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The Donghua Liu Affair: The OIA Gambit

16 September 2014 5 comments

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composite header - donghua Liu Affair.

– Frank Macskasy & ‘Hercules’

What appears to be an orchestrated  Beehive plot to dig dirt for throwing at Labour leader, David Cunliffe, ahead of a crucial parliamentary debate is revealed in a paper trail linking Immigration Minister, Michael Woodhouse, and the Parliamentary Press Gallery offices of the New Zealand Herald and TV3.

Hatched in National’s anticipation of a hammering in a debate on Wednesday 18 June (note the date) prompted by the resignation of ACT leader, John Banks, the plot was pivotal on having Cunliffe first deny helping Auckland businessman Donghua Liu with his residency application – before producing an eleven-year-old letter from Immigration’s files as proof that the Opposition leader was either a liar or had suffered serious brain fade.

On its own, the letter was innocuous. A routine inquiry seeking an estimate of the time required to process the application, the letter was signed by Cunliffe as the MP for New Lynn and dated 11 April 2003. It sat in a file until May 9 this year when Immigration officials in Visa Services began working on an Official Information Act (OIA) request received the previous day from the Herald’s investigations editor, Jared Savage – and subsequently declined;

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jared savage OIA request 8 may 2014 declined

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Savage’s OIA request resulted only in the release of  a brief, and somewhat pointless, Media Response to Radio NZ, dated 13 March 2014. This sole document gave a date when Donghua Liu’s business migration application was approved, and referred to a previous application being declined;

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radio nz 13 march 2014 immigration nz

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All other material was denied to him, ostensibly under privacy concerns.

Meanwhile, John Key’s Chief of Staff,  Wayne Eagleson, confirmed  that the Prime Minister’s office was made aware of the existence of the letter on the weekend of the 10th/11th May of this year;

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3 july 2014 - wayne eagleson - donghua liu - prime minister's office - OIA request

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Although deciding to withhold the whole file, including the letter, under the privacy clause in Section 9(2)(a) of the OIA, Visa Services sat on their response until, without any obvious reason, they advised Savage of their decision first-thing on the morning of Monday 16 June. Four hours later, on the same Monday, Savage emailed a fresh, more specific “Urgent OIA Request” for correspondence from MPs supporting Donghua Liu’s residency bid prior to 2005.

Jared Savage confirmed this to me in an email, on 17 July;

I initially asked for his entire residency file under the OIA on May 8. I note that the next day Minister Woodhouse asked for the file.

I was declined the entire file on privacy grounds on June 16. As I was really only interested in whether MPs were involved in his residency bid, I refined my request to ask for any correspondence from MPs because this is clearly in the public interest.

I specifically mentioned prior to 2005 because this is when Mr Liu was granted residency, against advice. There would not be any correspondence after he gained residency.

Unfortunately, it was clumsily worded because Immigration officials interpreted the word prior to exclude 2005 in the response. I then lodged a further OIA request which revealed Mr O’Connor intervened 3 times in the lead up to residency being granted – including waiving the English language criteria – the day before the 2005 election.

[…]

Coming back to the June 16 request, two days later, I received the letters. I have no idea why Immigration released it so quickly. Probably because they had already processed my earlier request of June 16 so the file was available, but you’d have to ask Immigration.

Savage’s OIA request on 16 June;

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jared savage OIA request 16 june 2014

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Savage received this response two days later, on 18 June – and this time his request was treated more favourably;

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Immigration NZ - letter to jarerd savage - nz herald - donghua liu - 18  June 2014

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The timing of the above release is critical to this Affair.

A similar request followed an hour later at 2.11PM, on the same day (Monday), from Brook Sabin, TV3 political reporter and son of National MP, Mike Sabin;

“Hello,

We’d like to know if any Labour MPs lobbied for Donghua Liu’s residency application back in 2005?

Also, can we please request under the OIA:

All briefing notes, correspondence and emails regarding Donghua Liu’s residency applications

Cheers”

Both requests were sent straight to the “OIA team” for processing.

The next morning, on Tuesday, at a media briefing on Labour’s Kiwisaver policy, Sabin’s TV3 gallery colleague, Tova O’Brien, asked Cunliffe four questions about his relationship with Donghua Liu. A transcript of the exchange (below) was published the next day (Wednesday) in identical format in several places simultaneously with the released letter, and was used by two National ministers to attack Cunliffe in the debating chamber that afternoon.

This was David Cunliffe’s Q & A to reporters on Tuesday 17 June – broadcast the following day  on Wednesday 18 June. Again, the dates are critical;

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Does Labour remain confident in Cunliffe - donghua liu - TV3 - Tova O'Brien

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Q: Do you recall ever meeting Liu?
A: I don’t recall ever meeting him, no.
Q: Did you have anything to do with the granting of his permanent residency?
A: No, I did not.
Q: Did you advocate on his behalf at all?
A: Nope.
Q:Were you aware of any advice against granting him permanent residency?
A: Not to my recollection.

Those questions – whether   audio, video, or written,   were generally not available until Wednesday.

On Wednesday,  Cunliffe was confronted by the press gallery (Ibid) on his way to the chamber and accused several times of having lied the previous day. Just half an hour after being given a copy of the letter, which he’d forgotten about, and possibly underestimating its value to his opponents, the Opposition leader continued to insist that he never supported or advocated for Liu’s residency.

He eventually had to leave to ask the first question of the day which is to Bill English who is naturally keen to exploit the opportunity to dent Cunliffe’s credibility,

“I find it a lot easier to stand by my statements than that member does to stand by his . . . that member has been remarkably inconsistent (about donations) . . . that member, who seems to have trouble agreeing with himself.”

English then led National in the weekly general debate. “The reasons no one trusts him (Cunliffe) is this” he says before quoting directly from the transcript of TV3’s questions and answers on Tuesday. “Today, of course,” he continues, “we have the letter that he wrote advocating exactly for his permanent residency.”

Also quoting directly from the transcript, Immigration Minister, Michael Woodhouse, added an intriguing reference to a second letter, from Labour’s Te Atatu MP, Chris Carter.

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michael woodhouse -immigration minister - oia request - donghua liu - david cunliffe - 7 july 2014 - (7)

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Released by his office at the same time as Cunliffe’s it was totally overlooked by the media in their rush to crucify the Labour leader.

Immigration Minister Woodhouse said;

“But do you know what? He (Cunliffe) is not alone.”

The Immigration Minister then quoted from the Carter letter, sent five month’s prior to Cunliffe’s, seeking “any consideration that could be given to expediting” Liu’s residency application and reporting that he had deposited $3 million in a bank account with a view to purchasing a building for redevelopment.

