7 Dec 2018

Secret recording 'comes down to the harsh reality of humanity'

2:11 pm on 7 December 2018

Some politicians believe a series of secret recordings being made public are more a sign of bad working relationships than a worrying trend.

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Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

A former staff member of National MP Maggie Barry is the latest to send secret recordings to the media, which follows the Labour MP Louisa Wall being recorded using strong language against a group of feminists at an Auckland Pride Parade meeting.

The most high profile recent case was National MP Jami-Lee Ross actively releasing recordings of National leader Simon Bridges.

It is not illegal to record someone without their knowledge as long as at least one person in the conversation is aware of the fact. But if that recording is then used or passed on without the person's knowledge, it moves into illegality, and issues of privacy.

GCSB minister Andrew Little said the law was clear but people's relationships and personal ethics made matters murky.

"It's very difficult particularly in a place like [Parliament] where you've got a whole bunch of dynamics operating. You've got political relationships, employment relationships, ethical standards and values, prescribed Speaker's rules and what have you - in the end this comes down to the harsh reality of humanity and human relationships.

"What you do hope is people treat each other with a level of respect."

Mr Ross took those recordings of he and Mr Bridges to the police, who are investigating. Mr Bridges has ruled out laying his own charges.

Ms Wall - while unaware she was being taped - stood by everything she was recorded saying. She swore about TERFS (Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminists).

Labour MP Louisa Wall's marriage equality bill passed into law in 2013

Labour MP Louisa Wall. Photo: RNZ / Johnny Blades

National's deputy leader Paula Bennett said it was not something she thought was rife.

However, she said there were some concerning cases.

"I suppose it's less about the recording and more that it can be taken out of a context.

"A joke can be misconstrued if people want it to, it can be cut and pasted to look different to what it is."

Ms Barry was not happy with the bullying claims and apparent recordings being used against her. She asked Parliamentary Services to investigate whether she was recorded by staff in their employ.

ACT leader David Seymour said if there was taping without consent in a workplace the "relationship's already broken down".

"The rule of thumb is treat people well and don't get yourself into that position in the first place."

Green Party co-leader James Shaw said he would not want to see secret recording it become commonplace.

Labour's MP Phil Twyford said it was not appropriate unless part of one's job description.

"I think it's OK for journalists to record politicians."

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