Dirty Politics

Rachel Glucina and journalistic ethics (or the lack thereof)

As everyone knows, John Key yesterday became an international laughing stock thanks to his penchant for stroking or yanking women’s ponytails. The blog that yesterday outed the issue kept the waitress’s name secret – her account of John Key’s actions at the cafe where she worked was anonymous. Turns out it didn’t take long for her name to hit the headlines, thanks to the actions of NZ Herald gossip columnist / wannabe-real-journalist Rachel Glucina. You might remember Ms Glucina from Dirty Politics

An excerpt from Nicky Hagar's book Dirty Politics.

An excerpt from Nicky Hager’s book Dirty Politics.

The waitress has detailed her account of Ms Glucina’s overtures here, and, if true, Glucina’s actions (and, indeed, the actions of her editor, Shayne Currie) reflect appallingly on the Herald. Here’s the long and short of it:

  • The Parnell cafe, Rosie, in which this all went down, is owned by Hip Group.
  • Rachel Glucina’s twin brother, Henry, is employed by Hip Group.
  • Ms Glucina, through her brother, therefore personally knows the owners of Hip Group, Jackie Grant and Scott Brown.
  • During a speakerphone conversation with Glucina, the Hip Group owners introduce Glucina to the waitress as a PR expert. (Glucina is in fact in PR. According to her LinkedIn page, she is a director of ‘Pink PR’, specialising in ‘Media strategy, product planning, brand development, public relations’.) During the speakerphone conversation, Glucina’s last name is not mentioned. The waitress agrees to make a joint statement in order to protect her employers’ reputation. She also agrees to a photo being taken of her with her employers, to show they all still had a good relationship.
  • While everyone waits for Glucina to send through the draft statement, the waitress discovers Glucina’s last name. Alarm bells begin to ring. In fact, the waitress googles Glucina, and discovers the headline “Who is Rachel Glucina and why is John Key always phoning her up?”.
  • The waitress’s employers admit that Glucina works for the NZ Herald, but state that Glucina was not acting in her capacity as a journalist.
  • Upon contacting Glucina again, Glucina abruptly claimed that was acting in her capacity as a journalist. Despite the waitress then revoking permission to use the photo or her comments,  the story ends up in the Herald.

Given the ethical questions regarding Ms Glucina’s conduct, Shayne Currie has released a statement (then removed the statement from the Herald website, then re-released it…):

Rachel Glucina approached the Hip Group yesterday, after The Daily Blog broke the story. She knows the Hip Group owners personally. Glucina wanted to follow-up The Daily Blog post and urged the couple to front-foot the issue. She spoke to the couple and the waitress over the telephone. Regardless of any confusion over the initial approach, all three agreed they wanted to make a public statement. They also agreed to pose for a photograph and a Herald photographer was dispatched. They were told by the photographer that the photo would be appearing in the Herald. Herald editor Shayne Currie also spoke to the owners of the Hip Group yesterday afternoon following a call from a PR firm that had already been helping them. “When I spoke to the owners, they told me they had initially thought Rachel was working on a statement to go to all media, along with the photograph. “Given the situation, I wanted to absolutely ensure they knew this interview and photograph were for the Herald. To further ease any concerns, we took the very rare step of agreeing Rachel should run the quotes past the parties before publication. “By then, no one was in any doubt that the article, quotes and photograph would be appearing in the Herald.”

Note the phrase, “Regardless of any confusion over the initial approach, all three agreed they wanted to make a public statement”. And “When I spoke to the owners, they told me they had initially thought Rachel was working on a statement to go to all media, along with the photograph”. Is it just me, or does that corroborate the waitress’s story regarding Glucina’s actions? Why would the owners think a Herald “journalist” would be working on a statement that would go to all media outlets? Herald journalists write for the Herald. They don’t send their stories off as statements to Fairfax et al. “Initial confusion”? For instance, Glucina had told them she was acting as a PR expert? Glucina’s actions smell distinctly rotten, and given her previous Dirty Politics involvement, some on the left have posited that Key and his office must have contracted Glucina for a hit job on the waitress. It’s a conspiracy theory that doesn’t ring true. Key has apologised (albeit with a healthy dose of victim-blaming) and will simply want the story to disappear as soon as possible. He’s been humiliated on an international level, and will want nothing more than for the fuss to die down. Attacking the waitress guarantees that the story will have legs. This is all about Glucina trying to get a scoop, and, at this stage, she appears to have made it very clear that she’s not concerned about letting niceties like journalistic ethics get in her way.

