'Prime Ministers come, Prime Ministers go' — Slater
Whaleoil blogger Cameron Slater says he's not worried about the PM seeing him as toxic in the wake of Nicky Hager's Dirty Politics.
Asked by Q+A's Susan Wood, "You must realise now that from the Prime Minister's perspective you'd be pretty toxic. He'll be wanting to keep away from you to distance himself. Surely he will be doing that won’t he, and you'll find yourself out in the cold?"
Mr Slater replied, “It’s of no concern to me. Prime Ministers come, Prime Ministers go. You know in my lifetime I've met and dealt with almost every Prime Minister from Robert Muldoon till the present day. Long after John Key has disappeared from the political scene I'll still be involved.”
“I'd say that I probably get more and more vicious information out of the left wing side of New Zealand politics, and there's quite a few Nats that simply won’t pick up the phone with me. It's almost like they're too scared to deal with me, so you know I have to work hard to get the sources and the information that I do. So it's certainly not loaded in favour of National, but I'm not going to let anyone die wondering which side of the political spectrum I'm on, and at least I'm honest about that.”
RAW DATA: Q+A transcript: Susan Wood interviews Cameron Slater
SUSAN: With very little warning a bombshell was dropped on Wellington this week 'Dirty Politics' a new book by investigative journalist Nicky Hager, claims to show strong links between the National Party and controversial blogger Cameron Slater. Leaked emails and online conversations also suggest National worked with Mr Slater on a number of personal attacks against political foes. I spoke to him a short time ago and I asked was he concerned the Hager book could damage National.
CAMERON SLATER : I'm not concerned at all about that. As the One News poll shows very few people actually care too much about it. It's very much a beltway story, it's being milked considerably by the Labour Party of course, and it leads me to ask some questions about whether or not they’ve been involved in the activities of Nicky Hager considering that they’ve prefaced their entire campaign with vote positive. It's almost as though they knew something like this was going to come out.
SUSAN: But your language for example calling people in Christchurch scum, describing a car accident victim as feral, and a range of what I would classify as hate speech. Is that acceptable to National, is that acceptable to the Prime Minister John Key?
CAMERON Well I'm not even a member of the National Party so I don’t see quite how it matters whether or not it's National or not. I work across the political spectrum Susan with politicians from the Labour Party, with politicians from the Green Party, with New Zealand First, with basically anybody in the political spectrum. So to try and describe those actions or words or whatever to the National Party is a little bit facetious and if you're going to make those claims they also need to be made against all the other people that I assist or work with, or indeed deal with within politics.
SUSAN So who are you dealing with on the other side, we saw the name Stewart Nash on your phone, who else from the left is feeding you information?
CAMERON Oh there's plenty of them, it's probably half of David Cunliffe's caucus.
SUSAN Would it be fair to say you get a lot more information out of National out of your good friend Judith Collins, out of the Prime Minister, out of Jason Ede? I mean give me a percentage, is it 80% National 20% Labour?
CAMERON Oh no I wouldn’t say that at all Susan, I'd say that I probably get more and more vicious information out of the left wing side of New Zealand politics, and there's quite a few Nats that simply won’t pick up the phone with me. It's almost like they're too scared to deal with me, so you know I have to work hard to get the sources and the information that I do. So it's certainly not loaded in favour of National, but I'm not going to let anyone die wondering which side of the political spectrum I'm on, and at least I'm honest about that.
SUSAN Yeah, because the reality is, just to be very fair, you are a right wing blogger aren't you, you favour a Key led National government?
CAMERON Well I'd favour a centre right government. I think John Key in many respects is too soft, and certainly when it comes to dealing with unions and some of the more left wing people that are around, and I certainly would have more in common with the ACT Party and their libertarian values, so I'm a jack of all trades. But on the flip side of that I'm also quite willing to help out Labour politicians get elected in local body fights, even in National politics. You know I want to see good strong candidates like Stu Nash and Kel Davis and others like them, win their seats and move the Labour Party away from the hard left that it's become.
SUSAN How close are you with John Key? How often are you talking to John Key?
CAMERON Well the only person who's ever said anything about that is John Key, and I think you should ask him, but you know I know that if I send a text I'll usually get a reply. If he sends me a text he'll get a reply from me. But that’s the same across the spectrum with any number of leaders. In fact you know recently I sent a text to a Labour politician who had made some claims about Fiji and he was wrong. Sent a text, 30 seconds later I got a reply saying oh thanks for that I'll check out the details. So this is the business that I'm in, I'm in the game of politics.
