Derailing the issue

Written By: - Date published: 11:30 pm, September 22nd, 2008 - 26 comments
Categories: john key, spin - Tags:

National has released their statement about John Key’s shady dealings in Tranzrail shares and unsurprisingly it’s another attempt at misdirection.

As I’ve said in the past, this is a tried and true Crosby Textor technique designed to take the heat out of a negative story by directing attention elsewhere until the story dies down.

It appears they’ve decided to go with the “dirty tricks” misdirection they used with some success during the Hollow Men and secret agenda debacles.

Good on them. I’ll be interested to see if the real issue is derailed (excuse the pun) and whether the Herald fixates on the “smear campaign” line tomorrow.

But is it a smear when there is documented evidence?

26 comments on “Derailing the issue”

  1. Pat 1

    Opening line on the TV news item was “A Labour Party researcher…”

    So immediately the public perception is that Labour have been furiously digging around for some dirt on Key.

  2. Tane 2

    The statement from Key’s office is incredibly weak. Not that that’ll stop the likes of the Herald from running with it.

  3. Pat 3

    The story has already achieved what Labour wanted, and gives them plenty of fodder for Parliament tomorrow. My understanding is that every MP gets a chance to speak for 10 mins on the Privileges Committee report, so presumably Labour/NZF can counter every Nat/Act speaker by drawing a correlation to the Tranzrail story.

  4. Tim Ellis 4

    It is clear that this story was created by a Labour Party researcher. Maybe I am biased, but when I read John Key’s response I thought it was very plausible. I cannot imagine why a person as wealthy as John Key would take the political risk of insider trading (which Michael Cullen has denied) over such a relatively trifling amount of money.

    If there is any misdirection IB, it is the Labour Party’s attempt to redirect attention from the Privileges Committee report this evening. I have absolutely no doubt on that point. Maybe again I’m being biased, but I also suspect that the FTA announcement this evening had everything to do with diverting news from the PC report as well.

  5. Pat 5

    I wonder if Clark has some extra work to do with her coalition partners as a result of what took place in the Privileges Committee. Russell Norman and Flavell would have witnessed the darker side of Cullen in action, in particular in taking a position in dogged defence of Peters which Norman and Flavell clearly disagreed with. This might not sit well with them, and Labour should be wary to not take their support for granted (especially The Greens), or they run the risk of being blind-sided by the new boy on the block Russell Norman.

  6. r0b 6

    It is clear that this story was created by a Labour Party researcher.

    How is it clear Tim? Could you tell us the evidence behind this claim please?

  7. so what, Labour researcher researched Key’s statements and they turned out to be lies.. i don’t care who uncovered the lie, i care about the lie

  8. RedLogix 8


    Again I ask you. If what Peters did was so very wrong, then exactly why is it ok for National to continue to hide it’s donors behind the Ruahine and Waitemata Trusts? Trusts that involve many tens times more cash than Winston is being crucified for.

    The right never answers this question, because they know they have a reality problem here.

  9. r0b 9

    How is it clear Tim? Could you tell us the evidence behind this claim please?

    Ahh I see, Cullen released details (I’m coming to this story late). It could have been internal Labour Party research, or someone passing on this information to Labour. In either case it is the message, not shooting the messenger, that is of interest.

    but I also suspect that the FTA announcement this evening had everything to do with diverting news from the PC report as well.

    That’s a pretty desperate claim! Last time I looked Labour does not control the timing of announcements from US spokespeople. Also, why does the PC report need diversion? After all the sound and fury it seems to signify very little – a “censure” for Peters. I’m sure he’s all atremble at the very thought. Watch him use it as a soapbox and get a blip in the polls. Sigh.

  10. Tim Ellis 10

    r0b, I don’t know why my second claim is any desperate than the first, which you questioned initially and then backed down from when it became obvious that everybody accepts Cullen’s researchers did the digging. The message is pretty banal. There are no new revelations. John Key’s explanation does make a lot of sense.

    You are quite right that Labour doesn’t control the timing of announcements from US spokespeople. But no announcement from a US spokesperson has happened. This is not an announcement that an FTA has been reached: it is an announcement that a stage has been achieved. This is not an enormous shock to anybody involved in trade issues. The US announced eight months ago that it would start discussions with P4 countries. That announcement was welcomed at the time by the Trade Minister. It didn’t involve a snap press conference from him. It certainly didn’t involve a snap press conference from the PM only an hour before the Privileges Committee was due to report.

