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Key used Nat research unit to search for smear on Clark’s husband

Written By: - Date published: 10:12 am, November 7th, 2008 - 47 comments
Categories: election 2008, helen clark, john key - Tags:

After weeks of griping about dirty tactics, it has been revealed in the NBR that Key ordered the tax-payer funded National Party research unit to rake over the records of Prime Minister Clark’s husband Peter Davis’s academic grants looking for a smear. Clark revealed the attempted smear in an interview on AltTV.

‘In June this year when the health research council grants grants were announced my husband got a grant,’ Miss Clark said, ‘because he’s a researcher at a university, goes back 40 years. When those grants were announced National put in an Official Information Act request demanding to see all the reviewers’ reports, really trying to get at some kind of smear that my husband got grants not because of his academic reputation but because of me.’

Suffice to say, National’s attack on Clark’s family was a fizzer

Is it appropriate for Key to order taxpayer funds to be spent trolling through the affairs of the family of another politician, especially as he has demanded that no-one look into his past?

You can watch the AltTV interview on Sky or streaming on the internet at www.alttv.co.nz at 8pm.

47 comments on “Key used Nat research unit to search for smear on Clark’s husband”

  1. Ron Shaw 1

    They are as bad as each other. National looks for dirt on those of the left. Labour looks for dirt on those of the right. Seems to me that the politicians have lost their moral compasses.

  2. Ron. Try the Greens, they don’t do smears

  3. milo 3

    I don’t approve of this. But it was a pretty minor OIA, it seems, and also was not the centrepiece of National’s campaign. Still, it was wrong.

    Amusing that the NBR broke it!

  4. Let’s not forget the National Party Research unit working with (and possibly funding) Cameron “reverse Midas” Slater…

  5. william 5

    Well written piece by DPF here:

    [Tane: Please link to articles, don’t copy and paste them in full. Also, off-topic.]

  6. Lew 6

    Quit shilling for the blues.


    This post inspired by recaptcha: `an Smither’. It’s an obscure one, but someone might get it 🙂

  7. randal 7

    what a lot of tripe from a tory sadsack
    where is LPRENT when you need him
    wipe that crap off the board
    it is just allegation after alegation
    smear after smear
    then a conclusion
    JOhn Keys is a great guy
    give him a go
    you have caused to much trouble for absolutely no return so please push off and dont come back and telll your mates at the national party to find someone who is up to the job

  8. LOL. Excuse me, but what party sent someone to aussie to dig up dirt on John?

  9. sean 9

    [no homophobia permitted here. take it to kiwiblog. SP]

  10. and which party claimed that was beyond the pale? the same one that was itself using taxpayer money to investigate the family of its opponents’ leader?

  11. gingercrush 11

    It was Brian Edwards who leaked this on the TV One debate. The big difference between what National did and Labour did. Was Labour used the fact they were digging up dirt as part of their campaign while National left it alone.

    Thus media picked up on what Labour was doing and combined with their advertisements on Trust. It looked like dirty politics. I notice their largely trust campaign has basically fallen away. I think the left should be really disappointed in Labour’s campaign this year.

  12. Spider_Pig 12

    The Nats didn’t go around whispering “neutron bomb” for months, only to end up with a water bomb that they dropped on themselves.

    [deleted. if you find have have to make offensice comments, Spider_Pig, we don’t need you commenting on our site. Go back to Kiwiblog. SP]

  13. Ms M 13

    Steve, its not the first time Key has shown his inexperience.

    – legislate 40% for Super Fund investment in New Zealand, direction from Finance Minister

    – Pharmac, fund 12 mth Herceptin, seems Key left “Medical Practicioner” out of his CV, who knew?

  14. Matthew Pilott 14

    The big difference between what National did and Labour did.

    At least Mike Williams wasn’t looking into the affairs of one Bronagh Key.

  15. bill brown 15

    Spot the worried righty.

