Dotcom will dominate Parliament, media while other issues go begging
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Prime Minister John Key will correct previous statements on Kim Dotcom when Parliament re-convenes this afternoon.
The statement is not likely to add to anything New Zealanders do not already know, but because it is happening in Parliament at question time it will be reported breathlessly across all media.
In essence, Mr Key will be restating his press release of October 3, when he revealed his earlier claim he had not heard of any Government Security Communications Bureau investigation into Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom until September 17 was not, in essence, correct.
In fact, the investigation had been mentioned during a visit on February 29.
Everyone who takes even a passing interest in New Zealand politics is already aware of this, but parliamentary rules require Mr Key makes this statement to Parliament again, today, as his previous statement was in the House.
And Bowen Triangle convention, a looser and less principled arrangement than parliamentary rules – and that is saying something – requires the whole thing gets raked over again with all the usual melodramatic striking of attitudes and faux-outrage.
Mr Key’s statement is not likely to say anything different from his press statement of October 3 on the matter.
“It will not be making an apology, as some people are reporting,” the prime minister’s chief press secretary Kevin Taylor told NBR ONLINE this morning.
Overshadowing today’s parliamentary theatre is the subsequent claim by Labour leader David Shearer about a mysterious recording of Mr Key referring to the Kim Dotcom investigation during his February 29 visit.
According to this, Mr Key addressed GCSB staff in their tearoom and someone recorded this speech – in which he is alleged to have mentioned the Kim Dotcom surveillance.
If the prime minister did make such a reference at that time it would prove he did know about the Kim Dotcom investigation at the time of his February visit and that the “brain fade” with which he excused the earlier memory lapse was a fairly major one.
What is not disputed is Mr Key spoke to GCSB staff in their cafeteria during his February visit.
Whether he was recorded in doing so, and whether he said what Mr Shearer says he said, is a more open question. No one from the PM’s side of things can remember any official recording, and they do not appear to have noticed any clandestine ones being made.
None of the his staff nor the GCSB spooks noticed any unusually or suspiciously large asparagus rolls in the vicinity of the PM; no one cried out “that is a recording device”, as Mr Key did at the end of the infamous "teapot tape" recording.
While the "teapot tape" affair which dominated last year's election campaign actually existed, it is not clear the Asparagus Roll Tape actually does, or ever did.
Mr Shearer – whose source is understood to be the ex-GCSB employee and partner of his chief press secretary, Fran Mold – claims it did, although he has never seen or heard it himself.
Today’s statement will be followed by question time, which will be dominated by the question of whether Mr Key’s brain fade is bigger than he is letting on, and whether Mr Shearer’s certainty that the recording of the PM was not only made but stored on several of GCSB’s has any substance.
There is no sign of those tapes now, and GCSB also says there is no sign of them ever have been on its computers. Nor is there any trace of such files having been there and having been deleted – something an IT technician with even a fairly basic level of skills can pick up.
That led to Mr Key essentially delivering a “put up or shut up” message yesterday. “I've waived all of my legal rights. If he's got a clandestine tape, he should feel free to go and release that tape."
The whole saga has dominated politics over the recent parliamentary recess and looks likely to dominate Parliament this week.
Meanwhile, issues such as the economy, government spending, the unusually high tax take (an extraordinary 15% surge in the tax take from corporates over the last year, at a time the nominal GDP was less than a third of that), the hike in local government spending and its burden on businesses, all attract comparatively minimal attention, except here.