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John Key implodes over the Gwyn report

The Cheryl Gwyn report into the release of SIS information relating to whether Phil Goff was or wasn’t briefed about the Israeli spy saga  was released on Tuesday. It makes for compelling reading as it investigates whether Goff lied, whether then-head of the SIS Warren Tucker behaved inappropriately, and what role the Prime Minister’s Office had in releasing the information to Cameron Slater.

The conclusions were, on occasion, somewhat unexpected. Had Phil Goff lied? Apparently not. It seems that although Mr Tucker briefly provided Mr Goff with a “preliminary document” relating to the Israeli spies, Goff did not read the document, and the matter was brushed over by Tucker. Essentially, both men were right: in Tucker’s mind, he’d briefed Goff on the issue, while in Goff’s mind, he hadn’t received a briefing at all.

The problem that then arose was that Mr Tucker seems to have taken personal affront at having his honesty and professionalism called into question by Mr Goff. To put Goff in his place, Tucker therefore released only selective documentation, which (when read in isolation) appeared to prove Goff a liar. The report drags Tucker over the coals for this, and the SIS has apologised to Goff.

So what then of Mr Slater and his OIA request? Slater’s explanation was that he received a tip-off from someone purporting to be from the SIS. He denied being tipped off by Jason Ede.

There are a few problems with that explanation though. For instance, the report finds that Slater was on the phone to Ede at the same time as his OIA request was made. Slater’s explanation to the media? Ede was in fact trying to persuade Slater not to make the OIA request. Yet, the report states at para 214:

Mr Slater also later provided a series of emails to and from Mr Ede, in which Mr Ede expressed his concern that he “might be in the shit” over his use of the NZSIS information. Mr de Joux explained to the inquiry he was not happy Mr Ede had chosen to work through Mr Slater rather than mainstream media because it would create an unhelpful perception. Mr Slater’s email reply to Mr Ede was that he would simply state that he had an NZSIS source. In the context of Mr Ede’s evidence, I interpreted that email to mean that Mr Slater would claim to have an NZSIS source in order to protect Mr Ede.

Why would Ede be “in the shit” over using SIS information if the tip-off to Slater came from the SIS? And why would Slater assure Ede that he would state he had an SIS source, if Ede actually had nothing to do with tipping of Slater?

So could Jason Ede’s phone and email records provide salvation for him? Well, as it turns out, Ms Gwyn suspects that Ede was using personal phones and email to conduct Prime Minster’s Office work. It’s a pretty blatant ploy by Ede to avoid OIA requirements.

But it gets worse. When asked by Ms Gwyn to disclose his personal emails and phone records, it turned out that he’d already deleted them prior to the commencement of the inquiry. It’s the high-tech version of spending the night in the archives room with the paper shredder…

There’s no provable connection between John Key and any of this, but it’s almost impossible to deny that his office didn’t play a role. Nonetheless, Key has gone on the offensive, attempting to argue that the report shows that his staff did absolutely nothing wrong. Of course, the report says nothing of the sort. In fact, it concludes that Jason Ede tipped off Cameron Slater, and it rejects Slater’s explanation that someone in the SIS tipped him off.

The email trail makes a mockery of Slater’s attempt to get Ede off the hook, and John Key’s attempt to argue otherwise has made him a laughing stock. Just check out his disastrous interview with Mary Wilson on Radio NZ’s Checkpoint programme on Tuesday evening. Likewise, his performance yesterday afternoon in the House was farcical, with Andrew Little memorably skewering him with the line:

“Why doesn’t he just cut the crap and apologise to New Zealand for running a smear campaign out of his office?”