    Or play

    The Election Night Drinking Game

  16. dave 16

    The NBR article did not say that it was a smear. Nor does it say that it was the Research unit that did the OIA, nor does it say that they raked over reperts . Unlike Labour, if National were looking for a smear they would have found one.

    Instead Labour’s failure to find a smear has lost it the election. Bring back smear tests!

  17. Ianmac 17

    Steve. I wrote about this on Standard yesterday and passed it on in other blogs. It comes from Brian Edwards in the post Leaders Debate on Wed night.
    The significance was the timing. At exactly the same moments that John Key was complaining about Labour using their Research Unit to investigate Key, was when the Nat Research Unit was hunting for “dirt” not even on a politician!

  18. At least Mike Williams wasn’t looking into the affairs of one Bronagh Key.

    And he did the research from his own pocket.

  19. gingercrush 19

    He didn’t do the research with his own money. Helen Clark confirmed that Mike Williams trip was paid for. Labour should have got to this much sooner and not left this so late. Because as a National voter I actually think National looking into Peter Davies is stupid and could have done damage. Unfortunately, they left it too late and I suspect we won’t see either TV One or TV 3 cover it.

  20. Barb 20

    These right wingers would say black was white..

  21. Ianmac 21

    Dave said: “The NBR article did not say that it was a smear. Nor does it say that it was the Research unit that did the OIA, nor does it say that they raked over reperts (sic)”
    The proof of this is that the use of the OIA is recorded. The requests were from the National Party tax-funded Research Unit.
    you can’t avoid the facts. Hypocrisy at its worst from John Key!

  22. sp – I dont think i saw Sean mention anything about sexual preference. He mentioned ‘lewd acts’. That could be anything… unless you know directly the rumour he is referring to?

    [of course I know what the homophobic smear is. SP]

  23. Matthew Pilott 23

    The NBR article did not say that it was a smear.

    Oh, mustn’t have been one then. Glad you cleared that up!

    Umm, actually, dave, what was it then? Just some run-of-the-mill research for the Nat research unit? You know, every-day research into the partners of Labour MPs?

  24. “Wellingtonian
    sp – I dont think i saw Sean mention anything about sexual preference. He mentioned ‘lewd acts’. That could be anything unless you know directly the rumour he is referring to?”

    We know exactly what you are alluding to, I’m sure you and every one else are very well aware that no such thing happened. If you believe otherwise you should go to the police with your evidence, if not, your facilitating child molestation (regardless of whether it actually append) for political gain, hang your head in shame, you’re filth.

  25. Killinginthenameof: I am not aware of the content of the rumour. I have not heard it before coming here today…. you filth.

  26. dave 26

    Umm, actually, dave, what was it then?
    Matthew, I know NCEA must have been a bit of a struggle for you, but the report said it was an OIA request. So it must have been, then.

  27. AndyC 27

    I think its a fair OIA. If you are on the funding board , which he is , and your own project gets a Govt funded grant , which it did. You should expect some scrutiny.

  28. Matthew Pilott 28

    Oh is that so, dave? Because last I heard Williams took a ‘flight’ to Melbourne, not a ‘smear’. Good luck for NCEA when you get there.

  29. Ianmac 29

    Andy C said: “I think its a fair OIA. If you are on the funding board , which he is , and your own project gets a Govt funded grant , which it did. You should expect some scrutiny.”
    I am nearly breathless at your audacity!
    You think that it is OK to use Nat Research Unit to look for any irregularity of a private citizen.
    You think no doubt that it is OK for the Govt Research Unit to check the credibility of one who aspires to the highest office in the land. Yes/No

  30. dave 30

    Because last I heard Williams took a ‘flight’ to Melbourne, not a ‘smear

    That’s right – took the flight to look for a smear – look for a smear, which is pretty much want I said. Shit, your comprehension is appalling, Pilott. He brought the smear back. Didn’t you know? At least the thought he brought the smear back – but he didn’t get a proper smear test before airing it. Pilott, you’re a classic! You should join the Labour party. Have a chat to Mike Williams – he`ll show you the ropes. He needs people like you.

