Wednesday 16 November: Key walks out on the press, minor parties debate

by Toby Manhire / 16 November, 2011
Peters shines in TV debate as National change tack in response to teapot tapes.

10.50pm: The debate Fiona Rae's verdict

Anything static puts the wind up TVNZ these days, so it stacked the multi-partydebate (as it did the first leaders’ debate) with so many elements a disco after the event didn’t seem out of the question. There were the two experts with Mark Sainsbury; the three (three!) journalists on the floor; the six party leaders; the Espiner Robot asking questions; and a shadowy audience hidden beneath strip-club lighting. But for all that TVNZ wants excitement, it doesn’t want too much. There was to be no actual debating across the lecterns; the moment that it looked like two of the leaders might engage, the Espiner Robot moved them on, because he is programmed to get through all the questions, no matter what.

After a slow start, the debate was mildly entertaining. The great hyperbolist Hone Harawira talked about the “Hone Heke tax”; Peter Dunne will have a brilliant career in mediation should he lose Ohariu; Tariana was grandmotherly, but clear; and Russel, tall and slim as a wind turbine, was a straight shooter. Strangest moment: Winston talking about the #teapottapes: “Was there any conversation about helping Mr Brash in the future when he wasn’t in politics?” What was Winnie on about? Brash, already the odd man out, looked flustered. Was Winston grinning his Cheshire cat grin? We’ll never know.

10.30pm: The debate Diana Wichtel's verdict

The coiffeurs. The air of faded grandeur. No one quite said “I am big. It's the parties that got small”, but there was a distinct touch of Sunset Boulevard’s Norma Desmond about Peter Dunne and a resurrected Winston Peters. Dunne was so reasonable he made your fillings ache. Though the poll at the end showed the worm had turned. Dunne scored a mere seven to Winston’s 36. He aimed, he said pointedly, to give John Key an alternative to “more extreme and erratic partners he might face.” It’s difficult to say how much traction there is in marketing yourself as the less nutty option.

You have to hand it to Winston. He was ready for his close up, making even Hone Harawira look like a shrinking violet.  Guyon winced only a little when Peters taunted him over the wretched Key 'n’ Banks unreleased single. “You know where you can get the tape yourself - over the road at TV3.” Guyon should perhaps watch the tape. He doesn’t seem entirely clear about Act’s leadership, but then who is? At one point he asked Don Brash “You don’t care what your leader says…?”

Anyone who thought Peters might have mellowed while cooling his heels was in for a disappointment. “It was a total PR stunt,” he crowed, of the fine mess Key finds himself in at the moment, “and that's the price you pay for fooling around with the public and fooling around with democracy!'' He was enjoying himself so much he took out two targets with a single shot, pointing out that the Prime Minister “spat the dummy in front of the people who love him – namely the media.”

This was almost refreshing compared to Don Brash, who just joined in the chorus of political teapots calling the media kettle black, fuming that “the media are worrying about a jolly conversation at a teacup!”

There were a lot more laughs than the Key vs Goff encounter. Tariana Turia got in some shots at Brash’s attempts to “fear monger” about race but he’s made himself so irrelevant he now elicits more groans than outrage. It was all quite genial - a night of little fire or even fight. We might have wished for something stronger but all we got was a jolly cup of tea.

9.15pm: The debate Jane Clifton's verdict

Perhaps I’m suffering teapot and sticker fatigue, but this debate made me feel unexpectedly reassured about the calibre of almost all of our prospective minor party leaders and coalition support parties. I retain reservations about Winston, because yet again, he mostly articulated what was wrong, without a coherent vision of how to fix things. Charm and pugilism, as we’ve seen from his past performance in office, can only take one so far. And my enjoyment of Hone – who calls to mind David Lange’s description of Tau Henare: “a refreshing hoon!” – is always tempered by the fact that neither Labour nor National will work with him, so he will never achieve anything for his voters in the foreseeable future.

In that vein, I wholeheartedly second Jon Johansson’s expression of regret that he has fragmented the Maori vote, because “if they’d been able to stay on the same page,” he and Tariana would have been a formidable force.  And finally, Don Brash was outclassed by all-comers. In fairness, he is utterly sure of himself and his policies and articulates clearly, but he long since stopped listening – to voters, to colleagues, to more experienced politicos – so his sales pitches are unpersuasive, as is his persona.