The fact that the letter identified the bank as the ASB in Auckland did not deter Woodhouse from getting in a cheap shot. “I hope it was not the Labour Party’s bank account,” he said, concluding:

“That was Mr Chris Carter, on behalf of Mr Dongua Liu. In fact, the letter was from Carter’s electorate agent and begins, like the Cunliffe letter, “I have been approached by a local constituent . . .”

Woodhouse was followed in the debate by Health Minister, Tony Ryall, who also spent most of his five-minute speech attacking the Opposition leader;

“So here is Mr Cunliffe, who only a few hours ago denied he had ever met Mr Liu and said the Labour Party never got any donations from Mr Liu. And here we have today a letter from Mr Cunliffe making representations on behalf of Mr Liu. It is just not consistent with what he has been saying previously. It is hugely embarrassing for Mr Cunliffe and for the Labour Party.”

Joining his frontbench colleagues, National’s Paul Goldsmith, said Labour Party members were “hanging their heads in shame.” He added;

“It is very interesting to see John Armstrong and many of the commentators saying right now, right here today, that Mr Cunliffe is in deep trouble and Labour is in deep trouble. It is a beautiful thing to watch. Thank you.”

Goldsmith was referring to the Herald’s political correspondent, John Armstrong’s column, that Cunliffe might have to resign, a piece (see below) consequently judged by many to be totally over the top. Unsurprisingly, many have called for Armstrong’s retirement.

The plan by National ministers to embarrass Cunliffe and to deflect from a potentially damaging debate on Wednesday however became derailed when the timing of the OIA releases went unpredictably awry.

The office of the Leader of the Labour Party was first advised of the planned OIA release of the two letters (Chris Carter’s 3 October 2002 and David Cunliffe’s 11 April 2003) at 12.10PM on Wednesday 18 June;

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michael woodhouse -immigration minister - oia request - donghua liu - david cunliffe - 7 july 2014 - (9)

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Ostensibly, the OIA public release was to take place one hour later.

Instead, the OIA release to Jared Savage took place only  thirty-nine minutes later, at 12.49PM;

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release of OIA to Jared Savage covering email 18 june 2014

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Sabin’s story appeared on TV3’s website at 12.53pm – four minutes after the OIA release was emailed to Jared Savage, and by Cameron Slater on his Whale Oil blog, eight minutes later,  at 12.57PM;

 

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Brooke Sabin - TV3 - cunliffe's links to liu - donghua liu affair

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whaleoil - Cunliffe's resignation may be in order - donghua liu affair

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Another three minutes passed before John Armstrong declared Cunliffe to be “in deep political trouble; so deep that his resignation as Labour’s leader may now be very much in order”. It is possible that Armstrong was relying on the copy attached to the response to TV3’s OIA request, sent to the Minister at 12.30PM and presumably released directly from his office to Brook Sabin.

However, there is no documentation to that effect. So when and how did Brook Sabin obtain copies of David Cunliffe’s 11 April 2003 letter? It appears to have been released without the necessary “paper trail” as Emily Fabling, Executive Director of Immigration NZ stated at 1.31PM on 18 June, when referring to Savage’s OIA request;

“I have advised that the process [of releasing the information under the OIA request]  is consistent with our usual procedures and the Act, we have had legal advice and understand the political sensitivity and complexity, and a discoverable paper trail, if required.”

Armstrong’s column was published at 1PM – just eleven minutes after Visa Services emailed a copy of the letter at 12.49PM to Jared Savage;

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John Armstrong - Cunliffe's resignation may be in order - donghua liu affair - nz herald story header

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Kiwiblog published it’s story at 1.06PM;

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Kiwiblog - Cunliffe's resignation may be in order - donghua liu affair

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Some very tight time frames involved in writing media and blog reports after the 12.49PM OIA release.

In several cases the time-frames were simply unfeasibly tight to receive; digest; write up meaningful stories; proof-read; check legalities; and upload them onto websites.

Now here is where the timing of the OIA releases and blog/media stories appearing takes a very strange twist.

As detailed above Cameron Slater (or someone purporting to be writing under his name) wrote this piece on his blog Whaleoil at 12.57PM;

Jared Savage reports:

David Cunliffe wrote letter supporting Liu’s residency bid

Labour Party leader David Cunliffe – who said this week he had never met Donghua Liu or advocated on his behalf – wrote a letter to immigration officials on behalf of the controversial businessman who was applying for residency in New Zealand.

And mentioned above, at   1:06PM on Wednesday 18 June David Farrar wrote on Kiwiblog;

The Herald reports Cunliffe’s earlier denials on Tuesday:

Q: Do you recall ever meeting Liu?
A: I don’t recall ever meeting him, no.
Q: Did you have anything to do with the granting of his permanent residency?
A: No, I did not.
Q: Did you advocate on his behalf at all?
A: Nope.
Q:Were you aware of any advice against granting him permanent residency?
A: Not to my recollection.

Both refer to Jared Savage’s story in the NZ Herald, centering on the release of the David Cunliffe’s 2003 letter.

Except that Savage’s on-line story was not due to appear until 2.29PM;

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David Cunliffe wrote letter supporting Liu's residency bid

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So how did Slater and Farrar manage to refer to a story in their blogposts that had yet to be written and uploaded onto the NZ Herald website?

Ruling out time travel, there may be a very simple answer;

  • As was outlined above by Wayne Eagleson, the government was aware of Cunliffe’s letter as early as 10/11 May 2014.
  • An OIA request by Jared Savage was first declined – then expedited in almost a panic, in two days by Immigration NZ.
  • Brook Sabin lodged a similar OIA request to Jared Savage. He appears to have received the information he requested – without a corresponding paper trail.
  • Two right wing bloggers closely associated with National ministers, and who have been fed sensitive information in recent past, published blogposts referring to Jared Savage’s article – before that article was uploaded onto the Herald website.
  • In a released email, Cameron Slater admitted to a close working relationship with Herald reporter, Jared Savage;

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slater email

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And where did this jpeg of Tova O’Brien’s questioning to David Cunliffe – and ending up on Whaleoil – come from;

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werwe2

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Quite simply, the relationship and flow of information is a two-way process; journalists are constantly feeding information to Slater/Whaleoil (and to a lesser degree, Farrar/Kiwiblog).

It seems evident that Whaleoil and Kiwiblog jumped the gun in publishing their blog-stories, not waiting for Savage to first upload his on the Herald’s website. The result ended up with Farrar and Slater referencing Savage’s story that was still in the “future”.

As revealed with startling clarity in Nicky Hager’s book, “Dirty Politics“,  the government is not above using right wing bloggers to release damaging information or mount smear campaigns against Opposition MPs in Parliament.

The media, always reluctant to admit mistakes for fear of denting their own credibility, were more than happy to carry on with the line that Cunliffe’s letter was “proof” of Labour’s links to Donghua Liu. And keen to help in any way he could, the Prime Minister, John Key, continued to hint that he knew more about Liu’s claims to have made donations to the Labour Party.

