Ambrose lawsuit settled

March 21st, 2016 at 9:28 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

John Key has defended using taxpayer money to “pragmatically” settle defamation action relating to the “teapot tape”.

A meeting yesterday between the Prime Minister and a cameraman he had long maintained deliberately recorded the tape led to defamation action being dropped.

Mr Key’s office yesterday released an agreed statement with freelance cameraman Bradley Ambrose, which said Mr Key now accepts the cafe recording was not deliberate, and acknowledged his previous comments on the matter as harmful.

No one but Mr Ambrose can know if it was deliberate. The “accident” story seems pretty far fetched to me, but I guess you can’t prove intent, so no real surprise it was settled with an acknowledgement that the recording was not deliberate.

Even accepting it was accidental, I still regard it as outrageous that media published a secret recording. The ethical thing to do would have been for the Herald on Sunday to delete the recording.

The Prime Minister will also make a “small payment” towards Mr Ambrose’s costs, which will be met from the Parliamentary leaders’ budget – something Labour and NZ First have criticised.

Some previous legal costs relating to the case had already been met by the leaders’ budget. Mr Key’s office would not reveal that amount.

At his regular post-Cabinet press conference, Mr Key was repeatedly asked whether it was correct to use taxpayer money to settle the defamation action.

If the Speaker rules the fund should not be used, the National Party would pay, Mr Key said.

“The rules have been pretty clear for a long period of time, and plenty of politicians have used the leaders’ fund, or if it as a minister or prime minister, Crown Law. So there is nothing new here.”

It may be legally correct to pay the small sum from the parliamentary budget, but I think it is a mistake to do so. It isn’t a good look.

The parliamentary budget is a fixed amount, so you can argue if not spent on this, it would be spent on something else. But at the end of the day, the optics are not good on it.

UPDATE: The tape was not officially published by the media but anonymously leaked online. I regard this as the same thing. Only staff at the Herald and Amrose had a copy of the recording, so either directly or indirectly they must have been responsible for leaking it and having it published online. TV3 also had a copy (presumably from Ambrose), and may have been responsible.

The secret Key tried to bury

January 26th, 2012 at 3:52 pm by David Farrar

Yes the awful secret was that John Key said he doesn’t like nasty politics, and thinks it doesn’t work for Labour.

The Teapot tape online

January 26th, 2012 at 12:12 pm by David Farrar

A copy of the teapot tape has been placed online, and the link e-mailed to a huge number of people from an anon e-mail address.

There are a very small number of people who have that file. Bradley Ambrose and the senior staff of the Herald on Sunday and TV3. Will any of them be brave enough to admit they did it? I will say I don’t think it is anyone from the Herald on Sunday. To be fair to them, they didn’t publish the tape originally, and it was TV3 that turned it into a daily circus.

I said before the election it was inevitable it would come out at some stage.

The recording is on You Tube (uploaded by 2Johns2Cups), plus two other locations. I’m not providing a direct link due to the questionable legality, but I do not believe saying where it has been published (as I have done) makes me a publisher, anymore than when newspapers reported Whale Oil had broken a suppression order (which sent everyone off to his site).

The irony is that the recording is quite benign, as the PM has said. The media beat this up into a nonsense, that just lowered their standing with most New Zealanders.

Hopefully this release will mean that we can all move on now, except of course we await the Police decision on the legality of making the recording.

Please do not post a direct link in the comments.


November 23rd, 2011 at 2:35 pm by David Farrar

Bradley Ambrose has had his application to have the Key-Banks meeting declared as “not private” declined.This does not mean the Judge has decided they are private or public, just that she is not going to rule in view of the Police investigation.

Now can we focus on real issues.

Kevin Milne on the tape

November 19th, 2011 at 5:33 pm by David Farrar

Most New Zealanders will know Kevin Milne. He was the front for Fair Go for 20 years. In dealing with the various crroks etc they exposed, Fair Go would push right to the edge of what they could do, in order to tell a story.

