Nicky Hager book uses leaked emails to allege John Key office is closely linked to dirty tricks campaigns with bloggers that attacks opponents

By Bernard Hickey

With 38 days to go until the September 20 election, here's my daily round-up of political news on Wednesday August 13, including the launch of a book by Nicky Hager alleging Prime Minister John Key's office is closely linked to 'dirty tricks' campaigns using bloggers Cameron Slater and David Farrar.

Hager launched the keenly-awaited new book on Wednesday evening in Wellington and surprised a few by having nothing to do with the Edward Snowden leaks from the NSA. It is titled: "Dirty Politics: How attack politics is poisoning New Zealand’s political environment."

"Today’s book follows on from his earlier book The Hollow Men and gives an inside view of politics after the John Key led National Party. It revolves around a cast of Key, Cameron Slater, Jason Ede, David Farrar, Judith Collins and other National Party figures. It shows a very different side of John Key and his government than most New Zealanders know," Hager said in a release.

"Throughout Key’s time as prime minister, his staff and notably senior adviser Jason Ede have been assisting and coordinating persistent personal attacks and dirty tricks against his political opponents," he said.

"Journalists have suspected these activities but the evidence has been hard to find. There have been repeated political attacks launched by the National Party attack dogs, notably Slater backed up by Farrar, and what the book shows is that many of these lead back to the Beehive. This is a technique originally from US republican politics known as a two-track strategy, where the prime minister maintains a friendly, relaxed public image while relying on political proxies to relentlessly attack opponents," Hager said.

"This approach has meant that Key and his government have not had to take responsibility for their negative politics. This and many other stories about internal National Party politics are revealed in the book.’

Hager said the book was based on a large number of internal communications between Slater and a network of National Party figures.

"The documents are very revealing about Slater and his collaborators, including much that is shocking and distasteful. But, much more important, the documents also cover politicians and Beehive staff, showing the highly coordinated National Party attack politics used year after year throughout Key’s prime ministership. Readers can see the inside story of issues they have seen in the news, now revealed in the participant’s own words," he said.

Hager said the leaks seem to come from when Slater had his website crashed in January this year after comments he made about a West Coast man who died in a car crash. Hager denied obtaining the materials himself and said he also used other infromation from some National Party sources.

He detailed the following:

* During the 2011 election campaign Slater obtained a database of the Labour Party’s members, e-mails and donations, and gleefully attacked the party. What no one knew is that Key’s dirty tricks person, Ede, had helped throughout, including searching inside the Labour Party computers and helping Slater plan the subsequent attacks on Labour. Ede’s office was just two doors from John Key’s and presumably he was using his Ministerial Services computer (Chapter 2).

* In the same election campaign, the prime minister’s office used its knowledge of secret SIS documents to tip off Slater and arrange an attack on the Labour leader (Chapter 3).

* Ede drafted official information act requests for Slater to use in other attacks, for instance against Ministry of Foreign Affairs staff who were in conflict with the government (Chapter 3).

* When the Labour Party leadership race was on last year and getting good publicity, Ede got National Party research staff to prepare an attack on David Cunliffe and other contenders’ policies that was published on David Farrar’s Kiwiblog website the following day (Chapter 9).

* The more the National Government has used Slater, the closer that Key himself has got to the attack blogger. For instance, when most New Zealanders were appalled by Slater’s offensive comments about the West Coast man who died in the car crash, his closest associates rallied to support him. One of those who phoned him and commiserated at that time, according to Slater’s account of the conversation, was John Key (Chapter 12).

"Key and his colleagues have known their use of proxies and allies for attacks and dirty tricks was risky, but they believed they could keep it secret. It was only the unexpected leak that has brought the story to the light. The book is full of stories that might otherwise have remained secret," he said.

Key said before the book's release he was "not terribly worried." 

Not on Planet Key

Meanwhile, the Electoral Commission banned television and radio stations from playing the Planet Key spoof video criticising John Key during normal programming on the grounds it may be an election advertisement by a third party. It can still be played during news bulletins and got a good airing on the news shows last night.

It is still available on Vimeo , raising questions about the Commission's jurisdiction for sites hosted outside New Zealand. It had barely 5,000 views before yesterday's announcement from the Commission that it was banned. By this morning it had nearly 57,000 views.

Key said he was not fazed by the video, which "was quite professionally done."

Also, he clarified his comments about an effigy burning video coming from Internet Mana . He said he had made a "natural assumption" linking the two. Laila Harre has threatened legal action on the grounds Key's comments were defamatory and made a complaint to TVNZ, which aired Key's comments.

Elsewhere, various media reported Winston Peter 's former right hand man, Frank Perry, had started working with Pam Corkery and the Internet Mana Party.

Housing supply problems?

Meanwhile, in a sign the Government's big push to boost Auckland housing supply may be running into trouble, the Manukau Courier reported developers at four of the 63 Special Housing Areas had pulled out of the fast tracked consenting process and others reported developers were buying SHA land to increase its value in land banks, rather than to build houses on it any time soon.

Elsewhere, the Office of the Auditor General reported that just 22% ofACC 's customers were satisfied with how it handled complaints and that it needed to improve significantly.

(Updated with details of Hager's book.)

I'll update this regularly through the day.

See all my previous election diaries here.

See the index for Interest.co.nz's special election policy comparison pages here.

We welcome your help to improve our coverage of this issue. Any examples or experiences to relate? Any links to other news, data or research to shed more light on this? Any insight or views on what might happen next or what should happen next? Any errors to correct?

We welcome your comments below. If you are not already registered, please register to comment or click on the "Register" link below a comment.

