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Key’s farcical “Don’t ask, don’t tell” routine

Written By: - Date published: 3:04 pm, August 18th, 2014 - 40 comments
Categories: john key, national, Politics - Tags: , ,

John Key is sticking to his defensive strategy: deny everything, label Hager’s book a smear campaign, and – when pressed on specific allegations – say he doesn’t know the details. There is of course a very easy way for Mr Key to become acquainted with the details, which he doesn’t seem keen to do, and that’s to simply ask the right people.

For instance, there’s the issue of how classified SIS documents were suddenly declassified and released at break-neck speed to Cameron Slater, following his OIA request. Now, according to John Key this morning on Radio NZ’s Morning Report, Key had no knowledge that the SIS had released the documents. That’s despite Key being the Minister responsible for the SIS. And that’s despite there being some considerable political interest in the contents of the documents – after all, they made Phil Goff look like a fool, a liar or a lying fool, depending on your political allegiance.

Matthew Hooton, on Nine to Noon this morning, made the point that it is “preposterous” that Warren Tucker, as director of the SIS, would release such politically sensitive documents without first alerting the Minister, John Key. Under the ‘no surprises’ rule, I’d count releasing documents showing the leader of the opposition misled the public (whether accidentally or otherwise) as a bit of a surprise.

Nonetheless, John Key says he didn’t know, which means (taking him at his word) that either Mr Tucker made this unilateral decision or that Mr Tucker received a thumbs up from someone in Mr Key’s office who then didn’t pass that information on to Key.

So surely, all Mr Key needs to do, to clear everything up, is to ask Mr Tucker what precisely happened. Was the decision to declassify and release purely that of Mr Tucker’s? If so, why? And if Mr Tucker said he had in fact briefed someone in the Prime Minister’s office, who was that person?

Then there’s the issue of Judith Collins, and what she may or may not have leaked to Cameron Slater. Mr Key says he can’t really comment on any of that as he hasn’t asked Ms Collins about it. Nonetheless, there’s a serious allegation that Mr Hager has made. Hager alleges Collins leaked the Bronwyn Pullar letter to Slater. Collins is on record, both inside and out of the House, completely denying that she or her office had anything to do with the leak. If Hager is correct, Collins lied to Parliament and the New Zealand public. Surely that’s something Mr Key would at least want to ask Ms Collins personally?

Or the five word email by Ms Collins to Cameron Slater, in which she provides the name and title of Simon Pleasants, a former Labour staffer, who is promptly, viciously and wrongly smeared by Slater. Collins refuses to say what her email was in response to, and John Key says he has no idea either. Well, all he has to do is ask Collins what question from Cameron Slater she was replying to.

And then there’s the issue of the National Party staff member who downloaded the Labour Party’s database. John Key has confirmed that Jason Ede definitely accessed the database. He’s said, “Jason became aware of that [that Labour’s database was open to the public], and he did go and have a look”. But there’s no confirmation that Ede downloaded the database. Given that Ede still works for the National Party, one would think it should be a relatively simple matter for Key’s office to ask Ede exactly what he did or didn’t do.

Or the other National Party IP address that accessed the database? Peter Goodfellow, the Party President, has confirmed that another staff member rummaged around – just to check that National’s security wasn’t that bad, don’t you know? Who was that staff member and what, if anything, did they download? Mr Goodfellow already seems to know a great deal on the subject, so it shouldn’t be a great inconvenience to Key to call up the President and swap notes…

Those are just a selection of the questions to which Mr Key could presumably get quite easy answers, should he so desire. I could keep going, but you surely get the point.

This is cynical politics from Mr Key, and it’s an utter farce. He and National want the story to die down, so Key is steering well clear of specifics. If he doesn’t ask, he doesn’t know. And if he doesn’t know, he can’t answer the media’s questions. Everything peters out, and the media finally get around to reporting on policy.

However, Mr Key has, I believe, miscalculated badly. The media aren’t going to simply give up on this. The number of very specific questions that need answering are too many. The number of grubby little dots that need joining won’t suddenly disappear. And with Mr Hager’s alleged source beginning a piece by piece dump of the original emails via the @whaledump Twitter address, the journalistic interest will definitely not die.

