John Banks, and John Key. …

According to court documents, Ambrose left a recording device on the table by accident and it recorded the conversation. A document filed by Mr Key’s lawyer states the Prime Minister believed Ambrose had made the recording on purpose. Mr Ambrose has always denied this. …

Radio New Zealand cannot report the comments because that could potentially be repeating defamation. The so-called teapot tape saga was investigated by police at the time. They found that while the recording was unlawful, a prosecution was not in the public interest.

A "private" meeting...

A “private” meeting…

76 comments on “Ambrose to sue Key”

  1. Tracey 1

    ambrose should grab BLiPs list… you know… to make it hard to believe Key has an honest anything, let alone an honest opinion. /sarc

  2. burt 2

    Excellent, Key can pass retrospective validations covering 14 years to kill off the court case and the lovers of dictator style government will praise him as the best PM we have ever had for being such a strong leader.

  3. tracey 3

    Given how much Defamation suits cost the participants versus the likely award, he must have a pretty decent case because the costs award against him if he loses would be big.

    It may be that he will force a settlement from the PM but that has dangers for the Pm too.

    IF you are someone whose opinion is widely regarded and reported there is a duty on you to take much more care than say, people in their normal workplace. The PM would fit this description. The more widely your opinions published and the esteem they are held the more careful you have to be with your words and the reputations of others.

    • Karen 3.1

      I am puzzled as to why this wasn’t settled out of court. I am assuming it is just another case of Key refusing to apologise. Presumably Crosby Textor once told him to never admit mistakes and he does seem to have got away with it so far, mostly thanks to a compliant MSM.

      This time it is a bit nutty, however. He could so easily have said I made a mistake, here’s some compensation, and it all would have gone away a long time ago. Now, with his reputation starting to lose its shine, this case can only reinforce the idea that Key is arrogant and unable to admit to being wrong.

  4. Jenny Kirk 4

    These things just won’t go away !

    I should think Key has been looking forward to the summer break, and assuming that next year everyone will have forgotten about cups of tea, dirty politics, John Banks’ crime, Judith Collins’ “indiscretions” etc etc. But it looks like 2015 will have constant reminders – hopefully these will really start to dent his so-called “popularity” as Labour sorts itself out and starts to make a come-back.

  5. There is also the funny little flutter he must get in his gut sometimes when he wonders just how many Chinese millionaires on the National Party and ACT donor list are on the run from China for corruption and fraud ….and maybe the things that seem to go along with those traits….now that China seems to want them back. I’m guessing the crooks wont want to be hauled back to Chinese “justice” so I am also guessing they have kept plenty of insurance….against the day that a NZ Government might want to comply with Chinese requests. Interesting times.

    • One Anonymous Bloke 5.1

      It suits the media to report particular cases before the courts and not others, in the service of particular narratives. Implying spurious links between ethnicity and criminality is one of those narratives.

      Don’t believe the hype 🙂

    • Anne 5.2

      …how many Chinese millionaires on the National Party and ACT donor list are on the run from China for corruption and fraud ….

      Donghua Liu?

    • Peter Grifffiths 5.3

      Great point, we forget that the only way to get ahead in china is with the approval and blessing of the Party, the Kowtow still lives. In a funny way , john is uniquely qualified to deal with them, given the similarity with the banking system, and his renowned aquiesence to the holy dollar

    • Minarch 5.4

      why do you think there are so many bloody $2 shops all over your neighbourhood and malls

      how else do you think they survive when they all sell the same crap paying those sky high mall rents

      all non-perishable stock, small cash transactions , perfect for washing all that crooked cash and better odds of than the pokies !

  6. ianmac 6

    If Key looses, whose money will pay the costs and the damages? I hope that it is not the taxpayers!

    • tracey 6.1

      IF he is being sued in his capacity of PM I would guess we will all be footing the bill?

      Of course if he said it in his capacity as national party leader… Mickey do you know if we all pay for that?

