The Dim-Post

June 18, 2014


Filed under: media,Politics — danylmc @ 5:03 pm

A couple of people asked me on twitter why I thought the David Cunliffe/Lui letter story came from the Nats instead of just being good hard reporting by the Herald journalist. I have a couple of reasons, but one of them is this comment on my blog from yesterday from a guy who helps Cameron Slater co-write WhaleOil:

Within 24 hours the poll are going to be the least of David Cunliffes problems.
Keep an eye on the herald website, we are about to see pledge card theft relegated to second place as the biggest labour funding scandal.

So sure: maybe the Herald shares its exclusive scoops with Slater et al. Or maybe a bunch of Labour MPs decided to backstab their own leader and tip off Slater, who kept quiet about it because he’s such a circumspect guy. But I’m gonna use Occam’s razor here. Slater is part of National’s comms; his web-site is also co-written by a guy in the PM’s office and the simplest explanation is that the PM’s office was behind this and that’s how the guys at WhaleOil knew about it.

I think Occam’s razor is also useful here in solving the mystery of whether Cunliffe deliberately lied about knowing Liu or whether he just forgot about the letter he sent ELEVEN YEARS AGO. He forgot – which is totally reasonable – but Liu has been a major political story for months now, and there have been questions ‘swirling’ around his association with Labour for almost a week. They needed to know about this. To be honest it’s not that unreasonable for Cunliffe’s staff to fail to turn up an electorate letter written when he was a backbencher eleven years ago. But the reality is that National did turn it up and that comes down to deeper issues of strategic acumen and superior organisation coupled with superior media management, which are valid reasons for the Nats to win the election and Labour to lose.


  1. Yes, sure Cunliffe’s office and Labour should have turned up the letter before National. But seriously, the letter itself is a complete nothing. And Cunliffe forgetting the letter is also a complete nothing. The fact that a nothing story like this can become a major media scandal tells you everything you need to know about the media in this country.

    Comment by wtl — June 18, 2014 @ 5:18 pm

  2. ” But the reality is that National did turn it up”

    Lui letter story may have come from Lui who wouldn’t be friends with labour given all the money he seems to have wasted with them.

    Comment by Simon — June 18, 2014 @ 5:19 pm

    I have had very little to do with Cam since Truth imploded. I have written three posts at No Minister in the last 12 months and spend my days lazing in the Bay of Islands attempting to grow an enormous stomach while watching what is left of my hair move from my head to my nose.

    The left are in full blame the messenger mode without even understanding that they are being undone from within.
    In the last two hours I have seen three ridunculous theories put about over this story. All of them wrong.

    1.It is the Nats, WhaleOil, Right wing media. Why would any of them want to roll the worst performing leader since Clark. Leaving him in place to bumble his way to 25% is the only sensible tactic for the right. Jared Savage has been nothing short of disastrous for a few National people, they are hardly likely to be feeding him.
    2. It is ABC. Bollocks. Those clowns could not organise a bum rape in a barrack room. This has been delivered in a clinical manner completely beyond the fool Mallard
    3. A shadowy conspiracy because the letter should not have been released without the subjects permission. Seriously, is that the defense line? Pathetic, calling uncle because it is not fair?

    You need to look at others for blame in this debacle (other than Cunliffe himself of course because liars lie. Repeatedly as it turns out)
    I believe this starts and ends in New York on behalf of Grant Robertson. They have made a decision to sacrifice this election and take care of all family business in one final meltdown. They can then rebuild without pesky distractions like Kim Dotcom, Laila Harre and probably Hone Harawira as well.
    Look to Chris Carter, ask whether this character was actually living in Cunliffes electorate. Start asking questions about the China trip, like who else went, what did they do, who paid.
    This is much bigger than the Shane Jones citizenship scandal (and with the amount of skeletons in his closet he would be mental to try and take Cunliffe down, Labour know where all Jones pressure points are and he is keeping his gob firmly shut).
    Somebody will find the hundreds of thousands in donations from people who at the time of donating were not even permanent residents.
    Rant ends

    Comment by Barnsley Bill — June 18, 2014 @ 5:35 pm

  4. Hey Barnsley – All good, all good. Just one question. How come you already knew about this before the letter was released? As did Whale and Farrar and heaven knows who else?