Next morning, the Herald’s political editor, Audrey Young, reported from New York that,

“Prime Minister John Key believes the (sic) Labour has a lot more than $15,000 in donations from wealthy Chinese political donor Donghua Liu. He also acknowledged he had known for some weeks that Labour leader David (sic) has written a letter supporting Mr Liu’s application for residency. The release of the letter yesterday in the face of denials from Mr Cunliffe that he wrote any such letter has thrown his leadership into crisis.”

Key’s admission that he had already known about the letter prompted three different and conflicting accounts from Woodhouse in response to questions about how and when he’d informed his prime minister about its existence.

As well as providing a fine working model of the media’s bias against Labour and the woeful state of the parliamentary press gallery, the handling of the Savage and Sabin OIA requests by the Immigration Service and its Minister raises some interesting questions:

1. Who told Visa Services to respond to Jared Savage’s May 8 request at 8.59am on Monday 16 June?

2. Who told Savage to make a fresh, more specific request, the same morning and copy it to the minister’s press secretary?

3. Who told Sabin to put in a request on June 16?

4. Who told Tova O’Brien to ask those questions on Tuesday 17 June?

5. Who made the transcript of the questions and answers and how was it circulated?

6. After deciding to withhold the Cunliffe letter for privacy reasons, why was it released so quickly and without any further discussion of the privacy aspect?

7. It took the minister less than 20 minutes to approve the release of the Cunliffe and Carter letters. Is this a record?

8. How was it possible for the letter to be published in so many places so quickly?

If you still don’t think there was something fishy going on, turn to page 131 of ‘Dirty Politics‘ where Nicky Hager records a comment on the ‘Dim-Post’ from “Barnsley Bill” (aka Cameron Slater acolyte, Russell Beaumont) responding to a Danyl McLauchlan blog about opinion polls:

“Within 24 hours the poll are going to be the least of David Cunliffes problems. Keep an eye on the herald website, we are about to see pledge card theft relegated to second place as the biggest labour funding scandal.”

That was posted at 10.21AM on Tuesday 17 June — the morning that Tova O’Brien asked her questions and Immigration officials were racing round getting responses to the Savage and Sabin OIA requests ready to send to the Minister for approval prior to release.

What is certain is that the real reason for the urgent 48-hour response to the OIA requests was to ensure that the Cunliffe letter was in the public domain by midday on Wednesday 18 June.

The same day that the government was facing a torrid questioning by the Opposition after the conviction and resignation of ACT MP, John Banks. A government that desperately needed a credible diversion. Relying on another beneficiary-bashing story from Paula Bennett was simply not tenable.

This was the a Dirty Trick of the highest order, involving an eleven year old letter; complicit media looking for another  easy sensational news story; Ministers with connections to right wing bloggers; and journalists who run with the pack instead of asking questions that might yield real answers.

As they say in law enforcement circles; Motive. Means. Opportunity.

The government had all three.

This was the real story behind the Donghua Liu Affair.

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Note

Questions on this issue have been put to Herald journalist, Jared Savage. Thus far he has declined to answer those questions.

Acknowledgement

Appreciation to ‘Hercules‘ for providing extra information and filling in the gaps. This was truly a team effort.

Update

Giovanni Tisa, through the blogger Jackal, asks some very pertinent questions here.

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References

David Cunliffe-Immigration NZ 2003 letter

The Dim Post:  June polls (“Barnsley Bill” Commen

TV3: Does Labour remain confident in Cunliffe?

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

TV3: Cunliffe’s links to Liu

Whaleoil: BREAKING – David Cunliffe’s career, such as it was, is over [ UPDATED ]

Kiwiblog: Cunliffe wrote on behalf of Liu after denying he knew him or advocated for him

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

NZ Herald: The email that brought down Judith Collins

NZ Herald: Key on Liu-Labour link – More to come

Previous related blogposts

The Donghua Liu Affair:  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?

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

The Donghua Liu Affair: The first step to a complaint to the Press Council

The Donghua Liu Affair: responses from NZ Herald and Prime Minister’s Office – Is the PM’s office fudging?

The Donghua Liu Affair: Evidence of Collusion between the NZ Herald and Immigration NZ?

The Donghua Liu Affair: the Press Council’s decision

Other Blogs

The Standard: The Donghua Liu letter – is that it?

The Standard: Giovanni Tiso on Dirty Politics

The Jackal: 10 questions for journalists

 


 

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20 september 2014 VOTE

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen/Lurch Left Memes

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 11 September 2014 as “Was the Donghua Liu Affair another example of Dirty Politics?”

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Letter to the Editor – Our PM insults a world-reknowned investigative journalist

13 September 2014 6 comments

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Frank Macskasy - letters to the editor - Frankly Speaking

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Our esteemed Dear Leader must be in full panic mode when he insults a visiting investigative journalist of the calibre of Glenn Greenwald;

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Radio NZ - PM says Greenwald's claims are wrong - GCSB - mass surveillance - Glenn Greenwald

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Key went on to say,

“When you hack into people’s information and you steal it, sometimes you get part of the information but not all of the information.

Now, in the fullness of time we’ll respond to Dotcom’s little henchman, but mark my words, he’s wrong. There never has been mass surveillance and there is no mass surveillance.”

Which prompted me to pen this letter to the New Zealand Herald;

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from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to: NZ Herald <letters@herald.co.nz>
date: Sat, Sep 13, 2014
subject: Letter to the Editor

 

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The editor
NZ Herald
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John Key is becoming more Muldoonesque with each erupting scandal. His latest attack on visiting American investigative journalist, Glenn Greenwald, is simply beyond the pale.

Key says,“Now, in the fullness of time we’ll respond to Dotcom’s little henchman, but mark my words, he’s wrong. There never has been mass surveillance and there is no mass surveillance.”

Since when in a visiting journalist anybody’s “henchman”?

This is not the first time Key has abused investigative journalists who have uncovered unpleasant activities by this current government.

In May 2011,John Key derided Jon Stephenson’s research into NZ secret  activities in Afghanistan by attacking the journalists’ reputation and character;

“I’ve got no reason for NZDF to be lying, and I’ve found [Stephenson] myself personally not to be credible.”

In September 2011, Key attacked another investigative journalist, Nicky Hager, for his expose on  New Zealand’s covert military activities, in conjunction with the CIA,  in Afghanistan.

John Key dismissed Hager’s book;“I don’t have time to read fiction,”

That “fiction” Key referred to contained 1,300 footnotes of referencing documentation in Hager’s book.

