English plays dumb on Dirty Politics | The Jackal

7 Sept 2014

English plays dumb on Dirty Politics

It's a pity none of the government Ministers or National party officials have been prepared to speak about the Dirty Politics saga that has dominated the news cycle over the last three week's.

Instead of simply coming clean about their involvement or making a firm statement about how such activity is undemocratic and quite possibly illegal, most National MPs have danced around on the head of a pin.

That was the case with Finance Minister Bill English when he was interviewed by Lisa Owen on TV3's The Nation last Saturday. Here's the video:

Today, the NBR reported:

Lisa Owen: All right. So what then about a royal commission into the dirty politics allegations? Would you have one?

Parker: I think it's absolutely necessary. You know, the inquiry that we've got into Judith Collins at the moment is far too narrow. It doesn't look at any conduct within the Prime Minister's department nor any of her other mistakes in respect of Whale Oil or the Oravida controversies.

OK. On that, Mr English, I just want to ask you, would it be wrong for a member of your staff to go into someone else's website and download personal details, like credit card information? Would that be wrong?

English: Look, if you're referring to this stuff that's being discussed in the last few weeks—

I asked you a really simple, ethical question. If someone in your office goes into a website that's not theirs — someone else's website — starts downloading credit card details, do you believe that that is wrong?

English: I wouldn't ask a staff member to go and do something like that.

Not asking if you asked. If they did it off their own bat, is it wrong?

English: Look, the question you're putting is completely hypothetical.

It's an ethical question, Mr English. Simple to answer. Is it wrong or not?

Parker: Sadly it's not hypothetical. It happened in the Prime Minister's office.

English: Someone has gone into Cameron Slater's Gmail and downloaded 10 years of emails. Is that wrong?

All right, if you're worried the hypothetical nature of it, let's put it this way. Let's say Jason Ede who worked for the National Party goes into a computer, a website that's not yours, he downloads personal information, allegedly, including credit card details. Is that right in your view?

English: Look, these are allegations made in a book. They've been discussed endlessly for two or three weeks.

Parker: And no one's inquiring into them.

Is it OK, Mr English?

English: We've got an election—

Is it OK? It's a really simple question. Why are you worried about answering it? Is it OK?

English: I wouldn't ask a staff member to do it, and, actually, I don't think it's the biggest issue.

What if a staff member did it off their own bat?

English: I don't think this is the biggest issue in the election campaign, and I don't think I can say anything that will add to the extensive commentary there's already been.

Parker: You could inquire into it.

You can tell us what your stance is on that in terms of ethics. If someone in the office—

English: I've already told you.

No, you said you wouldn't ask them to do it. I'm asking you, 'Is it OK if they've done it off their own bat?' Is that OK in your book?

English: Look, it's a hypothetical question. You're making up a situation that's not real. The one that's been talked about—

Have you read Dirty Politics? It's very real.

English: No, I haven't read Dirty Politics. I haven't bothered, and like most New Zealanders, because actually they think there's some bigger issues involved in this election campaign.

Parker: Well, there are bigger ones than that one, like whether the Serious Fraud Office or the Financial Market Authority have been subjected to a criminal conspiracy. I agree there are bigger issues, but there are also smaller issues that need to be inquired into as well.

I wonder how long the National party can keep trying to ignore the serious implications to their party that Dirty Politics raises? In my opinion they would be best to own up and tell the truth, but I guess after so many years of lying that's a bit too much to ask for.