“Cut the crap” now seems to have taken on a life of its own, propelling Little to cult hero status amongst the Left, not quite what Key would have intended.

Then it got worse for Key, having to return to Parliament to correct one of his question time answers, to admit that the day before the report was released, he’d had text message communication with Cameron Slater. He’d “misinterpreted” the initial question, and apparently hadn’t understood that communication with Slater in the past week would include text messages…

Key is evidently hoping that, just like the initial pre-election Dirty Politics furore, this second round will simply pass the public by. To a certain extent, he’s probably right. Almost no one will read the Gwyn report, and the non-partisan centre-ground of voters will continue to assume that what happens in John Key’s office probably also happens in the Labour leader’s office.

Nonetheless, Key’s facade of being an honest, everyman, non-politician takes another big hit. With every Mary Wilson interview and every attack by Patrick Gower at 6pm, Key becomes Just Another Politician.

The odds on National winning a fourth term in Government just lengthened.

Where to from here for National?

If John Key wants to have a stab at a fourth term as Prime Minister, there’ll be no one in the party to stop him. He’s weathered the Dirty Politics and Moment of Truth storms, and come out the other side with an increased majority.

Now it’s time for a clean up. Jason Ede has already resigned, which is perfect timing for National. An announcement prior to the election would have looked like an admission of guilt, just prior to people walking into the polling booth. This way, it’s lost in the honeymoon maze, and when the House returns to sit, the opposition will have lost another line of attack.

You’d hope that National’s leadership has learned its lesson from the Dirty Politics saga, and will keep people like Cameron Slater at bay. National may have romped home, but Brand Key has lost a touch more of its shine in the process. National’s result wasn’t necessarily as much an endorsement of John Key’s charms as a rejection of the state of the Left.

And hopefully, National MPs (and prospective MPs) lower down the food chain learn from the reaction within National to the Dirty Politics claims regarding Slater and Lusk’s involvement in the Rodney electorate selection process. If anyone finds out you’ve contracted Slater or Lusk to run interference for you, you’ll hopefully be toast.

Of course, the big issue for National, as they seek re-election in 2017, is the same one that kept them awake at night over the last three years – coalition partners. The election results for ACT and United Future were risible. National will give them roles in this new Government though, partly as a reward for six years of loyalty, partly in the vain hope that they might against all odds surge again in popularity and offer National more assistance at getting over the line in three years time.

Likewise, the Maori Party will be offered a role again too. Te Ururoa Flavell has been very clear that the Maori Party cold work with both National or Labour. National will be keen to keep Flavell onside.

But what if that’s not enough? What if ACT and United Future remain unappetising minnows, and Team Key needs a few more seats next time? Does National build up the Conservatives in the hope that they’ll supplant NZ First?

Once the honeymoon fades, Steven Joyce and the rest of the strategy team will undoubtedly be pondering what needs to be done to ensure a victory in three years time.

The deconstruction – what went down

So, in the end it wasn’t even close. Unless the special votes are dramatically out of kilter with the votes counted on election night, National has the numbers to govern alone.

The worse-case scenario now for National is that they lose a seat to the Greens, meaning that National would need one of either ACT or United Future to pass legislation. It’s not such a terrible worst-case for the Nats – both ACT and United Future are entirely dependent on National for their continued survival; they wouldn’t be giving National too much stick. Besides, as Graeme Edgeler writes at Public Address, if the special votes are distributed in the same proportions as in 2011, there’ll be no change to the makeup of Parliament.

So how has National managed to defy the laws of electoral gravity, while Labour plumbs new depths, and the minor parties are all left licking their wounds? For me, there are five main issues.

