Brian Edwards Media

I risk arrest by speculating on what was in the English Breakfast tea. And how John Key’s life could have been in danger.

 

Photo: Herald/Dean Purcell

So what’s really on that ‘innocently made’ recording of Big John and Little John’s chat over the English Breakfast teacups? Well, I haven’t heard the recording, so the best I can do is speculate. I’m reasonably certain that just speculating on what’s on the recording isn’t illegal,  though who knows what Big John will come up with next to make sure the truth never leaks out. In the meantime, I’m not expecting the constabulary to come knocking on my door. Unless of course Big John decides on a bit of retrospective law-making. On previous evidence, I wouldn’t put it past him.

Anyway, I think that between sips of English Breakfast, the Johns discussed what to do about the political embarrassment called Don Brash. I’m not alone in thinking that. Lots of people have. But very few have mentioned a curious little incident on last night’s 3 News.

3 News has a copy of the recording but, like other branches of the media, has been warned by the cops of the dire consequences that could befall them, if they broadcast the recording or, presumably, tell anyone else what’s on it. They didn’t do that. 

What they did was send a reporter to ask Little John a few questions about what he and Big John had talked about. (So far, asking questions isn’t illegal.) Here are the three questions she asked:

  1. Did you talk about Don Brash at all?
  2. Is there going to be a restructuring of the Act Party after the election?
  3. Have people a right to know if Don Brash is not going to be the Act leader after the election?

Now follow my logic:

  • TV3 has a copy of the recording;
  • The reporter knows what’s in the recording;
  • Her three questions arise from that knowledge;
  • Ergo, the true answer to questions 1 and 2 is almost certainly Yes. And the reasonable conclusion from question 3 is that Don Brash is almost certainly not going to be the Act leader for long after the election.

Of course it’s still just speculation on my part. But taken together with the draconian measures taken by Big John to ensure that you and I don’t find out what he and Little John discussed, I’m willing to lay odds that it’s right. If Little John wins Epsom, its arrivederci to the Don, perhaps not quite so brutally as he dispensed with poor Rodney, but arrivederci nonetheless.

Judy and I used to live in Epsom and I was wondering how I would feel about all of this if we still lived there and a bolt of lightning had turned us into National Party voters.

Pretty stink actually. First, I have a National Party candidate, Paul Goldsmith, who  doesn’t want me to vote for him. He doesn’t actually say this, but his weasel words about ‘wanting the party vote’ make it absolutely clear.

Next there’s this uncouth fellow from ACT  who’s a former National Party Cabinet Minister but doesn’t want me to vote for the National Party candidate either. He   wants me to vote for him. I do rather like the ACT leader, Dr Brash,  so urbane and gentlemanly –  just the right class of person for Epsom. But this fellow Banks clearly regards him as a total idiot  and an electoral liability.

And then  there’s nice Mr Key.  He’s the leader of the Party, but, he doesn’t want me to vote for the National Party candidate either! Hasn’t said so in so many words. But there he is taking tea with Banks and saying he ‘wouldn’t be unhappy’ if people gave their electorate vote to ACT. And then I read in the paper that he said: “I’m going to vote for Goldsmith. I am the National Party leader and I am going to vote for the National Party candidate and give my party vote to National.”

Well that really is just too much. Sauce for the goose but not sauce for the gander! I’ve been a National Party voter all my life and my parents before me. I believe in what the Party stands for. And here I am being told by the National Party candidate, and a former National Party Cabinet Minister and the National Party Prime Minister himself not to vote National but to vote for ACT and a fellow who isn’t even loyal to his party leader.

Well, a plague on all their houses! I won’t be told what to do. I’m going to vote for Mr Goldsmith.  

Well, that’s what I’d do.

And a footnote to the ‘cup of tea’ episode. Shouldn’t the gentlemen from the Diplomatic Protection Squad, whose job it is to protect the PM from harm,  have noticed that, for the entire 8 minutes,  there was a mysterious black bag on the table, no more than a foot away from the Prime Minister’s left arm? And might it give them pause for thought that the bag turned out to contain a working wirelessly controlled device?

