AGENDA Transcript: Don Brash & Pete Hodgson 23/9/6
Don Brash Pete
September 23 2006
Transcript ©Front Page Ltd 2006
May be used provided attribution is made to TVOne and “Agenda”
Please Note: Labour Party President Mike Williams claims references to him “knowingly” breaking election spending limits are defamatory.
Presented by LISA OWEN
LISA: Today we talk to National Leader Don Brash, he’s live in Wellington. In Auckland we’ll talk to former Sunday News editor Alan Hitchens about when a scoop is not a scoop and our Dairy Diary will take a closer look at Don Brash’s neighbours in their upmarket Auckland suburb. Joining me in the studio we have Claire Harvey features writer for the New Zealand Herald and Mere Mulu, senior reporter for the Sunday News. Welcome to you both.
It started as a campaign by National over the alleged improper use of Government funding for election campaigning purposes by the Prime Minister. But now it has extended into counter allegations into the role of the Exclusive Brethren in National’s campaign.
Private detective Wayne Idor last night claimed he had been hired by the Brethren to investigate the Prime Minister, her husband and other Labour Ministers. Mr Idor also claims he knows of investigations into John Key and Don Brash being conducted on behalf of Labour.
The Prime Minister rejects that, and has called on Don Brash to renounce National’s links with the Brethren. He’s with me know.
Good morning Dr Brash, can you tell us what do you know about Wayne Idor’s allegations; that you and John Key were being followed along with the Exclusive Brethren because the Labour Party ordered it?
DON: Good morning Lisa, I don’t know a lot about that. I did hear a rumour during the election campaign last year that I was being followed. I also heard a rumour that John Key’s rubbish had been gone through in a man in a suit at an early hour of the morning. But frankly we are not able to confirm those rumours and I didn’t believe Labour would stoop to that kind of dirty tactic. So it didn’t occur to me frankly that Labour might be behind them. I didn’t see the TV last night, I was at the world of wearable arts, so I only have the media reports this morning to go by. But certainly if that kind of behaviour was going on last year by anybody, any party, by any group of people, I certainly deplore that. That kind of activity has no part in New Zealand politics.
LISA: Mr Idor claims you were warned you were being followed he said quote cool you heels. Now were you told specifically that you were being followed and who told you?
DON: I certainly wasn’t told to cool my heels. As I say I heard a rumour, I frankly don’t recall where that rumour came from but I was told I might be being followed and I did raise that at the time with the diplomatic squad people who were during the campaign keeping an eye on me as is normally the case.
LISA: Mr Idor has said the Exclusive Brethren arranged to leak information on Mr Parker and David Benson-Pope did National get any of that information leaked through those channels?
DON: Not to my knowledge. I certainly did not get any such information from private investigators and as I say I deplore that kind of activity conducted by any party.
LISA: Have you had any dealings with this particular private investigator at all or has anyone in the party?
DON: I certainly have not, I can’t speak for the party obviously there are many thousands of members in the party. But I have had no dealings with him at any time and to the best of my knowledge nor have any of my caucus colleagues.
LISA: Have you or your caucus members or anyone from the party's organisation met with members of the Exclusive Brethren?
DON: Well I certainly have, there are Exclusive Brethren people at many of the public meetings that I address, there are people who regularly attend the parliamentary question time and quite often I have bumped into those people, they normally simply say to me we're praying for you. Now nothing wrong with that, I meet with Methodists, Presbyterians, Anglicans and Agnostics, I don’t see anything sinister in that at all, but are we behind this campaign of tailing Mr Davis or Helen Clark or anyone else – absolutely categorically not.
LISA: Have you had private meetings with the Exclusive Brethren, and if so when did you have those meetings?
DON: I have one meeting since the election some many months ago.
LISA: Now we've been told that you had a meeting last week, last Tuesday, did you meet with members of the Exclusive Brethren last Tuesday?
DON: No I did not.
LISA: This meeting that you referred to some months ago, what was that about?