Kevin Milne spoke on ZB today about the secret tape. When a journalist of his standing decries the media behaviour, that surely is a sign that collectively they got it wrong. A rough transcript:

“I’ve been surprised (to say the least) that speculation over what was recorded in the so-called “teacups” conversation this week has taken precedence over questions about the way the recording was obtained and how its been subsequently used.

The freelance cameraman is reported as saying he didn’t intentionally record the conversation. Perhaps that is correct. Perhaps. I don’t believe it, but perhaps. But my knowledge of the filming process is that while you might unintentionally leave a microphone in the proximity of where a private conversation is about to be held, as you continue to video from outside you would be aware that sound was also being recorded.

But lets say I’m even wrong about that and the cameraman didn’t intentionally record that private conversation, doesn’t his innocence in the matter evaporate when he passes on the tapes to the Herald on Sunday and TV3 presumably for money?

I think its a gross breach of privacy to record a conversation between two people who are unaware they’re being recorded and then release the contents of it. It makes me embarrassed Paul to have been once part of the same line of work. If its allowed to go unchecked where does it end? For example, camera operators and sound recordists sometimes use extremely sophisticated and powerful directional microphones. You can pick up conversations from about 100 metres away. 

Are we soon to see these freelance guys drifting around parliament grounds seeing what they can pick up on tape – conversations between politicians standing on the steps of parliament for example? And while they’re at it such freelance cameramen could randomly listen in on private conversations between press gallery journalists and their partners lunching on the chairs in the sun.

I’m not soft, Paul, when it comes to investigative journalism. On “Fair Go” we often took our filming right to the edge in an attempt to show a scam was taking place and not everyone would agree with the tactics that we used. But never would we record a couple of public figures in private conversation then use knowledge of what was on those recordings to put pressure on them to publicly reveal details of what they’d been talking about. In my mind that’s appalling. I don’t care whether the victims are politicians, whether its election time, whether the “cup of tea” meeting was a staged piece of political nonsense or whether in the course of that conversation one or both parties said something they wouldn’t want made public.

The whole thing remains a gross breach of privacy in my mind. The heat ought to be on the media involved here not John Key or John Banks.” …

“I think that the media have misunderstood the public” …

“I’m surprised that there have been no other journalists who have taken the position that I have. I’m embarrassed.”

Whale has the audio also, embedded below.

NewstalkZb – Paul Holmes and Kevin Milne talk about the tea tapes by whaleoil

Paul Holmes on the media

November 19th, 2011 at 11:11 am by David Farrar

Paul Holmes writes:

I don’t join lynch mobs and I don’t intend to now. For that’s what it’s been this week, a sanctimonious, high and mighty news media lynch mob baying for John Key’s blood. …

And I’m not blind. This is not happy politics for John Key. He’s damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t. But it never ceases to amaze and disgust me how so few in the news media understand how much the public detests the newspapers and other media ganging up and demanding blood, in this case, because of a few words said in a tape recording of a private meeting, a tape recording that was in itself a dirty trick. People hate this.

I have been amazed at how thuggish the media reaction has been, where they have tried to turn the victim of an alleged crime into the wrong-doer.

Many in the media have argued that because this was a discussion between two politicians with media just outside, that there was no expectation of privacy and the law doesn’t apply. Those who argue that miss the point. If the media honestly thought there is no right to privacy in that conversation, they should have refused to leave the café. They should have said “No this is a public political discussion, and we are leaving our tape recorders behind”. That is an acceptable response. What is unacceptable, and I believe illegal, is to leave a recorder behind concealed and secretly recording.

And any person who argues that the reason it was turned on, yet inside in bag, wasn’t so that it wouldn’t be noticed is either incredibly gullible or dishonest.  Numerous other cameramen have said you never leave a recorder on while in a bag, as it drains the battery, and it interferes with the quality. Anyone who seriously argues this was not a deliberate bugging is naïve at best.

