April 29, 2008
Vector Energy sold to Chinese spy?
ANY STORM IN A PORT
China's Trojan horse in NZ
[The following story initially ran in the April 06 edition of Investigate magazine, but is directly relevant to the purchase announced April 28, 2008 of Vector Energy's Wellington grid by the same businessman]
The Hong Kong business conglomerate trying to purchase a stake in some of New Zealand's biggest port companies [and now the purchaser of energy company Vector] has been named as a front for the People's Liberation Army of China, and some of its associates have been caught shipping weapons and alleged WMD technology. IAN WISHART has more
His name is Li Ka-shing, and if his name sounds like a cash register there's a very good reason: this 77 year old Chinese businessman has just been ranked by Forbes magazine as the tenth wealthiest person in the world, with a fortune estimated at nearly US$20 billion. His companies, including Hutchison Whampoa, account for 10% of the value of the Hong Kong stock exchange and have tentacles that reach across the globe – more than forty countries according to one estimate – and in industries as varied as mobile telephone networks, electricity grids, retailing, shipping and real estate.
Many New Zealanders may have become familiar with Li's work in the sixties and seventies, when his main business was making plastic toys with the infamous "Made in Hong Kong" imprimatur.
But there are two sides to the Li Ka-shing story. One is the traditional fodder of business magazines, lauding the rags to riches story of a billionaire whose father died after the Japanese invasion of China before World War 2, leaving a 12 year old boy with the task of earning enough money to feed his mother and siblings. It's a story of a man making wily business decisions, building an empire and showing aspiring MBA graduates how it's done.
And here's how one of those gushing business stories reads:
"The move by the richest man in Asia and one of the richest in the world to take a stake in the operation of the Port of Lyttelton is one that has potentially great benefits for Christchurch and Canterbury and ultimately the rest of the country," said the Christchurch Press in an editorial mid February.
"There is no need to be starry-eyed about the proposed venture. Li Ka-shing has risen from complete destitution as a refugee who fled the raping and pillaging of China by the Japanese in the 1930s to become a multi-billionaire.
"He did it by being an astute and hard-nosed businessman. He also did it, according to one account in a business journal, by 'remaining true to his internal moral compass' and operating with integrity."
Like we said, that's one side of the Li Ka-shing story.
The other side of Li Ka-shing is much darker, and less likely to be taught in graduate classes. It's the story of a man whose companies are regarded by Western intelligence agencies as nothing more than a money-making front for Chinese military intelligence as China prepares for what it sees as an "inevitable" conflict with the US.
As this 1996 diplomatic cable release by the US Government under a Freedom of Information request shows, Li Ka-shing's businesses didn't make money the hard way.
""Embassy Panama has received information to the effect that HIT (Hutchison International Terminals) is controlled by mainland Chinese, perhaps through a Macao front which allegedly recently invested $400 million in HIT," states the cable. "Such control would have security implications and might affect the Panamanian government's views on awarding the port concessions."
The "mainland Chinese" referred to in 1996 have turned out to be the Chinese Government itself, and more specifically its People's Liberation Army – more of which in a moment, but first some background.
Intelligence agencies have used what they call "arms length" front companies – genuine commercial operations whose owners are sympathetic to a particular cause. Back in the 1970s and 80s, for example, America's CIA set up a global freight airline, Air America, and a merchant banking operation, Nugan Hand Bank of Australia, to help launder money and assist with so-called "black operations" that the US government could not directly be involved in. Discretion, and plausible deniability, required "cut-outs" who could take the heat if discovered. One CIA front company, US accounting firm Bishop Baldwin Rewald Dillingham & Wong, even went so far as to open an office in Auckland in 1983.
But there's one difference between CIA front companies and Chinese ones. Ultimately, the US government takes a major PR-hit when dirty covert operations are uncovered. The Chinese government suffers no embarrassment when caught spying, because of its tight control of Chinese citizens and the lack of democratic accountability.
Investigate enjoyed a world exclusive in March 2000 when it reported that Chinese businessman James Riady, wanted for spying and illegal payments to the US president, Bill Clinton, had been in New Zealand as a guest of the National Government and introduced to Clinton at APEC.
Ever since Clinton was elected to the Whitehouse in 1992, China has bought influence in American politics by using businessmen like Riady and Li to donate to Presidential campaign funds, or the election campaigns of key senators and congress representatives. As a result, when America's lease fell due on the Panama canal in 1999, the Clinton administration let it slide, and Li Ka-shing's Hutchison Whampoa picked up control of the crucial ports at either end of the Panama canal. According to US reports, Hutchison also paid substantial bribes to Panamanian officials to secure the deal.
Amazingly, the deal also allows Hutchison to transfer its control of the Panama facilities to any other organization or country of its choosing, meaning it could – in the lead up to a conflict – effectively place the canal directly and officially in the control of China, allowing Chinese military and naval forces to legally occupy and defend their beachhead in the Americas. Because of the immense strategic importance of the Panama canal, any military attack on it could cause damage making the canal impassable regardless of who controls it, thus limiting US options.
Newssite WorldNetDaily reported a 1995 diplomatic cable from the US Embassy in the Bahamas revealing Hutchison had just been given the go ahead to build a US$88 million container port there. The embassy copied its cable to the Drug Enforcement Agency and US Customs, noting the possibility of a major increase in smuggling through the Hutchison facility.
They were right to be concerned. There are growing reports of a strong Chinese organized crime presence in Panama.
Some analysts fear the US is becoming more vulnerable to "Trojan horses", in the form of cargo or container ships that dock containing weapons of mass destruction and/or short to medium range ballistic missiles, leaving America vulnerable to a surprise attack with no possibility of missile intercept because of the short ranges involved. Indeed, this has been one of the security fears over the past month because of a bid by a Dubai-based company to take control of major US ports – the possibility that weapons of mass destruction could be smuggled in through civilian ports controlled by foreign interests.
Al Qa'ida has already been implicated in smuggling Islamic extremists into the US across the Mexican border, but China is equally active in shipping the ingredients of terror through commercial operators. Li Ka-shing, for example, sits on the board of CITIC, the China International Trust Investment Company, which has also been active in New Zealand business circles and still has a presence here. But US investigations have determined CITIC is also a People's Liberation Army front company, and during the Operation Sidewinder investigations in Canada recently authorities discovered quantities of weapons had been supplied by a CITIC company and stored on Mohawk Indian reservations.
CITIC was also in the news at Christmas after signing a US$900 million contract to build an aluminium smelter in Iran. Aluminium tubing is used in the production of missile technology and nuclear weapons.
China's state owned national shipping company COSCO, again a 50% joint venture partner in some of Li Ka-shing's operations, has been implicated in the sort of activities that would make the CIA blush.
"Both U.S. Senate and Canadian intelligence sources have described COSCO as "the merchant marine for China's military"," reported Canada Free Press last year.
"According to U.S. intelligence reports, COSCO vessels do not just transport Oriental bric-a-brac. COSCO vessels have been caught carrying [two thousand AK-47] assault rifles into California and biological-chemical weapons components into North Korea, Pakistan, Iraq and Iran. Add to these disturbing events that Canadian law enforcement agencies have kicked in with hard-line information that Chinese Triad criminal elements are active in and around Canadian ports."
But it isn't just smuggling items in, there is also the question of Chinese spies operating through front companies to smuggle information and technology out of countries like Canada, the US, Australia and New Zealand – all of which have been named internationally as prime targets for Chinese intelligence.
According to the Canada Free Press report:
"Conspiracy theories were tossed out the window when U.S. Congressman Dana Rohrabacher revealed that the U.S. Bureau of Export Affairs, the U.S. Embassy in Beijing and the Rand Corporation had identified Li Ka-Shing and Hutchison Whampoa (Li's primary business) as financing or serving as a conduit for Communist China's military in order for them to acquire sensitive technologies and other equipment."
But again, Chinese intelligence is one step ahead of the West. Just as Bill Clinton had been paid off in the US in order for China to gain access at the highest levels, so too was the-then Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien:
"Former Prime Minister Jean Chretien's connections to the burgeoning CITIC conglomerate served as his entrée into the private sector," says Canada Free Press. "While John Turner was leader of the federal Liberals, Chretien was working for Gordon Securities, one of the many Li-controlled companies on Canadian soil."
According to Canada Free Press, Operation Sidewinder was "sideswiped" after political pressure from Chretien.
With the Chinese military currently embarking on the most rapid rearmament in world history, the involvement of Chinese commercial entities should come as no surprise.
An American Defense Council report published two years ago paints an extremely disturbing picture for the West.
"Li Ka-Shing, the leader of Hutchison Port Holdings (China's primary shipping line), has close ties to the Chinese Communist Party and to the CITIC. The CITIC is believed to serve as a funding umbrella for the Chinese military, supporting the acquisition of military-related technologies. Hutchison Port Holdings manages, operates and is in possession of significant portions of three of the world's top five ports as measured by both the number of containers shipped and total tonnage shipped.
"China's other two huge shipping lines are directly controlled by the Communist Party. One, the China Ocean Shipping Co (COSCO) was described in the Cox Report issued by the US Congress as follows: 'Although presented as a commercial entity, COSCO is actually an arm of the Chinese military establishment'."
According to the Defense Council report, there are 10 strategic global shipping "choke points" that are crucial to US oil and trade lifelines.
"In the last decade, China has succeeded in building, managing or operating strategic ports adjacent to, or, as in the case of the Panama canal, at the entrance and exit of seven of these 10 global shipping choke points."
What has not been widely reported is another paragraph in the Congressional investigation into Chinese spying:
"The Clinton administration has determined that additional information concerning COSCO that appears in the Select Committee's classified final report cannot be made public," concluded the watered down version released by the House Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare.
COSCO already has a strong presence in New Zealand, with offices in Auckland and Christchurch and a container line service that runs into Auckland, Tauranga, Napier, Wellington, Nelson, Lyttelton and Port Chalmers. Four of its vessels here, including the Aotea, are Panamanian registered.
While there is no doubt that COSCO routinely ships ordinary freight, every day, as any other commercial business does, there are also days when it ships the extraordinary, as this American news report notes.
"At least three arms shipments were traced from China to the Cuban port of Mariel during the past several months, according to an article Tuesday in the Washington Times. All the arms were aboard vessels belonging to the state-owned China Ocean Shipping Co., or Cosco, U.S. intelligence officials told the newspaper. The explosives were said to be "military-grade" material, the newspaper said.
"U.S. officials said Tuesday that the subject of arms trafficking between China and Cuba is a worrisome one, though they stopped short of confirming the Washington Times account. "We are very much concerned with this PLA [People's Liberation Army] cooperation and movement of military equipment in Cuba," said James Kelly, assistant secretary of state for East Asian affairs, when questioned during a hearing of the House International Relations subcommittee."
Questioning of Li Ka-shing is something Canadian government security advisor Scott Newark would like to do. He told the respected online journal NewsMax.com that a request by Li's Hutchison group to purchase ports in the US be given full congressional scrutiny.
"I'd like to suggest that the appropriate congressional committee hold hearings and that they call Li Ka-shing as the first witness. I volunteer to be second, but frankly there are people far more knowledgeable than me in this regard, including for example the International Association of Airport and Seaport Police, which just held their conference in NYC. As a speaker at that conference I urged ridding ports of such crime and rogue government-connected companies, not making them the local constabulary."
According to NewsMax, Newark identified five critical port security issues: "preventing smuggling of drugs, guns and people; preventing export of stolen products; providing site security as a result of 9/11; preventing terrorism related smuggling; and preventing attacks on ships leaving ports."
To that end, Newark sounds a warning that is relevant for New Zealand authorities as they consider whether to approve a buy-in by Hutchison into Lyttelton and possibly the Auckland or Tauranga ports.
"We need full scrutiny of the principals of Hutchison Whampoa and all of their business or government-related associations, and any history of any activity of them or their associates – including links to organized crime and terrorist groups, activities or states supporting the same – that would raise concerns to any of the above.
"We should give full scrutiny to any relationship of Hutchison Whampoa, its partners, directors or officers with any foreign government that would raise concerns to any or all of the above issues."
If that isn't ringing warning bells at the Christchurch City Council and in the Beehive, it should be, especially as the Li's business partner – the Chinese military's "merchant marine arm" COSCO - is already a big player in New Zealand ports.
Both COSCO and Hutchison have faced this negative publicity overseas. In COSCO's case, it hired one of America's leading public relations companies to spin the strong business and economic benefits of trade with China to the news media and key politicians, while playing down the "unfounded and negative" stories we've just highlighted. According to commentators the PR ploy has worked, with coverage of the company in the US largely restricted to positive business and trade stories in the media.
