27 Nov 2014

PM's contact with blogger questioned

8:03 am on 27 November 2014

Prime Minister John Key's contact with blogger Cameron Slater about a report on the Security Intelligence Service the night before it was released beggars belief, the leader of the Labour Party says.

John Key

John Key Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

The Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security, Cheryl Gwyn, released a report on Tuesday that found the SIS released inaccurate and misleading information leading to unfounded criticism of former Labour Party leader Phil Goff.

Since the report was made public, the Government has been attacking Mr Goff, accusing him of leaking some of its content to the media.

Late yesterday afternoon, a screen shot of an email conversation between Mr Slater and another blogger emerged which mentioned that he had been texting John Key the night before the report was released.

Whale Oil blogger Cameron Slater.

Cameron Slater Photo: Supplied

Mr Slater says the screen shot is genuine but the conversation was not about the content of the report - rather he says he told Mr Key that he had been told Phil Goff had leaked parts of the report, so he was passing that on.

Not long after the screen shot emerged, the Prime Minister returned to Parliament to correct his earlier answer, confirming the exchange of text messages with Mr Slater about the report.

"On Monday the 24th of November I received an unsolicited text message from Mr Slater with a reference to the IGIS report. There was a very short exchange where I briefly acknowledged that text message."

Late last night the Prime Minister's Office released a transcript of the text exchange:

Cameron Slater: [journalist] gave it away to me ... Goff leaked SIS report Nov 24

Prime Minister: It's a joke isn't it. They will attack Jason for talking to u and they break the confidentiality agreement. Classic lab. Nov 24

CS: Yup ... I'm very angry over it ... Goff is the one who leaked oravida stuff too. Nov 24

CS: They still have standard bloggers on staff Nov 24

CS: And Mccarten was involved in hack Nov 24

PM: Hopefully it will all come out in time Nov 24

CS: I wish they would hurry up ... they played the real dirty politics ... even tried to kill me ... I have evidence of. Nov 24

During Question Time, Mr Key had denied having any contact with the right-wing blogger over the matter, but says he misunderstood the question and thought it was about the Chisholm inquiry into former minister Judith Collins.

But on Tuesday, just hours after the Inspector-General's report was released, John Key was asked directly and specifically about contact with Cameron Slater.

KEY: Well I haven't spoken to him on the phone for months and months and months on end. He sent me a text one time, but I can't remember when that was.

REPORTER: Has he texted you about this particular report?

KEY: No, not about this report.

Labour leader Andrew Little believes John Key has misled New Zealand.

"All of this beggars belief, but it shows to me that we have a Prime Minister who has no ethical bottom lines at all, no integrity, no moral fibre at all - he just carries on as if there is no difference. This is very disturbing - New Zealanders should be worried."

The Inspector General of Intelligence and Security says she is examining what steps to take over the early disclosure of information from the report and will be talking to Phil Goff.

Mr Little said the inquiry must now be broadened to include close inspection of the Prime Minister's contact with Cameron Slater.

He said he did not understand why John Key continued to maintain contact with Mr Slater.

"Why on earth the Prime Minister would continue a relationship with a person as toxic and as dangerous to our democracy frankly highlights a total lack of judgement on his part.

"He must now front up and answer for his actions. He has to do that to the Inspector General, it would be nice if he did it to the people of New Zealand and took responsibility for a change for his conduct."

Mr Goff on Morning Report yesterday said he had not shown the document to anyone other than his party leader and party whip. Asked whether he gave its content to journalists he said: "I gave an outline of some relevant points that I said that this cleared my integrity in the matter."

Andrew Little and Phil Goff

Andrew Little and Phil Goff Photo: RNZ

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