    Comment by Nick R — June 18, 2014 @ 5:38 pm

  5. By “heaven knows who else” you must of course include every journalist that took a turn at lining Cunliffe up this week by asking him questions designed to let him hang himself. Not sure what David Farrar knew. Have not spoken to him this year, or communicated with him in any way. Cam is a selfish greedy prick and never shares anything until he hits publish.
    Seriously, who is working in that “war room”. it looks like half the commentators in the country knew what was coming and he blundered straight into it.
    He is making Shearer look like a once in a century statesman and compares poorly to a finance company director for honesty.

    Comment by Barnsley Bill — June 18, 2014 @ 5:49 pm

  6. The Herald has already hinted at the real story, but the journo pack don’t seem interested in chasing it … their lazy MO is to repeat what is easily given, rather than ask who is giving and why:

    “according to a party source”. That’s the story, right there.

    Comment by sammy 2.0 — June 18, 2014 @ 5:50 pm

  7. Or, it could quite logically be via a legitimate OIA from someone at the Herald with a proclivity for reporting on immigration issues. From there all it takes is one person interested in politics talking to another and thereafter making its way round the traps – which is a thing in the bubble that is NZ political discourse.

    I guess the latter part of this would require some sort of response from BB to Nick’s question.

    On the substance of the letter though – pretty much a nothing query from a electorate MP on behalf of a constituent and/or the lawyer or immigration adviser representing them. Ho hum (and not in a Oravida/Judith Collins not-quite-so-ho-hum way).

    Also, if all it takes is superior strategy politically as a reason to win – sure I could agree (even if it is gamesmanship and feeding into the horse race narrative), but as a reason to *deserve* to win, not so much – on that I personally fall back to the egalitarian Kiwi thing, even if it is going out of fashion.

    Comment by Patrick — June 18, 2014 @ 5:53 pm

  8. I read all your blogs…at times you are “chicken little” panicking before taking a deep breath. We have been aware that the Nats have a well fed money molding machine and that the Herald continues to favour the right in politics. There is little substance in this item.

    Comment by aoteaian — June 18, 2014 @ 5:57 pm

  9. To be honest it’s not that unreasonable for Cunliffe’s staff to fail to turn up an electorate letter written when he was a backbencher eleven years ago.

    Though in a normal OIA process Immigration would have consulted them about the release (which raises some interesting questions right there)

    Comment by idiotsavant23 — June 18, 2014 @ 6:00 pm

  10. Yes, it could be good journalism as the Herald editor has been claiming on Twitter. But it is very much easier for a journalist to make an OIA request if someone tells him exactly who to ask and what to ask for. And the timing of the release is very convenient. And it really is a most remarkable coincidence that so many insiders seem to have known what was going to be released before the Herald got it.

    The depressing part about this is that – with hindsight, admittedly – it was clear Cunliffe was being set up. But he walked straight into it. He should go back and look at the footage of how the PM deals with this sort of thing. The PM is a pro, Cunliffe very much the amateur.

    Comment by Nick R — June 18, 2014 @ 6:01 pm

  11. IS – you arewrong about it being usual to consult an author before an oia release. Imagine having to consult every submitter on a bill before info is released. its only if there is snsitive personal information that you might check. This was an mp’s letter and they are pretty much fair game for open release. in my experience

    Comment by insider — June 18, 2014 @ 6:32 pm

  12. @Dimpost

    As a Whaleoil admin I can confirm that “Barnsley Bill” has not been able to log in at Whaleoil for about a year now. Your perception that he’s somehow a productive component of Whaleoil is dated by at least 18 months.

    Comment by Pete — June 18, 2014 @ 6:55 pm

  13. David Cunliffe to reporters on Tuesday:
    Q: Do you recall ever meeting Liu?
    A: I don’t recall ever meeting him, no.