Nor is Li Ka-shing a stranger to New Zealand business. In Australia, he's the majority owner of Hutchison 3G Mobile, but you might be surprised to learn Theresa Gattung's Telecom New Zealand holds the remaining 19.9% in a joint venture.
Ironically, it was only a decision by US telecommunications regulators to threaten a veto that stopped Li Ka-shing's Hutchison from buying the giant international phone network Global Crossing three years ago. The purchase would have given Hutchison the possible option of eavesdropping on phone and data calls being made on Global Crossing's planet-wide network of undersea phone cables linking all the continents. Global was also bidding for US Defence contracts at the time.
Li's business ventures with the Chinese military include the Guangzhou Aircraft Maintenance Engineering Company, a Chinese air force company 25% owned by Li; and a one-third stake in AsiaSat, also part owned by the People's Liberation Army.
The move by Hutchison Port Holdings Ltd (HPHL) to purchase the Lyttelton Port Company in Christchurch raises some more questions for Helen Clark's Labour Government to answer. HPHL is registered in the British Virgin Islands, the same Caribbean tax haven at the centre of our February story about the New Zealand Labour Party's biggest campaign donor, Owen Glenn. Coincidentally, Glenn is also a shipping handler who's managed to get a rare Class A business licence in China and is said to have influence in Beijing, but whose operations don't appear to stack up based on what Investigate was able to discover. Glenn funneled $500,000 into Labour's election coffers last year.
Is the New Zealand Labour Party receiving money from the Chinese Government through a complex web of shady business figures and front companies? At this point Investigate doesn't have enough information to answer one way or the other, but the magazine's investigations are continuing.
In the meantime, we have discovered Li Ka-shing has reserved the name Hutchison Ports New Zealand Ltd with the Companies Office. The deal relies at this stage on Christchurch City Holdings Ltd acquiring the 31% of Lyttelton port shares that it doesn't already own, and that purchase offer closes on April 8. If CCHL gets the shares it needs, it plans to sell down 49.9% of the port to Hutchison. But Hutchison would get majority control of the company actually running the port on a daily basis, effectively putting the Chinese Government in command of imports and exports out of Christchurch.
The Christchurch Press reports the deal was driven initially by Lyttelton Port Company management, but picked up by Hutchison Port Holdings executive directors Mark Jack and Richard Pearson – both apparently ex-pat kiwis. A search of Companies Office records lists a Mark David Jack, resident in Hong Kong, as sole director of Ardmore Hangars Ltd – set up last year – and Ardmore Aviation Services Ltd, set up in 2003.
We have been unable to confirm any New Zealand directorships for Richard Pearson.
Christchurch mayor Gary Moore has dismissed reported links between Hutchison and the Chinese military as the work of "conspiracy theorists" who'd been listening to a sole US congressman, and Mark Jack has told critics to ignore the bad media and concentrate on the company's economic performance – a carbon copy of the PR stance Hutchison has taken in the US.
But Gary Moore – as provincial local body mayors often are – suffers from not being privy to intelligence. If it was only "conspiracy theory", why was Hutchison forced to back away from Global Crossing? And if Moore is correct about only one congressman raising concerns about Hutchison, why did the South China Morning Post report that Hutchison's paid lobbyists in the US were targeting three, including the then Senate Majority leader Trent Lott and former US Defence Secretary Caspar Weinberger who testified Hutchison's takeover of the Panama canal would pose a security threat to the US?
And if Gary Moore is correct, how does he explain the now-released 1999 intelligence briefing from the US military Southern Command which states: ""Hutchison's containerized shipping facilities in the Panama Canal, as well as the Bahamas, could provide a conduit for illegal shipments of technology or prohibited items from the west to the PRC, or facilitate the movement of arms and other prohibited items into the Americas."?
We put similar questions to a spokesman for Christchurch City Holdings Ltd, the current majority owner of Lyttelton Port Company, and ended up in a slanging match where the response to the allegations was "so what if he is?". The spokesman pointed out that national security issues were something for the Prime Minister to sort out, and Christchurch was only interested in the commercial deal.
The spokesman referred to a statement by a US Clinton administration official in 1999 to the senate hearing that Hutchison Whampoa's operation of the Panama ports would have no impact on shipping movements, and that the company had no known ties to the Chinese government.
However, those claims have already been tackled by the Washington Times' Insight magazine:
"Western policymakers and business leaders have little or no idea of China's grand strategy and how Beijing's leaders want to situate their country for the next century. When, in 1999, Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) sent Insight's report, "China's Beachhead at Panama Canal," to then defense secretary William Cohen, he called for a full national-security appraisal of the problem. Lott told Cohen, "U.S. naval ships will be at the mercy of Chinese-controlled pilots and could even be denied passage. It appears we have given away the farm."
"At Lott's request, the Senate Armed Services Committee held a hearing in which four Clinton-administration witnesses testified that Hutchison Whampoa posed no security challenges to the United States [see "PC Answers on Panama Canal," Nov. 22, 1999]. But not one of the witnesses could answer the fundamental question, posed by Sen. Robert Smith (R-N.H.): "Do you believe the People's Republic of China uses commercial enterprises to advance their military interests?"
"Bill Clinton's assistant secretary of defense, Brian E. Sheridan, who had issued a defense of Hutchison Whampoa, confessed, "I don't know." Alberto Aleman Zubieta, whom Clinton had appointed to run the Panama Canal until 2005, didn't answer either. Neither did Joseph W. Cornelison, the deputy administrator of the Panama Canal Commission, nor Lino Gutierrez [the official referred to by Christchurch City Holdings Ltd's PR man], then principal deputy assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere Affairs. All had contradicted their testimony. Only Marine Gen. Charles E. Wilhelm, then chief of the U.S. Southern Command, answered affirmatively to whether Beijing uses commercial enterprises to advance its military interests, saying only: "I think so."
"That was it. And apparently the government has learned little since. "Many of those who are engaged in China policy or who invest there remain blithely ignorant of Chinese goals to replace the United States as the reigning world power," says Thomas Woodrow, a former senior China analyst at the Defense Intelligence Agency."
Lino Gutierrez is the Clinton official whose testimony was used to rubbish suggestions of Chinese government investment. He told the senate hearing:
"Through publicly available information, we have been able to ascertain that neither
Hutchison-Whampoa, nor its subsidiaries Hutchison Port Holdings (HPH) and the Panama Ports Company (PPC), have any significant investment from mainland China."
What isn't clear is how Gutierrez determined that, when many key companies in the group including Hutchison Port Holdings are registered in tax havens so their true ownership cannot be searched.
Investigate did finally get to put a series of questions to CCHL Chief Executive Bob Lineham. The questions, and his answers, are as follows:
- How is CCHL satisfied that, even if Hutchison is a front company for the People's Liberation Army of China, that its majority stake in the operating company for the Port of Lyttelton remains a good idea?
Answer from Bob Lineham:
"In the event that Christchurch City Holdings Limited's (CCHL) Takeover Offer for Lyttelton Port Company Ltd (LPC) succeeded, and Hutchison Port Holdings Ltd was introduced into the Port of Lyttelton, the Christchurch City Council would retain control of the Lyttelton Port Company with a 50.1% voting majority (through CCHL) of the shares in LPC.
"The purpose of the new port operating company in which HPH would have a 50.1% share is to operate the Port of Lyttelton. It does not and cannot control the Lyttelton Port Company. With HPH as a port partner, the Port of Lyttelton would be controlled, as it is today, by the people of Christchurch through CCHL and the Christchurch City Council.
- How is CCHL satisfied that Li Ka-shing is a legitimate businessman, in the face not only of his vast personal fortune in a socialist country, but also his well-documented ties to communist China and its ruling politburo long before the 1997 handover of Hong Kong? No answer received.
- Why is it not strange that a communist state can be home to the world's tenth richest man, without corruption being a factor? No answer received.
- In what way has CCHL consulted with the New Zealand government or its officials over the proposed buy in?
Answer from Bob Lineham:
"The introduction of Hutchison Port Holdings to the Port of Lyttelton would be subject to the usual regulatory consents that are required when an overseas company is involved."
- Li Ka Shing or companies and individuals associated with him have been implicated in smuggling 2,000 AK 47 fully automatic military rifles into California, and shipping componentry for nuclear weapons to Iran. CITIC, a Chinese Government company that Li helped found and sits on the board of directors of, is building an aluminium smelter in Iran the product of which can be used in missile technology and the production of nuclear weapons. Why are the reputational issues surrounding Li Ka Shing not a concern to CCHL? No answer received.
- Why is CCHL not concerned about the fact that Hutchison was prevented from purchasing telecommunications provider Global Crossing in 2003 because of concerns that he was a security threat to the US? No answer received.
And if the Christchurch port administrators are relying on assurances by Clinton administration officials that Li Ka-shing is not a security threat, they could be backing the wrong horse. Sadly, Investigate has reported before on how badly briefed New Zealand officials are on international intrigue. Former National Government Prime Minister Jenny Shipley was given a briefing by Foreign Affairs and Trade on visiting businessman James Riady in 1999 that read like this:
"The Lippo Group is one of Indonesia's largest conglomerates in terms of market capitalisation with estimates of value putting it at having US$11 billion in assets.
"The vision of its founder Mochtar Riady is to transcend the institutional limitations placed upon organisations run in the traditional overseas Chinese pattern and adopt a modern publicly owned and professionally managed pattern of business.
"Mochtar has formed alliances and joint venture partnerships with world class multinational corporations and has high calibre professional management staff working for him.
"The Lippo empire rose out of the success of the Lippo Bank. Unlike just about all other banks in Indonesia its founder Mochtar Riady tended to shun the Suharto connections that for other conglomerates in Indonesia were the keys to success.
"He avoided lending to politically connected groups or to state enterprises and instead built his business on legitimate retail and trade finance."
Yes, well. That's the New Zealand intelligence briefing, but while our diplomats were talking about how politically-neutral and non-crony like the Riadys were, the businessmen themselves were on the run from US justice for illegally laundering $4 million of illegal Chinese government donations to President Clinton's re-election fund.
The saddest part of that story was the information about the Riadys was in the public domain, just as the information on Li Ka-shing is, but New Zealand trade officials chose to ignore it or write it off as "conspiracy theory".
Interestingly, one report from a US Congressional team that visited Panama says "Li Ka-Shing is an investor in the Riady family's Hong Kong China Bank." It is this international game of join the dots that seems too hard for New Zealand officials to understand.
The Riadys were heavily involved with a company called China Resources Ltd, which is also a joint venture partner with Hutchison in the Panama canal. China Resources has long been known as a front for Chinese intelligence, but this too was completely missing from the intelligence briefing given to Shipley. Indeed, judging from their innocuous contents one would have to suspect the briefing was in fact prepared by Chinese intelligence!
"The Lippo Group has a strategic position in China and Hong Kong with substantial investments and relationships with powerful business and government people and organisations.
"It owns 49% of the Hong Kong Chinese Bank with the remaining 51% held by China Resources (Holdings) which is a wholly-owned enterprise of China's Ministry of Foreign Trade and Economic Cooperation."
So despite Christchurch's insistence that New Zealand authorities have it all in hand and that citizens can rest easy in their beds, Investigate is reminded of this news release about the previous Asian-investor golden boy James Riady, issued by the US Department of Justice in 2001:
WASHINGTON, D.C. - James Tjahaja Riady will pay a record $8.6 million in criminal fines and plead guilty to a felony charge of conspiring to defraud the United States by unlawfully reimbursing campaign donors with foreign corporate funds in violation of federal election law, the Justice Department's Campaign Financing Task Force and the United States Attorney in Los Angeles announced today.
In addition, LippoBank California, a California state-chartered bank affiliated with Lippo Group, will plead guilty to 86 misdemeanor counts charging its agents, Riady and John Huang, with making illegal foreign campaign contributions from 1988 through 1994.
As the world's largest port operator, there are sound economic reasons for Hutchison to operate New Zealand ports. But there appear to be equally sound political and strategic reasons as to why they should not. If the deals proceed, it could turn into yet another political bombshell for the Labour Government to work through, a government that is, itself, close to China.
December 08, 2007
Police Minister duped by bent cop: July 07 issue
KING DUPED BY BENT COP
Major Embarrassment for Police Minister
When Investigate called for a Commission of Inquiry last month, former Dunedin cop Peter Gibbons sprang to the Government’s and Howard Broad’s rescue. But now IAN WISHART reveals damning new information about Gibbons and police corruption, in another special report that now implicates the ACC corporation in Dunedin police misconduct as the shockwaves spread
The political fallout from Investigate’s special report on police corruption is about to get a whole lot worse, with confirmation that Police Minister Annette King and Prime Minister Helen Clark staked their own reputations on the testimony of a man who now turns out to be a corrupt cop.
