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The Slater-Key Txt-Messages Trip-Up – Did Cameron Slater Plan this?

3 December 2014 1 comment

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Cameron Slater (L) and John Key (R)

Cameron Slater (L) and John Key (R)

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Timeline

Sunday 23 November:

John Key apologises to right-wing blogger Cameron Slater over the publication of an email that forced Justice Minister Judith Collins’ resignation.

Monday 24 November:

John Key and Cameron Slater exchange txt-messages regarding impending release of Cheryl Gwyn report. Slater claims Labour is trying to kill him;

Cameron Slater: gave it away to me…Goff leaked SIS report

John Key: It’s a joke isn’t it. They will attack Jason for talking to u and they break the confidentiality agreement. Classic lab.

Slater: Yup…I’m very angry over it…Goff is the one who leaked oravida stuff too.

Slater: They still have standard bloggers on staff

Slater: And Mccarten was involved in hack

Key: Hopefully it will all come out in time

Slater: I wish they would hurry up…they played the real dirty politics…even tried to kill me…I have evidence of.

Tuesday 25 November:

Key denies he had been in contact with Slater, after RadioLive reporter, Jessica Williams, asked John Key the following;

Jessica Williams: Have you spoken to Cameron Slater since this report came out yesterday night?

Mr Key: Well I haven’t spoken to him on the phone for months and months and months on end. He sent me a text one time but I can’t remember when that was.

Jessica Williams: Has he text you about this particular report?

My Key: No.

Wednesday 26 November:

Earlier in the day: MP for Wigram, Megan Woods asked John Key this question in Parliament;

Megan Woods: Did he have communications with Cameron Slater between the 23rd and 25th of November regarding the Chisholm inquiry or the Inspector General’s inquiry?

John Key: Mr Speaker no.

Late afternoon: A screen-shot of Cameron Slater messaging an unknown person ’emerges’, confirming that he had been txting John Key (Hat-tip Anthony Robbins on The Standard.)

Late evening: Key returned to Parliament later three hours after answering question to Ms Woods, to make a “correction“,

John Key: “On Monday the 24th of November, I received an unsolicited text message from Mr Slater with a reference to the IGIS [Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security] report. There was a very short exchange where I briefly acknowledged that text message.”

Later that night: Key’s Office released a transcript of the text exchange.

Thursday 27 November:

Key denies he was caught out lying over Slater’s txt-messages;

 “No I haven’t been caught out. No absolutely not. I haven’t had a brain fade.

Key blamed “noise” in the Debating Chamber for giving incorrect answer to Megan Woods’ questions;

“When the particular question was asked, there was quite a lot of noise in the House. If I’d heard the other bit, I’d have answered it fully.”

Slater backtracks on claim that Labour were trying to kill him;
“Just to be clear, I never said the Labour Party were trying to kill me. That’s the spin the Labour Party have put on it this morning.”
Key further defended himself not recalling txt-messaging with Cameron Slater, even though he was questioned about it less than 24 hours after the txt-conversation took place;
“You’re now asking me, in a period of three months where I’ve dealt with an election campaign, where I probably deal with, I don’t know, a thousand text messages a day from hundreds and hundreds of people, you’re now telling me I have to remember exactly the number.”
Friday 28 November:
Political Commentator Bryce Edwards, on Radio  NZ’s “Checkpoint”.

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Preface

From an earlier blogpost, penned two and half years ago;

Slater is National’s “asset”, doing their  ‘dirty work’ .  When the National hierarchy  does not want to dirty their own hands with mud – but still want to make public damaging information to embarress a political opponant – Slater is their go-to man.

Slater’s role in such nefarious activities is even more useful to National after Paula Bennett’s clumsy mis-handling of private information belonging to two solo-mothers, which she disclosed to the media. There is still a complaint pending against Bennett for abusing her position as Minister for Social Welfare.

Somewhere, sometime, a top National Party apparatchik would have instructed each and every minister and MP not to repeat Bennett’s mistake. S/he would have given firm instructions that releasing damaging information to discredit an opponant had to be done surreptitiously, using a Third Party.

That Third Party would be Slater.

That would give National “plausible deniability” when the sh*t hit the fan and fingers were pointed.

Frankly Speaking“, 29 March 2012 (See: Born to rule )

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Past Prime Ministerial porkies and mendacities

To those on the Left or who have followed John Key’s career, his lies over his txt-messaging with Cameron Slater will come as no surprise. With regards to bending the truth; misleading by omission or exaggeration; or outright mendacity, Key has ‘form’.

One political commentator, using the pseudonym ‘BLiP’, has put together a list of lies from the Prime Minister that is eye-opening and deeply troubling. More could be added to that list, which is now over a year and a half old.

Some early  instances of Key being ‘sprung’…

In February 2011, Key denied all knowledge of the National Government’s intention to buy 34 new BMW limousines for ministerial use. By 22 February, it was revealed that Key had actually signed the documents to authorise the purchase;

Prime Minister John Key signed four documents that referred to a deal to buy a fleet of luxury cars – and at least three other ministers were briefed, documents reveal.

Mr Key – who is responsible for Ministerial Services – says he was in the dark about the deal until a conversation with his driver two weeks ago. But an embarrassing paper trail, dating back to 2009, and issued yesterday by the Government shows there were a series of documents referencing the deal.

And in July last year his chief of staff Wayne Eagleson met the manager of VIP Transport Service, Geoff Knighton, to discuss the renewal of a contract with BMW to supply 34 new cars.

Mr Key said he was “not going to make excuses” and acknowledged “the matter should have been handled better by everybody, including myself”.

“The whole thing has been sloppy and frankly the public deserves better.”

Mr Key said Mr Eagleson could not recall the meeting, despite a series of emails between July 19 and 20. He has since apologised to Mr Key and offered to resign.

In March and April 2009, Mr Key and minister for internal affairs at the time Richard Worth signed off on three documents – drafts of the Department of Internal Affairs Statement of Intent – which referred to the fleet replacement. Then last March he signed off on another statement of intent which made two mentions of the new cars.

Mr Key said yesterday he had not read the documents.

In April 2011, Key was once again hot water over his propensity for mis-leading people.

Prime Minister John Key has done an about-face after denying he had a discussion with MediaWorks bosses before the Government decided to give the company a $43.3 million helping hand.

He has now admitted meeting then-MediaWorks boss Brent Impey two months before, when Mr Impey pressed his case for a scheme the Government initially turned down.

The scheme, announced in October 2009, allowed radio companies to spread payments on 20-year broadcasting licences over five years, instead of one lump-sum payment.

On Monday, in answer to written parliamentary questions, Mr Key said he had not had any discussions with MediaWorks, which owns TV3 and a network of radio stations.

But on Wednesday, he issued a correction, saying he “ran into Brent Impey at a social event [in August] where he briefly raised the issue”.

On 4 October 2011,  Key’s credibility took another hammering over a dubious “Standard & Poors email”, when he made this astounding claim in the Parliamentary  Debating Chamber,

When Standard & Poor’s were giving a meeting in New Zealand about a month ago, what they did say was there was about a 30% chance we would be downgraded – that’s what happens when you’re on negative outlook. They did go on to say though, if there was a change of government, that downgrade would be much more likely.”

The comment was made under Parliamentary privilege.

Five days later, and after mounting media and political pressure, on 10 October, Key “explained” that the comments had come to him in an email, from an un-named “friend”. As questions swirled around the alleged comment by Standard & Poors, Key relented and released released the text of the email,

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Subsequently, Key held a press conference where he  was grilled by journalists,

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Key’s body language, tone, and expressions speak volumes whether or not he was being truthful. That “email” could easily have been written by any number of Key’s Beehive staffers, including National’s “black ops” man, Jason Ede.

Standard & Poors, though, had differing views on what really happened at the Auckland conference;

Ratings agency Standard and Poor’s has contradicted a claim by Prime Minister John Key that a credit downgrade would be more likely with a change of Government in New Zealand.

Mr Key was questioned in Parliament last week by Labour leader Phil Goff about the agency’s downgrading of New Zealand’s long-term foreign currency rating from AA+ to AA.

Mr Key claimed Standard and Poor’s had said at a meeting last month that “if there was a change of Government, that downgrade would be much more likely”.

The next election is on November 26.

Standard and Poor’s sovereign rating analyst Kyran Curry, who attended the meeting in Auckland, said that would not have happened.

“In Auckland last month, I might have talked about the importance of the Government maintaining a strong fiscal position in the medium term but I would never have touched on individual parties.

“It is something we just don’t do,” Mr Curry said. “We don’t rate political parties. We rate Governments.”

These are a few examples where Key’s willingness to be “loose with the truth” has come unstuck and become known to the public.

Little wonder then, that a Fairfax/Ipsos poll last year had nearly 59% of respondents not believing what Key said. Only 23.5% – National core-constituency – said they fully believed him.

Two years before that, a Fairfax Media-Research International Poll had similar results, with 34.9% of respondents replying that Key was more likely to “bend the truth” than then-Labour leader, Phil Goff, at 26%. A further 21.3% stated that both would “bend the truth – pushing Key’s results up to 56.2%.

He may be Mr Popular – but the majority don’t seem to trust him.

For good reason, it seems.

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Txt-Messages – the further undoing of a Prime Minister

Slater landed Key in the deep doo-doos by making public the txt-messages from Monday night. He knew full well that passing them on to another person (in this case another blogger, Josh Forman, of the so-called ‘Slightly Left of Centre‘ blog) would, in only a short matter of time, find their way to the media’s scrutiny.

This is especially the case when, as blogger Danyl Mclauchlan, from The Dim Post, recently reported, there seems to be a very strange and less-than-clear relationship between Forman and Cameron Slater. (See:  The very odd Slightly Left of Centre)

Why did Slater release details of his conversation with Key, on Monday night, to Forman?

Why did Slater acknowledge  his on-line  conversation with an unknown person by confirming the validity of a screenshot of the exchange? (Especially as Slater has no hesitation to lie when it suits his agenda or to save his own backside.)

Why is Slater feeding the media on this issue?

What does he have to gain?

On 28 November, Political scientist Bryce Edwards made this astounding assertion on Radio NZ’s “Checkpoint”;

“It’s obvious that Cameron Slater has dirt on the Prime Minister. And that’s why he’s very vulnerable. He’s… I mean, I wouldn’t call it blackmail, but it’s like he’s leveraged by Cameron Slater, and he can’t escape him. I mean, it’s obvious that the Prime Minister would want to be saying ‘ef off Cameron, don’t talk to me again’, because he’s so toxic, but I understand Cameron Slater does have dirt on the Prime Minister and National and he’s talked about going nuclear in the past-“

So what is the ‘dirt’ that Slater has on National and John Key?

Plenty, I would hazard a guess. As Nicky Hager’s expose, ‘Dirty Politics‘ showed, Slater has been the recipient of much information from ministers such as Judith Collins, and has connections with other MPs.

Why would Slater “go nuclear” on National?

Slater has good reason (in his own mind and twisted worldview).

As Nicky Hager reported in his book, in this exchange between Collins and Slater;

Cameron Slater: he is a very silly man, because I could stop the people who are going against him. But now, he is just is going to get double.

Judith Collins: you know the rule. always reward with Double.

Cameron Slater: I learned the rule from you! Double it is.

Judith Collins: If you can’t be loved, then best to be feared.

When Judith Collins was forced to step down  on 30 August, over allegations that she was “gunning” for Serious Fraud Office Director, Adam Feeley,  her close friend, confidant,  and political associate, Cameron Slater, did not react well;

“As Judith and I are friends, I am gutted for her. Judith Collins has now been taken down by death by a thousand cuts.”

Slater then made a comment which, in the light of current events, can only be described as a veiled threat; he referred to John Key as  a “temporary Prime Minister”.

When  asked what he would do about Collins’ forced resignation, he stated,

“I always give back double. Judith always gives back double.”

Slater’s deliberate, carefully planned, and cunningly executed scheme to  “give back double” is being directed at “temporary Prime Minister”, John Key.

Slater is gunning for John Key.