    It was known ten days ago–with some media comment–that Phil Goff was going to Washington to discuss the US’ involvement in an FTA beyond investment and financial services. This was not an announcement out of the blue from Washington that the PM was responding to.

    The timing of this and the PM’s beat-up over it is uncannily similar to the snap-debate and ministerial statement in Parliament a few weeks ago, in which the Police Commissioner urgently had to get Parliament’s views on the deployment of the taser. Purely coincidentally, this need for an urgent debate was at exactly the same time as more deeply damaging allegations about Winston Peters.

    There are few better examples of a strategy of distraction than Helen Clark’s press conference on the P4.

  11. NeillR 11

    Everyone was well aware that Key and his family trust were shareholders – so there’s nothing new in what was reported last night, only the amount of shares owned. Big deal.

  12. Pascal's bookie 12

    I don’t see how the National party press release clears anything up at all.

    No mention is made of the shares that were bought in John Key’s name, (seperate from the family trust) and sold 5 weeks later at a profit. 5 weeks in which Key was busy asking questions and meeting with American Rail giants.

    Instead they are just pretending that none of that happened and there is no new detail from yesterday. Those shares are the difference between the numbers 50 or 100 thousand. Those shares are the ones he was not telling anyone about. The ones held by the trust were another issue.

  13. Pat 13


    Peters is not being censured for having a Trust. Other parties have trusts too.

    He is not being censured for recieving donations. Other parties receive donations too.

    He is being censured for not disclosing the donation in the return, and for lying about the donation in the first place.

    But you already knew that, so why did you want me to spell it out for you?

  14. vto 14

    So clark claims the PC was politically tainted – and she is no doubt talking about her own labour infantry’s taintage.

    And peters is found guilty of deceit – which was clear to the whole country anyway, despite peters increasingly incomprehensible verbals.

    And key is caught up in some scrounger’s claims of incorrectly-handled share dealings – add it to the list.

    It’s clear where these people’s weak points are – clark is about political power at all costs with consequent tainting every time she deals with an issue and despite what she may say, peters is about who-knows-what but talks bullshit constantly while hoping to convince 5% by any means possible, and key owns so much stuff with his mullions he cannot keep up with it and just hopes he can make it through to Nov 8 in the lead without tripping over some cunningly set trip wire..

  15. Dom 15

    Who is giving Key advice? And media training? His handling of this has truly been clueless. If nothing else the average punter has got to be thinking ‘can this man lead the country?’.

    Of course, the answer is no.

  16. r0b 16

    I don’t know why my second claim is any desperate than the first … You are quite right that Labour doesn’t control the timing of announcements from US spokespeople. But no announcement from a US spokesperson has happened.

    The announcement is being made today Tim:

    Trade Minister Phil Goff is in Washington for an official announcement of the US decision to enter negotiations tomorrow … US trade representative Susan Schwab and Mr Goff will announce the “launch of negotiations” tomorrow.

    To think that Labour could engineer this to coincide with the release of the PC report is rather desperate don’t you think? No need to see conspiracies everywhere eh?

  17. Janet 17

    Amazingly the John Key rail share story is front page on the Dominion Post today, quite well covered and also featuring the written question JK asked about Tranzrail with a time line. Does it feature at all in the Herald?

  18. schrodigerscat 18

    Bit like Winston really being open and honest would seem to be the better option.

  19. Matthew Pilott 19

    Tim, your misdirection effort is looking a bit desperate.

    A US official spoke to AFP, and indicated that the agreement between the US and the P4 would not focus exclusively on finance, as initially discussed, but now be negotiations towards a full FTA. Labour did not, presumably, control that US official, but once they broke the story, well, and FTA isn’t a small story. I’d imagne there would have been good cause for Labour to speak to the media about it.

    Incidentally, seems Clark’s actions during Iraq didn’t cost us an FTA as you were so authoritatively claiming, what was it, four days ago…

    But on this topic, just be honest and admit that Labour did not instigate it as a news story, and given that it is big news, it’s not all that unreasonable for labour to run with it. That’s all there is to it. Running the ‘diversion’ line has no credibility whatsoever.