When Investigate’s major story broke last month, the news media were quickly introduced to former Dunedin police officer Peter Gibbons, who told reporters the Investigate story about widespread corruption was “rubbish”, and that police commissioner Howard Broad had not watched the infamous bestiality movie referred to in the article.
Gibbons – now a Dunedin private investigator – provided information to Police Minister Annette King urging her to name a rival private investigator, Wayne Idour, as the man who brought the bestiality movie to Howard Broad’s party in the 1980s.
Gibbons’ testimony created a media firestorm and was used in a massive political offensive to defame and discredit Idour and, by implication, Investigate magazine’s call for a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the NZ Police.
At the time, Investigate already had Gibbons in its sights as an alleged corrupt officer, but our inquiries had not been completed and cross-checked for accuracy. So, for a month, Investigate has stayed silent.
Now, however, we can reveal that Investigate views Peter James Gibbons as one of the more bent police officers we’ve come across, based on the evidence assembled here, an officer who not only appears to have committed perjury by lying to a judge in a court trial, but who has also been captured on audiotape justifying police corruption and privately endorsing a group of officers who chose to lie to an official inquiry. Gibbons has been accused in affidavits supplied to Investigate of behaviour including tipping off drug dealers in advance of police raids, and corruptly obtaining police search warrants from his police constable son-in-law to help him fulfill lucrative commercial contracts as a private investigator working for a major government organization.
The irony – that the government and Police National Headquarters brushed off the need for a Royal Commission by relying on the word of a bent cop – will become chillingly apparent over the next few pages. But first, a look at the substance of Gibbons’ spin campaign against Idour and Investigate.
The first most people really heard was National Radio’s Morning Report, when host Geoff Robinson interviewed Police Minister Annette King. Although Gibbons had been interviewed the previous day sticking up for Howard Broad, he had not gone as far publicly as the Police Minister was about to.
“Geoff, yesterday you had a man on your show who stood up for Howard Broad, who worked with him. I spoke to that man yesterday,” said King.
“He gave me the name of the person who took the film – it’s actually a film – to Howard Broad’s house. He gave me the name of the person, the same person, who played the film, and the same person is the person who’s been hawking the story around the news media.
“The person, on your show, and I’m quite sure if you were to ring him he would confirm this, is Mr Idour.
“I am told by the same man that was on your show that when Mr Idour played the film that most people walked out of the room in disgust. They didn’t want to see it, leaving Mr Idour with very few people but himself to watch it.”
That last comment alone should have been enough to sound warning bells in the ears of intelligent listeners – the idea that boozed-up police at a rugby fundraiser walked out rather than watch a porn film that included a bestiality scene with a chicken.
National Radio’s Robinson asked the Minister how Peter Gibbons had ended up sticking up for Broad.
“Mr Broad spoke with people that he’d known in Dunedin at the time to go over his memory of events,” replied King.
Acknowledging that his question might appear “cynical”, Geoff Robinson queried the sequence of events, saying, “Certainly the names [of police prepared to support Broad] were provided to us by Police HQ, which raises the question of whether there was some concerted campaign by Police –”
“I doubt whether Howard Broad would be involved in some sort of concerted campaign,” interjected King.
Increasingly, however, that’s how it is looking. And if Police National HQ introduced Peter Gibbons to the Minister of Police, then to all practical effect PNHQ set up their own Minister to take an embarrassing fall if the true facts about Gibbons ever emerged.
With Wayne Idour’s name publicly besmirched as a bestiality-purveyor by the Minister of Police on National Radio, the media went wild. Peter Gibbons appeared on radio and TV interviews, telling the same carefully-constructed story. Note how the wording is deliberately strong and rehearsed as if to underline his credibility as a witness:
“Wayne Idour played that movie, Wayne Idour put it on, Wayne Idour was watching it. That’s what I categorically remember. I and another person spoke to him about it. And I remember it very, very well,” Gibbons told 3 News.
Contrast his rock-solid memory, however, with his comments on National Radio’s Checkpoint programme:
“I can’t remember if it was a movie or a video, bearing in mind I can’t even remember which year it was. Wayne put that movie on, or video on, and when people saw what it was, they moved out of the room. What I can tell you Mary is myself and the Vice Captain of the team actually went and spoke to him and asked him to desist. He wanted to continue watching it and we told him he would have to watch it by himself. He watched it by himself. The party continued in another room.”
“Police Minister Annette King stands behind Gibbons,” continued the 3 News report as it led into a video clip of King:
“He told me directly, the person who brought the film to the party was Mr Idour. And Mr Idour played the film.”
It didn’t occur to many journalists that the likelihood of Wayne Idour tipping off the country’s most controversial magazine about the chicken film was nil, if he had in fact been the person who originally brought it along. After all, it was not a private screening but a party attended by about 100 men, many of them police officers.
Police Commissioner Howard Broad himself muddied the waters significantly by revealing that when he found out the movie was playing in his house, that he complained to Peter Gibbons and a fellow detective, Gordon Hunter, about it.
“I moaned about it because I just didn’t want that sort of thing being beamed onto the wall of my lounge,” Broad told the Herald.
According to Broad, and Gibbons, the party was a fundraiser for the police rugby club and the main attraction was movie reels (there were no videos in 1981) of “old Ranfurly Shield rugby games”.
One person who doesn’t buy that explanation for a nanosecond is Howard Broad’s former boss, retired Detective Sergeant Tom Lewis.
Speaking from Australia, Lewis has told Investigate that the idea of 100 police officers and their mates holding a fundraiser in 1981 by screening “old Ranfurly Shield games” on a projector is a fabrication.
Lewis says film footage of old Ranfurly Shield matches did not exist on home movie format in 1981, and the idea that 100 cops had gathered to watch a fellow policeman’s shaky home movie of an entire game is ludicrous.
He’s told Investigate he was aware of a number of similar fundraisers, and the drawcard was usually the latest pornographic movies seized by police. Like Wayne Idour, he says they were not functions normally attended by women.
He recalls on one occasion two of his junior staff, Gordon Hunter and Jim Stacey, discussing the porn movies they’d viewed at a police rugby fundraiser, and he says that may have been the one at Howard Broad’s house.
Lewis also scoffs at former Detective Peter Gibbons’ claim that everyone left the room when the movie came on.
“Is he expecting people to believe that a hundred people suddenly crammed into Howard Broad’s kitchen, and that Broad then asked Gibbons and Gordon Hunter to tell the one person in the lounge to turn the movie off, using his prime authority as the householder, but that the person in the lounge refused and neither Howard Broad nor Peter Gibbons did anything? That’s almost an even bigger indictment on their policing and decision making ability than watching the bestiality movie in the first place!”
It is also, says Lewis, impossible to believe.
The gullible Police Minister Annette King, however, fell for it hook, line and sinker.
“Mr Gibbons is well known in Dunedin, I’m told, highly respected. He is prepared to back what he said. I think it’s now up to who people believe and I personally believe Mr Gibbons.”
King wasted no time upping the ante, either. Under the cloak of Parliamentary privilege she launched a stinging attack on the credibility of Wayne Idour and Investigate magazine:
“The modus operandi of that magazine is to base a story on a half-truth, and from that to build an entire menu of fantasies. There was a party in Dunedin in 1981. There was an objectionable pornographic film shown at it. The basis for the story came from information provided about the party by an unknown person. Mr Wishart said that he did not identify the informant at the time, because the informant had a sick family member. When has Mr Wishart ever given a damn about the family members of his targets?”
For the record, Investigate has withheld information about some political figures from publication because of concern for their families, nor did we conduct a major investigation into how Police Minister Annette King’s daughter crashed a ministerial vehicle containing illegal drugs. Also, for the record, the “sick” family member King refers to was dying, and the Minister knew it when she chose only to call him “sick”. Investigate had issued a news release explaining that the man was terminally ill. For the record, Idour’s close relative died two days after Annette King’s callous attack in parliament.
“His informant was outed,” King continued in parliament, “and subsequently Wayne Idour has had to own up. That man was a former police officer in Dunedin. He is the same man who was employed by the Exclusive Brethren to dig up dirt on the Prime Minister and on Labour MPs and their families. He is a proven liar. Wayne Idour lied to TV3 about working for the Brethren, and I believe he is now lying again. I believe he is lying when he says he did not take the bestiality movie to the party. I believe he lied when he said he did not show the pornographic film. I believe he lied when he said he saw Howard Broad watching it.”
Again, for the record, Wayne Idour is arguably a “proven liar” only in regard to one event – distancing himself from the Exclusive Brethren. As a matter of historical fact, however, Idour was not hired by the Brethren but by an Auckland private investigator who did not disclose the identity of the clients to Idour until well down the path of the investigation. Nor was Idour employed to follow the Prime Minister or Peter Davis – another common error made by politicians and the media.
Peter Gibbons’ dishonesty, however, is far more serious and includes giving false testimony, on oath, to a court, as you will read shortly. The people who ultimately relied on “a proven liar” are the Minister of Police herself, and Prime Minister Helen Clark.
And it’s not as if Gibbons’ motives were not transparent to others.
“In my view Peter Gibbons has a vested interest,” Tom Lewis told Investigate. “He’s a close mate of Broad’s, and he also gets a lot of his private detective work from Dunedin Police. So it’s in Gibbons’ best interests to support the police on this.”
Gibbons’ relationship with Dunedin Police is, in literal fact, incestuous. Although Gibbons had to leave the force 10 years ago and set up in business as a private investigator, his daughter Melissa became a police officer and subsequently married another young cop named Andrew Henderson, who transferred to Dunedin.
Investigate stumbled across this relationship during a thorough search of Gibbons’ property transactions, which included a number of sales and purchases involving the AW and MA Henderson Family Trust, which Peter Gibbons is a trustee on. Recognising it as a family trust for his daughter and son-in-law, Investigate put those documents to one side as irrelevant, until a chance comment from Dunedin man Bruce Van Essen, who’s been battling ACC, suddenly made the Henderson Family Trust centrestage again.
Van Essen had posted comments on the ACCForums website about Peter Gibbons’ work as a private investigator for ACC, and when we contacted him he remarked how Gibbons would execute police search warrants on the homes of ACC claimants, even though he was no longer a police officer.
“We think the warrants are really dodgy,” Van Essen remarked. “He must have a mate inside the police doing it for him. Besides which, it’s always the same cops who turn up to do the searches with Gibbons.”
“Really?” the magazine asked. “Who?”
“It’s a Sergeant Kindly and a young constable named Andrew Henderson. Every time. And sometimes there’s another guy, Graeme Scott, who has now left the police force and is working for Gibbons.”
When Investigate obtained copies of the police search warrants used by Gibbons to raid homes of ACC victims and seize their property, we found a direct match between the signatures of Constable Andrew Henderson on the warrants, and the signatures of Andrew Henderson we already had on a string of property purchases with Peter Gibbons.
The fact that private investigator Peter Gibbons, whose business has a lucrative $172,000 contract with the government ACC agency, is using his son-in-law in the police to draft the search warrants he needs, appears, to Investigate, to be a massive conflict of interest, and further evidence of the need for a full Royal Commission of Inquiry into police corruption. (Read the documents here,10Mb PDF file)
But it gets worse. In an affidavit provided to Investigate for review by an eminent legal entity, Van Essen discloses that the police searches were conducted outside standard police operating procedure. For example, it has been common for the police presenting the warrants to play no part in the actual searches, and instead let civilian Peter Gibbons and his private assistants search through the houses with no police supervision at all.
“The cops actually turn their backs, they don’t watch,” confirms Van Essen to Investigate.
Under New Zealand law private investigators working for anyone, including ACC, have no legal authority to search anyone’s house, as powers of search and seizure are tightly regulated under ancient common law and the Bill of Rights Act, as well as the Police Act itself.
Section 6 of the Police Act specifically forbids any non-sworn (civilian) person carrying out any of the powers and duties of a sworn police officer without explicit written authority from Police Commissioner Howard Broad, and that written authority must be carried by the civilian at all times and presented to householders if requested, Gibbons had no such authority from his friend, Howard Broad.
Three Dunedin residents have sworn affidavits about Gibbons executing search warrants in the company of Graeme Scott and Constable Andrew Henderson, along with irregularities in the search warrants. On one occasion the ACC corporation replied to a complaint by blaming the irregularity – a reference to a false declaration – on a “cut and paste” error by a police typist.
Let’s take a closer look at that “cut and paste” error.
On a search warrant dated 31 August 2006, police are authorized to search premises occupied by Bruce Van Essen at a Dunedin primary school because:
“There is a reasonable ground for believing that there is (are) in any building, aircraft, ship, carriage, vehicle, box, receptacle, premises or place at Abbotsford Primary School, 72 North Taieri Road, Dunedin, the following thing(s), namely:
“…documentary evidence, however, held either manually or electronically stored including computer hard drives, bank statements, invoices [etc]..”
