Cameron Slater – lies, or the art of puffery?

Cameron Slater’s email to Carrick Graham, Mark possibly-Hochin and one mystery identity may have sunk Judith Collins’ political career, but Slater is standing steadfastly by her. Reading a pre-prepared statement yesterday, and taking a few media questions, he denied that Collins had done what the email said she’d done.

So was he lying in the email? Apparently not. According to Slater, he was exaggerating the truth:

“Embellished is a good word. It’s better than a lie, isn’t it?”

It’s worth looking at precisely what Slater wrote about Judith Collins’ involvement in the conspiracy to undermine then-SFO director Adam Feeley:

“I also spoke at length with the Minister responsible today (Judith Collins). She is gunning for Feeley. Any information that we can provide her on his background is appreciated. I have outlined for her a coming blog post about the massive staff turnover and she has added that to the review of the State Services Commissioner. She is using his review of these events to go on a trawl looking for anything else. It is my opinion that Feeley’s position is untenable.”

There are a few definite statements of fact there:

  • Slater spoke to Collins, and the conversation was at least partly about Feeley.
  • Slater discussed with Collins his Whaleoil campaign against Feeley.
  • Collins stated that she intended to pass on Slater’s blog material to the State Services Commissioner.

Now the rest of the paragraph could be explained away by simple puffery. For example, Collins says a few intemperate things about Feeley in a topic of conversation initiated by Slater, which Slater describes as Collins “gunning for Feeley”. He assumes she’d be interested in more material on Feeley being passed to her. She pats him on the head and tells him he’s doing good work with his blog.

Nonetheless, even if everything that isn’t a statement of fact is merely Slater demonstrating his elevated sense of self-importance to his business partners, Carrick Graham et al, the statements of fact in themselves raise serious issues with Collins’ conduct.

Collins was Minister of Justice. As part of her role, she was the Minister in charge of the SFO. And in that role, she had a conversation with a blogger who informed her that he was about to undertake a campaign to torpedo the head of the SFO. Rather than telling the blogger that such a course of action is entirely inappropriate, she instead gives him a green light to go for it. After all, when you tell someone that you’ll pass their material on to the State Services Commissioner, and you don’t tell them to then pull their head in, that’s a green light.

So if Slater wasn’t lying in his email, that’s the best case for Collins, and that, to my mind, is resignation material on its own. And if the true situation is less than best case? Well, Collins won’t ever be returning as a Minister.

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