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Nicky Hager book shows National's 'dirty politics'

Wednesday 13 Aug 2014 5:34 p.m.

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A new book by investigative journalist Nicky Hager focuses on the past six years of the John Key-led Government partly through email exchanges between blogger Cameron Slater and National party figures.

The book was officially launched at Unity Books in Wellington this afternoon in front of around 150 people.

The book, titled Dirty Politics: How attack politics is poisoning New Zealand's political environment, includes "revealing" documents about Mr Slater, otherwise known as Whale Oil, and his collaborators.

It also covers documents implicating politicians and Beehive staff, and claims to show "highly coordinated National Party attack politics" used throughout Mr Key's time as Prime Minister.

The book also contains information provided by a number of National Party sources.

Mr Hager says the leaked information seemed to have come from earlier this year when Mr Slater's blog was hacked following his "feral" comments about a man who died in a car crash on the West Coast.

He maintains he had no part in obtaining materials, but was rather passed the information from someone else.

Mr Slater has responded to the book through his blog, saying it is "likely to be a very one-sided affair".

"[The book is a] direct attack on the Government to hurt it at election time. What is being framed here is only one side of politics in New Zealand," he says. "Hager conveniently appears to avoid what happens on the left."

Mr Slater is currently out of the country where he has "pre-existing arrangements".

"If you like, my absence can be spun as part of the conspiracy story that Hager has put together," he says.

The Prime Minister tonight issued a response to the book, saying, "This is a cynically timed attack book from a well-known left-wing conspiracy theorist. It makes all sorts of unfounded allegations and voters will see it for what it is."

At today's book launch, Mr Hager drew comparisons between Mr Key and former Prime Minister Robert Muldoon.

"We've had the day-by-day little scandals and politics. But what people haven't understood is that side-by-side with the friendly relaxed leader of the party has been the most vigorous, negative campaigning and personal attacks that we have seen since the age of Muldoon or before."

Mr Hager has a history of releasing books that cause political fallout, including Seeds of Distrust, which was released ahead of the 2002 election, and The Hollow Men, which dealt with the National Party's political strategy while Don Brash was leader.

The Hollow Men was turned into a play and later a film which played as part of the International Film Festival in 2008.

Earlier this week, Mr Key said he did not know what the book was about and it didn't bother him.

"Most people know that Nicky Hager is a screaming left-wing conspiracy theorist," he said on Tuesday.

Labour leader David Cunliffe also said today he didn't know what the book contained.

The revelations include:

  • Slater and Jason Ede were in frequent contact about ways to discredit the Labour Party
  • Mr Ede drafted Official Information Act requests for information that was passed on to Slater
  • Political strategist Simon Lusk was in the loop on many of the plans that were laid
  • Justice Minister Judith Collins was another of Slater's informants and emailed him an account of Labour's Trevor Mallard making a fool of himself - "You can use this if you like but just don't say it was me"
  • Slater's disclosure of Len Brown's affair was a plot hatched to bring down Auckland's Labour mayor
  • Kiwiblog's David Farrar was also given information by Mr Ede
  • Slater boasted that Mr Key had called him to commiserate over the backlash the blogger was getting after posting disparaging remarks about a man who had been killed in a road accident.

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