The chances of finding a jumbo jet or a ship in the playground at Abbotsford school were remote, but having identified the kind of things the police were to seek, the warrant had to specify on what grounds, in other words, what law was suspected of being broken that justified a search.
The warrant spelt out that the grounds against Van Essen were:
“…Upon or in respect of which an offence of Making a false statutory declaration using a document for pecuniary gain has been or is suspected of having been committed…
“Or which there is reasonable ground to believe will be evidence as to the commission of an offence of Making a false statutory declaration using a document for pecuniary gain…
“Or which there is a reasonable ground to believe is intended to be used for the purpose of committing an offence of [blank].”
In other words, the justification for the entire search warrant hinged on an allegation that Van Essen had made a false statutory declaration.
This was the warrant served by Gibbons’ son-in-law, Constable Andrew Henderson, who then allowed Gibbons – a civilian and private investigator working for private financial gain – to ransack Van Essen’s premises and rack-up billable hours to the government owned ACC. If anyone was using a document for pecuniary gain, it was Gibbons.
Documents obtained by Investigate and signed by Constable Henderson show the warrant was executed a week later, on 8 September 2006.
So where was this false statutory declaration to ACC that Van Essen had purportedly made, and which the search warrant was based on? It didn’t exist, and the ACC confirmed this in a series of letters earlier this year.
In a further letter dated 3 May this year, acting ACC CEO, Dr Keith McLea told Van Essen:
“You raise issues about the search warrant. I understand the police typist preparing the affidavit made a ‘cut and paste’ error in good faith and failed to remove a passage from a previous search warrant template. I am satisfied that this kind of minor error would not have affected the validity of the warrant.”
Really? Try removing the clauses about a statutory declaration above, and see what kind of grounds you are left with.
Van Essen also tried to get a copy of the affidavit supposed to have been filed in support of obtaining the search warrant. Such an affidavit would presumably have spelt out in detail the nature of the now non-existent statutory declaration. Within the police, the task of responding to the Official Information Act request seemed to bypass the official channels and land on the desk of Peter Gibbons son-in-law, Andrew Henderson, a mere constable. OIA requests are supposed to be processed by ranking officers.
“In response to your request for a copy of the affidavit supporting the application of a search warrant, this is declined…the matter is an ongoing investigation and the affidavit will not be released.”
Henderson is not the only Dunedin police officer in the frame for alleged misconduct.
Graeme Scott’s involvement may also be a breach of police regulations, and further evidence of the kind of corruption requiring a Commission of Inquiry. It is an absolute breach of police rules for any sworn police officer to be involved in private investigation work. But Investigate has obtained documents showing Detective Sergeant Scott was listed by the ACC as one of its investigators in September 2006. When Investigate called the Dunedin Central Police station and asked when Scott had left the police, the operator told us, “Detective Sergeant Scott left the police earlier this year ”.
If true, that would put Scott, Gibbons, Dunedin Police and the ACC in the gun for a massive breach of police conduct.
But independent of Van Essen and the others, Investigate has discovered another case, where Gibbons allegedly impersonated a police officer, and failed to disclose he was working for the ACC.
“On 6th May 1998 I received a telephone call at my former employer BNZ from my husband, to say that the police were at the house and I had better come home,” Dunedin woman Kathryn Dawe told Investigate.
“On arriving home my [then] husband had been arrested and was being taken to the Dunedin Police station for questioning in relation to a large quantity of cannabis that was located in a room attached to the garage at 159 Ashmore Street.
“The police officers I recall seeing were Detective John Ferguson, Detective Greg Dunne and another unnamed officer. They were in the garage at the property. There was a fourth person (male).
“I was inside the lounge with our then 14 month old son and recall a tall male standing by the sliding door who started asking me questions. I asked him who he was and his words were, ‘My name is Peter Gibbons. I am a police officer and we have found a lot of drugs in your garage.’ He said he was with the Dunedin Police executing a search warrant.
“I asked to see the drugs and was told by the police officer, Peter Gibbons, that I knew what was in the garage. The officer I was speaking to (Gibbons), I describe as a tall, white male, fairly solidly built, about 5’10”-5’11”. He had brown hair and what I remember most was his moustache. It was light brown and curled up at the edges. Hair thinning on top. He was blunt to the point of rudeness,” says Dawe.
“I accepted that he was a member of the NZ police. I never asked for any identification from any of the officers and no identification was presented to me.
“Mr Gibbons asked me questions about our personal finances and was shown details of bank records, hire purchase payments, car payments, to offer him assistance with his inquiry.
“Mr Gibbons also requested the keys to my vehicle and as it was parked in the driveway he conducted a search in my vehicle. Mr Gibbons also searched the lounge and kitchen areas of my home.
“Peter Gibbons gave me the search warrant under the Misuse of Drugs Act when I left the property. The warrant was executed under the Misuse of Drugs Act and the Social Security Act 1964 and issued to the Dunedin Police Station. Gibbons was fully active in the search of my property while I was at home.”
Kathryn Dawe says she told her husband’s lawyer, Anne Stevens, about the obnoxious police officer but “could only recall his name being Peter”. The lawyer rang police who initially denied that any police officer named Peter was involved in the search and that the man Dawe spoke to was Detective Greg Dunne.
“It was later revealed through the [legal] disclosure process that the person speaking to me was in fact Peter Gibbons who was at the property on the request of ACC to investigate Craig [Harris, Dawe’s then husband] for ACC related matters.”
After being released from prison, Dawe then set about trying to get Gibbons’ private investigator’s licence revoked on the grounds that he had impersonated a police officer to obtain information that she would otherwise not have provided him with.
“I complained twice, possibly three times, 2001, 2002 and possibly 2003. In the end I gave up because Mr Gibbons had the support of two or three members (current and former) of the Dunedin CIB. The matter was not sent to a hearing and I was never able to verbally put my case forward.”
The complaints were made to the Registrar of Private Investigators and Security Guards in Auckland, but surprisingly no action was taken. Surprising, because the only grounds the Registrar has for avoiding a hearing, under s24 of the Private Investigators and Security Guards Act, is “if no notices of objections to the grant of the application have been filed”.
Section 66 of the Act specifically lays out that private investigators are not allowed to “either orally or in writing claim, suggest or imply that, by virtue of his licence, certificate of approval, occupation, or business, he has any power or authority that he does not in law have; or (b) Use or attempt to use his licence…for the purpose of exercising, claiming, suggesting or implying such a power or authority; or (c) Either orally or in writing describe or refer to himself as a detective or by any other expression or term containing the word ‘detective’; or (d) Wear any article of clothing, badge or other article that is likely to cause any member of the public to believe that the holder of the licence or certificate of approval is a member of the Police.”
When Investigate contacted the office of the Registrar of Private Investigators earlier this month, the file on Peter Gibbons was “missing”, according to office staff.
“Is that usual?” we asked.
“No, the file should be there,” the office manager confirmed. She added that a complaint has recently been received about Gibbons.
Peter Gibbons has had a long career in the police, entering in the early 70s and perfing in 1997 for reasons we are still investigating. He is well schooled in the fine arts of giving compelling evidence in court, and training younger cops what to say and what not to say.
Gibbons told NZPA last month that he was telling the truth about Wayne Idour being the man who brought the bestiality movie along.
“I wouldn’t have said that if I wasn’t prepared to swear an affidavit or go into any court in the land and say it.”
But there’s strong evidence that Gibbons is a man who is even prepared to lie in court, making his word utterly worthless.
In 1988 an undercover police officer using the name “Brent Stace” testified in the trial of an arrested man that the suspect (who we’ll call ‘John Doe’) had been a “target” for the police operation, codenamed “Sub Rosa”, even before it began in early February 1987.
Doe was a second hand dealer who owned a car wrecking yard in Dunedin. The city was undergoing a bit of a car theft epidemic in the mid 80s, and popular wisdom within some in the police was that John Doe must have had something to do with it. In fact, as the evidence you’ll read suggests, the real mastermind was a man named Bob Wood, who just happened to be a good friend of a popular Dunedin police officer. And it was Wood that police used to help set up John Doe. Wood would offer drugs and other items to targets, and ask them to onsell them to his mate, undercover cop Brent Stace.
“I was made aware of him [John Doe] at the beginning of the operation…the police were interested in him,” Stace told the court, on oath.
“Were you made aware,” asked the suspect’s lawyer, “that he had no previous criminal convictions?”
“No,” said Stace, “because I am sure he has got one.”
“So you have seen a list of his convictions?”
“Yes,” confirmed the undercover cop.
What’s interesting is that the 37 year old suspect, John Doe, had virtually no criminal record at all, just one conviction for a minor theft at the age of 17 – twenty years earlier – for which he received a $30 fine. That offence, in 1968, was the only record listed.
“At the beginning of the operation I saw some people’s criminal history,” Stace told the Court.
“Can you recall who showed you that?” challenged the lawyer.
“Detective Sergeant Peter Gibbons, my operator. He was the operator who briefed me.”
“At that time,” continued Doe’s lawyer, “were you given the accused’s name and address as a target?”
“Yes, I was. He was disclosed to me.”
That’s the sworn testimony of “Brent Stace” – now a Christchurch businessman using his real name – back in the Dunedin District Court in 1988.
But later in the same court transcript, here’s what Gibbons had to say under cross-examination:
“When Constable Stace commenced this operation did you provide him with a list of names?” asked the suspect’s lawyer.
“Did you provide him with the accused’s name?”
“No. This accused was not a target at the commencement of the operation,” answered Gibbons on oath.
“When did he become a target?”
“When he offered to sell a firearm [on March 31st].”
Two men, both police officers, both with totally contradictory stories. Both giving evidence on oath. Nor is it a matter where faulty recollection is an issue. The trial was taking place less than a year after the arrest, and both police officers had had plenty of opportunity to get their stories straight. But the younger, less experienced Brent Stace was first up on the witness stand and let slip some crucial information. His recall of seeing the suspect’s prior conviction, and being made aware the man was a target, when Gibbons briefed him right at the start in early February 1987, is in stark contrast to Gibbons’ assertion that he did no such thing.
Why is it important? Because it is one thing to do an undercover operation as a fishing expedition. It is another to carry out what’s known as “entrapment”, where you attempt to set people up.
It also, of course, casts doubt on the credibility of either Peter Gibbons, or Detective Brent Stace. One of them was lying to the court, and therefore may still be prepared to lie on oath today.
If it was Brent Stace who lied on oath, then question marks now arise over his testimony that saw nearly 80 people prosecuted. Based on the evidence you are about to read in this story however, Investigate believes it is Peter Gibbons who lied on oath in the evidence given above.
Detective Gordon Hunter worked under Gibbons and is described in the court transcript as being “friends” with a criminal named Bob Wood.
Witness Pamela Philip was Wood’s de facto partner during this time and told the court they often met Hunter “on numerous occasions socially”.
“It was my understanding Bob Wood and Detective Hunter were friends.”
Philip testified on oath that she had been present in the Dunedin District Court in late 1986 when several criminal charges of receiving stolen property against Bob Wood were suddenly dropped.
“When it came time for [Bob] to take the stand, Gordon Hunter stood up and said the charges had been dropped. Gordon Hunter did this personally, he was in the courtroom.”
It was at that time that the plan for Operation Sub Rosa was being hatched, and Wood would play a substantial role in it. Police introduced Wood to their undercover detective, Brent Stace, although Stace went coy when asked in court to confirm how they met.
“Did you meet with him and any police officers directly?” questioned John Doe’s lawyer.
“I can’t answer that question,” said Stace, as the Crown lawyer stood up to object to the line of questioning.
“Did you ever meet with Detective Hunter and Mr Wood?” continued Doe’s lawyer.
“Objection!!” exclaimed the Crown lawyer again.
Regardless of how they met, it appears Detective Gordon Hunter was involved and that Wood was agreeing to help police set up a group of “targets” by introducing them to Brent Stace.
Wood’s motivation was twofold. Firstly, Gordon Hunter had dropped criminal charges that Wood was facing. And secondly, Stace’s role was to offer to purchase stolen property or drugs.
The fact that Wood was supposed to introduce Stace to targets of Operation Sub Rosa was acknowledged by Detective Sergeant Gibbons, who told the court, “Wood made introductions for Stace”.
Gibbons, as you’ve already seen, is on record as testifying on oath that John Doe was not a target until he offered to sell a gun on March 31st, eight weeks into the operation.
But look at the sworn evidence of Detective Gordon Hunter. Hunter told the court that Brent Stace made contact with Doe right at the start: “I am aware that the undercover officer met your client [John Doe] prior to any involvement with the person you refer to as Wood.”
If Doe was not a target, as Peter Gibbons claimed on oath, why did Stace make a beeline for him, as both Stace and Hunter acknowledged on oath. Gibbons’ evidence now appears to contradict not one, but two other police officers.
