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No Prime Minister's Office involvement in SIS OIA release

OPINION

Vernon Small at Stuff reports:

The Security Intelligence Service says neither Prime Minister John Key nor his office played a part in the release of controversial documents to blogger Cameron Slater.

The documents were released to Slater six days after he requested them and posted on his Whaleoil  website.

They confirmed the SIS had briefed then-Labour leader Phil Goff about Israeli backpackers who left the country after the Christchurch earthquakes.

In answer to questions from Fairfax Media today, referred from Key’s office to the SIS, a spokesman said the director was responsible for responses under the OIA “and made the decision to release, and what to release in this case”.

“Under the ‘no surprises’ convention the director or a representative would normally inform the minister’s office about what is being released under the OIA. That’s what occured in this case,” he said.

“Neither the PM nor his office expressed a view as to whether the information should be released, or to whom, or when,” the spokesman said.

So the story about Collins getting a prisoner moved is dead*, as is this story it seems.

The SIS Director is the former Cabinet Secretary, a role with the utmost integrity as they directly serve PMs and Cabinets of all political persuasions. If Rebecca Kitteridge says there was no involvement of the PMO in decision making, then that would have been the case.

Political commentator David Farrar posts at Kiwiblog.

* Some readers, and media, interpreted a section of Dirty Politics as meaning Cameron Slater asked Judith Collins to intervene on getting a prisoner moved to a different prison. Nicky Hager says he did not make that accusation and people have misinterpreted the chapter.

What do you think? Does Judith Collins have a place in government after the election? Click here to vote in our subscriber-only business pulse poll.

Comments and questions
30

This comment by Farrar is so brief it is like a press release.

It still doesn'texplain how the information got to Slater so quckly, and ahead of others. Someting rotten in Planet Key.

Read Whaleoil today and a post clearly shows that other media were posting the news at the same time he was.

Its yet another one of Hager's "assumptions" that shows he did no homework at all before rushing off to the publisher.

Rebecca Kitteridge is hardly an independent authority

Appointed by John Key from his Office following the last guy who was his school friends brother.

MMMmmm I think David Farrar needs abetter story than that

How come you never use your real name doctor? you seem to have something to comment on every single article on this website. Some kind of left wing troll?
I do find it funny how the left seem to hide behind fake names etc.. just look at this person on twitter who is meant to be releasing emails - and the left blogs.
Grow a pair and post under your real name.

Not left wing or right wing

Middle of the road - just really tired of Nationals arrogance - like most people are.

Up until now National has had the goods as they had the best leader - but he has shown in the last few days he is indecisive like giving Judith Collins her last chance for the fourth time - he could have sorted her out today and moved on but he chose the easy option which will end up haunting him.

"Middle of the road" - pull the other one. And where do you get this information from that "most people are tired of National's arrogance?" That statement doesn't seem to stack up with any of the polls.

I also have noted that you are usually the first one out of the starting blocks whenever there is a fresh NBR article to comment on - you seem to grab every opportunity to slam the Government, no matter what the issue.

Sometimes I wish I was naïve enough to blindly believe anything a government official with apparent “utmost integrity” says, life would be so much simpler.

Of course I know David Farrar isn’t naïve, just another Team Key Muppet.

In reply to all above;
I suspect most of you were to young to remember the McCarthy era in the USA where there was a supposed “RED” under every bed. This seems to be how you see all this. You are looking for things that don’t appear to be there and if they are not, like McCarthy did you use innuendos to make it appear they are.
There are more important things than how Slater got the info, as I have said before this is all noise. Lets get policy and funding etc out there..

Does drivel given under nom de plume fall into the category of - "comments and questions"?

Farrar also missed other "relevant" parts of the Fairfax story, specifically: how did Slater get the information before other parties that had also requested it (as has been indicated by various journalists). If that was an SIS decision then it leaves that question open - Key's involvement does not have to have been express.

Also Farrar has added to the Vernon Small story, Farrar's view that the Collins/prisoner story is "dead" - what relevance does this have to the headlined story, not that he has given any evidence for why the prisoner move story is "dead". Hager did not expressly say that Collins arranged the move, so what is "dead" about the story - the prisoner was moved and shortly after the alleged request the the prisoner's ex.