It saddens me greatly when our media makes the UK media look honourable by comparison. Some may resile at my strong language, and say the secret recording is not in the same league as the News of the World. I agree, it is not. But the difference is the rest of the media in the UK has condemned the News of the World, while in NZ the media are all but condoning the tactics involved in the secret recording, and instead expressing outrage that a complaint was laid with the Police. I’m sorry, but isn’t that what you are meant to do when you believe the law has been broken? The media are not above the law, and do not get to decide which laws apply to them, and which do not.

Goff taking my advice

November 18th, 2011 at 3:35 pm by David Farrar

In my Stuff column on Tuesday I labelled the secret tape saga a distraction Labour doesn’t need. A few people scoffed at me but as both the TV polls have shown Labour dropping by over 2%, I think it reinforces my point. Sure it has been messy for National, but it has also knocked Labour out of the media all week.

Today the Herald reports:

Labour leader Phil Goff says he is “sick to death” the teapot tapes are diverting attention away from key issues including asset sales, the cost of living and young New Zealanders’ job prospects, as the country heads into the last and “most important” week of the election campaign. …

“In seven days time our assets go on the block, that’s something we need to be debating.”

My advice to Goff was:

So when Phil Goff was asked for comment yesterday on the tape, his response should have been “I don’t care at all what John Key said to John Banks over coffee, what I care about is why National and ACT plan to sell our assets. This issue is a distraction from the real issues that matter to New Zealanders such as the increased power prices that will eventuate from selling shares in our power companies.”

Where do I send the bill?

Goff should have taken the advice earlier in the week though.

This will not help

November 16th, 2011 at 11:42 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Prime Minister John Key has refused to answer reporter’s questions about the ‘tea tapes’ and stormed out of a press conference in Wellington.

National had dug its heels in over the publication of the recording, with Key saing he cannot remember if he suggested NZ First supporters are dying out.

I can understand the frustration that for four days media have been writing stories on the illegally recorded conversation, but if the Stuff report is correct, this will just keep it in the news even longer. Yes it would be nice if the media actually reported on policies and how France is about to get downgraded due to its history of deficits and debt – but one has to accept the media as they are, not how we would like them to be.

The suggested comments about NZ First are of course correct. Peters gets very little support from younger New Zealanders, and hence his potential voting base does shrink every election. I doubt there isn’t a political reporter in the country who hasn’t said something similar in a private conversation.

Worth noting that it was not a press conference, but a media stand-up after talking to Federated Farmers on trade, and announcing National’s trade policy. The defence will be that as there were no more questions about trade, the PM left, but the media will report it in the most sensational terms.

UPDATE: TV3 video is here. I’m not sure one can describe it as storming out, but predict nevertheless that is how every outlet will report it. That doesn’t mean I think it was a good idea, because the media reaction was predictable.

I wonder if all those on the left who have railed against TV3 and Mediaworks time after time as being “brought off” by the Government might have the good grace to say they were wrong, considering the role of TV3 in keeping this issue alive.

UPDATE2: Looking at the TV news last night TVNZ did a balanced report on the issue, while TV3 hyped it up as their lead item, and probably will do the same tonight. There comes a point where you wonder how many days in a row they will continue with their campaign.

Bradley Ambrose

November 15th, 2011 at 4:30 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The cameraman responsible for the teacup tape is a former police constable who was suspended from the force while connections with a militia leader were investigated.

Bradley Ambrose, formerly known as Brad White, was investigated by police in 2000 for his connection with Kelvyn Alp, an ex-soldier who was reportedly trying to recruit a private army to oppose the government. Ambrose returned to police work after the investigation but subsequently left the force. …

The police suspension occurred in 2000 after items that allegedly belonged to White were found during a raid of Alp’s Mangere home. Alp was reportedly trying to recruit a private army to oppose the government at the time.

