New Zealand Prime Minister sends police to raid major news outlets over covert recording of negotiations with far-right party

Juha writes,

The Prime Minister of New Zealand, John Key, is angry that a conversation between him and a rightwing candidate for Parliament was recorded by a cameraman - so angry that he's reported the matter to the police which is now going to raid TVNZ, Radio NZ, TV3 and another, unnamed media organisation.

Key set up a stage-managed meeting between him and John Banks from the rightwing ACT Party, with media in attendance. The meeting over a cup of tea was to discuss the candidate from Key's centre-right National Party folding in the wealthy electorate of Epsom, Auckland, in favour of Banks. National needs Banks to win Epsom, to form a coalition with ACT.

A cameraman was stopped from retrieving his microphone that he'd left on Key and Banks' table while media was allowed inside the cafe where the meeting took place, and says he recorded the "private" conversation inadvertently. The recording itself hasn't been published by anyone yet. Key and National has refused to give permission to publish the recording, but say it was "bland". In NZ, it's a crime to record other people without their knowledge.

I'm somewhat ambivalent about covert recording, but it seems clear that this isn't merely about investigating the act of recording, or punishing someone who broke the law. This feels like a campaign of intimidation against the institution of the press itself, whose subtext is, "Cover politics with kid gloves or we will make your lives hell." Meanwhile, Key has defended his use of police time by saying his government has done so much to eliminate crime that the police have spare time they can use to pursue his vendettas.

John Key defends resources used on tape investigation (Thanks, Juha!)


    1. Compared to whom?  Helen Clarke?!  Now SHE was vile.  John is not my ideal for PM of the country but I’d rather see him running the show than Phil Goff *shudders*. 
      …And I’m a Green Party voter!

  1. What is really sad is that New Zealand’s political discourse in the media is so hollow that this ‘scandal’ is the one thing to have captured the public’s imagination. It sure beats debating policy. The Media get a saga, the public get a tasty little piece of intrigue and politicians get to avoid talking about the things that might make them unpopular.

  2. Is this it, people ? Are we actually living in the Big Brother / Censor ALL news outlets / Censor EVERYTHING / next-stop: dystopia we’ve been warned about in sci-fi stories for decades?

    Or is it just more of the usual, sub-mammalian ass-covering of the atypical politician – But now, thanks to public media, writ large for the world to see ?

    Is stuff like this the dying gasps of the wanna-be totalitarians, or the first real wave ?

    One wonders if we can even have one without the other…

  3. Latest… the cops have visited TV3, and viewed the footage around the tea for two event. They didn’t request the recording though. Sounds like TV3 will resist handing over the material. Elsewhere, ”
    Radio NZ head of news Don Rood said the broadcaster would protect its sources if police tried to take material.”

    The cameraman in the middle of it all has requested an urgent High Court judgement as to whether or not the conversation was private and therefore, illegal to record. He is also considering bringing a defamation suit.

  4. He laid a complaint with the police, which doesn’t seem unfair, it was a potentially illegal recording.   If he’s pressured them to act, I haven’t seen the evidence.   

    The media haven’t been intimated at all, they love this.  They’ve talked about the story almost non-stop for 3 or 4 days which is boring, but hey that’s up to them.  

  5. Ok, lets get one thing straight.  The ACT Party reside on what is technically the far right wing of politics in NZ, but they are hardly what one would characterize as far right wing in international terms.  So your by line is kinda excitable.  They’re not gun-toting skinhead neo-nazis or anything. They are really just a more focused version of the National Party, being lead by two former National party men – Banks and Brash.

    This whole fiasco is a silly storm in a teacup.  Key is generally a good bloke, but his insistence on reporting this to the police has blown the whole thing out of proportion.

    1. How are ACT not far right-wing just because they’re not out and out fascists?
      They are classical liberals and have the same policies as the more fringe US Republicans while their members are often found spouting stupid racist comments about Polynesians being lazy and Asians invading the country.  

      I think it’s important that whether or not Key is “a generally good bloke” (he’s a snake oil salesman), he’s definitely a guy who’s gone straight to the police alleging that his privacy has been invaded by this recording and urging them to press charges only half a year after pushing through an urgent law change to let the police continue to warrentlessly invade everyone else’s privacy through previously-illegal recording.

  6. I’ll send the police round to your place looking for something I’ve said is totally bland and inconsequential, shall I? Bet you’ll feel at least a bit intimidated, and I bet you won’t stop talking about it for days. 

  7. The ACT party is not a far-right party, it is a Libertarian party in all senses of the word (social and economic). On the NZ political scale, it is placed on the right because of its economic policies, but for social questions, it is far more “left” than most of the others.

  8. These are he same muppets that brought in our 3 strikes internet laws dispite it been shot down over and over. They are going to burn us in the great NZ assets firesale and everyone sits back and enjoys Keys “nice” smile

  9. Thus far the whole thing seems to have backfired disastrously, and now ACT is in danger of losing Epsom and thus any seats in parliament. What a shame!