Slater has not (yet) “gone nuclear” on National – but the unstable blogger is at DefCon 2 and the threat to Key’s administration is imminent. Irony of ironies, the greatest threat to this government has not been Nicky Hager; nor Kim Dotcom; nor the MSM; nor Labour or the Greens.

It is one of their own.

Further from my 2012 blogpost;

Using Third Parties such as Slater, to spread muck has it’s inherent dangers.

Eventually, the entanglements and the copious volumes of information at the hands of  someone like Slater creates it’s own risks for his  “handler(s)”. Slater will have  considerable dirt on those who have leaked information to him. He  will have to be “kept sweet”,  to deny him cause to go rogue and threaten to disclose information  embarrassing to those who have fed him material in the past.

Frankly Speaking“, 29 March 2012 (See: Born to rule )

I should have bought a Lotto ticket at the time.

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References

Fairfax media: John Key says sorry to Whale Oil

NZ Herald: Cameron Slater – ‘I never said Labour Party were trying to kill me’

RadioLive: AUDIO – John Key denies contact with Cameron Slater

TV3: PM blames text gaffe on ‘noise’

Radio NZ: ‘Not fair on me’ – PM on text messages

Youtube:  26.11.14 – Question 4 – Dr Megan Woods to the Prime Minister

Cloudfront: Slater email

ODT: PM admits text exchange

TVNZ: Dirty Politics saga – Andrew Little claims John Key ‘misled New Zealand’

Radio NZ: PM’s contact with blogger questioned

Fairfax Media: PM signed papers relating to BMWs

NZ Herald: S&P contradicts Key downgrade claim

NZ Herald: Key changes tack over meeting with broadcaster

Parliament: Question & Answer – Credit Rating Downgrade Effect on the Economy

Interest.co.nz: Key stands behind comment S&P more likely to downgrade Labour Govt

Youtube: John Key on S&P Labour criticism

Fairfax Media: John Key’s ‘believability’ low

Fairfax Media: John Key – Safe hands, forked tongue?

Blog: Slightly Left of Centre (cached)

Radio NZ: Checkpoint – Can the Prime Minister brush off latest controversy?

NZ Herald: Hager’s tell-all chapters

Fairfax Media: Judith Collins statement

Interest.co.nz: Judith Collins resigns after revelation of Slater email saying she was “gunning for Feeley”

Additional

NZ Herald:  John Armstrong – National’s response not good enough

Previous related blogposts

“I dunno. I wasn’t told. I wasn’t there.”

The Mendacities of Mr Key #2: Secret Sources

The Mendacities of Mr Key #4: “Trolls & bottom-feeders”

When Karma caught up with Cameron Slater

Are Cameron Slater and Judith Collins bare-faced liars?

Born to rule

When the teflon is stripped away

Other Blogwriters

Imperator Fish: The Labour Party plot to kill Cameron Slater – the shocking evidence

Local Bodies: John Key’s Immoral Governance

Occasionally Erudite: Collins cleared; Slater lied

Occasionally Erudite: John Key implodes over the Gwyn report

No Right Turn: John Key’s TXTs and the Public Records Act

Polity: FFS

Porcupine Farm: Office of the Prime minister

Porcupine Farm: Key of the Day, 26/11/14

Public Address: Incomplete, inaccurate and misleading

Pundit: John Key: The buck doesn’t stop with me

The Daily Blog: Cam’s ‘Slightly Left of Centre’ sock puppet threatens Key in public

The Dim Post: The very odd Slightly Left of Centre

The Jackal: When will the PM take responsibility?

The Standard: An Honest Man?

The Standard: Only on Planet Key

The Standard: Key’s repeated reflexive lies (and giving back double)

The Standard: Textses

The Standard: Two lies in 20 seconds

The Standard: Two guilty approaches after Dirty Politics

 


 

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Liar john key

 

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 29 November 2014

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Call for Aaron Bhatnagar’s resignation from govt body

30 August 2014 5 comments

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nicky hager - dirty politics - real estate agents authority - aaron bhatnagar - judith collins

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One of the many sordid “bit”-players in Nicky Hager’s book, “Dirty Politics“, and one of Cameron Slater’s inner-cabal, is businessman, National Party card-carrying cadre,  and former city councillor, Aaron Bhatnagar;

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aaron bhatnagar

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In 2008, Bhatnagar was caught by journalist, blogger, and IT commentator, Russell Brown,  posting derogatory comments on Wikipedia to smear political opponants;

Auckland City councillor Aaron Bhatnagar has been caught doctoring the online encyclopedia Wikipedia to paint his opponents in a bad light at last year’s local body elections.

Using the alias of Barzini _ a power-hungry psychopath from Mario Puzo’s novel The Godfather _ Mr Bhatnagar created entries for his Action Hobson opponents in the Hobson ward and made unflattering changes to the entry for Mayor Dick Hubbard.

After winning a council seat and watching Action Hobson councillors Christine Caughey and Richard Simpson go down to a C&R rout in Hobson, Mr Bhatnagar tried to remove the Wikipedia entries for his opponents at 3am the following morning.

Bhatnagar  was also John Banks’ campaign manager in Banks’ unsuccessful 2010 mayoralty bid, and later himself stood National’s candidate selection process for Epsom for the 2011 general election. (He subsequently lost out to John Banks.)

But more than being a paid-up, card-carrying party apparatchik for National, Bhatnagar was part of far-right blogger, Cameron Slater’s inner sanctum.

In Nicky Hager’s expose, Bhatnagar’s dirty tricks – a re-hash of his earlier 2008 Wiki exploits – is carefully laid out;

Slater was in regular contact with his blogger friends Cathy Odgers, blog name Cactus Kate, Peter Smith (not his real name) and Aaron Bhatnagar, with whom he often talked over his attack plans...” – “Dirty Politics”, pg 20

Slater got the tip-off for his biggest 2011 attack from his blogger friend Aaron Bhatnagar, a former Auckland city councillor and business investor who had written a guest post as ‘Whale Oil Business Correspondent Winslow Taggart‘, promoting ‘one of New Zealand’s best run’ retirement companies, Ryman Healthcare, in which he was a shareholder. Bhatnagar’s approach to politics is summed up by his own words to Slater: ‘I’m getting bored. I need mischief to keep me busy...’ ” – “Dirty Politics”, pg 29

On another occassion he [Bhatnagar] asked Slater to help him find a ‘paparazzi photographer’  to ‘spook’  a lawyer outside his legal chambers.” – “Dirty Politics”, pg 29

This time Bhatnagar had been sniffing around the Labour Party’s websites and stumbled across an insecure location containing gigabytes of sensitive party information, including lists of donors and supporters. In the middle of election year, this was embarrassing and potentially very harmful to the Labour Party. Bhatnagar passed the find on to his friend.” – “Dirty Politics”, pg 29

The following Facebook conversation between Cameron Slater and Bhatnagar showed the cavalier and unethical attitude both men had to Labour’s computer vulnerability;

Slater: That website info will hit soon. Watch the damage that ensues.

Bhatnagar: “I’ve been meaning to ask you! LOL [laugh out loud], when do you run it?

Slater: been working thru it all… was going to do it this week but Goff is away. Far better to do it when the putz is back

Slater: the most damaging is the 18000 emails, and the Credit card transactions

Bhatnagar: fuck me, I hadn’t been that forensic myself. This will be huge

Slater: got the whole of their email database

Bhatnagar: oh no, LOL…. this is violence writ large

Slater: I think some teaser videos of screenshots and stuff drip fed over a few days , then drop the bomb say wed morning so [Parliament’s Wednesday afternoon] general debate is awesome

… The media are far too lazy to do what i have already done… so prob best to package it into bite size pieces.

Bhatnagar: unreal. I knew there was heaps there, but I hadn’t actually leached it all. Credit card info? That’s insane. Labour will be ruined…

I’m sure Chaos and Mayhem Ltd [Slater and his friends] will find a way to use all this left wing online data

Slater: got First name, Last Name and email, in 3 files, main labour mail list

Bhatnagar: could set back the online left wing  community for three years…. I’ve told no one

Slater: and don’t

Bhatnagar: I wouldn’t wreck what might potentially be your greatest story…. – “Dirty Politics”, pg 30, 31

At no point during that conversation does Bhatnagar even raise a question of ethics regarding Slater’s intentions to public data from the Labour Party computer. On the contrary, he is clearly supportive.

On 12 June 2011, Slater began publishing details from the Labour Party computer. As Nicky Hager related;

The attack began on Sunday 12 June with an article Slater had arrangedin a Sunday newspaper. He simultaneously began publishing a series of posts on his blog with the tag line ‘Labour Leaks’, announcing a long list of ‘rorts’  that would be progressively ‘outed’ on his site over the following days…

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… Early on that Sunday morning Bhartnagar contacted Slater again. Their conversation is very revealing. ‘And so it begins…,’ Bhatnagar wrote. ‘Yep and it is going to hurt,” Slater replied, ‘that document is devastating… this is going to be a feeding frenzy, especially when I publish all the credit card transactions, then the membership lists, then the 18000 emails’. Thinking of the media reaction, Bhatnagar advised Slater to ‘keep your phone charged then – you will need the battery life!’

Slater then set out in writing the motivations  underlying the leaks. It would be, he said, ‘death by a 1000 leaks’.

I have… cross referenced names with letter writers. I will have the definitive list of labour activists.

it will shut down their donors, shut down their IT systems

shut down their membership flow

and shut down their online campaigns

Bhatnager joked back: ‘Join the Labour Party and the Whaleoil email loop at the same time. Not a compelling message for left wing voters.’ “Dirty Politics”, pg 33

As Nicky Hager pointed out, “the aim was not to expose  poor Internet security or some wrong-doing or to prove a political point, but to do as much damage  as possible to the Labour Party“. Clearly, Bhatnagar was revelling in Slater’s damaging attack on the Labour Party;

Later that evening Bhatnagar  got in touch as well, suggesting a celebration lunc: ‘yum char thursday midday”. Slater said he’d be there. Bhatnagar asked, ‘What’s next in the death by 1000 cuts?’ ‘I haven’t decided yet,’ Slater replied. “- “Dirty Politics”, pg 36

In fact, on one occassion, he positively gloated over it, as this exchange showed on 26 November 2011;

“… The anti-MMP campaign failed, but Slater felt empowered by his successes. ‘I feel like this election campaign has been mine, plus my loyal tipline submitters,’ he told Bhatnagar. ‘Well, I am tempted to say that ripping open Labour’s website was a big part of it,’ Bhatnagar replied.“- “Dirty Politics”, pg 75

This is the same man – Aaron Bhatnagar – that Cameron Slater’s friend, and Minister of the Crown – Judith Collins –  had appointed to the government body, the The Real Estate Agents Authority (REAA) on 26 April last year;

Justice Minister Judith Collins today announced the reappointment of five members of the Real Estate Agents Authority and the appointment of one new member.

Those reappointed to the Authority are:

  • John Auld of New Plymouth
  • Barrie Barnes of Auckland
  • Denise Bovaird of Auckland
  • Joan Harnett-Kindley of Wanaka
  • David Russell of Wellington

The new appointee to the Authority is Aaron Bhatnagar of Auckland. 

The REAA is a watch-dog for Real Estate agents. It’s mission statement is crystal clear;

The Real Estate Agents Authority (REAA) is the independent government regulatory body for the real estate industry in New Zealand.

Our job is to promote a high standard of service and professionalism in the real estate industry and help protect buyers and sellers.

Aaron Bhatnagar does not fulfill any of the Authority’s mission statements;

He is not independent – he is a member of the National Party and a government appointee.

He is an associate/friend of Cameron Slater, who, in turn is a close confidante/friend of Judith Collins.

His past activities over the last six year make him an inapproprite choice to sit on the Board. From his behaviour over the years,;

  • whether posting derogatory information on Wikipedia;
  • illegally accessing another computer;
  • aiding and abetting unauthorised downloading of data from that computer
  • writing a “puff piece” for a blog advocating for a company’s share value (Ryman Healthcare) – whilst not disclosing his conflict of interest as a shareholder

– it is clear that Mr Bhatnagar’s judgement is poor; has questionable ethics; and is the last person who should be serving on the Board of the REAA.