  31. insider 31


    I’m nearly breathless at your naivety. He is the husband of the PM who received a large dollop of public funds. That is hardly a private citizen. Even HC says such investigation is to be expected. If Key’s wife was on the receiving end of govt largesse I’d expect similar questions from LAbour, and rightly so. Shipley got investigated by Labour when her sister got appointed to the arts council or lottery board or such. Just as the appointment and dealings of Annette King’s husband were researched in relation to HBDHB. I’m sure there are plenty more in relation to similar issues around other MPs’ and Ministers’ families.

    The real test of character is how it is done and what is done with the info. They asked a question privately and when they got an answer they left it at that. No journalists were tipped off, no documents anonymously emailed, no blogs seeded with rumours. No-one would know about this except for Labour wingeing about it. It happened months and months ago and is only coming out now because of the backfiring campaign strategy – the “they did it too” schoolyard excuse. I’d say the Nats acted very appropriately in this instance while Labour clearly failed the test.

  32. Felix 32


    Keep going, you’re almost there.

    So far you’ve figured out that Williams took a flight to look for a smear.

    And you’ve twigged that the NPRU made an OIA request… to… look…….for……… a………

    Come on dave, you can get there if you try.

  33. ianmac,
    At exactly the same moments that John Key was complaining about Labour using their Research Unit to investigate Key, was when the Nat Research Unit was hunting for “dirt’ not even on a politician!

    Elsewhere I’ve heard this termed TWO PARTY thinking. As in derivative dealings with party, counterparty. The dealer usually takes deal from/for the first and – not least to double fees – then seeks out someone else to take it on. The dealer, of course, can also be that someone else. In derivatives. In politics.. like you say, different values can apply and hypocritical is bullseye.

    Am I aiding or abetting explanation of this laddie’s behavior.. and why moral aspects can become a big nothing to what Richard Whalen (a noted risk manager at the Fed) calls plastic people. Just love that term, don’t you..?

  34. Swampy 34

    Davis was appointed to a health board back in the 80s wasn’t he? By his wife, then the Minister of Health, IIRC.

    If correct, the ultimate conflict of interest,

  35. lprent 35

    insider: What a pile of bollocks.

    I just had a peek at the National Party site where it says

    It’s time to get rid of the political distractions and the sideshows and choose a Government that is focused on what matters to you.

    What a pack of hypocrites! Most of the sideshows have been created and nutured by National or their pet poodle Act over the last 6 years. Few have amounted to anything of substance when they are finally laid to rest. What National is whining about is the political environment that they have created.

    Win or lose, then I’d expect that the “political distractions and the sideshows” will continue – targeted at National/Act. I’ll certainly help. If it is the only way to way to restore some balance in the political system, then so be it. It is time to stop being bloody polite. In some ways having a National lead government would be a lot of fun – performing death by a thousand cuts. If its Labour lead, then it will be a bit harder, but it is time to slice and dice National and their yellow poodle

  36. ak 36

    Ianmac: I am nearly breathless at your audacity!

    Likewise, Ian: after the deluge of filth I’ve merely glimpsed on the rightie blogs for at least the past year, kiwiblergh rejects coming over here to whine “smear” is like rats crawling out of the sewer to impersonate health inspectors…

  37. Ianmac 37

    Insider: You have said many things that are true. I agree that politicians esp, and people getting public money, should be held accountable. Yes and use the Research Unit to do so.
    BUT the point here is that Key was complaining endlessly about “pigs” digging for “dirt” and how nasty it was that they should be doing so WHILE his unit was doing the SAME THING! That is the hypocrisy and distinctly slippery for a would-be PM!

  38. insider 38


    I think the subtle difference here is that this was known about at least a year ago, and was public and had been investigated by the law, but Labour kept digging in some delusionary process where there was only one acceptable outcome.

    Like I say, if there is something there it is how you use it that you should be judged by. If there is nothing there and you still attempt to use it then it is dirty smearing. There was nothing there in Key’s case.