In August this year, Key again attacked  Nicky Hager, for his expose in dirty dealings between Key’s office, a right-wing blogger, Judith Collins, and other right-wing extremists. Key was again dismissive;

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

And,
“At the end of the day we’re five weeks out from an election, people can see that Nicky Hager’s made a whole lot of things up in his book, (they) can see he can’t back a lot of them up. People can see this is a smear campaign by Nicky Hager.”

If Hager’s book was “factually incorrect” and little more than a “smear campaign” – one has to ask the PM what prompted Judith Collins to resign 17 days after the launch of “Dirty Politics” and all it revealed?

John Key’s track record of transparency with the public has left much to be desired and attacking journalists who dare speak the truth says more about the PM’s character than the targets of his unwarranted attacks.

Thus far, Jon Stephenson, Nicky Hager, and Glenn Greenwald have a better track record at telling the truth than Mr Key.

-Frank Macskasy

[address & phone number supplied]

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Every time Key behaves like this, whether it be with Nicky Hager, Jon Stephenson, or now Glenn Greenwald, he is abandoning his elevated position of a non-political Prime Minister and becoming just another politician in the eyes of the public.

Key will lose popularity.

National will lose support in the polls.

And National will lose on 20 September.

More importantly – is this the kind of sleazy government that Winston Peters wants to associate with after 20 September?  Because there is much, much more to come out.

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References

Radio NZ:  PM says Greenwald’s claims are wrong

NZ Herald: PM attacks journalist over SAS torture claims

NZ City: John Key trashes Nicky Hager’s book

Radio NZ: Prime Minister stands by minister and staff

Previous related blogposts

The slow disintegration of a government; 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5…

Other blogs

The Standard: Greenwald on the GCSB

The Paepae: John Key working the phones “at length”

The Daily Blog: Where does Key get off abusing a Pulitzer prize winning Journalist like Glenn Greenwald when he calls a far right hate speech blogger regularly?

The Daily Blog: Dear mainstream media – regarding Key’s promise to resign if GCSB exposed doing mass surveillance

Special mention

The Jackal: John Key Naked

 


 

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Skipping voting is not rebellion its surrender

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen/Lurch Left Memes

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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…

[…]

… 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

.

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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= fs =

“Dirty Politics” – the fall-out continues…

28 August 2014 4 comments

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1950_IfanA-BombFalls_cover

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As the shock-wave from Nicky Hager’s book, “Dirty Politics” continues to engulf everything in it’s path, it’s worthwhile looking at the damage caused by the ever-expanding fallout…

Fallout Dispersal Zone: 1oom

Farrar wrote on 19 August  (and later told Radio NZ) that  he would be signing up Kiwiblog to the Online Media Standards Authority (OMSA). He would also be introducing moderation onto his comments board;

After the election (ie when I have more time) I am going to consult on a tougher moderation policy for the comments. I want them to be robust and forceful, but focused more on issues than people. I have very limited time to read them myself, so probably will ask for some readers to step forward as moderators. We’ll have that discussion in October.

Now personally, I don’t particularly have any interest in what David Farrar does with his blog. (Though I hope he never walks away from it. Despite disagreeing with him on practically  everything, like Matthew Hooton he still comes across as one of the saner ones on the Right. It would be a shame to lose his point-of-view.)

It’s fairly clear that  Farrar is pretty keen to distance himself from the noisome odour wafting from the National government’s ninth floor on the Beehive and from the even more toxic brand of “Whale oil“.  Joining the OMSA and introducing moderation would go some way to demonstrate that distance and present himself as “above it all”.

The idea for moderation is long over-due anyway. Bloggers cannot allow any wacky-doodle, extremist material to be posted on their websites and divorce themselves from all responsibility.

Interestingly, as of 9.18pm, 21 August, the chairperson of the OMSA, Clare Bradley, has stated she has yet to hear from Farrar.

It will be interesting to see what develops on this matter.

Fallout Dispersal Zone: 2oom

It seems that Key’s ‘black ops’ man, Jason Ede has his phone off-the-hook for his former “partner-in-crime”, Cameron Slater;

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Cameron Slater  Ex-PM staffer is 'gutless' - dirty politics - nicky hager - jason ede

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Slater has been positively ranting at Ede “going to ground”;

“You are all claiming there is this vast conspiracy – it simply doesn’t exist. That Jason Ede is some sort of ringmaster? In my view, Jason Ede is squeamish, and gutless.

And the fact he has gone to ground and hiding and not speaking to anybody suggests that’s true.

My advice is front-foot everything. My advice is speak and tell your story. If you don’t tell your story, everyone else is telling your story with their narrative.”

It seems curious that Slater has taken to the mainstream media to make these pronouncements. Curious indeed… unless Jason Ede is refusing to talk with Slater, the National Party operative being told in no uncertain terms;  talk to no one; open the door to no one; and answer the phone to no one, unless the call emanates directly from the Ninth Floor.

It must be frustrating for Slater to be calling Ede on his landline, cellphone, leaving messages on email, Facebook messaging – and not having the phone picked up.

Last resort – send a message to Ede via the mainstream media.

Clumsy and brutish, but aside from smoke signals, Slater has run out of options.

Has Slater woken up to the fact he is being “hung out to dry” by his former handlers?

Fallout Dispersal Zone: 3oom

Is it just me or is Key handing Judith Collins the fourth or fifth “last chance”?! (I’ve lost count.)

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Judith Collins on her last chance - Key - dirty politics - nicky hager - jason ede - whaleoil - cameron slater

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When asked by the media if Collins had used up all her “last chances”, Key’s response was a delight to listen to;

“What she’s on is on her last chance after what happened last time.”

Say whut, Jethro?! It’s like watching John Cleese in a classic Monty Python skit…

Fallout Dispersal Zone: 4oom

Well, it seems that someone is positioning himself for the inevitable leadership bid;

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English Alleged revenge attack 'not my style' - Key - dirty politics - nicky hager - jason ede - whaleoil - cameron slater

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Once National loses the election and Key resigns, there will be a scramble for power in National (see previous blogpost:   The Rise and Fall of John Key – who will be the next leader of National). It certainly won’t be Judith Collins – her “brand” is now so toxic it makes tobacco smoking and KFC look like a healthy life-style choices.

English’s statements are as clear as spring-water in their intent;

“It’s not a style that I like and I don’t participate in it. I wouldn’t do it, I wasn’t involved in any of it it’s not my style of politics, it’s certainly not John Key’s style.

I certainly wouldn’t condone an attack by a blogger on public servant doing their job.”

I hope Collins is not planning to sing “Stand By Me” to Bill English any time soon. It may not be his favourite song at the moment.

Perhaps more suited to the moment would be this…

(Well played, Bill. Welcome back to being Leader of the Opposition.)

