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The truth will out

Written By: - Date published: 10:11 am, June 24th, 2009 - 27 comments
Categories: corruption, john key - Tags:

Key’s excuse for not telling Parliament why he lost confidence in Richard Worth is that it isn’t in the public interest to say. So let’s think about this ‘public interest’ excuse.

‘Public interest’ is very rarely used; Trevor Mallard said he can think of two other times it has been invoked during his time in Parliament. The only judge of whether it would be deleterious to the public interest to answer is the minister. While it is open to political abuse, as is clearly the case here, most ministers have had the sense to see that it’s better to admit a damaging answer than invoke public interest to futilely try to keep it secret.

The presumption in a democratic government has to be on the side of disclosure. So, the test for using the public interest excuse shouldn’t be ‘would it be in the public interest to answer, otherwise don’t answer’; it’s ‘would it be deleterious to the public interest to answer, otherwise answer’. Important difference. Not disclosing should only be done for good public interest reasons like national security, judicial independence, the country’s economic welfare. Using the public interest excuse for political reasons would be a serious abuse of the privileges  and trust granted to ministers. 

This appears to be the only time it has been so transparently used for political gain, rather than a genuine public interest issue.

Still, there’s some more questions that can be asked of Key:

  • What are the broad grounds that Key thinks justify not giving an answer to a question on the basis of public interest?
  • What other examples are there of a minister refusing to answer a question on the basis of public interest?
  • Does the refusal to disclose the reason Key lost confidence in Worth relate to national security/judicial independence/economic welfare?
  • Is the PM in fact using of the public interest excuse to protect National’s interest?

Keep asking the questions – the truth will out.

27 comments on “The truth will out”

  1. Ianmac 1

    I suspect that John made a seriously secret bad call at the outset with Worth. Now should he reveal his incompetence by “tell all” and suffer the loss of confidence? (the Emperor has no clothes!) Or should he keep quiet and hide the answer which leads to conjecture and some suspician but no clear proof of incompetence? Gamble John gamble. When the time comes for the end of John’s reign guess what will come out of the woodwork?

  2. cocamc 2

    I cannot believe people are still wasting time on this. Politicians are all the same. Helen Clark – of course I knew about Owen Glen donations – I didn’t say anything cause no one asked – yet wasn’t his information in the public interest?

    They’re all as bad as each other

    • Pascal's bookie 2.1

      How’s that the same? Key’s been asked and is refusing to answer.

    • Craig Glen Eden 2.2

      No cocamc these are not the same. The fact you don’t understand the difference says more about you than you know. Though I suspect you do know the difference and what you are trying to do is run the National Party Blog/Callback line,which is about as feeble as Keys press conference on the 15th.

      • cocamc 2.2.1

        not trying to run any party lines. I’m sick of the lot of them. All I was doing is illustrating the fact that each politician will use methods to suit their needs. Sure – perhaps JK should advise why he asked RW to resign – but do you really think voters give a shit. The only people that seem to care are the standard, Kiwiblog, Whale Oil, Labour blog.

        • mike

          I don’t think even WOBH and KB are bothered with this now. Move on standard the rest of country has

    • gobsmacked 2.3


      The Owen Glenn saga ended up in front of the Privileges Committee. How did it get there?

      FYI: the complaint was referred to the Privileges Committee by … the Speaker. If she had found some excuse not to act (and she could have), then the great TV drama of Peters and Glenn would never have happened.

      Something for you – and Lockwood Smith – to think about.

      (and if you don’t want to believe me .. try Kiwiblog)


  3. Craig Glen Eden 3

    Good post Eddie, the media interview on Monday the 15 was very telling I believe. I think this is the day that will go down in history as far as the Journalists are concerned. Key made an absolute meal of that press conference. This was the beginning of the end. I say this because the level of disbelief from the likes of Espiner and Soper was palpable. For Key to use the”not in public interest” reason is serious indeed. This would mean what ever Worth has done for Key to loose confidence in him must be HUGE, way worse than making a nuisance of himself.
    The only other alternative is Key is covering his ass. I suspect the later and if that is the case Key has blown his trust me I am a relaxed good guy act.

    His subsequent performances in Parliament have also been shabby. He lied yesterday by saying the National Government had improved NZ credit rating grade as has been covered by the standard before, this is blatantly not true.
    Key is under pressure and the games have only just begun.

  4. I agree with Craig.

    In one respect I hope that Key keeps the charade up. The reason for Worth’s firing will come out at some stage. It will either be trivial in which case people will ask why did he cover it up or it will be significant in which case he will look like he has abused the right to claim public interest.

    And in the meantime the corrosive drip drip drip of opprobrium will continue.

    Welcome to being PM Key. I bet it is not as easy as you thought it would be.

  5. Craig Glen Eden 5

    I think the public would be very interested Cocamac in finding out what the truth is when Corruption is being alleged. People may be sick of the he said I said stuff, which I understand.
    However for Key to use the not in public interest line is a big issue. Remember Key has basically said Choudrey and Goff should front up with what ever evidence they have, which they did. Before this Key says he has lost confidence in RW, well why? Key says trust me I tell the truth Goff tells lies.
    Well after watching him grimace and spin bullshit for 10 minutes in that press conference I don’t trust him nor do I believe he is acting in the Countries best interest. I think he is acting in his own. Personally I think he is not up to the job. While I don’ t agree with the likes of Englishes politics I think English is a lot more honest and just as important a lot more competent. Key could do a great deal of damage in three years and he campaigned on his reputation. Well its up to the public to judge if he has acted as a good PM or not and we can only do that when all the facts are on the table.