Nor was this the only case of lying on oath in that trial.
In a signed statement dated 27 January 1988 and obtained by Investigate, petty criminal Keith Kilner described a meeting at 15 Panmure Ave, Dunedin in August 1987, just after John Doe’s arrest. Kilner was meeting Bob Wood at the home of Wood’s new girlfriend, Sharee.
“This meeting with Bob Wood, which went on for about one hour, he (Bob Wood) offered me money and a way out for my court case. I had been arrested in Christchurch on five charges of receiving stolen goods.
“I asked Bob Wood what I would have to do.
“Bob said, ‘all you have to do is drive a truck load of Holden Commodore parts from Christchurch to Dunedin and deliver them to [John Doe’s] wrecking yard in Hope St and collect the money for the parts’.
“I asked Bob Wood why he had set me up with Bret (sic) Stace, the undercover cop.
“Bob Wood told me that he had to set me up because he was working for the police and that my name (Keith Kilner) was on a hit list of people that the police wanted busted and put behind bars.”
When Kilner asked who, within the police, Wood was working for, the latter responded:
“Detective Gordon Hunter”.
Wood explained he’d been working for Hunter “for a long time” because the Detective had him “cold on a lot of charges” and could have him in jail for a long time if he refused to cooperate.
“Bob Wood stated that Gordon Hunter said he would lose all the paperwork on those charges and all that he (Bob Wood) would have to do is set up these people on this CIB hit list and drive around with an undercover cop and introduce him as his friend Bret Stace from Auckland.
“Bob Wood told me that he had to get these people on this hit list and other people he knew to commit crimes and sell the goods to Bret Stace because that is what Hunter wanted. I asked Bob Wood what the hell’s all this got to do with [John Doe]?
“Bob Wood stated that [John Doe’s] name is on that CIB hit list and Gordon Hunter wants him real bad.”
According to Kilner’s statement, Wood confessed to setting Doe up on several occasions, most recently when he brought Doe a .38 revolver with a broken firing pin and asked him to fix it in his workshop, as well as four bags of cannabis. Wood wanted Doe to sell the lot to Brent Stace for cash.
“I asked Bob Wood who got the cash from the sale of the gun and the drugs,” says Kilner, and “Bob…told me that he (Wood) got all the cash.”
Kilner also asked where the gun and ammunition came from.
“Bob Wood told me that he had been given the gun and ammo by Gordon Hunter.”
In other words, Dunedin Police supplied a handgun to a criminal whose firearms licence had already been revoked, as part of a plan to entrap John Doe.
Kilner began to express some major reservations with Wood’s new plan to have him drive a load of Commodore parts to John Doe’s wrecking yard, saying in his statement, “I wasn’t very happy with the way this is starting to shape up.” Kilner demanded to know the origin of the Holden parts and Wood soon admitted they had come from Commodores stolen in and around Christchurch.
“I then told Bob Wood that know (sic) way am I going to bring those hot car parts into Dunedin, you are just going to set me up again. The cops would just love that.
“Bob Wood said, ‘don’t panic, I will ring Gordon Hunter and get him over here now. That way we can get Hunter to sort out your receiving charges and we can tell Hunter about you bringing those hot Commodore parts down from Christchurch’.”
Kilner told Wood he would “have to think about this”, to which Wood replied:
“Hunter doesn’t give a s**t about what I do or what laws I break as long as I set up who he wants to arrest, and he wants to put [John Doe] out of business and behind bars…so come on, give me a hand to set up [Doe] and Hunter will pull your five receiving charges and earn yourself some real easy money.”
Investigate has spoken to another of Wood’s onetime girlfriends, and she clearly remembers both Peter Gibbons and Gordon Hunter being involved with Bob Wood.
“I had met with Peter Gibbons, yeah. Gordon Hunter mainly. Peter Gibbons was just every now and again. Bob’s and Gordon Hunter’s relationship was close, they were good friends.”
Gibbons was officially Hunter’s boss. He was also running undercover cop Brent Stace. Hunter meanwhile, was running Wood. Wood supplied the bags of dope to John Doe to onsell to Brent Stace.
“The dope was stored in my cupboard until he grabbed it one day and did what he had to do with it,” remembers the former girlfriend.
One of the stories that has constantly come up from former members of the criminal fraternity (after being busted in the 80s most went on to live upwardly mobile respectable lives) is that Bob Wood was stealing cars on the instructions of Gordon Hunter, and splitting the profits.
“Wood had this arrangement where he got his boys to nick cars and store them in various garages around the city, and roughly once a week Hunter would check which cars,” one former associate of Wood’s told Investigate. “Those vehicles that were insured would be ‘found’ by police and returned via a tame insurance agent Hunter had in exchange for a finder’s fee of roughly 10%. Hunter and his insurance mate split the difference, while Bob Wood was then allowed to wreck and strip any of the stolen vehicles that didn’t have insurance company interest. So the cops were happy, the insurance agent was happy, and Bob was happy.”
There is strong speculation that the Operation Sub-Rosa decision to target car wrecker John Doe was part of a stunt to take the heat off the ‘police’ car theft ring run by Wood.
Wood’s former girlfriend agrees.
“They thought that [John] was the big guy, but I was led to believe that Bob was the big guy. Bob was the one with the briefcase with all the master keys for all the cars, he was the one that organized which cars to steal, and he sent the goonies out to get them. They came back laughing about things like, ‘Oh, that guy was sitting in his front room reading his newspaper and we just pushed the car down the street and cranked it up.’
“Then they would just wheel them into the garage, take the dog tags as they were then, and change the number plates, engine plates, sometimes spraypaint it or change a few panels here and there, then out it would go. And it was already basically pre-sold. I think they even drove them up to Christchurch to get rid of them.”
None of which, incidentally, involved John Doe.
“Then of course we were involved with the undercover police,” the girlfriend continues. “Bob initially didn’t want to tell me he was involved in an operation. He was ‘trying’ to tell me, but he wasn’t telling me. This big, big operation. So he told me to watch Scarface with Al Pacino! That’s how he saw himself!
“Anyway, Bob was skiting about that and I wasn’t to say anything to anyone. But the guy that came into our midst was Brent Stace.
“Brent came in, I already knew who he was and I was told just to act normal, that he would be mingling with us, and he would be doing everything that everybody done, like pot smoking. I wasn’t into it and I don’t think a lot of them were, but he had to carry on like that.
“Hunter and Stace took Bob to Christchurch Airport to get him out of there. When they first busted them he had to spend a night in jail, and he was offered immunity at that stage in return for squealing on everybody.”
But the number of people linking Detective Gordon Hunter to Wood and a deliberate campaign to “set up” John Doe doesn’t stop there.
A trailer was stolen from Doe’s premises by a man named Vincent Singh. The trailer was later miraculously found at Singh’s residence by Detective Gordon Hunter, but Singh was never charged. Singh stole the trailer for revenge – Hunter had earlier told him that Doe had stolen Singh’s car (Doe says Hunter was simply playing both men off against each other by lying to Singh, and certainly there’s no record of Doe ever being charged). So Singh had no particular love for John Doe, and even a kind of enmity, which is why this next piece of evidence is relevant.
Hunter left a message in August 1987 for Singh to get hold of him. This fact is not disputed, and was admitted in court. What Hunter didn’t realize is that when Singh went to see the detective, he was carrying a hidden tape recorder which captured their conversation verbatim.
On the tape, Singh asks Hunter, “Why wasn’t I charged with it?”
“Well, that’s something that we have to work out,” says Hunter.
Sensing that the threat of prosecution may still be hanging over his head, Singh asks what Hunter wants, and Hunter begins discussing John Doe.
“He’s the worst, he’d be the worst one of the whole lot…but he just hasn’t got the convictions.”
Ignoring the obvious point – that Doe may not have convictions because he may not be involved – Hunter then starts discussing what police now had on Doe:
“Somehow or another he got a whole lot of bloody grass, cause we got it all in an exhibit and we got a photograph of it, same time he had sold a bloody shooter, plus a whole lot of ammunition, and it’s a real one because I bloody test-fired the bloody thing, it goes, it’s as good as the bloody rod I carry around!”
The last statement is important, because on the tape Hunter has just admitted firing the gun sold by John Doe.
Now contrast what you’ve just read with what Hunter swore on oath in court:
“The subject of that conversation was a comical situation that I treated as a complete nonsense…in the course of that conversation I don’t recall saying to Singh that I had fired the gun…and I certainly have not fired any gun that relates to your client.”
Conflict of evidence? On tape Hunter says he fired it. In court, Hunter denies it.
Peter Gibbons, likewise, testified on oath that Gordon Hunter never fired the gun.
Back on the tape meanwhile, Vincent Singh treats Gordon Hunter’s claims about John Doe dealing drugs very skeptically:
“As you know, most people that get around in that sort of circle know what everybody else is doing. Now, I know that [John] doesn’t deal in drugs. I’m damn sure he doesn’t!” exclaimed Singh.
“Well I’m telling you he does,” retorted Hunter. “Someone who’s running guns and selling dope –”
“[John]’s not, no, [John] doesn’t deal in that stuff,” countered Singh.
“Well, what the hell’s he doing selling it?” said the police officer.
“I don’t know. He, the way I look at it, he’s been set up on that…as I said, I’ve known [John] for a while, even though we haven’t seen eye to eye, we still don’t,” said Singh. “You want to get him behind bars?”
“Right, you’re out to get him –”
“He’s got to go,” said Hunter, referring to the need to put Doe’s wrecking yard out of business. “You see, the thing is, well, if you haven’t got somebody into dealing with all the stolen goods or parts of whatever, right, there’s no motive for the thief to bloody go out and do the business, is there? …I know that he’s going to make a mistake…he’s got to go.
“I know he’s, well, he’s the rat in the trap. Like, you [Singh] haven’t been arrested in this operation and all the rest of it.”
“Yeah,” agreed Singh.
“He’s the rat that’s in the trap…and I’ll get him when he does something wrong, that’s the long and the short of it.”
Hunter then refers back to the fact he has not charged Singh with stealing the trailer, and how the “balance sheet” needs adjustment.
“Now, if I do the business [and] whoever I’m doing the business with gets the result I always pay my way. At the moment, the old balance sheet’s a wee bit round the wrong way as far as you and I are concerned,” Hunter warned Singh.
“Because you know that I’ve enough for you to be in Paparoa [prison], but what you don’t know is why.”
Hunter invited Singh to get back in contact the following week with any ideas on how Singh could help nail John Doe.
“I’ll come to wherever you are, and we’ll have a yarn and I’ll write stuff down.”
“And at the end of the day you’ll get your reward, then that will be the end of it,” said Hunter.
“Right, and you can see the man behind bars that you want to see behind bars,” replied Singh.
“That’s what the job is, isn’t it,” said Hunter.
The contents of the tape are damning when placed against Hunter’s willingness to lie on oath himself. For example, Hunter tried to tell the court that Singh was volunteering to plant drugs on John Doe:
“The man was making references to having drugs planted on this man [Doe] and I would never have anything to do with that type of conduct.”
“Are you saying Detective that this man Singh approached you and made references as to how he would plant drugs on [Doe] with police connivance?” asked Doe’s lawyer.
“That is what I say is nonsense,” confirmed Hunter on oath.
“Mr Singh came in and talked about how he would plant drugs on Mr [Doe]?” continued Doe’s lawyer, who of course had heard the secret tape recording and knew there was nothing of the kind on it.
“That is the type of nonsense that was being said,” agreed Detective Gordon Hunter.
So now there appear to be at least two “respected” Dunedin police officers who didn’t bat an eyelid about committing perjury in court.
“Were you aware that Mr Singh had some kind of recording device when he spoke to you?” asked Doe’s lawyer, probably with a wry smile.
“No, certainly not!” exclaimed Hunter.
Hunter was also questioned about the claims that he himself had supplied the cannabis to Bob Wood so that Wood could set up John Doe to sell it on Wood’ behalf to undercover cop Brent Stace.
“What would you do,” asked Doe’s lawyer, “if you heard that a police officer had supplied drugs to a civilian or a criminal person for whatever reason, a brother officer had supplied cannabis to a member of the public?”
“Depending on the amount of the drug would depend on the section [of the Act] I charged the police officer when we went to the charge room after I arrested him.”
“What about a police officer supplying a revolver to a member of the public?”
“The same rule would apply,” confirmed Hunter righteously. Possession of a pistol is an imprisonable offence and to supply that would make that person liable for conviction.”
