A Bloody Great Political Story (From A Parallel Universe)

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MAX DIDN’T HEAR Malcolm calling his name. The contents of the box file in front of him were dynamite. Exactly what he’d been hoping for from his informant. Names, dates and amounts – everything he needed to bring Peters to book. He had in his hands the sort of story that turns an unknown young journalist into a household name. Eat your heart out Nicky Hager!

“Max! Mate! What’s up?”

The voice of his old university chum, Malcolm, was the very last thing he wanted to hear. Mad-As-A-Meat-Axe Malcolm – that’s what everyone on his journalism course called him. A crazy left-winger, forever peddling wild conspiracy theories. What the hell did he want?

Max slammed the lid of the box-file shut as Malcolm plonked himself down at Max’s table.

Malcolm raised an eyebrow.

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“Something interesting? From your departing friend? He nearly fell over me on his way out? Your source?”

Max couldn’t resist the temptation to skite – just a little.

“You could say that. He’s only handed me a bloody great political story. By the time I’ve knocked it into shape it’ll be on every front page and leading every bulletin.”

“Really? Sounds interesting. May I ask what it’s about?”

“You can ask, Malcolm.” Max smiled ironically, and deposited the box-file on the seat of the empty chair beside him.

“Like that is it? Well, if you won’t tell me, Max, I’ll just have to work it out for myself. A big story you say. And it’s been given to you. What does that tell me? Given your output to date, I’m assuming it’s not an anti-National story. And anyone with a box full of evidence guaranteed to embarrass the powers-that-be wouldn’t bring it to you, they’d offer it to Nicky Hager or Jon Stephenson. Also, your informant appeared to be getting on in years. Not the sort of bright young thing you find hanging around Labour, National and the Greens these days. So, who does that leave? Huh! NZ First! Oh, Max! Tell me you’re not about to launch another donations scandal?”

Max’s mouth fell open. His grip on the box-file tightened appreciably.

“Hah! I’m right aren’t I. Your body language confirms it. So, come on, you might as well tell me.”

“What? And find some garbled version popping up on The Daily Blog or Bowalley Road. I don’t think so!”

“Okay, okay – keep your hair on! I’m a colleague, Max. There’s no chance I’m going to scoop you. I’m just a wee bit curious about your informant. What has he told you about himself?”

“What? You think I’m going to rat out a source? I may not be a trendy-lefty attention-seeker like Hager, but I’m not about to abandon the ethics of my profession – just to satisfy your curiosity.”

“Hmmm. All right. Let me come at this another way. I’m guessing that what you’ve got in that box contains names, dates, bank account numbers – all the details you need to put Winston Peters and Jacinda Ardern squarely in the cross-hairs. So, the first question you have to ask yourself is: ‘Why is such politically damaging material sitting in that box-file you’re clutching so tightly?’ Cui bono, Max? Who benefits?”

“Maybe it’s from someone who is sick and tired of Peters lies. Someone fed up with him pretending to be the people’s friend, while all the time he’s taking wads of cash from his dodgy mates in the racing and fishing industries. Maybe it’s from the sort of guy who makes copies of all the cheques, all the ledger entries, all the bank statements. So that, one day, the world finally gets to see what a fraud that bloody man and his party truly are!”

Malcolm, smiled sadly at his friend. Max, frowning, made to leave.

“Sit down, Max. You need to hear what I’m going to tell you.”

Max, hesitated.

“For a start, mate, nobody outside of Peters most trusted inner-circle has access to the information you’re apparently carrying under your arm – and they’re not about to share it with anyone – certainly not you. It hasn’t been copied by some disgruntled party president or secretary. Unless life-long confidants and allies like Brian Henry and Doug Woolerton have turned on Peters, the contents of that box-file have been obtained by other … agencies.”

“Like who?” Max resumed his seat.

“Well, you’re spoilt for choice these days, aren’t you. Could be the Police. Could be the SIS, Could be the GCSB. Could even be a private investigation firm with close ties to all of the above. And if you doubt that such things are possible, just have a chat with Martyn Bradbury. On behalf of a friend of the National Party, the Police gained access to all Martyn’s bank accounts. Didn’t even need a warrant – all they had to do was ask.”

“Jeez, Malcolm! You’ve always been a hopeless conspiracy theorist. This is just crap.”

Malcolm gave Max another of his enigmatic smiles and shook his head.

“My money’s on the cops, Max. Or at least some rogue element within their ranks. Maybe they’re in cahoots with the Nats – maybe not. Maybe they’re working with some Black Hat hackers on a free-lance basis. The thing you have to realise, Max, is that conspiracies do happen. They happen all the time. If you knew anything about the intricate workings of the plot that got rid of Peters back in 2008, then you wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss the possibility that its happening again – and for exactly the same reasons. And, mate, you’re right in the thick of it.”

“You’re fucking crazy, Malcolm! And jealous. You can’t bear it that I’ve got a real story, based on real evidence. Not the half-arsed bullshit you and your commie mates spout off on blogs no one reads. You know nothing about my informant – nothing. You’re just guessing.”

Malcolm rose from his chair and leaned in close.

“That’s where you’re wrong, Max. I’m not guessing at all. I know exactly who your informant is. We’ve been aware of him for years. He’s a senior deep state operative. Yes, that’s right, Max. Your source is a bloody spook! Every one of the documents in that file-box has been obtained illegally for the purposes of ensuring the Coalition Government loses the next election. So, you go right ahead. Write your story. Destroy Peters. Smash NZ First. Smear Jacinda. I can’t stop you. But, while you’re doing it. While you’re bringing the whole damn temple down on our heads. Don’t you dare presume to call yourself a journalist!”

