Judith Collins

Collins cleared; Slater lied

On the same day as the Cheryl Gwynn report was released, we also got the release Justice Chisholm’s report into Judith Collins and the allegations that she undermined former-SFO head Adam Feeley.

The report was ordered after the release of an email from Cameron Slater, detailing Judith Collins’ apparent involvement in a plot to undermine Mr Feeley. The email stated:

“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.”

Cameron Slater’s explanation was that he had “embellished” his email:

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

At the time, I wrote that if Slater had merely embellished, rather than lied, there were still grounds for Collins’ resignation, given the following statements of fact contained in Slater’s email:

  • 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.

Essentially, for the Chisholm report to clear Collins’ name, Justice Chisholm had to find that Slater was a liar. Well, that’s pretty much what happened. Here’s the report at para 272:

“The final point concerns Mr Slater’s evidence. When he was interviewed by the inquiry he was in the unenviable position of trying to justify the contents of some of the emails while at the same time doing what he could to protect Ms Collins. On top of that he was trying to remember conversations that took place about three years ago. While I believe that Mr Slater was genuinely trying to assist the inquiry, I decided that his evidence should be approached with great caution, especially where it conflicted with other evidence or the documentary record. However, having said that, there was little in Mr Slater’s evidence that directly supported the proposition that Ms Collins had undermined or attempted to undermine Mr Feeley.”

The report sets out pieces of the transcript of Slater’s evidence to Justice Chisholm, and on several occasions Slater openly admits that he lied in his email correspondence to make himself look big.

I had assumed that it would be almost impossible for Collins to be cleared, as finding definitively that she had had no involvement in the anti-Feeley conspiracy would undoubtedly be difficult. Nonetheless, the report finds no evidence whatsoever to implicate her. The documentary record supports her evidence, and indeed supports the evidence of all those spoken to as part of the inquiry (Cameron Slater’s evidence aside).

The report has certainly received its share of criticism. Several people weren’t interviewed, who perhaps should have been, including Cathy Odgers. Nonetheless, in Ms Odgers’ case, she had provided a lengthy affidavit, which was accepted by Justice Chisholm. Frankly, I find it hard to see how additional interviews with Odgers or Mark Hotchin could have helped implicate Collins. Cameron Slater was the alleged conduit of information to and from her, and Collins essentially lived or died by his evidence.

And so, Collins has been cleared. Can she make it back as a Minister? You’d have to assume not. The multitude of negative headlines she’s generated since the Oravida scandal must surely have resulted in severe concerns from her colleagues as to her professional judgment and personal character. Stranger things have happened though. If a few currently-serving Ministers suffer meltdowns in their portfolios (a la Corrections), she might just find a pathway back to redemption. In politics, nothing’s impossible…

The 500 hats of Bartholomew Cubbins – the John Key edition

It’s standard practice for Ministers and Prime Ministers to wear different “hats” in the course of their work. Work done as a Minister can obviously be separate and distinct from an MP’s ordinary functions on behalf of the constituents in their electorates. If a person calls their local MP to discuss a local problem, that person is hardly likely to want that discussion to be released to all and sundry under the Official Information Act.

Likewise, John Key is Prime Minister, a Minister, leader of the National Party and electorate MP for Helensville. The internal running of the National Party is separate and distinct from the running of the country, just as his role of dealing with constituency matters is distinct from his role of Prime Minister.

Unfortunately, sometimes the dividing lines can get a little fuzzy. John Key yesterday refused to answer the following Parliamentary question from Russel Norman:

“How many times since November 2008 has he spoken with blogger Cameron Slater on the phone and how many times, if any, has he texted him?”

John Key’s response?

“None in my capacity as Prime Minister.”

Apparently, any phone calls made by Key to Slater were in Key’s capacity as leader of the National Party, rather than Prime Minister. It all seems very ‘angels dancing on the head of a pin’. After all, if Key calls Slater to discuss information that Key would like circulated via Slater’s blog, and that information has come Key’s way because he’s Prime Minister or Minister of a certain portfolio, surely the call cannot simply be classified as National Party business and therefore exempt from Parliamentary questioning or the OIA?

Just because something is in the interests of the National Party, it doesn’t mean that the OIA does not apply. After all, the alleged leaking of information by Judith Collins to Cameron Slater was in her role as Minister of Justice, and any documentation relating to the leaks must surely be subject to the OIA (although see this post at No Right Turn regarding the failure by Collins’ office to log Slater’s OIA requests).