Alp – who said he’d met White at a friend’s wedding – claimed to have 100 members of his New Zealand Armed Intervention Force (NZAIF), armed and prepared to carry out “illegal” missions. Alp said White was not connected to the NZAIF.

Very strange. There’s normally a compelling reason for someone to change their name.

The distraction that Labour doesn’t need

November 15th, 2011 at 12:57 pm by David Farrar

In my blog at Stuff, I label the secret tape recording issue an issue that Labour doesn’t need. Read my blog there to see my reasoning. So far a lot of commenters there agree with me (which is unusual).

Has the HoS been telling porkies?

November 13th, 2011 at 4:17 pm by David Farrar

Steven Joyce has just put out a statement:

The Herald on Sunday has many questions to answer about the illegal taping of the conversation between National Leader and Prime Minister John Key and Act candidate John Banks on Friday, says National Party campaign chair Steven Joyce.

“There are a number of inconsistencies in the story which together suggest an attempt to conceal a deliberate News of the World-type covert operation,” says Mr Joyce.

“Firstly, the radio transmission device was concealed inside a pouch and placed next to the Prime Minister.  Any camera operator knows that if you are seeking to obtain legitimate audio, you don’t muffle it by leaving the microphone in a pouch. This was an experienced cameraman, and the only possible conclusion is that the concealment was deliberate.

“Secondly, the Herald on Sunday article states the cameraman approached the Prime Minister’s staff to retrieve the microphone during the meeting and was rebuffed. The problem is that no approach was made until after the meeting was over. If the approach had been made during the meeting to inform staff that a recording or transmitting device was left on the table, it would have been retrieved immediately.

“Thirdly, the Herald on Sunday article states that the taping was discovered on the cameraman’s return to his office. That is untrue. When the cameraman approached the Prime Minister’s staff member for the return of the microphone, the cameraman acknowledged he was aware the conversation had been recorded.

“Fourthly, the Herald on Sunday article describes the cameraman as a ‘freelance cameraman’, and makes no attempt to disclose his working relationship with the Herald on Sunday. However in an email to the Prime Minister’s office last night chief reporter David Fisher seeks the return of the wireless microphone, which he says was ‘taken from our staff member’. 

“The conclusion one is left with is that the Herald on Sunday deliberately arranged the taping, in an unwelcome introduction of UK-style News of the World tabloid tactics into the New Zealand media environment, and is now deliberately seeking to distance themselves publicly.

In related news, Whale reveals who the cameraman probably was.

Also a must read comment by Niggly:

2. Whilst it isn’t unusual to leave a wireless microphone transmitter “on” (prior to use), it is actually unusual to leave a wireless microphone transmitter “on” and inside a bag, because that indicates it isn’t about to be used and is using up battery power. Not unless the freelancer was intending to use it ….

3. Even if the wireless microphone transmitter was unintentionally “on” and left inside a bag (and thus unintentionally transmitting) and this was all “innocent” …. then the “freelance cameraman’s” story doesn’t stack up at all after this point because his videocamera’s wireless microphone receiver device would have to have been on and the videocamera (or recording equipment) turned “on” and “recording”. To make this clearer, this last aspect here indicates the recording could not have been made (even with the wireless microphone switched on and transmitting) because for the recording to be made as said here, a receiving device then needs to be deliberately turned on and the “camera operator’s equipment” also had to be on and recording.

Is there anyone out there who thinks it really was an accident?

The secret recording

November 13th, 2011 at 8:03 am by David Farrar

The Herald on Sunday reports:

The freelance cameraman who made the recording, whom the paper has agreed not to name, said the recording had been made accidentally after he was stopped by Key’s security staff from recovering the recording device. It transmitted the recording to the camera operator’s equipment but he did not discover until later.

This story is somewhat implausible. If the cameraman had said “I need to recover my recorder”, I have little doubt he would have been able to do so. I am also somewhat suspicious of the claim that he did not realise it was transmitting.

The recording, which was made unintentionally, according to the man who made it, contains fascinating insights into how Key thinks the next Parliament will shape up after the election.