47 Comments:

  1. Well put Brian! The following link has a couple of recordings and copies of legislation, regarding John Key’s potentially actionable comments regarding the Standard and Poors downgrades, people should ignore these little boys and their pathetic attention seeking and focus on the real issues:
    http://kate-raue.blogspot.com/2011/10/john-key-speaks-read-my-lips.html

  2. Surely the DPS would remove any foreign object from the table given that these are two of the most divisive and polarising politicians in the country.
    I suspect the DPS must be run by someone like Maxwell Smart or god help us Wayne Mapp.

  3. CHIEF: How can we believe a man who would sell out his friends?

    SIEGFRIED: Dumkoph! Who else are you supposed to sell out? You can’t betray enemies!

  4. a good point about the DPS. The bag was hardly hidden. The only other thing on the table was a reserved sign.

  5. What seems unpleasant and odd to me is that these two men stage-managed a publicity event, with the odious Mr Banks calling to BJ that it was “time for the promised cup of tea”. BJ then set about making hay with LJ and the media duly followed like sheep to record the event. Apparently through glass is fine, and even for the lip readers among us it’s fine, but not the GP for whom this interaction is most important. To then play coy with the record of their conversation is surely a trifle disingenuous? But as someone posted Banks’ vile and racist comments on TV3’s The Nation on Facebook, one would not be very surprised to find a conversation between right wing MPs is unpalatable to the common ear.

  6. Yes that very obvious black bag got me too – like didn’t Big and Little John notice?
    Maybe Little John just assumed it was Big John manbag or vice versa.

  7. “Judy and I used to live in Epsom and I was wondering how I would feel about all of this if we still lived there and a bolt of lightning had turned us into National Party voters.”

    No, I think a life-long National voter would conclude that the best way to stop this sort of stuff is to ditch MMP.

    Remind me again, please, as you were presumably closer to the action than me, who the Labour candidates in Sydenham and Ohariu were in 2005?

    But good intuitive reading between the lines on the conversation. Would they really discuss Brash’s imminent departure in that context? Not likely. More like,

    “OK, how long have you got?”

    “I counted about 20 media, 3 TV crews”

    “Now, when I count to three laugh your head off for the camera like I just said something really witty”

    “Now nod earnestly and slowly like I’ve just imparted great wisdom”.

    “OK, that’s 15 minutes – good luck, and hopefully we’ll meet in Wellington in 2 weeks time”.

    And I reckon the reason why Key has suggested the matter may be referred to the police is because it increases the likelihood that the meeting remains in the public spotlight – thus reinforcing National supporters in Epsom whom they may consider voting for IF they really want a National government. Hey, even Brian Edwards is cooperating with the strategy!

    BE: “And I reckon the reason why Key has suggested the matter may be referred to the police is because it increases the likelihood that the meeting remains in the public spotlight – thus reinforcing National supporters in Epsom whom they may consider voting for IF they really want a National government. Hey, even Brian Edwards is cooperating with the strategy!” Well, the kindest word I can find for that is ‘fanciful’. This has become a real embarrassment for Key, who over-reacted by referring the matter to the police. Now everyone wonders just what it is he and Banks have to hide.

  8. Ms Smalley, who admitted to My Key she was privy to the tape’s contents, proceeded to ask him who historically has supported Winston Peters and why he believes the party is losing support.

    Mr Key said New Zealand First’s voters were “older New Zealanders”, Mr Peters was “not a terribly stable politician” and not being in Parliament had not helped Mr Peters’ party.

    It doesn’t take much speculation from this to figure about what was being said either. Give the John’s a cup of tea and don’t they get their bitchiness on.

  9. I have Epsom friends – traditional Labour voters who will vote National for the first time in their lives – just to ensure Banks and ACT don’t get in. I had heard of Epsom locals encouraging their neighbors to vote Nat for the same reason. Perhaps they don’t like being taken for patsies by ACT.

    Brian I do like you. Big John/Little John names made me laugh.

