Author and investigative journalist Nicky Hager has wielded a
mighty sword, penning allegations of National Party ''dirty
politics'' in a book of that name released on Wednesday
The book attacks Prime Minister John Key and his
administration, claiming hacked emails show National has an
''unseen side'', including using ''attack blogs'' such as
Cameron Slater's Whale Oil and David Farrar's Kiwiblog to
denigrate political opponents.
National contacts including Justice Minister Judith Collins
and Mr Key's press secretary Jason Ede are named as having
close links with Mr Slater. It claims Mr Slater and Mr Ede
used personal information about Labour Party members accessed
after being alerted to a weakness in Labour's website.
It also claims Mr Slater was given information from the
Beehive allowing him to ask precise questions through the
Official Information Act, and that Mr Key's office tipped him
off about secret documents held by the Security Intelligence
The National Party, Mr Slater and Mr Farrar have dismissed
the claims. A spokesperson for the prime minister called it a
''cynically timed attack book from a well-known left-wing
conspiracy theorist'' which makes ''all sorts of unfounded
Labour Party leader David Cunliffe is considering what action
the party might take. The Green Party says it will lodge
complaints, including with police, and adds it will hold a
Royal Commission of Inquiry if elected.
Mr Slater says he, too, intends to complain to the police,
over the hacking of his website, and to the Privacy
Commission. All this before most people have had time to
fully read, verify, digest and respond to the book's
The timing of the book's launch - a month before the general
election - will be labelled by some as every bit as ''dirty''
as the politics its alleges. Mr Hager says voters need to be
made aware of the claims. He will be aware of the laws of
libel and the burden of proof.
He is no stranger to controversy - or to penning works that
have had serious implications for politicians previously.
Some believe he has thrown a grenade into the political
arena. Others say there is nothing ''new'' in the fact
politicians choose which journalists to whom they feed
With parties beginning election campaigns, politicians
themselves have timed major policy announcements and attacks
for a period during which they will get maximum exposure.
Internet Party founder Kim Dotcom has even promised to reveal
incriminating revelations about the prime minister in the
days before the election. This is prime time for politicking
of all kinds.
Politicians can hardly argue they have been squeaky clean of
late. The prime minister's labelling of Mr Dotcom as Internet
Party leader Laila Harre's ''sugar daddy'' was seen as sexist
Labour Party Rangitata candidate Steven Gibson's labelling of
the prime minister as ''Shylock'' was an unacceptable racist
slur on his Jewish heritage and made a mockery of Labour
leader David Cunliffe's ''Vote Positive'' campaign.
New Zealand First leader Winton Peters' ''two Wongs don't
make a right'' joke is offensive, and Act New Zealand leader
Jamie Whyte's race-based comments questionable.
The defence by Mr Dotcom and Ms Harre that students were
exercising their democratic thoughts by chanting ''F*** John
Key'' at an Internet Mana party when the atmosphere was
clearly fuelled by Mr Dotcom does not wash.
It can hardly be surprising in such an atmosphere the public
responds with similar mindless and offensive actions,
including burning a John Key effigy. Such kindergarten
tit-for-tat antics only render politicians' words hollow. The
focus should be on issues: the likes of health, education,
welfare, housing and financial security.
However, at least two of the allegations in Dirty Politics -
the use of information from the Labour Party website and
claims about leaking SIS information - are certainly serious
if true. One commentator has likened them to ''Watergate''.
It is clearly in the public interest to have those issues
When everyone has done dishing dirt, what remains to be seen
is to whom the mud might stick - and whether the revelations
will be a political game-changer.