Duncan Garner: John Key's nervous wriggle - has the PM been caught lying?

21/08/2014

And now it’s suddenly looking all a bit uncomfortable for the Prime Minister, isn’t it?

Today’s development is suddenly this: is the Prime Minister telling the truth or has he lied? Do we believe him?

Because, another document has now emerged casting doubt on Prime Minister John Key and former SIS Director Warren Tucker's version of events around how secret documents were declassified and fast-tracked to blogger Cameron Slater. Slater then used them to discredit former Labour Leader Phil Goff.

The PM says he was never made personally aware that the Official Information Act request from Cam Slater - "Whale Oil" - was being fast-tracked. He says his office was told, not him; he was never made aware of it.

However, Tucker’s 2011 letter casts serious doubt on that. It says:

“I notifed the PM (in accordance with my usual practice to keep the Minister informed on a no surprises basis) that I was going to release redaced documents in repsonse to the request from Mr Slater."

“I advised the PM that I had received legal advice that there were no grounds for withholding information."

“I informed the PM that I had informed Mr Goff of my decision to release the information."

Then Tucker added this, this morning:

"My practice under the ‘no surprises’ convention relating to Official Information Act requests was to brief the Prime Minister through his office. The reference to the PM in this context means the PM’s office."

So, on the surface of all this it looks like Tucker told Key, or his office, exactly what was happening, but Key said he never got the personal briefing. It almost seems to much to believe doesn’t it? Especially with Tucker’s additional excuse this morning.

No one will really care about this historic case, but many will interested in whether the SIS, the PM’s office and Whale Oil have been in on some elaborate plan to attack the then leader of the opposition? If so then, isn’t that an abuse of power? And if the PM didn’t know about that, what was he doing? Why didn’t he know? All OIA requests to the SIS are sensitive and the PM should know what is being sent out.

All that really matters now in this is the Prime Minister’s story: does it stand up and is it credible?

He will now, at all costs, attempt to distance himself and say his office was briefed, while he was in Hawaii. It’s his only response – short of accepting he hasn’t told the truth – and that ain’t going to happen three weeks out from polling day.

Duncan Garner hosts RadioLIVE Drive, weekdays from 3pm, with the most entertaining political analysis and news as it happens

WATCH: John Key says he was briefed by Warren Tucker - 2011 press conference

source: data archive