Yet here are two police officers, Gordon Hunter running Bob Wood, and Peter Gibbons running Brent Stace. Wood miraculously obtains a gun and four bags of cannabis from somewhere, asks John Doe to fix the gun and sell it and the drugs on his behalf to Stace, the agent being run by Peter Gibbons. The court record clearly shows that Wood and Stace were working as a tag team, and the hidden tape recording and witness statements clearly show Gordon Hunter wanted to nail John Doe. Detective Brent Stace confirmed on oath he’d been asked by Peter Gibbons to target John Doe right at the beginning of the operation, while Peter Gibbons – in Investigate’s view – committed the worst form of lying possible: perjury in front of a judge. Forget lying to TV3 about the Exclusive Brethren – Wayne Idour’s supposed crime. Lying on oath in court is the ultimate taboo, the sign of a person whose word can never be trusted on any occasion.
And Peter Gibbons, readers will recall, is the Dunedin private investigator who urged Police Minister Annette King to wrongly name rival Dunedin private investigator Wayne Idour as the man who brought a bestiality movie to Police Commissioner Howard Broad’s party.
Investigate is aware of threats that as many as 40 former and current Dunedin police officers “are prepared to swear affidavits” contradicting what the magazine has published and that Idour was the source of the bestiality movie.
Given what Investigate has now uncovered involving the willingness of police to lie on oath, any affidavits sworn by any current or former Dunedin police are probably worthless in the public eye.
And just to reinforce the lack of police credibility on any of this now, Investigate is releasing portions of a taped conversation between Peter Gibbons and former undercover officer Peter Williamson, whose story later featured in the book Stoned on Duty by Bruce Ansley.
The two men were discussing an internal inquiry into the police undercover programme by senior police officer Bruce Scott in 1993. As the man tasked with training undercover cops in the South Island, Peter Gibbons could be considered an expert on the topic. On the subject of lying to cover your backside, Detective Senior Sergeant Peter Gibbons is heard justifying the actions of police officers who lied to an official inquiry:
“What you have to then accept is that when those guys got interviewed, their jobs, or they would have perceived their jobs and so on were at stake, so they would not tell the truth when they got interviewed by Scott.”
On the subject of stealing official documents, Gibbons admits on tape trying to induce a Police National Headquarters worker to send him an advance copy of the Scott report, even though PNHQ had expressly forbidden Gibbons from seeing it:
“I rung Helen, because Helen has done wee jobs for me for years, and I thought I’d slip a copy through the back door and get a look at this thing you see, so I rang Helen and said, ‘Look, don’t tell anyone, just get me this report and send one down to me’. Well, she must have been ferreting around and someone must have seen her and she got the big handsmack and got told, ‘he is not to get that report!’
“So she was told, you do not send that down to Gibbons!”
Further on in the tape, undercover agent Williamson criticizes a senior police figure:
“I suspect he’s not an honest man, I suspect he is manipulating this inquiry in the interests of the department.”
“Well that’s what they’re all going to do,” admits Peter Gibbons, “that’s what you have to accept.”
“I call that corruption, that’s what,” protests Peter Williamson.
“Well,” continues Gibbons, “the bottom line is this, and I would say that no matter who runs it…that’s always going to be the end result: the department will look after the department first.”
“Well I consider people, undercover agents, more important than the department,” counters Williamson. “I’m not so naïve as to think that the department can run without any form of corruption Peter, I’m not so naïve as to think that, but when the casualties of that corruption are directly related to cops f***ing up then, I’m, I cannot sit back and accept it unfortunately.”
Then follows a priceless line from Peter Gibbons:
“…I’m ingrained into the system and can’t see it from an outside perspective, but the bottom line as I see it is the department is always going to whitewash the department.”
Classic. “The department is always going to whitewash the department”. And this from the man who last month told Police Minister Annette King there was no need for an inquiry into Dunedin Police and Investigate’s “laughable” allegations:
“The general public shouldn’t be asked to believe that sort of stuff. The call should not be for an inquiry into police conduct in the Dunedin CIB in the 1980s because you get some [person] saying that.”
So that’s Peter Gibbons’ view.
On the other hand, Investigate has been collecting affidavits of its own on behalf of an eminent legal figure who will review our evidence in favour of a Commission of Inquiry. One of those affidavits is from a contractor who worked on a home belonging to the sister of Peter Gibbons when she lived at 17 Slant Street in Carey’s Bay, just north of Dunedin in the early 1980s. Other residents of the house included Peter Gibbons’ brother.
“I became aware very quickly that drugs were a feature in this house,” says our witness in a sworn affidavit, “as the occupants offered me marijuana and speed called Benzedrine. I declined the offer. I still remember the smell of the house and it stunk of marijuana. They mainly smoked joints. I noticed that their eyes were dilated most of the time.
“There was a flurry of activity and cleaning one day when I went out there in the morning…[Peter Gibbons’ sister] said that her brother, Peter Gibbons, had phoned to say the Police were going to raid the house for drugs. The Police subsequently came and searched the house…the afternoon of the same day that Peter Gibbons phoned, and the Police did not find any of the drugs.
“[Peter Gibbons’ sister] stated to me on several occasions that Peter Gibbons would phone her and pre-warn her if the Police were going to raid the house for drugs. She told me that Peter Gibbons saved their arse on a number of occasions.
“[The siblings] made comments that it was helpful having a brother on the Police force to keep them out of trouble.”
Remember, this is the same Peter Gibbons running Operation Sub Rosa, and the same Peter Gibbons being relied on by Police National Headquarters and Prime Minister Helen Clark to discredit Investigate’s story last month and our call for a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the police.
It is worth noting that Gibbons’ brother Tony was a pro-marijuana reform advocate.
The affidavit continues:
“I saw Peter Gibbons brother on a number of occasions deal drugs to people outside and inside of the house. They would arrive at the house and I saw money and drugs change hands. I also dropped Peter Gibbons’ brother into town one day, he told me that he was going to sell marijuana to people who were attending a function.”
The magazine has confirmed that the house at 17 Slant St was indeed a drug house, and a former associate of the Gibbons family has also noted that on the one occasion police arrested and charged Peter Gibbons’ sister on drugs offences some years later, an error in the paperwork resulted in the charges being withdrawn. The same associate, now a respected citizen, also recalls Tony Gibbons discussing Benzedrine, the early form of speed mentioned by our first informant.
Among others we spoke to was another underworld figure, now a businessman, who is prepared to testify to a Royal Commission of Inquiry that police “shorted” drugs seized as evidence, criminal slang for a procedure where corrupt cops seize drugs and either don’t enter it into the record at all, or otherwise remove a quantity of drugs from the deal bags before they are submitted and weighed as evidential exhibits.
The drugs are then sold by underworld figures like Bob Wood, controlled by police, with profits split between police and the drug dealer.
“I wasn’t any angel myself back then,” the businessman, Michael*, told Investigate, “but there were the likes of people being busted for marijuana, and like I went up to court myself – I got caught with 13 ounces and I got charged with 10. There was a lot of that going on.”
Who was the arresting officer?
“It was a cop called Peter Gibbons,” Michael said.
What happened to the missing three ounces of dope?
“It was put back out for supply,” says Jack*, another former drug dealer turned businessman who saw a large amount of his seized marijuana vanish without trace between arrest and the typing up of the charge sheet. “The cops had their networks, people they used, and they made a fortune from seizing drugs and reselling them.”
“They had their hands out all the time,” Michael confirmed to Investigate. “I know people who were pulled up with heaps and heaps of drugs but they just left them alone if you fixed them up.
“They’d take all your money, or drugs, whatever, then say ‘don’t let us see you out here again’, but you’d never be charged. That happened to me quite a lot. I got picked up a few times with amounts of pot on me and they’d just take the weed and say ‘I won’t see you again tonight’.”
According to Michael, senior Dunedin Police were running a protection racket where drug dealers would be left alone provided they paid substantial money to certain police officers.
“There was people getting paid under the table. [Name deleted] was a bit of a drug dealer back then but the cops never went around to see him. I was working in with him as well and we never got touched hardly, then this Peter Gibbons would come in.
“I was probably making three or four thousand dollars a week selling drugs and stuff like that, and because they weren’t getting anything out of it they were coming around and just ripping people off,” recalls Michael.
Furious at being set up during Operation Sub Rosa, John Doe went to the trouble of doing a little research on Gordon Hunter. He hired his own private investigator, who did an asset search and found the detective owned substantially more property and assets than his meager police salary would appear to support.
“Hunter and Gibbons also had accounts at the same bank in South Dunedin, where I banked. One of the staff members there showed me printouts one day. On the statements I saw, Hunter was taking in thousands of dollars a week. The bank executive made the comment to me that Hunter’s incomings far exceeded an ordinary detective’s wages,” says Doe.
Which tallies with information provided to us by Bob Wood’s former girlfriend, who has also sworn an affidavit.
“I remember I had to go away and drop money off to Gordon Hunter, but I don’t remember why. I had to take money out of an account and give it to Gordon Hunter in cash. It was $1500. I had to meet him, in one of the D cars. He came and met me at Lookout Point, and I was to just park there and sit and wait by the Fire Station, and I can’t remember if I was the one to get out of my car or not. I was given all these instructions, do this, do that, do this, do that. And I had to do it in cash, out of the Westpac branch in South Dunedin. It was a lot of money. It was to be gotten in littler bills, not hundreds. It was a big wad of money.”
To give Hunter the benefit of the doubt, perhaps there was an innocent explanation for the city’s top car thief paying a police officer $1,500 in small bills at a remote location. But it’s hard to think what kind of explanation that might be.
Nor is it the only question mark hanging over Hunter’s conduct. When a central city jewelry store was raided in a smash and grab in the late seventies, a friend of the jeweler’s saw Detective Hunter bend down and scoop up rings that had been scattered on the pavement. The raiders made off with around $90,000 worth of jewelry, but although some was later recovered and some of the offenders caught, mysteriously Gordon Hunter did not return the rings he’d picked up.
The jeweler, who’d been advised by his friend of Hunter’s actions, was later stunned when a local criminal offered to “return” the items for a substantial reward.
For the record, standard police procedure at the time was to cordon off crime scenes, impose a police scene guard, and wait for the police photographer to arrive and photograph the rings where they’d fallen on the pavement, for evidential purposes. Additionally, where some of the rings may have been clutched in an offender’s hand, there was always the possibility of fingerprints. Gordon Hunter’s actions precluded that.
But it wasn’t just Hunter.
“They all had their fingers in the pie,” says Michael. “They’re all pretty well off. They were worse than what we were, they were absolute backstabbing pricks.”
Michael also recalls the police earning cash from insurance companies for retrieving stolen vehicles.
“Sometimes they were like bounty hunters. I stole a motorcycle one time and you’d think it was a Rolls Royce I’d actually pinched. They had cops out for it everywhere, and they were looking for the reward.
“Something went missing, the freezing works got their export meat pinched, there was a joker in there doing that, but they ended up getting onto that but the cops ended up taking all the meat home. None of the meat got returned, but they ended up getting something for catching him.”
While admittedly some of these events date back to the eighties and nineties, the evidence and affidavits compiled by Investigate for independent review suggest the corruption was widespread, and part of the overall Dunedin Police culture. Many of the junior staff at the time are in more senior positions nationwide today and, as one ex-Christchurch officer told Investigate, “Leopards don’t change their spots”.
There is one final mystery Investigate has been able to solve – the identity of the police officer who was obtaining hardcore pornographic movies for the police rugby functions. The officer was a good friend of Peter Gibbons and a member of the police rugby club, which may be why Gibbons was prepared to lie about Wayne Idour supplying movies.
“I know that [the police officer] was going up to [a drug dealer]’s place and getting blue movies and stuff like that. Very early 80s.I was working with [a drug dealer] at the time,” says Michael, and [the police officer] used to turn up and I thought, ‘this is a bit odd, this is a bit weird’ because here was some cop dropping off movies and picking up new movies, and they were all banned ones.”
For the sake of the officer’s family and children, Investigate chooses not to name him. He is named, however, in the documents prepared for independent legal review.
Of course, Gibbons’ claim already had credibility running against it. As previously pointed out, if Idour were truly the source of the bestiality movie he had nothing to gain and everything to lose by mentioning the incident to Investigate. Yet Peter Gibbons was insistent to the point of overacting:
“Wayne Idour played that movie, Wayne Idour put it on, Wayne Idour was watching it. That’s what I categorically remember. I and another person spoke to him about it. And I remember it very, very well,” Gibbons told 3 News.
“I personally believe Mr Gibbons,” Police Minister Annette King chimed in, before deliberately vilifying an innocent Wayne Idour.
Like an episode of the cartoon show Roadrunner, however, the ground has fallen away beneath Gibbons with these latest revelations, and with them the credibility of the Government’s opposition to a Commission of Inquiry.
Howard Broad’s chickens have well and truly come home to roost.