Also, worth noting and something that has sadly not attracted much comment from anyone, that the "convention" of no surprises seems to have been maintained, but the age old "convention" of the Minister taking any heat and not dumping on public servants has disappeared (to be fair it has been slowly eroded by various governments). Sir Geoffrey Palmer has written generally on this in a recent paper that would be worth some coverage.

Also still waiting on a comment or response from Collins as to why she saw it necessary to provide a public servants details (whether she provided his name or his occupation - as she says, is misleading, as the sole purpose was to allow for the person to be identified). The issue is not what information she provided, but WHY she provided information that would identify a public servant - the answer is obvious. and squirming by saying that she did not provide his name, but only his occupation, misses the point, which is why was she even involved in this stuff?

By the way - I have no political allegiance, but I do have a strong view on our system - I tend to be economically conservative and socially liberal for what it is worth before any ad hominem attacks come on on the assumption that I am a leftie hack.

I'm not sure why the comment about Judith Collins appears in this story. It seems like a non-sequitur. Unless it's included there under the rule of "if you say something often enough, it might come true".

Otherwise, not impressed by Farrar's claims by authority. Byline also should read "Political commentator David Farrar has close links to the National Party" so that bias can be clearly identified.

John Key's tefflon is starting to look like a 10 year old, 1mm thick non-stick frying pan from the Warehouse after too many scorched omelettes: flakey.

There's only so many eggs you can break. But in Crusher Collins's case, it seems she's hardboiled. How many times does she have to make a dog's breakfast out of her job before Key puts her out on the street?

Well... Ummm... one can't teach hard boiled non shrinking violent, old dog (eh, bitch) new tricks.

If Key was to sacrifice Collins, she would go rabid and her Whale Oil chum would start a war with the National Party. Bring it on I say!

.. and I find that incredibly believable. Please tell me another.

New Zealanders are sick of the negative smear campaign being waged by the left, and eagerly published by the media. There would be significant collateral damage to the economy if the splintered left wing got into power given their high taxes (40% over $150 K) & big spending bribes (free medical visits for over 65s). Why is the media focusing on the Hager drivel which is based on illegally obtained emails? Why are electoral policies not being discussed? The mainstream media needs to grow up, NBR excepted.

Could not agree more. Unfortunately alot in the media dont like slater or the thought of him setting up a news site in competition so are trying to go in for the kill - just look at the NZ Herald. Unfortunately people in the left have already said there was no smoking gun in hagers book and they are all now activley looking for it.

A leftwing campaign...perhaps. but it's hardly needed - John Key's government has well and truly bought itself into disrepute.

For Judith Collins not to step down is incredible. And Key is regarded as being economical with the truth - which simply is not acceptable.

Time for him to go - the gambler has has overreached himself.

Agree Informed well said - some of the above and media need to try having a better breakfast might help!

The public's trust of politicians and public servants generally has been seriously undermined. David Farrar saying the role Rebecca Kitteridge holds has the "utmost integrity" is not really good enough.

Informed - Why is there a smear campaign? - that seems to be a term used when a question is not able to be answered, or someone is not prepared to answer a question - the ready response, including from the PM is "it's part of a smear campaign" or " ...Hager is a known leftist conspiracy theorist"...blah blah blah. If that is the case show us why it is a smear and/or show us why it is a conspiracy (partly or wholly) What I am (I cannot speak for all NZers), sick off, is being treated as though we will buy these PR spin "write offs". If you read the Hager book you will see it is incredibly well referenced ) - with both the stolen emails and other references. I have seen no reference from anyone who as accused it of being part part of a left wing conspiracy, including your comment, as mentioned previously I have not political stripe. Show us why it is either a conspiracy or a smear - of course it could be a truthful smear - but I expect in this context the word smear is meant to also imply that it is therefore untrue. The stolen emails are a distraction to the argument, and put out by those who I expect are under scrutiny. The issue is whether any of the information now in the public domain is true. Saying we should ignore the comments or the Hager book because they were stolen, or based on stolen information, is like suggesting that we close our eyes after we have seen something bad and pretending we never saw it. If there is an issue of theft of the emails, then Slater can (I believe has) complained and that can be dealt with by the Police but it does not follow that it is "drivel", by which I presume you intend to mean has no foundation in truth. I expect that is what NZ'ers will want to know - are any of the allegations made true. I should also add that the people under scrutiny are elected representatives and are answerable to the NZ public - it is right in a democracy that they should be under scrutiny. I have taken the trouble to read Hager's book. I rarely comment on posts, but am astounded by the attacks on the messenger and the lack of any real insight into the messages. The public should celebrate this book if for no other reason than it has meant a large degree of public discussion on the one think we all respect I hope hold dear - our democracy. Finally you say NBR excepted - why so? Farrar's post has not discussed any of the so called "electoral policies" you mention.