  10. The recording was clearly illegal, refer Stuff website for the guys pedigree. if there was anything explosive the Herald would have published it and let’s face it Key ain’t no fool or he wouldn’t have banked 50 mill in the worlds most cut throat business.

  11. Could it be that Key also reminded Banksie that removing the Don was the condition of having a cuppa togther….

  12. “This has become a real embarrassment for Key, who over-reacted by referring the matter to the police. Now everyone wonders just what it is he and Banks have to hide”.

    You may well be right, or at least that is how Key’s opponent’s are spinning it.

    However, would you concur with the assessment someone with a background in journalism advised me: the recording is illegal, and should never have been passed on?

  13. I’m with you Kimbo! Why would the PM have a private conversation in the window of a cafe?

  14. You appear to be suggesting, Brian, that anything may be said about a politician and that anything may be made up and attributed to them.
    In addition you appear to regard the law as being irrelevant when recording what they say.
    I was absolutely appalled in 1972 when a paper, roughly as reputable as the HOS published an article about a candidate for Parliament which referred to their personal life and had nothing whatsoever to do with their suitability to be an MP. I believe the candidate was equally upset.
    Do you think that that paper, now thankfully defunct was entitled to do what it did on the grounds that a politician had no right to privacy?

  15. Know anyone who can lip-read?

  16. I wonder whether there is any desire in this country to think about and talk about the issues that will affect the lives of New Zealanders for the next three years. We are in the middle of the worst economic crisis since the depression, there continue to be problems with child abuse and child poverty, the gap between the haves and have nots continues to widen and all people can prattle on about is whether Mr Key is a nice man, a tawdry cameraman recording what was probably an asinine conversation, and a few stickers put up on National billboards.

    The National Government must love this. It has taken the attention away from the important issues and the real debate and focused on asinine drivel. I would have thought Goff might have had the balls to say that all this was irrelvant, but no he is gormless and calls for the content of the tapes to be revealed and plays into National’s hands.

    People get the government they deserve and on the evidence of the last few days they deserve a government led by Mickey Mouse but failing that Winston Peters would be condign punishment.

  17. I’ve heard of “media scrum”. But the cameraman who said he inadvertently left his recorder on, while he tried to get the pictures, is just ‘lying scum’.

    This was a private conversation, that concerned no one, but: John-1 and John-2.

  18. Right, so, based on the TV3 reporter’s questioning, it would appear that either:

    (a) Key and Banks discussed a secret plan to roll Brash after the Election (thus reinforcing voters’ nascent suspicions about Key’s questionable trustworthiness and flashes of arrogance),

    (b) Key made some rather derogatory comments about older voters in relation to NZ First (presumably some sort of callous and contemptuous remark about them “dying off ?”)(thus jeopardising some of National’s support among the older demographic – who, along with the middle aged, are significantly more likely to vote Nat than the under 35s AND undermining Key’s image as a good guy) or

    (c) both.

    All of which would explain why those in the know have been describing these comments as “explosive” and potentially “game-changing”.

  19. Dear Brian,
    First time commenting on your site. Wanted to see what your view on this was as I studied communications at Uni, read various articles from yourself and was impressed with your ethical and moral compass.
    Am disappointed that your Politics and not Academic viewpoint seems to be shining through in this particular post. Do you agree that there is a possible case to answer for breach of privacy in this? Do you agree that if found true this is completely unethical and criminal and needs to be dealt with by the courts? And, would the chance of conviction be diminished if Key and Brash authorise the release of this recording into the public domain? Lets face it, the only way we will know the truth in the matter is if the Police investigate.
    The focus of this issue should not be political. If Goff, Brash, Turei, Norman, Sharples, Dunne, Turia or even, god forbid me, Peters had a private conversation covertly taped, it would still be wrong and unethical.
    Seeing people jump on a polictical bandwagon calling for disclosure, when they have more than a laymans view of the bigger picture, is disappointing. Or, maybe I’m missing something and should follow the vok pop, inexpert public comments appearing in the news calling for disclosure.

  20. I did a search of your excellent website, Brian, about the question I asked regarding the illegality of the recording: “However, if a journalist records what you have to say without your knowledge or consent and broadcasts your voice later, that’s in breach of the Codes of Broadcasting Practice”.