DON: It was about their concern about what the government was doing. I told them I shared their concern, I told them that in my view the government had stolen the election by clearly overspending the legal limit they were allowed to spend, and action which the Electoral Act describes as a corrupt practice, I told them that we were concerned that the Auditor General might, at that point of course it was still only an investigation going on, we had no indication of what the Auditor General might find out.
LISA: So did your caucus know you were holding this meeting, did they know before the meeting, did the front bench know before the meeting that you were having this meeting?
DON: Listen I do not normally tell my caucus colleagues all the meetings I have, I have literally scores of meetings every single week, I mean this was not something which in my mind was a major issue at all.
LISA: However it has the potential to be perceived as a major issue doesn’t it Dr Brash, the party has run into difficulties over its associations with the Exclusive Brethren, how happy is your caucus that you continue to meet the Exclusive Brethren?
DON: Lisa I haven’t the faintest idea. Let's get back to the key issue here and that’s the issue of corrupt behaviour by the Labour government and Helen Clark's attempt to make diversionary tactics in all directions to get the public attention off that. That is the issue. Now look whether I meet with agnostics, atheists, Exclusive Brethren or Methodists is irrelevant to the issue, do I condone their activity in following members of the Labour government – absolutely categorically not, and I was not aware of it until reading about it this morning in the paper.
LISA: Have you had any dealings with Ian Wishart?
DON: No, to the best of my knowledge I have never met him.
LISA: Alright, no the Exclusive Brethren meeting that you did have you said you discussed what the government was doing, their allegations of overspending, beyond that did the Exclusive Brethren talk to you about other matters, if so what?
DON: Frankly I can't remember, it was many months ago as I say, it was quite a short meeting, we certainly did not talk about following people, shadowing people, or anything which was even remotely improper.
LISA: Whereabouts was the meeting Dr Brash and who was present there from the Exclusive Brethren and was it just you from the National Party?
DON: Lisa, I'm not going into those kind of details, the issue here is not whether I met with the Exclusive Brethren since the election 12 months ago, it's whether the Labour Party is engaged in corrupt practices or not. Let's get back to the issue, all this other stuff is to…
LISA: Why won't you say who was in that meeting Dr Brash?
DON: Because Lisa it is absolutely irrelevant, absolutely irrelevant, I can't name the Exclusive Brethren people, I don’t know their names, I know one or two of the names I don’t know all of them.
LISA: Alright other suggestions that have come to light in the last couple of weeks in the House it was alluded to and suggested that you erased details of appointments with the Exclusive Brethren from your diary. What is your response to that allegation? Did you do that?
DON: That is garbage.
LISA: It's an absolute…?
DON: It's garbage. There is no truth in that at all. I do not erase things from my diary. I have not to my knowledge ever erased something from my diary. These allegations as I say are an attempt by Helen Clark to divert attention from the public and the media, from the issues which are important, and I will not be diverted on that point.
LISA: Alright can you explain to us who Brian Sinclair is and has he been working for you and helping you and in what capacity?
DON: Absolutely. Brian Sinclair is a guy that I brought across from Australia and hired initially for one week to help me when I was challenging Bill English as leader. He was very helpful, very constructive for me, he's a New Zealander who at that point was living in Australia, he had been involved in John Banks' mayoral campaign in Auckland, he knew the local political scene, I decided he was so valuable to me as an aide an assistant that I retained him until the election last year.
LISA: Have you used him since then during your brief hiatus from parliament did you bring him back to help you?
DON: He came back on the weekend, what last weekend I think it was, I've lost track, no the previous weekend, no.
LISA: In what capacity?
DON: He came back as a friend, I did not pay him a dime, he paid his own expenses, he gave me some comments about how I might try and handle the baseless accusations against me of lying and what have you. He gave me some comments and flew back to Australia, he was not in my employment at all, there is nothing sinister in it at all.
LISA: So while he wasn’t in your employment he did give you professional advice on handling the media?
DON: He made some comments to me as a friend.
LISA: What does that say about your confidence in your own team, the team that you have that exists around you in the National Party?