The text poll just has to have been skewed.  The rankings seemed almost random.  Picking winners is tough, but I was most impressed with Russel and Tariana – and agreeably surprised at how well Peter Dunne stood up in terms of making his usual uber-balanced schtick seem fresh and relevant. (Point of trivia: he can’t help the cockatoo crest hair thing; I have it from two TVNZ makeup artists who have prepped him for appearances that it really is a series of wayward widow’s peak scalp quirks, and has seemed more pronounced as his hair has grown more wiry with age.  Such things come to us all – but don’t mention that in connection with Winston’s supporters).


NB First entry on the debate is at 7.15am.

Finally, coalition time. Who would you work with?

Brash: "Our primary commitment is to give confidence and supply to the National party.

Dunne: "We've said also that we'd work with a John Key government." Why not Labour? "Policy compatibility" - they spend too much.

Turia: "We're not going to be making a coalition statement tonight ... But we wouldn't enter into a coalition arrangement with the Act party, we're very clear about that." But you have been working with them, says Espiner. This is a change in your position? No, she says - we never voted with Act.

Peters: "We're not asking people to vote for NZ First to prop up other people .. We wish to go into opposition and keep people accountable." Peters has been the star so far, but he stumbles a bit on this.

Norman: "We work with parties where we have common policy area ... In terms of formal coalition our preference is Labour, it's highly unlikely we'd go into formal coalition with National." He later suggests they would talk with Labour first regardless of which party got the most votes.

Harawira: Not interested in coalitions - "You can't campaign as Mana is to be a voice for the poor and then go into coalition with a party like National and Act who actually build their whole philosophy around kicking the poor" - but he would work with any party that can help to lift the Maori people from poverty and suffering.

And that's the end of the debate. Swiftly back to the studio round the corner and a handful of tweets and texts and remarks off Facebook. And the analysts? Claire Robinson tells us Harawira had the studio audience "eating out of the palm of his hand", and Norman impressed the crowd there too.

A good deabte, says Johansson. He says Winston was restrained, "which allowed him to get his points across". The debate also showed that "Don just isn't in the same league as the rest of these people."

A roundup of thoughts on the debates a little later, but that's us done for the minute. Winston Peters at last had his primetime stage, and he alone among the half-dozen leaders tonight is likely to have lifted his numbers.

8.18pm: Keep MMP? "Yes, but improve it," says Norman. As does Dunne - though he says STV is better. We like the diversity, says Turia. Brash says we don't have an official party position, but we worry proportional systems tend towards high spending. I prefer SM, he says. The good thing is you have to work with people under MMP, says Peters. But you say you'll not work with anyone, fires back Espiner. No, we won't coalesce, but we could "work with", says Peters

My mother told me to say the MMP means "More Maori Politicians", says Harawira.

Then a debate about the Maori seats, and then a debate about the number of seats in the house. All mildly interesting if you like that sort of thing, but I suspect the viewing figures for Hot in Cleveland on 2 just surged upwards.

A break. A Labour ad.

8.05pm: Should the tape be released, Espiner asks Brash. No, it's unethical and illegal, says Brash. Do you know what's on it? "I don't care". Espiner: "You don't care what your leader says..." Laughter. That slip may be illustrative of the problem, says Espiner, in a deft save.

Peters stares down the barrel again. Release them! They're in the public interest, and captured in a media stunt. They show "the party that dumped the last Act leader is looking to dump the current Act leader - and in doing so they also dump down on old people ... You know what I know, and I've said it, and you know where you can get the tape yourself, over the road at TV3."

Turia: "Private conversation. It's unethical."

Dunne: "Sideshow."

How about those billboards, Russel, Espiner asks. Same answers we've heard all day. Fair enough.

Set the tapes free, says Harawira.

Corin Dann again. How has the PM handled this issue?

Peters: "He's lost his rag ... He's spat the dummy with the people that loved him - namely the media  .. If he's gonna be a bloke that has a beer with the boys and drinks out of a bottle, how about being a real bloke and coming clean."

The five most quotable remarks so far? All Winston.

"That's a question you should put to him [Key}," says Turia, puzzlingly.

Release the tapes, says Dunne.

Harawira cries hypocrisy: Key has presided over wild growth in covert surveillance.

In terms of political management, "just release it," says Norman. "That's what we did with the billboards."

Peters again, and this is something: "Here's the real issue - was there any conversation about helping Mr Brash in the future, when he wasn't in politics?"