Bhatnagar also appears to have a “conflict of interest” by sitting on the Board. In an interview with TV3’s Brook Sabin, on 18 August, Collins stated  that if Bhatnagar had real estate interests, it would be a conflict of interest;

@ 4.35

Sabin: “What real estate qualifications does he have?”

Collins: “You don’t have to have real estate qualifications to be on the board. [Prompted by aid] In fact exactly the opposite or otherwise he would have a conflict of interest.”

That conflict of interest exists. According to Bhatnagar himself, he is a property investor. He is quite candid about his investments, including “ commercial property through other entities“.

By the Minister’s own words there appears to be a prima facie case for a conflict of interest.

Accordingly, I have written  to  Minister Judith Collins and to the Chairman of the REAA;

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from:       Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to:             judith.collins@parliament.govt.nz
cc:            Dominion Post <editor@dompost.co.nz>,
                 rnz@radionz.co.nz,
                 NZ Herald <editor@herald.co.nz>,
                 TV3 News <News@tv3.co.nz>
date:       Sun, Aug 24, 2014
subject:  Conflict of Interest – Aaron Bhatnagar

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Kia ora Ms Collins,

On 18 August, you stated in an interview with TV3’s Brook Sabin that if Aaron Bhatnagar held interests in property, that would constitute a conflict of interest with his current position on the Real Estate Agents Authority (REAA) whom you appointed on 26 April last year.

Mr Bhatnagar does indeed seem to have investments in commercial property, and according to your assertions, this is a clear conflict of interest.

There are also other matters that demonstrate that Mr Bhatnagar’s position on the REAA is no longer tenable, and the full story will be presented tomorrow (Monday) on “The Daily Blog”.

I have also written to the Chairperson of the REAA on this matter, seeking that he remove Mr Bhatnagar from the Board.

I also call upon you to remove Mr Bhatnagar from the REAA, as he is clearly not fit to be on the Authority’s Board in any capacity.

Regards,

-Frank Macskasy

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And;

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from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to: John Auld <info@reaa.govt.nz>
cc: judith.collins@parliament.govt.nz
date: Sun, Aug 24, 2014
subject: REAA Board member – Aaron Bhatnagar

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John Auld
Chairperson
The Real Estate Agents Authority

Kia Ora Mr Auld,

I am writing to you in regards to one of your fellow Board Members, Mr Aaron Bhatnagar.

It is my contention that the REAA is not well-served by having Mr Bhatnagar on the Board of the REAA. He has demonstrated a clear lack of sound ethical decision-making and has engaged in behaviour that is both unprofessional and unscrupulous.

In 2008, it was reported that Mr Bhatnagar had been found to be tampering with  the internet encyclopedia, Wikipedia, to discredit  his political opponents in the 2007 local body elections.Employing an alias (“Barzini”), Mr Bhatnagar created negative entries for his political opponents in the Hobson ward and made damaging alterations to the Wikipedia entry for then-Mayor Dick Hubbard.

Mr Bhatnagar then tried to remove all evidence of his on-line activities.

Source material: http://www.nzherald.co.nz/politics/news/article.cfm?c_id=280&objectid=10531375

Just recently, it has been confirmed that  Mr Bhatnagar was involved in illegally accessing the Labour Party’s computer in 2011 with other persons (Jason Ede and Cameron Slater). The personal information of thousands of people, plus credit card details, was downloaded and used for political purposes as part of an on-going smear campaign.

Source material: http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11311371

The  Real Estate Agents Authority’s mission statement reads, in part,

“The Real Estate Agents Authority (REAA) is the independent government regulatory body for the real estate industry in New Zealand.

 
Our job is to promote a high standard of service and professionalism in the real estate industry and help protect buyers and sellers.”

 

Source material: http://www.reaa.govt.nz/AboutUs/Pages/AboutUs.aspx

Mr Bhatnagar has demonstrated poor judgement and engaged in activities that whilst not resulting in criminal prosecution (yet), show a poor character when it comes to ethical decision-making.

Considering that your organisation’s central responsibility is to monitor and discipline for   ethical behaviour, I have arrived at the unalterable conclusion that Mr Bhatnagar’s position on the Board of the Authority is no longer tenable.

 

I ask that his resignation be sought forthwith.

Regards,
-Frank Macskasy

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Bhatnagar  must resign or be sacked forthwith.

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References

NZ Herald:  Councillor uses Wikipedia to discredit rivals

NZ Herald:  Councillor uses Wikipedia to discredit rivals

TV3 News: Bhatnagar – Epsom experience advantage over Banks

Whaleoil:  Incompetent business reporting by the Sunday Star-Times

Real Estate Agents Authority:  Board Members

National Party: Appointment of members of the Real Estate Agents Authority

Real Estate Agents Authority: About Us

TV3 News: Full interview  – Judith Collins on Aaron Bhatnagar

About.Me: Aaron Bhatnagar

Previous related blogposts

Key’s ducking for cover – utterly unbelievable!!!

“Dirty Politics” and The Teflon Man

So who’s a “conspiracy theorist” now?!

Other blogs

Liberation: Winners and losers in the Act Party leadership coup

The Jackal: Who is Aaron Bhatnagar?

Public Address: Postmodern Banks Anxiety

Public Address:  Surely not

Public Address: Meanwhile in Epsom

The Standard: Aaron Bhatnagar – I barely know the guy


 

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Vote and be the change

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen/Lurch Left Memes

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 25 August 2014

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Letter to the Editor – The Marianna’s Trench or Pluto?! WTF was Key holidaying?!

22 August 2014 4 comments

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Frank Macskasy - letters to the editor - Frankly Speaking

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from:      Frank Macskasy
to:           Sunday News <editor@sunday-news.co.nz>
date:      Fri, Aug 22, 2014
subject: Letter to the editor

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The editor
Sunday News
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He says he doesn’t know about Judith Collins releasing private details of a civil servant to right wing blogger, Cameron Slater. That civil servant subsequently suffered death threats and a hate campaign after Slater wrote a hate-piece on him in his blog.

He says he had no idea what his press secretary, Jason Ede, was up to, in his dealings with the same blogger. That’s despite Ede’s office having been only two doors away from Key’s own office.

He says he didn’t know about the SIS releasing sensitive information to the same blogger, in only a few days, despite Key being the sole Minister responsible for that security agency. He says he was holidaying in Hawaii at the time.

Hawaii is not the bottom of the Marianna’s Trench or Pluto – do they not have phones in Hawaii?

What, exactly, does Key do with his time? Evidently our Prime Minister has no inkling what his ministers or staff are getting up to. Which makes his claims for “transparency” and “no surprises” a farce.

Either Key is the most poorly informed Prime Minister in the history of this country, or he is not being upfront with us.

Either way, I question whether he is fit to be Prime Minister.

-Frank Macskasy

 

[address and phone number supplied]

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Skipping voting is not rebellion its surrender

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen/Lurch Left Memes

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“Dirty Politics” and The Teflon Man

22 August 2014 6 comments

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L-R- David Farrar, John Key, Cameron Slater

L-R- David Farrar, John Key, Cameron Slater

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The release of Nicky Hager’s book, “Dirty Secrets” has unleashed more of a political firestorm than many had anticipated. (Or, perhaps some did.)

The glare of publicity has been shone like a laser-beam into the darkest, most noisome recesses of right wing politics in this country. Defeatist cynics (like Mike Hosking) have shrugged and said, “well, we knew it was like this”.

No, we did not. We may have suspected; we may have heard fragments; we may have seen indications. But very few knew precisely how dirty our politics had gotten.

As someone who has been politically active – first on  the centre-right; then centre-left; and now even further to the left – I had my suspicions as to the abuse of power. But nothing concrete upon which to base my suspicions,

Hager has built those concrete foundations and nothing short of a seismic event will shake them to bits.

National’s entire hierarchy, from it’s most inner sanctum Politburo, to it’s apparatchiks and fellow-travellers, is now facing the grimmest reality that their dirty laundry has been hung out for all to see. Only the most obsessively-partisan  of National’s supporters will ignore Nicky Hager’s findings. (Just as Muldoon and other authoritarian leaders had their die-hard supporters.)

The recent media stories has raised some interesting points to consider…

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1. The Timing of the Book Launch

Key has called the timing of the launch of Nicky Hager’s book “cynically timed” for the election;

“This is a cynically timed attack book from a well-known left-wing conspiracy theorist. It makes all sorts of unfounded allegations and voters will see it for what it is.”

Rubbish. When else would you launch a book that relates to a critical political situation? After the election? When it’s too late for people to access relevant information to base their decision upon who to vote for?

In which case, should Nicky Hager  have released his earlier expose, “Seeds of Distrust“, which was highly critical of the then-Labour government? After the 2002 election?

And should party Leader’s televised debates and other election campaigns be conducted post-election also?

That’s how ridiculous Key’s proposition is.

But let’s be crystal clear here. Key’s concern isn’t related to “cynicism” of the timing. His concerns relate solely to the damage it will cause his Party and his re-election chances. Otherwise, Nicky Hager’s book is no better or worse timed than the release of this book, by pro-National, conservative NZ Herald columnist, John Roughan;

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portrait of a prime minister

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Roughan’s hagiography was launched this year, on 26 June.  Three months before the election.

Was that cynical timing to promote the the Teflon Man’s  public image?

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2. John Key has not read the book

Key says he has not read the book, and refuses to do so.

He has summarily dismissed Nicky Hager’s book as,

“Mr Hager’s making claims he can’t back up and they’re not factually correct.”

And on TVNZ,

“He should knock his socks off and release anything he wants because most of the assumptions are now dissolving before his eyes.”

And on Interest.co.nz;

“All I know is that Nicky Hager is a left wing conspiracy theorist and makes stuff up.”

So, without reading Nicky Hager’s book or launching an investigation into his claims, Key has condemned and dismissed it out of hand.

But when it comes to the allegations of wrong-doing by “Justice” Minister, Judith Collins, Key is only too happy to support her – even though he has not read the book (so he claims). On Collins, he says,

See TV3 video here. @ 7.28

Journo: “Are you satisfied that Judith Collins didn’t leak Bronwyn Pullar’s name?”

Key: “Well that’s the assurance that she’s given me and I accept her at her word.

Journo: “Do you feel you have go back and check that now given what’s in the book?”

Key: “No, I don’t think so.”

Key “… if that’s what the minister said then that’s what she has said, I accept her at her word.”

This is a Prime Minister who dismisses allegations of ministerial abuse of power – without even considering those allegations? How does work?!

This is not the first time Key has refused to read information regarding one of his Ministers accused of wrong-doing;

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PM reaffirms support for John Banks

“I haven’t read that police report and I’m not going to because I don’t need to … It’s not my job to do a forensic analysis. What I can tell you is, the law doesn’t work.” – John Key,  16 September 2012

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PM under pressure over Hauiti

But the Prime Minister says he does not, and rejects suggestions that Ms Hauiti is getting away with it. He told reporters he has not asked how much money is involved.

“That’s actually not a matter for me.That’s a matter for Parliamentary Services and her. She made it quite to me that she was standing down from Parliament and that was on the back of the advice she’d had from the party, which took a pretty dim view to her making a mistake.” – John Key, 24 July 2014

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Key won’t investigate Collins claims

Prime Minister John Key says he probably won’t look into allegations made about senior cabinet minister Judith Collins in Nicky Hager’s new book.

An entire chapter of Dirty Politics is dedicated the relationship between Ms Collins and WhaleOil blogger Slater, who are close friends.

Mr Hager alleges Ms Collins fed a “continuous supply of material to Slater”, including press releases, political gossip, tip-offs and serious leaks. – TV3, 15 August 2014

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Key is using a CIA strategy from the early 1960s called “plausible deniability” – with a peculiar Kiwi twist. Basically, it works  like this; confronted with a scandal, Key refuses to read a report; then tells the media he is unable to act to address the scandal because he doesn’t have “those details” (see below; IP Address Linked to National). Then the Teflon man walks away.