  6. I’d like to take part in the yoga classes the rest of you seem to have taken over the past 12 months. Your ability to bend yourself backwards is most impressive.

    It would have been equally impressive if the same level of questioning had been applied to Helen and the Winston saga but the apologists are at it i see.

    Had Worth still being around ie was being protected I would agree that there is more of a case. Indeed, Labour continued to support Winston to a laughable degree.

    There is a sliver of a possibility that there may be something in the mudraking.

    I’m with cocamc on this and the bulk of the responses above show that this is about politics not the “truth” or corruption.

    • Pascal's bookie 6.1


      Can’t explain Key’s silence so question the motives of his critics.

      The situations are not the same.

      But seeing that you do think they are the same, and that you are taking a different line in this case, one is sadly forced to draw certain conclusions about your honesty in the older case.

      Like I said Daveski.


  7. Craig Glen Eden 7

    While not a Winston supporter was he found to have acted illegally? No. Did Helen act illegally? No. Was Glen entirely honest about his motives and role,no I would suggest.
    However like Winston Key has made much about being honest and wanting open transparent government.When Winston was seen to be a little less than honest on his mantra the people decided enough was enough.

    Key is on the same slippery slope.

  8. Rex Widerstrom 8

    I find myself with much the same feeling of ennui as cocamc.

    Sure “not in the public interest” is just flim flam. I’m not sure what instances Trevor is recalling but it resonates with me as having been dragged out by the police over “Paintergate”… another storm in a teacup, and Benson-Pope’s alleged abuse of students).

    But then so was “by definition I cannot leak” and, yes, a lot of the tortuosities uttered round the Peters / Glenn / Vela affair. I’m afraid I hold politicians to a higher standard than “I didn’t say coz you never asked”, no matter what their colours.

    Sadly, as cocamc says, we’ve come to expect nothing better after decades of being whitewashed. When I heard “not in the public interest” I shrugged, thought “what typical horseshit” and went on with my day.

    I suspect that will be the reaction of most people outside the fevered atmosphere of political Wellington.

    It shouldn’t be, but it will be. We’re just sick of being fed manure and told it’s mousse.

    • Daveski 8.1

      Well said Rex – I would/could/should have said similar but digressed into the game playing. Go on, PB, put your hand up too 🙂

  9. NubbleTrubble 9

    Ok, we can all agree the worth saga is tiresome. But the issue we are talking about isn’t so much what Worth did, its how key has handled it.

    “Not in the public interest” is “…typical horseshit” for sure. But I am afraid that it is most certainly in the public interest. I was listening to a guy from scoop.co.nz the other day talking on bfm about the affair and he made a good point. That being that Mr Worth has made several board appointments during his time as a minister. As a member of the public it is in my interest to know that these appointments were of good quality staff – whose wages I pay through taxes – , not people that Worth was trying to hook into.

  10. NubbleTrubble 10

    And another thing… its getting really tiresome to hear the apologists for National trying to justify JKs actions by comparing it to something Labour did in the past.

    Two wrongs don’t make a right guys, I couldn’t give a shit what Labour did way back when. I want to talk about JKs actions right now, that is the issue at hand, stop trying to change the debate into some partisan Red vs Blue issue.

    I can accept that the left can make mistakes and can admit it when they happen. Why can’t you guys accept that JK has made a dog’s breakfast of the whole affair?

    All I ever hear from the right is the equivalent of “four legs good, two legs bad”. Time to grow up guys.

  11. sonic 11

    Interesting question by Hodgson on the “taxpayer funded mobile phone” records of Wright in the house there.

  12. gobsmacked 12

    Congratulations to Pete Hodgson, whose patient line of forensic questioning got results today.

    John Key has now admitted in the House that he obtained the phone and text records from Richard Worth’s mobile phone.

    Funny, he wasn’t keen on mentioning that when the Nats were trying to claim the story was all about the actions of the woman (women) receiving them.

    So, what did those records reveal?

    • Pascal's bookie 12.1

      How is it against the public interest to reveal that? Did he say?

      • gobsmacked 12.1.1

        PB, he didn’t say, because there were no more supplementary questions available.

        But he did use the “public interest” defence directly, rather than avoiding it as he had done previously (when Lockwood was answering for him). So now he will have to back that up.

  13. sonic 13

    He also admitted gobsmacked that he lost confidence in Worth before he saw the records.


    • Pascal's bookie 13.1

      It’s too tangled a web for me. Until they front up I’m just gonna hafta conclude that where there’s smoke there’s P addicts.

      For shame, national party. For shame.

      • gobsmacked 13.1.1

        He now has trouble with his timeline. He needs to explain why he lost confidence (which he now specifically says it is not in the public interest to disclose, so a political reason – i.e. just because he can – will not suffice).

        He also needs to explain the relevance of the phone records, after he had already lost confidence.

        It’s a slow burner, but bubbling along.

  14. Craig Glen Eden 14

    The funny thing is his own incompetence has been the thing that will boil his own pot.
    Which so often is the way I guess.

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