Over to Brash: "I can understand the prime minister's frustration. Look, the country is facing a serious financial crisis .. and the media are worrying about a conversation in a teacup. Very frustrating."

Very frustrating.

A break. A Labour ad.

7.50pm: What's the biggest threat to the environment? Norman: in New Zealand it's freshwater; globally, climate change. He's hardly thumping the desk, here, on a subject where he should be firing on all cylinders.

Harawira: "The way the market has turned everything into a consumer product."

Turia: "It will only be when mankind recognises that you can't eat money that we'll start looking after our environment ... Hone is right."

Brash: "We want to increase the wealth of the country, and we would therefore improve the environment."

Peters: "The ETS [emissions trading scheme], which is a Wall Street, speculative, profiteering venture in terms of the environment is not the answer. We need an environment and government solution."

Dunne: "There is debate around the fringes, but the reality has already centred around an ETS scheme."

Off to a break, with Espiner's promise that "in the second half we'll be getting into the secret tape saga" and coalition possibilities.

Another Labour ad. They're pushing their enviro credentials.

7.40pm: Next, race relations. There is institutional racism in New Zealand, says Turia. Nonsense, says Brash. Harawira says Brash-style racism is why the Maori party should never be involved in a coalition with ACT. Peters launches into the separatism stuff.

Shane Taurima of Te Karere asks how can we say we have good race relations when we have Maori so over-represented in the bad statistics? "Serious structural change" is required says Harawira. Turia emphasises the role of Whanau-Ora. And: "I don't think the issue of race relations is as bad as has been portrayed here tonight." Maori people are less exercised by the problem than are "the likes of Don Brash who raise this issue to fearmonger".

Inequality and poverty is the thing, says Norman.

Here's Winston. "I'll sacrifice the rest of the night's debate to get this one point across, and it's this: The black civil rights movement in America tried to bust down the doors of white institutions because they were the best. Here we are building separate institutions which have no evidence of succeeding and it's going to cost us billions." Cut to Turia, losing the will to live. "And I'm saying to every Maori right now, straight down the barrel, that the only people that can fix our demise is ourselves. It's not taxpayers' money, and it's not separatist institutions."

"I absolutely agree," says Brash. Which is probably not quite what Peters wanted to hear.

To a break: and not a mention yet of the teapot tapes, not even implied, at least not that I've noticed.

Another Labour ad. This is getting a bit gatecrasher-y.

7.30pm: Age of eligibility for super. No one except Don Brash backs moving, with Labour, to 67. Turia says it should be 60 for Maori, Pacific people and the poor. Dunne says a graded scale 60-70. Nice to see the Maori party backing our policy on that, too, says Harawira.

The second media question: Tracy Watkins of the Dom Post asks Russel Norman: which economic policy are you compatible with National on? A fair price on irrigation, Norman says, though that high rising terminal suggests he's not convinced.

Espiner resumes firing basic policy-position questions. A good approach, given these parties' positions will be new to many viewers. Minimum wage up to $15? No freaking way, says Brash. No, says Dunne. Yes, says Turia. It's got to go up, says Peters - and that Brash, he says, he's an economic nihilist, an economics anarchist! "It's orthodox economics," chirps Brash. "It's orthodox economics." Put it up, says Harawira. Yup, $15, says Norman.

In the break there's a Labour ad. Last break the Greens screened one. Looks there's another Labour one - two in one break. Steady on there.

7.15pm: We're under way in the minor party leaders debate (no apostrophe in the One News style).

"I'm looking to see for a dynamic where you could have five-on-one," says Jon Johnansson, who is with Mark Sainsbury and Claire Robinson doing the front-of-house stuff. By that JJ means the Greens, who are being courted by both big parties, versus the rest.

There are so many of them, it takes an age just to do the introductions. Lined up left to right are Hone Harawira (Mana), Russel Norman (Green), Winston Peters (NZ First), Tariana Turia (Maori party), Peter Dunne (United Future) and Don Brash (ACT). Then there's Guyon Espiner, mediating. And then there's three other journalists on a panel asking questions. That's 13 all up, and god knows if they'll be repeating all that Skype-a-question tomfoolery from last time.

Turia says the Maori party will back a transaction tax. "I'm glad to see you're in behind the Hone Heke tax," says Harawira. Turia: "It's been our policy since 2005."

What would you do if we needed an austerity budget, asks Corin Dann, one of the guest questioners. What would you cut? Brash: public services. Dunne: Welfare. Turia: You couldn't cut." Peters: get people to pay their taxes. Harawira: "I'd be on the streets trying to organise the masses." Norman: roads.