We have chosen not to publish exact details of the conversation, as it was supposed to be in private, and Key last night refused to waive privacy considerations.

This is the correct decision, as it was obtained illegally. The freelance cameraman broke the law, whether intentionally or not,  and should have destroyed the recording, rather than given it to the HoS.

Right-wing blogger David Farrar also supported release if the recording revealed hypocrisy. “If there is something which is contradicted by what they say publicly, it makes the public interest argument.”

I should out this comment in its full context. I said the recording should not be published unless it revealed massive wrongdoing. I further compared it to being on the same scale as the UK phone tapping (albeit further down the scale). When pressed further on what would constitute massive wrongdoing, I gave the example of hypocrisy. I also said that for it to make the “public interest” argument, that is a different threshold to “the public would be interested”.

The fact the HoS has not published it, suggests it is merely interesting, rather than in the public interest.

The recording, which was made unintentionally, according to the man who made it, contains fascinating insights into how Key thinks the next Parliament will shape up after the election.

Well speculating on election outcomes is not exactly a crime. I suspect every MP has conversations like that several times a day.

Who was the mystery bugger?

November 12th, 2011 at 10:57 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

While the most eagerly awaited conversation of the election was taking place, a mystery person may have been secretly listening.

A recording device was found on the Newmarket cafe table where National leader John Key showed his endorsement of Act’s Epsom candidate, John Banks, by sitting down to a cup of tea.

When their conversation at Urban Cafe finished, a man claiming to be a freelance reporter for the Herald collected the device, which was in a small, dark bag beside the pair.

The Herald had no freelancers at the meeting. …

It is illegal to record a private conversation without consent.

So all we know at this stage about the person who did it is they are a criminal, and a liar.

It brings back memories of what happened in 2008, with covert taping also. In that case the person responsible had ties to both Labour and Greens.

History has a way of repeating itself.

What a coincidence

November 6th, 2008 at 1:58 pm by David Farrar

We read today about the secret taper, Kees Keiser. And his preposterous story about how he did it on the spur of the moment, and didn’t tell anyone about it.

Well according to the electoral roll/habitation index, Mr Keizer has a flatmate. A Mr Stephen Day. Now it is possible the roll is out of date, but this post is on the assumption it is accurate – and just before an election you expect it to be.

And what does Stephen do? He is employed by Ministerial Services and acts as a liaison between Labour and the Greens!! – officially on the issue of Buy NZ made. This means he is taxpayer funded through Ministerial Services yet works for Sue Bradford on behalf of the Labour-led Government.

Stephen appears to be a professional unionist, having worked for OUSA, NZEI, SFWU and Finsec before his latest job.

Now I am sure we will be told that Mr Day had no idea what his flatmate was up to. That he never even whispered a word to him, and that he spent all that time making audio recordings without being noticed.

I will let readers apply their own Tui test of credibility to this one.

UPDATE: I need to make a retraction. I got it wrong.

I described the relationship between the secret taper and the senior Labour/Greens Advisor as flatmates.

They are in fact brothers-in-law.

Kees Keizer

November 6th, 2008 at 9:56 am by David Farrar

The NZ Herald has an interview with the secret taper – Mr Kees Keizer. He claims it was all a sort of spur of the moment thing. As Tui says yeah right.

Speaking publicly for the first time, Mr Keizer said he came up with the idea to tape MPs at the cocktail party before National’s August conference on the spur of the moment

Yes of course. You’re sitting around a Friday planning what to do for the weekend, and you think hey I’ll go a cocktail party of a party I despise and try and tape them all. Of course that was spur of the moment, and wow I just happened to have a tape recorder in my pocket.

Mr Keizer said he took a digital recorder and had “legitimately” entered the conference by paying for a ticket – although he would not say what name he used.

Which is admitting he purchased it under false pretences.

Once Mr Keizer was in, he said he used his real full name and said he was interested in joining the Young Nats.