Anyone wanting to add further information to our investigation can email our international email address: confidential(at)investigatemagazine.tv
November 10, 2007
Another cabinet minister embroiled in immigration scandal
The Government is battening down the hatches tonight as another senior cabinet minister finds himself embroiled in an immigration scandal.
David Cunliffe, who held the Immigration portfolio up until last week’s cabinet reshuffle, is alleged to have contracted a cleaning company that used illegal immigrants to clean both his own house and his sister’s house in Auckland.
Investigate magazine has been given an affidavit by an Auckland man whose girlfriend, a 28 year old Mongolian woman, was one of the illegal workers employed by the VIP Home Services franchisor and who cleaned the Cunliffe family houses.
In the affidavit, Chris Flavell alleges his girlfriend Uulna was paid cash, with no tax deductions, but that her applications for a work permit kept getting knocked back by NZ Immigration Service.
Flavell has told Investigate that there is no suggestion the Minister realized his cheap house cleaning was being provided by illegal immigrants, but he nonetheless decided to approach the Minister on Friday to see if he could help find out why Immigration kept rejecting work permit applications.
“My girlfriend is a hard worker,” he told Investigate. “She doesn’t like working under the table and wants to make a positive contribution.
Flavell’s affidavit alleges that he left a message for the Minister on Friday, and that the Minister immediately rang back.
During the discussion Flavell explained that he had already contacted Investigate magazine and TV3’s Campbell Live, to which the Minister allegedly replied, “Whatever your problems are, I can’t help you under threat.”
“I’m not threatening you sir, I am just desperate for help,” replied Flavell.
According to Flavell’s affidavit, Cunliffe then said, “Go to my electorate office right now and speak to my secretary. They will take all the information from you and if something can be done, if we can help you, then we will. But I cannot act under duress. Go straight to the office right now, take all your information down there, give it to the secretary, she’ll be waiting for you, and we’ll take matters from there.”
Flavell alleges that when he got there, he was asked to provide as much information as possible, copying off documents from his laptop onto a CD for the Minister.
When Flavell told the office about his earlier contact with Investigate magazine and TV3, he quotes Cunliffe’s electorate secretary Lusi Schwenke as saying:
“Chris, if you go down that road and follow that path the media will destroy you, they will destroy the girl you love and the people who work in that VIP company. David cannot be harmed, he has a wall of protection around him.
“We will make a very serious investigation into these matters…we will contact Immigration immediately and intercept Uulna’s 35A application and check that it has been processed correctly…You don’t need to harm David, because that will only hurt Uulna and the people that she works with, and ultimately it will hurt you. You know what the media are like, they will make this into a monster. In Samoa we have a saying, ‘if you sharpen a spear to point at someone, the spear will harm you first. Don’t speak to Ian Wishart. Go home and calm down, and I promise you we will seriously investigate everything and nothing bad will happen to Uulna. Immigration is not going to come and pick her up, no one is going to come and harm you. Be calm, and let us do the job of investigating this.”
Confident that the Minister would indeed hand the case over to Immigration for review “immediately”, Flavell says he left the office in better spirits, but was stunned to find out that within 10 minutes the Minister had phoned the cleaning company and cancelled his contracts with them, on the basis of what Flavell had handed over for official review. According to the affidavit, Uulna was in the car with her boss when the Minister phoned, and she was fired on the spot.
Flavell is incensed that information he provided to the Minister for a proper review was allegedly misused by the Minister to “protect his own position” personally.
“I believe the actions of the Minister’s office, after telling me they would carefully investigate and that no harm would come to Uulna in the interim, were deceptive, , and that the Minister took immediate action to protect his own position without first attempting to make any proper investigation at all,” Flavell alleges in his affidavit.
“It was my belief that the proper course of action for the Minister would have been to immediately contact his officials and declare his interest in the case, so that the Service could commence a proper inquiry and Uulna’s circumstances could be reviewed as promised. Instead, the Minister’s precipitate actions have deprived Uulna of any natural justice at all.”
When Investigate contacted a spokesman for the Minister, he initially claimed that Uulna had never worked on Cunliffe’s house. When we challenged this claim, the spokesman said the Minister had been assured by the cleaning company owner, who had records that could prove Uulna was not on the roster.
When we pointed out that Investigate had a sworn affidavit to the contrary, the Minister changed his position to say that he would not comment on Immigration matters or become involved in them.
We asked his spokesman why, then, the Minister had acted on information provided in order to secure his personal position on this particular immigration matter.
“All I can say is that the Minister has no further comment,” said the spokesman.
Investigate rang Josip Trogrlic, the cleaning franchisor, who denied that Uulna had ever been an employee of his company or that she had ever set foot in the Immigration Minister’s house – a statement that matched David Cunliffe’s initial response.
Just a couple of minutes after our conversation with Trogrlic, however, Investigate was rung by Flavell with Uulna beside him in tears, she told Investigate that Trogrlic had just rung asking her to swear a false affidavit, testifying that she had never worked for VIP and never been in the Immigration Minister’s house.
Such an affidavit could have been used against Investigate magazine by either the company or the Minister.
Investigate phoned back Trogrlic to remind the cleaning franchisor that any attempt to procure a false affidavit could be deemed a conspiracy to pervert the course of justice, a crime punishable by up to seven years’ imprisonment.
“I have nothing more to say,” Trogrlic told the magazine tonight.
The Minister’s position appears to be precarious. While no one could fault the Minister for the fact that his cleaning contractor was using illegal workers apparently without his knowledge, the way that the Minister handled the matter when it came to his attention on Friday is questionable in Investigate’s view.
He used information provided to his electorate office to immediately secure his personal and business position, in such a way that it immediately impacted negatively on the constituent at the centre of it. This was despite a promise from his staff that the first step would be to “contact Immigration immediately”.
Additionally, the Minister acted unilaterally to cancel cleaning contracts with VIP Home Services, without any independent investigation or verification of Flavell’s claims by the Immigration Service – which again contradicts his statement that he does not comment or get involved in immigration matters.
July 29, 2007
Keynglish, Part 1
THE JOHN KEY INTERVIEW
They say New Zealand politicians can’t be bought, but tell that to the person who, just before Christmas, shelled out more than $4,000 to have lunch with new National Party leader John Key after a charity auction on the Zillion website. All we can tell you is the mystery buyer wasn’t us. Instead, IAN WISHART caught up with John Key and his deputy Bill English for their most in-depth media interview yet on their vision for New Zealand.
KEY: My view is that this brand is in incredibly strong shape, these are values and principles that go back 70 years. And if you really look at the sort of things that, say, for instance Holyoake was saying and you apply them to what I've been saying in the last three weeks, then I think you'll find there's a pretty strong match there. I think the reason that the party has endured for so long is that those values are very very durable. Now of course individual policies come and go, what worked for Holyoake and others won't necessarily work for me in terms of absolute policies, because the environment is different, but I think one of the aims of that speech is to really spell out that while I've used a slightly softer tone in the last few weeks, than maybe Don did, that fundamentally we are still going in exactly the same direction with values that line up with where we think New Zealand is heading.
INVESTIGATE: It's been an interesting time in politics, particularly since Labour took over in 1999, and I guess the period up to the 2002 election, where it had its vicious electoral defeat was marked, I think, by National still trying to establish what it actually stood for. Is there a danger in the slightly softer tone that the clear delineation between National and Labour won't be kept?
KEY: Well, yeah, look, there are always risks as, in a sense, I don't think beneath the surface, Labour has truly moved towards the centre, and I think the language they want to use and the spin they want to put on things is that they've got a tinge of blue in them, if you like, and they are hunting in the centre ground. Inevitably that's where most New Zealanders inhabit and if we don't try and win that space then by definition, it pushes us out to a much smaller audience. And clearly we want to win the bulk of the party vote come Election 2008. So in a sense, we don't make any apologies for hunting in that ground but I think there will be very different outcomes. Fundamentally, we trust the private sector and we trust New Zealanders to make good judgement calls for themselves and their families, and we don't think Labour does and we think that their response is always one of the sort of Nanny State where Wellington knows best. When you see the results of the last few years, I mean, health is just a classic example, no one can say that Labour hasn't thrown enormous amounts of money at it - they've taken the spending up annually from $6 billion to about $10.5 billion a year, but the results are at best pathetic. And why is that? Well, because they're hiring as many bureaucrats as they are nurses. So I think you'll see a very different approach from us, but one that the public will buy into, and I don't think it's one where they will be intimidated by it. I mean, my view is that if someone is looking for a hip operation or a knee operation, they care about the quality and the timing of that operation; in the end, the hospital that carries it out is probably irrelevant.
INVESTIGATE: I see the suggestion that women in Nelson/Marlborough will be without epidural services, because the government has rundown the health system to that extent, in what is a major provincial city.
KEY: That’s an example of where their priorities are wrong. I think you can argue the same case with Pharmac – I mean, Pharmac’s funding has been static for the last four years, in nominal terms it’s been around half a billion dollars. In the last election campaign our policy was to increase their funding reasonably dramatically, and of course we were going to do that by not rolling out a subsidy in another area, but we thought that was a better allocation of funds. Now, that doesn’t mean it’ll be our policy in 2008 but what it shows is, I think, that we are prepared to tackle – you can’t just look at these incredibly large portfolios and just argue that there’s one solution, throw a bit of money at it and you’ll get the right outcome at the other end. I think you really do have to demand productivity and performance and have the right allocation of resources.
INVESTIGATE: From my own time in Government working for Mike Moore in 1986, one of the key things in that first Lange administration was the perception, the hangover from the Muldoon years, of “bureaucracy capture”, whereupon a lot of the civil servants at the time had been with a National administration for years and were used to dealing with National and were very suspicious of the incoming Labour people. The reverse is now the case, you have bureaucracy capture with Labour – Tamihere touched on it in his interview with Investigate last year about the networks that now exist in the civil service. How seriously do you treat that as a problem?
KEY: I think the winds of political change drift pretty rapidly in Wellington, it’s a world that revolves around the Beehive and Parliament, and my sense of the anecdotal stories and approaches below the radar screen that we’re getting at the moment is that the core bureaucrats in Wellington can sense pretty rapidly a change.
So while, superficially, they may have nailed their colours to Labour’s mast for a while I think they can see that the time of this government is rapidly coming to an end and they’re making pretty clear and overt signals that they want to work with us. Of course, we’ll have to demonstrate through our policies and our people that we’ve got the goods, but I think we very much do.
INVESTIGATE: One of the issues, with the State Sector reform of the 80s, and it’s been a bit of a bugbear for parties in Opposition when they want accountability out of Ministers – is that Ministers now say “well, we can’t touch these civil servants because it’s all independent…” – Is there room for more political control of the senior departments and so forth so that you can get accountability back into the political system?
KEY: Well I think you do need accountability. My guess is that the public will be looking aghast at the Liam Ashley case, and asking why a Labour party in opposition were so quickly calling for heads on the National side when we had Cave Creek, and yet when it comes to Liam Ashley they’ve been pretty quick to accept that they are politically accountable but not responsible, and therefore they don’t intend to do anything about it. So I think the public is entitled to accountability, and across a wide range: accountability even just for value for money – I think New Zealanders know they are paying a hell of a lot in tax, that the government expenditure has increased dramatically and in part that’s putting pressure on inflation in New Zealand, yet coming out the other end is something that even the incoming briefing to ministers confirms – to describe it as “sub-optimal” would be gilding the lily. It’s really a very low level of productivity. Yet every quarter for the last 20 quarters we’ve seen the state sector wages rising faster than the private sector, so there’s a real imbalance here. Government is a big beast now, and we need to have that beast performing if New Zealand’s economic growth and productivity levels are going to get us back into the top half of the OECD.
INVESTIGATE: Well that gets me back to the question about bureaucracy capture, because there is this perception that we have an elected political system, but it has been disconnected legislatively from the civil service that it operates –
KEY: Well I think that’s been a deliberate political ploy by Labour, I think you’ve seen that through the DHBs – that was a level put in place to ensure, again, that they were responsible but directly not accountable. Every time you ask a question they can simply say ‘Well that’s a matter for the DHB, take it up with them’, and when you try and take it up with them you get a blank response. I don’t think any of us should underestimate that Helen Clark is a cunning woman who understands the systems well and has worked them to her best advantage.
INVESTIGATE: So is a Key government likely to be brave enough to figure out some way to bring that accountability back in legislatively so that it can control the public sector?
KEY: We’ll certainly take a look at it. I think it is important when money is spent – and we’re talking about very large sums of money – that people feel there is a process of accountability. It’ll probably never be at the level that every journalist and lobby group would want, but I think nevertheless there are improvements that can be made.
INVESTIGATE: In other words the pendulum has swung too far?
KEY: That’s my sense of it. Like it has in so many things with Labour, it never self corrects until it’s exposed.
INVESTIGATE: If you had to describe the Labour years, and taking the good with the bad, what would you say their biggest achievements are?