DON: Listen, he said he was coming across to give me any help he could. I wasn’t implying anything negative about either my colleagues or my staff for whom I have the highest regard.
LISA: This week your former Chief of Staff, Richard Long, wrote a column in the Dominion saying that you won't be the leader of the National Party by the time the next election rolls around, is he right Dr Brash?
DON: Well look there are lots of views on that subject, I don’t give much weight I must say to Richard Long's views, he's been out of my employment for almost a year. I didn’t renew his contract when it came up at the election last year. I don’t know what his motivations were.
LISA: Do you believe that you will lead the National Party into the next election?
DON: Look that’s a question ultimately for the National Party caucus, and I am very comfortable at the moment that they want me to remain as leader.
LISA: But even you though have conceded that people within your caucus have talked and do talk about possible other leaders. John Key was reported in the Christchurch paper saying that his confidence in you has been affected by recent events. How can you continue to lead under those circumstances in that environment?
DON: Look John Key is one member of the caucus out of 48, I think there is a feeling around that I might resign suddenly because of these baseless attacks on me personally and for that reason the potential leaders of whom there are many in the National Party were wondering what would happen in that event. I see nothing significant or serious in that at all.
LISA: Dr Brash can we talk about policy for a moment, John Key says that the minimum wage should be raised, do you agree with him?
DON: Look the main reason I'm in politics Lisa frankly is to raise wages incomes salaries in New Zealand, we are far too low compared with countries like Australia. That’s my primary reason for being in politics. I've got severe doubts about the efficacy of raising the minimum wage in terms of raising those incomes. The sad thing about raising the minimum wage if you do it too aggressively is that you actually put a lot of people out of work who don’t have many skills. To take a ridiculous example, if you put the minimum wage from the current level to say $50 an hour you might say everyone's much better off, but if a whole lot of people aren’t worth hiring at $50 an hour you simply push up the unemployment rate.
LISA: So what's your specific policy on that then, raising the minimum?
DON: Raising wages, raising salaries, is my primary reason for being in politics, and you do it by getting the tax system right, by getting the infrastructure right, by fixing the Resource Management Act, by reducing compliance costs and so on, that’s the primary way of doing it and I'm sure John Key agrees with that.
LISA: Recently on radio John Key said I'm not one of the hard core right wingers and he says get rid of the minimum wage you don’t need it. So are you one of the hard core right wingers he was referring to?
DON: You'd have to ask John Key that. I think we've got a minimum wage, I'm comfortable living with it, but I'd be very unhappy indeed for example if you were to doubt it, that would immediately put a lot of people out of work.
LISA: Should Kiwi Saver be compulsory Dr Brash?
DON: No I don’t favour compulsory savings, I think there are some severe doubts about whether we need a compulsory savings scheme. Contrary to many public comments on this issue our savings rate in New Zealand is not very different from that in Australia.
LISA: Right well John Key has expressed some concern about our savings rate and has indicated that compulsion is a possibility, and so are you at odds with him over that?
DON: Look I'm not gonna discuss my difference with John Key on the compulsory savings thing, John and I agree that if New Zealanders saved a bit more it would be a useful thing to do, let's agree on that point. There's debate about whether compulsion actually increases total savings, it certainly increases savings in the form of managed funds, that’s undoubtedly true, but in Australia the proof that the compulsory scheme they have has increased total savings is by no means clear, by no means clear.
LISA: Dr Brash, let's bring our panel in now, first going to Mere Mulu, your question for Dr Brash?
MERE MULU – Senior
Journalist, Sunday News
Just regards the leadership one Dr Brash, I mean commentators are saying you don’t have the killer instinct and you don’t have the X factor, you know that you’ve got and I quote 'a habit of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory'. Is it not time for you to tall on your sword now for the sake of your party?
DON: Well let's just think about snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Last year most commentators six months out from the election said there was not a dog's chance of National winning that election, house prices were rising, unemployment was low, people felt prosperous and yet we came within a hair's breadth, a hair's breadth of winning that election. I think that was an outstanding achievement which my party and I take credit for.
