Key blasts 'News of the World tactics'

Prime Minister John Key has compared the taping of his "cuppa'' conversation with Act's Epsom candidate John Banks to tactics used by the now defunct News of the World tabloid.

The Herald on Sunday newspaper today reported that the pair's high-profile conversation in a Newmarket cafe was inadvertently recorded by a freelance cameraman who tried to retrieve his recording device but was stopped by Mr Key's security staff.

The cameraman later discovered the conversation had been unintentionally recorded and gave it to the newspaper.

The Herald on Sunday said it sought legal advice suggesting it could publish the conversation but decided not to on ethical grounds, given the conversation was private.

The newspaper asked Mr Key and Mr Banks to waive privacy considerations, but the requests were turned down.

The Herald on Sunday today published vague details of the pair's conversation, which covered the Act Party's leadership and future, the share of votes National would secure, and New Zealand First's chances at the election.

Mr Key today continued to refuse permission for the recording to be published, saying there was no place for News of the World tactics in New Zealand.

The British tabloid News of the World was shut down in July after claims it hacked into people's phones to source stories, including the phones of teenage murder victim Milly Dowler and the families of soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"Once it starts with me, it'll move to Phil Goff and then it'll move to other well-known New Zealanders. And I think we can see the way the British public have reacted to (the) tactics. It was deliberately put it there,'' Mr Key told Radio New Zealand.

National Party campaign chairman Steven Joyce said the Herald on Sunday had many question to answer over the "illegal taping''.

"There are a number of inconsistencies in the story which together suggest an attempt to conceal a deliberate News of the World-type covert operation.''

Mr Joyce said the radio transmission device was concealed inside a pouch placed next to Mr Key.

"Any camera operator knows that if you are seeking to obtain legitimate audio, you don't muffle it by leaving the microphone in a pouch. This was an experienced cameraman, and the only possible conclusion is that the concealment was deliberate,'' he said.

Mr Joyce also disputed that the camerman tried to approach Mr Key's staff during the meeting.

"The problem is that no approach was made until after the meeting was over. If the approach had been made during the meeting to inform staff that a recording or transmitting device was left on the table, it would have been retrieved immediately.''

He took issue with the cameraman's claim he discovered the recording later.

"That is untrue. When the cameraman approached the Prime Minister's staff member for the return of the microphone, the cameraman acknowledged he was aware the conversation had been recorded.''

Mr Joyce said the Herald on Sunday story made no attempt to disclose the freelance cameraman's working relationship with the paper, but an email to Mr Key's office last night sought the return of the wireless microphone "taken from our staff member''.

Mr Joyce said the paper needed to respond to serious questions of fact.

"The conclusion one is left with is that the Herald on Sunday deliberately arranged the taping, in an unwelcome introduction of UK-style News of the World tabloid tactics into the New Zealand media environment, and is now deliberately seeking to distance themselves publicly.''

Labour's Epsom candidate David Parker has called for the recording to be made public.

He did not approve of secret recordings, but said Mr Key's chat with Mr Banks was not a normal meeting.

"This is something that they orchestrated, they made sure that there were 40 cameramen there and had a very public cup of tea,'' Mr Parker told Newstalk ZB.

University of Otago political scientist Bryce Edwards and right-wing blogger David Farrar are among those who have also said the tape should be released.

 

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