Fallout Dispersal Zone: 5oom

It seems that Key has thrashed the strategy of  “plausible deniability”  to it’s nth degree;

Denying…

13 August

“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.”

14 August

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

“I think this is an over-hyped, under-delivered book from a left-wing conspiracy theorist five weeks before an election” – Justice Minister Judith Collins

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…”

Would you like some denial with that?

15 August

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

“The only dirty politics here is from the left,” John Key told ONE News.

Deny…

15 August

“All I know is that Nicky Hager is a left wing conspiracy theorist and makes stuff up,” he said, suggesting reporters talk to Helen Clark about her views on Hager’s Corngate book.

“He really is having a bit of a problem now because most of the assumptions and accusations he’s made are dissolving before his eyes, and I think that’s because he didn’t do what a true journalist would do; he didn’t go and check out the facts, he didn’t get the other side of the story,” Key said.

“He should knock his socks off and release anything he wants and if he continues to do that he’ll continue to demonstrate to New Zealanders that he’s politically motivated with a very Left-wing conspiracy agenda,” Key said.

Deny, deny, deny… and deny some more…

16 August

Ms Collins yesterday confirmed she had given Mr Pleasants’ name to Slater. “What I was asked for was the name and the title of the guy and that’s publicly available and I’ve simply given him that,” she told NewstalkZB

And denying…

17 August

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

“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. 

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

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.

And denying a bit more…

18 August

“What I do know, is that it is a series of selective pieces of information, many of which can’t be backed up.”

“At the end of the day we’re five weeks out from an election, people can see that Nicky Hager’s made a whole lot of things up in his book, (they) can see he can’t back a lot of them up,” he said.

Mr Key was asked if he was happy to associate himself with Mr Slater. “At the end of the day he’s not my guy, Cameron Slater … anyone who knows Cameron Slater knows that he’s a force unto himself.”

Mr Key said the Official Information Act (OIA) request did not come across his desk and did not sign off on it.

“I knew there were requests, I would have known because generally they say there’s a series of requests into the SIS or the GCSB but they often sign off on, well they always sign off on, things on their own timetable. We’ve got slightly better processes now, so they’ll tell me.”

Denying…

18 August

Asked if he was aware that Mr Ede was running a dirty tricks campaign from his office, Mr Key said: “He’s been briefing bloggers, and of course he briefs people on the right, just as people I’m sure in the Labour leadership, over the years, have briefed people on the left.”

“At the end of the day, he’s not my guy, Cameron Slater … anyone who knows Cameron Slater knows that he’s a force unto himself, and the at the end of the day he gets his information from a whole bunch of things. I’m not here to either defend the guy.”

Asked if he respected Slater’s work, Mr Key told RNZ: “That’s not for me to critique his stuff.”

“They’re based on one perspective and probably a bit out of context and with a whole bunch of assumptions that either aren’t correct or are made up, and now can’t be backed up.”

On RNZ, Mr Key would not say whether it was appropriate for Ms Collins to divulge the name of a public servant, who was thought to have leaked information, to Slater.

“I don’t have the details on that on,” he said.

When pressed, he would not give a yes or no answer, adding: “People can see that this is a smear campaign by Nicky Hager.”

Just a wee bit more denying…

19 August

“What she’s on is on her last chance after what happened last time. But at the end of the day she’s also subjected to a left-wing smear campaign. And people will actually see that as well for what it is.”

Denying today…

20 August

Mr Key on Wednesday told reporters the SIS went through the OIA process.

“No information came from me.

“The SIS have said the request came in, [head] Warren Tucker made the decision and handled the release and it confirmed what I had said – Goff had been briefed.”

And denying today…

21 August.

“I can absolutely, categorically tell you that’s not correct. There are a number of factors that would support my view of that.

“One, I know it’s factually not correct. Secondly I’ve checked with the director himself who says it’s not correct. Thirdly the Ombudsman has confirmed that when she put Prime Minister… they meant my office. Fourthly actually I was on holiday in Hawaii over the period of time this was all happening.”

No change – still denying…

22 August

However, speaking after a visit to Mt Roskill Grammar in Auckland today, Key said there was no contradiction between the video and what he has said recently.

“In the context of that video, ‘me’ meant my office,” Key said.

Key would not say who it was who was had been briefed on the SIS’s actions.

There was “no dispute” that someone had been, he said.

Asked if those who were briefed discussed the detail with Jason Ede, the staffer long believed to pass information to Right-wing blogs, Key said: “I don’t have any details on that.”

Weather forecast; cloudy, intermittent showers, and continuing strong denials from the Beehive…

Fallout Dispersal Zone: 6oom

Key says he wasn’t briefed on the SIS disclosing OIA information to Cameron Slater because he “was on holiday in Hawaii over the period of time this was all happening.”

Mate, don’t they have telephones in Hawaii?!

Fallout Dispersal Zone: 7oom

Expect Slater’s sleazy little blogsite to suffer an ongoing, endless,  drought of “tips”.

Judith Collins may be sufficiently vindictive enough to carry on providing leaks, gossip, and personal information to Slater – but most other previous informants will suddenly find reasons to avoid him like the Ebola virus.

The risk of being ‘outed’ in any future hack’n’dump by an irate hacker will be one of Slater’s  on-going nightmares. So really, only a fool would collaborate with a sleaze-merchant like Slater. Who would want to be named in “Dirty Politics, part 2”?!

Fallout Dispersal Zone: 8oom

Is it me or has New Zealand democracy sunk to an all time low when a Prime Minister announces,

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John Key willing to go under oath over Cameron Slater OIA  - Key - dirty politics - nicky hager - jason ede - whaleoil - cameron slater

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The sub-text to Key’s declaration is fairly self-evident; his credibility has taken a serious king-hit and many (if not most) voters suspect that Key is not telling us the whole truth.

Note: my own discussion with apolitical – often non-voters – confirms that there is a strong belief that Key has been sparse with the truth. After one specific video segment on TV3, two people independently and separate of each other said that at one point he (Key) was clearly lying.

Anyway. It’s too late. Lies can be repeated under Oath. It’s called perjury.

At this stage, nothing less than a professionally conducted lie-detector test would re-store his credibility.

The Teflon Man is no more. He has been terminally weakened by his own ‘kryptonite’ – truth.

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John Key's popularity dives by 8.5 points  - Key - dirty politics - nicky hager - jason ede - whaleoil - cameron slater

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Fallout Dispersal Zone: 9oom

As the shock-wave continues to be felt throughout the country, and the import of “Dirty Politics” seeps  inexorably  into the consciousness of apolitical New Zealanders, the consequences were inevitable;

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Greens spring in polls as National takes hit  - Key - dirty politics - nicky hager - jason ede - whaleoil - cameron slater

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If Key and his taxpayer-funded party strategists thought they could “ride out the storm” – they were badly deluded. This is New Zealand’s own “Watergate” Moment – when the reality of National’s hidden dirty tricks operations is laid bare for the public to see. As the Herald-Digipoll reported,

More than half of voters surveyed believe the fallout from Nicky Hager’s Dirty Politics book will damage Prime Minister John Key – but only 11 per cent believe it would cause a lot of damage.

