Sunday 13 November: the secret recording of Key and Banks

by Toby Manhire / 13 November, 2011
Key grilled on Sky News. The Herald on Sunday behaving like News of the World, say National leaders, over Teapot Tapes.
9.40pm: The final section of the Sky interview opens with footage of Key's famous World Cup final three-way-handshake, and Soper's mention of a "smile and wave" primeministership. Key smiles awkwardly. "You're in the dogbox with the IRB, but we'll talk about that later," he jests, presumably in a reference to the rugby board crackdown on footage of the incident. What about the style over substance stuff? "That's what the left wing and the leftwing blogs say ... and that's what they try and propagate out there." Clark was doing the same sort of things, he says. Every prime minister has been out and about opening things.

What about people thinking you "bend the truth", asks Young. Do you "consciously bend the truth"? "No, I don't." Labour has been throwing mud for three years, and some of it sticks, he says.

Then to the earning gap with Australia, which we were promised earlier. What's going on, asks Soper. "We have closed the wage gap," says Key: your earlier numbers were wrong. And on numbers - my numbers are more reliable than your numbers - Key is as every confident.

You'll perhaps be helped with Don Brash in your cabinet, given he chaired the working group on this very issue, says Soper. And here Key rehearses the compassionate centrist lines, and he doesn't falter:

Let's understand: Don wanted to slash Working for Families, put interest on student loans, raise the age of the pension. I can got and do all those things overnight if you want me to, and I'll tell you what will happen: New Zealand will be a much tougher place to live, a lot of New Zealanders will be feeling very, very grumpy about their lives, rightfully so, and I don't think that will make much difference.

Small picks him up on his claim last month that Standard and Poor's had suggested a downgrade was more likely under a Labour government. "I stand by what I said." They push him. "I stand by what I've said. That's all I'm prepared to say." And for the first time he looks a little uncomfortable, clenching his jaw. You were caught out, says Young. "I don't agree with that." You have to agree with that, says Soper. You were caught out. "I stand by what I said." Do you still trust your mate that sent you that email. "I stand by what I've said, for good reason."

What about post-election cabinet? Oh no, wouldn't think about that till after we've won, says Key, to do so would be like the All Blacks against France in 2007. What an odd thing to say. He's resisted the rugby allusions all campaign, as far as I've seen, now this? Anyway, he says he won't get ahead of himself.

Key says he reckons he'd like to keep the tourism portfolio, and goes on to suggest that a film called "The Hobbits" wouldn't have been made under Labour.

He won't be drawn on a role for John Banks. And here's a question on the Greens, finally. The existing memorandum of understanding has been successful, he says. He says that the Greens if they were a true environmental party would "oscillate" between Labour and National. But they're not - and I assume he would go on to say they're a leftwing bunch, but I can't say for sure because his answer is cut short, and that's a wrap.

No question on the details of his conversation with Banks, and whether he really thinks the Herald on Sunday is doing a News of the World. Great shame, that. It's as if it was pre-recorded, but certainly it is presented as though live.

The only wobbles were over the Standard and Poor's stuff. Otherwise hardly a glove laid.

That's almost certainly it for today; more, bright and bushy-tailed, breakfast time tomorrow.

9.15pm: On to Christchurch. Key dismisses Small's suggestion that they might have used the disaster there to cover economic performance overall. Key is comfortable on questions of fiscal balance. Soper asks about ChristChurch cathedral. Will they be putting money into fix that? Too early to say, says Key. "I haven't looked at that ... No one would want to see that restored more than I would, but it's too early to say."

Next Key says his government has gone out of its way to protect the vulnerable through the recession, echoing a line that Bill English has been making recently: that they have "taken the rough edges off the recession" by accepting a budget deficit.

