Brian Edwards blogs about an alleged incident between Duncan Garner and Chris Carter on an Air New Zealand flight:
It is no secret around Parliament that, roughly 11 months ago, Garner and Carter had a verbal stoush in the Auckland Koru Club. Following the release of the report detailing the 2008 travel expenses of Labour Ministers, Garner had run a TV3 story alleging that Carter was a big-spending Minister whose travel could not be justified in what was essentially a domestic portfolio – Education. The story also referred to Carter’s long-time partner and travelling companion, Peter Kaiser, and included the name of the primary school of which Kaiser is principal.
Not surprisingly, there was bad blood between the two men. Carter and Darren Hughes were in the Koru Club waiting for their flight to Wellington to be called when Garner approached them. He is reported as having said, ‘Travelling on the fucking taxpayer again, Chris.’ Carter told him to ‘fuck off!’
Carter had already taken his seat on the plane when Garner, who had boarded later, stopped next to him, jabbed his finger into Carter’s chest and said loudly, ‘I am going to fucking get you, Carter. If it takes me to Christmas I am going to fucking destroy you.’ Sitting directly behind Carter was Dame Margaret Bazley. Appalled by what she had heard, she commented loudly, ‘What a disgraceful man. You don’t have to put up with rubbish like that on a plane, Mr Carter.’ Garner moved on down the plane.
Edward’s thinks TV3 should sack Garner. I think a lot of Garner’s attack stories about Carter were stupid and unprofessional – but if those were grounds for dismissal then TV1 and TV3 would show nothing but static between 7:00 to 7:30 PM.
And in the final analysis Garner was right – Carter was travelling around the world with his partner pissing away huge amounts of taxpayer money while being paid a very large salary as Minister of Education. This behaviour combined with Carter’s arrogance and sense of entitlement would have exploded into a massive scandal when the credit card receipts were released irregardless of Garner’s relationship with Carter.
Edward’s anecdote is a reminder that when it comes to political reporting invisible ley-lines exist between MPs, their media staff and the journalists who cover them: friendships, romances, rivalries and hatreds that are invisible to the public. One pundit once told me that he wrote his best political analysis when he lived in Auckland.
Incidentally, a similar story is playing itself out in the US – the Washington Post just sacked Dave Weigel, a columnist writing about the conservative movement who insulted senior leaders of the movement on a private listserv that was leaked to a political website. General consensus is that it was a bad look for the WaPo and if TV3 were to punish Garner because he took a dislike to an MP misspending public money it would set a dreadful precedent for New Zealand political journalism.