Actually he said he was a Young National, according at least one person who talked to him.

Mr Keizer has drip-fed the tapes to TV3 political editor Duncan Garner and refused to comment when asked if there would be more before the election. Mr Garner has indicated there could be more.

And of course something you do on the spur of a moment as a prank, you leak selectively to TV3 by anonymous e-mail timing each one for maximum political damage.

Mr Keizer said he had not edited the recordings to change the context but rather to keep his voice secret. He refused to release the full recordings so this could be tested.

And this tells us all we need to know. Now that his identity is known, there is no reason for him not to release a full recording. And the ethics of any media organisation that runs a selective extract will beyond doubt be tested with the Broadcating Standards Authority.

It was one thing to accept partial recordings when the sender was anonymous and wanted to keep his identity secret. But there is no ethical reason why TV3 could accept a partial recording now his identity is known. Doing so would indicate partisan motives rather than journalistic ones.

He said while he had friends and connections in the Labour, including those on the Labour-affiliated website The Standard, he also had friends in National too.

The Standard is the website where a blogger calling himself Batman posted about John Key’s supposed links H-Fee. That blogger is believed to be a senior official, most likely party president Mike Williams, although he has denied it was him.

The chances that his mates at The Standard don’t know all about it are nil, and as many of them are ministerial and parliamentary staffers, you can be sure Labour knows exactly what is in the tapes.

“I’d like to just absolutely confirm that I’m not a member of any political party and I’ve not been put into this by any political party or organisation.”

Of course he was not put up to it. The thought that Helen sits on the 9th floor ordering such tapings is ridicolous. But look at what he has not denied – that he has kept Labour informed of what is in the tapes, so they can plan their campaign around them.

Mr Keizer said his complaint about the EMA advert – made just days before the cocktail party – was not linked to Labour, but rather that he “wanted to learn more about the Electoral Finance Act and saw this as an opportunity.”

Now if anything confirms Keizer as an unmitigated liar, it is this statement. He complained about the EMA advert as an opportunity to learn more about the EFA!!!

“What you heard was genuine, there was no editing specifically to have it so it was in misleading quotes.” …

Mr Keizer said he would not be releasing the entire tape.

“Most of it is useless. It wouldn’t do any credit to anyone.”

So if he is telling the truth, why wouldn’t he release the full tape to show the full answers and what he said to elecit those answers? There is only one logical reason.

Hooten on Garner

November 5th, 2008 at 2:26 pm by David Farrar

Matthew Hooton has a long post on why he thinks Duncan Garner was right to run the tape, but to put it in context. But he also gives an example of how the media may be relaying a lit, by not insisting on the full tape. His example is:

Labour Spy: Do you reckon Obama can win?

Key: Oh, I hope so, he’ll be a great president.  I’m actually looking forward to meeting him if I become Prime Minister.

Labour Spy: But you don’t think Americans will elect a black president?

Key: Sure they will.  There have been black mayors, black governors, black Secretaries of State, this is just the next step.  Sure there is still a lot of racism in the US – I saw it when I lived in New York, even way up in the North-East, and it is worse in the South – I still think Obama can win and it will be good for the world.

Labour Spy: Oh come on, New Zealand wouldn’t elect a bloody Maori boy PM ….

Key: Just wait a second.  I suppose you’re one of these racists who says ‘the American people aren’t going to elect some nigger boy their president, let alone have that black wife and those black kids in the White House.  He’s not even really an American’  … but if you think that you’re in the wrong party pal.

Labour Spy: Maybe, thanks for your time Mr Key.  I’ll go and talk to Bill English now.

And of course all that would be handed to TV3 is:

the American people aren’t going to elect some nigger boy their president, let alone have that black wife and those black kids in the White House.  He’s not even really an American’

Now that is a made up example by Matthew but a useful example of why it is important for media to treat extracts with caution. And remember this Keystone Kop who did the taping was deliberatly trying to entrap people by saying things he did not believe in.