I’ll be following the minor party leaders’ debate from 7pm.

First, a quick run through the news bulletins.

Checkpoint leads at 5pm on the teapot tapes, and Key exiting the media standup. Next is the interesting story of Paul Goldsmith and his signs in Epsom – something I’ve been meaning to get to all day. It goes like this: lefty blog the Standard exposes Goldsmith as removing his own promotional material. Except Goldsmith says it was clearly a set-up: he didn’t put the material – business cards blown up to A4 size - there, and he was removing them because they didn’t contain the required details. Got that? Here’s the summary.

3 News remains fully charged on the teapot tapes, and begins with John Key “storming out”, etc, “as 3 News continued to probe”. They play the incident in full – with two cameras, remarkably: one for Key and one for the prober-in-chief, Duncan Garner. Next is a two-way with Garner, and discussion about the PM continuing to refuse “to consent” to the release of the tapes. Prober Garner says, interestingly: “I don’t think the tape is actually that bad for John Key – it’s much worse for John Banks”.

And it’s to John Banks we go next, in the company of the unstoppable Patrick Gower, who gets Epsom’s ACT candidate to tell him, unequivocally, that he doesn’t remember what he said in his conversation with Key. Except that when Gower tries to put the transcript in his hands, Banks says he doesn’t need it, for he remembers what he said. The report then goes all indie-film, with the two men debating the fate of John Banks in the third person, concluding thus – Gower: "John Banks could lose Epsom." Banks: "The world could stop turning."

And then a sigh of relief as we head back to the plight of Zac Guildford.

Over at One News, for reasons that don’t need explaining, things are more quotidian. They lead on the a drug-syndicate bust, followed by the Rena salvage, and only third do they get to the “peeved PM” and his attempts to “shut the story down”.

On neither channel, however, will you get anything as much coverage as this blog gave today’s National trade policy. I gave it 94 words.

6.00pm: Labour has launched its youth affairs policy. Release here. Policy PDF here. Its local government policy, too (release/policy).

5.45pm: NZ FIRST

Buoyed by the drama around the Key-Banks recording, Winston Peters goes into tonight's minor party leaders' debate confident he can pull his party over the crucial 5% threshold. If he does, he’ll probably take in at least six other MPs from the NZ First party list. Who? We're here to help:

After Peters on the list is Tracey Martin, who is standing in Rodney. Her Facebook page suggests her motto is “Gratitude - we should all use a bit more of it.”

Third is Andrew Williams, the former mayor of North Shore City, candidate for North Shore and enemy of the rightwing blogger Cameron Slater. Here’s an insightful clipping from his Facebook page:

Fourth is Richard Prosser. He’s into alternative therapies, he’s a qualified Reiki Master, and he writes (or used to) a column in Investigate magazine. Here’s the guy, in a pic from his Facebook page:

Fifth, Barbara Stewart, a former list member and NZ First spokesperson for health, social services, family and industry training. She introduced an electoral bill I 2006 aiming to reduce the number of MPs from 120 to 100.

At six, Brendan Horan. He used to present the weather for TV One. As you probably know, this singer and entertainer “first brought sunshine into New Zealand homes as the 'Weather Man' for the national news on TVNZ's Channel One. Frequently referred to as ‘Mr Sunshine’ or ‘Mr Personality’, Brendan's handsome and cheerful disposition enamored the New Zealand public and set a great many feminine hearts a flutter.”

Seventh is Denis O’Rourke, who’s standing in Port Hills, Christchurch. He believes in ONE LAW FOR ALL. You know it’s important because it’s in all caps.

NZ First’s introduction to its candidates is here.

5.15pm: Julian Robins has been on RNZ's Checkpoint reflecting on John Key's change in strategy over the teapot tapes. "At the time [see 12.10pm] I thought he had stormed out," he says. "But in the end I thought he was very calm, that it was premeditated ... [The National campaign] may have taken a calculation that public sympathy is on their side."

4.45pm: A new campaign poster from Labour arrives hot off the virtual press. It is safe to say that this wasn't something they planned last week. Scurrilous opportunism or smart and timely campaigning?

4.30pm: John Key has now cut short a second press stand-up, again arguing, according to RNZ, that "the public are interested in the issues facing New Zealand". This now looks like a very deliberate attempt to smother the life out of the story. After three questions, quit the standup, something like that.

