I do so want to read this book right now. The preface is online… http://dirtypoliticsnz.com
Some weeks later, out of the blue, I received a package: an 8-gigabyte USB digital storage device, the contents of which appeared to have originated from the attack on Slater’s website. On the USB were thousands of documents that revealed different parts of the National Party attack politics, a subject that until then had largely been a matter of speculation and denial. This was very different from my usual sources and investigations – I have not used this type of source before – but I believe not a single major news organisation in the country would turn down such fascinating and important material. Supplemented by some National Party sources, it has allowed stories to be told that the public has a right to know. I had no part in obtaining the material and I cannot say anything else about its origins.
The information that arrived on the USB consisted of thousands of pages of conversations on Facebook and by e-mail between Slater and his closest political associates: Jason Ede from the prime minister’s office, close friend and Cabinet minister Judith Collins, strategy consultant to National MPs Simon Lusk, Slater and Lusk’s apprentice Jordan Williams, their close collaborator David Farrar and a network of right-wing bloggers. There were also PR people such as Carrick Graham. It was clear that these materials were only a fraction of Slater’s documents, but they give a vivid picture of his and his colleagues’ activities. The project was suddenly much wider and more important than just the Whale Oil blog.
Important issues surround the use of leaked communications. First, everyone has the right to keep their communications private and there must be a very high public interest to justify publishing them. In this case, I believe most readers will agree that the materials raise very serious matters of political accountability, relating directly to the prime minister and other senior government ministers. They show a continuous collaboration between the prime minister’s office, bloggers and sympathetic media to arrange attacks on National’s opponents and to influence elections. This differs from the story and face presented by the National Party to the public and helps to explain much about what is wrong with contemporary politics. On the other hand, there was also a considerable amount of very personal information about relationships and other subjects, where the right to privacy outweighs any public interest. This material has not been included in the book and will not be passed to others. The fact that Slater and his associates have made a career of exposing the very private details of other people’s lives does not make it right to do that to them.