  10. The ACT party may claim to be Libertarian, but in practice they’re not. John Banks, who is currently the party’s only faint hope of achieving political office, has in the past advocated exploiting the disproportionate number of indigenous Mâori in New Zealand’s prison system to produce state-manufactured arts and crafts for the tourist souvenir market. As any Randian will confirm, gulag-based state enterprises and Libertarianism are polar opposites.

  11. And not long before Key used NZ police to break into cars that we’re in an inconvenient place preventing his election tour bus from turning a corner. But it’s okay, because he’s the PM, so he’s allowed to get the cops to break into cars he doesn’t own.

    Also, Key has said (paraphrasing) “if you’re innocent, there is nothing to fear” in regards to the security & surveillance and copyright legislation changes. Surely he should forget about the whole tape and illegal recording thing if he’s so innocent.

  12. Seb has given the classic Nat/ACT diatribe: Jon Key = ‘good bloke’ Helen Clarke = AntiChrist.

    Seb, what is your definition of a ‘good bloke’? One who has rail roaded the democratic process throughout there entire term as prime minister? Used the Christchurch earthquake to pass through bills on internet censorship and  police surveillance without any need for public scrutiny?

    And what did Helen Clarke do that was so awful? Nothing compare to Key. Then again I guess Clarke could never fit into the ‘good bloke’ category.

    I have continually asked people who say they are going to vote for Key why and I have never once been given any reason apart from something limp and meaningless like ‘he’s a good bloke’.

    The next four years under Key we are really going to see this man’s true colours fly and we can see that slipping with this whole tea cup sillyness.

    Fascists don’t always wear jack boots and shave their head. They usually wear a tie and smirk blankly whenever a camera is pointed at them. Oh yeah, and always refuse to answer questions.

    John Banks MP for the (“non-right wing”) ACT party:

    He was also until recently the Mayor of Auckland… twice. Non-european New Zealanders, mainly Maori and Polynesian people, make up 35% of the cities population of 1.5 million.

  13. Thanks for your comments manalone.  I genuinely appreciate having my pre-conceived ideas shaken up.  To be frank I find it very hard to decide who to trust and therefore who to vote for in this election.  

    I can’t stand that creep John Banks and his ideologies, for the very reasons outlined in the video you posted above. 

    I don’t trust the Labour party to do a good job of moving the country forward.  They had nine years in office, so the social and economic make up of the country we live in today will have been largely shaped by their policy direction.  I certainly don’t see how increasing our overseas national debt to fund spending programmes (as they propose) will better us in the long term.

    Having said that I don’t aggree with everything the National Party puts forward as policy either.  My comment about John Key Being a “generally good bloke” was a flippant and simplistic attempt to encapsulate my perception of him and what I think he represents. 

    I have to say I have more faith in John Key’s ability to lead the nation than I do Phil Goff and David Cunliffe, based on what I have heard from them over the course of the last 6-9 months.

    I have always been a Green Party supporter, partly on the basis of their environmental policy and partly because I have known Jeanette Fitzsimons personally from a young age and I belive she is a genuinely good person.  A person of integrity and honesty.  She is now no longer leading the party and I will have to revisit their policy statements, as well as those of the other major parties and local candidates.

    As some of my friends and I have generally concluded, there is no one party or candidate we actively WANT to vote for.  So we are reduced to voting for the party we perceive will do the least harm.

    I would appreciate other’s thoughts on the matter.

  14. The sad fact of the matter is that there isn’t really much tangible difference between any of the six political parties in New Zealand. You can pick holes and use oddmark examples to show inconsistency and hypocrisy in all of them.

    This is one of the reasons it is patently wrong for an international media outlet like BoingBoing to refer to ACT as a far right party – they’re not nationalists, they’re not xenophobic, and they’re not authoritarian. Certainly not compared to anything you see in Europe or North America, that’s for sure.

  15. wrcmontreal, that really isn’t true in regards to their being no difference between the parties, in fact this is more applicable to say American politics which only have a two party system. Green policies are completely different to ACT policies.
    BoingBoing hasn’t refered to ACT as a far right party, they refered to them as a right wing party, which they are. I would argue the point that they aren’t xenophobic or authoritarian, especially when you look at the individuals within the party, John Banks and Don Brash being the prime examples. Their views would sit quite comfortably at a Tea Party rally. I am not too sure why you are trying to gloss everything over in such a simplistic way.
    This has gone off topic from the real issue. The tea cup silliness is just one example how John Key will go to any length to cover up the truth and avoid answering tough, political questions.  

  16. “BoingBoing hasn’t refered to ACT as a far right party, they refered to them as a right wing party, which they are.”

    Umm, yes they have.  It’s right there in the title of this blog post: 
    “New Zealand Prime Minister sends police to raid major news outlets over covert recording of negotiations with far-right party”

  17. Too true Seb! I stand corrected. I hadn’t had my caffine fix yet!

    I forgot about the recent $100 million spent on an Australian dinancial advisory comapny, Lazard, to advise on the sale of state assests. To ‘advise’ on state assest sales… before he has even been elected. Wow. Ironically it is the same amount needed to clean up the mess from the Rena.

    Why are we even bothering to hold elections if this man is unaccountable to the New Zealand public?

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