Is John Key, politically, a dead man walking?

There are two threads in this posting: a number of the corruptions considered in the preceding posting have been further exposed and would benefit from  further comment, and there are a number of associated issues deserving attention; and how has the media faced up to the challenge of the scandal?

Cameron Slater has confirmed that Key had indeed faxed and rung him to console him for criticism he received for the posting headed ‘Feral dies in Greymouth did the world a favour’. Key said that ‘the mother of a young man who died in a traffic accident was a fucking bitch who screamed at him at Pike River meetings.’

Key has now agreed that Slater did gain access to the Labour Party’s website, but it was not hacking because it was almost ‘open access’. He denied, though, that the National Party was involved, even though Labour has a written apology from the National Party for being involved. Key also denied that the National Party had anything to do with the distribution of information gained from the website, even though Nicky Hager references a number of e-mails between Slater and Jason Ede, from the prime minister’s office, discussing how this should be done.

Where the heat is most searing for Key can be worked out from where the lying is most outrageous. Ede’s role draws the most emphatic denials.

An important point to remember is that the particular corruptions exposed, while extremely serious, are only representative not comprehensive; Hager’s book is based on only a very small part of Slater’s overall files.

Key becomes overwhelmingly obdurate when questioned about Slater getting SIS information under an OIA request and in record time. A member of the public getting an SIS file – oh come on! Not anything to do with him – oh pull the other leg! As minister in charge of SIS only he could have given the file the approval and the hurry-up. The way this situation played out, in this instance against Phil Goff, is typical of the many times this sort of thing happened. A government minister or government operative, using ministry information, would alert a blogger, usually Slater or David Farrar, or the orthodox media, print (often Rachel Glucina of the Herald) or TV, with exact OIA requests to ask, or exact questions to ask of Labour politicians – and so set a trap.

Then there is Key distancing himself from Slater faster than the expansion of the universe. But Key can’t escape his own words; he admitted he ‘regularly called Slater to see what he’s got on his site and mind.’

Apparently Key is all right with Judith Collins giving Slater the name of government servant she suspected of leaking information to Labour. The government servant was vilified by Slater, only for the allegations found groundless.

Three other situations interest me:

  1. A friend of Slater had her ex-partner in Waikeria Prison and didn’t want her daughter visiting him so she asked Slater to have him moved south. Slater agreed and asked Collins to oblige, and three days later she did.
  2. Katharine Rich, the former National Party MP, who became chief executive of the New Zealand Food and Grocery Council, worked with a number of lobbyists to fight attempts at alcohol and tobacco law reform, public health policies aimed at reducing obesity, even the breast feeding campaigns (in the interests of Fonterra). In this Rich was tied in with Slater and his friends. Slater in turn received large amounts of money from the tobacco lobby for posting their propaganda as his writing. And for her ‘good work’ the government appointed Rich to the board of the Health Promotion Agency supposedly to act in the best interests of the nation. This is not directly corrupt, I suppose, but demonstrates the cynicism of the Key government and where its heart lies.
  3. The following situation shows how business interests, employing a right-wing lobbyist, and Slater’s and Farrar’s websites, used ministerial contacts to change government policy to the advantage of those business interests. To protect the workers, the Labour government had brokered an agreement that only cleaning companies in a grouping called BSC could have government cleaning contracts. After a grubby and deceitful series of manoeuvres involving Slater, the lobbyist referred to, Simon Bridges (minister of labour), and Collins, the agreement was removed and the low paid workers were placed in an even more unenviable position.

This ladies and gentlemen is your New Zealand under a Key government.

TV is a media disaster area. OK, specialist political programmes have been passable, but the general news programmes, shallow, biased, and tacky: TV 3 and Campbell Live, in relation to expectation, a major disappointment. The Hager issue – aside from the Christchurch earthquake – is the issue of the century but TV 3 has been handling it like a small-time political matter with a limited shelf life. Then there is TV 3’s Paul Henry. To have that lounge-lizard Paul Henry running a news half hour is a media obscenity, after all, even the Aussies couldn’t tolerate him. We’re over you Paul. On the Paul Henry Show, the Hager book, in melodramatic fashion, was shown being delivered by courier to the studio (in effect a mild send up); then out of the dim lighting, Charles Finny appears before us, of no known address apparently, being introduced simply as a speed reader. All the time there prevailed that louche, sleazy atmosphere to be associated with Paul Henry. Charles Finny, looking like an associate of Long John Silver was shown from time-to-time, absorbed in Hager’s book. When the latter-day pirate (to my mind) was interviewed by Henry, he was able to rasp out that there wasn’t anything new in it – perhaps that shouldn’t surprise us because he is late of the prime minister’s office, now of the right-wing lobbyists, Saunders Unsworth, itself the focus of criticism in one of Hager’s books. Jeez – what a sordid world. This latter-day pirate (as I saw him) went on to say it wouldn’t cost National a vote. Would you care to a bet on that, you …?

Sorry, too much reading of Slater in Hager’s book has affected my sense of propriety.

For TV 1, Corin Dann, fair but cautious, but Mike Hoskins, a right-wing smart alec, an apologist for the National Party is national farce. TV 1 is a toxic swamp of right-wingers. My suggestion, sell TV 1 and 2, and set up an independent, public broadcasting station.

National Radio has to be very good (except for Jim Mora who is sneaky National). Indeed, Guyon Espiner provided a Nixon moment in his interview with John Key this morning.

As for print, the Dominion has at last found its feet, but with the Herald much quicker off the blocks, also the Sunday-Herald to the Sunday-Star Times which was execrable. John Armstrong, for the Herald, continues to be the hero amongst heroes. The Herald, though, has thrown up some oddities. Fran O’Sullivan allows the occasional fair moment in her column but she is solid National.  O’Sullivan, in reference to the e-mails, said that seeing would be believing – now with the dump, she will say, they tell us nothing new. How must John Roughan be feeling? Loaded with coin as he is from his hagiographic biography of Key, the book, unsurprisingly, entirely misses the Slater story. The Listener has yet to show its hand, but I suppose we can expect something along the lines of the ‘Freud and the Slaters: father and son,’

There is, of course, the Dotcom revelation to come. At a guess it will be about the film moguls demanding something from Obama in return for their over-size election donations, namely Dotcom’s head on plate. The revelation could be the moguls asking Obama to contact the New Zealand prime minister suggesting he not oppose Dotcom becoming a temporary citizen, and in that way set Dotcom up for extradition. Oh well! Just a guess.

Finally, an idea that came through in the Slater e-mails was the strong pressure from many in National for Key to toughen up. Key’s response, I believe, was to pick on teachers – a perfect combination: they were paid by the state, idealistic, philosophically out-of-kilter in the age of Ayn Rand, able to be portrayed as letting the poor down (thus providing an out for government impoverishment policies) – and unionised. Key has bullied teachers mercilessly with more cruel policies in the pipeline. Yes – Mr Smiley is a bully, but his comeuppance could be at hand.

Readers, I suggest, you play your part in making fall the most corrupt government in New Zealand’s history? Is John Key, politically, dead man walking?

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