LISA: But Dr Brash I think you didn’t answer her question there which was, is it time now for you to bow out and give your party a decent chance at the next election, give the next person a fair run at the next election.
DON: Well listen, let me just look for a second at the latest polls, I don’t know what you’ve got in the UMR poll this morning but the latest polls I have seen, certainly the Herald on last Sunday and our own internal polling shows that the National Party is currently leading Labour by between four and six percent, that’s hardly a bad position to be in.
LISA: Alright, let's bring in Claire Harvey.
CLAIRE HARVEY –
Features Writer, NZ Herald
Dr Brash you know a lot more about the Exclusive Brethren this morning having read the papers than you did a few months ago when you had a meeting with them, next time they approach you for a meeting are you going to say no thanks, thanks for your interest but stay away from me, stay away from National and stay out of politics.
DON: Well certainly we're very keen not to be associated with anything which is underhand or inappropriate and I'll make that very clear to anybody who talks to me.
CLAIRE: So is there any point talking to them any more, I mean why would you meet with them again?
DON: Well as I say, I get contact with them almost every public meeting I have, one or two of them typically, not more, come up to me and say we're praying for you Don. Now am I gonna say don’t pray for me or get out of my face? No.
LISA: So Dr Brash you are prepared to continue meeting with them are you? Just definitively give us an answer.
DON: Look I'm not – it depends what you mean by meeting with them, I meet them as I say at almost every public meeting, one or two turn up to my meetings.
LISA: But you’ve indicated that you had a private meeting since the election, will you continue to have private meetings with them?
DON: I had one meeting with them, I'll be wary about having future meetings with them if they are clearly involved in shadowing ministers of the Crown, I think that is an inappropriate activity as I've said to you several times on this programme already. I deplore the fact that apparently Labour did the same thing with John Key and myself.
LISA: But you're not ruling out – you're saying you're not ruling out meeting with the Exclusive Brethren privately again?
DON: Look I meet the trade unionists, I meet with Maori leaders, I meet with people all over the country, I meet with criminals. Why would I not meet with anybody who wants to meet with me?
LISA: Well you Deputy Leader Gerry Brownlee has expressed concern about the damage that the association with the Exclusive Brethren did to you in the lead up to the election, how do you think the rest of your party would feel about you continuing to meet with the Exclusive Brethren under the circumstances?
DON: Lisa continuing to meet with implies an ongoing regular pattern of meetings. I've met with them once since the election more than a year ago, am I gonna rule out meeting with anybody. Look we're talking about hate speech here, do I meet with Muslims? Yes. Are some of the terrorists? Possibly. I'm not gonna stop myself meeting with any group who wants to talk with me as Leader of the National Party.
LISA: Alright caucus meeting next week, what's gonna happen there?
DON: It's a meeting primarily about policy, we have a number of policies on the schedule to talk about, and I'm very much looking forward to that discussion. It's what we call an all day caucus meeting, it'll start at 10.00 and go on till about 4.00 and we have three or four quite substantial policy issues to discuss and debate.
LISA: Will you still be the leader after that meeting?
DON: I believe so.
CLAIRE: It's been a fairly bruising few weeks for you Dr Brash, has there been at any time in the last few weeks a time when you’ve thought this is not worth it, I wish I hadn’t gone into politics, there's too much of a toll on me and too much of a toll on my family?
DON: Ah yes, I did think about that quite frankly. I has been a difficult couple of weeks, I'd be lying to pretend otherwise, but look I came into politics as I said on the earlier segment of this programme to raise incomes in New Zealand, to raise the living standards of New Zealanders, I'm still very strongly committed to that.
MERE: Yeah but Dr Brash I mean how do you lead a team when you know that elements within your own party are really disgruntled, I mean we've got the rumours coming out you know, you’ve got the commentators saying you know you're a sitting duck basically.
DON: Well three weeks back there were commentators saying Don Brash has performed outstandingly well lately, National Party Conference, Zonta speech, etc, etc, National ahead 4, 5, 6% in the polls, Don Brash will certainly lead National into the election. The commentators go backwards and forwards depending what happened in the last week.