The final English tape

November 4th, 2008 at 6:07 pm by David Farrar

As I predicted this morning, Mr Keystone Kop released another tape.

It isn’t much. Bill English saying that Europe sometimes doesn’t sort out its own backyards and suggesting that Obama is too moralistic on international relations as sometimes you have to pull the trigger.

Helen is claiming this proves the National Party is militaristic. You would think she hadn’t sent the SAS into Afghanistan.

Final secret tape due today or tomorrow

November 4th, 2008 at 8:25 am by David Farrar

Having failed with the neutron bomb, I expect the final secret tape recording to be released to the media today or tomorrow. The rumour is it is of John Key. The last one was merely Bill English saying it is good to win elections, so not sure whether or not it will be in that vein or not.

It is worth remembering the context of these tape recordings. A Keystone Kop infiltrated a social cocktail function and lied to a number of MPs pretending to be a Young National. He advocated policy positions he did not believe in, trying to get the MPs to agree with him through sympathy so it would look like some sinister secret agenda.

MPs get pestered non stop at these social functions by party activists on various issues, and of course you tend to look for the merit of someone’s proposal rather than tell a party member and volunteer that their idea is fucking stupid.

My suggestion, for what it is worth, is that the media should demand the full tape recording from Mr Keystone Kop. Let people hear exactly the words he used to solicit a response, so any comments from the MP can be heard in context. Also to make sure that the full response from the MP is included, not just an extract that leaves out a vital part.

Who dun it?

August 7th, 2008 at 9:22 am by David Farrar

There is a great deal of interest in the person who made the secret tape recordings. They claim to be not a member of a political party, but they are obviously an extremely dedicated anti-National activist to have done the following:

  1. Trespassed at a private function
  2. Lied about being a party member to MPs (he claimed he had joined Young Nationals)
  3. Lied about his beliefs (claimed to support nuclear ships etc)
  4. Asked leading questions to MPs with the deliberate intention of getting them to say something he could use against them
  5. Used the fact he was pretending to be a party member to try and entrap MPs, knowing they will give more sympathetic responses to a viewpoint from someone who is a volunteer for a party, than if they were a random member of the public
  6. Had wired himself up with a hidden tape recorder
  7. Knew enough about the media to then know who best to give them to

They incidentially am almost certainly a reader of this blog, because in the transcript with Bill talking about WFF, he refers to Lockwood’s spreadsheets. Now I recently blogged about how five years ago or so I worked with Lockwood on some tax and benefit modelling, and that is the only mention in recent times of those – so they are obviously an avid reader who remembers such minor details.

As I said, I am not entirely surprised that someone would do this one day – in fact had been predicting this. Somewhat sad though. I have had many candid conversations with Labour MPs, Greens MP, other activists over the years and could cause all sorts of nastiness if I was the sort to tape them. I do hope this does not start a trend.

Garth George pulls no punches:

Politics in New Zealand, despicable as it has been for decades, has reached a new low with the secret taping of private conversations at last weekend’s National Party conference.

And what I want to know is what sort of scumbag would do such a thing, then spill his or her guts to the media.

The Herald editorial also weighs in:

Whoever has released recorded conversations with unwitting National MPs at the cocktail function at their party’s annual conference last weekend probably believes the ruse serves a public interest. The country now knows, if it did not before, that National has compromised some of its policy desires for the sake of its electoral prospects.

Oh yes this is a well kept secret – known only to three million people. Never before has a political party compromised on policy desires. I mean we didn’t see a Labour Cabinet pass a resolution to steal over a million dollars a year from the taxpayer in state funding of their party operations, and then weeks later rescind it as it looked to damage their electoral prospects.

As revelations go, these are rather less remarkable than the method by which they were obtained. Discreet recording is done but not commonly published by ethical news organisations for two reasons.

First, it is not fair to release a reporter’s tape or transcript unless the subject denies something plainly said or the recording could serve a public interest somewhat more compelling than partisan politics. Second, the publication would damage the gathering of further information. Once bitten, a public figure is twice shy.

