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The story Bill English doesn’t want you to see

Written By: - Date published: 9:01 am, September 22nd, 2009 - 43 comments
Categories: bill english, corruption, interweb, Media - Tags: ,

On Wednesday last week, Labour released new information on Bill English’s housing allowance rort. Naturally, the media raised the issues with English. TVOne and TV3 ran stories that night. They weren’t particularly harsh stories. They didn’t really editorialise. They didn’t even say English should give the money back or resign.

Later that night, in a fury English “rang several news outlets, abusing reporters, and in one case a news executive, over their coverage of the story”. According to Trevor Mallard, the “language from English that made Tau Henare seem polite”.

OK, now these articles sound more interesting, let’s watch them. Ah, but here’s where the plot thickens. The articles were up on the stations’ respective websites here and here but after English’s threatening phone calls they were pulled.

I am not, repeat: not, suggesting that any journo got their story pulled. No journalist with a trace of self-respect, let alone ethics, would respond to a polticians’ bullying by trying to hide their story. I guess it was some nervous Tory execs. Whoever it was, they should be out on their arses. We cannot have a media that cowers when those in power try to bully them.

I am sure too, that the journalists who English tried to bully into silence have wanted to publicise that story but must have been stopped by their managers. I mean, a senior politician ringing journos, using threatening language and trying to bully them into favourable coverage – it should be a huge story. So, I conclude that the journos have been muzzled. That notion’s backed up by Garner’s rare use of his blog to write a post titled “English shouldn’t get a cent“:

“[English] needs to drop the bitter and nasty attacks on the media. His language in private is unbecoming and unprofessional. He’s on $276,000 and he has a job to do. Get on with it Bill, but do the right thing, and stop trying to muscle up behind the scenes – it’s getting you nowhere.”

Garner sounds seriously pissed at English’s behaviour and, like some other journos do, he appears to be using his blog to get out an angle that won’t make it past his managers.

All in all, English’s anger and bullying shows just how bad this is getting for him. English’s career is hanging by a thread. He is rapidly becoming a political liability for Key.

Oh, and this took some doing but on the Internet you can never really hide anything once it’s out there. Here are the clips that Bill English doesn’t want you to be able to see:

43 comments on “The story Bill English doesn’t want you to see ”

  1. lprent 1

    What got Billy so riled? These TV news stories are mild, give facts only, and gave him a lot of sir-time to explain.

    Perhaps it is just that the story isn’t going away as fast as he’d like? Well I have news for Bill. The story is not going away at all.

    For some reason the image of the minister of finance preaching recession and restraint, going on a widespread civil service capping with big salaries for his mates, dropping promised tax-cuts, while at the same time reorganizing his finances to rort the taxpayer is a bit over the top – even for a NACT politician.

    • luva 1.1

      lprent,

      I am based on the other side of the world so get most of my NZ news through blogs like this and stuff. You have said the story isn’t going away. However the only place it isn’t going away is on the partisan blogs.

      Stuff and NZ Herald do not seem to be following this story in any great depth. After Garners initial story there isn’t much follow up really.

      I hope Bill does the honourable thing to give the government some credit.

      I doubt he will though as that time has already passed. And as the media seems more interested in Letterman and GDP growth I think he has got through the real heat in this rort.

      Thats my view from a million miles away.

  2. Marty G 2

    Turns out the UK Attorney-General, Baroness Scotland, has being doing the Double Dipton, claiming an out of town allowance for her family home in London.

    They’ve decided she’s technically within the rules but it’s expected Gordon Brown will have a mini-resuffle in a couple of days to get rid of her.

    • ghostwhowalksnz 2.1

      “A spokeswoman for the Attorney insisted that she is entitled to the allowance, which is paid automatically to her by the department rather than being claimed as an expense, as legislation does not specify where the peer should live to qualify.”

      “To confirm, Baroness Scotland at no time told the Department that her main residence was outside of London.’

  3. JohnDee 3

    I have just read the Duncan Garner link on the previous post and must say i think he hits the nail right on the head.
    Bill English has been “Creaming It” and has been doing so for years.
    It is a rort of the public purse and needs to be paid back

  4. Tom Semmens 4

    What I think is extraordinary about the Garner blog post is his arrogation to himself of the role of a player in the political process.

    “…The problem with the last idea is that Labour will claim he owes $400,000, because he has claimed the out of town allowance for years. So Labour should accept any move that for what it is – and leave him alone if he does it…”

    Is Duncan Garner is signalling he and the rest of the reef fish in the gallery would go easy (and stop reporting) on English, and hard on Labour, if Labour were not to adopt their pack preferred position?

