Key doesn't hold a grudge against lawyer

Prime Minister John Key (Getty)
Prime Minister John Key (Getty)

Prime Minister John Key has revealed he met his longstanding lawyer Ken Whitney at antenatal classes more than 20 years ago, when Mr Key’s wife Bronagh was pregnant with their first child, Stephanie.

Mr Key says he doesn’t hold a grudge against Mr Whitney, despite the fallout from the lawyer’s lobbying of Inland Revenue (IRD) against changes to foreign trust rules.

"I haven't caught up with him because look, I've been busy," he told More FM’s Si and Gary show on Thursday.

"It's not awkward. He's been my very, very longstanding lawyer. He's a great guy."

In 2014 Mr Whitney, a partner in The Antipodes Trust Group, cited a conversation with Mr Key when he urged then-Revenue Minister Todd McClay to get IRD to ditch a proposed review.

After the news broke last week in the wake of the Panama Papers controversy, Mr Key said Mr Whitney overstated the extent of their conversation -- saying all he did was tell him to speak to Mr McClay.

Yesterday it emerged Mr Whitney had also been involved in setting up a trust described by a High Court judge as a "sham".

Despite that, Mr Key told More FM that Mr Whitney is "100 percent ethical".

The experience hasn’t made him worried about chatting to friends and the general public, he says.

"You can't live your life like every single thing is being recorded and all that sort of stuff because that's kind of ridiculous. Some of these things are years and years and years ago… in any one given day I start at 5:40 in the morning and finish at midnight. A million things can happen."

Mr Key's weathered a number of controversies the past few years without losing the public's support in the polls. He has a simple explanation why.

"They don't worry about this stuff."

As for those antenatal classes?

"I learned quite a lot. I learned that this is going to be a scary experience and I was glad I wasn't the one having actually the baby. All that champagne drinking afterwards takes its toll on you, I find,” he told More FM.

"There's a reason Mother's Day exists and they continue to get good presents: they deserve it, in my view, for having a baby."