Basically, he has given himself an “out” to wipe his hands of a problem and not have to deal with it.

Quite a piece of ‘work’, our esteemed Dear Leader.

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3. IP Address Linked to National

Key cannot even get his ‘spin’ story straight.

See TV3 video here. Note @  2.33:

Journo #1: “The IP Address went back to your office.”

Key: “Nah, I don’t think that’s right. It’s nothing to do with our office.”

Journo #2: “There was an IP Address that went back to your office and to the National Party, National.Org.Nz.”

Key: “Well, look, I don’t have those details. But what I can tell you is, that Mr Slater has made it quite clear, it’s nothing to do with the National Party…”

So first of all, Key tried to deny that the IP Addresses of  Jason Ede were not connected with trawling through Labour’s computer.

When pressed by a second journalist, Key denied knowledge of the IP Address evidence.

Questions for Mr Key;

  • Instead of flatly denying the existence of the IP Address evidence, why does Key not mount an investigation into the claims?
  • How can he deny evidence that Ede has accessed a Labour Party computer when he admits “I don’t have those details“? How can someone deny an action he has no knowledge of?
  • If he doesn’t “have those details” – when will he seek to learn what those details are?
  • Why is Key relying on blogger Cameron Slater “that Mr Slater has made it quite clear, it’s nothing to do with the National Party”? Is Key unable to make that assertion himself?

The answer is: He has contradicted himself. Key is lying and clumsily attempting to cover Jason Ede’s (and his own) arse.

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4. The Labour Party Computer accessed by PM’s political advisor, Jason Ede

The Prime Minister’s ‘spin’  on National Party “political advisor, Jason Ede, accessing Labour’s computer files without permission is that if the computer was not suitably protected, therefore it was open to the public.

Which is kind of like saying if your back door is unlocked, anyone should be about to walk into your home and help themselves to your property. Because Ede and Slater did not just “have a look around” the files – they downloaded and took files – as he admitted in an interview with TV3’s “The Nation” host, Lisa Owen; on 16 August;

Lisa Owen: “So you’re denying categorically that you were working with Jason Ede and that you were both in that computer, downloading material?”

Cameron Slater: “I was in the computer, downloading material. I will not and cannot speak for somebody else. That’s up to them to answer those questions.”

Slater told Lisa Owen,

“Well, I don’t speak for the National Party. I couldn’t possibly speak for it, but I was certainly into the back end of the Labour Party’s website. If they couldn’t manage security of their website, their credit card details and their financial information about their membership, well, then they weren’t really fit for government at the time. But there was certainly no hacking involved in that and quite unlike Nicky Hager’s scurrilous little book, there’s no illegal acts that were taking place at that time.”

So Slater is saying that a political party that can’t manage a computer system is not fit to govern.

Like… this?

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novopay logo

 

Novopay fix costs to hit 43 million

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You were saying, Cam?

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5. Interesting Question & Answer from Key, re, Jason Ede

See TV3 video here. Note @  19.53:

A journo asks Key if he has spoken to Jason Ede, one of the principle characters in Nicky Hager’s book.

Key replies, “No, I haven’t.”

One would think that the publication of a book  that has seized public attention and made serious allegations against the National Government would warrant the Prime Minister to pick up the phone; dial Ede’s number, and ask him for a chat. The phrase, “Now, would be good” springs to mind.

So why didn’t Key talk to Ede?

And if he hasn’t spoken to Ede, how does he know that Nicky Hager’s allegations regarding Ede are false?

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6. Key’s relationship with Slater

Nicki Hager’s revelations have put this story from earlier in the year into a whole new perspective;

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PM hints tip-off came from Cameron Slater

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According to Nicky Hager,  the SIS decided to release a document to Slater within twentyfour hours, after an OIA request;

Mr Hager’s book alleges the PM’s office used its knowledge of secret SIS documents to tip off Mr Slater to attack the Labour leader in the 2011 election campaign.

Mr Goff accused Mr Key of lying about knowing about an Official Information ACT request to the SIS.

Mr Goff said Mr Slater’s OIA request was answered within a day, which was unheard of, while other media had to wait.

As someone who has lodged several OIA requests with this government, I can testify that not one single request has ever been actioned within a day. Not one.
They usually take anywhere from three to four weeks – some longer.
So for an OIA request for information to be met within a week is… miraculous in a biblical sense.

And why did other media have to wait for the same information? Why was Slater given this information so quickly?

And more to the point – how did he know to ask for it?

As Nicky Hager wrote, on page 40 of his book;

“Documents like the SIS briefing notes are not usually released to the public, under the Official Information Law or otherwise. Someone had over-ruled the usual practice  and then fast-tracked  the release. The released documents were stamped as being declassified  on 26 July 2011, the same day that Slater sent  off his request. Where was the time for decision-making and consultation?”

If – as it seems – Key used his ministerial position as the Minister in Charge of the SIS to facilitate this OIA information release – then what we have here is what many New Zealanders have feared since the GCSB Amendment was passed last year; the abuse of a state security apparatus by a politician for purely selfish, destructive, venal-political purposes.

For the first time (?) in modern history a political party in our country – through a  willing agent – has used state power to destroy the career (and election chances) of a political rival. This was a planned, systematic, subversion of our democratic process – the system for whom thousands died for in two World Wars. And for which we remember each year for their supreme sacrifice.

This should frighten all New Zealanders who are in possession of a sound mind.

 

 

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7. National-aligned NZ Columnist not impressed with Slater-Collins-Ede Cabal

When National’s own pet columnist, John Armstrong, gives credence to Nicky Hager’s book, then the National Party and it’s cadres are in deep, deep, doo-doos. His column on 16 August took a swipe at National and it’s Teflon Man leader. In part, he made these astute observations;

“National’s tactic has been to keep the focus on Mr Hager and persuade people he had hidden motives for writing the book – rather than being drawn into arguments about its damning contents.

Mr Key’s damage-control operation was designed to both defuse and confuse.

However, the Prime Minister looked and sounded distinctly uncomfortable when questioned by reporters on Thursday afternoon.

He conceded nothing and repeatedly answered questions by saying the book’s allegations had ”nothing to do with National”.

When it was pointed out to him that National was clearly implicated, he made excuses, saying he had not been briefed on the detail.

If Mr Key’s answers sounded glib there was good reason.

The vilification of Mr Hager by Mr Key and Steven Joyce, National’s election campaign supremo and the one designated to front for National when there is trouble, is a charade.

Their dilemma is that they have to rubbish the book as being wrong on every score when they know much if not all of it, is accurate, simply because the contents come straight out of the mouths of Mr Slater, Mr Ede and other National Party figures and associates.”

Nailed it, John. And when you look at the  TV3 video, it rapidly becomes apparent that Key is lying his head off – even as Associate  Immigration Minister, Michael Woodhouse, beams lovingly at his Dear Leader in the background. (Honestly, it looks like the guy was going to rush up to Key and give him a huge smooch on the cheek! Though Key certainly looked like he needed a cuddle and hot milo.)

Armstrong suggests that “Mr Ede might yet have take one for the team and resign, as evidence that National has cleaned out its Augean stables”.

That would be my guess as well. Ede is Dead Man Walking.

On the other hand, Collins is safe. The Nats are too close to an election to dump her as a minister. Plus there are suggestions that she does have something over Key, which is why he never fired her sorry arse over the Oravida Scandal. Or Katie Bradford dust-up. Or any other mess she has been publicly involved in.

She is the female embodiment of a certain other  National Prime Minister from the mid 1970s to mid 1980s.

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8. Media collusion implicated?

The Donghua Liu Affair (which I am still investigating) implicates certain media as colluding with the National Government.

On page 128 of Nicky Hager’s book, an event took place where TV3 journos asked David Cunliffe;

Journos: “Have you ever met Donghua Liu?

Cunliffe: “I don’t recall meeting him, no.”

Journos: “Did you have anything to do with the granting of his permanent residency?

Cunliffe: “No, I did not.”

Journos: “Did you advocate on his behalf at all?

Cunliffe: “Nope.

Journos: “Were you aware of official advice advising against granting permanent resident?

Cunliffe: “Not to my recollection.”

The very next day, the National Government supplied a copy of a letter Cunliffe had written to Immigration NZ, in April 2003 – eleven years ago – to the media. The letter had been released the following day after Cunliffe had replied to those questions. By 2.29PM, the Herald had an on-line story published by staff reporter, Jared Savage.

So, if the journos recieved the 2003 Cunliffe-Liu-Immigration  letter on the 18th of June – what prompted them to ask leading questions, the previous day,  that effectively trapped Cunliffe into providing answers to something that had transpired over a decade ago?

There are strong indications that many in the media have been forced to rely on bloggers for news-stories. As staffing levels are cut back to maximise profits and shareholder returns, remaining journalists are under increasing pressure to use short-cuts to find stories. Bloggers like “Whale Oil” provide a free, easy source of “news” – especially when said “news” is derived from information that has been leaked from Jason Ede and Judith Collins.

This creates two consequences.

Firstly, being reliant on a far-right blogger who also happens to be a covert mouthpiece for the government creates inherent problems surrounding ethics, privacy, agendas, lack of accountability, and an abuse of ministerial power if information is wrongly used.

Remember that many government departments hold vast amounts of information over us. Paula Bennett used private data in 2009 to silence two critics, Natasha Fuller and Jennifer Johnston.

Leaked emails referred to in “Dirty Politics” indicate that Collins  released the name and details of one public servant, which was then used by Slater to carry out a vendetta against him. The civil servant suffered abuse and death threats as a result.

When mainstream media support such a blogger (and I’m sure the relationship is a two way street), they are aiding and abetting nefarious people with nefarious agendas.  This runs counter to the ethics that the media purports to live by.

If those ethics no longer count, legal protections for media institutions (eg; protection of sources) should be stripped from legislation. It is because of supposedly strict ethics which the MSM hold to, that they are accorded privileges the rest of us do not enjoy.

Secondly, a two-way relationship with a psychopath with a penchant for verbal/written abuse, sleaze, lies, publishing threats of violence, and wrecking peoples’ lives – is not something that should sit well with professional journalists. Eventually, as with the political relationship between Slater and Ede, and Slate and Collins, the truth about such working relationships becomes public.

What journalist who is serious about his/her career wants to be associated with a quasi-fascist, on-line thug such as Cameron Slater (and his equally nasty mates).

There is an old saying about “supping with the devil…”

If the media has found itself reliant on the likes of Slater (who is clearly a conduit for the National government), then the media runs the risk of becoming a mouthpiece for the government.

This is a growing danger as staffing levels continue to fall in media companies and older, more experience staff retire (or are hired as PR by corporates, institutions, government, and government bodies), leaving younger, inexperienced journalists to fill an ever-growing vacuum of institutional and historic knowledge.

Mainstream media should learn a valuable lesson from Nicky Hager’s expose. Using someone like Slater as a news-source has consequences.

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9.  When TVNZ became an organ of the government propaganda machine

One of the worst ever media responses to a story like this came from TVNZ’s “Seven Sharp” on 14 August. It was… awful.

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Seven Sharp - 14 august 2014 - nicky hager - steven joyce - dirty politics

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(Hat-tip: Martyn ‘Bomber’ Bradbury)

I encourage people to watch the opening segment, where Mike “interviews” Minister Steven Joyce, and then interogates and derides author, Nicky Hager.

Any pretence that Mike Hosking is an “unbiased journalist” has been firmly dispatched. The man is a mouthpiece for the National government and his behaviour and line of questioning proved it.

Nicky Hager’s investigations have uncovered practices that can only be described as an abuse of power by this government.

Did Hosking ask challenging questions to the Minister? Answer: no.

Did Hosking put specific examples requiring explanations to the Minister? Answer: no.

Was Hosking’s line of questioning relevant to the book and offer insights to the viewer? Answer: no.

Hosking then asked hard questions from Nicky Hager, who to his credit realised that he was being set up as the “fall guy” for the story.

This was not journalism. Not even close. It was superficial, Fox-style partisan politics masquerading as “informed debate”. Again, not even close.