    Q: Did you have anything to do with the granting of his permanent residency?
    A: No, I did not.

    Q: Did you advocate on his behalf at all?
    A: Nope.

    Q:Were you aware of any advice against granting him permanent residency?
    A: Not to my recollection.

    Having now read what he said on Tuesday, and compared that to what happened today, I can only agree with you Danyl. Supreme media operators indeed, crossing now live to what John Key things Labour needs to do (oh wait that was on the news paper website, not tv…)

    Comment by Michael — June 18, 2014 @ 8:00 pm

  14. Perhaps Cunliffe didn’t write the letter. coincidence that this liu person keeps on popping up and the letter was written so long ago. Pay back time, set up time. Certainly made to look bad aye?.

    Comment by Win — June 18, 2014 @ 8:00 pm

  15. Re the hypothetical OIA: to my knowledge, there would be no reason to consult Labour unless it was a Cabinet paper of theirs you were releasing. An MP’s letter to a government department is public information, fair and square, no matter which party that letter came from, BUT it would (/should) be standard practice to remove identifying details of the constituent being written about (to protect constitutional conventions, etc.) Just like you’d remove identifying details of private members of the public who have written to the Minister about their [insert portfolio here] issue.

    Anyway, I doubt that this particular scoop was obtained by journalists through the OIA – far too closely managed, surely journalists started trying to find out whether Labour had links with Liu many months ago. Why on earth would they wait until now to release it, and do it the way it has been done? Far more likely it’s someone with the express goal of destroying Cunliffe.

    Comment by Milla — June 18, 2014 @ 8:11 pm

  16. Isn’t Matt McCarten going great guns!

    Comment by Nick K — June 18, 2014 @ 8:44 pm

  17. IS – you arewrong about it being usual to consult an author before an oia release

    I’m guessing that most of the OIA’s Idiot Savant and I do are about government Ministers, and they ALWAYS get routed by the Ministers office for release – and then are often not released.

    Comment by danylmc — June 18, 2014 @ 8:49 pm

  18. I think I said this after john banks was found guilty on the standard
    As usual it was fist pumping all torys are crooks stuff
    Do you think national was going to lie down in the street and cry
    No the research unit must have had info from mr Lui and they did their job
    Labour slagged off a Chinese business man for political gain and bugger me days he fought back
    All talks of crony capitalism gone
    Cash for access gone
    Paybacks a bitch

    Comment by Graham — June 18, 2014 @ 8:55 pm

  19. I think there are three plausible ways this occurred:
    1. Good journalism
    2. National (or right wing) found it and leaked
    3. Inside leak from Labour (or left wing)

    Given the state of the media in NZ, I’m going to rank the first as least likely, as least without some sort of tip off or hint from 2 or 3.

    Looking at the other two, my question would be who benefits. Sure, National sort of benefit from more pile on to Cunliffe. There’s a risk he’d get replaced, which would mean a new honeymoon period and bounce in the polls, but perhaps they’ve decided that there’s no depth and any replacement could only do worse? And arguably if you had info like this you’d push it out there irrespective of the risk, because more is always better. But if National are as cunning and underhanded as some here are suggesting, then I don’t get the timing. It’d make more sense to release closer to the election when it’s too late to roll Cunliffe, and therefore the dirt sticks with no hope of a cleansing.

    Conversely, there are also people who benefit on the left. There are scores to settle, there are people who fancy a tilt at the top job. So this is equally plausible. The main point in favour of this theory is the timing – if you were left wing and leaked right now, it’s the optimum time to replace Cunliffe without party involvement. So a combination of score settling and someone having a go at the top job is possible.

    The Herald article apparently credits a party source. There’s no particular reason they’d lie, so that could be another pointer. Of course, it could also be misdirection, with some specific points confirmed by a party source but the original leak/tip off coming elsewhere.