Firstly, the public were happy with our current economic stability. On The Nation, just before National released its tax “policy”, Bill English couldn’t highlight a single new idea that National would bring to the table to spur economic growth. It turns out the public weren’t too unhappy about that. People presumably looked at the economic mess that exists in the US, the EU and across the ditch in Australia, and thought that things were actually pretty good here. Labour’s ideas might have sounded interesting, but would they work? Do I trust Labour to mess around with Kiwisaver rates, and what will the effect be on my weekly take-home pay?

Secondly, for almost three years (and another three before that, if you include the Goff years), Labour has presented itself as a chaotic pack of self-absorbed in-fighters, too busy playing identity politics and sticking the knife into opposing factions to give a damn about Middle New Zealand. Labour may have stayed on message with grim determination during the actual campaign, but by then it’s a bit late. Staying on message for six weeks cannot outweigh more than two and a half years of self-mutiliation. The public had already made up its collective mind that Labour were a pack of muppets.

Thirdly, the public were happy with our current political stability. Put simply, Internet Mana scared the hell out of people. I’ve lost track of the number of people I’ve talked to who weren’t necessarily National Party fans, but who wanted Kim Dotcom’s hands nowhere near the levers of power. Those people likely voted National. The Left may point to ACT or Colin Craig, and ask what’s the difference? Well, part of the reason Colin Craig didn’t get the endorsement he wanted was that National’s polling indicated National would take a 2-3% hit if they gave Craig a seat, so there’s not necessarily much of a difference there. And ACT simply isn’t seen as a threat these days; it’s been dependent on National for so long that it’s been politically neutered. Internet Mana, on the other hand, was a frightening unknown; a Frankenstein mix of hard-left activism and big money.

Fourthly, Dirty Politics largely wiped out any emphasis on policy. Yes, the policy was out there, and Dirty Politics almost didn’t feature during the leaders’ debates, but a huge chunk of the election campaign was lost to it. The minutiae of the allegations were largely lost on the public. Judith Collins made an easy villain, and she resigned – case largely closed. Dirty Politics wasn’t seen as a reason to change a Government.

Finally, the Moment of Truth. It was the moment where Kim Dotcom took his credibility out behind the bike sheds and hit it with both barrels, making himself (and the Left, by association) look like idiots. But it also inspired a large dose of parochialism in the dying week of the campaign. “I’m not going to be lectured to by a bunch of foreigners” – it was a phrase I heard rather a lot of, in various permutations. On The Nation yesterday, David Farrar told Lisa Owen that his polling for National showed a jump in National’s support following the Moment of Truth.

Kim Dotcom and his Moment of Truth may have handed John Key those final few seats he needed to attain the ability to govern alone.

 

Blomfield v Slater : the judgment

So Cameron Slater is now officially a journalist, for the purposes of the Evidence Act 2006. Here’s a copy of the High Court’s judgment, thanks to Peter Aranyi at The Paepae (whose post ‘High Court serves a mixed bag for PR attack blogger Cameron Slater‘ is worth reading).

With the unfolding of the Dirty Politics saga after the High Court appeal hearing had occurred, commentators had wondered whether the Judge would reopen the hearing. Mr Blomfield attempted to produce additional evidence that had flowed from the Dirty Politics book, but was quickly rebuffed. In the judgment, Asher J merely notes that leave was declined to introduce further evidence “on the basis that it is hearsay or privileged”.

This gives rise to elements of (possibly) unintentional humour, such as where the Judge states at para 66, “While he [Slater] will often refer to other materials, there was no evidence presented to suggest that he was only regurgitating the writings of others”. Given the evidence presented in Dirty Politics, that Slater was regularly receiving posts written by Carrick Graham and others, and posting them word for word under his own byline, one wonders whether Asher J winced as he wrote that.

Nonetheless, the Court confirms that Slater is a journalist and that the Whaleoil blog is a news medium, as defined in s 68(5) of the Evidence Act. Essentially, Whaleoil was considered big enough, and Slater considered a regular enough breaker of stories and provider of news content, to meet the requisite definitions.