    No, Brian, posing questions about the conversation is most certainly not illegal, as you well know. Just a good distraction from the issue Key raised. Perhaps if Key had been Amanda Hotchin, the slant would have been different.

    Now, is it just me, or is your failure to answer the question of the legality of the taping that I, Alwyn, and (first-timer!) RDMUK asked a case of the other advice posted on your website, “you can just ignore the question, which is often the safest way. If you answer, you can get yourself in to a situation that’s hard to dig your way out of.”?

    You are too good and honest a man to be running diversions for Key’s opponents on this one. But nevertheless, I salute your good advice: Key is unnecessarily drawing attention to the content of the conversation.

  21. Kimbo November 15th, 2011 at 16:10

    “No, I think a life-long National voter would conclude that the best way to stop this sort of stuff is to ditch MMP.”

    Kimbo, ANY electoral system can be rorted. FPP was no different – except it all happened behind closed doors as factions vied for power.

    As Brian stated, if I was an Epsom voter, I’d vote Goldsmith. Just to mess with the Two Johns’ cunning plans.

  22. The anger in Epsom is palpable, and rising. Banks will not win the seat.

  23. It appears the privacy angle is not that simple.

    There is a excellent discussion on this by Lawyer Steven Price in the Media Law Journal.
    http://www.medialawjournal.co.nz/?p=511
    It short its complicated.
    eg
    The privacy principle states:
    “Everyone is normally entitled to privacy of person, space and personal information, and these rights should be respected by publications. Nevertheless the right of privacy should not interfere with publication of significant matters of public record or public interest.”

    Would it be in the public interest to know what John and John talked about? Gauging by the public interest right now, I’d say yes.

  24. Bye the way Brian – have you been arrested yet or worst still have the PM’s press secs had a quiet word to you?

  25. Darcy Warlock “This was a private conversation, that concerned no one, but: John-1 and John-2.”

    Yeah, right. With most of Auckland’s media invited to attend this meeting of the Two Johns. That’s not a privacy-setting – that’s publicity-seeking.

    ASs a matter of interest, Gordon Brown got caught out in a similar manner; http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8649012.stm

    But Brown had the good sense to apologise and the issue was “closed down”.

    For Key to say he’s “comfortable” with the contents of the tape, and then lay a complaint with the Police indicates to the public that our Teflon Don is losing some of his non-stick abilities.

    “Privacy”? Yeah, nah.

    Bugging the PM’s office or hacking his phone would be a breach of privacy as there was a clear expectation of privacy.

    But not when every journo north of the Bombay Hills was invited to attend! Any expectation of “privacy” would be LaLa Land stuff.

  26. How can this be a private conversation?

    It was part of a media stunt with about a dozen cameras a few feet away on the other side of a window, and an open sliding door also next to the table. Most of these cameras had large microphones attached which were clerly visible – I’m no expert on their sensitivity but it seems they didn’t pick anything up, in any event it should have put Key and Banks on guard that voice recording was highly possible, if not likely.

    I see this as yet another politician being inadvertantly caught on an open mike saying something he shouln’t have. Going to the police is a heavy handed response with creepy Muldoonist implications.

    The shabby deal making in this and other electorates by all parties at different times is a reason why MMP should be replaced with an alternate system, although not FPP which has other equally odious defects.

    At the very least the rule which permits extra seats without the 5% party vote on the back of an electorate seat should be eliminated.

  27. I must confess the News of the World angle seems a stretch at best to me. Not John Key’s finest hour.

    Ben, the reason we aren’t debating the real issues is that this is a media blog, there are plenty of other places you can debate the issues.

    Brian, I am disappointed you don’t live in Epsom. Who would you vote for if you did ? You don’t need a hypothetical lightning bolt for this to be an interesting question. Go on, make my day and admit you’d vote for the National candidate!

    (Side issue; do you agree Labour made a strange mistake putting up an attractive candidate themselves ?)

