18 Aug 2014

PM continues to defend staff after email release

8:58 pm on 18 August 2014

Prime Minister John Key is continuing to defend his staff despite emails being released confirming some of the allegations made in the recently released book, Dirty Politics.

Book author Nicky Hager said yesterday that although his source would not allow him to release material, the source himself might. Some of the emails were subsequently released on Twitter this afternoon by someone with the twitter handle of @Whaledump.

Whaledump on Twitter.

Whaledump on Twitter. Photo: TWITTER

The 12 documents on Twitter are screen shots of emails between Whale Oil's Cameron Slater and others, including former Key staffer Jason Ede, the details of which are carried in the book.

They confirm Mr Ede, who now works for the National Party, had contact with Mr Slater over access gained to the Labour Party's private website in 2011.

But Mr Key said he did not believe the emails added anything to the controversy.

"I just don't think New Zealander's care about that issue. I think what they care about is the things we're talking about," he said.

Mr Key denied he was turning a blind eye to the conduct of his office just because the country was five weeks out from a general election.

"What I'm saying is that the person (Mr Ede) is working down at the National Party now and you are offering one perspective of some stolen emails that are not necessarily right."

But Labour Party leader David Cunliffe said the release of the emails provided more information and verified what was in the book.

He said it proved Mr Key's office was directly involved in briefing the Whale Oil website, with the use of Mr Key's office photocopier and staff email.

Prime Minister John Key..

Prime Minister John Key. Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

He called on Mr Key to start answering questions properly on the matters raised in the book.

"I think as the public focusses on the election, they will want answers to these very serious answers to these very serious questions," he said.

"They go to the heart of the prime minister's integrity, his credibility and his responsibilities as Prime Minister and Minister of the SIS (Security Intelligence Service). It does not get more serious than this."

But Mr Key said there was nothing unusual with his office having links with right-wing bloggers. He refused to go into detail about what links his staff had with Mr Slater.

"I'm quite comfortable that our guys will brief right-wing blogs, because that's what's happens on the left," he said.

Mr Key this afternoon said the communications released today were selective but not new.

"He got one series of selected emails, which were hacked, which today are getting put up on a site, and now what we've got is a situation where we're meant to believe verbatim that's right, even though so many of these stories have dissolved before Nicky Hager's eyes," he said.

Pressure over Collins

Mr Key is under pressure to take action against Justice Minister Judith Collins, who has admitted giving information about a public servant to Mr Slater, in the belief the public servant had leaked information to the Labour Party.

Earlier today he would not be drawn on whether Ms Collins' behaviour was appropriate for a minister, and he denied his office helped Mr Slater get information from the SIS.

But Public Service Association acting national secretary Glenn Barclay said Ms Collins should resign, and that her actions fell well below what was expected of a leader.

She had admitted passing information about the public servant to the blogger and must take responsibility for her actions, he said.

"It's definitely not appropriate. Public servants have got an obligation to be politically neutral and they work hard in service to the public and the government of the day.

"It's not appropriate for a minister to misuse her powers in this way."

The public servant and his family were subject to death threats after his identity was published on the blog, Mr Barclay said.

PM told of request

The SIS has confirmed Mr Key's office was informed of an Official Information Act (OIA) request from Mr Slater in 2011 for SIS documents about a meeting between the then Labour leader Phil Goff and SIS director Warren Tucker.

Hager's book questioned how Mr Slater so quickly got a copy of a briefing given to Mr Goff by the SIS and said Mr Key or his office must have been involved.

Mr Key said the request did not come across his desk and he did not sign off on it.

The SIS said it was normal practice to inform the prime minister's office of what was being released under the OIA.

It said neither Mr Key nor his office expressed a view as to whether the information should be released.

Meanwhile, the founder of Christchurch's Student Volunteer Army, formed to help with the earthquake clean-up, said was disgusted by Mr Slater's description of quake victims as scum.

The comment appears in an email quoted in Dirty Politics.

The book said Mr Johnson has been a client of political strategist Simon Lusk, a controversial figure who had helped many politicians on the right of politics.

Mr Johnson said that was not true, although he did receive mentoring from Mr Lusk.

He said he had never been associated with Mr Slater and was shocked by his comments.

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