LISA: Can you tell me under the circumstances Dr Brash given that you have yourself publicly said that you know there's discussion within the ranks about other possible leaders, is there anyone in your caucus who you completely and utterly trust?
DON: Of course there are, there are most …
DON: Look I think I've got an outstandingly competent caucus, several of whom are well qualified to lead the National Party if I step under a bus. I don’t have any misgivings about that, I'm delighted about that fact, it's a very strong caucus and they will form a very strong government after the next election. The key issue here is not whether there are other people who can take my place – there are and I'm pleased about that – the key issue is these are diversionary tactics which Labour, Helen Clark is desperately trying to get out into the public domain to take attention from the fact that her government has been engaged in corrupt practices, corrupt practices.
CLAIRE: But that’s her job isn't it? I mean isn't Helen Clark the absolute master of political tactic, I mean that is the classic tool?
DON: And my job is to point out that her government has engaged in a corrupt practice as defined by the Electoral Act, and is about to be bagged by the Auditor General unless she leans on him….
LISA: Dr Brash I think it's important to say at this point it's a draft report and the Auditor General has warned against reaching any conclusions until the final report is out.
DON: Well there are two things, the corrupt practice referred to in the Electoral Act, refers to the fact that the Labour Party knowingly overspent the legal limit last year, that’s not in contention, that’s established fact. The only question is whether they funded that from taxpayers' money or not. Now the indications are clear that they did, they have said even if they did they're not gonna pay it back.
LISA: The Police have instigated and no further action is coming of it, but you still use that word.
DON: The Police said there's a prima facie case they broke the law, that’s what the Police said.
LISA: The case is not being pursued.
DON: Well that’s up to the Police. I deplore the fact frankly they didn’t pursue it, but they decided for whatever reason, and I won't speculate on that, not to pursue it, but they found a prima facie case Labour was in breach of the law. Currently Helen Clark is saying and Pete Hodgson's saying for her, even if the Auditor General finds that the overspending was funded from taxpayers' money illegally we won't pay it back we will change the law to make it legal. Now that is in my view a corrupt practice also and wouldn’t be tolerated in any other western democracy.
LISA: Alright, thank you very much for joining us this morning, that’s the National Party Leader Dr Don Brash.
LISA: Well Labour is also accused of using a private investigator to spy on its political opponents. Private detective Wayne Idor claims he knows of spying being conducted on behalf of the party and to Don Brash and John Key, and he says National was tipped off. Health Minister Pete Hodgson is Labour's Strategist and he's with us now. Can you tell me Mr Hodgson is there any substance to these allegations by this private investigator Wayne Idor?
PETE HODGSON – Labour Party
No there is none, and we know there is none, the Prime Minister has checked with the President with the person who signs the cheques for the Labour Party, she hasn’t herself hired Wayne Idor or any other person, I haven’t hired Wayne Idor or any other person. I know Wayne Idor, I've known him for some years, he used to work for the Police and does so no more, and he is a guy who has been in my office over the years and has always been preoccupied with some conspiracy theory or another.
LISA: So if Labour is squeaky clean where is all this coming from do you think?
PETE: Oh Wayne's just making it up and he's made up stuff in the past. You saw him change his story yesterday saying that he wasn’t involved with the Exclusive Brethren and then when proof was presented to him he changed his mind and said that he was. I think the issue is that if the Exclusive Brethren did hire Wayne Idor and we now know that they did, why is it that Dr Brash will not renounce his links with the Exclusive Brethren given that he deplores the actions of any group in hiring a private investigator. Well we've got the group, it's the Exclusive Brethren, it's the same people who gave him 1.2 million dollars worth of support in the last election and he will not renounce his linkages with them, this is becoming silly.
LISA: Well the private investigator says that National has no hand in this, have you got some solid proof to suggest otherwise?