    Comment by PaulL — June 18, 2014 @ 9:30 pm

  20. Slightly off topic here
    As a dairy farmer I think greens are fruit loops but in a cuddly way( I have some fruit loop friends)
    But you guys must see the Labour Party and just despair
    I don’t know if you were a all b’stard fan
    There was an show where he was the campaign manager who gambled against a Tory win and ran a shit campaign
    Are we sure 12 months ago cunlife didn’t put large funds on the Aussie bookmakers for a national win?

    Comment by Graham — June 18, 2014 @ 9:31 pm

  21. Allan b’stard I ment

    Comment by Graham — June 18, 2014 @ 9:32 pm

  22. National spend the millions they raise from Cabinet Club on exactly this type of campaigning. It doesn’t seem to be a valid reason to win an election.

    Comment by nigelsagentinthefield — June 18, 2014 @ 9:59 pm

  23. How dare national fight back to the months of mud slinging by labour

    Comment by Graham — June 18, 2014 @ 10:04 pm

  24. @ danyl
    There’s a good reason your oias about a minister get routed through that minister’s office – they get to make a call as to whether something is to be released or withheld and under what clause. Hard to do that if they can’t actually see the material.

    I doubt this is some kind of inside job. The letter has the oia imprint over it which means it has been managed and tracked. Anyone can now lodge an oia with DIA for all papers and correspondence relating to the release of the Cunliffe letter including the name of the person who requested the original oia. This is one of the rare cases where a person may be asked if they have reason for their name to be withheld, but I suspect there will be no valid grounds. The basic assumption is that if you write to the government, you are doing so with the knowledge your letter and details could become public under the oia.

    Comment by insider — June 18, 2014 @ 11:22 pm

  25. All fine, I expect the OIA will be from a journo. Which tells us nothing – but presuming the OIA request asks for this specific letter, the question is how the journo knew to ask.

    If the OIA request was “give us everything that you’ve got on the Liu case”, that might be an indication of actual journalism. I presume, however, that the OIA doesn’t allow requests like that – it’s sort of targeting a citizen directly which I would have thought wasn’t the purpose of the act.

    Comment by PaulL — June 18, 2014 @ 11:27 pm

  26. Let’s consult the “Public Address political barometer”. A post on Iraq today after months of silence about the topic, yep Labour is in trouble!

    Comment by scerb — June 19, 2014 @ 12:52 am

  27. “…Let’s consult the “Public Address political barometer”…”

    Actually Russell Brown decided he is to good for politics and doesn’t post much about it anymore. And Hard News never recovered from his ill-advised support for the studios over the actors in “The Hobbit” fiasco, as well as doing nothing to feed his family. These days Hard News/PA is now largely about 40-something liberals from Grey Lynn and Pt. Chev demonstrating how they are staying relevant and down with the kids.

    The thing that outrages me most about this whole rather minor “gotcha” is the willing complicity of the establishment media in a government plot. the incestuous glee with which the insiders play a toxic game of gotcha with other insiders turns my stomach. When I was reading Andrea Vance’s ill-considered rant about the IMP party and it occurred to me these parasites of the press gallery are actually terrified of the IMP – terrified it might be the end of their cosy little nod nod wink wink world with pollies of both sides.

    “…But the reality is that National did turn it up and that comes down to deeper issues of strategic acumen and superior organisation coupled with superior media management, which are valid reasons for the Nats to win the election and Labour to lose…”

    You know Danyl, you can say some pretty stupid things. Did you pause to consider the implications of that sentence? National has got oodles of cash. it can afford to effectively fund Kiwiblog and Whaleoil as professional, full time, online dirty tricks and media manipulation websites. It can afford to poll incessantly and micro-tweek its message. National has all the major establishment media organisations and almost all the major media opinion talking heads in it’s pocket. The entire neo-liberal business establishment supports them, especially when it looks at the potential radicalism of a Labour led coalition with the Greens. Effectively, Are you advocating then for a one party state, where the opposition are kept weak by coordinated assaults of a compliant media and a cronyist government in cahoots with the business establishment, and where the boundaries between it and the private sector establishment are gone? Somewhere like, say, Malaysia – would you be cheerleading the jailing of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim on the ground of his lack of political management and the superior acumen of the ruling party, then?

