PM says Benson-Pope didn’t know

The PM has said that David Benson-Pope did not even know Steve Hurring was calling the Minister’s chief executive.

So in Helen’s world DBP has done nothing wrong at all, and as for Hurring – in the ultimate wet bus ticket slap, he is “an extremely hard working and conscientious employee” who might need to “reflect on whether the call was wise” and will get get “at least a little counselling”.

Also Helen actually thinks Setchell should never have been employed at all – something I’ll deal with in a later post.

Audrey Young of the Herald blogs:

I don’t know which is worse, Helen Clark’s double standards or the State Services Commission’s toadyism in the Madeleine Setchell employment affair.

Deputy State Services Commissioner Iain Rennie rather sweetly relies on the view that Benson Pope’s henchman, Steve Hurring, simply sought information from Logan about Setchell’s private links.

The unspoken question would have more force: Do you realise that your new comms manager will be working closely on some of the campaigns on sustainability and carbon-neutrality we feel certain that the ministry will be planning before the election next year?

If Labour had nothing to hide, it would have nothing to worry about. But the line between legitimate public information and political advertising has become increasingly blurred. That is why Auditor General Kevin Brady instigated a cautioning report before about it the 2005 election.

We always knew the politicians had blurred the line to get money for nothing: the real worry with this case is that it appears the state sector bosses are willing to go along with it.

Colin Espiner has a Tui moment in relation to the PM’s claim there was no political interference.

There’s a certain advertisement for a brand of beer that springs to mind upon hearing that David Benson-Pope was nowhere near the phone call from his office to the chief executive of the Ministry of the Environment.

Yeah, right. Senior political advisers in front-bench ministers’ offices routinely make sensitive telephone calls on employment matters to the heads of their minister’s department without checking with their boss first.

But there was no political interference. Oh, no. It was a simple, innocent phone call to enquire about Setchell’s wellbeing and how she was settling into her new job. Benson-Pope, known as something of a control freak who keeps his staff on a tight leash, had no knowledge of the call and hadn’t heard the rumours swirling around the Beehive that Setchell was the partner of Taylor.

I think I just saw a big pig fly past my Beehive annex window.

Colin also goes on to note that there is a pattern of behaviour here with this Minister:

So the staff member gets the blame. There’s a certain sense of deja vu in all of this. Benson-Pope, who has gone through more press secretaries than he’s had hot Bellamy’s dinners, burned off one of his previous secretaries after he was hung out to dry for leaking a police report clearing Benson-Pope of wrongdoing over allegations he mistreated pupils in his care while a teacher at Bayfield High School.

Pete Coleman got the blame, although it later transpired that Benson-Pope had known of the leak and had authorised it.

Also worth a look at is video shot today of Duncan Garner interviewing Benson-Pope. It is seven minutes long but worth viewing.

Also Colin James has some useful thoughts on the issue, noting:

A person in a minister’s office speaks for the minister. The minister is responsible for what that person says or does as a member of the minister’s office whether or not it is as at the minister’s specific bidding or with the minister’s knowledge.

So, in effect, David Benson-Pope queried the employment of Madeleine Setchell, partner of Kevin Taylor, chief press secretary of Opposition leader John Key.

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