14 Aug 2014

PM happy for police to probe Hager claims

10:30 pm on 14 August 2014

The Prime Minister says he has no objections to police investigating allegations of dirty politics made in Nicky Hager's latest book.

Dirty Politics claims National ministers and staff have repeatedly smeared opponents by feeding damaging information to right-wing bloggers. But John Key says the book is full of baseless allegations and theories which don't stack up.

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John Key talking to the Otago Chamber of Commerce at Forsyth Barr stadium in Dunedin.

Mr Key says Nicky Hager's book makes wild allegations and joins dots that can't be connected. Photo: RNZ / Ian Telfer

Dirty Politics focuses on the internal communications between bloggers Cameron Slater of Whale Oil and David Farrar and a network of National Party figures, including some of the John Key's own staff.

Nicky Hager accuses National staffers of working closely with Mr Slater in 2011 to access and then release Labour Party files in the most damaging manner.

But Mr Key told reporters in Dunedin today that National had nothing to do with that. "Yeah, this is Nicky Hager, one of life's great conspiracy theorists ... Cameron Slater's made it quite clear it had nothing to do with the National Party." He was then asked why the public should believe Mr Slater over Mr Hager and replied that the writer was "making stuff up."

In the book, Mr Hager singles out National Party staffer Jason Ede as a key conduit to right-wing bloggers, especially Mr Slater. Mr Key said while National Party ministers and staff do talk to bloggers, they're doing nothing untoward. He said he totally rejects claims in the book that he or his staff were involved in hacking the Labour Party's website or information releases by the SIS.

Mr Key said Dirty Politics makes all sorts of wild allegations and joined a whole lot of dots that can't be connected. He said Jason Ede no longer works in his office, but does for the National Party and he stands by Mr Ede and his actions.

However, Mr Key said he would take further advice about claims in the book about actions Judith Collins took while she was the minister of ACC and Corrections.

Earlier, National's campaign manager and government minister Steven Joyce rubbished claims in the book that senior party members and staff leaked damaging information to bloggers. Mr Joyce said people regularly brief bloggers - as they do journalists - which was simply part of politics.

Mr Joyce said Mr Hager had written a book with a "combination of breathless allegations about what everybody knows is already happening."

Cameron Slater won't talk to Radio New Zealand, but says he also intends to lodge complaints with the Privacy Commissioner and police because the book was based on material accessed without his permission.

Nicky Hager has said the leaked material for his latest book seemed to have been gathered when Mr Slater's website crashed in January this year.

Nicky Hager speaking to reporters at his book launch on Wednesday.

Nicky Hager speaking to reporters at his book launch on Wednesday. Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

Parties to lay complaints, Labour seeking legal advice

The Green Party and New Zealand First intend to lodge complaints, while Labour is to seek legal advice over claims made in Nicky Hager's book.

The Greens are to complain to the Parliamentary Service about Jason Ede's alleged actions, and are laying complaints with police about allegations that people working for Mr Key disclosed information acquired in their official capacity to their advantage. The party is also complaining to the Privacy Commissioner and the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security.

Co-leader Metiria Turei said today the public deserve answers. "Those allegations surround John Key and his National Government, his ministers and his staff. It is very serious - one of the most serious allegations we've seen in New Zealand politics for some decades. It needs to be taken seriously and properly investigated.

Ms Turei said the public cannot have any confidence in our democracy until the claims are investigated.

New Zealand First Party leader Winston Peters says he has lodged a complaint with Ministerial Services over the book's claim the Prime Minister's office tipped off blogger Cameron Slater about secret documents held by the Security Intelligence Service.

Labour Party leader David Cunliffe told Radio New Zealand's Morning Report programme his party would seek legal advice and said he was not ruling out going to police.

David Farrar has his copy of "Dirty Politics" signed by author Nicky Hager in Radio New Zealand's Morning Report studio.

David Farrar has his copy of "Dirty Politics" signed by author Nicky Hager in Radio New Zealand's Morning Report studio. Photo: RNZ

No collusion, says blogger

David Farrar, founder of right-wing Kiwiblog told Morning Report that Nicky Hager was exaggerating the relationship between his sources and implying ordinary conversations were more sinister collusions.

He said the Prime Minister's office had sometimes sent him information that he may be interested in but it was not secret material. "It tends to be links to newspaper stories etcetera," he said. "All political parties put information out to journalists."

"I've always been very open about who I am, that I'm a National Party member - it would be of no surprise to anyone that people in National sometimes pass information on to people they think might be sympathetic - that doesn't mean you run with it."

Mr Farrar said Cameron Slater was "a bit of a force of nature" and had also attacked National MPs and ministers.

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