Wellington Scoop

The press gallery, the prime minister, and Peter Dunne’s casting vote

by Tom Frewen
Love is blind. So it is with the parliamentary press gallery and the prime minister. Still honeymooning with John Key, the media remain blind to his faults and weaknesses.

If love is blind, so is hate. The contempt that political commentators have for Winston Peters — the Dominion-Post’s political editor Tracy Watkins recently called him “toxic” — distorts their view, not just of him, but of politics in general.

Whereas Key is the media’s darling, Peters is their voodoo doll. Their relationship with him is essentially one of competitive rivalry. He has nothing but contempt for their lack of professionalism, their preference for fantasy over fact, speculation before analysis and general intellectual sloppiness. Moreover, unlike his colleagues, he is not afraid to tell them exactly what he thinks of them.

As a strategy for attracting the media exposure that it is the oxygen of modern politics, it pays handsome dividends — his face large on the cover of The Listener last week! Jane Clifton promised to reveal “what Winston’s really up to.” Gearing up for the next election, she thinks. Doh.

The likely composition of the next parliament is a giant red herring that diverts Clifton and her colleagues from the fascinating reality of the present one, in which Key’s National party is two seats short of a majority on legislation not supported by the Maori Party.

One of those seats, Epsom, is occupied by John Banks, now facing a court case which will test the judiciary’s tolerance of “brain fade” as a viable defence. The other is Ohariu, long held by Peter Dunne, who is set to launch the fourth or fifth coming in his long career down the political centre line.

What Winston was really up to when he outed Dunne was doing Clifton’s job for her. The close Twitter contact between Dunne and Dominion-Post reporter Andrea Vance had not gone unnoticed by the gallery. But they seem to have missed a vital clue as to motivation which Peters added to the circumstantial evidence linking the minister and the journalist in his final question to Key in the House on June 4.

— As Prime Minister and chair of the parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee, does he believe there is a leak in that committee and, if so, who does he believe is that leak — Mr Shearer, Mr Norman, Mr Banks, the Prime Minister himself, or the remaining member of that five-member committee who wrote of the Government Communications Security Bureau on 24 October last year: “I am starting to feel very uncomfortable.”?

Dunne had written that in his blog, while Vance’s pursuit of the Key-Dotcom angle in the GCSB story had been apparent in her articles.

Unwilling to admit that they had been scooped by Peters and distracted by the potential for a romantic interpretation of the Dunne-Vance relationship, political commentators kept their eyes wide shut on the bigger picture.

Bumbling towards the end of yet another embarrassingly ill-informed interview on The Nation, TV3’s Rachel Smalley asked Dunne yesterday if there were any bills “perhaps from the right” that he would not support in the House. Replying that he would be voting on a case-by-case basis, he said:

“I will be looking closely, given recent circumstances, at the GCSB legislation, for instance, in terms of whether it achieves what it sets out to do, or whether it goes too far.

“I think there is a conflict that needs to be resolved between the role of our domestic spy agency, the SIS, and the external agency the GCSB, and where they coincide.

“And I must say that I am increasingly uncomfortable with the notion that because the GCSB might have better technology, for example, it can do work on behalf of the domestic agency.

“I accept that there are cases where that may be appropriate. But I think there needs to be a much clearer delineation and a much clearer statement about where one’s role ends and the other’s begins. Otherwise, I think the situation could remain as blurred as it was in the Dotcom case.”

As “the Dotcom case” continues to haunt Key’s second term and could eventually define it, Dunne’s political future will depend on what he makes of his new role as the sensible person’s reluctant whistleblower. Banished from the Intelligence and Security Committee that is now considering the GCSB amendment bill, Dunne ironically has much greater influence over its content than he did as one of five committee members. The bill’s referral to the committee was opposed by all parties except National, ACT and United Future. Its future back in the chamber now rides on Dunne’s casting vote.

And this is no ordinary bill. It has the prime minister’s name on it. The GCSB is his responsibility. So far, his performance as its minister has been appalling. A spy agency’s worst nightmare is public exposure. Key has not only exposed the previously-obscure agency to public gaze but, with this legislation, has opened it to an unprecedented degree of examination and loss of public confidence.

If the parliamentary press gallery were not so infatuated with the prime minister they would be telling you what a mess he’s making of the one portfolio that you never used to hear anything about.

PM on Twitter: What do you think?
Peter Dunne on YouTube: his party is no longer recognised


  1. Ross, 24. June 2013, 21:23

    Fascinating. Keep up the good work.

