Much has been written about John Campbell’s interview with Key on Campbell live last week. Some have chosen to describe it in gladiatorial terms and have suggested that Key was the winner. Because he looked more confident and more assertive in an alpha male sort of way he must have been the winner. Campbell’s frustration and not being able to ask the questions that mattered was apparent, but you do have to admire the way that Key interrupted Campbell while giving the impression that he was the one being interrupted, as well as his ability to look confident and assured.
Yep, superficially Key bet Campbell hands down.
But Key’s subsequent issuing of a press release where he acknowledged that he said incorrectly that under the bill the GCSB would not be allowed to look at the content of communications when conducting their cyber-security functions undermined his performance.
In fact, there is nothing that prevents the GCSB from doing so. Key then said that in exercising his power to impose any conditions he wants on a warrant he will use his discretion to set the default position not looking at content in the cyber-security function. He wants unbridled power when he has acknowledged that he does not need it.
Key deserved an oscar for his performance on Campbell Live. As the Prime Minister he does not deserve praise however because he was wrong on a significant point. Being confidently wrong is still being wrong.
Yesterday there were two events which undid all the good that Key’s interview had achieved.
Firstly Alastair Thompson, chief at Scoop, nailed Key with a question (video is here). Key responded with some ridicule (“is that a question buddy?”) and then walked out of the press conference. Key appears to be very touchy lately and this incident reinforced his previous behaviour at the select committee hearings for the GCSB Bill and his appearances at Parliament when asked about the Bill.
My rough transcript is as follows:
AT – Most legal jurists have informed us publicly that they disagree with you whole heartedly about that, that you are taking broad powers which allow you to invade privacy at a wholesale level and you are saying that all those people are wrong.
JK – Correct
AT – On top of that we also have the situation where two investigations
JK – [Interrupting] Is this a question, can I just ask you is that a question buddy?
AT – That you were responsible for
JK – [Interrupting] OK I will tell you what
AT – This is a question
JK – OK I will give you an answer, here is the answer
AT – No you just cannot interrupt like you did to John Campbell, I want to ask a question
JK – [Key leaves] Thanks very much guys.
It appears that Key does not like being questioned rigorously.
The final reading of the GCSB Bill is planned for today. Will Dunne or a brave National backbencher have the guts to oppose the bill? Or will our rights of privacy be hopelessly compromised …