SUSAN The Prime Minister has said this week that he talks to you about four times a year. Earlier he'd actually said it was a bit more frequently than that, and he did according to this book ring you after you'd got yourself in a lot of bother for calling that car crash victim feral. He rang you to commiserate didn’t he?
CAMERON Well the Prime Minister says it's about four times a year, if the Prime Minister says that that's correct.
SUSAN Did the Prime Minister ring you after you used the word feral to describe that man to commiserate?
CAMERON No he didn’t ring me.
SUSAN Did you have contact with the Prime Minister after that?
CAMERON Yes we had a text conversation.
SUSAN And what did he say in that text conversation Mr Slater?
CAMERON Well he said that the person that had been texting, had been calling me and abusing me down the telephone, whose audio details I posted on my blog after I received her death threats, that he had been confronted by her in the Pike River meetings. He recognised the voice.
SUSAN Let's talk about your friend Judith Collins. She's texted you while you’ve been in Israel?
CAMERON Yes, it was in the paper this morning when you got up, you’ve probably read it.
SUSAN So what did she say in that text?
CAMERON She was saying make sure with the travel you get some sleep and you know make sure you don’t get too tired, and just keep going.
SUSAN Any comment about what's been happening here about the Hager book and about your relationship and her relationship?
CAMERON The comments I've got about the Hager book is what Nicky Hager has delivered to New Zealand politics is a ‘News of the World’ type scandal, that involves the hacking of political opponents, and their legal activities…
SUSAN Sure, look Mr Slater we know that you rely on leaked documents as does Mr Hager, there were a raft of inquiries underway on that, so let's put that to one side for now. What I want to know though, your relationship with Judith Collins. She does not look good in this. It certainly brings into question her integrity, and her judgement. Do you think it will have some sort of impact on her desire to lead the National Party at some point?
CAMERON Look Susan I don’t think we can put that to one side, because an illegal activity has happened. Someone has illegally hacked my emails. Those emails have been leaked to Nicky Hager, and then we see in the Herald this morning that Kim Dotcom's now claiming that he's going to use this information in the book, to lay a civil action to discover documents …
SUSAN Mr Slater if you had those emails landed on your desk you would have used them, you deal with leaked information all the time. So it's a bit rich – it's the pot calling the kettle black surely.
CAMERON No it's not, because I’ve never used any information that’s been obtained illegally. This information was obtained illegally Susan, there was a deliberate attempt, in fact a successful deliberate attempt to subvert a person's – it's not just my privacy that’s been breached, it's everyone who's ever emailed me in the past who's been breached. On top of that we see again in the Herald this morning a National MP that has been broken into and his laptop stolen.
SUSAN There are a range of inquiries underway on that, and we are running out of time so let me ask you - you mentioned earlier that some people in National, maybe not too comfortable with picking up the phone, maybe a little bit even frightened of you. Do you think with this now they will be more frightened because you may turn on them?
CAMERON Well how can I turn on them if they haven't contacted me.
SUSAN They will distance themselves from you now.
CAMERON There are a lot of squeamish people in politics. Well I don’t care if they distance themselves from me, it's pretty hard to be more distant than not talk to you. You know there's some squeamish people and some gutless people involved in New Zealand politics. We aren't playing tiddlywinks here, we're involved in a game of politics and the left wing is certainly not totally hands clean, and I know that from my own sources within the Labour Party and other parties.
SUSAN Do you think the Prime Minister will continue to text you. Do you think you'll continue to have that sort of contact with him after this book?
CAMERON Oh I'm sure, because there's so many errors and so many things that are wrong in Nicky Hager's book, and we know that they're wrong, and we know that they're errors, because he won’t categorically state anything, he always phrases everything with ‘it is believed to’ – you know it's all using weasel words around it in order to avoid making a categoric statement, and the reason why he's doing that is he can't be sure, absolutely cannot guarantee that what he's saying is true.
SUSAN Mr Slater, you understand the game of politics as well as anybody else. You must realise now that from the Prime Minister's perspective you'd be pretty toxic. He'll be wanting to keep away from you to distance himself. Surely he will be doing that won’t he, and you'll find yourself out in the cold?
CAMERON Oh I don’t care whether he does or he doesn’t, it's of no concern to me. Prime Ministers come, Prime Ministers go. You know in my lifetime I've met and dealt with almost every Prime Minister from Robert Muldoon till the present day. Long after John Key has disappeared from the political scene I'll still be involved.
SUSAN Cameron Slater there speaking from Tel Aviv. And we did ask Labour candidate Stuart Nash about his relationship with Whale Oil, he said he’s never paid for political advice. He said he did once write an article for Cameron Slater's Truth newspaper, but says he doesn’t know him well.