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.