Young asks on Afghanistan. Can you rule out SAS forces returning there? What about a ready reaction force with Australia? "There was an approach by Kevin Rudd to put together ... an Anzac force, but I turned that down ... My expectation is they'll be back by the end of March; the probability of them going back is very low." Why can't you just say they'll be back and won't return? "Because I'm the prime minister of New Zealand as I stand here today, and the prime minister of New Zealand does not sit there and make those calls absolutely unless you're in a position where you've covered everything off." Phil Goff, says Key, is being irresponsible in claiming it's possible to make an absolute call, and doing so for political reasons.

9.05pm: Next is the economy: the "bold promise to close the wage gap with Australia", which has "gone down the gurgler along with Europe", says Soper.

What will take to break your optimism that things will get better, ask Tarrant, citing this week's Reserve Bank statement. "Yes, there is a worsening factor in Europe," says Key, but "we can't sit around and feel sorry for ourselves". National is focused on growth, and growth in parts of the world less affected by Europe's strife. But what about contingency plans should things turn to custard, Tarrant asks. But we're a reliable government, look at our track record. Soper says: get back to Alex's point. Key says: "But my point is the valid point." In fact he says it twice. "We've proven in that three year period of great difficulty that we've actually managed to get the balance about right for New Zealanders."

Soper moves on to the retirement age. Wasn't it irresponsible to pledge not to shift it? No, says Key - believe it or not - it wasn't irresponsible. They did the numbers three years ago, and the Treasury showed them it could work up to 2020. He discounts Young's suggestion of a cross-party accord. Nothing wrong with that in principle, says Key, but Labour, he implies, aren't to be trusted.

Do you actually understand poverty, Soper asks the prime minister, citing reports that the Key Mansion has increased in value by $2.6 million. And there's a supervisor cleaning in your office who gets $14 an hour. "How can anyone live on that?" Key: "It comes down to the minimum wage argument. The first thing is: when people are in work they're better off than when they're in welfare. So when Phil Goff says he wants in the stroke of a pen to take the minimum wage from $13 to $15, some people will earn more, some people will pay more for the things they buy, other people will lose their job." Key disputes the suggestion the Treasury paper released under OIA this week said jobs would not be lost by increasing the minimum wage, saying it referred to the youth rate.

Off to another commercial break - mostly trailers for stuff on Sky movie channels - and Key is still standing strong.

8.50pm: The preamble to the interview on the Sky News election special traces the route "from Burnside to the Beehive", and a reminder of his maiden speech as a young MP, in which he boldly said that being in power meant not cravenly doing what was popular or following the latest opinion poll.

Audrey Young of the Herald, Vernon Small of Fairfax and Alex Tarrant of join Barry Soper in the studio, and Young kicks off with a question about the Epsom deal: does that not undermine MMP and test the public's patience? "MMP by definition means you have support arrangements," he says. People understand that, he says. "In the case of Epsom ... the National voters have been asking for a signal." It doesn't mean Banks will win, but he's sending them that signal - that National and Act can work constructively together.

Has he given up National governing on its own? Key shows his familiarity with the polls - no, they suggest they might yet have the numbers. But things tend to tighten up as election day closes in, he says. But, of course, anyone would like to govern alone he says, For they have proven themselves to be a "moderate, considered centre-right party". Even if they had the numbers to govern alone, he says, it would be preferable to have support arrangements with other parties - a "safety valve".

Key confirms that he doesn't want to work with Winston Peters. Will Don Brash be in the cabinet? "There's zero chance of him being minister of finance."

The National leader bats of questions about whether he'd rather see John Banks - or "Banksie", as Key refers to the man he "knows well" - as leader of Act.

There are questions about a deal with the Maori party, but what about the Greens? No questions on that. Yet.

I hope they'll ask what was on the Teapot Tapes, and why he is so keen for it not to be revealed. No one has brought that up, either, despite my shouting at the telly.

So far, Key is coasting.


One News leads on All Black Zac Guildford's alleged misdemeanours on a Pacific Island, followed by the resignation of Silvio Berlusconi. Third is the furore around the Teapot Tapes (see most of today's post). That's followed by the Act launch, with a focus on those remarks by Banks that about Maori and Polynesian youth in south Auckland (see Friday, 1.25pm). According to Don Brash, Banks' criticism was to do with the minimum wage. If so, it was heavily coded.