Whether the wider public gives a damn is of course a different story. The four people with whom I raised it at Court this morning simply rolled their eyes and muttered derogatory comments about Nicky Hager. And these are intelligent, well-read people who I would generally respect.

John Key is perhaps hoping that the public don’t care now, and as long as nothing definitive comes out to link Key directly to the scandal, the public will continue to not care. Time will tell whether he’s right…

40 comments on “Key’s farcical “Don’t ask, don’t tell” routine ”

  1. lurgee 1

    Key’s stuck record routine on Morning Report was dire. That only really works if you SEEM to be answering the question. He obviously wasn’t and it sounded feeble. He’ll be pissing off a lot of journalists with the stonewalling stupidity.

  2. Tracey 2

    Jono

    I have just posted this on karols transctipt thread but it is directly on your point about SIS and the liar in chiefs absurd claims of not knowing

    IF the no surprises policy was in place before the sis declassified and/or released OIA stuff to slater, as opposed to dminion, then does the following make a liar of the liar in chief, again?

    As some here may know i have been pursuing the underlying facts to a statement made by bill english to the data forum. Following a request for an extension by the MSD i complained to the Ombudsmen. That office has chased it up and two things emerged. The one relevant to the PM is contained in this from the MSD

    ” In terms of providing the information to the Minister’s Office, this is required of the Ministry as part of the “no surprises” approach. All requests made under the Official Information Act, regardless of their content and nature, must be provided to the Responsible Minister for their information as part of this approach. The “no surprises” approach is consistent with guidelines provided by the State Services Commission and the Cabinet Manual which emphasise that a Department or Ministry ought to advise the Responsible Minister of issues that may be discussed in the public arena or that may require a ministerial response, preferably ahead of time or otherwise as soon as possible ” “

  3. lurgee 3

    Death by a thousand cuts was always Slater’s preferred way of doing things.

    Eh, they don’t like it up ’em, these righties!

  4. disturbed 4

    Yes lurge,

    He (Key) certainly has now pissed a lot of Journalists off, as well as the public.

    Now that the threats that were hanging over the Journo’s are now melting away, expect Key to keep tripping over his tongue, time after time,

    As Journo’s begin to ask those hard questions.

    Then the spineless twit will call on the master fix all, motor mouth Joyce.

    54 Emails our HB community Traffic group sent him asking for rail help over the last four years and all we got was diddly swat he didn’t even write a simple note compared to Helen Clark previously sent four good letters, one partly hand written.

    You don’t win friends and influence people that way by ignoring them,
    as he is doing with everything it seems now.

  5. Penny Bright 5

    FYI – ‘Seek truth from FACTS’ 🙂

    18 August 2014

    ‘Open Letter’/ OIA to Prime Minister John Key – please confirm that the following email addresses are/were used by Jason Ede:

    Dear Prime Minister,

    Given that you are the Minister in charge of the SIS – this should arguably not be a difficult request.

    ‘Nothing to hide – nothing to fear’?

    Please provide the information which confirms that the following email addresses were/are being used by Jason Ede, a current (?) / former member of staff attached, as I understand it, to YOUR Office of the Prime Minister?

    nzedjed@hotmail.com

    political.animal101@gmail.com

    Yours sincerely,

    Penny Bright

  6. Red Whine 6

    “..as long as nothing definitive comes out to link Key directly to the scandal, the public will continue to not care. Time will tell whether he’s right…”

    The public might care about the general stench surrounding National, but will they care enough to vote instead for parties and personalities they wouldn’t normally have contemplated voting for, ie Labour, or the Greens, or even New Zealand First? Nah, don’t think so.

    If the Right wants to register a protest vote rather than being associated with this sleaze – and I believe a lot of right-leaning New Zealanders are decent folk at heart – they don’t have a lot of options (the Conservative Party?) so perhaps the best we can hope for is that they don’t vote at all – or at least eschew their Party Vote even if they vote for their local backbencher Gnat.

    • Colonial Viper 6.1

      People sick of the NATs but who don’t want to go Left, will end up going with Winston.

  7. Penny Bright 7

    Gee – what happened to the ‘oldie but goodie’?

    (POLITICALLY) WHEN YOU’RE IN A HOLE – STOP DIGGING ….

    Don’t Crosby Textor know that one?

    Penny Bright

  8. rob 8

    John Key says the book is full of lies, yet hasn’t provided an example of one of these lies..

    The morning report interview was amazing this morning, i can imagine his advisors rocking backwards and forwards in the corner

    • disturbed 8.1

      The Nat’s spinners.

      Christ the shedder and lights are going to burn bright all through the nights till the election, or lose their job now. if they stop spinning.

      This will drive people away from the right.

  9. fambo 9

    It’s getting to the point where any major media outlet that doesn’t take this seriously including Mike Hosking is just going to look like a fool. Their credibility with anyone other than “Key at any cost ” will be down the toilet. They have no choice but to pursue the story now.

  10. This is getting hard to explain – why are they persisting with this strategy? Obvious I guess – damned if they do damned if they don’t. Question is – will the shiny but fragile PR construct of Key as super competent, well organised, steady hand on the tiller of state etc last another month? Photo ops with the Sikh community flocking around him are all very well but where was the Minister of Ethnic Affairs (a cynical appointment if there ever was one) – who was conspicuous by her absence.

    • Once Was Tim 10.1

      Actually I know SHITLOAD of Sikhs who are becoming seriously concerned about the way this junta has been treating their citizenry. It appears to be only the Sikh community that are actually with PR or Citizen status, and who’re not being ripped off by various employers and sheister tertiary education institutions.
      Key and Co may assume that they are at one, merely on the basis of ideological/political similarities with a slight shift to the right after recent elections – an election strangely enough won because of a born-to-rule, corrupt party that had grown to have their sense of entitlement (and that party happened to be of the left). There are of course other parties of the Left in India growing in popularity.
      Point is ….. Key and Co should not assume too much, merely on the basis of a few comfortably off Sikhs as a diaspora.
      The Sikhs I know are beginning to think long and hard, and their India-based families are becoming concerned about what I’d describe as ‘The Melbourne Phenomenon’
      Things can (and probably will – given Key’s attitude) rapidly turn to shit. If and when they do, I’d recommend Korean Air – except even there people are waking up.

      Oh ….. btw …. NEVER fuck with a Sikh or try and double cross them.
      They’re the staunchest most loyal people I’ve ever come across but they do not like shaister values or being ripped and done over. Could be because its happened a few times too often
      .

  11. lurgee 11

    It’s quite mad, isn’t it? How has Key gone from affable John, the likeable bloke we could all imagine having a drink with, to this rabid cur, in just a week? Snarling about how a respected journalist is a raving leftwing ideological fantasist, bragging about how he’ll not be asking Collins any more questions, now refusing to answer questions from a relatively timid interviewer. What a collapse.

  12. Tracey 12

    Does anyone know the date the no surprises policy came in?

    • Blue 12.1

      As far as I know, it has been in place as long as National have been in Government. Except for a brief period between 26 July 2011 and 2 August 2011 when it was rescinded to allow the SIS to release material embarrassing Phil Goff without telling John Key.

  13. Chris 13

    Labour needs to give itself a bit of space around its go positive campaign and start getting in to Key a bit more. They could be doing a lot more. Seem to be pulling punches.

  14. Tiger Mountain 14

    Key might be trying to talk past media types and lefties to tradies, retired conservatives and sheep shaggers but if poor folks are allowed to be aspirational these days and not vote Labour then hopefully tories do not have to unanimously support the lying GodKey and his revolting office mates.

    To the dump to the dump to the dump, dump whaledump! I don’t like this politics by proxy of books and blogs and OIA but it has come to this as a legacy of decades of neo liberalism driving down citizen participation in public life. It needs rebuilding.
    Hopefully the left bloc spend a bit of time trying to persuade people it IS worth voting as the electoral commission doesn’t seem to be as well budgeted or enthusiastic as in previous years.

    Key can play his bizarre twisted Catch–22 for a bit longer but one way or another he will not be Prime Minister in 12 months time. For everyones sake he should be dispatched on 20 September.

    • Thinker 14.1

      Anyone spared a thought for the tradition of the outgoing PM getting a gong from the incoming government?

      Only time I recall different was the pointed episode of the Finance Minister,Roger Douglas, and not Lange, getting one, from the incoming National government.

      If Hager’s claims in the book pan out, it’s going to be awfully difficult for anyone to dub thee Sir John Key. Maybe Bill English is starting to get a bit excited – I think I would be.

  15. Sable 15

    The Richard Nixon of NZ politics…..

    • disturbed 15.1

      Hole in one, Sable,

      So watch “tricky Dickie” Nixon tomorrow night (Tuesday) after 8pm, on the History channel.

      It is his whole history around Watergate!

      Key will no doubt avoid it, to many bad reflections for him I guess.

  16. Brendon Harre 16

    by Sheep Shagger | 18 Aug 14, 1:23pm
    http://www.interest.co.nz/news/71504/hager-expects-leaker-whaleoil-documents-release-them-separately-key-still-defending-ede-a#comment-785560

    10 votes which is a lot for this website

    Sorry Boatman but your attempts to discredit Mr Hager are just an attempted smokescreen. None of the protagonists have denied the veracity of the source material, merely the means of its acquistion. I have read the book and I am truely disgusted with it contents, particularily regarding the expediated preferential release of SIS material to Slater and Collin’s enabling the persecution of a defenseless public servant. While much of it merely reveals Slater own twisted sense of the world the fact that our Prime Minister by association condones this behaviour asks many questions of his character. My political leanings are to the National Party but sadly this election my vote will be cast in an manner that seeks to rid New Zealand of this morally corrupt man. The National party clearly needs some time in opposition under new leadership to clense itself.

    • Colonial Viper 16.1

      Paula Bennett’s stock must be up these days. And has Parata been rehabilitated yet? Clueless yet sharply dressed on $250K pa only gets you so far.

  17. tricledrown 17

    Key has climbed to the top of the greasy poll now he is loosing his grip the slide down the polls will be much Quicker!

  18. Tracey 18

    mrs soper needs to ask barry some very hard questions tonight after his repeat of keys latest lines as a substitute for analysis… ” nothing new today”

    what is “new” is the proof of what Hager said the emails said.

    shame on you mr soper

    • halfcrown 18.1

      My exact thoughts Tracey. But what really gets me, they expect you to swallow their bullshit.

      • Tracey 18.1.1

        Has Mr Garner had anything to say, do you know? If you have read the book (everyone not pointed at you halfcrown) you will know exactly why I am asking

        • Tracey 18.1.1.1

          Pleased to see this in the Herald this AM about Mr garner

          “Garner said Slater’s behaviour was disgraceful. “I pissed him off when I said publicly he should get a job, take some pills and contribute to our society and he goes digging for dirt.

          “First, I can’t believe he couldn’t find any – and secondly it’s a pretty Mafia-style approach. It’s a new low for New Zealand politics.””

          Now if he would return to what he used to be good at, journalism, and start truly educating NZers about what is going on under their noses from this Govt.,

  19. the pigman 19

    Mr. Natusch! You’ve nailed the issue here – Key’s attempt at plausible deniability has started to look completely implausible.

    Your professional colleagues might think they have better things to think about than politics at the moment, but I suggest you keep at them… my sense is that there is a huge chunk of FJK’s electorate who see voting a bit like betting – they want to pick who they think the winner will be. Once they realise that he looks anything but a winner, attitudes will start to shift. And shit, we don’t have long to do it.

    By the way, pleasantly surprised to see you blogging for the Standard (not even pseudonymously!). You and I had a matter together in Manukau FC back in the day… we settled it, of course, because we are both clearly sensible people 🙂

    • I’d find it difficult to justify my belief in transparency if I blogged under a false name! Plus, it regulates one’s writing – less likely to publish something feral if everyone knows who you are… (Most of my stuff is over at my Occasionally Erudite blog btw)

      Glad we were both sensible back in the day! The only time I like to be insensible is when I’ve had too much Riesling… 🙂

  20. Te Reo Putake 20

    Great interview with lawyer Felix Geiringer. Shame his final point about the weight given to National’s ‘but, stolen emails!’ defence was cut short.

    http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/checkpoint/audio/20146115/dirty-politics-%27police-should-take-matters-further%27-says-lawyer

  21. Penny Bright 21

    Seen this folks?

    Some very pertinent comments by Steven Price – the media lawyer who ‘vetted’ Dirty Politics, before it was published:

    http://www.medialawjournal.co.nz/?p=635

    Did Nicky Hager “make stuff up”?

    By Steven | August 18, 2014

    As many of you know, I act for Nicky Hager. I vetted his book, Dirty Politics, and the three before that.

    It is a surreal experience watching what happens to Nicky’s books in the days after their publication. It often seems as if the book that’s being discussed by politicians and in the media is entirely different from the one I’ve just spent weeks vetting.

    What’s more amazing is that politicians who admit they haven’t read the book and don’t intend to are given free rein to speak authoritatively about its content. Often they say things that are completely contradicted by evidence that’s set out in the book, but aren’t even challenged about it. Nicky is often accused of being a “conspiracy theorist” as if this is an answer to the evidence he sets out in the book.

    This time around, though, my sense is that things are different. The government’s denials are such blatant flannel that they are being seen as beyond the pale, even by our most grizzled political journalists, who have seen plenty of spin in their time.

    I want to go through some of the spin. I want to do that because the Prime Minister is claiming repeatedly that Nicky has “made stuff up”, that he’s in cahoots with the “Fuck John Key” mob and the “Planet Key” song-writer and the effigy burners, and that he’s done it to distract attention from the real issues.

    Let’s just pause on that last one. Anyone with even a nodding acquaintance with Nicky or his writing, whether they agree with him or not, surely cannot escape one conclusion: Nicky’s goal is to get us talking about the real issues, and to expose and critique the tactics that are used to derail genuine political engagement. In fact, Dirty Politics is about exactly that.

    I have to say, I really wish Mr Key had displayed this same affection for debating the issues when Nicky put out Other People’s Wars, a book about New Zealand’s hidden foreign policy during conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, based on hundreds of leaked defence documents and interviews with insiders, written over the course of ten years. Key’s response? It’s a “conspiracy theory”.

    Then there’s the insistence that Nicky makes stuff up and that the allegations are “unravelling”. So what has he got wrong?
    National’s involvement in the ”hacking” of the Labour Party database?Nicky doesn’t call it a hack. He exposes and criticises the collaboration between the PM’s office and Cameron Slater. He says they accessed the database, dug around, and downloaded information.

    John Key on Thursday said repeatedly that “National had nothing to do with it.” Yet in almost the same breath, he admitted that his staffer Jason Ede might well have gone in and had a look. But that had “nothing to do with National”. In fact, National has also acknowledged that “it appears” a staffer downloaded files. Dirty Politics sets out correspondence between Ede and Slater discussing the information. While Nicky makes it clear that the site was insecure, it’s an open question, as a matter of law, whether this means it was not a crime to go digging around in it.

    The PM’s involvement in the extraordinary early release of SIS briefing notes to Slater under the OIA? Nicky says that given the PM was minister for the SIS, the briefing notes were a hot potato, and they got declassified and released to a partisan blogger within days of a request, it looks like the PM knew about it. “The head of the SIS would surely never have done anything so unusual, so public, and so political without their minister’s knowledge and approval,” he suggests. He quotes Cameron Slater emailing friends about it, boasting about the fact that the information was on the way, would be “catastrophic”, and that he had been “sworn to secrecy”.

    The PM told journalists last Thursday, ”it was nothing to do with me.” Phil Goff disagrees. The Dominion Post notes that they put in a request for almost the same information at the time and were turned down. This really doesn’t look to me like something that’s been disproved, or can be dismissed as “baseless”.