There are some interesting observations in the judgment about whether bloggers could generally be considered to be journalists, and blogs generally considered to be news mediums. For example:

[54] I have no doubt that many bloggers are not journalists because they are not obtaining and disseminating news to the public or a section of the public on a regular basis. Some may not deal with news in the sense of providing new or recent information, and some may not deal sufficiently with the public or a section of the public. Nevertheless, I conclude that a blogger who regularly disseminates news to a significant body of the public can be a journalist. Given that the medium must be “for the dissemination to the public of news …” a blog that publishes a single news item would not qualify. The blog must have a purpose of disseminating news. Some regular commitment to the publishing of news must exist before a blog is a news medium.

and:

[61] I accept that a news medium that was shown to be using news as a basis for comment only might not be a news medium. I also accept that a news medium that published articles of such a low standard that they could not objectively be regarded as “news” might not qualify. Although the definitions in s 68(1) do not include a quality requirement, quality would be relevant to the extent that a writer who was shown consistently to invent stories or be inaccurate on a regular basis might not qualify. An article that is false is not news. I deal with what is a “journalist’s work” in the next section.

That means that very few blogs might actually be considered to be news mediums, and that very few bloggers might be considered to be journalists, but I’ll examine that issue in a separate post.

Suffice it to say that Cameron Slater achieved a victory in part one of the judgment – as a journalist, he (quoting from para 92) “is in general entitled not to disclose the identity or identities of his informant(s)”.

But that of course was merely the beginning. Justice Asher then had to address the issue of whether, pursuant to s 68(2) of the Evidence Act, the public interest in the disclosure of the source’s identity outweighed firstly, any likely adverse effect of the disclosure on the source or any other person, and secondly, “the public interest in the communication of facts and opinion to the public by the news media and, accordingly also, in the ability of the news media to access sources of facts”.

Section 68(2) poses a tough threshold. The ability to maintain confidentiality of sources can be fundamentally important to the ability of journalists to do their job effectively. Without the ability to promise to a source that their identity will not be revealed, journalists would effectively be neutered in their ability to hold the powerful to account.

Justice Asher adopted the five step process originally set out in Police v Campbell [2010] 1 NZLR 483 by Randerson J:

(a)  The issues to be determined in the proceeding;

(b)  The public interest in the disclosure of the identity of the source in the light of the issues to be determined, if any;

(c)  The likely adverse effects of disclosure on the informant or any other person, if any;

(d)  The public interest in the protection of communication of facts and opinion to the public by the news media and the ability of the news media to assess sources of facts, if any; and

(e)  Whether factor (b), if it exists, outweighs factors (c) and (d).

In the course of working through the five step process, Asher J is often scathing of Slater (as scathing as a Judge can be when they’re only ruling on an interlocutory application, with the substantive application still to be heard). Justice Asher notes at para 114:

As a general proposition, when a journalist such as Mr Slater has presented to the public extreme and vitriolic statements about a person such as Mr Blomfield alleging, as he has, serious crimes by him, there is a public interest in the fair airing of those statements and the circumstances of their making when the issues are traversed in defamation proceedings. The vitriolic remarks indicate that Mr Blomfield is a danger to society. The remarks being deliberately put in the public domain by Mr Slater show there is a public interest in all the circumstances relevant to Mr Blomfield’s challenge.

Likewise, at para 118, Asher J states:

The pleaded expressions of opinion of Mr Slater are extreme. He accuses Mr Blomfield amongst other things of the exploitation of trust involving children, and of being involved in wrongly changing the amounts shown as donations. It is said that he ripped off a charity, that he is a psychopath and that he loves extortion, that he is a pathological liar, that he launders money, and that he is part of a network of crooks. Some of the exchanges between the alleged informants and Mr Slater show a gleeful attitude towards his shaming Mr Blomfield. In one blog post Mr Slater referred to the portable hard-drive as “just over 1 Tb of juicy dirt”. In the context of such extremely perjorative assertions, whether the pleaded honest opinion was genuine is likely to be very much an issue.