After the break on One, the near completion of the removal of oil from the Rena, with Steven Joyce confirming the vessel is in effect in three parts  Then Labour apparently announcing policy on Q+A this morning (which went over my head, apologies) over the removal of the requirement for a sole parent to find work when their youngest child is six. Then the results from their Colmar Brunton poll of last Thursday, insofar as the referendum is concerned. It shows that 51% want to keep MMP, with 37% want a change. Nigel Roberts tells the programme "you could have a very close race" - but only if pretty well all the undecideds turns against MMP. Given the state of things in Epsom, mind you, that's not impossible. As for what they'd replace MMP with, 36% says First Past the Post, 16% Single Transferable Vote, 16% Preferential Voting and only 7% plump for supplementary member - the system being promoted by the Vote for Change group.

Over on 3 News they're not especially excited about their own poll, relegating it to fourth in line, after Zac G, an item on the prevalence of child pornography in New Zealand and now the rena. On the poll (see below for details), Duncan Garner says John Key will be "desperate now to go almost under the radar". Then Paddy Gower, Don Brash's bete noir (see Monday 31 October, 6.30pm), goes to the Act launch to point out his absence on party flyers and quiz him over "cosying up" with Fijian dictator Frank Bainimarama. To round out their coverage, something on the John Key corpse painting (see paper review).

Oddly, not a mention on 3 News of the Teapot tapes, the Herald on Sunday or Key's claims of News of the Worldesque tactics.

6.40pm: POLL

The headline figures from tonight's new TV3/Reid Research poll:

National 53.3%; Labour 29.9%; Greens 10.2%; NZ First 2.4%; Maori 1.4%; Mana 1.0%; ACT 0.7%.

Following National's dip under 50% in Friday's Herald/Digipoll, this result confirms than any suggestion of "plummeting" National support is misplaced. Here they gain a single percentage point in a result that would give the party enough to govern alone, with 66 seats. Labour are steady just under 30% but less than a fortnight from polling, steady isn't good enough. The Greens tip 10% for the first time in TV3/Reid poll, NZ First are still half the number they'd need to get a foot in parliament, given they've no constituency hopes, and Act are well out of it - all rests on Epsom for them.

In the preferred PM stakes, Key sits on 50%, Goff is at 12.4% - but that's a an increase of nearly 3% for him.

Read Duncan Garner's summary of the results here.

The rest of the TV bulletins soon.

5.00pm: And look, here comes Tau Henare, fingers to the Twitter:

If you thought the phone hacking scandal in the UK was bad. Check what the @HeraldonSunday did. Bad Bad Bad.

Unless I misunderstand him, the National MP is here suggesting the Herald on Sunday's alleged behaviour is worse than that of a British tabloid with an institutional culture of mendacity so endemic and rotten that it was closed down by its owners; a paper that hacked the phone of a murdered child to improve its commercial prospects. Really, Tau?

4.45pm: National have turned the Teapot Tape debate up a notch by accusing the Herald on Sunday of adopting News of the World style tactics. "I think we can see the way the British public have reacted to News of the World tactics," said John Key in a press release. "It was deliberately put there and I'm simply not going to reward them ... I think I've got a duty to stand up and say New Zealanders aren't going to put up with that."

Steven Joyce has echoed his boss. This from the Stuff report:

National's campaign manager Steven Joyce said the Herald on Sunday has "many questions to answer" on how the illegal taping came about.

He said there were "many inconsistencies " in the newspapers account.

The mike was concealed in a pouch, he said. "Any camera operator knows that if you are seeking to obtain legitimate audio you don't muffle it." The only possible conclusion was "concealment" he said.

If you doubted whether there was anything interesting on that tape, this response might change your mind.