Today’s Herald-DigiPoll survey began just after the release of that book, and 43 per cent of respondents said it would cause a little damage while a further 11 per cent believed it would cause a lot of damage. About one quarter said it would cause no damage.

(Though how Herald journo,  Claire Trevett, can possibly insist that the “Book fallout [is] not all bad, poll shows” – quite stumps me. She really needs to lay off  the wacky-baccy when she’s writing up this stuff.)

This is politics that New Zealanders cannot abide, whether from the Left or the Right. (And which should serve as a clear warning to the Labour Party not to be tempted to engage in similar tactics: they will eventually be found out.)

Key’s consistent defence has been that “every does it”. He is again being manipulative and deceptive. No, not “everyone” does it.

The Greens certainly do not engage in this kind of Dirty Politics.

And – *Surprise! Surprise!* – the Greens are the party which have benefitted from revelations of National’s dirty tricks ands mis-use of ministerial power.

Expect further poor poll results for the Nats. They are in free-fall.

Fallout Dispersal Zone: 1000m

Judith Collins:

  • political career terminally damaged
  • credibility nil
  • prime ministerial ambition terminated

Fallout Dispersal Zone: 10,000m*

Meet the next Prime Minister of New Zealand,

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Photo acknowledgement: Otago Daily Times

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* Dispersal Zone estimated to cover the entire country by 20 September.

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References

Radio NZ: Blogger to bring in tougher rules

Kiwiblog: Some changes for Kiwiblog

Radio NZ: Bloggers haven’t joined standards code

NZ Herald: Cameron Slater: Ex-PM staffer is ‘gutless’

NZ Herald:  Judith Collins on her last chance – Key

NZ Herald:  English Alleged revenge attack ‘not my style’

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

MSN News: John Key trashes Nicky Hager’s book

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

TVNZ News: PM challenges Nicky Hager to release emails

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

NZ Herald: Bloggers revealed Hager’s address

Fairfax media: Jason Ede still has Beehive access

Radio NZ: No details on Hager allegations – Key

NZ Herald: John Key: Ede ‘briefing the bloggers’

NZ Herald: Judith Collins on her last chance – Key

NZCity: SIS to be investigated over Whale Oil info

NZ Herald: John Key ‘absolutely’ denies briefing

Fairfax media:  Key’s ‘position correct’ on SIS briefing

TV3 News: John Key willing to go under oath over Cameron Slater OIA

NZ Herald: Greens spring in polls as National takes hit

NZ Herald: Book fallout not all bad, poll shows

Previous related blogposts

The Rise and Fall of John Key – who will be the next leader of National


 

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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 24 August 2014

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= fs =

The Rise and Fall of John Key – who will be the next Leader of the National Party?

26 August 2014 7 comments

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It was all set to go: Teamkey would be the cult of personality that would do Stalin, Mao, Reagan, Thatcher, or any of the Nth Korean Kim Dynasty, proud.  National and it’s “Teamkey” propaganda strategy  would cash-in Big Time on Key’s immense public popularity.

It was a popularity that seemed impervious to all the scandals, stuff-ups, and questionable economic and social policies enacted by this government over the years. Every time a minister stuffed up,  Key’s popularity remained unblemished.

People couldn’t work out how it was being achieved. Despite shitstorms surrounding so many National ministers – many of which resulted in sackings/resignations – Key walked through it, much like Superman might walk through an atomic bomb-blast, barely feeling a tickle.

But Key is no extra-terrestrial super-powered being (despite accusations to the contrary). His seeming talent for invulnerability wasn’t a preternatural super-power. It was wholly manufactured by mere mortals, working in back-rooms, funded by tax-payers, and played out with ruthless efficiency.

The plan, as outlined in Nicky Hager’s expose, “Dirty Politics“, and based on leaked emails, was that Key would be kept “above politics”. Others would do the dirty work, and he would maintain an “apolitical”, almost Presidential style. It was a form of fake neutrality.

When  Key said in January 2011,

“I don’t think it suits me as a person. I’m not a negative person and a lot of Opposition is negative.”

– he wasn’t talking about his own persona, he was reciting a pre-prepared script.

Nicky Hager’s book has stripped away the secrecy to this plan and Key’s closeness to the players in dirty politics has been exposed to public scrutiny.

Russell Norman once pointed out that there is a great deal of similarity between John Key and Robert Muldoon. Russell was half-way correct. Key’s politics was every bit as destructive as Muldoons, attacking, destabilising, and under-mining critics of the government.

The only difference is that Muldoon did his own dirty politics. He never hid behind others.

Dirty Politics” has achieved more than simply revealing  unwholesome machinations between National party apparatchiks, ministers, and halfway-insane right-wing bloggers. The book has explained the nature of Key’s seemingly “Teflon” nature. The secret is revealed; the mystery is stripped away; and now, when Key is confronted by a media pack, the brown smelly stuff is sticking to him.

Result? Key is just another self-serving politician and his bloody-mindedness in continuing to shield Judith Collins is corroding his reputation and public standing. I am guessing this will be reflected in coming polls. It’s game over for this government.

If National loses this election, Key has already made it abundantly clear what his intentions will be;

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Key says he'll quit politics if National loses election

 

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Which then begs the question – who would replace Key?

Of the options available to National, I offer these insights;

Steven Joyce

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joyce

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Style: loud, abrasive, intolerant of dissenting views.

Low points: his “debate” on TV3’s “The Nation“, with Labour’s Grant Robertson, where he continually shouted over his opponant and almost hijacked the show.  Or his veiled threats against protesting tertiary students in September 2011.

Leadership chances: 5/10

Electoral saleability: 3/10

Comment: Joyce alienates people by shouting them down. It is bullying and as a political strategy makes him a liability. His pugnacity is more openly Muldoonesque than any other politician.

Judith Collins

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collins

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Style: abrasive, intolerant of dissenting views, 100% Pure vindictiveness in high-heels.

Low points: her relationship with National’s black-ops team headed by Jason Ede and Cameron Slater; lying about journalist Katie Bradford; dodgy dealings with Oravida; mis-use of ministerial power; etc, etc, etc, etc, etc.

Leadership chances: 2/10

Electoral saleability: 0/10 (nil)

Comment: Collins would be a gift for the Left if she were elected Leader of the National Party. She brings back memories of Jenny Shipley – and didn’t that end ‘well’? The Nats would be unelectable with her as Leader. (In simple terms, her political career is over.)