Essentially, the Court found that Slater’s Whaleoil campaign against Blomfield was in the nature of a personal vendetta and/or a personal or commercial attack. Or at least, that it’s likely enough that it was, that Blomfield needs disclosure of the source to be able to properly prosecute his case. With the only adverse effects of disclosure to the source being the possible joinder as a party to defamation proceedings, the Court deemed that there was no public interest in Slater’s protection of the source.

In the end, it’s rather a Pyrrhic victory for Slater. Despite being found to have been a journalist, he still has to disclose his source, and the Court’s unflattering description of his and his source’s prima facie motives would suggest that a rather large rabbit will need to pulled from a hat for Slater to avoid a significant loss in the substantive defamation proceedings. Certainly, the revelations (or, for some, confirmations) in Dirty Politics that Slater performs corporate and personal character assassinations for money will hardly have helped his case.

Cameron Slater – journalist? Yes.

Back in May, I wrote a post entitled ‘Cameron Slater – journalist?‘. Well, now, apparently, the question mark is no longer required. Justice Asher, in the High Court, has over-turned the District Court’s decision that Slater was not a journalist.

The decision doesn’t surprise me. In my original post I argued that for all the Whaleoil blog’s faults (and there are many, publicised at length in and since the release of Nicky Hager’s Dirty Politics), Whaleoil was a news medium and Slater was a journalist under the very broad definition provided in s 68(5) of the Evidence Act.

The full decision has yet to be made publicly available. At the time of posting, Cameron Slater has merely released a picture of the first sentence of para 145 of the judgment, which states:

“Therefore, Mr Slater was a journalist and Whale Oil a news medium, and he could invoke the protection in s 68(1).”

What Cameron Slater doesn’t say is that he is still required by the Court to disclose his source, as there is no public interest in the source’s identity being protected. As AAP reports:

Although Whale Oil was considered journalism Slater still has to disclose his sources because the case wasn’t in the public interest, the sources weren’t whistleblowers, and the case had the mark of a “private feud”, Justice Asher said.

“Any public interest in protecting sources must be further diminished when there is evidence that a personal vendetta appears to be driving the disclosures,” he said.

I’ll post more fully once the judgment is made public.

National’s amorphous tax cut plan

Tax cuts – they’re coming, in April 2017, should National be re-elected. Maybe. Depending on whether economic and fiscal conditions allow.

But what form will these tax cuts take? That’s a good question, to which no one is any the wiser. By April 2017, National projects that they’ll have accrued a pool of $1.5 billion, of which apparently $1 billion will be set aside for tax cuts, while the remaining $500 million will go towards debt reduction. Tax cuts will be targeted to lower and middle income earners, but how National intends to structure the cuts is a mystery.

And what will these lower and middle income earners receive in their back pockets? Well, here things get really strange. Last week, John Key was pulling numbers from thin aid, pondering anything from $10, $20, $30… Then over the weekend on The Nation, Bill English was denying that any numbers had been floated at all, and come the official announcement on Monday, nary a number was in sight.

The lack of numbers has given David Cunliffe carte blanche to wander round waving a $10 note, telling all and sundry that that’s all, folks. National can hardly refute him, given that they don’t seem to know themselves.

I can understand that National would be wary of relying too much on Treasury’s three year projections. After all, Treasury projections can be remarkably inaccurate in just the short term. Nonetheless, would it be that difficult for the Finance Minister to say, “If these projections are reasonably accurate, here’s our expectation of how our proposed tax cuts would be structured. Obviously, if the projections change, we’ll need to revise how we do it.”

One gets the feeling that this is National’s particular brand of policy-making on the hoof; an awkward diversion from Dirty Politics that hasn’t yet been debated in any policy back room. Certainly, neither John Key nor Bill English seemed to have spent much time making sure their song sheets were as one.

At the end of the day (to use a now-universally reviled phrase), National’s tax cuts announcement is more of a vision statement than a coherent policy. National wants to draw a line between its goal of largely capping Government spending and eventually lowering taxes, and Labour’s intention to increase spending via its Capital Gains Tax policy.