  2. Curtis Nixon, 24. June 2013, 21:32

    Brilliant article – ‘If love is blind, so is hate!’ Awesome sentence.

  3. BLiP, 25. June 2013, 4:53

    Great stuff well said. The trouble John Key has with his GCSB and, indeed, his entire time in Parliament, is the difficult relationship he has with the truth. Sometimes it’s probably an over-eagerness to seem knowledgeable and in charge, other times his previous statements lack applicability because of changing circumstances but, overall, it could be said John Key is the most dishonest Prime Minister New Zealand has ever had. And it’s that, I suggest, which will define his legacy.

    Consider . . .

    – I promise to always be honest

    – we are not going to sack public servants, the attrition rate will reduce costs

    – there’s no way one in five New Zealanders will lose their jobs

    – we are not going to cut working for families

    – I firmly believe in climate change and always have

    – We seek a 50% reduction in New Zealand’s carbon-equivalent net emissions, as compared to 1990 levels, by 2050. 50 by 50. We will write the target into law.

    – I didn’t know about The Brethren election tactics

    – If they came to us now with that proposal [re trans-Tasman Therapeutic Goods regime], we will sign it

    – I can’t remember my position on the 1981 Springbok Tour

    Tranzrail shares

    – I did not mislead the House (1)

    Lord Ashcroft

    – National Ltdâ„¢ would not have sent troops into Iraq

    Standard & Poors credit downgrade

    – the double-down grade doesn’t really matter and its only about private sector debt

    – I did not mislead the House (2)

    – I didn’t say I want wages to drop

    – I can’t remember why I voted against increasing the minimum wage

    – lifting the minimum wage to $15 an hour will increase unemployment

    – the real rate of inflation is 3.3 percent.

    – the tourism sector has not lost 7,000 jobs

    – no I have never heard of Whitechapel

    – I won’t raise GST

    – people who are on the average wage and have a child are $48 a week better off after the rise in GST

    – the purchase of farmland, by overseas buyers will be limited to ten farms per purchase

    – the Pike River Mine was consented to under a Labour Government

    – no promises were made to get the remains of the miners out of the Pike River mine

    – I did not provide a view on the safety of the Pike River coalmine

    – I did not mislead the House (3)

    – capping, not cutting the public service

    – raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour will cost 6000 jobs

    north of $50 a week

    – wave goodbye to higher taxes, not your loved ones

    – I never offered Brash a diplomatic job in London

    – Tariana Turia is “totally fine” with the Tuhoe Treaty Claim deal


    – National Ltdâ„¢ is not going to radically reorganise the structure of the public sector

    – tax cuts won’t require additional borrowing

    – New Zealand does not have a debt problem

    – New Zealand troops in Afghanistan will only be involved in training, not fighting

    – the wage gap between New Zealand and Australia has closed under my National Ltdâ„¢ government

    – National Ltdâ„¢ has changed the Overseas Investment Act to include 19 different criteria

    – the price of goods and services has risen by 6 percent since the last election, while the after-tax average wage has actually gone up by 16 percent

    – no, although it’s a week ago and here I am being interviewed on television about them, I haven’t seen Gerry Brownlee’s comments regarding demolitions in Christchurch and which caused such outrage, but I can talk all about them

    – our SAS soldiers were not involved in the Kabul Hotel gunfight

    – the use of the Vela brothers’ helicopter was required so I could attend meetings relating to national/international security concerns

    – the DPS makes the decision about accompanying the Prime Minister or not, I had no choice but to take them on holiday to Hawaii

    – I did not mislead the House (4)

    – oh, maybe our SAS soldiers were in the Kabul hotel gun fight but they weren’t wounded by friendly fire

    – New Zealand has lost $12 billion from GDP due to the Christchurch earthquake . . . oh, it might actually be around $15 billion from GDP due to the Christchurch earthquake . . . Blinglish said what?