4.30pm: David Cunliffe has proved his down-ness with the internettolingo by declaring "John Key's asset sales an epic fail for NZ".

3.00pm: A Jaguar XJS with blacked-out windows just screeched to a halt outside my office and threw out a brown paper package containing a memory stick, which held a pirated copy of The Lion King and a distorted audio recording, which I've cleaned up a bit. It's hard to be sure, but this might just be The Teapot Tapes. Have a listen.

1.40pm: This morning Don Brash launched the Act campaign. Here's a wordle that reflects which words were used the most in his speech. It must be one of the few times you'll find big government in a portrayal of Act philosophy.

He said "John Key" seven times. How many times did he say "John Banks"? He didn't.

12.30pm: Jane Clifton calls in with her take on the Teapot Tapes. "It doesn't add up," she says. If the audio isn't visible below, click here.

11.30am: Some action on Twitter surrounding the Herald on Sunday and the secret recording of the Key-Banks cafe date (see 8.40am), henceforth to be called the Teapot Tapes. A selection:

It's possible that last one is a red herring.

11.15am: The Act party campaign launch is under way in Auckland. "With Jim Hopkins hosting, it will be the most fun," they promise. More of that later.

11.00am: Q+A begins with a focus on welfare and work, with Paula Bennett of National and Annette King from Labour in the studio.

Guyon Espiner begins by asking Bennett, the minister for social development, whether women on the domestic purposes benefit decide to have children so that they can extend welfare payments. “There are some that are and there are some that aren’t, so I think that is quite clear.”

Do you think people will think, “Hm, I better not do this [have another child], because I’m going to have go then and look for work when my child hits one”, Espiner asks. Bennett: “I think some will. I think some will think actually I’m not going to get to just stay on welfare without there being any obligations on me … But I don’t think everyone is going to sit there and make that sort of decision.”

Bennett says the number of beneficiaries who would fall into that category – of having a child over 14 and another that has just turned one – is small, numbering currently only about 70.

The increasing numbers on the DPB suggests government policy isn’t working, says Espiner. Bennett says, yes, but part-time work has increased, and it’s been “tough times” economically.

No question for Bennett about the Human Rights Commission considering taking action against her (see Friday 8pm), as leaked to TV3.

Surprisingly, Q+A has chosen to conduct separate interviews with Bennett and King, rather than letting them debate. King, Labour’s deputy leader and their social welfare spokesperson, appears after the break. Asked about Labour’s pledge to extend Working for Families tax credit to beneficiaries with children, King says it’s intended to support the children, and avoid the cycle of poverty.

“No one doubts that, but it’s about whether you give people the fish or the fishing rod,” says Espiner. King: “We’re giving them both!” But who, ask the rest of us, will teach fishing?

It’s certainly to King’s advantage to go second here. She attacks National for setting an “arbitrary age” for returning work, and claims National is harsh on and cynical about people struggling.

Next, Damian Christie heads to Waitakere in West Auckland, where Paula Bennett holds the seat by just 632 votes. Her campaign vehicle is an electric car covered in leopard-skin-print fake-fur.

Neither the Green candidate nor Mana candidate (Sue Bradford) is chasing the electorate vote, which can only help Labour’s Camel Sepuloni, currently a list MP.

Fran O’Sullivan, on the pundit panel: “I really do like the way Paula brands herself, she could have walked out of Outrageous Fortune. They know her as Paula Benefit, the lady from Winz, they know exactly who she is, and she tootles around in that leopard-skin car. I think she has a very good chance – even if the others vote tactically, I think she has a very good chance.”

Pita Sharples and Shane Jones are next in the studio, talking about Tamaki-Makaurau, the Auckland-focused Maori seat they’re contesting. Paul Holmes puts the first question to Jones, but he defers to his senior counterpart from the Maori party. Nice touch. The early debate centres on young Maori out of work. Sharples points to local schemes in Tamaki-Makaurau; Jones counters that that won’t do: the macro public-policy changes required have been absent.

