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Scoop Blogwatch: Is Bassett A Fifth Columnist?

Scoop Blogwatch: Is Bassett A Fifth Columnist?

Historian, acolyte of Roger Douglas and occasional speechwriter for Dr Don Brash, according to Nicky Hager, Dr Michael Bassett was kind enough to publish on his own website some recent correspondence between himself and Dominion Post editor Tim Pankhurst.

The correspondence between Mr Pankhurst and Dr Bassett arose out of claims made in Mr Hager's book 'The Hollow Men' that Dr Bassett an supposedly neutral columnist had advised Dr Brash on how to get rid of Bill English. Emails in Mr Hager's book also show how keen Dr Bassett was to assist Dr Brash with various speeches including one on welfare. According to Mr Hager's book Dr Bassett wrote to Dr Brash after working on his Orewa II speech.

"Don, I'm sorry it has taken so long, but I retyped that draft and made it a little more political." Michael Bassett email to Don Brash, 31 December 2004

According to Mr Hager Dr Bassett had added inflammatory phrases to Dr Brash's Orewa II speech regarding beneficiaries 'ripping off the system' and using 'standover tactics' to get benefits.

Dr Bassett is not at present a beneficiary though the number of papers willing to publish his columns has dwindled somewhat since Mr Hager's book. The Christchurch Press under editor Paul Thompson still sees fit to publish Dr Bassett's commentary including a recent vitriolic attack on Mr Hager and Fairfax journalists who covered the allegations in Mr Hager's book.

For more by Dr Bassett visit:

  • The exchange between Dr Bassett and Dominion Post editor Tim Pankhurst can be found in the section devoted to Dr Bassett's newspaper columns:

  • Michael Bassett articles
  • ************

    TIM PANKHURST Dominion Post 13/12/2006

    It has come to my attention that the Editor of the Dominion Post is telling people that the initiative to end my association as a columnist with his paper came from me. Readers might care to read the enclosed unexpected letter from him to me dated 28 November 2006 and my reply to him dated 3 December 2006.

    Michael Bassett


    November 28 2006

    Dr Michael Bassett
    17 Stilwell Road
    Mt Albert AUCKLAND 1003

    Dear Michael

    From time to time we review our sections and columns and have made several changes this year, for example introducing Richard Long.

    Accordingly, we no longer wish to continue your column.

    We have to keep offering fresh comment to our readers and your views are now well known.

    It has also been suggested by several readers that you are compromised -one suggested your column should be renamed fifth- in view of your undeclared advice to Don Brash on his pivotal Orewa speech. I note that you do not dispute this and that you have also given advice to other political leaders.

    In that case, I believe this should have been declared and both you and The Dominion Post are exposed to duplicity.

    Thank you for your contribution over some time now, but it's time to move on and I trust we can do so amicably.

    We would be happy to consider one-off contributions from you on relevant subjects and to approach you for comment on relevant
    news issues.

    Best wishes for the future.



    3 December 2006

    Tim Pankhurst,
    The Dominion Post,
    P.O. Box 3740,

    Dear Mr Pankhurst,

    I have received your ungracious letter. I am happy to “move on” and had been considering doing so for some time, as you will recall from earlier correspondence both with you and your deputy.

    However, I cannot allow your suggestion that I had been duplicitous to go unchallenged. I have never made a secret of the fact that I have been a friend of Don Brash’s since 1967, or that I have been in intermittent contact despite our political differences over the years. I also had Helen Clark and Phil Goff as students of mine, and there have been many contacts with them. Mike Williams of the Labour Party wrote a thesis under my supervision, too. I have always been available to answer questions on a free and friendly basis, even for Dominion Post journalists. The suggestion that I wrote either of Don Brash’s Orewa speeches is preposterous. Hager says that Brash himself wrote one of them. I did answer questions on one of the five points Brash wanted to touch on in his first Orewa speech because after ten years on the Waitangi Tribunal I possessed some expert knowledge on the Treaty. I provided the information when asked, and I suggested where further material might be gleaned. Soon after that speech Dr Brash told the press about those who had helped check its accuracy, mentioning my name. It appeared in several newspapers and a monthly magazine. Nobody, least of all an editor, has any excuse for being unaware of this fact. Suggestions of “duplicity” are therefore completely wrong.

    By now you must be realising that there are many mistakes in Hager’s book, and it was unwise – even unprofessional - to treat its contents as gospel, or as ammunition to ambush people who had not yet had an opportunity to check his assertions. For your interest, there is one whole page that claims to be based on emails of mine to Don Brash, that certainly didn’t come from me. Several emails, whoever wrote them, are products either of Nicky Hager’s carelessness, or someone’s fevered imagination. I have kept my email correspondence with politicians, so I know what I am talking about. I have never possessed sufficient information about the internal workings of the National Caucus to advise anyone about its members, let alone suggest a campaign strategy.

    Yours sincerely



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