Remember we welcome robust, respectful and insightful debate. We don't welcome abusive or defamatory comments and will de-register those repeatedly making such comments. Our current Comment policy is here.

20 Comments

LAND BANKING is a speculative activity , and given there is no yield or return until sold ,  it cannot be regarded as an  investment  in the normal sense .
Gains should be taxed , like gains on shares bought and sold by speculators

Auckland council can stop the LAND BANKING SPECULATORS with a stroke of a pen .
Municipal Rates on vacant undeveloped residential land should be doubled  2 years after being subdivided , trippled after three years and quadrupled after 4 years .
That way anyone specualting in land will need to release it for development and not withhold it from the market

I think whatever the regs, they would probably be avoided by land transfers between paper companies. that said, if the SHAs have led to land banking someone had probably better send a cardiac crash cart to Hugh Paveltich's.

The tax stays with the land not the name on the title?

Indeed, Marine Mammal.
 
Let's explore the legislation:  Schedule 2, Rating Act, 2002:

Schedule 2
Matters that may be used to define categories of rateable land

ss 1417

  • 1The use to which the land is put.
  • 2The activities that are permitted, controlled, or discretionary for the area in which the land is situated, and the rules to which the land is subject under an operative district plan or regional plan under the Resource Management Act 1991.
  • 3The activities that are proposed to be permitted, controlled, or discretionary activities, and the proposed rules for the area in which the land is situated under a proposed district plan or proposed regional plan under the Resource Management Act 1991, but only if—
    • (a)no submissions in opposition have been made under clause 6 of Schedule 1 of that Act on those proposed activities or rules, and the time for making submissions has expired; or
    • (b)all submissions in opposition, and any appeals, have been determined, withdrawn, or dismissed.
  • 4The area of land within each rating unit.
  • 5The provision or availability to the land of a service provided by, or on behalf of, the local authority.
  • 6Where the land is situated.
  • 7The annual value of the land.
  • 8The capital value of the land.
  • 9The land value of the land.

Now, all that's needed is a Council with the cojones to actually define 'land banking' as the posession of buildable yet vacant land exceeding in aggregate, say, 4047 sqm (1/2 acre).  Then whack a swingeing rates differential on it.  Ten times the residential rate would do the trick.
 
Methinks we'll be waiting a while, though:  Councils are perenially Economically Clueless as well as Spinally Challenged,
 
And, if the Greens get their way and the Four Wellbeings are re-instituted, with access to Yet Mo' OPM, the Councils will just go on blowing out their cost base.....

 

Cojones indeed. Land banking gets way more obvious in councils that rate on land value not capital value. 
 
But there is always a reason to come up with exemptions for undeveloped land inside the squiggly lines. Usually some household on 2 acres with a horse etc. Its not their fault the squiggly lines jumped over their formerly modest rural abode. So we'll write a rule about how they are exempt. But the dairy farmer down the road is still fair game.
 
It would take real cojones to be principled in the face of all the tear-jerking that goes on in the Council Chambers.

waymad:    "...landbanking....exceeding 4047 sqm (1/2 acre)......"
 
4047 sqm are ONE acre, not 1/2 .

GT, oh I am distraught.
 
I lay the blame on my wearing of socks inside on this cold and windy day:  halves my computational powers, as I did not take them socks off before calcualting away....

Updated with the details from Nicky Hager's book launch.
cheers
Bernard

To me, the single most serious allegation from the Hager book I have heard is the National Party using access to the SIS to attack its political opponents. 
It is completely wrong for any government in this country to use the state powers of spying in this way.

Hmm - and check out the video link/denial by Key of any SIS involvement in local spying;
 
http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/9723130/Looks-like-Slater-is-Ke...
 
Gotta be one of the smalmiest interview exchanges I've ever seen by Key.
 
 

I went on Whale oil and started linking to National party donations from Wealthy Chinese individuals. I got threatened with expulsion.
  Blogs have no requirement to be balanced or even tell the truth, its modern day sophistry, truth by delusion.
 Im no longer shocked, John Key is a man on a mission, the end justifies the means.
 Financialization at all costs.
WE don't ever learn enough from history.
 
Macbeth:
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
 

Hope you plenty of hot water and carbolic soap on hand after your visit to that site

I recommend it, best farce site in NZ.
regards

Cameron has I believe stated he doesnt need or intend to be balanced.  Fair enough, it isnt journalism after all.
http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/something_is_rotten_in_the_state_of_Denmark
 

Hager.   Yawn.
Now back to land ownership.

OK, another pretty serious one (blackmail etc in my opinion) is National Insiders telling Rodney Hide "resign by Friday to make way for Don Brash or your dodgy texting a woman will be made public". Rodney resigned.

It was pretty obvious that the SHA was never going to work.  They went from the restrictive RUB to a more restrictive MUL, to an even more restrictive SHA and then further restrict that area by releasing it in tranches.
The powers that be don’t seem to understand that restricting supply, especially in the face of increasing demand will never result in more affordable housing. 
This is basic stuff, what is wrong with these people?

Does anyone know how Watercare are going in upgrading water infrastructure around the SHA's? Can't build if there are no services to connect to.
 
It's so much fun being a general miles from the front drawing lines on maps. But there's always some poor quartermaster that has to gather enough fuel, vehicles, food and tents to move the army from here to there. And it takes time to do that.

Dale, I've said (and seen it from 30+ years, on both sides of Council tables, and contracting to Gubmint) that these entities are simply Economically Clueless.
 
What I mean is that they cannot grasp the bleedingly obvious fact that, by virtue of their rules, powers, rating and funding policies, they are major economic actors in a number of markets.
 
Because they certainly don't act as though they are Informed Economic Actors, it's hard to draw any other conclusion.....