In reply to JPWgtn, you have bought into the left wing smear campaign. Wikipedia defines a smear campaign as "an intentional, premeditated effort to undermine an individual's or group's reputation, credibility, and character" - exactly what Hager and the Greens are trying to do. Labour's President tried and failed to discredit Mr Key via his merchant banking career. Hager has broken all the rules of academic research by aligning himself with one view and, worse, by utilising illegally obtained emails. I would not want to be in his shoes. The real point is that we ought to be discussing policy, not novels.

The left don't have to undertake a smear campaign, the Nats are covering themselves with @#$% every day.
Apart from a certain "Cameron Slater may or may not be my name" blogger, there is very little denial going on as to what is in the book. Even the rebecca Kitteridge statement is open to further questioning - in particular, how did it come about that the material was released so quickly, much more quickly than the usual OIA responses - I am sur eif you asked the SIS for a breakdown of turnaround times for OIA requests this would stand out like .....

If you had someone calling you a liar in the media after being given an opportunity to back down, why wouldn't the SIS fast track releasing a document that showed they had done their job properly? Phil Goff has already said he was advised of this release at the time, but didn't jump up and down at the speed it happened then because he wanted the issue buried. He is now trying to re-litigate it without pointing out it was released to show he was lying about the people who released it. The SIS had more of a motive (and a very justifiable one) than John Key did.

So true. About time some common sense prevailed

If so, why was it released to some sooner than others?

Key needs to move to damage control and win back swing voters. The following should do it:
1. Remove the cause of the stench. Whether from mud slung or a true rotting corpse in the closet, the reality is the smell is now causing damage. Best to take the moral high ground and remove those tarred with allegations. Unfortunately he now needs to wait for the next "reveal" on Collins/Ede so it looks like a reaction to new information.

2. Pull the rug out from the opposition parties with a raft of focused policies that show economic management and response to voter concerns:
- review of OIO criteria to better codify "economic benefit" (reality is it is mostly beneficial but a regular review is no bad thing)
- comprehensive data capture of land ownership (everyone wants this so why not promise it? It won't cost much)
- impose a land tax on non tax resident owners of property and use the money raised to fund income tax reductions for the middle class and a corporate tax reduction
- increase the IRD's focus on capital gains tax compliance in residential property (give them extra money to staff up and enforce existing rules, and allow them to shift the onus onto owners to prove not bought for resale, ie presumption of taxability; could even go further and impose by default if a property is sold within say 2 years of purchase unless owner can prove extenuating circumstances). Beauty of this is they wouldn't be imposing a new tax, just better enforcing the current one
- remove the ability to withdraw kiwis aver funds for property as this is a nonsense
- raise the retirement age on a phased basis to 70 in line with every other developed country facing the same aging demographic.

For me, this would all be economically sensible and politically palatable (even popular!). And by addressing big issues we face (aging, unhealthy property speculation etc) it would make up for the 6 years of "nothing doing" policy void and pork barrel politics.

With that kind of nonsense we wouldn't have any party worth voting for. Many non-resident home owners spend as much time as they are allowed every year in NZ and spend their overseas earnings on goods and services here. All that would be lost. Those homeowners least able to prove it was not bought for resale would be the poorest and least educated with least ability to employ professional advice. Young people would be unable to use their savings to buy a home. The poorest and least healthy manual workers would be penalised the most by raising the retirement age but so also would be older workers who lose their jobs and cannot find employment and cannot be retrained.

The raft of unintended consequences would be huge.

There's an election in five weeks. What policies did National, Labour and the Greens release today? I find all of the above extraordinarily uninformative on the matter.