Today in Parliament Bill English made a very interesting comment which, if true, raises some very concerning questions about either his own honesty or the editorial integrity of APN, publishers of the New Zealand Herald.
Referring to a quip from Michael Cullen about John Key’s statement that ‘we would love to see wages drop‘, English said:
Is the Minister aware that the newspaper concerned is going to publish a retraction?
Fascinated, a regular reader of The Standard followed up the story by making a few phone calls. Eventually he reached a senior manager at the Northern Advocate, who told him the story would not be a retraction, but a correction, and would be running in the Advocate’s sister paper the New Zealand Herald either tomorrow or in the next few days.
According to this manager the Herald’s correction will run Key’s (eventual) line that he was misquoted and had actually been talking about Australian wages all along.
If true, this is a huge turnaround from APN that needs some serious explaining. The reporter has stood by every word that was written in his original article and a transcript has been released to back him up. The editor backed the journalist and his story to the hilt in an editorial last week. And the publisher has also gone on the public record backing the story:
Northern Publishing stands by the story published in the Bay Report on December 20, 2007 in which National Leader John Key was quoted as saying “We would love to see wages drop.”
Our reporter was at the meeting with the Kerikeri District Business Association President Carolyne Brooks-Quan and recorded the conversation.
We have a transcript of the meeting and we are happy that the quotes printed in the story are an accurate record of what Mr Key said.
Furthermore, if APN does plan to run the line that Key was talking about wanting Australian wages to drop then it has even more explaining to do, because the transcript shows it is simply implausible that Key could have been talking about Australia.
Of course, we don’t know for sure if any of this is true, but it does raise some concerning questions:
1. How and why did Bill English know about the correction in advance?
2. Is it true that Key’s office tried to get journalist Greg Roberston sacked for his story?
3. Why would APN publish the correction in the Herald and not the Advocate or the Bay Report?
4. Why would APN buy Key’s line that he was talking about Australian wages when the transcript suggests this is not the case and Key has issued multiple conflicting denials?
5. Why is this suddenly a story now, more than two weeks after it broke?
Again, I stress that none of this has yet been verified. But given Bill English’s comments in the house today, our reader’s conversation with the APN manager and Key’s rather menacing comments on Havoc the other day it all looks a little murky. Hopefully Bill or APN can clear it up soon.