Bill English

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english

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Style: inoffensive.

Low points: rorting the ministerial accomodation allowance (double dipping) in 2009. A silly thing to do for minimal gain. Mostly forgotten by the general public.

Leadership chances: 7/10

Electoral saleability: 7/10

Comment: English has been mostly untainted by all the scandals swirling around Richard Worth, Phil Heatley, Pansy Wong, Nick Smith, Aaron Gilmore, John Banks, Hekia Parata, Judith Collins, et al. In fact, he distanced himself from Collins’ actions in leaking a civil servant’s personal information to far-right blogger, Cameron Slater, by saying,

“I certainly wouldn’t condone an attack by a blogger on a public servant doing their job.”

If  English is positioning himself for a future leadership bid, it was a good move.

English was Leader of the National Party from 2001 to 2003, and was dumped after the Nat’s worst electoral result in decades. During that time, he’s kept his head down; focused on economic issues; and avoided public controversies.

He comes across as likeable, and the public might be persuaded to give him another shot as a Leader.

Conclusion

The political dramas will only be beginning on 20 September.

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References

NZ Herald: Key says he’ll quit politics if National loses election

Fairfax media:  Key’s staff can’t disprove reptilian theory

NZ Herald:  Norman – Key ‘acting like Muldoon’

TV3:  The Nation – Debate: Grant Robertson and Steven Joyce on the wealth of the nation

NZ Herald: Bill English to pay back part of allowance

Wikipedia: Bill English – Leader of the Opposition

Wikipedia: 2002 General Election

Radio NZ: Key, English distance themselves from Collins

Previous related blogposts

Dear Leader loves you!

It’s official: Political Dissent Discouraged in NZ!


 

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20 september 2014 VOTE

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen/Lurch Left Memes

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 21 August 2014

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Radio NZ: Politics with Matthew Hooton and Mike Williams – 25 August 2014

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– Politics on Nine To Noon –

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– Monday 25 August 2014 –

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– Kathryn Ryan, with Matthew Hooton & Mike Williams –

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Today on Politics on Nine To Noon,

Our political commentators speak about the recent boost in National’s polling, the strengthening New Zealand economy, and the upcoming elections.

Click to listen on icon below;

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radio-nz-logo-politics-on-nine-to-noon

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Click to Listen (alternative link): Politics with Matthew Hooton and Mike Williams (24′ 58″ )

Listen to Matthew Hooton’s take on the Prime Minister’s comments that “someone else” in the “Prime Minister’s Office” was briefed  by the SIS. His analysis is damning.

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

24 August 2014 4 comments

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TinFoilHatArea

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As the media storm over Nicky Hager’s book, “Dirty Politics“,  and allegations over smear campaigns continue to swirl,  National’s spin doctors have given Key, Collins, and other National Party ministers a string of  phrases to use in all media interviews. The phrases are,

  • “Conspiracy theorist”
  • “Nicky Hager’s unproven allegations”
  • “Nicky Hager’s assumptions”
  • “Nicky Hager made them up”
  • “Nicky Hager can’t back  up his claims”
  • “Nicky Hager’s claims dissolving before his/our eyes”
  • “nothing to do with us”
  • “nothing to do with me”
  • “I don’t have details on that”
  • “I don’t know the details”
  • “I don’t know the context of all that”
  • “this is a smear campaign”
  • “briefing bloggers” (instead of leaking information)
  • “Slater is a force unto himself”
  • “Slater is a force of nature”
  • “Labour does that too”

When confronted with specific allegations, as with Guyon Espiner interviewing Key on ‘Morning Report’ (18 August), Key simply refused to engage and veered of on a side-issue or responded with , “I don’t have details on that”.

At no stage does Key or his ministers take responsibility. For anything. If anything is “dissolving”, it is Key’s much vaunted reputation for “transparency” and “high ministerial standards“.

Key and Collins have been instructed by their taxpayer-funded media minders  not to respond to specific issues raised by Nicky Hager, and instead keep the discussion generalised and vague. At that point, Key and Collins can respond with a general statement of “Nicky Hager’s unproven allegations“.

Recently, some in National have tried a new tactic – painting themselves as the “victims” of so-called “dirty tricks”. The new strategy  began on 15 August, with National’s pollster and party apparatchik, David Farrar, making this extraordinary claim on his own blog;

I’ve either been hacked or spied on

August 15th, 2014 at 7:40 am by David Farrar

I started reading more fully the book yesterday, and the footnotes in the book. To my shock I realised that Hager had info in the book that could not have come from the hacking of Cameron Slater, but could only have come from my computer, my apartment or my office.

Specifically he refers to copies of two scripts used by my company, Research, this year. There is absolutely no way they could have come from Cameron Slater’s computer systems, as Cameron doesn’t have them. No one has them but me and my office.

I thought about how this could have happened. The two most likely scenarios are that my computer systems have also been hacked, or that someone physically removed the scripts from my office (or possibly apartment). All of these scenarios make me feel sick, and make me worry about the security of the 100+ staff working for me.

Some of the material is very recent – from June 2014 – just two months ago. I think the most likely thing is that someone joined the staff (we recruit often) with the purpose of acquiring material from my office. There’s no evidence of a break in, and I tend to keep my computer systems fairly secure.

I am sure the official explanation will be that the scripts just turned up in an envelope somewhere, and they have no idea how they got there. I think that is bullshit. Most of my staff are young students, who I can’t imagine would suddenly decide to send a copy of my scripts to Nicky Hager in the post.

I consider this outrageous, just as I hope people would if someone from the right infiltrated the offices of the Labour Party pollsters, to steal their material.

There is no public interest defence to the stealing of the material belonging to my clients. There was nothing sinister or inappropriate in it.  In fact one of the scripts detailed in the book is of some questions we did for Family First, who published the results on their website, including the full questions. But I know Hager has a copy of the script as he has quoted the question numbers, which are not included in the published results.

I do not accept that because I am a blogger, and my company has National as a client, it makes it all right for me to be hacked or spied on, and material stolen from me.

More…

This neat bit of propaganda aimed for two objectives

  1. It tried to deflect attention from Nicky Hager’s allegations of National’s abuse of ministerial power,
  2. It tried to show that “everyone is doing it, so no big deal” – a line that Key has repeated on several occassions.

A day later, interviewed on TV3, Cameron Slater told the world he had been the subject of death threats and  the victim of a hate campaign himself;

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Cameron Slater -  Death threats over 'Dirty Politics' - TV3 - Nicky Hager - Whaleoil - Jason Ede - John Jey

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“‘Cos I’ve got a torrent of death threats as a result of Mr Hager’s book…”

I’ve covered Slater’s claims in a previous blogpost, and raise questions about the truthfulness of those so-called “death-threats”.