3.15pm: CLIFTON

I can no longer keep it secret: I have decided to publish the tape, of Jane Clifton considering whether we've been plunged by John Key's walkout from a press stand-up into a battle between the National party and the media for the public's sympathies.

A couple of awkward jump cuts in there owing to my computer creaking under the weight of democracy, but it shouldn't trouble you.

1.30pm: In an opinion piece for Stuff, Tracy Watkins argues Key's walkout today was "calculated":

It was clearly a calculated move to drive a wedge between the media and the public over the issue.

Presumably National's focus groups are telling them that there is a high level of public distaste at the way the conversation between John Banks and Key was picked up. From Key's actions today, it is clear that he believes his stance puts him on the right side of public opinion.

1.25pm: BLOGGERS

At the iPredict site ElectionResults, Matthew Hooton, notes the “unfortunate parallel” between Key cutting short his press huddle this morning and Helen Clark’s infamous corngate interview with John Campbell. Key won’t thank him for that.

Hooton writes:

The problem is that the Prime Minister's success over the last few years is so great that his team hasn't had much experience in dealing with political crises. To quote someone else, he is a victim of his own success as a popular and competent prime minister.

“This will not help”, is the headline on a Kiwiblog post by David Farrar.

I’m not sure one can describe it as storming out, but predict nevertheless that is how every outlet will report it. That doesn’t mean I think it was a good idea, because the media reaction was predictable.

All this teapot tape stuff a sideshow, a distraction? Not so, says Danyl at the Dim-Post:

The tea-pot tape saga keys into a huge range of really substantive issues: the Prime Minister’s integrity; media ethics; surveillance (apparently it’s okay for the state to break the law when spying on people, but accidental surveillance of political leaders during public appearances is a ‘slippery slope’ to youth suicide, somehow). It’s about political management of the media, and the farce that is the ACT Party, and National’s endorsement of said farce.

In his daily post at Scoop, Gordon Campbell says John Key should “man up” and let the tape be aired:

For someone who has made his carefully manicured personality into his government’s greatest asset, any gap that the tape’s content may reveal between image and substance is going to be magnified – but it is just as clearly in the public interest.

Eddie at the Standard thinks National’s “bully tactics” in going to the police have backfired.

The media clearly aren’t cowed. And it hasn’t allowed National to refuse to talk about the conversation because the police investigation isn’t about what Key said to Banks it’s about a recording of what they said. Everyone can see the difference.

At Whaleoil, Cameron Slater claims Phil Goff is nicking his line on the teapot tapes from fellow blogger David Farrar.

1.00pm: On the RNZ National Radio news at 1pm, Phil Goff tells reporters that he can't remember a prime minister ever "storming out" of a media conference in such a way. None before, he says has been "so brittle that they couldn't take the heat of answering questions from the news media - that's their job."

But was it - see below - really a "storming out"? Barry Soper of Newstalk ZB says he doesn't think so. John Key has told him he wasn’t upset or angry, he just didn’t want to talk about what he regarded as an unimportant issue - and Soper seems to be with him on that count.

12.25pm: And here is the video footage from

12.10pm: TV3 has video of John Key quitting the press conference under questioning from Duncan Garner here. "Storms out" is overstating it, but certainly it's an uncomfortable premature exit.

Julian Robins has just told Midday Report on RNZ that the incident was "surreal" and "extraordinary". He said it would do nothing to stop reporters pursuing this line. "That's not going to be sustainable, what went on today."

12.00pm: Lyndon Hood tweets:

11.50am: More on the storm-off-over-teapot kerfuffle.

From Stuff:

Prime Minister John Key has refused to answer reporters' questions about the tea tapes and stormed out of a press conference in Wellington in the last few minutes.

Key was addressing media after giving a speech at the Federated Farmers national conference at Westpac Stadium.

He began by answering two questions about trade before he was asked about the secret tape recorded during his cafe meeting with ACT's Epsom candidate John Banks last week.

Instead of answering the questions, Key kept repeating the economy and trade was what New Zealanders were interested in.

He then stormed out of the conference leaving media visibly stunned.

And from the Herald:

Prime Minister John Key has this morning refused to answer any questions about the 'tea cup' tape and, when pressed, walked out of a media stand-up.

He repeatedly said, in response to questions around the tape, that he and New Zealanders were interested in issues such as the economy.

In an extraordinary response, when journalists continued to ask him about the tape, he stormed off.