  28. Bill, it’s a media blog; so what?

  29. @ Frank Macskasy

    I realise that we are getting into the realm of splitting hairs in this matter – and once the police and lawyers (9 lawyers, 10 opinions!) get involved that is inevitable. However, I’ll disagree with your assessment.

    Yes, the media were invited to cover the event that was the discussion between John 1 and 2. However, they were not entitled, unless invited or consent was given, to record or eavesdrop the content of the discussion. Speculate – yes. Opine – yes. But record and broadcast – it would seem not.

    LIke when the media covers political get-togethers such as APEC, including the stage-managed photo opportunities and silly-shirts, but they are not allowed to record and then report the content of in-camera sessions.

  30. This may be illegal but the law does not always act in a just way.If the secret agenda has items which effect me I think it should be made public knowledge.It definitly isnt the same as the child murder case which was evesdropped on.

  31. Ben, it’s a media blog so the focus tends to be more on communication about the issues and less on the issues. Maybe I am splitting hairs.

  32. @ Kimbo
    “However, they were not entitled, unless invited or consent was given, to record or eavesdrop the content of the discussion. Speculate – yes. Opine – yes. But record and broadcast – it would seem not. ”
    Other legal opinions seem to say – it would seem perhaps not.

    These are public individuals discussing public matters (we hope). If the content was about their kids, health ie their private lives – I agree that stuff should not be published – but what if it was – as Peters suggests – about other politicians or derogative statements about the elderly ? In an election period surely that’s valid public information.

  33. @ Richard Aston

    The All Blacks are public, yet they (rightly) jealously maintain their right to train and formulate game plans in private, away from recording equipment and eavesdroppers. I think politicians, executives, activists, and any group engaged in some sort of “competitive” activity have the same right. But that doesn’t preclude the possibility of someone leaking from the inside.

    President Nixon tried to invoke executive privilege to keep his (private) tapes sealed, but I think the US Supreme Court ruled that the detection of a crime over-rode that privilege. However, no one, other than perhaps pjr is suggesting Banks and Key were planning a crime.

    Whatever else you may think of the rightness or wrongness of what he did, Nixon had a point that political executives should have the right to confidential conversations. If that is violated, the quality of advice, discussion and policy formulation will be compromised, because participants will be pulling their punches in the off-chance they will be reported in a public context.

  34. @ Frank Macskasy

    Being invited to a wedding, doesn’t give you the right to join the nuptials in their honeymoon bridal suite. Your extrapolation is erroneous as it is absurd.

  35. Key is certainly engaging in some underhanded tactics to kill this thing. But I think some important points have been missed here. Check out what on my blogpost entitled Chumps’ tea party at the above website.

  36. remind any one Larry, Moe and Shemp? (or Harpo and Chiko!) (Groucho would never have had a bar of it.)

  37. I do wonder if there is a bit of media payback going on for Key’s strategy of avoiding media engagement on difficult issues. Now he is in a position he can’t stick to set piece interviews only, so they are going for the throat. Would they have been a bit less aggressive if he and his ministers had been more engaging? Got any relevant examples Brian?

  38. Darcy Warlock “@ Frank Macskasy

    Being invited to a wedding, doesn’t give you the right to join the nuptials in their honeymoon bridal suite. Your extrapolation is erroneous as it is absurd.”

    Except that the honeymooners aren’t standing for Parliament where they may have the power to decide the fate of the nation. Nor did they invite a media scrum to attend their event.

    Kimbo – “LIke when the media covers political get-togethers such as APEC, including the stage-managed photo opportunities and silly-shirts, but they are not allowed to record and then report the content of in-camera sessions.”

    But if one of the journos overseas something, or finds a document of considerable public interest, then that warrants public release.

    Let’s not forget, folks, the media aren’t here for PR. They exist to uncover the facts, situations, events (or should be).

    Investigative journalism often has to prod and poke behinds the scenes. If the media is to be constrained by certain “niceties” (that applies to ordinary folk in every-day situations) – then we’ve hobbled them. We no longer have a free press – we have a media-poodles who do the bidding of the State.

    And we all know what that’s called.