Dishing dirt to bloggers hardly seems an activity that occurs completely outside of a Ministerial or Prime Ministerial ambit. John Key needs to get his hats in order.

UPDATE:

The NZ Herald reports that Parliament’s Speaker, David Carter, has ruled that John Key should have answered at least one of Russel Norman’s questions:

However, one

where Dr Norman asked if Slater was correct when he said Mr Key had told him the mother of a car crash victim was “the same woman f-ing feral bitch that screams at him when he goes to Pike River meetings” should have been answered.
The question “made a connection to the actions of the Prime Minister in response to Pike River Mine Tragedy,” Mr Carter said. “A connection having been made to a matter of ministerial responsibility an informative answer should be given.”

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.

 

Poll of Polls update – 31 August 2014

The latest One News Colmar Brunton poll has just been released, and there’s some interesting results there.

National drop 2%, down to 48%. That’s on top of the 2% they dropped in the mid-August Colmar Brunton poll.

On the left, Labour increased 2% to 28%, while the Greens went up 1% to 12%. That’s a 5% narrowing of the gap by a Labour/Greens alliance. Given the continued floundering by National in the wake of Dirty Politics, and the confident performance by David Cunliffe in the first televised leaders’ debate (which wasn’t covered by the polling window), Labour might be in line for a continued lift in subsequent polling.

For the minor parties, NZ First is up 1% to 6%, providing a clear buffer above the 5% threshold. And there’s a good results for the Conservatives, up 0.8% to 3.2%, although it’s still nowhere near the threshold.

Internet Mana slumps badly, down 2.3% to just 1.6%. Given their headlines have largely consisted of the fallout from the Pam Corkery / campaign launch debacle, the slump is not perhaps surprising.

For the remaining minor parties, the Maori Party drops 0.3% to 0.6%, United Future flatlines on a big round zero, and ACT are down 0.2% to 0.4%.

So here’s how the Poll of Polls looks now:

National: 49.0% (-0.1%)

Labour: 26.8% (nc)

Greens: 12.2% (nc)

NZ First: 5.2% (+0.2%)

Maori: 0.9% (nc)

United Future: 0.2% (nc)

ACT: 0.4% (nc)

Internet Mana: 2.2% (-0.1%)

Conservative: 2.4% (+0.1%)

Based on those percentages, the parties are predicted to win the following number of seats:

National: 61 (nc)

Labour: 33 (nc)

Greens: 15 (nc)

NZ First: 6 (nc)

Maori: 2 (nc)

United Future: 1 (nc)

ACT: 1 (nc)

Internet Mana: 3 (nc)

There’s very little change in the various parties’ percentages. National drops slightly again, but only slightly, while Labour ceases to slide, but doesn’t climb.

NZ First hit 5.2%, giving them a little breathing space above the 5% threshold. They briefly reached 5.2% back at the end of May, before sliding quickly down to 4.5%, so they’ll be pleased to be back at their highest point with a few weeks of the campaign still to run.

The Internet Mana momentum is arrested, although there’s no great fall for them. Meanwhile the Conservatives’ incremental increase continues, although they’re not yet at the level they reached at the last election.

With no change in the allocation of seats, the Right has a total of 63 seats, compared to 51 for a Labour, Greens and Internet Mana alliance. With both United Future and the Maori Party providing overhang seats, National’s 61 seats means they can’t quite govern alone, but the Right bloc would still have enough seats seats to not require NZ First.

If the Maori Party fail to hold Te Tai Hauauru, National governs alone.

With all of the weekend excitement over the political demise of Judith Collins, John Key will be hoping that the heat goes off his government and National’s poll ratings can be sustained. However, with summons’s issued for an 11 September inquiry into Cameron Slater’s OIA request to the SIS, who knows what twists and turns lie in wait ahead.

Given all that’s already happened this election campaign, it’s hard to see how Kim Dotcom’s supposedly explosive revelations will be anything other than a fizzer…

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…

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.

Serious questions for Jared Savage & the NZ Herald

So, further to the Cameron Slater email that felled Judith Collins, there’s a particular line in the email that’s rather troubling:

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.

Perhaps Jared Savage might like to explain what precisely he as a journalist was doing feeding information to Cameron Slater that Savage couldn’t publish himself. If the NZ Herald can’t use certain information in a story, it’s presumably because they’re worried about the legal consequences. So why would a reputable journalist then pass that information on to a blogger to use?