  20. Jeeves 20

    I have some observations:
    1) Of course Labour instigated this story. How absurd to suggest they didn’t. They have almost admitted it.
    2) Of course it was done as a diverson from Winston Peters. A well timed diversion, for which as much as I hate them, I have a sort of Machiavellian warmth towards them.
    3) It is their right to do so. He’s the opposition leader and this is a reasonable story. The media should follow it up, too. Though Fran Mold is a caustic sour-puss, isn’t she?
    4) John Key should have ensured his house was in order before the Winston saga. I don’t think the two are the same, John was comparatively open about his shares when asked by the media. If Winston had been, National could have said “oh you didn’t put that on the interests register” but there would have been none of this furore. As it is, it takes some of the steam out of National’s engine.
    5) Hopefully John has learnt from his mistakes, because people I know don’t seem to think this has dented his credibility too much ( I have taken to asking non-affiliated centre and centre-left friends about politics, because I cannot judge these things objectively).

    [Labour did say it was them, it was in the article, never denied. Why would it be? Never over-estimate a real life party’s Machiavellian abilities.. usually what appears to be good timing is just good luck. SP]

  21. Bill 21

    Pascals bookie.
    were you the only other person here who read the statement? I guess that question is actually aimed at everyone else. Ironically, the misdirection of dropping his own shares off the radar seems to be working, at least as far as the comments on this post go.

    There’s another thing I want to pick up on that doesn’t seem to have been commented on, either here or in the ‘Hands in the till’ post.

    Didn’t HC question/accuse JK of having shares in Tranzrail a month or two back in parliament. And didn’t he leave the house, check, and come back and deny it? And HC said she would take the honourable member at his word but he pressed for an apology.( Which he didn’t get.)

    Now she, I suspect, knew he was lying. But she took him at his word as per convention….same as she did with WP. Is JK now going to jump up and down hollering that HC has deceived the NZ public and was wrongfully defending JK?

  22. Bill 22

    FTA and NZ agreeing to let the US sell nuclear components to India when they had the option of a veto.


  23. RedLogix 23


    Have you read the report in full? It is a most interesting document and reveals just how one sided and shallow the media coverage of this issue has been.

    Peters is not being censured for having a Trust. Other parties have trusts too.

    The PC report clearly states on p20 that arrangements via third parties are not acceptable means to avoid declaration . All donations regardless of source must be declared and an honest attempt must be made to declare the real source. Trusts are NO LONGER ACCEPTABLE.

    He is not being censured for recieving donations. Other parties receive donations too.

    The report states that the rules around declaring pecuniary interests regarding ‘services in kind’ were not at all clear, and the PC has strongly recommended that they should be reviewed and the Office strengthened:

    We recommend unanimously that the Clerk of the House of Representatives enhance the support available to the Registrar of Pecuniary Interests in order to provide an authoritative source of advice for members making returns of pecuniary interests p21

    Peters made the very clear defense that the gift from Glenn was made to Henry was not declarable; nor did he believe he was under any more obligation to declare the source than National have been obliged to open up the books on its Trusts.

    He is being censured for not disclosing the donation in the return, and for lying about the donation in the first place.

    Although National declared it’s Trust donations, we all know that they were merely a device to hide the real donors, whom various National Party office holders have conspicuously failed to “make an honest attempt” to discover and declare. Merely declaring a sum from a Trust is an empty gesture amounting to a lie by ommission.

    National’s failure to declare its real donors is exactly the same thing everyone is crucifying Peters for.

  24. gobsmacked 24

    Breaking news:

    “National leader John Key has admitted he should have disclosed the full extent of his Tranz Rail shareholding at an earlier date” (stuff)

    It must be hard being a Nat: there’s no point geting in quick with the usual lines (non-story, no issue, blah blah), because Key shifts faster than sand in a gale. All that effort on here last night, wasted.

    Like all the policy U-turns over the past 2 years, it’s just not worth defending a position when you know you’re going to be saying something different the next day.

  25. Swampy 25

    Seeing as Labour manipulated the media by arranging for the FTA press release to come out today (they were given the information last week) are Labour also working with C/T?

  26. Swampy 26

    You are quite correct, Tim Ellis

    There was absolutely no need for Annette King to make an announcement in Parliament on that particular day about tasers. She was doing it to a script already worked out by the Labour Party.

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