The only television I have seen in my life that came close to Hosking’s slanted, pro-government performance was during my visits to Eastern European countries in my lates teens/early twenties. In those times, Eastern Europe was ruled by well-policed, undemocratic, One Party “communist” regimes. Television “news” was little more than a mouthpiece for the government – no questions asked. There was never even an attempt at balance.

Hosking would have fitted in perfectly.

As far as I am concerned, Hosking’s “talent” lies elsewhere, but not in journalism. Perhaps a PR/spin-man for a cereal company or arms manufacturer or bordello run by the Chow Brothers (he’s already sold his soul, so the other bodily bits should be equally saleable).

As for TVNZ, it requires a thorough clean-out by an incoming Labour-led government and people like Hosking marched out the front door, escorted by Security.

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10. Conclusion

Somewhere, since 1984, we have taken a terrible road to a future which I cannot recognise except as a more subtle version of the country that my parents fled in 1956.

Truly folks, this is not the New Zealand I grew up in. .


 

References

Scoop media: Dirty Politics: Nicky Hager’s new book on the Key Government launched at Unity

Wikipedia: Seeds of Distrust

TV3 News: Nicky Hager book shows National’s ‘dirty politics’

Oxford Dictionary: “hagiography

MSN News: John Key trashes Nicky Hager’s book

TVNZ: PM challenges Nicky Hager to release emails

Interest.co.nz: Key defiant over Hager book and defends both Ede and Collins

TV3 News: Video – John Key talks Nicky Hager’s Dirty Politics

NZ Herald:  PM reaffirms support for John Banks

Radio NZ: PM under pressure over Hauiti

TV3 News: Key won’t investigate Collins claims

Scoop media:  Lisa Owen Interviews Whale Oil Blogger Cameron Slater

NZCity:  Novopay fix costs to hit $43 million

Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet:  New Zealand Security Intelligence Service

Otago Daily Times:  Opinion – National ignores incriminating material

NZ Herald: David Cunliffe wrote letter supporting Liu’s residency bid

Fairfax media: Bennett won’t rule out releasing beneficiary details

TV3 News: Nicky Hager book – Cameron Slater defends Judith Collins

Previous related blogposts

David Farrar – A Question for you please?

Dear John – Time to answer a few questions! – Hone Harawira

When Stupid meets Hypocrisy, the result is David Farrar

When Stupid meets Hypocrisy, the result is David Farrar – *Update*

Pay Walls – the last gasp of a failed media business-model?


 

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Vote and be the change

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen/Lurch Left Memes

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 17 August 2014

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Key’s ducking for cover – utterly unbelievable!!!

21 August 2014 3 comments

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dom post

 

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I don’t often re-print media stories verbatim – but this piece by Andrea Vance, for Fairfax Media,  deserves wider circulation. Please note the highlighted statements by Dear Leader as he ducks, weaves, obfuscates, and deflects any and all responsibility for the situation;

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Jason Ede still has Beehive access

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ANDREA VANCE – Last updated 16:39 17/08/2014

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Prime Minister John Key says he can’t explain why “black ops” spin doctor Jason Ede still has a staff access card to Parliament.

Ede is at the centre of claims in Nicky Hager’s Dirty Politics book, in which it is alleged he fed gossip, research and tips to Whaleoil blogger Cameron Slater.

Paid by the taxpayer as a ministerial services staff, Ede is also accused of infiltrating a Labour party database, which contained sensitive personal information. Slater said the website was insecure.

Ede was spotted in the Parliamentary complex last week – with a security access swipe card – despite National saying he is employed by them at the party’s Wellington head office.

“I don’t know, you’d have to ask whoever is responsible for that. But it’s not me,” Key said.

“He works for the National party now, that’s all I know.”

Key didn’t know why Ede was at Parliament and he wasn’t visiting his office.

“You’d have to ask him. He hasn’t been in my [physical] office for years… He was originally a press secretary years and years ago. Again Hager’s got it wrong, he’s not two doors down from me. I hardly ever talk to him. Most of the work he did in research and communications was either with backbenchers or other people.”

Key said he doesn’t know what Ede’s role with National was now.

He also reiterated there would be no action after Justice Minister Judith Collins admitted passing the name of a public servant to Slater, resulting in a vicious online attack.

“At the end of the day, should people pass names, I don’t know… Labour does that too,” Key said.

Collins was “welcome” to talk to Slater.

“If I have a particular reason to call him, I will. It’s three or four times a year. I might call the mainstream media three or four times a day.”

Key insists Slater was a “force of nature into himself” with “sources all over the show.”

He also defended a text message to Slater, following public outcry at offensive remarks the blogger made about the mother of a Pike River victim. He also called the blogger on the phone.

“I didn’t text him about that woman. It was something completely different.

“I said absolutely, and I stand by it, that I recognised her. Those are the only words I’ve said… I said I knew the woman in the picture, that’s all I said. I didn’t ring him about that issue, I was ringing him about something completely different.”

Labour has called on National to release the name of a staff member who accessed its database.

“I don’t have that information,” Key said.

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Key’s inability to take responsibility for his party’s actions remind me of similar blogposts I have written in the past;

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 Dear Leader Key blames everyone else for Solid Energy’s financial crisis - nicky hager - cameron slater - john key - dirty politics (1)
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 Dear Leader Key blames everyone else for Solid Energy’s financial crisis - nicky hager - cameron slater - john key - dirty politics (2)
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 John Key blames - nicky hager - cameron slater - john key - dirty politics (3)
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Taking responsibility, National-style - nicky hager - cameron slater - john key - dirty politics (2)
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It appears that the “plausible deniability” strategy is starting to wear thin. (Or did Key’s media spin team take the day off, leaving him to his own devices?!)

How much longer can key keep saying,

“I don’t have that information.”

“I don’t know, you’d have to ask whoever is responsible for that. But it’s not me.”

“I don’t know.”

“It was something completely different.

“That’s all I know.”

“You’d have to ask him.

Because very soon now, people are going to be scratching their heads and wondering – “What the f**k are we paying $428,500-plus-perks  per year for this guy?!”

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References

Fairfax media:  Jason Ede still has Beehive access

TV3 News: MPs receive 2pct pay rise

Previous related blogposts (1)

Dear Leader Key blames everyone else for Solid Energy’s financial crisis (Part Rua)

Dear Leader Key blames everyone else for Solid Energy’s financial crisis

Taking responsibility, National-style

Previous related blogposts (2)

When Karma caught up with Cameron Slater

When Stupid meets Hypocrisy, the result is David Farrar

When Stupid meets Hypocrisy, the result is David Farrar – *Update*

David Farrar – A Question for you please?

Dear John – Time to answer a few questions! – Hone Harawira

“Dirty Politics” and The Teflon Man

Death threats made to rightwing blogger?

Recommended Reading

The Jackal: The real nasty bloggers

 

 


 

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John Key - responsibility - nicky hager - privilege

 

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The Donghua Liu Affair – the impending final act and curtain-fall in this smear-campaign

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Heraldmobile

 

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Preface

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As the the final acts  in the smear campaign that was the Donghua Liu Affair are about to unfold, and the curtain soon to fall, it is worthwhile re-assessing what has occurred; what has been learned; and the fall-out for certain individuals.

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1. The NZ Herald

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The NZ Herald does not emerge from this Affair very well.

From 18 June, when Cunliffe’s eleven year old letter was “discovered” and made public; to 21 June, when Donghua Liu’s first “signed statement” was reported by the Herald; to 25 June, when the Herald released a “new statement” from Liu – this has been either a cock-up of colossal proportions, or self-serving connivance,  in a carefully orchestrated smear campaign.

Where does one start to unravel the mess that the Herald and some of it’s staff and editor have created?

  • The sensationalist headlines that were splashed across the paper with damaging allegations, with no evidence, and based purely on one man’s “signed statement” was trash “journalism” at it’s worst.

Businessman gifts $150k to Labour Party

Liu’s $100k wine news to Rick Barker

Labour looks in serious disarray

Labour must cling to the wreckage

Oh David – it’s come down to a question of trust

Cunliffe’s denial has done party no favours

Cunliffe working 9 to 5 to save his job

Poisoned chalice may be leader’s saviour

etc, etc, et-bloody-cetera…

  • Liu’s “signed statement” was not even in the nature of an affidavit – the latter carrying more legal weight under the Evidence Act 2006. Which means that Liu could make any wild claim he fancied, with minimal repercussions. (Not unless someone with deep pockets, and plenty of time, bothers to take a defamation case against the trouble-prone migrant businessman.)

This should have made the Herald and it’s supposedly professional, experienced staff of journalists and columnists, more cautious.

Instead we read outrageous claims of a “$100,000 bottle of wine” (or “four bottles of wine” depending on which account you read); “$15,000 books”, and “$60,000 dinners on the Yangtze River” – all without a jot of evidence or witnesses. (The Yangtze boat trip/party turned out to be a staff party that then-Labour minister, Rick Barker, had been invited to attend.)

In short, we witnessed  an appalling standard of sloppy “journalism” and “trial by media” based on no evidence, and judged guilty-by-innuendo.

  • This shameful style of media reporting was made worse by the likes of Jared Savage who wrote uncritical pieces on this story, repeating in a parrot-like fashion any fanciful claim that Liu could come up with. When only one of Liu’s claims was substantiated – his $2,000 donation to a boating club – it was trumpeted as “proof” that all of Liu’s claims had been confirmed,

“The confirmation comes after Labour has denied other allegations in the signed statement from Liu, including the claim he paid “close to $100,000″ for wine at fundraising auctions.”

Rick Barker had his own views on the rowing club donation, which seemed a whole lot more credible than Liu’s “$100,000 bottle of wine”. (‘Cold Duck’ anyone?)

  •  Or  Herald Editor, Tim Murphy, on Radio NZ’s “Morning Report“  on 23 June, where he was evasive in his answers and gave no explanation as to why Liu’s “signed statement” had not been published verbatim. Murphy said on the interview that he  stood by the Liu story, confidently asserting;

“Well, what’s not to stand by?”

We now know that Liu’s claims were either misleading, fanciful, or over-exaggerated and most likely, defamatory.

That is the most likely reason why the Herald did not publish, verbatim, Liu’s “signed statement” It would have made them a party to a defamation lawsuit.

  • But perhaps the worst offender was Herald Columnist, John Armstrong, who on 18 June, penned one of the most scurrilous pieces of “journalistic” rubbish  in recent media  history. Armstrong’s piece was written on the same day that the Herald published Cunliffe’s eleven year old letter to Immigration NZ. Amazingly, as Armstrong vilified Cunliffe for “a lapse of memory”, and demanded his resignation as Labour leader – he omitted to mentioned that the letter had been written some eleven years ago.

Armstrong’s piece was written and published at 1pm on 18 June – one hour twentynine minutes before Jared Savage broke the story detailing Cunliffe’s 2003 letter to Immigration NZ, on behalf of Donghua Liu.

Which suggests Armstrong’s haste and eagerness  in putting the journalistic ‘knife’ between Cunliffe’s ribs.

It was not until three days later that the Herald’s other right-leaning columnist, Fran O’Sullivan, attempted to inject some degree of sanity into her colleagues with her more thoughtful, restrained  opinion piece on 21 June,

Memo: David Cunliffe. Don’t let your political enemies (that includes your frenemies) push you out of the Labour leadership ahead of the election.

[…]

There is already a media-fuelled expectation that Cunliffe should either step down or be rolled so that Labour’s fourth leader in one parliamentary term can lead the party into the September 20 election.

This would leave precious little time for a replacement – be it Grant Robertson or Andrew Little – to bed their own leadership in place before going head-to-head with Key in the election campaign. It would almost certainly result in electoral defeat.

Similarly, the resignation calls Cunliffe faced after the Herald broke the story that the Labour leader had signed off a letter on behalf of Liu bordered on risible.

That letter was clearly a pro forma note written by his staffers. There was no element of special pleading. It’s no wonder he had forgotten it. It should not have sparked a Gotcha call from political journalists.

Well, I’m not so charitable.