PETE: I'm simply saying that – now that we know that the Exclusive Brethren hired Wayne Idor to look at the Prime Minister's husband, the Deputy Prime Minister and my two cabinet colleagues here in Dunedin, David Benson-Pope and David Parker, now that we know that the Exclusive Brethren hired Wayne Idor to do that, if Dr Brash deplores the actions of any group in hiring private investigators and he did on your programme, as do I, then surely it would be a good idea for him to say he will have no further contact with the Exclusive Brethren, these are the guys who've been trying to influence elections in Australia and Sweden and elsewhere…
LISA: Hang on a minute if you're saying that there are issues of trust with Mr Idor how is it that you can choose to believe him in regard to the Exclusive Brethren allegations but not in regard to the Labour ones?
PETE: The proof's out there because Mr Idor was confronted with some proof that he in fact did – was hired by the Exclusive Brethren which is why yesterday he changed his tune 180 degrees.
LISA: The Prime Minister indicated that she had been told at some point that she was being followed, that you knew this. How long have you known and how did you find out?
PETE: You need to talk to the Prime Minister about that Lisa I'm sorry.
LISA: How long have you known?
PETE: I'm going to ask you to talk to the Prime Minister, I think it's important that you go to the source of information to get information that you want, and I simply am not that source.
LISA: She asked you to appear on this programme this morning, so how long has the Labour Party known that they were being trailed and who told the party that?
PETE: We've known for some time in respect of Dunedin events, I can speak about Dunedin events with a little more certainty, that for months and months there has been a lot of digging around my colleagues, David Benson-Pope and David Parker, that then found itself on the floor of parliament variously, as we all know, and both men have been through the mill on that, in one case their family has been through the mill. Both men are now cleared of any wrongdoing, they're both back in cabinet, and that’s of course something that’s been going on for about a year, so that gives you some example.
LISA: Let's bring in our panel here, first to Claire Harvey.
CLAIRE: What do you think Mr Hodgson is the connection between Investigate Magazine, the National Party and the Exclusive Brethren, Don Brash says that he's never met Ian Wishart?
PETE: I think that’s entirely possible, I think that what we're dealing with is a loose coalition of convenience in which people pass almost certainly through intermediaries a bunch of information off on to a network not quite knowing where it's going to pop out and simply promoting division and corrosion for the sake of it and I am sure that the National Party is part of that, we have got senior journalists saying to us that they know that the National Party knew the Peter Davis story was going to break, so although it must be said that one National Party member unknown to me apparently went to the Prime Minister to warn her of it, so let's not tar all of the National Party caucus with such involvement.
LISA: Things have arguably got well out of hand here. There's allegations that New Zealand First or Labour has a bunch of emails of Don Brash's, why not put all of that out there now, get it all out on the table instead of things being – all these revelations day after day coming out, let's just put all the cards on the table.
PETE: Lisa I personally have no such emails, I have some emails involving the Exclusive Brethren and the Chief Electoral Office which shows that the Exclusive Brethren sought to fund its campaign in such a way that the money couldn’t be counted alongside National's spending cap and received advice from the Chief Electoral Officer on that basis. Now those emails I have already made public and if you want me to tell you about them I'll tell you about them again.
LISA: What are you gonna do about this – these allegations, the indication that the Exclusive Brethren have hired someone – what now?
PETE: As far as any legal response I think the smart thing for me to do is to just say that we will keep our counsel. As far as the greater issue about whether or not the Exclusive Brethren have got any role in New Zealand and more importantly whether or not Dr Brash has got any role in the future of New Zealand politics given that he is able to remain somehow aligned with this most extraordinary group of people, and as well as that continue his division and corrosion of New Zealand politics as he has for these past two and a half years, I think we will see developments presently, but I do also think that the Exclusive Brethren – we need to identify that the Exclusive Brethren have been active in Tasmania, in Sweden and that just a few days ago the National Party of New South Wales said they would have nothing to do with them. Dr Brash from the National Party of New Zealand needs to say the same thing.
LISA: Thank you very much for joining us this morning Pete Hodgson.