    – 10,000 houses will have to be demolished in Christchurch due to the earthquake

    – 14,000 new apprentices will start training over the next five years, over and above the number previously forecast

    – Our amendments to the ETS ensure we will continue to do our fair share internationally

    – we are committed to honouring our Kyoto Protocol obligations

    – any changes to the ETS will be fiscally neutral

    – New Zealand has grown for eight of the last nine quarters”

    – National Ltdâ„¢ will tender out the government banking contract

    – we will be back in surplus by 2014-15

    – Nicky Hager’s book “Other People’s Wars” is a work of fiction

    – unemployment is starting to fall

    – we have created 60,000 jobs

    – we have created 45,000 jobs

    – the 2011 Budget will create in the order of 170,000 jobs

    – I don’t know if I own a vineyard

    – no, I did not mislead the House (5)

    – the Isreali spy killed in the Christchurch quake had “only one” passport

    – the Police will not need to make savings by losing jobs

    – first I heard I heard about Kim Dotcom was on 19 January 2012

    – first I heard about the illegal spying on Kim Dotcom was in September

    – I did not mislead the House (6)

    – I voted to keep the drinking age at 20

    – New Zealand is 100% Pure

    – I’ve been prime minister for four years, and it’s really 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year

    – baseball in New Zealand is attracting more government support

    – the decision to buy brand new BMWs was made by the Department of Internal Affairs without reference either to their minister or to me

    – I didn’t have a clue that Ministerial Services, which I am in charge of, was going to buy brand new BMWs

    – even though two of my ministers knew all about it, I didn’t have a clue that brand new BMWs were being bought.

    – even though my Chief of Staff met with officials to discuss purchase of the the brand new BMWs, I didn’t have a clue

    – even though I personally signed papers discussing the matter, I still didn’t have a clue

    – Labour forced us into buying the brand new BMWs, its their fault

    – ummm, look, sorry about that BMW thing , it was because I was so upset

    – I did not describe David Beckam as thick as batshit

    – I did not mislead the House (7)

    – the public demanded that we change the labour laws for The Hobbit

    – “The Hobbit” created 3000 new jobs

    – we have delivered 800 extra doctors in the public service

    – I did not mislead the House (7)

    – I wasn’t working at Elders when the sham foreign exchange deals took place

    – I was starting School Certificate exams in 1978

    – I don’t know who arrived on the CIA jet to visit the spies I am responsible for

    – reducing barriers to property developers will increase the availability of affordable housing

    – Labour left the economy in poor shape

    – forecasts show unemployment will fall

    – we have closed the wage gap with Australia by $27

    – Ngati Porou and Whanau Apanui are not opposed to mining

    – I have not had any meetings with Media Works

    – our [NZ’s] terms of trade remain high

    – the TPP is an example of democracy

    – National Ltdâ„¢ will use the proceeds of state asset sales to invest in other public assets, like schools and hospitals

    – New Zealand troops will be out of Afghanistan by April 2013

    – overseas investment in New Zealand adds to what New Zealanders can invest on their own

    – overseas investment in New Zealand creates jobs, boosts incomes, and helps the economy grow

    – National Ltdâ„¢ will build 2000 houses over the next two years

    – there are only 4 New Zealand SAS soldiers in Bamiyan and all working in the area of logistics and planning only

    – selling state assets will give cash equity to those companies

    – the Sky City deal will provide 1000 construction jobs and 800 casino jobs

    – the Sky City deal doesn’t mean more pokies

    – there was nothing improper about the Sky City deal

    – my office has had no correspondence, no discussions, no involvement with the Sky City deal

    – SkyCity will only get “a few more” pokie machines at the margins

    – any changes to gambling regulations will be subject to a full public submission process

    – Sky City has approached TVNZ about the purchase/use of government-owned land

    – I did not mislead the House (8)

    – the Auditor General has fully vindicated National over the Sky City deal

    – David Shearer has signed up for the purchase of shares in Mighty River

    – Solid Energy asked the government for a $1 billion capital investment

    – fracking has been going safely on in Taranaki for the past 30 years without any issues

    – no frontline positions will be lost at DOC

    – Iain Rennie came to me and recommended Fletcher for the GCSB job

    – I told Cabinet that I knew Ian Fletcher

    – I forgot that after I scrapped the shortlist for GCSB job I phoned a life-long friend to tell him to apply for the position

    – I told Iain Rennie I would contact Fletcher

    – for 30 years, or three decades, I didn’t have any dinners or lunches or breakfasts with Ian Fletcher

    – I did not mislead the House (9)

    – No, I did not say we would follow the US and Australia into a war against North Korea

    – I paid for that lunch and I’ve got the credit card bill to prove it

    – I called directory service to get Ian Fletcher’s number

    – I did not mislead the house (10)

    – the illegal spying on Kim Dotcom was an isolated incident

    – New Zealand has an arrangement to have asylum seekers processed in Australian detention camps

    – the law which says the GCSB cannot spy on New Zealanders is not clear

    – the only way net new jobs can be created is by private investors putting their money into businesses in New Zealand

    – an increase in the number of people looking for work indicates that confidence is returning to the economy

    – the 10 percent of taxpayers in New Zealand who are the top earners pay 76 percent of all net personal tax.