11.40am: I said yesterday morning that it was a bit of a surprise John Key was engaging with questions about the contents of the teapot tapes. I'd rather expected he'd say it's a matter for the police, I'm not talking about that any more. Well hehas now - and it sounds as though he's gone a bit Cartman on the press pack: screw you guys, I'm going home.

Some tweets from journalists who were with him:

Danya Levy of Fairfax:

John Key has refused to answer questions about tea tapes and stormed out of press conference in Wellington.

Katie Bradford of Newstalk ZB:

The pm just shut down questions about teapot tapes  ... John Key stormed out of the press conference, only wanting to take questions on trade and the economy. Media stunned.

Derek Cheng of the Herald:

@johnkeypm refuses to answer Qs about the teacup tape this morning. Walks away in the face of repeated Qs. Reporters stunned ... @johnkeypm repeatedly said he wanted to talk about the ecomony, then stormed off ... Can Key refuse Qs on the teacup tape for 10 more days?

11.35am: Sue Bradford of Mana is live-chatting at the Herald.

11.30am: A new TV ad for Labour takes aim at National's record, but appears in its choice of images to be trying to join the dots to John Key's attempt to keep things quiet. The ad is here. And here's a still:

11.20am: POLICY

National has released its trade policy, essentially promising more of the same but faster. The policy highlights the progress towards the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement at the recent Apec summit in Hawaii – “substantial and encouraging ... adds real political momentum”.

It includes the following caveat, however, in the policy itself: “Any deal must be in New Zealand’s best interests. National has stated that we think the Pharmac model works very well and we will not trade it away just to get a conclusion to the TPP deal.”

Release here. Policy document in PDF here.

10.55am: Following Michael Laws’ lead yesterday (see 10.05am), the talk-radio hosts are lining up behind National on the teapot tapes again today.

From Mike Hosking’s editorial for Newstalk ZB this morning:

The Prime Minister’s example is a good one. Two high profile New Zealanders discussing their child’s suicidal behaviour. The thing is taped and published and the child then kills themselves. Then what? It’s a dramatic example but perfectly plausible. If Key didn’t hand this to the police, the precedent would have been set and then it would have been a free for all ...

Damage to National? Not a chance. Key took the moral high ground and did the right thing. In doing that, you rarely lose.

And Sean Plunket has been gymnastically fending off caller after caller on Newstalk ZB Wellington for the last hour. They think we deserve to hear what was on the tape; Plunket disagrees. He thinks there’s nothing much in the tape, because neither TV3 or the Herald on Sunday appear to rank it of sufficient significance to just go ahead and release it. If the contents were in the public interest, then “the good white knight John Campbell can tell us what’s on that tape”. Neither media organisation has “the balls to do it”. Why, asks Plunket? Because there’s almost certainly “nothing in it”.

9.30am: Commentators Matthew Hooton and Mike Williams have been discussing the impact of the teapot tape saga with Kathryn Ryan on Nine to Noon. They agree that the episode, which is now entering its fourth day of headlines, is damaging for National, and that National has made a strategic mistake. They disagree on the extent to which it has scraped the Teflon off Brand Key, but agree it has been badly handled. Hooton, signicifcantly, questions Steven Joyce's "unbelievably aggressive" press statement on Sunday (see 4.45pm).

Williams says he cannot recall seeing the Herald lead with a story critical of the National party for three years. Hooton reckons none of this debate will really resonate in homes, however. There it just looks like "dodgy journalists and dodgy politicians having a scrap". Maybe.

9.10am: The election campaign has rarely led the New Zealand Herald to date, but this morning the country's biggest selling newspaper splashes on the teapot tapes with a headline reading  PM's 'cheap shot' , accompanied by a picture of the murdered British schoolgirl Milly Dowler, and comments made by her family's lawyer to 3 News (see yesterday 3.50pm). Interestingly, 3 News chose not to lead on this line, but it's across six columns ... read the remainder of the morning paper review here.

8.30am: Journalism teacher Jim Tully and former Waikato University vice-chancellor Bryan Gould have just been on Morning Report. They agree that if the public interest argument for releasing the content of the teapot tapes wasn't clear last Sunday, it is now. Tully says Key's comparison with a couple discussing their child's suicidal inclinations (see yesterday, 5.45pm) is "insulting".

Gould adds that the police seem to have gone along with National's demands fairly compliantly. They seem, he says, "easily persuaded".