Let’s look at the Len Brown sex scandal story. It wasn’t something any mainstream media outlet was going to touch. Until it was all over the Whaleoil site, which meant that it was now news. Was/Is there a similar modus operandi here from those working at the Herald? We can’t run the story, but if we give it to Slater we can report on what he’s “reported”?

Or was it simply a Herald smear campaign against the then-SFO director? “We can’t report it, but we want to take him down.” Because if that’s the case, that’s not journalism; that’s a vendetta. Worse, it’s a vendetta performed in secret by the very people we are supposed to trust as impartial reporters of fact.

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.

So is National’s campaign “slick” or “a mess”?

Political punditry is definitely a matter of perspective. If you were a Fox News commentator during the last US presidential election, Mitt Romney’s campaign was a dead cert winner; if you were Nate Silver, Obama was going to romp home. (Of course, if you rely on Fox News for your political commentary, you probably deserve to be duped.)

Here in New Zealand, in Election 2014, I’ve just read two very different accounts of the two main parties’ campaigns – Andrea Vance’s ‘The slick and the dead calm‘ and Tim Watkin’s ‘If this was Labour we’d be calling it a mess‘. On the one hand, Ms Vance describes National’s campaign as “slick, polished and organised to the last detail”, while Labour’s “is ad hoc, chaotic and oddly low-energy”.

Her description of Team Key?

National leader John Key whizzed his way across Auckland on Monday, barely pausing for a breath. A brisk shopping centre walkabout was memorable, mainly for the sheer numbers who stopped him for a selfie. The campaign bus rolled up, stacked with supporters in their Team Key sweaters.

Key is merciless in keeping the exchanges swift – a grin for the camera phone, and an exchange of pleasantries and he’s on to the next voter.

And David Cunliffe, campaigning with Tamati Coffey in Rotorua?

The day started with a selfie – and there were plenty – but to be blunt, Coffey was the bigger drawcard.

A stop-off at a local primary school excited pupils, especially when told a Labour government would give them each a tablet. But with only a handful of eligible voters in the room, reporters wondered how effective the visit was.

A scheduled town centre walkabout was delayed by 35 minutes as Cunliffe, Coffey and activists stopped for a curry. “An army marches on its stomach,” Cunliffe said later. On the stroll he talked with eight people, two of whom were in town from overseas.

Cunliffe versus Key is a popularity contest not being fought on a level playing field. The Labour leader has been in the job barely a year, and has struggled against character assassinations from both inside and outside his party. But yesterday his campaign should have been buoyed by Coffey’s star power. Instead, it was inexplicably flat.

Over at Pundit, Mr Watkin’s piece takes a completely different tack to that of Vance. Warning that “It’s easy to get caught up in the daily news cycle”, he steps back to look at the bigger campaign picture and the problems National are facing. There’s the acceptance by Bill English that the economy has “peaked” and that we’re in for slower growth; there’s John Key and Bill English lurching all over the show with their opposing views on whether tax cuts are on the agenda; there’s the shadow of Judith Collins and whatever mistake- or Whaledump-driven headline she’ll generate next.

He concludes:

Put all that together and frankly, it’s a mess for National. On their own, such stories can be put down to the unavoidable rough and tumble of the campaign but the worry for the party’s strategists will be if there’s a cumulative impact.

If it was Labour we’d be saying ‘here we go again’. National’s track record of discipline means commentators are slower to point out the mess when it appears, assuming it’s a blip rather than a trend.

But that’s now for National to prove one way or another. Momentum heading into the final fortnight is crucial, and the fact is National doesn’t have it. Is its campaign plan “dissolving” or can its leadership get back on track?

So there you have it – small picture-wise, National’s going great guns; big picture-wise, they’re staring down the barrel of a possible disaster.

On the plus side for National, it’s difficult to find anyone complimenting Labour on either the big picture or small picture view of their campaign.

Perspective – it’s key.

Last Chance Saloon – John Key’s paper-thin defence of Judith Collins

When Judith Collins was initially confronted by media about the accusation in Dirty Politics that she had leaked former Labour staffer, Simon Pleasants’, name to Cameron Slater, she refused to answer questions. It was all lies, just a smear campaign.

Then she admitted that the allegation was indeed true – she’d provided Slater with Pleasants’ name and job title, as described in the book.

That changed over the weekend. Apparently Cameron Slater already had Pleasants’ name; Collins was merely providing his job title.