LISA: Gossip columnists, do they really know what they're talking about. Well on Thursday the Dominion Post gossip columnist, Bridget Saunders claimed that a labourite was enjoying threesomes possibly with two guys and one girl and that another MP was frequenting a gay brothel in Wellington. She named neither MP nor did she provide any other evidence. This comes in the same week as the Sunday Start Times ran a front page lead in which a gay friend of the Prime Minister denied her husband was gay. Alan Hitchens has worked for Rupert Murdoch on the London Sun and in the United States and he was the editor of the Sunday News here back in the 70s. He's also been a press secretary for the ACT Party. Alan Hitchens joins me now.
Alan I'd just like to start by reading a little extract from this column. 'No blameless life of excellence for one parliamentarian, he's been known to enjoy two gay delights of the glory hole in Wakefield Street. Dinner at one restaurant, dessert at the other.' Would you publish something like that?
ALAN: I would need to have a lot more information about what was going on before I did. Let me say this it's very interesting that that should come up because when I was editor of Truth we once said in an editorial that there was a gay member of parliament. The Parliamentary Privileges Committee were down on me like a ton of bricks in next to no time. Now that was only not many years ago, that was in the 80s.
LISA: So my how times have changed in a short amount of time.
ALAN: Well unless something's happened in the Parliamentary Privileges Committee in the last week, which I don’t know, but certainly that’s what happened to me and it was very serious, and no one was named in my case it was just an allegation in an editorial that there was a gay MP.
LISA: So where's the line between a legitimate story and a gossip?
ALAN: Well fact is of course the big thing there.
LISA: What if you know and keep it to yourself though I mean is there an obligation to publish some kind of evidence along with the allegation?
ALAN: Well I think editors need to talk carefully to their reporters, these columnists and others, to make sure that this is correct. I mean that may well be correct, I don’t know, but I would certainly be very careful before I published anything like that.
LISA: But should you be looking at it and say hey is there any value of this type of reporting, what does it matter who's having relationships with whom?
ALAN: There is an extreme public interest in that sort of material. Look at the women's magazines they survive on it.
LISA: What did you think of the Sunday Star Times article front page denials that the Prime Minister's husband is not gay?
ALAN: That worried me quite a lot actually.
ALAN: Well because I wondered to myself whether I would have published it, and the answer as far as I was concerned was no.
LISA: And why not?
ALAN: Because I didn’t think that there was anything new in it, a picture – that picture that they published had been around for ages, the picture of a gay fellow kissing the Prime Minister's husband – so what. We all know a lot of gay people probably, who would probably do the same thing if they hadn’t seen us for a while, that doesn’t mean that we're gay.
LISA: Alright let's bring our panel in here – Mere.
MERE: I just wanted to know, I mean what do you think of the way that non tabloid media, I mean you’ve always got something like the Sunday News oh that’s tabloid, but if you take into account what's been happening with all the other what we consider the broadsheets, well how do you think they’ve dealt with the issues in recent days, in the last few weeks.
ALAN: You mean the tabloids?
LISA: In the normal sort of everyday newspapers how have they dealt with it?
ALAN: Oh I think that they’ve been – I mean it's something that happened, the Sunday started that situation off and the daily papers have a duty to follow that through, they probably wouldn’t have got involved initially but there was no option once the story had been published they had to follow it up because there's a lot of public interest, or there was a lot of public interest generated by what had been published on Sunday.
CLAIRE: There's a kind of genteel climate here among the media isn't there, I mean we certainly don’t see any of the kind of carry on that we'd see in Australia or in the UK or in the US?
ALAN: No that’s very true. I worked in Sydney when I was a very young reporter and I was astonished at what the Sun and the Mirror got up to in Sydney in those days. I worked on the Sun.
CLAIRE: But even when there's a fairly legitimate story around, I mean Don Brash had a few days publicity about his second extra marital affair, and now it's gone away, I mean he's got away sort of scot free hasn’t he?
LISA: So that allegation, yeah what's the difference if – Claire might say there what's the difference between printing say the allegations about the PM's husband versus the allegations about Don Brash's infidelity?