    Perhaps we should elect the press gallery as well, if they feel they have a role to play in political process??

    • Tigger 4.1

      Reporters do just that, they report. Commentators do just that, they comment. But now everyone appears to do everything and end up commenting when in fact they should be reporting and letting us make up our own minds about a story.

      • Macro 4.1.1

        Exactly! It’s about time garner et al stopped taking upon themselves the role of reporter/commentator and putting their own spin on issues which in most cases are spun enough already. Give the people the facts – that is all we want – we can make our own mind up.

  5. Eddie:

    Is their any audio tape evidence of a English’s phone calls to several news outlets????

    • Pascal's bookie 5.1

      The journo’s would be bloody stupid to be lying about it Brett. And why would they?

    • Bright Red 5.2

      wow. amazing standards of proof you’re demanding nowadays, Brett.

      You’ve got two political editors – Brent Edwards from Radio NZ and Duncan Garner from TV3 – referring to English’s language but you refuse to take their word.

      You’ve been spoilt by the secret tapes and the NDU voice message, now you won’t believe anything critical of National unless it’s on tape (and even then you won’t really believe it).

      I wonder, do you apply the same standards of proof for accusations against Labour?

  6. Al J 6

    Now the interesting thing is that having been made redundant from a professional position if I wish to claim my legal entitlement for the modest (but gratefully received) unemployment benefit in the interim, my partners’ income from part-time work is taken into account.

    But Mr English gets no financial benefit from the income earnt by his wife via the family trust?

    There appears to be a slight disconect there.

  7. snoozer 7

    I think the Standard should be allowed to rely on direct quotes from two senior reporters as evidence Brett. Come on boy, you can do better than that.

    It’s not like people routinely record their phone calls.

    Anyway, I’m not sure they could put online, not with language like that.

  8. It’s not like people routinely record their phone calls.

    FWIW, many journalists do routinely record their phone calls.

  9. deemac 9

    Any beneficiary found to have claimed too much won’t get away with paying it back – seems VIPs run on a different set of rules to everyone else.

  10. Draco T Bastard 10

    This story highlights the belief on political right that if it’s legal it must be morally right. JK, in the video, even alludes to that when asked if Bill English’s rort passes the moral test replies that it passes the legal test.

    The simple reality is that Bill English is defrauding the people of NZ. He and his family live in Wellington and, as such, he is not entitled to the out of town allowance.

    • BLiP 10.1

      Not quite. It highlights the born-to-rule arrogance of the Right – they are aware of the morality of the situation but, in their minds, it doesn’t apply to them:

      The question is not whether he has broken the law, but whether he has behaved according to the standards of a minister.

      Bill English October 2004.

  11. The Voice of Reason 11

    “if it’s legal it must be morally right”

    Or to put it another way, here’s what Richard Nixon said about the secret and immoral aspects of the Vietnam war:

    NIXON: ‘Well, when the president does it that means that it is not illegal’.

    I think the Dipton Dipper believes that his high office entitles him to choose which aspects of both the law and morality apply to him and his frustration with the media is that the scribes are not getting the message that he is beyond reproach, because if he does it, it is therefore not a problem.

    He only paid the money back earlier because ‘it was not a good look’. That is effectively blaming the rest of us for not understanding his situation and completely denies any wrongdoing, moral fudging or financial duplicity on his own behalf. Its our fault for being to thick to trust him when he says he’s done nothing wrong and the journos are copping it for not believing him either and actually doing their job properly by raising the facts.

    Clearly, the lines are not being parroted in the way they were 6 months ago and at least some of the political journos are starting to have doubts about the piss poor leadership English is showing. If he wants restraint, he should start by cutting out his own charmless bleating and concentrate on the job at hand.

  12. Anthony Karinski 12

    Another Richard Worth really. The longer English stays and messes about the more lame ducky he and national will appear. Which can only be good for NZ. So every time Billy’s name is mentioned keep it going with those shifty eyes Johnny . I’m sure the voters love the look of a real uncomfortable somewhat indecisive leader.

    • Pascal's bookie 12.1

      So if the oppo wants to ask the PM whether or not he has confidence in his Minister, and the PM is out of the country, who will answer on his behalf… 😉

      Theatre!!

    • Armchair Critic 12.2

      JK still hasn’t told us whether Richard Worth did something immoral, illegal or both.
      I’m tempted to assume what RW did was both illegal and immoral, since National are running the “it was only immoral, so it is okay” line for Blinglish.

      • Pascal's bookie 12.2.1

        RW made Key look bad.

