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National’s “intelligence unit” kicks into gear

Written By: - Date published: 9:01 am, July 5th, 2020 - 120 comments
Categories: Dirty Politics, jacinda ardern, labour, national, same old national, uncategorized - Tags:

Yesterday was a rather brutal day.

Kurt Taogaga, who I know and respect, was caught out with some seven year old tweets.

He was much younger when he made them.  They display a critical view of a particular religion, consistent with a critical view of any religion.  From his tweets he thought there might be some good in a Richard Prosser article.  This is the sort of thing that all young intellectuals do, try to analyse all nuances of an argument no matter how bad and see if there are elements that may be true.

Perhaps he should have said that the article was a complete festering pile of cant.  If he read the article after March last year before commenting I am certain his views would have been different.  But seven year old historical tweets written without the ability to look into the future can look pretty bad.

How it came into the public realm needs some analysis.

Jacinda Ardern was blindsided by Tova O’Brien on Newshub Nation about the comments (14 minutes into the video in this article) and said she was not aware of them.  Shortly after this Kurt resigned.

Interestingly a month ago Newshub’s Tova O’Brien said this:

Newshub can reveal that under its new leadership the National Party has set up an “intelligence unit” to dig up information on its political opponents during the 2020 election campaign.

National MPs leaked details of the unit to Newshub, concerned it would be used for “black ops” and dirty politics – claims National’s campaign chair Gerry Brownlee has flatly rejected.

It comes after National’s new leadership team of Todd Muller and Nikki Kaye suffered a fraught first day in Parliament on Tuesday, as they struggled to defend a lack of Māori MPs on the party’s refreshed frontbench.

Not long after National’s first top secret caucus meeting wrapped up that day, MPs were leaking, telling Newshub new campaign chair Gerry Brownlee had announced an “intelligence and espionage unit” – black ops to dig dirt on National’s political enemies.

Newshub asked Brownlee on Wednesday to explain the “intelligence and espionage unit” he’s setting up and he insisted those words do not describe it.

“Firstly, take those words away – they’re completely ridiculous.”

Asked if it’s about digging dirt on opponents, he said: “No, it most definitely is not my style. We have no interest in that.”

I get the feeling that this unit has been busy and has its first victim.  The media companies are all struggling with resources.  Trawling through decades of social media of hundreds of politicians takes a great deal of resource.  Maybe it was an accidental discovery by a reporter but somehow I don’t think so.

The incident brings back bad feelings of the Dirty Politics era.  It was not a dark part of National’s history that they have learnt from.  It was business as usual.

And it is funny that National can be utterly bereft of policies, apart from announcing a new road they have announced a number of times before.

But digging up ancient dirt on the opposition and anonymously drip feeding it to the media?  I am afraid this looks like business as usual.

To those that say Labour does it too name a recent incident.  Comments are open.

120 comments on “National’s “intelligence unit” kicks into gear”

  1. Brian Tregaskin 1

    In return its only fair Michael Woodhouse should resign after pictures in the spinoff have emerged of him holding a toilet seat with Clare Currans face.!!!

    • Muttonbird 1.1

      Woodhouse highlights the venal nature of everyone and everything in the National Party.

    • Dennis Frank 1.2

      I gather parliament is about to recess. Too bad. Pictures of an enterprising Labour MP waving a laminated enlargement of the woodlouse face with his toilet seat adjacent could have made the tv news. Accompanied by a verbal reference to `pottyface'! 😵

    • That shows what a low life Woodhouse is. The member who calls him "Woodlouse" had that right. His behaviour is loathsome.

    • Incognito 1.4

      Woodhouse seems to have a problem with other MPs from Dunedin such as Clark and Curran. Is the sandpit too small for him?

  2. Muttonbird 2

    It will also be interesting if we ever find out by who and how the details of quarantined returnees ended up with the Herald.

    My pick is Chris Bishop's office was involved. And in fact Chris Bishop has styled himself as the chief snooper, he of course responsible for the budget hack last year.

    Wouldn't surprise me if Bishop was behind the Kurt Taogaga case too…

    • Anne 2.1

      Isn't Bishop's partner a Newshub political reporter? I may have that wrong and her name escapes me for the moment.

      • Incognito 2.1.1

        Jenna Raeburn

        I think you’re confused with Chris Penk’s wife, Kim Choe.

        • Anne

          I think the Newshub reporter looks a little bit like Jenna Raeburn and I thought it was the same person. 🙁

      • millsy 2.1.2

        If a reporter has any relationship with a politician, even it is FWB, then they shouldnt cover political issues. And, yes, I expect it from both sides of the house.

        For example, we dont hear much from Jane Clifton since she married Trevor Mallard, etc.

        To be honest, I think Fran Mold should be moved from her position as political editor for One News as she is married a member of the PM's security detail.

  3. tc 3

    Tova seems to be on point for the initial 'gotcha' again.

    Brownlee will be chuffed and Matty will be well pleased. His class of 2020 are very capable.

  4. Anker 4

    Yes money on it that National leaked covid patients details…..

    Errors can be made of course. But someone either leaked them to stuff directly or forwarded them there. Good on stuff for not publishing.

    • Just Is 4.1

      Yep, but now we have the Army running the show, which will make it that much harder for leakers

    • Anne 4.2

      Yes money on it that National leaked covid patients details…..

      But why? I don't see what anyone would gain from such an action unless they were going to frame it as another govt. f**k up.

    • Draco T Bastard 4.3

      Question: WTF is our government still running MS Office?

      Its a major security flaw that makes leaks like this easy and almost inevitable. They should have a single system that does everything including making sure leaks via email don't happen.

      Same goes for large businesses as well.

      MS Office is for SOHO where there'd be one or maybe two people in it.

      • KJT 4.3.1

        So. They should pay some software outfit billions for a system that doesn't work?. Like ke we haven't seen that before!

        • Draco T Bastard

          No. There should be a government department that develops all the software & hardware that government needs.

          BTW, continuing to spend millions on software that's not fit for purpose isn't going to help.

      • millsy 4.3.2

        Nothing to stop people from copying the information onto flash storage and walking out with it, which is what has proably been done here.

        Then they could just email the info from their personal account, on their home computer. maybe even use a gmail account, or even drop the flash drive off at the newsroom.

      • McFlock 4.3.3

        Because almost everyone uses it.

        Sure government departments might use a brilliant system few other people have heard of. Then you have the thousands of stakeholder groups that get data from various agencies, some of them almost at that "SOHO" level. And all the DHBs, and all the PHOs those DHBs deal with, and even the hotels currently used for iso.

        Many of them will have to supply or receive their data in .csv or excel format, because that's what they use. And I suspect this particular excel file was a database extract for one of those agencies.

        • Draco T Bastard

          So, they're keeping with MS Office because of proprietary standards that could be removed at any time?

          Yeah, I have a problem with that. I suggest Open Document Formats rather than proprietary ones. Better than continuing to prop up proprietary ones that could leave us without being able to read our data at all.

          Also, Open Office, LibreOffice and other office programs can read MS Office protocols so not really an issue there. MS Office can even read Open Document Format now.

          • McFlock

            Well, you can suggest Libre Office to everyone who doesn't use it. Until then, it's a great way to annoy stakeholders. And no, much of the formatting gets screwed swapping between the two. Tried it, didn't work, moved on.

            • Draco T Bastard

              And no, much of the formatting gets screwed swapping between the two.

              Haven't had an issue with that for two years or more.

              Until then, it's a great way to annoy stakeholders.

              The people still holding on to MS Office can even read Open Document Format documents without issue.

              • McFlock

                Oh well, if you haven't had that issue, it must all be fine.

                Still doesn't matter if most people use excel and want excel formats. Being responsive to stakeholders, and all that.

  5. Just Is 5

    Ever since Muldoons jerry mandering of electorates and winning power with only 42.5% of the vote, the National Party have been on a steep decline of honesty and integrity, it's now a matter of winning at any cost and by any means.

    We're currently in a new situation with the events of Corona Virus, and the exemplary effort the current Govt has achieved will make it that much harder for National to discredit them, not impossible, but certainly more challenging.

    As we know, the polls have indicated a huge support for the current Govts actions and achievments, the opposition need to step very carefully as their antics could easily backfire on them.

    Probably the biggest hurdle for the current Govt is the blatantly biased media, we can only hope that punters recognize this and also the massive world class achievments fighting this pandemic.

    • Draco T Bastard 5.1

      Ever since Muldoons jerry mandering of electorates and winning power with only 42.5% of the vote, the National Party have been on a steep decline of honesty and integrity, it's now a matter of winning at any cost and by any means.

      National has always been like that. Its pretty much the MO of right-wing politics. That's what Dirty Politics showed us.

    • Gabby 5.2

      To be fair to Mulders, the natsys were a bit dodgy under Kiwi Keef too.

  6. swordfish 6

    Don't know why the Nats bothered … the authoritarian Woke Cult currently trying to hi-jack the Left would've happily done it for them. After all, the hereos of Cancel Culture like nothing more than devoting hundreds of hours to trawling through the social media accounts of perceived ideological enemies (in much the same way, no doubt, that Scientologists seek to destroy anyone critical of L Ron Hubbard). If you're outside the Cult … you're the enemy.

    Suspect if the Nats hadn't got there first, the ex-boarding school Woke with their "unusually refined moral sensibilities" would've been demanding a Ritualised Public Humiliation by now. Then again, Taogaga is presumably Pasifika and the Intersectionals – consumed with Nobel Savage Paternalism – do practice the most outrageous double standards … so he might just have gotten away with it.

    • Dennis Frank 6.1

      Bomber is hip to this emerging trend: https://thedailyblog.co.nz/2020/07/04/labours-rank-amateur-cancel-culture-red-flag-for-gerrys-intelligence-unit/

      Labour have set a very very very very low threshold here and Gerry Brownlee’s intelligence Unit will be sweeping every candidates social media feeds now to catch another example and force Labour to sack them as well, and once you’ve got one, you can find another and you start a story narrative you could have avoided if you hadn’t cancelled in the first place. ‘Another Labour Candidate haunted by tweets’ will scream Tova O’Brien while Hooton will advise Todd Muller to launch a culture war argument about left wing culture purges.

    • Drowsy M. Kram 6.2

      Suspect you're right – btw you left out 'virtue signalling' laugh

      "Every generation grew up rolling eyes at their reactionary elders. The values of that younger generation invariably become the cultural norm. The young became older and, now appalled at what the next batch of youth believes, argued that the world was decaying into folly. Each generation thinks that they are the first to be right about the awfulness of youth. They’re always wrong.

      Mind you, I would say that. As the Telegraph confirmed, I’m very woke (and proud of it)."

      Once you’re accused of virtue-signalling, you can’t do anything right

      • Incognito 6.2.1

        Once you’re accused of virtue-signalling, you can’t do anything right


        Over four years of hard work for Labour and a clean slate, AFAIK, killed off in one fell swoop. How kind of Labour.

        Current and aspiring politicians need to be in a constant state of Tabula Erasa.

        • Drowsy M. Kram

          She's a hard road finding the perfect aspiring politician – "Still… no hurry eh?", and certainly no shortage of candidates, even in little ole New Zealand.

          Battles with 'social media perfection syndrome' must be exhausting.

          • Incognito

            Many create an on-line persona called profile that projects who they want to be and avoid who they do not want to be. Similar process takes place when people get behind the wheel of their car and forget who they are and become somebody else.

    • Gabby 6.4

      He might've got away with it if he'd bothered to address it some time prior to it being dragged into the open.

      • Incognito 6.4.1

        Some people are prolific tweeters and would they remember all their tweets from seven years ago?

        Interestingly, Kurt Taogaga joined Twitter in, wait for it, drumroll, February 2013.

        • McFlock

          Yeah, it was a lurking tripmine. Everyone has them to greater or lesser degrees, I reckon.

          • Incognito

            I’ve done very stupid things and I’ve got the scars to remind me, physical and mental. Luckily (?), none on-line but all in the real world so no skeletons lurking in my hyperspace closet, well maybe a bit of bone dust and a few ashes …

            • McFlock

              Remember David Benson-Pope and the tennis ball? Happened in real life.

  7. Climaction 7

    cry me a river.

    the idiot should have deleted those tweets long ago. The media has a fascination for sourcing its stories from social purely because it is under resourced.

    as a politician, your public utterances are of interest. That a labour candidate didn’t think to go through their old tweets / Facebook posts and see if they could possibly be aligned with any of the beliefs of the mosque shooter says more about the candidate than the ability of a national “ops” unit. It’s political candidate training 101

    • Graeme 7.1

      Well when are we going to see Hamish Walker fall on his sword or be de-selected.

      • Robert Guyton 7.1.1

        Hamish has doubled-down rather.

        • Graeme


          He's either making Jon Mitchell's job a lot easier, or laying the groundwork for a departure, family time with the young family, you know, and a precarious list MP comes in. Or he's a complete muppet.

          Odds on 1 & 3, but there must be envious eyes being cast on safe blue seats held by plonkas.

        • I Feel Love

          Yes strange that irony, the Nats are already assumed to be racist, sexist, etc but Labour and Greens are expected to be pure. That's the logic here isn't it?

        • georgecom

          or double standards?

      • Gabby 7.1.2

        Hamie knows his electorate a bit better than you do apparently. That shit is like catnip down on the farrrm.

        • Graeme

          At 35% Amy's going to need a seat to get a job. She has a house in the electorate now, thanks to boundary changes.

  8. Ffloyd 8

    Regarding the leak. It’s interesting that Woodhouse has already fronted up to say “it wasn’t me your honour” Had anyone said it was. Actually he was the first person I thought of. How convenient this leak is only two days infor Chris Hipkins replacing David Clarke.Like a fish National rots from the head down. Wouldn’t even use them for compost. Having said that what are the chances it was ‘human error’ I’m picking not many,if any.

    • Incognito 8.1

      He should do a pre-emptive ‘it wasn’t me’ for the next one too. He knows it is coming.

  9. Byd0nz 9

    Dirty politics is part of 'National's' ethos, so the question is, have voters matured enough to dismiss this shit for what it is.

  10. greywarshark 10

    The Jesuits found that seven years was enough to take a child and guide it along the right primrose path for ethical thinking as an adult. Why something said in a flip manner seven years ago should be a hanging offence I don't know.

    Did anyone ask the Muslim Leader whether he and his council of elders thought that it was an example of a serious offence and want the person removed? They might have said that it was a chance to talk about ingrained attitudes, and do that and leave the person in their position. Making lemonade from lemons would be the smarter thing, but no, prissy and showy rules the day.

    • Draco T Bastard 10.1

      Its got to the point now that any minor offence is a sackable offence and not a learning experience. Reminds me of National's National Standards – children pass or fail from the get go of going to school rather than being nurtured to their full potential.

      And the Left are falling for it.

  11. Morrissey 11

    Ten years ago, Willie Jackson and John Tamihere had dwarf-boxing impresario Dean Lonergan on their show on Radio Pacific to talk sensitively and learnedly on the subject of marital infidelity. Both "Deano" and "JT" made it clear that there was no excuse for violence against any woman, even if one came home one day midway through the afternoon to find her in bed with, say, half the ACT caucus. Willie Jackson, though, was having none of that P.C. nonsense. “If I found out that my missus was fooling around on me,” he said, with quiet sincerity, “I’d put a knife through her heart.”

    This shocked even the crass and offensive Lonergan, who felt moved to remonstrate: “I think that’s going a bit far, mate.”

    Jackson didn’t back down an inch. “Nah, nah, nah—don’t give me THAT,” he said, without even a hint of his usual playfulness. “I would. I would put a knife through her heart. I WOULD.”

    JT snorted sardonically and laughed, “You’re a mongrel, Willie, a mongrel.”


    How come Kurt Taogaga has to go, yet Willie Jackson survives?

  12. Chris T 12

    Bit of a non story.

    How quickly people conveniently forget.

    Labour tries to dig dirt on National


  13. Chris T 13

    And the time before key people were trying to dig dirt on Helen Clark


    This stuff is not new or particularly nasty. It is what politicians do.

    They are extremely motivated people, who want power. And that includes the current lot in power.

    • Incognito 13.1

      Oh, it is not particularly nasty and pretty legal, of course. Nothing to see here, let’s keep moving.

      If you’re not careful and keep digging, you’ll end up in/at 1984.

      Did you read the last sentence of the OP?

      To those that say Labour does it too name a recent incident. Comments are open. [my italics]

    • georgecom 13.2

      when Don Brash 'didn't know who is behind the pamphlets', but one thing he did know was that it 'wasn't the National Party'

      and Brash and Key were having multiple meetings with Brethren, not to discuss 'our/your campaign' but 'for prayer'.

  14. Sacha 14

    Yep, it's clear who we should hold accountable for Winston First consistently blocking fishing industry regulations declares Andrea Vance. https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/opinion/122019615/the-greens-bear-responsibility-for-capitulation-to-nz-first-and-big-fish

    But the Greens must accept their share of responsibility for their capitulation and the weak progress on oceans and fisheries policy, both touchstones of the environmental movement.

    Winston is as Winston does. His contumacy exploits James Shaw’s desire to appear constructive and collegial and undermines the Greens, who are less Government allies than rivals.

    • Incognito 14.1

      Oh dear, the AV unit is making funny noises again. What is her ‘point’ this time?

      • Sacha 14.1.1

        That she still has no understanding of MMP coalitions.

        • Incognito

          Hard to believe which begs the question why AV persists spreading misinformation and perpetuates outmoded views.

  15. Brian Tregaskin 15

    I believe in the kiwi battler -no fair kiwi will stand for Michael Woodhouse's toilet seat antics -time to https://www.change.org and get enough signatures to convince Michael to stand down.

    • Sacha 15.1

      I hope you have selected a suitable telephone booth for your victory celebration.

  16. Lydia 16

    Not surprised to see Tova in the thick of it. Whaleoil wanted Simon and Paula gone. They used Tova to side with JLR but that didn't work. So now they have Hooton running the National party, through Muller, and they are using Tova again.

  17. Andrew Miller 17

    For what it’s worth I think both Prosser’s article is repugnant, but that the tendency to trawl through people’s pasts for dumb things people have said or done to then try and drive them from public life with no opportunity to show they’ve changed or learnt, or that the indiscretion isn’t defensible but shouldn’t define someone’s life is a stain on modern public discourse.
    However the hypocrisy on display hear is laughable. There are countless examples of public figures being mobbed, cancelled, publicly shamed or forced to resign for views no worse than this.
    When it’s your opponents doing it, it’s ‘dirty politics’ when it’s the left it’s holding people accountable for their views in the pursuit of social justice.

    • observer 17.1

      Can you give examples in NZ – say, in the last 3 years? Specifics are helpful in a debate.

  18. Peter 18

    Let's face it Labour doesn't have to dig the dirt on National. Clutha MP Hamish Walker's dirt and scummy values didn't need to be dug up.

    Result? His majority probably went up 1000 if the people he said he'd been talking to are any indication.

  19. McFlock 19

    Firstly, it was several years ago but he wasn't a teen when he supported the article. He was a grown adult.

    Secondly, sure it could have been a research unit. It could equally be someone from back in the day who thought he was a dick then and googled Prosser's article for the timeframe to look through the guy's tweets. But the thing about DP is that often we will never know.

    Thirdly, we should expect better from our representatives. This maybe delayed his career (his chance of election was minimal at 68), but he's got the opportunity to be good for the next three years, anyway.

    Fourth, he's done well and taken the hit for the team: apologised wholeheartedly, resigned from the list for this year.

    Finally, at a wider level, this is actually a sign of things mellowing out: crowd outrage isn't as mob-handed as it once was. People are beginning to forgive the occasional tweet. Of course, if my nom de plume gets outed I'll probably have to quit just to stop my current boss having a headache from all the storm, but most folks are let off with a warning, as traffic cops don't really say these days.

    • Incognito 19.1

      Was he sacked or did he resign?

      • McFlock 19.1.1

        Fair call, it looks like they might have had a bloody quick overnight meeting – the interview was Friday and he was gone Saturday.

        But he could equally have done a JLR and fought it tooth and nail. Or run off to NZ1, loudly cursing the wokepolice.

        The guy is still <40. He seems to have more than enough grace under pressure to come back from this.

  20. Marcus Morris 20

    Bishop to Woodhouse. Easy dots to join.

  21. gsays 21

    I would have thought any intelligence unit in the Nats caucas would sort out the leaks coming from the top table first. eg Muller having to show poll numbers to his 1st 15 rather than the 'trends'.

  22. Muttonbird 22

    Another casualty, I expect. Steven Berry suddenly 'resigns' from ACT. Methinks his social media history is/was about to come under the microscope.


  23. georgecom 23

    I wonder is Brownlee and his other black ops hacks are behind the leak of Covid19 names?

    Woodhouse apparently had a 'reliable source' in the MOH who told him about a homeless man getting into a quarantine hotel. You know, that story which was extensively investigated without any evidence being found to support it, and which Woodhouse has failed to front with any evidence to substantiate.

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