But Max was already out the pub door. The box-file wedged tightly under his arm. Cell-phone glued to his ear.

Malcolm pulled out his own cell-phone.

“Tell Winston – he’s got it all.”

14 COMMENTS

  1. A counter argument is that what was used when Hager used dubiously obtained emails to write a book or when the brash emails were leaked.

    In those occasions it was deemed to be in the “public interest’ that those matters were given the once over in daylight.

    Is the funding of NZFirst not in the “public interest”?

    Judging by the bullying tactics of lawyer Henry (including the latest drip fed revelations in Stuff this morning) there is much that needs to see daylight and be placed before the public.

    Or is the CoL exempt from having a reveal that may be in the “public interest”.

    • I think part of Chris Trotter’s thrust is that NZ First finances are obviously of MORE interest to “someone”, than for instance the Blind Trusts the Nats are known for using. Such as the Waitemata Trust in the Key era. Or the Bridges/Ross donation splitting. Why might that be?

      This is not about public interest at all, it is Dirty Politics in full view. That the Nats aim to take office by any and all means is becoming clearer by the day.

      By the way, in his forward to “The Hollow Men”, Nicky Hager makes it clear that NZ National Party insiders were his significant sources.

      • Tiger Mountain Yes. I’d thought that there is big money behind the continuing attempts to destroy Winston Peters, but the target must be Mr Peters and NZ First. The media focus on just one party could be back firing.

        Funny how we all thought that dirty politics would be following John Key down the hill.

    • No party should be exempt. But the fact is democracy can protect itself from corruption by having state funding of political parties.

      • Totally disagree. No state funding. As private organisations, no political party should be receiving any state funding.

        What we need is complete transparency where every cent donated to a political party comes from. No funding from trusts, no funding from foundations, no anonymous donations, no funding from unions, etc. Only individuals (even restrict that to citizens only) may contribute in a complete and transparent manner.

        So when say FOR EXAMPLE the Vela Brothers donate to NZFirst and the horse racing plus fisheries policies of NZFirst align with the interests of the Vela Brothers, we the voter can make the call where to place our vote.

        State funding wont stop private cash donations or physical support from interested groups with a mind to persuade the political parties — like free helicopter rides or union members organising pamphlet drops or foreign government interference.

        • Rather than direct funding perhaps the government should provide more free time on national Radio and TV. And perhaps equal time for all parties that have met the registration criteria to give new parties a chance to break through. Holdings could be voluntary work . If a party can’t enlist voluntary contributions of time it can’t have much appeal.
          We sure as hell don’t want the complete domination of politics by the wealthiest elite that pervades the US system.
          D J S

          • To David Stone
            “We sure as hell don’t want the complete domination of politics by the wealthiest elite that pervades the US system”
            Agreed 100% BUT we have shades of that already and that needs to be rectified.

        • “So when say FOR EXAMPLE the Vela Brothers donate to NZFirst and the horse racing plus fisheries policies of NZFirst align with the interests of the Vela Brothers, we the voter can make the call where to place our vote.”

          Or say for example a Mongolian racehorse billionaire mogul, offers National $150,000 for favours or federated farmers…we the voter can make the call where to place our vote.

          https://www.odt.co.nz/news/national/150k-foreign-donation-national-deeply-alarming

        • Sure party funding restricted to two sources – membership dues and identifiable individual donations (regardless of amount) is the other option – albeit advantaging those with more money.

          And state funding could well involve an end to private cash donations. In the US there is the option of public funding or unlimited private money.

          No system will stop lobbying by those with interests, including foreign government interference, nor related third party advertising

    • A fair comment, Gerrit.

      The question is always “Cui bono?” – who benefits?

      In the case of Hager’s receipt of Rawshark’s hacked e-mails, the beneficiaries were, overwhelmingly, the people of New Zealand. We learned of the way the fabled “Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy” aided and abetted by people in the PM’s office, had shaped and re-shaped the political narrative – smashing hard into a host of government and business opponents as they did so.

      Not that it worked. Not even Hager’s “Dirty Politics” could derail the John Key Express.

      The 2008 attack on Peters, and the attack just initiated, have a very different purpose. It is clearly intended to drive Peters and his party out of Parliament – thereby destroying the Coalition Government. This partisan objective is confirmed by the fact that all of the attention is focused on NZ First – rather than on the entire system of political funding. Obviously, the latter is in urgent need of reform, but the media is studiously avoiding subjecting National, Labour, the Greens and Act to anything like the same scrutiny as peters and NZ First.

      The short story above is a work of fiction. Max and Malcolm do not exist. All that I hoped to do by writing it was encourage people to ask the sort of questions which very few, if any, of my journalistic colleagues are asking. Who, exactly, is the source of these documents? How were they obtained? And, what did he/she/they/it hope to achieve by leaking them?

      As a thought experiment, ask yourself this question. Would your estimation of The Washington Post’s celebrated Watergate investigation have been as positive if you had known that Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein (both low level court reporters at the time) were being guided by the Deputy-Director of the FBI?

  2. A relevant point/question that I think has been left out of the news articles so far is who are the beneficiaries of the NZFirst trust and who are the executors.

    • A cheque addressed to NZ First which (if this ever happened) ended up in the Spencer Trust or the latest KNOW entity – comes perilously close to misappropriation Crimes Act stuff.

      No matter who.

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