  39. @ Kimbo – good points Kimbo especially “political executives should have the right to confidential conversations.”
    I guess the reality for me is these particular political executives were having a confidential conversation just meters away from a media scrum as political stunt to try to get Epsom voters to vote ACT, which in turn is a political stunt of dubious ethics.
    So on a gut level I’m thinking tit for tat but you are right on a legal level they do have a right to a private conversation.

    Do I feel enraged, outraged or deeply concerned for the sake of the two Johns? No.

  40. Brian, I think you are certainly right about one thing surely the Diplomatic Protection Squad should have noticed the black bag and should have investigated it. After all it could have been a bomb!

  41. @ Frank Macskasy

    “We no longer have a free press – we have a media-poodles who do the bidding of the State….And we all know what that’s called”.

    Despite the attempt by you and Brian (“I’m reasonably certain…speculating…isn’t illegal, though who knows what Big John will come up…I’m not expecting the constabulary to come knocking on my door. Unless…John decides on a bit of retrospective law-making. On previous evidence, I wouldn’t put it past him”) to paint our current situation as akin to the Pinochet dictatorship, I’m yet to recall critic of this government being dragged off the street, or car bombs eliminating non-compliant media. Mind you, I know the left practised this same sort of hysterical rhetoric during the long dark night of the soul that was the Muldoon regime. Remind me of the body count of that junta?

    Banks and Key, despite their political status and purpose are accorded SOME protection of privacy under the law. Maybe the rules that govern the media should be changed. But the line has to be drawn somewhere. Even Brian himself, as evidenced by the phrase, ” that ‘innocently made’ recording” doesn’t believe this was anything other than a planned and orchestrated electronic eavesdrop. Which means, following your logic, it is open season on media bugging anyone of public and/or political interest. Is that really good for the country? Freedom of the press does not mean unlimited access. Or are we allowed to view unauthorised transcripts of confidential briefings Brian and Judy gave to Helen Clark?

    I’ll do you a deal, Frank. I’ll consider the possibility the teapot tapes should be made available, as long as there is a quid pro quo, and the taped evidence of all the Tuhoi activists is made available for Crown Prosecution, and public dissemination.

    Rules have to be equitable, and evenly applied, no matter what a person’s station or intent. If not, every cabinet and caucus meeting, every employer-union negotiation, every service supplier-client conversation, basically everything (because all of life is political) is subject to electronic surveillance. Now THAT is getting far closer to the police state you and Brian are suggesting is a possibility…

  42. Our media (all media) behave like a bunch of spoilt, unruly, untutored teenagers. The
    “teapot” business is but the latest example.

  43. PS, re Epsom: the anger here is palpable, and rising. All the polls show that Banks will NOT win the seat – the teapot scandal was the final nail in that coffin. The reluctant National bridesmaid Goldsmith will be firmly booted into Parliament, where he’ll have to do some REAL work as an electorate MP.
    Serves them right. If they’d stood up like real people, on clear platforms with clear alternatives, the intelligent voters of Epsom may well have offered a different outcome.

  44. The cost of operating the DPS has skyrocketed since Key’s been PM. To not check the bag — just inches away from him — speaks volumes about their vigilance, efficiency and training. Those “cool” U.S. Secret Service wannabes need to fiddle with their dark shades and combing of their gelled hair, less; and concentrate on attending to security fundamentals, more.

    You could be forgiven for thinking that they graduated from the ‘Sergeant Schultz Security Training Academy’. So hopelessly inept, they were.

  45. Kimbo – My full quote was,

    “IF the media is to be constrained by certain “niceties” (that applies to ordinary folk in every-day situations) – then we’ve hobbled them. We no longer have a free press – we have a media-poodles who do the bidding of the State.”

  46. I wonder if I risk arrest by publishing the Police Bail Bond, Court Bail Bond and Summons regarding the recent arrest of a local blogger, and the outrageous bail conditions imposed, on the website of Transparency in NZ,Kiwikileaks (we’re not media poodles, we’re the real thing. Putting our money where our mouth is since 2007.) . . .

    http://kate-raue.blogspot.com/2008/10/secret-life-of-information-how-auckland.html