      And if he is being sued as John Key, we wont be paying.

      I would guess for the matter to stick he would need to be sued as PM and/or Nat party leader to make the duty to take care higher because he would know any statements he makes will get broad publication?

      My guess is our Pm is very welled drilled in what his liabilities are depending on the capacity he was doing something… hence he relies on the defence so often now of

      “it depends on what you mean by “me””

      • ianmac 6.1.1

        Poor old John. Self-identity confusion. Must wake up each day like an amnesiac. “Woe is me! Just who am I today?”
        I guess he was being the PM but if the case is won by Ambrose, would any mud stick to Key?
        And if settled out of court would we see him as a bit tricky?

        • tracey

          IF the tape might be released as part of non suppressed evidence… my guess is a settlement because

          “The PM is very busy running the country and the cost to taxpayers to defend him and the diversion of his attention from important matters makes it the pragmatic thing to do”

          Of course he will offer to pay for his own defence and not bleed the poor taxpayer for his loose lips…

        • Pascals bookie

          nah, electorate deals and PR photo ops on the campaign trail are as Party Leader, surely.

          • Tracey

            good… the article doesnt say in what capacity and yet they must know from looking at the documents

    • Liberal Realist 6.2

      Which hat is being sued?

      PM hat, PMs office hat, NAct leader hat, JK hat… so many hats!

      Which hat was he wearing in this scenario? My pick is the NAct leader hat, whats yours?

  7. Blue 7

    Good on him. It has always stuck with me how the Prime Minister of this country used his office to crush someone so callously.

    Key never made any allowance for the fact that Ambrose could have recorded the conversation inadvertently. He was screaming ‘News of the World style’ accusations, getting the police to raid media organisations and destroying the reputation of a freelance camera guy who didn’t have the resources to stand up to him.

    All because Key was worried that he might have said a swear word in the conversation.

    I hope there will be a legal fees fund for people to contribute to.

    • Chaz 7.1

      Irrespective of whether Ambrose recorded the conversation inadvertently, it was a conscious decision on his part to distribute copies of the tape.

      So the question of illegality is not his intention in making the recording, it is his clear and undisputed actions in distributing it.

      Personally I think Ambrose is flying a kite, egged on by people with no skin in the game and nothing to lose.

      When he loses this case, as in my opinion he is very likely too, will those who encouraged him to this action, including bloggers on this blog, be fronting up to cover his fees?

      • tracey 7.1.1

        Have you read the Statement of Claim?

        What do you base the following comment on:

        “When he loses this case, as in my opinion he is very likely too (sic)…”

        Do you think he is suing the Pm because of something written here or, as I believe, based on legal advice from qualified solicitors?

        As an aside is this you?

        • Naki man

          “Do you think he is suing the Pm because of something written here or, as I believe, based on legal advice from qualified solicitors?’

          tracey do you really think that some solicitors wont be happy to take his money even if he hasn’t got a snowballs chance in hell. Ambrose is probably to stupid to ask what his chances are.

          • Murray Rawshark

            Nah, he’s not that stupid. I’ve never seen him comment on Whalespew or Kiwi Bog.

      • Pascals bookie 7.1.2

        “So the question of illegality is not his intention in making the recording, it is his clear and undisputed actions in distributing it.”

        Really? I seem to remember various legal experts in media law saying the opposite at the time, but I guess you know better huh.


      • Blue 7.1.3

        So the question of illegality is not his intention in making the recording, it is his clear and undisputed actions in distributing it.

        For all your mighty legal knowledge, you don’t seem to understand the basics of defamation law.

        The recording and the subsequent distribution of it are two separate matters. You can argue that Ambrose should have deleted the recording and not passed it to anyone.

        But that has no bearing on the issue of whether the conversation was recorded deliberately or not. Ambrose says it was not, Key said it was, and the police said it was.

        If Ambrose did not record it deliberately, Key and the police are guilty of defaming Ambrose.