        He told Key that he would sign an affidavit denying some allegations if said allegations ever came to light. Key took him at his word and didn’t investigate the allegations any further.

        Any similarities to English assurring Key that his Trust arrangements are not about getting his mortgage paid by the taxpayer are the concern of Mr English, I suppose.

  13. It would be more common for a press secretary to ring and abuse the media about a story they didnt like, rather than a minister doing it themselves. Perhaps his press secretary thought it was a dumb idea, perhaps English thought he could better kill the story doing it himself, or it could also indicate that English is being isolated to take the rap for the story, with Ministers and other staff attempting to run away from this issue as fast as they can.

    English got himself into a very shoddy position indeed, but I also suspect there is an interesting internal National story to be told here – anyone got any emails? 🙂

    • Rex Widerstrom 13.1

      Or such is the hubris (ref comment by TVOR above) that it was thought that a reprimand from a press secretary might be both ignored and reported, but that one delivered from the lofty heights of an actual Minister would shock the trembling journos into immediate acquiesence, and a chastened silence as they pondered on their lack of manners in having dared criticise one so mighty.

      Having said that, he’s just the latest in a long line of people who think the votes of a few thousand people (or, worse still, a round of concerted ass-kissing to secure a list place) imbues them with both omniscience and omnipotence.

  14. SJ Hawkins 14

    I think Bill has to go, and I consider myself to be centre right (and I read Kiwiblog too, although I’m quite far removed from redbaiter thinking). It’s pretty clear that he has lived in Wellington as his primary residence for many years, and I would suspect he is guilty of fraud in stating Dipton is his primary residence. I suspect ultimately Key won’t be too unhappy if he does go. I’ll also be happier if they replace him with someone with the balls to do what I thought National were going to do – slash government spending and lower taxes. Fingers crossed then.

    • Luc Hansen 14.1

      Indeed. I find it interesting that after years of espousing how good lower taxes are for the economy, when National finally gets the power to do so at a time when the economy needs a LOT of good, all of a sudden, tax cuts aren’t a good idea.

      I remarked to my wife before the election that I really wouldn’t mind National/ACT doing well so we could give the tax cutting gospel a decent run and either see it work, in which case we could celebrate, or watch it collapse into a screaming heap!!

      It turned out the disciples of that ideology had no faith, after all, and even Rodney Hide would, I suspect, now qualify as a member of Redbaiter/Fox News’ Far Left.

      Where to now, for the not-so-far right?

      • Zaphod Beeblebrox 14.1.1

        To lower taxes, they would need to take out some welfare spending- I doubt that they have the intellectual capacity to cope with that.
        What about Key’s backing away from a CGT? After all the big talk about tax reform, it turns out they really have no ability to develop a conversation in order to promote productive investment.
        Their law and order policies mean police and corrections are going to cost them plenty, their ETS pay off to farmers and polluters will cost a fortune and there roads budget ($3 bill to double lane SH1 Puhoi-Wellsford??why??) mean that government spending is likely to be higher than ever.

        High personal tax and big government- they are going to disappoint the voters terribly

  15. felix 15

    Never drink and dial. That’s all I’m saying.

    • BLiP 15.1

      I can just see him now. Sitting back in his leather lazy-boy all alone, slugging away at the bottle after another grueling day in the House, and festering as he replays over and over again recordings of the news clips until late into the night. The realisation that he never, ever will be PM and his Finance Minister job about to go down the toilet dawning over his clouded mind, never considering for a moment he might have had something to do with it himself and absolutely furious, he picks up the phone and makes the calls. Almost the actions of a narcissist.

  16. Bright Red:

    Yes, they should release word for word what he said, otherwise its Bill word against Brian Edwards.

    • BLiP 16.1

      Blinglish hasn’t denied it – so its the media’s word against . . . ummm . . . well, no one really. Except you.

    • Anthony Karinski 16.2

      Good luck with that conspiracy theory. You may get about .1% of people to buy into it. And I suppose there would be the case of a very angry English in the news today accusing two senior jurnos from different news organisations conspiring and telling lies about him. More than enough to get them sacked.

    • Marty G 16.3

      And what’s Bill English’s word on the matter, genius?

      Has he denied the phone calls? No.

      So, it’s two political editors whose careers would be over if they made this stuff up vs Brett with his fingers in his ears going ‘nah nah nah nah, it isn’t true, it isn’t true’

  17. marco 17

    A healthy democracy needs an effective, well funded and strong public broadcasting service. A service that does not require private funding and one that can be as politically independent as possible.

    I know that this sounds like a regressive ideal, but it’s the only way to ensure that impartiality is again part of the news we see and read.

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