The behaviour of the Herald (with some notable exceptions) has been nothing short of disgraceful. It has with-held information from the public. It has published defamatory claims from a vengeful businessman with no evidence to support his claims regarding Labour (rowing boat club aside). It has engaged in tabloid-style, “gotcha” political-journalism. It has demonstrated  a particularly virulent style of biased, partisan reporting.   It has not undertaken the most basic journalistic  requirements of confirming a story before going public. It has not bothered to investigate (as far as anyone can tell) who was behind Liu’s claims and why. It has abused it’s position as a major media organisation, with it’s considerable influence in New Zealand society.

As such, to take a page from John Armstrong’s 18 June opinion piece, I  issue the following;

Tim Murphy

Tim Murphy must apologise to David Cunliffe and to the NZ Labour Party promptly,  fully, and unreservedly. That apology should be placed on the front page of the Herald. It  is the very least that he should do as a matter of justice.

After which, Mr Murphy should re-consider his own position and decide whether  his role as the Herald’s editor is now tenable after this shameful fiasco.

(See Appendix B)

John Armstrong

There is no question – John Armstrong must resign immediately. His behaviour has been shocking and  inexcusable. Any notion of Armstrong as an impartial  journalist was swept away with his intemperate and openly partisan column on 18 June.

To para-phrase  Mr Armstrong, “he has called for [David Cunliffe’s] head to roll for the equivalent or less. Having set the standard required of others, it is incumbent on him to himself follow suit“.

When a supposedly well-educated person writes such a travesty of journalism, there is only one course of action open.

Go, John.

Just, go.

(See Appendix B)

Jared Savage

Jared was the author of many of the pieces reporting (more like cutting and  re-pasting) Donghua Liu’s claims. There was no evidence to support Donghua Liu’s claims – but they were published and given prominence nevertheless.

Jared does not appear to have given any serious thought to questioning Liu’s claims, nor the motivations for them. This style of reporting is grossly irresponsible and undermines his profession.

Unlike his colleagues, Murphy and Armstrong, Jared is young and still learning his craft. The Liu Affair has not been to Jared’s credit, but hopefully he has learned from the experience. I encourage Jared to under-go a refresher course in journalistic ethics so that future reporting can be more balanced and accurate.

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2. A more measured p.o.v.?

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With the dust settling on the Liu Affair, and the hysteria from more ‘excitable’  media columnists and commentators dying away, I refer to the reader a more measured, thoughtful p.o.v. from Dominion Post columnist, Vernon Small, who wrote that the Liu saga hits harder when Labour’s down.

Small’s column wasn’t just a breath of fresh air, it was a full tank of oxygen in an otherwise murky atmosphere of political muck-raking, innuendo, lies,  and media histrionics.

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3. The Labour Party

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Legal Action

Without a doubt, Labour – and specifically, David Cunliffe – have no choice. They must take legal action for defamation against the Herald. The kind of shabby, tabloid-style “journalism” shown since June 18 has further undermined the Fourth Estate’s credibility (whether Herald staff and management realise this or not, is irrelevant) and must not be allowed to become the new default standard by which editors and journalists operate in this country.

For these reasons, Labour must sue for three good reasons;

  • It runs the risk that the public ‘memory’ on this incident will be fixed at the point of “revelations” about a “$100,000 bottle of wine” – not that Liu changed his story. Nor that no evidence was forthcoming.
  • If the Liu Affair goes to Court, the process of discovery may reveal who was behind this smear campaign.
  • If the phone tapping/”News of the World” scandal in Britain has shown us anything, it is that the  tabloid journalism road, where irresponsible reporting becomes an  acceptable ‘norm’, leads to unpleasant (and often illegal) consequences.

However, my advice to Cunliffe and the Labour Party is to defer legal action until after 20 September.  The Labour Party cannot afford distractions this close to an election.

Rapid Response Team

Unless Labour already has one, I suggest that they create a media “rapid response group” which can  ‘kick in’ when the next smear campaign rears it’s ugly head. (Mark my words, the next dirty trick is probably already in the works.)

Such a group could comprise of senior party members, MPs, legals, media minders, etc, and could ‘swing into action’ at the first hint of another event like the Liu Affair.

Every Labour candidate should have an easy-to-contact  “rapid response group” team-member on their phone’s speed-dial.

Potential Allies

If the Liu Affair has shown anything, it is the old maxim,

“United we Stand, Divided we Fall”

The smear campaign was notable for one thing; Labour stood alone against the NZ Herald, other media, and various lunatic right-wing bloggers.  It had few allies.

Perhaps this incident should serve as a wake-up call to Labour that it needs allies – potential coalition partners who can come to the aid of an embattled Labour Party. And vice versa.

God knows the Left has many enemies in the media, political sphere, business world, rant-back radio, and rabid-right blogs.

A more collegial and co-operative relationship between Labour, the Greens, Mana-Internet, trade unions, and other progressive organisations will be needed if future dirty tricks and smear campaigns are to be successfully resisted.

“United we stand, divided we fall” is not just a catchy catch-phrase. It actually means something.

 The GCSB

Last year, John Key and the National government, with support from ACT and Peter Dunne, changed legislation to allow the GCSB to carry out domestic surveillance and spy on New Zealanders.

Of course, this does not mean that I am suggesting that when Labour becomes government, that they should use the GCSB to spy on the Herald, Donghua Liu, his lawyers, Cameron Slater, Jason Ede, David Farrar, and anyone else who might be connected with this Affair, to find out who was responsible.

I am not suggesting that at all.

That would be morally wrong.

But quite legal.

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4. John Key

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It was clear from Day One, that John Key  had been fully briefed on David Cunliffe’s 2003 letter to Immigration NZ. On 19 June, John Key said he had previously known about the  letter;

“Can’t exactly recall, I think it was a few weeks ago.”

But far more interesting is that Key seems to have been aware of Liu’s “signed statement” prior to  the Herald aquiring a copy of it.

Note the following article from the Herald, written by Audrey Young, when she was in New York, covering Key’s visit to the United States . Specifically, note the date; Thursday 19 June;

.

 

NZ Herald - Key on Liu-Labour link - More to come - $15 000 book

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Note the opening paragraph;

Prime Minister John Key believes the Labour [sic] has a lot more than $15,000 in donations from wealthy Chinese political donor Donghua Liu.

Key is quoted in Young’s article,

“I’ve heard the rumours and we’ll see what actually comes out but I’d be very, very amazed if the amount is $15,000,” he told New Zealand reporters.

But according to Herald on Sunday editor, Miriyana Alexander, revelations of Donghua Liu’s claims for other donations did not come to their attention until Saturday, 21 June;

But Herald on Sunday editor Miriyana Alexander said it only got a copy of the statement on Saturday and called the party within an hour of receiving it.

The date of when the NZ Herald came into possession of   Liu’s   “signed statement” was  also confirmed as  “on Saturday” [21 June], by Herald editor,  Tim Murphy, who was  interviewed on Radio NZ’s “Morning Report“, two days later (Monday  23 June). In the same interview, Murphy refused to say how the Herald acquired the statement.

When asked by Morning Report co-presenter, Susie Ferguson, why a copy of Liu’s statement had not been supplied to Labour, Murphy’s response was,

“There’s still more to be done. And there’s issues of sensitivities around it, for us. All these these things don’t get passed over […] I imagine it’ll come out but it just a matter of us working through some things first.”

Timeline:

19 June (Thursday): Key  stated that he  believed  Labour had a lot more than $15,000 in donations from wealthy Chinese political donor Donghua Liu.

21 June (Saturday): NZ Herald came into possession of Liu’s “signed statement”. The Herald does not publish the “statement” verbatim, nor does it pass a copy on to the Labour Party. (A point raised by Morning Report co-presenter, Susie Ferguson in her interview with Tim Murphy.)

23 June (Monday): NZ Herald editor, Tim Murphy confirms that his paper did not acquire a copy of Liu’s “signed statement” until two days ago (21 June).

So John Key knew the contents of Liu’s “signed statement”  two days in advance of the Herald.

In my previous blogpost (The Donghua Liu Affair threatens to unravel – PM and NZ Herald caught up in a dirty trick campaign?) I posed these questions;

  1. Who had access to the Prime Minister in such a way that he could be briefed, with such detail,  in advance, on Cunliffe’s letter and Liu’s “signed statement”?
  2. Who was involved in encouraging Donghua Liu to make his statement?
  3. How did a copy of Liu’s “signed statement” get to the NZ Herald?
  4. What was the motivation in briefing the Prime Minister?
  5. Who else in the PM’s office was involved? Was it Jason Ede?

Without much doubt, Key, his  ministers,  and some of his closest advisors, were fully aware of Cunliffe’s 2003 letter and Donghua Liu’s “signed statement”.

.

5. Conclusions

.

1.

The Herald’s editor, Tim Murphy and  political columnist John Armstrong behaved disgracefully throughout this entire event. Either through ineptitude or complicity, they allowed the NZ Herald to become a tool for a carefully planned and executed smear campaign against David Cunliffe.

In an email to Tim Murphy (see Appendix B), I call for a full-page apology to be published in the Herald.

I also call for Tim Murphy’s and John Armstrong’s resignations.

As such, after my email to Tim Murphy, and depending on his response, I will be considering a complaint to the NZ Press Council on the matter.

I may also look at other avenues such as contacting the Herald’s main advertisers.

2.

David Liu was not the instigator or author of his “signed statement”.  Without doubt, it was a dirty trick of the sort that Nicky Hager warned us about in his brilliant exposé on corruption in the National Party, “The Hollow Men”. 

The date on Liu’s “signed statement” – 3 May – was only two days after Maurice Williamson’s enforced resignation after being found out attempting to influence a police investigation into Liu’s assault on two women.

The close timing of Williamson’s resignation and the date on Liu’s “signed statement” was a critical mistake on the part of those responsible for this smear campaign. It ties the two events together. I believe Key’s senior media strategist, Jason Ede, and right-wing blogger, Cameron Slater were probably involved.

The motive for the smear campaign was an act of utu, in retaliation for Labour prosecuting revelations against Maurice Williamson.

3.

Labour must sue the NZ Herald for defamation. Whilst smear campaigns are, unfortunately part-and-parcel of politics (because partisan voters seem not to care, as long as it is done to the “other side”), complicit or incompetant actions by media reporting such stories cannot – must not – be allowed to stand.

Unless we want to see this country’s media  become a South Pacific mirror of “News of the World“, with associated phone hacking, bribery, police corruption, and god knows what else, the kind of sensationalist, headline-driven, misleading “journalism” shown by the Herald from June 18 cannot be allowed to become the new standard of media behaviour.

Even media companies have responsibilities and obligations to behave in a responsible manner.

If not, we must look to legal remedies to ensure responsible behaviour.

 

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Appendix A

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from:     Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to:          John Key <john.key@parliament.govt.nz>
date:      Thu, Jun 26, 2014 at 1:06 PM
subject: OIA Request – Reminder!

Kia ora Mr Key,

On 19 June – now one week ago – I lodged an OIA request with you and your office.

My request was as follows,

Kia ora Mr Key.

This is a request lodged under the Official Information Act.

Please provide me with copies of all correspondence, minutes, notes, reports, and any other written or otherwise recording, relating to any and all activities surrounding the procurement; storage; and planned circumstances of the release of the letter between David Cunliffe and Donghua Liu dated 11 April 2003.

This includes a request for all communications relating to the letter between David Cunliffe and Donghua Liu dated 11 April 2003, which may have occurred between yourself; any and all staffmembers in your office; any member of the National Party; any blogger; any media person; and any other group or individual who was contacted on this issue.

Information may be emailed to me, or, if the file is too large, I can supply a postal address for hard copies.

Regards,

-Frank Macskasy

Blogger

Since then, I have not received any acknowledgement to my lodged application and require you to do so, under the Act.

If I do not receive acknowledgement to my request, I will have no option but to pursue the matter with the Office of the Ombudsman.

Regards,

-Frank Macskasy

An hour later, I received an emailed acknowledgement to my OIA request.