Nothing revealed from National’s conference sneak so far offers insights to its intentions that could not have been obtained by a journalist trusted to use a private conversation responsibly.

When you consider the nature of the setup – an imposter pretending to be a right wing party member trying to get National MPs to agree with him, it is remarkable nothing more damaging was said. MPs get bombarded at conferences with policy ideas from members, and often say stuff like “Yeah that is not a bad idea, and we can look at that one day, but not immediately”. You don’t tend to tell someone you think is a hard working volunteer for your party that their ideas are whacko and they should eff off.

If National’s conference mole was working for the Labour Party, as National supposes, it is a new dimension to desperate politics in this country, and readily copied. All parties will know how easily opponents could plant an observer in their conferences capable of circulating at the tea break and engaging leading figures in candid discussion of sensitive issues.

I am sure Helen Clark did not tell anyone to go out and do this. That is ludicrous of course. But whoever did it, was motivated by a desire to help Labour retain power, and it will be very interestign if the identity emerges to see what links are there.

The Labour Party appears convinced Mr Key has more drastic economic policies in mind than he will admit before the election. Would that it were so. The more safely Mr Key is playing the game at present, the more genuine his caution seems. And Mr English is even less daring. He led National back to centrist conservatism after the defeat of the Shipley Government and he would keep it there for the time being.

Anyone who thinks a Key/English leadership is going to suddenly in office sell everything in sight, is basically barking. As the Herald notes, some of us do wish they would be a bit bolder in some areas!

Secret Recordings

August 6th, 2008 at 8:13 am by David Farrar

I suspected, reading the Bill English transcript, that this was not some conversation picked up accidentially between a delgate and Bill. It seemed to me the person he was talking to was most likely to have been the one doing the recording – ie someone fraudulently posing as a National Party delegate asked him questions, while secretly taping him.

This was confirmed with the release of recordings with Lockwood Smith. So my suspicions were correct. I am not terribly shocked – in fact I had predicted such tactics in presentations I have done to the Chamber of Commerce etc. We have seen similar in the US.

This will to some degree set off a race to the bottom as secret tape recordings become a standard tactic in politics.

Anyway let us go to what Lockwood said, according to NZ Herald:

There’s some bloody dead fish you have to swallow … to get into Government to do the kinds of things you want to do … and you have to balance up what really matters.

Heh the term is dead rats. This part is just the obvious. You drop unpopular policies in the areas that do not matter so much so you get to do work in the areas that matter most. This is for example why Labour finally gacve in on tax cuts – to get a fourth term.

If you try to do everything differently you’ll scare the horses and under MMP it’s very hard to win.

Again nothing unusual there.

Once we have gained the confidence of the people, we’ve got more chance of doing more things.

This is in fact the exact opposite of having a secret agenda. I have said much the same on this blog – you gain confidence by keeping your promises, not breaking them, and establishing good faith with the electorate. If National, for examples, serves a first term without selling any state assets, then it means if they campaign in 2011 to consider selling (for example) 25% of Solid Energy, people will trust National that they would only sell those assets it says it will, and not sell everything. You do not gain confidence to break it – you gain it, to keep faith with it. Otherwise you get thrown out.

We may be able to do some things we believe we need to do, perhaps go through a discussion document process … you wouldn’t be able to do them straight off … I’m hoping that we’ll do some useful things that way that may not be policy right now.

And again here he is talking good faith again – talking about having a public discussion process on proposed policies.

Labour are desperate to work up the fear of broken promises and secret agendas, because once National is in office – and does keep its promises, they will never have that weapon again. Anyone who thinks John Key is going to break his election commitments does not know the man well. My prediction is he will have a big wall chart of all the election commitments and have monthly progress reports on how things are going towards implementing them. There will in fact be a zealousness about making sure that in 2011, no-one can seriously claim National broke its word.