        The idea that you can defend a defamatory statement by referring to other alleged illegal/immoral actions by the complainant is fanciful.

        • lprent

          Feels like a Lauda Finem kind of legal opinion. One made from having frequent observations from the wrong side of the legal system. Fantasies with a dash of high sounding bullshite padded out with repetitions to 5000 words.

          Y’know – academic like.

    • Jimbob 7.2

      Any allowance he could have made was gone the moment Ambrose handed the “inadvertantly recorded” tapes to the media. If he truly made a mistake (found to be unlawful by the police) then he should have destroyed them.

      • framu 7.2.1

        “found to be unlawful by the police”

        isnt that the courts job?

        • lprent

          Yes. The police can’t find anyone guilty. What they can do is to find enough evidence to charge and put before the courts

          • framu

            so thats the police ambrose could sue for defamation as well – after all publicly declaring someone a criminal would hurt that persons career

  8. Anne 8

    All because Key was worried that he might have said a swear word in the conversation.

    Suspect it might have been a bit more than a swear word. That tea tape saga reminds me of Key’s reaction to the gentleman who tried to jump from the parliamentary debating chamber balcony. He gave Phil Goff the cut-throat gesture as if somehow it was all Goff’s fault.

    Both incidents showed up a deep flaw in his character. When something untoward happens… he lashes out at the nearest and most vulnerable (in his view) target. Then he refuses to admit he might have been wrong and won’t apologise to the innocent target.

    Well, good on you Ambrose. I can imagine the kind of crap you have had to tolerate since it happened.

  9. tc 9

    Could be timely to hear what Blinky said as the MSM muppets are helping to whitewash his past possibly for a super mayor tilt.

    Is it karma time for the Johnnys maybe.

  10. tracey 10

    “According to legal documents obtained by Radio New Zealand, Mr Ambrose says Mr Key made defamatory comments about him on three occasions. Documents filed by the Prime Minister’s lawyer say the comments are true and that they were John Key’s honest opinion.”

    Usually a defence is filed some time after the Statement of Claim is filed (15-20 working days without an extension). That means whoever passed over the documents waited until the PM’s lawyer had filed his defence.

    I’m still chuckling at the irony of the PM having to rely on the “honesty” defence.

    • ghostwhowalksnz 10.1

      Getting Key before a judge will be priceless.

      John Banks had the same problem way back in a civil case. The high court judge said there were discrepancies between his sworn affidavit and his sworn statements in the witness box. ie he LIED.

  11. Chaz 11

    I haven’t seen any statement of claim. I’m basing my comments, which are my opinion, as I stated, on my knowledge of what happened at the time and my knowledge of NZ defamation law and the law as it applies to taping of private conversations.

    And yes, pascals’ bookie, my knowledge in those areas is extensive and I would estimate to be much deeper than a view you are going to receive from a journalist or a media associated person pushing the ‘public interest’ barrow.

    I’d like to see the statement of claim but can’t find it online anywhere, because i’d like to understand just what Ambroseis basing his case on. In defamation, honestly held opinion is a defence in matters of defamation, but an **absolute** defence is Truth.

    If a person is aware at the time they distributed a recording that it was a recording of a private conversation of which they were not a party, then it is an unlawful act under NZ law. And before you ask me, yes I do know this for certain, and yes I do know better than your journo friends.

    Anything John Key says in that context has the defence of truth.

    With respect to Tracey’s question on what Ambrose is basing his claim on, let me say this. Lawyers make money from cases. Work it out love.


    • Pascals bookie 11.1

      And I don’t have any journo friends Chaz. Please retract. Also, you’re a right laugh.

      • Chaz 11.1.1

        I withdraw and apologise. You have no Journo friends.

        • Pascals bookie


          Now, to the substance, many people, (including but not limited to Steven Price, Andrew Geddis and Dean Knight) would dispute your claim that:

          “If a person is aware at the time they distributed a recording that it was a recording of a private conversation of which they were not a party, then it is an unlawful act under NZ law.”

