Dr Michael Bassett

Dr Michael Bassett

< Columns

What a Farce!



You have to feel sorry for John Key that he's been subjected to so many off-stage alarums and excursions during this, the dirtiest election campaign of my lifetime. It started with Hager's Dirty Tricks book, dropped close to the campaign, leaving insufficient time to check the details. Hager calculated on our media being sufficiently full of gullible journalists who would fall for his careful selection of stolen emails. But the public became more and more angry and all but a few journalists backed off after a week. We eventually started debating issues like tax. But in the background was Kim Dotcom's ticking "Moment of Truth" bomb....

This time John Key was ready for the event. The quick revelation that the email was a fake purporting to show that the Prime Minister had agreed to facilitate Dotcom's permanent residence to facilitate his extradition, left Internet Mana in a real flap. A good journalist would uncover the panic that must have enveloped Internet-Mana yesterday afternoon. They lacked a chair for their Town Hall meeting until Laila was obliged to step up at the last minute, and they now realised no more smoking guns existed. She had to preside on stage with an Australian (Assange) wanted in Sweden on sex charges; a Yank in-house guest of Putin's beaming in from Moscow (Snowden); another American motormouth in the form of Greenwald who is a high class fanatic; a large German with criminal convictions who is wanted in the US on further charges; and a loud Canadian plot theorist lawyer (Amsterdam). Laila was the only Kiwi on stage, she who has changed parties more times than most people own pairs of underwear.

By the time the show started the big question concerned the credibility of Dotcom's outsiders. Snowden had flown the US and his sources of info on surveillance several years ago. Assange has been holed up in a London embassy for a similar length of time. Their information is now hopelessly outdated. Snowden made claims about there being an American base in Auckland, but didn't pinpoint it. Meaning he was only making an assertion. He clearly knows almost nothing about New Zealand. Same with Assange, Greenwald and Amsterdam.

Most of the Town Hall meeting that I watched live was a personal attack on the Prime Minister. His release of documents during the afternoon showed that a rather different system of surveillance than the one Assange and Snowden were talking about had recently been under consideration and approved by our cabinet. All of the speakers were angry to be so comprehensively upstaged. The classic for me was when Dotcom became testy with reporters over questions concerning his fake letter. Laila had told them that if they sent the letter to the Speaker accompanied by a statement that the Prime Minister had obviously lied to Parliament, then they could justify not answering media questions because the matter was sub judice. An old gig used by many a parliamentarian in a tight spot over the years. The difference being that this time the supporting letter was a fake. I can't remember another case where this has occurred. Oh dear! How the mighty have tumbled! Dotcom's "Moment of Truth" had been buried by bedtime. Truth was the last thing he wanted to discuss with the media.

Why has a prime minister had to endure all this during what ought to have been a routine election campaign where his stewardship of the economy, health, welfare and security should have been the principal topics of debate? The explanation is partly due to the parlous state of the Labour Party that has lost the support of almost 14% of Kiwis since David Cunliffe took over as leader a year ago. He lacks judgment. For weeks now he has played footsy with fruit cakes like Hager, and low level, politically-inspired journalists who would steal the election from under our noses. This morning Cunliffe was still at it, asking for assurances from the Prime Minister about mass surveillance that John Key had already given us, but which Cunliffe clearly hadn't heard.

Labour is in such a dreadful state that if I were John Key tomorrow night on TV1, I would ask why the forces within any alternative government - the Greens and Winston - aren't also on stage. No assurances from Cunliffe about policy direction retain any credibility now that Labour will clearly be such a weak force within any alternative government. The others might well demand he stand aside from leading it.

And Internet Mana that also hopes to play a support role in an alternative government has questions to answer. Hone Harawira was inconspicuous last night. Laila wants to ride on his coat tails into the House along with a rare collection of extinct volcanoes like Annette Sykes and John Minto. Can they all explain to us what unsubstantiated claims about mass surveillance and Dotcom's fake letters have to do with the good folks of Te Tai Tokerau? Hone's crusade about child poverty won't be aided one little bit by the appearance of Yanks, fanatics and exiles on stage in the Town Hall last night. It's time to get real.