Of course, the Labour and National positions aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive. I’m a fan of a broad-based tax system, with all income treated equally, regardless of source. That of course requires a comprehensive CGT, and a CGT means that other tax rates can be lowered to take into account the additional Government revenue. Labour’s (less than comprehensive) CGT is certainly all about funding extra spending in the short-term, but longer-term, Labour may be intending to use the increased revenue to fund tax cuts.

On The Nation, David Parker left the door open for tax cuts at a higher rate than National. Of course, future tax cuts weren’t “promised”, but Parker stated:

 No, we’re actually not promising tax cuts. We’ve said that we’ve left open the possibility of tax cuts. Our promises are to run Budget surpluses and to reduce net government debt to 3% of GDP by the end of our second term.

Then, when asked, “So you’re leaving open the possibility, as you put it, of tax cuts that are a higher rate than National?”, Parker replied, “Yes, we are.”

It’s a position that’s even more amorphous than National’s, but National doesn’t want the focus on the distant possibility of tax cuts under Labour. They want voters to be performing a very simple comparison: tax and spend under Labour (that old National mantra) versus fiscal restraint under National.

Can the Conservatives make 5%?

Back when John Key confirmed there would be no East Coast Bays deal for Colin Craig, I happily wrote off the Conservative Party. With no hope of winning an electorate seat, they had no choice but to make 5% of the vote, which was one hell of a long shot.

However, if I cast my eye around the internet, I’ve apparently been far too early to write them off. In the NZ Herald this morning, there’s John Roughan talking up the Conservatives in his opinion piece “Craig’s day in the sun may dawn“. The latest Herald Digipoll says National voters would prefer a coalition with the Conservatives, rather than NZ First. And over at the Dim-Post, Danyl McLauchlan publishes his bias-adjusted tracking poll and predicts “The Conservatives will probably cross the 5% threshold.”

Personally, I stand by my prediction that the Conservatives won’t make it. One poll has had them over 4%; the three polls released yesterday had them on 2.4%, 2.9% and 3.8% respectively. This site’s Poll of Polls has them on just 2.7%; increasing week by week, but not nearly with enough momentum to get even close to 5%.

Most of the recent polls have shown a combined NZ First / Conservatives vote of between 9.5% and 10%. The only time this year the two minor (small-c) conservative parties have got above 10% is in the second-to-last Reid Research poll, in which the Conservatives reached their 4.2% high point, and the combine NZ First / Conservatives vote was 10.9%. With NZ First reaching 6% or higher in four of the last six polls, that doesn’t leave enough of the natural small-c conservative constituency to get Colin Craig and his party over the line.

Colin Craig is losing the battle with Winston Peters. And although Craig may have benefited by a percentage point or two from the Dirty Politics fallout, that boat now appears to have floated, with the hacker, Rawshark, pulling the pin following yesterday’s interim injunction against media publishing any newly leaked material.

To my mind, the only way that the Conservatives will make it in to Parliament is if John Key gives National Party supporters an explicit statement that it’s okay if they vote Conservative. The reason John Key is unlikely to do that is that there’s still a risk that the Conservatives still only get close to 5%, without reaching that vital threshold, and a greater chunk of the centre-right vote is wasted.

Key will be hoping that with the minor party leader’s debates now over, the spotlight will shift back to the battle between Key and Cunliffe. Colin Craig will be left fighting for oxygen, and the Conservative Party’s rise will stagnate or even reverse.

It’s either that, or a vain hope from National that the Conservatives somehow surge on their account, cleanly making the 5% threshold, and allowing National to put together a coalition that doesn’t involve NZ First. I wouldn’t bet on it though…

Enemies without and enemies within

Yesterday, when the news of Judith Collins’ resignation broke, I asked where the Cameron Slater email had come from. It hadn’t been released by Whaledump, and it hadn’t featured in Dirty Politics. Instead, it had been sent to the Prime Minister’s office.