          There’s an aspect missing. An oversight I’m sure. If the recording wasn’t gathered intentionally, then the matter is still very much alive.

          • Chaz

            They are wrong Pascal’s bookie.

            If you would like a definitive opinion can i make the suggestion that you contact the privacy commissioner and the department of justice.

            The question of intention has no bearing on the matter.

            • Tracey

              are you referring to the Crimes Act provision?

            • mickysavage


              Do you know who Price, Geddis and Knight are? More respected legal commentators on privacy law I cannot imagine.

              • Pascals bookie

                They are not as knoweldgeable as Chaz from the internet. He says so himself.

              • Chaz

                I’ve read some of their comments Mickey, and they are flawed.

                For example Price states that it is acceptable to make a secret recording of a conversation where you are legitimately a party to the conversation.

                I accept that entirely.

                But what Price does not point out is that:

                1. Ambrose was NOT a legitimate participant to the conversation between Banks and Key.
                2. Even if he was, his ability to distribute the information he recorded is constrained greatly by privacy laws. In such a case a person is still liable if he publishes private information secretly (or openly for that matter) recorded and defining just what that is, is a minefield.

                The fact that Price did not mention these rather salient facts implies that he is either:

                1. Not perhaps as knowledgeable as you think he is; or,
                2. Is a biased and interested commentator who deliberately withholds key information because it does not suit his case.

                Either way his viewpoint is corrupted.

                Just to make a further point. If the recording is so hunky-dory, ask yourself why no reputable news outlet actually published it.

                Surely if it was as cut and dried as posters here are making, then given the overwhelming interest in the matter at the time, and given their resources in terms of legal advice, one of the news co’s would have worked all that out and published.

                They didn’t though did they? And that happened after they took legal advice.

                • Pascals bookie


                  Does Price claim Ambrose was a party to the conversation? Link plz?

                  Here’s one:


                  It’s a handy one because it starts by quoting Hosking making similar bold statements as to the ones you make here, and Price gently goes on to point out the number of ways in which he is wrong about the law.

                  • Chaz


                    If you read your link carefully you will see Price actually makes the statements therein.

                    I did not say by the way that Price was stating that Ambrose was a party to the conversation. I stated that Price made the point that parties to a conversation were allowed to record it, while discussing Ambrose’s case.

                    The technique Price is using in this article is called arguing beside the point. There is no issue with his statement. It is true. but it does not apply to Ambrose and by using it in discussing his defence of Ambrose he is dragging in red herrings, muddying the waters, and other assorted cliches.

                    As I said, Price does not then go on to point out further deficiencies with that argument which if he is as erudite as claimed, must be known to him. It’s clearly a biased viewpoint.

                    The Killer point to all of this is:
                    If I am wrong and he and the rest of the experts you quote are right: Why did no one publish?

                    It’s been interesting discussing this matter today and I always appreciate the courteous exchange of ideas on this blog, but now I must get back to work.

                    In this matter irrespective of my opinion or yours, time will tell, and it will be interesting to see it unfold.

                    Kind regards and best wishes.

                    • Pascals bookie

                      I heartily recommend that everyone click on the link to Price’s piece, and compare it to how Chaz describes it.

                      It’s a shame Chaz had to go, but unsurprising.

                    • Pascals bookie

                      iT case you can’t be bothered, here’s what Price has to say regarding prties to a conversation:

                      ” It’s not “illegal to record” someone who doesn’t know they’re being recorded. For a start, a party to the conversation can secretly record it and not breach the Crimes Act. More relevantly, that recording must be intentional.”

                      Note: He puts quotes around ‘illegal to record’ becaus ethat is the claim he is responding to.

                      Note Also: he says ‘More relevantly’ , directly impying that the previous is not really relevant.

                      An odd way to ‘muddy the waters’. He then goes on to detail the more relevant aspect, intent, that Chaz denied was a factor. Chaz has remained silent in this regard

                      Indeed, Chaz does not then go on to point out further deficiencies with that argument which if he is as erudite as claimed, must be known to him. It’s clearly a biased viewpoint.

