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PM's Presser: TV3, DBP & Mudslinging To Come

Prime Minister's Post Cabinet Press Conference 16th May 2005

PM's Presser: TV3, DBP & Mudslinging To Come

by Scoop Chief Reporter Kevin List

In This Edition:
TV3 And Rodney Hide Take Another Minister Down
Coalition Talks – Past, Present And Future
Fairfax Transcripts And The Doone Affair
More Muck To Come


TV3 And Rodney Hide Take Another Minister Down

Last evening TV3, the news network attacked recently by John Tamihere for its links with ACT leader Rodney Hide, got the inside running on yet another potential scandal, which was fronted in the House last week by Mr Hide and National MP Judith Collins.

Associate Education Minister David Benson-Pope was tormented by Mr Hide and Ms Collins, under parliamentary privilege, regarding accusations that he [Mr Benson-Pope] shoved tennis balls in miscreants mouths and threw these yellow furry missiles at teenage malingerers when he was a teacher.

Using parliamentary questions, both Mr Hide and Ms Collins also implied that Mr Benson-Pope had transgressed the boundaries set for inflicting corporal punishment during his time at Bayfield High in Dunedin.

Mr Benson-Pope had assured the Prime Minister that he had administered corporal punishment in line with school policy. In relation to the allegations levelled at Mr Benson-Pope, yesterday afternoon the Prime Minister was of the opinion that she had "not seen anything at this point that would cause me cause for concern."

A few hours later, TV3 was able to bring some of the anonymous complainants against Mr Benson Pope into the nations' living rooms. One gentleman, interviewed by TV3 Political Editor Stephen Parker in Perth, told of his hands being gaffer-taped to a desk while a tennis ball was inserted into his mouth. The man had evidently been talking in class. Mr Hide also later turned up later in the bulletin and talked exclusively to John Campbell of his anguish regarding the alleged bullying behaviour of Mr Benson-Pope.

Mr Benson-Pope, who had been watching the allegations along with the Prime Minister, has now stepped down from his portfolios. An inquiry into the allegations will soon follow. What form this inquiry will take has yet to be decided.


Coalition Talks – Past, Present And Future

An Office Share On The Ninth Floor?

An article suggesting NZ First leader Winston Peters and National leader Don Brash could hypothetically divvy up the job of Prime Minister should the numbers stack up post-election was rubbished by Mr Peters yesterday.

"The voters can be assured that there have been no deals done, no discussions have taken place, none are planned and furthermore, New Zealand First is committed to promoting its own policies and views and not propping up 'failing' parties.

"Just because there is no leadership in National, there is no reason to think we are going to provide it for them," said Mr Peters in a press statement.

The Prime Minister alleged that during the negotiations following the 1996 election there had been approaches made to her by a person close to Winston Peters with a similar offer.

"It was floated to me and had I been desperate and dateless enough to accept it who knows what the possibilities may have been."

Whilst rebuffing Mr Peters had been "character building" for Labour in 1996, the Prime Minister refused to rule out any sort of arrangement with Mr Peters after this election. Should any post-election arrangements be needed, comments like "I'm sure they are desperate and dateless enough to consider it – both of them," – in relation to Mr Peters' and Mr Brash's hypothetical dalliance – are unlikely to have made negotiations any easier.


Fairfax Transcripts And The Doone Affair

Karalyn Van Royen's standing down from NZQA, the looming budget and Mr Benson-Pope nearly led to a Doone-free post-cabinet press conference. However, some mystery remains as to how much information Fairfax holds – how much information Fairfax's lawyers hold – and how much information the Prime Minister holds about her conversations with Sunday StarTimes employees five years ago.

Last week The Press quoted a source close to the case as saying that Clark had warned the Sunday Star-Times to "go back to your source".

"What I've said is that we have everything that Fairfax was given with respect to journalists notes and conversations," she said

Later on, when pushed, the Prime Minister slightly amended this statement, leaving open the possibility Fairfax still held information that the Prime Minister was not privy to.

"What I'm telling you is that I'm assured by the Fairfax lawyer that we have everything that he has."


More Muck To Come

Microsoft's Bill Gates Gets Cream Pied

This year's election looks set to be a bonanza of mud-slinging and dirty deeds. Already Winston Peters has thrown some mud that splashed all over Rodney Hide. Mr Hide last year showered Mr Tamihere in muck. Mr Tamihere, having shaken of most of this debris, then managed to blow his foot off in a mucky media accident. Both Don Brash and Mr Hide have been splashing around in the Doone pond trying to dampen the Prime Minister's election year prospects. And that perennial ferreter for muck, Mr Rodney Hide again seems to have bucketfuls of foul innuendo ready to sully Mr Benson Pope.

It seems fortunate that Mr Hide has led such a life of blameless innocence, as the Prime Minister warned of a dirty election campaign to come.

"We are at the start of what is a rather ugly election campaign [where] a desperate and dateless opposition will drag out whatever it can to smear the character of whoever they can. I happen to be at the receiving end of quite a lot of it – now it has spread to Mr Benson-Pope – no doubt it will be thrown on others as well," she said.


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