A day later, on 17 August, Farrar repeated his belief that someone was spying on him;

But if you were tape recording my phone when I worked out that someone had planted a spy into my office (and one that appears to still have been there maybe just three weeks ago), then you would have heard me swearing and promising bloody retribution.

On the same day, the Herald ran a series of stories – all with one central theme, that National ministers, MPs, and even Slater were the “victims” of some secret conspiracy;

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kim dotcom hits back at cameron slater's claims

Internet mogul Kim Dotcom has denied another accusation by Whale Oil blogger Cameron Slater that he was responsible for hacking Slater’s blog website earlier this year.

“We all know by now that I had my emails hacked in February,” Slater posted this afternoon.

“We also know that David Farrar has had his intellectual property stolen, and that Mark Mitchell had his personal emails hacked and his office broken into.

“What I can also now reveal is that Tony Lentino, the businessman who formerly financially supported Kim Dotcom also had his office broken into.

“On top of that Travis who works for the blog was also hacked along with another media person who has been a vocal critic of Kim Dotcom.

“Until now we haven’t had the proof, only a bunch of dots to join but we now have the complete picture.”

More…

 .Judith Collins' husband targeted in burglary

The cabinet was held his laptop which had not been taken. Amounts of cash on left by staff on desks around the office had not been taken either.

“It seemed a very odd thing at the time and I presume that someone may have been interested in the information that was on that laptop” Ms Collins said.

More…

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MP burgled and hacked

In response to Herald on Sunday inquiries, Mitchell confirmed:

• His parliamentary office in Wellington was broken into on September 16 last year. Police investigated and swept the office for bugs but none was found.

• His Rodney constituency office in Orewa was broken into in early October and a laptop and two phones were taken. Police investigated but no arrests have been made.

• His personal email was hacked.

More…

Now, call me a sceptic, and perish the thought that politicians are even remotely capable of lying… but… yeaaaah, nah.

All of this is just way to convenient to be happening now.  Let’s cut to the chase and call it what it is; this is tin-foil hat stuff. In effect, the Nats are suggesting that a Vast Left-wing Conspiracy (VLC) of operatives trained in break-ins; bugging; tapping; etc, are conducting a covert programme of intel-gathering against National.

Am I right?

And Labour, no doubt is part of this VLC?

The same Labour whose IT experts left gaping security holes in their party computer, allowing Aaron Bhatnagar, Cameron Slater, Jason Ede, and the local Young National Komsomol Brigade to go wandering through, collecting data on donors, credit cards, email addresses, etc, etc, etc?!

Is that the same Labour party?

Well, I have a few questions myself…

  1. Judith Collins  claims that her husband’s office was burgled and his laptop “accessed”, but not stolen. Was a complaint laid with the Police? What is the Police Case Number? And what was the result?
  2. Rodney MP claims his email hacked. Where is the evidence for this and why has the GCSB not been able to determine the culprits? Considering the hundreds of millions of taxpayers’ money spent on the Bureau with all their considerable hardware and trained staff – they can’t locate the culprits?
  3. Mark Mitchell also claims that his  parliamentary office in Wellington was broken into on September 16 last year. Mitchell further states  that  Police investigated and “swept the office for bugs but none were found”. September 16 last year was a Monday – Parliamentary staff would have been present, and no one saw anything out of the ordinary?

More important though is that access to Parliament and it’s inner offices is strictly controlled.

First, a visitor has to proceed through security at all main doors, where everyone is screened via metal-detectors.

Then you sign-in.

Access to offices is permitted via swipe-cards, and is monitored by Parliamentary Services – as Fairfax media journalist Andrea Vance found out the hard way, last year;

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Spy scandal journalist speaks out

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If Mitchell’s office was “broken into”, the culprit(s) had to make their way past security; through metal detectors; past National Party staffers;  through coridor and office doors. and past his secretary – all  controlled by swipe cards.

I don’t think so.

It all seems  too… convenient.

Ironically, our esteemed Dear Leader – who has “never been caught out bending the truth or outright lying” – is accusing investigative journalist Nicky Hager of  being a “conspiracy theorist”.

The only conspiracy theorising appears to be emanating from National’s inner hierarchy.

There is simply no Vast Left-wing Conspiracy. (If there is, I have yet to receive my invitation.)

Postscript

MP Mark Mitchell is a client of National Party apparatchik, Simon Lusk – one of central characters in the Cameron Slater-David Farrar-Jordan Williams cabal outlined by Nicky Hager.

The MPs to whom Mr Lusk has been a campaign adviser in the past include Taupo MP Louise Upston, Maungakiekie MP Sam Lotu-Iiga, Napier MP Chris Tremain, Rodney MP Mark Mitchell and former list MP Aaron Gilmore.

And of course we know the close relationship between Judith Collins and Cameron Slater.

Mark Mitchell. Judith Collins. Simon Lusk… and Cameron Slater.

There were no break ins.

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References

Radio NZ:  Listen to the full interview with John Key on Morning report ( 11 min 3 sec )

Beehive.govt.nz: Speech to the New Zealand China Partnership Forum

John Key.co.nz: Prime Minister accepts Minister’s resignation

Kiwiblog: I’ve either been hacked or spied on

Kiwiblog: People sometimes say jerky things in e-mails

NZ Herald: Kim Dotcom hits back at Slater’s claims

NZ Herald: Judith Collins’ husband targeted in burglary

NZ Herald: MP burgled and hacked

Fairfax media: Spy scandal journalist speaks out

Hawkes Bay Today: Concern about Hawke’s Bay mans influence in Nats

Previous related blogposts

Death threats made to rightwing blogger?

Other Blogs

Public Address: Confidential information: the legal rights and wrongs

Public Address: Dirty Politics

Polity: National and Labour’s membership data

Gordon Campbell on Nicky Hager’s new book

Bowalley Road: Closing Our Eyes In The Sausage Factory: Some Thoughts On Nicky Hager’s Book, “Dirty Politics”

The Standard: Rob Gilchrist On Nicky Hager

The Standard: Was a crime committed when Slater accessed Labour’s computer system?

The Daily Blog: Hager’s Dirty Politics – Death threats or hit jobs?

Kiwipolitico: Ducking for Cover

Pundit: Dirty Politics: The battle of the metaphors

Pundit: The politics of vilification

Pundit: A crazy day in dirty ol’ NZ politics

Imperator Fish: Cameron Slater is the real victim

Porcupine Farm: Why My Next Printer Will Be An Epson

Porcupine Farm: #TEAMKEY2

The Jackal: Death threats and Dirty Politics

The Jackal: Nicky Hager – Hero of the Week

The Jackal: National’s death by association

Recommended reading

The Jackal: The real nasty bloggers


 

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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 20 August 2014

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