                    • mickysavage

                      Um if you are a party to a conversation you can record it.

                      And your point is?

                      BTW what are your legal qualifications?

                • Clemgeopin

                  I remember reading parts of the conversation published in Newspapers. Don’t you? One point, if I remember correctly, was when it was mentioned that Winston’s voters were all too old and dying.

                • mickysavage


                  What are your legal qualifications?

                  Just asking …

            • Pascals bookie

              Lol, sure Chaz. ‘They are wrong’.

              Good oh. Chaz from the internet said so.

              Mind you Chaz from the internet who knows stuff about defamation is also predicting an outcome from a case he hasn’t seen the claim for, so discount as much as think relevant.

    • Tracey 11.2

      “work it out love”

      are you serious? i think you are on the wrong blog roger!

      if you havent read the SOC bow can you possibly assess the outcome? you dont even know the 3 alleged defamatory statements. you see? i know what the defences are but determining their success requires

      a. the alleged defamatory statements
      b. factual context

      honest opinion has limitations too.

      you are entitled to your opinion but it isnt based on anything more or less than anyone elses when you dont even know exactly what he is alleging.

      • Chaz 11.2.1

        “if [sic] you havent [sic] read the SOC bow[sic] can you possibly assess the outcome?”
        I am in the same position everyone else is here, Tracey, (with the possible difference being that I am actually knowledgeable about the law) and that hasn’t stopped everyone else commenting, now, has it?

        • Tracey

          where did I say you couldn’t comment? In fact I wrote the opposite. Where did you study for your Degree?

  12. Weepus beard 12

    You have to laugh when you look at what is on the table at the private meeting: cups & saucers, teapot, two sets of salt & pepper shakers, sugar (presumably), John Key’s elbows, and THIS THING IN A BLACK FELT BAG THAT LOOKS LIKE IN BELONGS TO THE MEDIA WHAT WAS JUST HERE.

    Hardly hidden, secret spy stuff, was it? That evidence alone suggests it was left there by mistake.

    • Anne 12.1

      Key jumped to a conclusion based on the circumstantial evidence. He made accusations and defamatory statements against Bradley Ambrose. When he calmed down and was given some sober advice he knew he was wrong but he wasn’t big enough to admit it… so he carried on with a charade that it had been deliberate.

      Now he’s in a hole of his own making. Couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.

    • tc 12.2

      Yes that private conversation:
      in a busy newmarket cafe
      at a table specifically reserved out front so it was easy for all to observe
      with media along to record the event
      JB chatting and engaging the likes of Ali Akram waiting for JK to front
      Parker stood back up the road watching the show

      Private conversation…..YEAH RIGHT

    • Clemgeopin 12.3

      Key gave it to a nice policeman, who took a look at it and then dutifully gave it back to the journalist who claimed it was his. Watch the episode:

  13. CATMAN 13

    If Ambrose had wanted to secretly record the conversation, it’s not difficult to do it at a distance with the right equipment.

    Given that he presumably has access to such equipment, leaving a mic on the table (ffs) in plain view is reasonable evidence that he didn’t intend it.

  14. Skinny 14

    Ambrose used poor judgment by sharing the ‘illegal tape recording’ he is on a hiding to nothing, or worst. Mind you his career would have been ruined, he simply would have become damaged goods overnight.

    Someone with deep pockets who makes Key look like loose change in their pocket has put Ambrose up to this. Eventually all the lies catch up and it pisses someone off enough to have a crack.

    You can trust a thief but not a liar as they say, though too many of us it doesn’t quite ring true… thieving liar.

    • Ergo Robertina 14.1

      John Key showed poor judgement by having a private conversation during a media stunt, and then acting like a banana republic thug afterwards.
      It was Ambrose’s duty to furnish the recording for the public domain. Do you understand the concept of public interest?

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