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Appendix B

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from:         Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to:              Tim Murphy <editor@herald.co.nz>
date:         Thu, Jun 26, 2014 at 10:34 PM
subject:    The Donghua Liu Affair & Consequence

 

Tim Murphy
Editor,
The New Zealand Herald

 

Kia ora Mr Murphy,

After recent revelations, it has become patently obvious and apparent to all that Mr Donghua Liu is no longer a credible witness to any alleged wrong-doing or alleged inappropriate behaviour by David Cunliffe, Rick Barker, or the NZ Labour Party.

Mr Liu has;

1. Failed to provide evidence for his allegations of hefty donations to the Labour Party. The closest he has come has been  a $2,000 cheque he gave to the Hawke’s Bay Rowing Club, on his own volition.

2. Mis-represented Rick Barker’s invitation and  attendance at a staff party, on a river-boat,  in China.

3. Made no verifiable Affidavit, and provided only a “signed statement”.

4. Issued a second statement on 25 June, changing his initial allegations.

5. Offered no evidence for his second, 25 June, “signed statement”.

Since 18 June, when your reporter, Jared Savage, broke this story in a piece entitled “David Cunliffe wrote letter supporting Liu’s residency bid“, the Herald has;

* published unsubstantiated allegations;

* failed to provide subsequent evidence to back up those allegations;

* published stories damaging to the reputations of David Cunliffe and Rick Barker;

* published allegations damaging to the Labour Party (during an election year!);

* published a column calling for David Cunliffe to resign (“John Armstrong: Cunliffe’s resignation may be in order“), based on incomplete information, and omitting a crititical fact, namely  that Cunliffe’s letter to NZ Immigration had been written  in 2003, and was a legitimate reason why the MP may have forgotten the letter;

* resisted calls to publish, verbatim,  Mr Liu’s first signed statement, or his subsequent version, thereby acting as a gate-keeper/censor of information that the public had a right to see;

* resisted calls to publish, verbatim,  Mr Liu’s first signed statement, or his subsequent version, despite having no hesitation in publishing David Cunliffe’s 2003 letter to NZ Immigration (“David Cunliffe wrote letter supporting Liu’s residency bid“)

* made little or no discernible attempt to investigate the background to Liu’s allegations; his motives; and who else might have been involved.

Under your watch, the tenor of stories relating to the Cunliffe-Liu issue has been one-sided and predicated on baseless allegations.

This has been a tabloid-style, highly-emotive, unjustified witch-hunt which collapsed only because Donghua Liu’s story changed and it became apparent he was no longer a credible witness.

The Liu Affair has seriously damaged your paper’s reputation and also further eroded public confidence in the ability of the Fourth Estate to report fairly, accurately, and without bias.

Accordingly, I submit that  it behoves you to put this matter right. I therefore call upon you;

1. The NZ Herald should immediately publish a full page apology on the front page of your paper.

2. It may also be appropriate for you to  re-consider your  position and decide whether your role as the Herald’s editor is now tenable after this shameful fiasco.

3. On 18 June, in a highly biased, unreasonable column, John Armstrong called for David Cullen’s resignation,  (“John Armstrong: Cunliffe’s resignation may be in order“). I submit that Mr Armstrong’s own position as a senior Herald staffer is no longer tenable and must take his own advice and resign.

These three steps are the basis upon which the New Zealand Herald can regain it’s reputation that has been severely dented since 18 June.

Regards,

– Frank Macskasy

 

Note: this letter will be made public on “The Daily Blog”, and subsequently, on “Frankly Speaking” (my own personal blog). Any response you care to make will also be disclosed and made public.

 

.


 

References

NZ Herald: Donghua Liu’s new statement on Labour donations

Legislation:  Evidence Act 2006

Radio NZ: Newspaper stands by donation claims

NZ Herald: John Armstrong: Cunliffe’s resignation may be in order

NZ Herald:  Liu donation to rowing club confirmed

Radio NZ: Morning Report – New Zealand Herald stands by its story

NZ Herald/Hawkes Bay Today: Saga returns to bite Rick Barker

NZ Herald: David Cunliffe wrote letter supporting Liu’s residency bid

NZ Herald: John Armstrong: Cunliffe’s resignation may be in order

NZ Herald: Fran O’Sullivan: Unfounded resignation calls should be far from Cunliffe’s mind

Auckland University of Technology: Journalism Major – Bachelor of Communication Studies

Dominion Post:  Liu saga hits harder when Labour’s down

Wilson Harle: Overhaul of New Zealand’s Discovery Rules

Radio NZ: Cunliffe accuses Govt of smear campaign

Radio NZ: Newspaper stands by donation claims

Fairfax media: Labour fights new Liu donation claims

TV3: Maurice Williamson resigns as minister

Additional

Twitter: Jared Savage

NZ Herald: Donghua Liu’s new statement on Labour donations

NZ Herald: Liu: $100k not just for wine

Previous related blogposts

The Donghua Liu timeline – Damn lies, dirty tricks, and a docile media

The Donghua Liu Affair threatens to unravel – PM and NZ Herald caught up in a dirty trick campaign?

 


 

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NZ Herald

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 27 June 2014.

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= fs =

The Donghua Liu Affair threatens to unravel – PM and NZ Herald caught up in a dirty trick campaign?

.

Dirt Unit

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Continued from: The Donghua Liu timeline – Damn lies, dirty tricks, and a docile media

.

1. Preface

.

On 23 June, I described a sequence of events relating to business migrant, Donghua Liu, which culminated in the NZ Herald’s publication of an eleven year old letter written by David Cunliffe, to  Immigration NZ. The letter, as we all know by now, was fairly innocuous;

“I have been approached by my constituent Donghua Lui [sic] who is concerned at the time it is taking to process his Investment Category application.

Mr Liu’s [sic] application was accepted for processing by the Business Migration Branch on 13 August 2002.

Mr Lui [sic] wishes to set up a joint venture including Well Lee Ltd, Equus Hawk o8 ltd and Tan Long Property Development Co Ltd who will export large quantities of agricultural and horticultural products to China.

It is hope that products from the company will be available to the market in July 2003.

I am aware of the difficulties facing the Business Migration Branch of New Zealand Immigration Services in coping with the overwhelming numbers of applicants that have applied for consideration under these categories and the time taken to verify documents. However it would be very helpful to Mr Liu to be advised of an estimated period of time period [sic] in which he could expect a decision on his case.

Your assistance in this matter is appreciated.

Yours sincerely

David Cunliffe
MP for New Lynn”

Trying as hard the National Party and it’s friends in right-wing blogs and mainstream media  could, the public could not get too ‘antsy’ about a letter written more than a decade ago. When the letter was published, 99% of readers could see for themselves that, far from “advocating” for Liu, it simply asked the ordinary question;  “ However it would be very helpful to Mr Liu to be advised of an estimated period of time period [sic] in which he could expect a decision on his case.

It was the sort of letter every MP has written to a government department. The same government departments which, as an article of faith, are always “inefficient” and “slow” to respond to taxpayers’ needs, according to right-wingers.

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2. NZ Herald

.

Not so innocuous though was the subsequent “signed statement”, by Donghua Liu, which the NZ Herald supposedly has in it’s possession.

This “signed statement” is notable for the following;

1. It was written by Donghua Liu, who had close links with Maurice Williamson,  the former minister who helped Liu buy a holiday-home  next to his, and  carried out maintenance/renovation work on it.

2. It was allegedly written on 3 May – two days after the forced resignation of  Maurice Williamson, as a minister in this government. This was confirmed by NZ Herald editor, Tim Murphy, speaking on Radio NZ’s “Morning Report“ on 23 June which  seemingly confirmed Liu’s motivation in penning this document,

“His reaction was, in writing this, I understand, was in light of the Maurice Williamson affair and Labour’s claims immediatly after that.”

3. The document Liu has signed is described by the NZ Herald as a “signed statement” – not an affidavit. An affidavit is covered under the Evidence Act 2006. Signing an affidavit knowing it to be false carries legal penalties.  Signing a “statement” is not covered under the Act  and has few consequences – except for defamation purposes (more on that point in a moment).

4. The NZ Herald  published an eleven year old letter written by David Cunliffe on June 18 – “after documents were released under the Official Information Act earlier today“. That online article was written by “New Zealand Herald’s investigations editor”,  Jared Savage, and was published on-line at 2.29pm. In other words, Cunliffe’s 2003 letter was published the same day it was received.

5. NZ Herald editor, Tim Murphy, interviewed on Radio NZ’s “Morning Report“ on 23 June, said that the Herald received a copy of Donghua Liu’s  3 May signed statement “on Saturday” [21 June]. Murphy confirms that the document was  a statement, not an affidavit. Murphy refused to say how the Herald acquired the statement.

6. When asked by Morning Report co-presenter, Susie Ferguson, why a copy of Liu’s statement had not been supplied to Labour, Murphy’s response was,

“There’s still more to be done. And there’s issues of sensitivities around it, for us. All these these things don’t get passed over […] I imagine it’ll come out but it just a matter of us working through some things first.”

7. Not only has Liu’s statement not been forwarded to Labour, but it has not been made public, in it’s entirety, either.

8. Considering that Cunliffe’s’s 2003 letter was published at lightning speed, on the same day, by the Herald – there are questions which demand an answer;

  1. Why has the same media outlet  not published Liu’s “signed statement” as well?
  2. What are the “ issues of sensitivities” that Murphy referred to in his 23 June interview? What are the “things” that need to be “worked through first”?
  3. Why has he refused to make available to the Labour Party, a copy of the letter?

9. It seems inconceivable that a media outlet which has, as it’s main priority to publish news, is actively suppressing information that the public has a right to know. Since when did the Herald start to with-hold the news? And why?

10. Is it because Liu’s letter is defamatory, and contains allegations that are dubious and potentially actionable?

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3. Donation claims

.

In his supposed “signed statement” – which the country has not seen or read – Liu claims that he made three donations, (as well as “entertaining previous Labour Govt minister, Rick Barker, at a dinner in 2007);

  1. a donation to a rowing club
  2. $15,000 for a book “autographed be Helen Clark
  3. $100,000 for four bottles/1 bottle of wine, again “autographed by Helen Clark

On 24 June, the Herald confirmed that  that Liu donated $2,000 to the Hawkes Bay Rowing Club. Journalist, Jared Savage (more on him in a moment), declared triumphantly,

A donation from Donghua Liu to a rowing club linked to a former Labour Cabinet minister has been confirmed…

[…]

The confirmation comes after Labour has denied other allegations in the signed statement from Liu, including the claim he paid “close to $100,000” for wine at fundraising auctions.

[…]

Liu’s claims of donations to Labour include a signed statement saying he paid close to $100,000 for wine at an auction fundraiser in 2007.

The Herald has also been told he paid $15,000 for a book signed by Helen Clark, Prime Minister at the time. Labour says it has so far been unable to find records of the donations.

It took less than 45 minutes for two prominent right-wing bloggers to trumpet victory;

“Labour have been basically suggesting Liu is mistaken or a liar. They should be very worried that this minor donation has been confirmed, because if he is correct on a $2,000 donation, it is unlikely he’s got around a $100,000 donation.” – Kiwiblog

“Mr Liu has started that process, by confirming one of the donations….if one is correct perhaps the rest are too.  Jared Savage continues his death by a 1000 cuts on Labour.” – Whaleoil

Whaleoil’s blogpost is timed at 3.13pm – precisely 15 minutes after Jared Savage’s article went on-line on the Herald website. Fast work, eh?

However, it is fairly obvious that simply because one donation has been confirmed, does not mean that the remaining two are also authentic. Thus far, Labour’s hierarchy has adamantly insisted that (a) no fund raising events were held on the date Liu has given (3 June 2007); that the date itself – a long weekend – is not normally one used for fund-raising events; and (c) they can find absolutely no records of any $100,000 bottle/bottles of wine or book being auctioned.

If those events did occur, it would be pointless for Labour President Moira Coatsworth and Labour Leader David Cunliffe to be lying about them. It would be a matter of time before they would become public knowledge.