The Maori party has come in for criticism for its support of the National government – here he emphasises something his party might have done more in this campaign: they are in a confidence and supply agreement with National, not a formal coalition. That said, however, they did take ministerial positions - it's not an easy sell to suggest they're unconnected.

Sharples: “The Maori party will go with any party where it is advantageous to Maori people.” Jones: “I wouldn’t be surprised if they did cuddle up with the Nats again.”

Holmes asks Jones – the Labour MP whose hopes to become leader were complicated by scandal - the about his future. “I’m absolutely not interested in talking about the leadership,” he says.

“We need a bone-carver at the marae,” says Sharples.

Marae Investigates has a voters' guide to the Maori electorates. That will be online before long here.

10.30am: At the Apec summit, leaders have agreed the "broad outlines" of the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement. Here's the leaders' statement. In a statement, Bill English says: "Today’s announcement is an important milestone. It signals the broad outlines of the agreement – including progressive tariff elimination and an end point of full market access – and a strong political commitment from leaders."

Q+A summary coming soon. Normal service delayed by back injury, sustained, since you ask, by dangling 23-month-old child by feet.

9.40am: More on the secret recording that has fallen into the hands of the Herald on Sunday, and the rest of the morning paper headlines, in the roundup now online here.

8.55am: A tasty exchange between two veteran election watchers, Bill Ralston (or Bill Ralson, as his former employer, TVNZ, like to call him on their website) and Brian Edwards, over the photo-op Key campaign, on the extended repeat of The Nation (for a review of the rest of the programme see yesterday).

Edwards: I've been watching politics since around the late-60s, and there has never been a New Zealand prime minister who has used photo opportunities as ...

Ralston: Oh, not true. David Lange in 84, David Lange particularly in 1987.

Edwards: Wouldn't even come close. Wouldn't even come close.

Ralston: I'm sorry, but Lange did nothing but photo opportunities, held very few press conferences and did very few one-on-one interviews all through 1987.

Edwards: As John Key would say, I can't accept that, Bill.

It continues in that vein for a bit. "There's just no reality in what you're saying," says Edwards. Ralston fires back: "You're just making blanket statements with no real substance behind them." Bring it!

8.40am: The Sunday paper roundup is coming down the slipway even now, but the Herald on Sunday teases us with the delicious trail beneath the masthead, "Exclusive recording: the secret conversation". What they don't tell you there - naturally - is that they'v decided not to tell us what is in that "secret conversation", recorded, apparently, accidentally by a TV cameraman whose recording device was left on the table in the Newmarket cafe where John Key and John Banks had their evocative cup of tea.

The headline on the piece inside is "PM blocks release of chat tape". A fairer headline would be "PM opposes release of chat tape".

The important paragraph:

Herald on Sunday editor Bryce Johns said the newspaper had sought legal advice and believed it could have gone ahead, but it was an ethical matter for the newspaper. "Neither politician knew they were being recorded and they want to keep that chat private."

I wonder if this recent British precedent was discussed by HoS editors.

7.50am: An overnight tweet from broadcaster-provocateur Martyn Bradbury:

Can someone PLEASE tell Phil Goff the only words out of his mouth for the next 2 weeks should be 'Vote to avoid a Brash-Key Government'

7.30am: Morning. Later today - 13 hours later, to be precise - John Key appears for a rare long-form interview, with Barry Soper and his media panel on Sky News (repeated later on Prime). At 9am, Q+A focuses on work and welfare. After the 8 o'clock news RNZ National's Insight explores the sales of state assets; their 7am news bulletin included a warning from one man close to the sale of BNZ in the 80s warning that the same problems that bedevilled that shift in ownership could return next time round. Mediawatch, shortly after 9am on the National programme, is looking at the political punditry in the campaign.

The papers soon, and who knows what else.

A quiet day yesterday, but that means it won't take a minute to scroll through it here.

Get in touch through the comments, on twitter to @listenerlive, or email


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