15 Nov 2011

Key defends complaint over 'tea tape'

6:52 pm on 15 November 2011

National Party leader John Key has defended making a complaint to police about the secret recording of his cafe meeting with the ACT Party's Epsom candidate, John Banks.

Mr Key laid a complaint with police on Monday over his discussion with Mr Banks being recorded without their knowledge.


Freelance cameraman Bradley Ambrose left a microphone on the table during the meeting at the Auckland cafe on Friday, organised as a public endorsement from National of Mr Banks' campaign for the Epsom seat.

Mr Ambrose gave the recording to the Herald on Sunday, which says it has decided not to publish the contents for legal and ethical reasons.

Mr Key on Tuesday said he is drawing a line in the sand to protect other people's privacy.

He said he was concerned about the principle, giving as an example a scenario in which a high profile New Zealand couple are recorded discussing their suicidal son who then kills himself after the story is run in a Sunday newspaper.

Earlier, he compared the recording with the News of the World scandal in Britain which involved phone hacking over a number of years and the use of private investigators by the now defunct newspaper.

Tape row 'a political spat'

However Labour Party leader Phil Goff says police have more important things to do than being drawn into a political spat between the National Party and the Herald on Sunday.

"Why doesn't John just front up, say what was said in the conversation. (There's) no point saying it's a private conversation ... it was a public event, a media stunt."

Mr Key said he does not believe the public would expect him to release the details of the 'cup of tea' conversation with Mr Banks, nor would they think he was trying to keep secret information that should be released.

He told TV3 on Tuesday that the public knows the conversation is likely to be pretty bland as otherwise the Herald on Sunday would simply have printed it and sorted out the issues later.

ACT president Chris Simmons has meanwhile rejected any suggestions Don Brash's leadership is under threat or that the matter might have been discussed at the cafe meeting.

"There's nothing to the hints that you're hearing at the moment - the team's just totally focussed on a November 26 election and achieving a good result."

ACT leader Don Brash has told TV3 that Mr Banks assured him there was nothing on the tape that might embarrass either of them.

Labour's campaign spokesperson Grant Robertson says he is surprised Mr Key has gone to the police. He says doing so simply gives the matter more oxygen.

"It feels like there's bit of panic going on from Mr Key about this, and really it just raises the question again of just exactly what was said between John Banks and John Key that would lead him to be so concerned," says Mr Robertson.

Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei told Morning Report the controversy over the tapes is taking away attention from the real issues, and it would be politically wise for Mr Key to disclose the content of the conversation and move on to other subjects.

But she says Mr Key and Mr Banks did have a right to expect that their private conversation would not be recorded.

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters says the police complaint is clearly intended to divert attention from the matter.

However, Mr Key says that's not the case. "If there was something explosive on that tape they would have printed and asked questions later. The reality is that in my view they deliberately sought to get a tape and they deliberately sought to try and get information."

"That's News of the World tactics and there's no place for it in New Zealand," he says.