Of course neither Coatsworth nor Cunliffe could  have known about any donation to a rowing club – Liu was a private citizen so why should the Labour hierarchy have know about where he was splashing his money around?

For Farrar, Slater, and Savage not to make that point suggests that none of them are interested in the truth so much as promoting an agenda.

With Savage, that agenda is “saving face”, after investing so much of his time on this story. The Herald has ‘pinned it’s colours to the mast’ and is committed to painting Labour as the “villain” in this story. Others at the Herald have potentially staked their journalistic careers on a set outcome to this Affair.

With Slater and Farrar, I suspect it is much, much more.

It is my honestly held belief that one or both of those two apparatchiks of the National Party are somehow more deeply involved in this affair than has been admitted.

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4. A response from Jared Savage

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Following publication of my previous blogpost (The Donghua Liu timeline – Damn lies, dirty tricks, and a docile media), where I wrote;

“It is my sincerest, honestly-held  belief, that this smear campaign was orchestrated deep within the National Party, and that at least two well known National Party apparatchiks were involved.

It is my sincerest, honestly-held  belief, that Donghua Liu was persuaded to participate in this scheme around early May, when he signed his statement. It is my sincerest, honestly-held  belief, that he was offered, in return, that charges against him for assaulting two women, would either be dropped, or “no evidence presented” at the Court case.”

– Herald journalist, Jared Savage responded shortly after, on Twitter;

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NZ Herald - jared savage  - twitter - 24 June 2014

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But, Savage told only part of the story (to be fair, Twitter is not the right vehicle for detailed responses).

Donghua Liu did indeed plead guilty on 1 April this year – one month earlier than Williamson’s resignation.  So there could be no “deal” between Liu and National Party apparatchiks, as the event did not arise until  a month later.

Case closed?

Not quite.

The facts are that;

14 March: Donghua Liu arrested and charged with domestic violence assault on two women.

1 April: Liu pleads guilty. But Liu is not sentenced straight away. His sentencing “has been adjourned for 10 weeks so Liu can attend a stopping-violence course“.

1 May: Williamson resigns  his ministerial posts.

10 June: Liu’s lawyer, Todd Simmonds, stated that  he would seek a discharge without conviction for his client.

22 August: Liu set to be sentenced.

So whilst I was wrong   “that he was offered, in return, that charges against him for assaulting two women, would either be dropped, or “no evidence presented” at the Court case – it seems that Donghua Liu is under the impression that he has an opportunity to be discharged without conviction.
Different tactic. Same outcome.
How would Liu have gained this belief?

If Savage read my blogpost correctly, note the wording I used;

“It is my sincerest, honestly-held belief, that he was offered, in return, that charges against him for assaulting two women, would either be dropped, or “no evidence presented” at the Court case. ” The word I chose deliberately was “offered”.

But I deliberately omitted to state  who made the “offer”.

I believe the “offer” was made by two  National Party apparatchiks (my bet is Cameron Slater and Jason Ede), that  charges against him for assaulting two women, would either be dropped, or “no evidence presented” at the Court case in return for his co-operation.

However, I missed the bit that he’d already had his court case in April – four weeks prior to Williamson resigning.

So any “offer” could only  have been made regarding sentencing (that had been deferred by the judge) – not any verdict.

Liu comes from China, where the judicial system and the government is one and the same. My bet is that Liu doesn’t know that our system is different, and Slater/Ede were counting on Liu’s ignorance.

Basically, they offered him something they couldn’t deliver on.

So let’s see what sentence – if any – Donghua Liu received on 22 August. If he is discharged without conviction or given a suspended sentence, further questions will be raised on this affair.

If Liu is convicted and sentenced accordingly; and if he was made promises that have not – could not have –  been kept; we may see another angry, rich, migrant businessman exacting revenge on people he thought he could trust.

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5. The Prime Minister

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John Key has acknowledged that he had pre-warning on the Liu Affair;

“Can’t exactly recall, I think it was a few weeks ago.”

Key gloated that there was “more to come“. As he stated on 19 June – two day before the Herald’s editor claims they came into possession of Liu’s “signed statement” – Key said, with uncanny prescience;

“I’ve heard the rumours and in the end we’ll see what actually comes out but I’ll be very very amazed if the amount is $15,000.”

For the following two days, Key revelled in the bad publicity for Labour;

“We’ve seen David Cunliffe and Grant Robertson in the last six months holding the blowtorch on National, expecting accountability of ministers and demanding transparency. That’s fair enough, and now the blowtorch is turned around the other way I hope they live to those standards.”

So Key knew in advance;

Note that all this had been told – in advance – to the Prime Minister.

Which begs the questions;

  1. Who had access to the Prime Minister in such a way that he could be briefed, with such detail,  in advance?
  2. What was the motivation in briefing the Prime Minister?
  3. Who else in the PM’s office was involved?

Whoever had the “ear” of the Prime Minister of New Zealand was of such credible standing (in the eyes of John Key), that the PM obviously took great interest in what he was being told.

And if he believed it, did he himself sight Liu’s “signed statement” as well as Cunliffe’s 2003 letter?

Could Tim Murphy, from the NZ Herald have been the source? I somehow doubt it.

This information came from those deeply involved in the Affair.

It most certainly was not Donghua Liu. He has limited english, and how much access does he have to the Prime Minister (aside from opening a non-existent  four-star hotel)? And even if Liu had asked his solicitor to contact John Key – why would the PM  have taken notice? It would have sounded like a crackpot conspiracy plan – and one that would have been dangerous to become associated with during an election year.

For Key to have become so involved in this Affair suggests that those involved had considerable credibility and trust.

It is also interesting to note that, of the three ministers that I lodged an OIA to on this issue – Michael Woodhouse, Bill English, and John Key – it is the Prime Minister’s office that has not responded to my request.

In the last twentyfour  hours, though, it seems that Key is attempting to distance himself from this affair, speaking out publicly and demanding that Donghua Liu, “put up or shut up”;

Asked whether Mr Liu should provide evidence of his donations, Mr Key said: “Yeah, absolutely he should go ahead and do that”.

“I don’t know the merits of who’s right and who’s wrong in that case. That’s a matter for the two parties to resolve.”

It is a bit late in the day for Key to be talking about “a matter for the two parties to resolve” – as if somehow he is above petty, partisan politics. Not when all his comments have fanned the flames of this Affair. As Adam Bennett wrote for the Herald,

Mr Key and National have profited from the controversy around Liu’s claims of donations to Labour including his signed statement saying he paid close to $100,000 for wine at an auction fundraiser in 2007.

Bennett’s piece is one of a handful that have started appearing in the MSM in the twentyfour hours.

Another is this item, from Fairfax media – curiously unattributed – which, for the first time, asked a serious question, ” if the statement could have been written by a National Party figure“.

Key is now rattled. The media (or at least some, within the media) have begun to realise (belatedly, albeit), that this has been a carefully orchestrated political dirty trick.

That is why Key is now playing the Prime Ministerial Paragon of Virtue, saying that “he agreed Liu should front up with evidence of the gift“.

What seemed like a “cunning plan” at the time has slowly turned on it’s orchestrators and now real questions are being asked – like who told the Prime Minister. Key’s responses, thus far, have been evasive, and indicate that he is hiding something;

I was told that there was [donations to Labour]. I’m not going to talk about my sources.”

And,

People tell me things, I hear things all the time,” he said.

He said he would not “go through that” when asked if his source was the right-wing blogger Whaleoil and would not go into whether he had seen the transcript of Liu’s statement.

Something that, if uncovered, could lose him the election and end his political career.

Which, I suspect, Mr Key is well aware of.

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Cameron Slater (L) and John Key (R)

Cameron Slater (L) and John Key (R)

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6. Conclusions

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1. An open letter to the NZ Herald

Kia Ora Mr Murphy,

Thus far your paper has decided not to release the Donghua Liu “signed statement”. This is unconscionable and goes against everything that newspapers are predicated upon; the freedom of the press to publish without fear or favour.

Well, you are exhibiting fear of something and appearing to favour someone.

How else can we begin to understand why you are with-holding this document from the public?

Why is it that I, a part-time blogger, with no training in journalism, and not paid a cent for my efforts, is having to ask questions and demand answers that your paper has so far been unwilling to do?

What is that your paper is hiding?

Do you not trust the public to read Donghua’s statement and come to their own conclusions?

It is a sad day for the Fourth Estate when it is seen to be with-holding facts and  suppressing information.

The saddest, most depressing thing in all this? You have not been censored by an authoritarian dictatorship. You have done it to yourself.

You have broken faith with the public.

-Frank Macskasy

2. An open letter to Cameron Slater

Kia Ora Cam,

Well played. But you forgot one, tiny, little, itsy-bitsy thing…

New Zealand is a small country. Secrets don’t stay secret for long. So prepare to be sprung and hung out to dry.

You’ve just brought down your own favoured government and may’ve ended Key’s career.

Thank the gods you’re not on our side.

Cheers bud,

-Frank

3. An open letter to the Prime Minister

Kia Ora Mr Key,

Again, well played. Strangely enough, I don’t actually blame you or begrudge you. Politics, after all, is a grubby game and we, the people, keep electing politicians willing and able to play dirty.

And who’s to know that Labour mightn’t have done the same thing had the jandal been on the other foot, eh?

But, it’s Game Over, sir.

Your party has a philosophy that is mighty big on taking Personal Responsibility. Well, it’s time to show some of that responsibility-taking.

It’s really time to answer some straight questions with straight answers. No more bullshit. No more spin. No more deflecting to what the Other Side has done.

Who told you about Cunliffe’s letter and Liu’s “signed statement”?

Who was involved in encouraging Donghua Liu to make his statement?

How did it get to the NZ Herald?

And who, in your office, was involved in this? Was it Jason Ede?

It really, really  is time to come clean on this.

Because in the end, the truth will out.

-Frank Macskasy

4. An open letter to Jared Savage

Kia Ora Jared,

I think you should cast your attention on the cast of characters outlined above – and not on bloggers raising questions.

You’ll get better answers.

Cheers,

-Frank Macskasy

 

 

 

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References

NZ Herald: David Cunliffe wrote letter supporting Liu’s residency bid

Radio NZ: Morning Report – New Zealand Herald stands by its story

NZ Herald: Businessman gifts $150k to Labour Party

TV3: Maurice Williamson resigns as minister

Otago Daily Times: Williamson used Liu’s holiday home

NZ Herald: Labour Party hits back at donation claims

Legislation:  Evidence Act 2006

Radio NZ: Morning Report – New Zealand Herald stands by its story

Radio NZ: Newspaper stands by donation claims

TV3: Liu hits back in Labour donations saga

NZ Herald: Liu donation to rowing club confirmed

Kiwiblog: One Liu donation confirmed

Whaleoil: One donation confirmed from Donghua Liu’s statement, what next Mr Cunliffe?

TV1 News:  Labour – No fundraiser on date Liu claims he made donation

NZ Herald: Labour Party hits back at donation claims

The Standard:  The middle of Queens birthday weekend? Yeah right!

Fairfax media: Labour fights new Liu donation claims

Herald on Sunday: Herald on Sunday editorial – Labour looks in serious disarray

NZ Herald: John Armstrong: Cunliffe’s resignation may be in order

Twitter: The Daily Blog

NZ Herald: Businessman in citizenship row up on violence charges

TV3: Maurice Williamson resigns as minister

TV3: Liu seeks discharge without conviction

Ministry of Justice: Suspended sentences

Fairfax media: David Cunliffe digs in amid rumours, poll woe

NZCity: Key rejects smear campaign accusation

Radio NZ: Cunliffe accuses Govt of smear campaign

MSN News: Key knew about Liu’s signed statement

The Daily Blog: Let’s cast the net and see what rotten fish we catch

NZ Herald: Liu should reveal his evidence, says Key

Fairfax media: Prime minister’s lips sealed on Liu leaker

Radio NZ: PM not saying who told him of claims

Additional

Radio New Zealand News: Originally aired on Hourly News, Tuesday 24 June 2014, 1PM

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Skipping voting is not rebellion its surrender

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen/Lurch Left Memes

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 25 June 2014.

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