    Here’s a story from 2001


    Claims in Parliament today that the Prime Minister’s husband Peter Davis used his influence to get a friend a job reviewing the Government’s drug buying agency PHARMAC. A paper trail shows Helen Clark’s private secretary forwarded an e-mail from Dr Davis recommending Canadian Joel Lexchin for the job. Miss Clark says her husband is an expert in public health policy and it was appropriate he made a recommendation on a PHARMAC reviewer. ”

    Or Trevor Mallard’s follow up where he claimed Mary English got preferntial entry to university on race not merit – which turned out to be totally false and he had to apologise.

    Russell Brown did a very good story on the tit for tat going on


  39. insider, and that has what to do with Key’s hypocrisy?

  40. insider 40


    asking questions of govt is the job of the opposition. You may not like them, you may think they are mischievous and many don;t pan out. But many have and the Nats can hardly be blamed for asking about actions around for instance the immigration dept, dept of internal affairs, MfE which led to the sacking of two ministers, two CEOs (sorry resignations…) and a senior manager.


    What hypocrisy? I don’t think he said his background shouldn’t be looked at at all, ever, as you imply. I could be wrong. The issue here was they didn’t just look, they had a campaign of innuendo in which the Standard took part

  41. spot 41

    Last I recall the Nats were sniffing around the HRC from way back, well, certainly McCully and Ryall were, well before June this year.

    In general it’s usally pretty rich pickings to trawl through and see if you can make hay from a “shonky research” type angle.

    There’ll be stories somewhere on the net linked to that, for those bothered to look for them.

    The PM may well be correct in stating the NPRU filed an OIA request, but precisely for what ends, well, what gives her that level of certainty that it was about her husband? Is the actual request wording available?

  42. lprent 42

    insider: Yes asking questions is the duty of the opposition. However what National, Act, and the various wingnuts have been doing has gone way beyond that. Basically the policies labour have been pursuing have been well liked by the electorate. So the things that the right have been pulling in have been tabloid paper stuff. Personality politics designed for a screaming headline. For instance ‘paintergate’ – that was just total trash. The tennisball stuff. What in the hell did they have to do with anything substantive.

    Then you see hypocrisy like this crap on the National site. Oh lets all pull together style. Well stuff that – it is war! National and their poodle have been running a dirty negative campaign for 6 years. I’m pissed off with their dirt techniques. Labour has just (finally) started to respond. I want more of it, there is a point where you stop being nice.

  43. randal 43

    besides being standover types nats usually have a particular character disorder of wanting to nosy through other peoples affairs
    its a form of incipient paranoia and also indicative of the fact that like psychopaths in general they have no real affective lives of their own.

  44. Yep Lynn – you should see the stuff I’ve been digging out over the last month about the Nat’s dirty tricks machine…

  45. Ianmac 45

    Insider: How would you place the machinery from National and Act that was so active in attempting to convict Winston Peters? I don’t care whether you approved of him or not. I see that campaign as the dirtiest of smears and all of them have proved to be unfounded. (Lets leave the Privileges Committee out of it.) Good use of taxpayers money?

  46. AndyC 46

    lanmac , given his position and that of his wife , I find it more worrying that an OIA had to sort to have the information made public. Would it have made more sense to put the peer reviews on the table at the same time as the funding announcement to shut down the speculation in the first place.
    I have no doubt that the funding is warranted and the peer reviews are positive, I havn’t read them, and wouldn’t imagine for one moment that he would engage in any shonky dealing, but, handling of public funds should be open to inspection and review of those decisions where there is a perceived conflict of interest.

  47. insider 47


    Most of the info appears to have come from public sources or leaks from NZF and spoke for themselves. N/Act exploited it for sure just as Labour turned a deliberate blind eye to it.

    Peters has hardly been exonerated – his last four annual returns have been found to be false and he has been caught dissembling about donations, use of helicopters and his links to certain high level donors. I think I commented here that he was unlikely to have done anything illegal but that is not the minimum standard I expect from a minister of the Crown.

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