Now, with the gradual dumping of the original emails on Twitter by Nicky Hager’s source, we know that Collins also provided Mr Pleasants’ phone and fax numbers, including his cell phones numbers. As with the Oravida scandal-saga, it appears to be a case of waiting to see how the story changes when new information is revealed.

Nonetheless, John Key has announced this morning that he stands by Ms Collins, although her actions were “unwise”. She’s on her Last Chance, but it’s the same Last Chance as she was previously on, not a New Last Chance:

“What she’s on is on her last chance after what happened last time. But at the end of the day she’s also subjected to a left-wing smear campaign. And people will actually see that as well for what it is.”

Matthew Hooton, yesterday on Radio NZ’s Nine to Noon programme, opined that Mr Key needed to fire someone, but that Jason Ede was too far down the food chain. Given her previous behaviour over Oravida, and the final warning that flowed from that, one would have thought she’d be the ideal candidate.

Nonetheless, the script for National still seems to be one of absolute denial wherever possible. Offering up National Party scalps provides Nicky Hager and his allegations with legitimacy. Key seems intent on brazening it out till election day.

To see just how thin Key’s defence of Collins really is, you only have to listen to his Morning Report interview with Guyon Espiner, which Hooton described as Key’s worst in six years. Here’s the Judith Collins segment, with thanks to Karol at The Standard:

ESPINER:  OK. Well what about the behaviour of your minister Judith Collins?  Is it acceptable for her to divulge the name of a public servant, because he may have leaked details ?

KEY: Well I don’t have the details on that one

ESPINER: she suspected he did.

KEY: I just don’t

ESPINER: Well, why don’t you ask her?

KEY: Well because I. A: it’s very. Sorry it’s.  Look to be

ESPINER: In fact, in fact, with respect, Mr Key, she has admitted that. She conceded she did pass on that name.

KEY: Yeah, but I don’t know the details under, of all of that scenario.

ESPINER: So why don’t you ask her?

KEY: Because, at the end of the day, we’re five weeks out from an election, people can see that Nicky Hager’s made a whole lot of things up in his book. He can see that he can’t back a lot of them up.

ESPINER: Well, I’m talking about one that can be backed up. You’re not going to get away with that.

KEY: See he

ESPINER: Because, because, this is one that can be backed up, because the Justice Minister of New Zealand has conceded publicly, that she did pass on the name of a public servant.  That resulted in him getting some pretty severe death threats. And you think that’s, OK?

KEY: And people can see that

ESPINER: It’s OK?

KEY: And people can see

ESPINER: Yes or no? Is it OK?

KEY:  And people can see that this

ESPINER: Is it OK?

KEY: People can see

ESPINER: Is it OK that Judith Collins did that, yes or no?

KEY: And people can see that this is a smear campaign by Nicky Hager and

ESPINER: I’m not asking you for a critique about Nicky Hager’s motivation

Key: Well I

ESPINER: I’m asking you about something that is publicly in the arena. Judith Collins has said, “I passed on the name of this public servant.” And we know what happened after that.

KEY: But the

ESPINER: I’m asking you a simple question. Was that appropriate, Yes or No?

KEY: context  is totally relevant, because at the end of the day, I don’t know all the context of what happened here and in all those situations

ESPINER: You know the context here, Prime Minster. Please answer the question.

KEY: We don’t know

ESPINER: Was it appropriate for your Justice Minister to pass on the name of a public servant doing his job, who was then severely sanctioned on a website?

KEY: So, I don’t know all the details behind all of that. But what I do know, is that this is a series of selected pieces of information. Many of which can’t be backed up. I know that this was

ESPINER: I’m asking you about one of them.

KEY: Yeah, well, I’m not going to go into your individual ones, because in the end, this is a smear campaign, about which, I gotta say, started the week with with people, you know, out there

ESPINER: No, I’m not, you’re not going to talk about burning effigies, etc, because it has nothing to do with this.

KEY: Well, it does [voice hits a squeaky note]

ESPINER: I’m talking No

KEY: to do with this, because, at the end of the day,

ESPINER: No. this is about the behaviour of your Justice Minister. Do you stand by her today?

KEY: Yeah [slightly squeaky voice] I stand by her. And in the end, it does have a lot to with it, because we started the week with burning effigies. Then we went into, into, sorry, FU videos. Then we went into into burning effigies, then we went into Bill

ESPINER: OK, we’re not going to traverse the whole history.  Here’s a final question for you.