ALAN: Well it was obviously true. The difference there was that Don Brash had apparently admitted to his caucus that he was having a problem in his marriage and that was duly reported.
LISA: So mentioning or bringing it up in caucus – what happens in caucus makes it a legitimate story?
ALAN: Well I think if the Leader of the Opposition rather is having marital problems then that is a story.
CLAIRE: But the issue is lying isn't it? The issue is that in the election campaign Don Brash appeared on television with his adoring wife talking about how devoted they were to each other, I mean if that’s not true then what else is not true.
LISA: The image or the implication of that?
ALAN: Yeah, um, it's a difficult one but I still think that it was worthy of publication.
CLAIRE: Yeah I agree. I agree.
LISA: Overseas they do print various allegations and some far more out there than what we've seen, what's the difference, so you would say they can come up with the proof?
ALAN: Well in 99% of the cases the answer is yes. Pictures show up of situations normally that’s the way it starts and these pictures are offered for sale, and they pay for them and that’s the start of it. I mean once you’ve got the picture and you confront somebody with it then obviously there's a story there. I don’t agree with paying for that sort of information, we never ever did in my day. I don’t know today whether the papers pay for those sorts of things, but we certainly didn’t.
LISA: Thank you very much for joining us this morning Alan Hitchens. I say watch this space, there's probably more to come.
FINAL THOUGHTS – GUEST COMMENTATORS
LISA: Earlier in the programme Don Brash claimed that Labour Party President Mike Williams knowingly broke the election campaign spending limit last year. Well Mike has just phoned to ask to say that’s wrong, he did not and he rejects Don Brash's allegations. On that note let's go to our panel for their final thoughts. What do you think the admission from Don Brash this morning that he has had one meeting he says with the Exclusive Brethren, how is that going to go down with the public do you think?
MERE: Personally I just think that the fact that he's even – you know that the Brethren has been like – it's like an Achilles Heel for that party and for him to even meet after the election even though it was a year ago, it's the fact that you know he met them again when they're really really bad news for the National Party, so I'm quite amazed that he would even consider…
LISA: Is it a sign of naïveté which both of you I think referred to in the discussion with him, is that what it is do you think?
CLAIRE: Absolutely I think, having any sort of meeting with the Exclusive Brethren after the election was an incredibly silly thing to do and you know if we're talking about following people around I think there would be a very legitimate reason for journalists to follow Don Brash into any meeting with the Exclusive Brethren, it would have to be a very legitimate story.
LISA: And what about Pete Hodgson this morning talking about the allegations about Labour, he's raised doubts about whether the private investigator can be trusted, yet he wants to believe the claims about the Brethren but dismissed the claims about Labour. What do you make of all of this?
CLAIRE: I think this whole week has been classic Helen Clark diversion, I do think that she turned the question from is Labour corrupt into has Investigate Magazine been nasty to Peter Davis you know very sweetly. I think she overplayed her hand a bit with her rhetoric on Brash, you know cancerous and so on.
LISA: What do you think Mere?
MERE: Well she is – you know she's very astute, I mean once more she's proved that, she is the ultimate politician, she has turned bad news even for her into a plus you know and what's more she's kept that essential issue that Dr Brash has been pushing on the back burner, and I think up until probably last night she would have been pretty happy with how the week's gone.
CLAIRE: Yeah, it's not so great this morning is it?
LISA: Mere you said to Dr Brash isn't the time now for you to fall on your sword, so Tuesday caucus meeting how long do you think he can be in that position, or should be in that position?
MERE: Well I mean he's a sitting duck, it's only a matter of time and you know when you’ve got the rumours coming out there and the sources coming through it's you know, the rumour mill is going pretty hard, then I'd be surprised if – they might keep him there yes, he's still doing well in the opinion polls but the talking has started and they're already for a new leader.
LISA: Claire the public front there is one of confidence, it's just for the public front do you think?
CLAIRE: I don’t know, he's survived, he's already survived a hell of a lot of stuff I mean he's basically got away with having his second extramarital affair now you know.
LISA: So watch this space. Thank you very much to our panellists this morning.