    – I did not mislead the House (11)

    – the substantial wage growth under Labour was eroded by inflation

    – National Ltdâ„¢’s 2010 tax changes were fiscally neutral

    – I did not mislead the House (12)

    – the bulk of New Zealanders earn between $45,000 and $75,000 a year

    – Pike River Coal did not put profits and its production ahead of the safety and lives of those 29 workers.

    – Radio Live had sought advice from the Electoral Commission about my show just before the election

    – it is because of National Ltdâ„¢’s policies that the price of fresh fruit and vegetables has dropped.

    – the length-of-the-country cycleway will create 4000 jobs.

    – police training for next year has not been cancelled

    – National Ltd™ has only cut back-office jobs in the health service

    – The Crown’s dividend stream from the Meridians, the Mighty Rivers of the world is large and there is no motivation to sell assets; actually we’re about creating assets not selling assets.”

    – National believes employment law should treat all parties fairly. It should . . . Protect employees and employers.

    – I am not trying to tackle such issues in a “fearful” way ahead of the next election

    – the GCSB has been prevented from carrying out its functions because of the law governing its functions

    – because the opposition is opposed the GCSB law ammendments, parliamentary urgency is required

    – the increasing number of cyber intrusions which I can’t detail or discuss prove that the GCSB laws need to be extended to protect prive enterprise

    – it was always the intent of the GCSB Act to be able to spy on New Zealanders on behalf of the SIS and police

    – National Ltdâ„¢ is not explanding the activities of the GCSB with this new law

    – National Ltdâ„¢ has been working on a number of things with New Zealand First on a number of things one of which has a financial component but I can’t talk about it

    – the best way to get growth in the economy is to reduce public debt

    – New Zealand mum and dad investors will be our number one priority in the allocation of Mighty River shares

    – we won’t let “cowboy” oil exploration companies operate here in New Zealand.

    – the food in schools programme is in the 2013 budget

    – the meat exports are being held up in China because of technical issues and in relation to the Chinese looking to trace counterfeit meat

    its notoriously difficult to win three elections in a row

    – I am deeply concerned about every child in New Zealand who is in poverty

    – I have no reason to doubt at this stage that Peter Dunne did not leak the GCSB report

    – there is no manufacturing crisis in New Zealand

    – the government’s exposure to MediaWorks’ going into receivership is reasonably limited

  4. Judy, 25. June 2013, 10:49

    Thankyou BLiP. Haw wonderful to see Key’s full list of lies has been kept. Well done indeed …. Finally Key has stated that as they are in fact a minority Government they do need to work with other parties. He is an absolute pull through & to think he is our PM. It can’t be any worse unless they were to get in for another 3 years without a harness around their neck & a spur in their side. Only NZ First could do that effectively.

  5. peter@southwelly, 25. June 2013, 12:00

    You Sir/Madam are a champion. We knew the man was a liar, but to have kept track of so many, well done. The man must wake up each day and think to himself, “What codswallop will I tell to the world today.”

  6. David, 25. June 2013, 12:30

    Finally, a piece of actual analysis worthy of publication.

    Great job Tom, and thanks to Wellington.Scoop.

  7. John Clarke, 25. June 2013, 19:17

    Tom’s article also underlines how ineffectual the mainstream media are. Gordon Campbell is a far more skeptical political journalist than anyone Fairfax employs – as well as having a better turn of phrase – and the plodders at the Dom Post lack the wit to even break a story these days.

    Look at the recent issue with John Morrison’s plagiarism – it was Wellington.Scoop that did the analysis and published the article, and the Dom Post eventually got there a day or two later. No wonder there’s nothing but empty fawning coming out of the traditional journalists in the parliamentary press gallery – the Fairfax people lack the ability to do anything better.

  8. Jackp, 15. July 2013, 22:41

    BliP, thank you. Tom Frewen’s article is a breath of fresh air. It appears the closer NZ First gets to its 20 years as a political party the more the media are doing to harass Winston Peters. The Herald today printed a slanted article about Neil Kirton’s opinion how Winston hasn’t done anything of significance. I can tell you living in Napier with Neil Kirton as a regional councillor since 2001 we have one of the highest unemployment and lowest wage areas. Only the Northlands surpass us. I have seen very little commerce increase in this area. Mr Kirton isn’t qualified to make those comments but the Herald takes his word as gospel. I am getting tired of Winston being badgered by the media.