Hager says book not aimed at changing govt

About 200 people packed into the Hutton Theatre at Otago Museum last night to hear investigative...
About 200 people packed into the Hutton Theatre at Otago Museum last night to hear investigative journalist Nicky Hager speak about his book Dirty Politics. Photos by Peter McIntosh.

Nicky Hager says he did not write Dirty Politics to change the outcome of the election, but is confident it will lead to ''concrete change'' in New Zealand's political landscape.

Hager made the comments to a packed, adoring audience of about 200 at Otago Museum, where he was hosted by the University Book Shop last evening.

National's polling has hardly changed in the three weeks since the book was launched, with the latest Herald-DigiPoll survey showing the party could still govern alone on 50.1%.

Hager said he could never understand opinion poll results, but changing the government was not the motivation behind writing the book.

''Even though ... I got the information in election year and I was writing it before the election deliberately, I knew that I was working during an election year where the election outcome was a foregone conclusion.

''So I wasn't writing thinking this is going to change the election; I was thinking this is going to raise really big issues which we have to face up to sooner or later, anyway.''

''I wasn't doing it for a change of government or a change of polls.''

And while people on the Left were feeling ''tremendously strongly'' about the issues in the book, polls did not measure depth of feeling.

Despite the polls, he was still confident it would lead to a ''concrete change'' in New Zealand politics.

If National was re-elected they would try to laugh it off and say ''nobody cared'', but the public's opinion of the party would still be ''completely'' changed.

In the ''less likely'' event there was a change of government, then some of the things he was pushing for - like increased transparency and greater participation in politics from people in the public sector - would likely happen more quickly.

In either case, the political landscape would change.

''I think ... on the back of the controversy and on the back of the horror that it's caused for lots of people means there is going to be concrete change, if not now, then later.''

Hager also disputed suggestions the focus on Dirty Politics had drowned out debate on policy.

''I know from my own research that we weren't going to have an election of policies this time.

''We were going to have an election just like the 2011 one, which was a series of smears and manufactured scandals.''

This had been avoided because the Government knew ''how blatant'' it would look if it used these tactics after the Dirty Politics book came out.

He disagreed with an assessment, put to him last night by host Dr Bryce Edwards, New Zealand was becoming ''very corrupt''.

New Zealand, with a few exceptions - at which point a member of the audience interjected, shouting ''Dunedin City Council'' - was largely corruption-free.

''We are very lucky to live in a country where most police officers and most officials would think it was completely outrageous to take [bribes].''

However, New Zealand needed to fight to take things further and fix broken parts of the political process.


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