    Comment by Sanctuary — June 19, 2014 @ 7:48 am

  28. To sanctuary
    For a number of years you have been calling for a reveloution to fight the “neo-lib experiment ”
    Is national supposed to just sit there and not fight back
    Now you complain that the other team is fighting back boo f##king hoo

    Comment by Graham — June 19, 2014 @ 8:06 am

  29. Surely there is a cow you can go and fuck Graham?

    Comment by Sanctuary — June 19, 2014 @ 8:11 am

  30. I presume, however, that the OIA doesn’t allow requests like that – it’s sort of targeting a citizen directly which I would have thought wasn’t the purpose of the act.

    You presume incorrectly. Requests for e.g. all communications from or with or about person X are a routine part of the OIA arsenal, and entirely consistent with the purpose of the Act. There are potential privacy interests, which may result in information being withheld, but release is routine.

    As an example: I routinely ask for all advice and documents relating to the appointment of X to job Y.

    (Those privacy interests mean people get consulted, BTW, not that they get to veto release. But in Cunliffe’s case, such consultation should have warned his staff that there was something they’d missed. Again, muppetry)

    Comment by idiotsavant23 — June 19, 2014 @ 9:27 am

  31. No cows to have sex with just giant swimming pools of money to swim in

    Comment by Graham — June 19, 2014 @ 9:54 am

  32. Somewhere like, say, Malaysia – would you be cheerleading the jailing of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim…

    At the time of his arrest in 1998 Anwar Ibrahim wasn’t opposition leader, he was a government minister.

    Comment by Joe W — June 19, 2014 @ 10:42 am

  33. Very good comment Graham @ 8:06 am
    What the left calls “the neoliberal experiment” the right believes is the most progressive set of policies ever to have been implemented in the history of the world, that has lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty in China, South East Asia and (more slowly) India, as opposed to the alternative approach that has caused misery in much of South America and Europe.
    We believe that everyone in New Zealand has gained from the post-1984 consensus and that a shift to what Cunliffe proposes would harm everyone in New Zealand.
    We may of course be wrong.
    But we believe this quite passionately.
    So why would anyone surprised that people on the right are prepared to fight hard to stay in power?
    Just like Helen Clark sent Mike Williams to Australia to find dirt on John Key (for the same motives).
    To quote Michael Cullen, this is about power in NZ.
    To quote Tana Umaga, it’s not tiddlywinks.
    Is National meant to find evidence that Cunliffe is at best a hypocrite or at worst a liar and say “oh well, jolly good, let’s more on”?
    Get into the real world.
    Even if the most sinister explanations for this letter becoming public are true, its all fair enough in war, love and politics.
    And it will get worse for Labour when the rumoured $300k issue emerges.

    Comment by Matthew Hooton — June 19, 2014 @ 5:38 pm

  34. I get the passion, Matthew. But most of the “progress” you cite has occurred under the CCCP. Forgive me, but that’s the fly in your argument.

    Comment by rob — June 19, 2014 @ 8:24 pm

  35. Nice Rant Mtthew, but tell me, seeing we are on the topic of hypocrisy, has National or John Key made any statements about dirty politics and how they choose to play they game in comparison to Labour?

    And for something to be hypocrisy, do the events have to be equivalent, or is ‘bullshit’ close enough for hackwork?

    Comment by Pascal's bookie — June 20, 2014 @ 6:50 am

  36. hooten, you might find that it was communist that lifted a billion out of poverty in china.

    neo-liberalism was adopted… well, never.

    a graduated capitalism however? totally.

    Comment by Che Tibby — June 25, 2014 @ 7:14 pm

  37. Oh, there is a $300k issue now? Please front up with evidence Hoots!

    Comment by MeToo — June 25, 2014 @ 8:01 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Create a free website or blog at

%d bloggers like this: