Over at The Ruminator there is a post by Lord Sutch that cuts a big hole in the denials by Judith Collins and Cameron Slater denials about their mutual back-scratching in private vendettas.
It came up in comments here and apparently over at Hard News (I couldn’t find it in the welter of comments).
The story rings true, and rather confirms some of the allegations about Cameron Slater and OIA (Official Information Act) requests in Nicky Hager’s book “Dirty Politics”
So as I stated on Twitter I was asked to respond to an official information act request from Cam in 30 minutes please.This was when I worked at the Department of Corrections. The request for the speedy turn-around came from the Minister’s office. Which at the time was Minister Collins. It did not come from the Minister herself. But from someone in her office.
I was working as a Ministerial Advisor at the time.
The request concerned a TV3 journalist, Alison Horwood, going into prison and talking to Clayton Weatherston. The journalist had been able to get into the prison by saying she was a (family) friend of Clayton’s. Had she been upfront and said she was a reporter, she would not have been allowed in.
Ms Horwood did a story on Weatherston’s parents airing on 60 Minutes on July 24. In it she spoke of having gone to visit Clayton. On July 30 WhaleOil had the following story up on his site:
Now you’ll note that Cam received the application form. That was what the OIA request was for. Because in the application form it set out that the reporter had declared herself as a family friend, and not as a reporter which media are supposed to do. This way, Corrections was absolved of blame for letting the reporter in. Because they’d been duped!
Very wisely Lord Sutch has taken a copy of the web page. Cameron Slater in his usually cowardly fashion regularly removes embarrassing webpages. The original is here
Obviously this TV3 reporter appears to have caused some embarrassment to the Minister of Corrections Judith Collins. And as we know from Nicky Hagers book she is a rather vindictive small minded creep of a person. Read the book when you can get a copy and you will see what I mean. She comes across as a thoroughly unpleasant individual.
OIA requests are meant to take no more than 20 working days. They frequently take far more and there are many complaints to the Ombudsman about the careful lack of diligence that accompanies the processing of many OIAs.
There is nothing to prevent them from being done in a shorter time. It is just exceptional – very very exceptional. Except of course if you are Cam Slater greasing up Judith Collins office apparently.
On the afternoon that the request came in (the normal way), I also received a phone call from the Minister’s office asking that this be done as “quickly as possible”. When I asked how quickly that would be, it was suggested that a timeframe of 30 minutes to an hour would be acceptable. This is not the normal process, so I asked my manager what to do. He said to do as I was asked but make a file note. Whether that filenote still exists or not, I do not know.
In fact I don’t actually have any evidence of this. I spoke to the person who made the 30 minute request and they said that they “didn’t recall” asking for it. They also said that what went on in Collins’ office was no different to what went on in Labour’s offices. It’s just Labour used unions rather than bloggers.
There were rumours floating around that someone in Collins’ office was a part-owner in Gotcha Publishing which was run by Cam Slater (Keith Ng did a story here but couldn’t find more detail). I don’t know if that was true or not but it was suggested as one of the links between the National Party and Cam Slater.
Anyway, that’s my story. It’s interesting to note that the actual Ministerial response which sets out Alison Horwood’s duplicitous request form is no longer on Cam’s site. Probably coincidence though. When I interviewed Minister Collins, I raised this very story. She said that she couldn’t possibly know what her staff were doing at all times so she wouldn’t have had anything to do with this request. Plausible deniability right there.
Based on the material in the book, I suspect that we may be getting a number of these types of stories wending their way into public over the next few days.
I have to say that it appears to me that there has been rather a lot of fiddling of the OIAs in recent years. In particular I’m thinking about the OIA requests on Liu that appeared to have some curious timings.
Perhaps a complaint should be made to the Ombudsman about the perversion of OIA process by senior ministers?