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Opinion Piece: "TV1 Did The Right Thing"

Best-selling author and journalist Ian Wishart says TVNZ's Linda Clark did the right thing by revealing what the Prime Minister really said about the John Hawkesby fiasco.

Prime Minister Shipley is in the political equivalent of an intensive care unit after initially telling TV viewers that Hawkesby was paid a million dollars, and then confessing privately that she made it up.

"This issue is crucial. It is one of integrity. In my view the Prime Minister didn't have the integrity to honestly debate an important issue on television. At the same time, journalists had the integrity to reveal contradictory private comments she made later.

"If Bill Clinton had gone on national TV to justify war on Yugoslavia, and then privately quipped to a journalist afterward that he had 'made up' his supporting evidence, he would be forced to resign as President. The US people and the Congress would not stand for it.

"There is no such thing as 'off the record' when a Prime Minister - elected to lead a nation - is talking to journalists, whether socially or otherwise, unless two conditions are met. Firstly, she has to specify that the conversation is 'off the record'. Secondly, what she is saying should not conflict factually with what she has said publicly.

"TVNZ is a news organisation, not a public relations company. It is not there to provide Jenny Shipley with a forum to attack people under false pretenses. Prime Ministers shouldn't play little 'pranks' like this, or they run the risk of losing their jobs.

"In my view, Sir William Birch's attack on Linda Clark is totally unjustified and reflects badly on him. Linda Clark, and IRN's Barry Soper who broke the story, have shown the kind of journalistic integrity that the country needs more of.

"If Jenny Shipley cannot admit her error of judgment and apologise to all concerned, then in my view she should resign as Prime Minister or at least put her leadership to the vote within the party."

By Ian Wishart

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