The Art of Political Deception

Tell me lies. Tell me sweet little lies.  Fleetwood Mac song

 Trying to keep it under wraps

By Roger Childs

John Banks Political corruption, misinformation, deception and dishonesty are as old as government itself. There has been plenty of it in New Zealand over the last twelve months such as: John Key’s memory lapses, John Banks’ mayoral campaign donations, secret surveillance by the GSCB, revelations of spying cooperation with other western countries and Doc’s justification for continuing 1080 poison drops on our clean, green land.

Now in the last few days the political left and right have been guilty of breaking the rules and deceiving the public.

  • David Cunliffe’s  trust fund approach to getting financial backing
  • Judith Collins’ smiling face endorsing her husband’s milk company products in China.

The attitude of many politicians and government departments seems to be don’t admit a thing unless we’re found out.

 Cunliffe puts his foot in it, again

David Cunliffe Most Labour supporters were pleased about the confident, assured David Cunliffe replacing the hesitant, though well meaning, David Shearer, as head of the party. However the new man, although impressive when facing the media, has made a few blues, but the latest revelation looks like a very accurate shot in the foot.

The announcement that he had a secret trust fund for his leadership bid was a major surprise. He came clean over the matter, named some of the backers and is returning other donations to the supporters who remained anonymous. However, the obvious question is Why did the wealthy Cunliffe need a slush fund for his campaign?

 The man who seeks to be the next prime minister is looking very gaffe prone and Tom Scott made the hilarious comparison between the Labour leader and his new campaign manager with those Tudor rogues Blackadder and Baldrick. (See the DomPost cartoon, Thursday 6 March.)

The whole matter has even allowed John Banks to come out of his bunker and berate Labour and the Prime Minister has tut tutted piously.

 Judith Collins the milk matron

 Judith CollinsMs Collins said she had told Oravida in advance that it could not use her name or photograph to endorse or promote its products and had not known about the photo on the website. New Zealand Herald, 6 March 2014

 The confident and often controversial Minister of Justice has been guilty of breaking cabinet conventions on an overseas excursion. She provides a bit of glamour in a photo of male executives of her husband’s company on the website and a caption shows her endorsing the products.

Judith Collins is denying any breach and is backed up by the trusty John Key. However there are some interesting facts on her links to the company

  • her husband is a director
  • she opened the Auckland office of Oravida in 2011
  • the company gave $55,000 to the National Party campaign in 2011.

Grant Robertson has drawn the analogy of the Pansy Wong visit to China a few years back. Mr Wong went along for the ride and did business while he was there. Pansy later resigned her cabinet position. Clearly, two Wongs don’t make a right.

Back in the 2005 campaign

key and brash The DomPost’s political writer, Tracey Watkins, touched on National’s dishonest and corrupt 2005 campaign strategy and fund raising in her 1 March article Campaigns that border on kamikaze.

 She implied that the Brash admission about Exclusive Brethren support came as a shock to his colleagues. In reality, as Nick Hager’s The Hollow Men revealed, current ministers Joyce, McCully and Brownlee, as well as prime minister John Key, were heavily involved in the Brethren links and other dubious fund raising and campaigning.

Nicky HagerThe film footage of Hager’s book shows Key meeting Brethren representatives in 2005. Key was also the man who betrayed Bill English in the 2003 leadership vote, allowing Don Brash to get the job. Then, after the Brethren revelations and a few months later, John Key was able to slip neatly into leading the party and the rest is history

The Hollow Men exposed not only the covert support of the rich and famous for National in 2005, but also extremist right wing advisers from Australia and the US, and plenty of unprincipled advertising.

Hager’s findings were not based on rumour and hearsay, but on emails, diary entries, meeting notes and other material leaked by some embarrassed MPs and other National sources. It is to be hoped, that in 2014, the media will be vigilant in tracking the sources of monetary support for all political parties.

Keeping the politicians honest?

 Is it too much to expect? In recent years it has become harder for those in authority to hide behind confidentiality and secrecy. Julian Assange, Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning and Edward Snowden have performed great services for the world. By releasing “confidential” documents, emails and secret reports they have exposed what politicians, diplomats, security agencies and military forces have been doing furtively around the globe for many years.

Revelations related to New Zealand include the opinions of American ambassadors and details on intelligence sharing with Australia, the USA, Canada and the UK.

Bill EnglishInvestigative journalists like Nicky Hager, Robert Fisk and John Pilger also play a key role in exposing political dishonesty. They have a modus operandi, which seeks to uncover the truth from the people directly involved and base their writings largely on primary, rather than secondary sources.

The mainstream media could do a lot more. They did uncover the corruption associated with accommodation allowances after the 2008 election. Politicians of various colours were exposed, with the most embarrassing one being the finance minister from Dipton, Southland.

MenckenBill English was living in the Karori house owned by his wife, but was still claiming for being away from home. This practice of cheating the taxpayer subsequently became known as double Dipton.

Is an honest politician a contradiction in terms? Let’s leave the last word to American satirist and cynic H L Mencken.

I am strongly in favor of common sense, common honesty, and common decency. This makes me forever ineligible for public office.