7.50am: It's safe to assume that Russel Norman's executive assistant doesn't run his Twitter account. Last night the Green co-leader tweeted:

Good luck with that, Russel. He is on Breakfast now, facing a bunch of questions about the billboard-punking that we learned yesterday was coordinated by the boyfriend of his executive assistant. "ACT OF POLITICAL VANDALISM," reads the caption beneath him. I love billboards, says Norman. They're democratic. Members listening to this, says Corin Dann, may well be thinkin: why are you being so darn nice about National? "We have passionate views about National in the past, too, but we've worked with them."

Are you still an activist party? Good question, Corin. "I can't believe that anyone would endorse the destruction of billboards." But have you strayed away from your roots? "Well, when you think about our three top priorities in the campaign - the first one is getting kids out of poverty ... then we're talking about rivers and green jobs ... we're very interested in issues of social justice." Issues! Nice one, Russ.

Meanwhile, on Morning Report, his co-leader, Metiria Turei is fronting. "We've been open and honest," she says, and done all they can to help. We've been guilt of dirty tricks, and so we can't be doing dirty tricks ourselves. What about the criticism from Sue Bradford, former Green MP now with Mana, that the leadership's response shows how cut off they have become from their acticvist base. (She told the Herald this morning: "[This] just shows how low the Green Party has sunk".) Turei says she has not heard any complaint from members about the way they've handled it. I'm told, however, that some Green members have expressed alarm at any idea they might be asked to help undo the damage.

7.20am: The now familiar refrain on Morning Report: "We hoped John Key would come on the programme but ..."

But guess who does oblige? It's Mr Winston Raymond Peters. I'm not going to give you my source," says Peters. "Don't come to me for information." Peters had earlier this week said that this was a News of the World-esque tactic, has he changed his mind? "Yes I've changed my mind 180 degrees." He didn't say that, but he does say on reflection he now thinks that it was a publicity stunt, it was different from the NotW because that was phone hacking. And the public interest.

Next on the line is Phil Goff. "I think this matter is a farce." It was a "media stunt". To say "this is something akin to the News of the World scandal" is daft, he says, and the invocation of parents discussing a suicidal child is "clutching at straws". Come clean and end the distraction, says Goff. "It's not the main issue, the main issue is whether we keep our assets or flog them off."

Same again: stunt-distraction-asset-sales. (See yesterday at 8.10am.)


Radio New Zealand Morning Report largely ignored the whole Zac Guildford saga early in the week - an editorial stance, I figured. Except now the misbehaving, bibulous All Black's return to New Zealand is leading their 7am news. Next is Winston Peters suggesting older people were insulted in the teapot tapes. Third, the damage to National billboards and damage to the Greens. Fourth, the eviction of Occupy protesters in New York.

Breatkfast's 7am bulletin leads on "disgraced All Black Zac Guildford". Then the "unrepetant" former Green party member who embellished the National billboards (Breakfast has an interview with Green co-leader Russel Norman this hour). The the evicted NYC occupiers. Fourth, Australia prepares for Obama's arrival.

"More pressure goes on John Key to release the so-called teapot tapes," is top of the Firstline bulletin. "Can he afford not to release him?" That's followed by Zac G, then a crime story, then the Occupy protest in New York.

6.55am: Phil Goff has just been on Firstline on TV3. All I caught was the trademark "thanks, Rachel". It seems to be absurd that anything of any significance anywhere should be allowed to happen for 7am. It's just not right. But I'll catch up with it later in case anything noteworthy is there.

6.45am: It was some day yesterday. While the Greens were knocked off course by revelations of a link to the man coordinating a campaign punking National billboards, John Key faced a series of leftfield questions - leftfield, that is, unless they were informed by knowledge of some secret information. A recording, say, of a conversation over a cup of tea, say.

Has John Key's decision to lodge a police complaint misfired? Now that the apparent content of the teapot tapes is being thrown around regardless, would he have been better to have flushed it out, apologised and moved on? Maybe. The proof will be in the polling.

One undeniable winner is Winston Peters, who made hay in Tauranga yesterday, and will be chomping at the bit to get to the minor party leaders' debate tonight. Neither John Key nor John Banks will be there in person, but I have a sneaking suspicion they might get a mention or two. Or more.

Soon the morning bulletins, the morning papers, and the shipping forecast.

Yesterday is all here. Get in touch through the comments, on twitter to @listenerlive, or email


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