    It raises serious questions about the PM’s involvement. I see that blogger The Ruminator says that in 2009 someone in (Corrections Minister at the time) Judith Collins’ office called up to expedite an OIA request to Cameron Slater, pressing for it to be processed within half an hour. And we should remember that Dirty Politics cites other instances of Ede drafting OIA requests for Slater (though the evidence Nicky received doesn’t show him drafting this one).

    The alleged attempted blackmail of Rodney Hide? Nicky claimed that Cameron Slater and Simon Lusk conspired to get hold of some compromising text messages sent by (then ACT leader) Rodney Hide, to try to pressure him into resigning. (Let’s not mince words here: Lusk writes they should tell Hide someone has the texts “and will leak them if he doesn’t resign by friday.”)

    Nicky quotes Slater’s subsequent blog post, which contains hints about Hide so broad you could land a plane on them. Hide resigned shortly afterward. DimPost outlines Hide’s adamant refusal to resign until that point. Dirty Politics says there’s no evidence of any direct threat made to Hide, and there may well have been other reasons for Hide’s resignation.

    Hide has laughed off the suggestions that he was blackmailed or that this had anything to do with his resignation. But that doesn’t really answer the point, does it? Was there a plan to blackmail him? It seems there was. It can’t be said, anyway, that this suggestion is a “wild allegation” or ”made up” or ”a conspiracy theory” or “baseless”.

    Judith Collins passing on the name of a civil servant so he could be excoriated by Slater? Judith Collins admits she passed on the name to Slater. The PM was asked repeatedly whether this was acceptable behaviour on Morning Report this morning and kept trying to change the subject.

    Judith Collins passing on information to Cameron Slater about ACC client Bronwen Pullar? Steven Joyce says this is “completely false”. But Cameron Slater’s messages to a friend at the time say he’s spoken to Collins about it, that he knows the information is in a spreadsheet not a database, that he knows Pullar’s identity (though he doesn’t name her), that she “tried to get money for it” and that she is about to get “rat-fucked”.

    This all happens shortly before the Pullar/Boag email was leaked to the press. Dirty Politics notes it could have been leaked by ACC or the email’s author Michelle Boag. But Nicky suggests that Judith Collins’ office had more incentive to leak it. Of course, Collins denies this. But again, it can hardly be said that this allegation is fabricated or groundless or wild, or that it’s been proved wrong.

    All Nicky’s books contain “left-wing conspiracy theories and don’t stack up”, particularly Seeds of Distrust? The allegations in Seeds of Distrust were submitted to exhaustive scrutiny in the Select Committee’s inquiry into Corngate. That inquiry was controversial and the committee was divided. But half of the members thought Nicky basically got it right – including all the National Party members.

    Anything else? As far as I can tell, there is not a jot of evidence that Nicky has “made stuff up.” Nor is there any that his reporting is “baseless”, or that he “doesn’t want facts” as the PM puts it. Judith Collins has called the bits about her mostly lies. But she’s admitted the passing-on-of-the-name allegation, admitted that she has been in frequent contact with Cameron Slater, and said that she wouldn’t be able to sue because the book was full of speculation and might-bes.

    That doesn’t sound like lies to me. Let’s just treat that as praise for the careful and honest way that Nicky has separated out what he knows from what he’s not sure about, so readers can make up their own minds about the evidence he presents.

    I note there has been a roaring silence from others criticised in the book, such as PR agent Carrick Graham and political consultant Simon Lusk. These do not strike me as men who are incapable of putting out their side.

    Nicky’s allegations are based on a 150-page book with 500 footnoted sources, most of them from emails that Cameron Slater has admitted were taken from him.

    What are your allegations that he “made stuff up” based on, Mr Key?

    …………………

    Penny Bright

  22. Tracey 22

    here’s the thing. Until TVNZ did their unscientific snap poll, Key looked very shakey. BUT his minders grabbed the by-line that people don’t care and it became the new spin. Well, those journos NOT cowering with fear, ought to make some more revelations from the book, and then people need to be asked…. do you think Mr Key should be associated with people like this. Ask that freaking question… and see who cares.c c

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