John Key clarified yesterday that the email was not sent anonymously. Instead, the email came from a person who was known to the PM’s office, but the identity of that person was not going to be released.

Well, we don’t know just whose hands the incriminating email passed through on its way through the Beehive to John Key and his staff, but according to the Sunday Star-Times this morning, the source of the email was Cathy Odgers aka Cactus Kate, Cameron Slater’s partner in crime:

Knowing Fairfax was investigating the hacked emails, it is believed Odgers (known by the blog name Cactus Kate) went through her own emails and found some that could be seen as implicating Collins. This correspondence then found its way to a Beehive staffer on Friday.

“I take it you found the smoking gun,” Odgers said in an email to Fairfax shortly before Collins resigned. She declined to comment further yesterday.

In fact, Fairfax did not have that particular incriminating email, and the hacker known as Rawshark said yesterday he did not have it either. “That email wasn’t leaked by me, I had nothing to do with it,” said Rawshark, who was also the source for Nicky Hager’s book Dirty Politics.

Exactly who Odgers provided the email to, and why, isn’t clear. If she had assumed that the SST already had the email, it was presumably an attempt to tip the Government off regarding the coming storm. Slater must now be wondering whether his friend Odgers had anticipated that Collins’ scalp was an inevitability the moment the email was provided by her to the National Party.

And the timing isn’t clear either. There seem to be conflicting accounts of what date it was received by National Party staffers, and what the chain of custody was before it arrived at the Ninth Floor.

Regardless of the exact dates, times and chains of custody, Slater and Collins must be spitting tacks. All that talk of “giving back double”, and then to discover that the person they need to give back double to is Cathy Odgers…

Judith Collins resigns

Oravida and the mysterious Chinese border control official, the Simon Pleasants leak, Bronwyn Pullar’s Privacy Commission complaint, plotting to roll John Key after the election – the allegations just kept coming.

Now there’s the allegation that she conspired with Cameron Slater and others to discredit former Serious Fraud Office director Adam Feeley. This while she was Minister of Justice – the Minister in charge of the SFO.

She’s resigned as a Minister, and John Key has accepted that resignation. As with the Oravida saga, she believes that she’s the victim here (the vast left wing smear campaign continues…), and she’s resigning to focus on clearing her name. She’ll be staying on as MP for Papakura though, although John Key, in his press conference at the Beehive, made it clear that she could not expect a Ministerial role if National is re-elected (not at least until her name is cleared).

A 2011 email from Slater to Carrick Graham and others was sent anonymously to John Key’s office last night.

The Cameron Slater email that has resulted in Judith Collins' resignation

The Cameron Slater email that has resulted in Judith Collins’ resignation

The email includes the following paragraphs (some grammar/spelling fixed):

I am maintaining daily communications with Jared Savage at the Herald and he is passing information directly to me that the Herald can’t run and so are feeding me to run on the blog. In the meantime I also have additional information flowing in via my tipline. That information will be drip fed into the media or via my blog.

and

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.

Given the allegations in Dirty Politics that Judith Collins was responsible for so many of the leaks that poured through the Whaleoil “tipline”, it’s hard to escape the possibility that Collins was both sending and receiving information regarding Feeley. Even if nothing flowed from her to Slater on the subject, the fact that she was at least briefed by Slater on a smear campaign against the head of the SFO is more than grounds for her resignation. That would be unacceptable from any Government Minister, let alone the Minister in charge of the SFO.

Of interest is where the email came from. It wasn’t released by Whaledump, and one would assume that if Nicky Hager had had it in his possession, it would have featured prominently in Dirty Politics. Was Slater hacked twice, or has someone in Slater’s inner circle turned against him?

Regardless of the provinence of the email, Judith Collins’ career is now officially in tatters. Since the Oravida story broke, the likelihood of her ever becoming leader of the National Party and Prime Minister was ever-decreasing. Now, the odds have to be as close to zero as they come.