KEY: Arguably they’ve been in the social policy area, you know, whether it's banning smoking or changes that they've made in areas like civil unions - I'm not arguing whether they are good or bad, I'm just saying that they've achieved a result. If you look on the other side, economically, while I think they would point to the fact that there’s been reasonably strong levels of economic growth and job creation, I think if you really look at their policies they've just been riding a wave that they did very little to create. And I think when you really look back on the Clark years she won't be remembered for what she's achieved. I think she'll be remembered for the way that she managed her caucus. There's a big difference.
INVESTIGATE: On the flipside of the same coin. What are their biggest weaknesses?
KEY: Well, their weaknesses are, I think, they have very low levels of aspiration. Fundamentally, Michael Cullen and Helen Clark are deeply conservative people who doubt Kiwis ability to really make it on the world stage, so they don't invest in things like infrastructure heavily, because they're just not quite sure whether we'll make it or not. Everything is done incrementally, everything is sort of second-guessed and micro-managed, and my sense of it is that New Zealand is sitting on a huge opportunity, which if it doesn't capture in the next 20 or 30 years, will really set us back, because for the first time in our history we are probably in the fastest growing time zone.
We've got a world around us that’s rapidly going to start buying the kinds of products that we want, but equally we're facing competition that most Kiwis haven't really focused on, coming out of countries like Latin America, for some of our core areas like agriculture and forestry and wine, and ultimately the same thing could be true of tourism. And so I think you've got this sort of interesting world where on the one hand, there is this great opportunity – and the Internet is the same thing: all of a sudden people can tap into a billion people worldwide, have a niche product that they can sell from New Zealand and from their home (which may not necessarily be located in downtown Wellington or Christchurch), so the opportunities are limitless, and the tyranny of distance has been removed. But on the other side of the coin, the competition is coming from people that we are not solely focused on, and it's coming on stream pretty quickly.
So it is not a scenario where New Zealand is doomed if it doesn't get its policies right, but it's a scenario where we don't achieve what we are capable of achieving. I think that would be hugely frustrating for Kiwis, and it's also, I might add, extremely dangerous, because we're sitting on the border of a country which is pretty aggressively focused on building its competitiveness - in the form of Australia - and we're already seeing that: 685 Kiwis leaving a week. We’ve got a brain drain that the OECD is starting to mention as our number one issue, given that it is the highest in the developed world. So I think we really have to worry about those competitive threats and the only way to fix that is to come up with a set of policies under a timeframe, and with a commitment, that are world-class, that do sort of challenge where New Zealand could be if it wants to achieve the kinds of outcomes that it is capable of achieving.
INVESTIGATE: Catch-22 for National: under the new Brash leadership when he came on board, his Orewa 1 speech, catapulted the party back from the political doldrums to the point where it almost won the last election. He touched a nerve quite clearly on this whole issue of race and multiculturalism and everything that went with it. How difficult is it to you as a new leader to keep that support there and yet find a way of navigating a softer line?
KEY: Well I think firstly, that obviously it’s critical that you maintain your core support, and I'd say National's core support is in the mid-30s. I think that's sort of where it sits, and that's probably fundamentally true of Labour - we probably both have core support of around about 30 odd percent. But we had a particularly bad year in 2002, partly because MMP is very cruel to you when you are doing badly because they don't necessarily jump to the centre-left, but they just go off to a party on the centre-right, and we saw that in 2002. The good news is its kind to you when they think you're going to win and you're doing well, you pick up a whole lot of people who vote for a winner even if they are a little unsure. So we obviously need to maintain our core support, which is critically important.
The future of New Zealand is changing and we need to change with it. If we don't, then ultimately there is no long-term future for the National party. Political parties represent the populace if you like, and we need to be part of that. If you really look at the policies, as I've said, fundamentally our policies on race have not changed: we believe absolutely in all New Zealanders being treated equally before the law, we believe in a speedy settlement process of historical claims and we believe in the abolishment of the Maori seats - if there's a change, then it is over the timetabling of when that abolition will take place. It's likely that our first caucus in February will come up with something that will reflect, arguably, a more conciliatory timetable around the abolition of those seats.
So really, in a sense, all I changed is probably the tone. I make no apologies for wanting to talk about the language of development, not the language of grievance. But I do that for a number of reasons: firstly, of course as a political leader I could spend my life absolutely honing in on everything that separates us, and these days we are a pretty multicultural society and there are lots of differences. But equally, I believe that we've got to focus on what unites us and sort of have enough maturity as a country to say ‘there's a lot that binds us together’, and even though there are many voices singing the same song, we've also grown up enough to recognize there are some differences as well.
INVESTIGATE: We are heading into a world that is increasingly turbulent, and I raise the example of Investigate columnist Mark Steyn-
KEY: I know him, yes.
INVESTIGATE: -and Steyn has just published a book called America Alone where he makes a very telling case that, for example, Europe as we know it with its various different European cultures, will effectively cease to exist within one generation because of the huge influx of immigration from overseas. I think Muhammad is now the most popular name for baby boys in Belgium, and I think running at number two in France, so you are getting this huge cultural tidal shift. And that's part of the reason they've had these riots over there. But what he is basically saying is, the world is a very changeable place and the demographics are changing - in the West our birth rates are falling and our populations are becoming older. What does this mean in the next 15 to 20 years for New Zealand?
KEY: I think we know that there will be a changing ethnic mix in New Zealand - most of the forecasting indicates that this is likely for the reasons that you pointed out, that we have a birth rate that is below replacement and unless we want to see our population fall then it is likely there will be some [ethnic] change.
I think our position is slightly different in Europe. Europe's had fairly open immigration for lots of different reasons, New Zealand's been a country largely based on immigration. So I don't think we need to be fearful of that. But I think we should just apply sound tests, which are: it's our country, we should choose who we want to come here and who doesn't come, and in choosing that we should pick people who we think can make a contribution, that can ultimately settle in and become New Zealanders. My sense is that we've achieved that pretty well so far. There's always a process of digestion if you like, but I feel pretty confident we can manage that process.
INVESTIGATE: Is there a need as part of that process increasingly to have some sort of national written constitution so that everyone who is a citizen of New Zealand understands what our basic principles are and we swear allegiance to that?
KEY: A written constitution, not necessarily, but one of the things you've seen in Australia, and I have some sympathy for, is that through the curriculum and through the education system they promote very heavily to young Australians, wherever they come from, a deep understanding of Australia's history, of its natural fauna and flora, all the historical icons of Australia. I think that's something that can be looked at in New Zealand, because I think it is very important that when people come - not that they forget their historical roots - but the thing that will make any country work is not that we have differences, because clearly we will have some, but we also have something that we feel binds us together. What it means to be a New Zealander.
At the moment, I would argue that we are best at expressing that when we are not in New Zealand, when we see each other on the tube in London or we are somewhere else. I think, increasingly, Australia has done quite a good job of that, you've seen this sort outpouring of nationalistic pride on Australia Day, my sense is New Zealand will evolve with the right political leadership to that. In other words, a sort of coming together of what it means to be a New Zealander, and there are certain pathways we can do to help achieve that in a world which, as you say, is likely to have greater immigration as a feeder of its population.
INVESTIGATE: In terms of the rise of yourself and Bill English to leadership, I was reading the blogs for the next few days afterwards, and the reaction from some of the right-wing blogs was, “Oh heck, it's Labour lite!”. What's your reaction to that, have they got reason to be fearful or do you think you'll be able to persuade them and keep them on board for the next couple of years?
KEY: I think we will absolutely keep them on board. Look, there will always be a wide range of views. Again, if you go back to Holyoake, I think, he said if the party agreed with him 60% of the time he was doing pretty well. You are never going to get somebody who is going to agree with absolutely everything you say, and every policy you take as a leader, even as a political party.
So in the end it comes down to a kind of theme, and values and the way you handle the decision-making process. Of course there will be some on the extreme right, who will want to have policies that we are not likely to be advocating, and again some on the extreme left, who will want policies that we are not likely to be advocating.
Again, I make no real apologies for saying I take a relatively pragmatic view of things. In the end I want policies that work, but pragmatism should not be mistaken for not being decisive. I think we proved in the early weeks of the leadership that we are certainly prepared to make decisions, even hard ones, and we will make them pretty rapidly. I think even in my political career in the last 4 1/2 years, I've proven that through things like the tax plan, which was the biggest tax cutting plan that New Zealand has seen in its history. So I don't think people can say that I'm not prepared to make hard decisions or decisions that when I believe in them I'll back them.
INVESTIGATE: Is this a sign of how you will treat your responsibility in government - as Helensville MP, you were personally not worried about civil unions but you had a large amount of lobbying going on in your electorate that suggested the people in your electorate who had voted for you did not want that passed. Still in a conscience vote, you opted to recognize the will of your electorate. Is that something you see as being fundamental to being a politician?
KEY: Yeah, and you can take two views on conscience issues, one is to say that you vote on your own conscience, only what you think matters and to hell with the people that you represent; the other thing you can say is that you operate in the House of Representatives as their representative. I've chosen to take the latter view. Often the latter view coincides with my view, I mean, I voted against the Prostitution Law Reform Bill, because in the end I thought it was bad legislation as much as I got intense lobbying about it. It's not that I'm too gutless to make a decision, because I will certainly make them and I make them all the time, but I kind of feel like the people of Helensville, who put me there, expect me to represent their views in Parliament, and I do. Behind the scenes you'll see me doing that quite aggressively on a number of issues, one or two that I won't bother sharing with you, but I can tell you from a local perspective that it's been slightly different view from views others might have held and I'll strongly advocate for that as well. In those instances, if the party has a different position, then I'll be bound by the party's position as I expect all of my MPs to be. But I'm not afraid to stand up to the people that put me there, and I think any politician that forgets who put them in Parliament will rapidly find themselves on civvy street.
INVESTIGATE: What about citizens initiated referenda on conscience issues, is that something you'd support?
KEY: Yeah, I think there is some room. You can't overdo referendums - where you get to a point where the vote is on everything - because it becomes really difficult. And one of the really difficult parts about referendums as well is that you ask really simplistic questions for what are really complex issues. But, nevertheless, conscience issues are largely about the kind of society that we want, and some things, at a pace that people feel comfortable with. And I don't think there is anything wrong with having that kind of view.
You wouldn't apply it to everything, and there are certainly times when political leadership is required. You can take a simple example, where there are certain things around race for instance, where you couldn't have - even if there was a majority - them inappropriately flexing their muscles on a minority. We are a better society for having politicians and leaders who, in the past, have stood up to that. And you can sort of quote Martin Luther King down. But I think that, in certain instances, there is a place for binding referenda and we should not be afraid to use them.
INVESTIGATE: The Hager book that has attracted so much attention in the media, perhaps undeservedly, the general mutterings continuing behind the scenes would suggest that there were no leaks, that somehow somebody has hacked into National's computer system - is that a concern to you?
KEY: It is a deep concern and I think all New Zealanders should be very concerned if that's the case, because really we are talking about something very sinister, if that's occurred. We are meeting with the police, we need to get to the bottom of it. We know they are taking it very seriously. One of the reasons that we certainly hold the view that it is likely our systems have been either hacked into, or there has been something occurring, is simply the sheer volume of information they have. It is just not credible that it was just a bunch of e-mails that someone left on a plane.
INVESTIGATE: Your deputy Bill English is a conservative Catholic boy, do you believe in God?
KEY: What I have always said to that question in its many iterations, is, look, I have lived my life by Christian principles. I don't go to church, I was never brought up in any major way in a terribly religious household. My mother was Jewish, which under Jewish faith makes me Jewish. I do go to church a hell of a lot with the kids, but I don't want to hold myself out to be something that I'm not. I'm not Bill, I accept that, but I kind of try and live my life as best I can by a set of rules that I think works.
INVESTIGATE: In terms of the votes that you're out to capture by 2008, who are you after, what is your target market?
KEY: It's got to be women. Women are the clear audience - not that they don't like what we've said in the past - I think it is adding on to the message that we've had. So that's the first one, and I think the second is urban liberals and young people. But right across the board, I think there is room for improvement.
Keynglish, Part 2
BILL ENGLISH INTERVIEW
INVESTIGATE: In terms of what you see as the biggest issues for National over the next two years, what would they be?
ENGLISH: As the finance spokesman, the biggest issue for me is taking the economy forward in a way that rewards people who take risks, and shares the benefits and growth with New Zealand families, and it doesn't all end up in the government surplus.
INVESTIGATE: There has been an issue for several years now about the red tape, the compliance costs, and even the negative incentives that go on, how are you looking to tackle some of this?
ENGLISH: Look, I think that's really important, because we’ve gone down the track where the bureaucrats have set out to eliminate every risk. Now, you cannot have economic growth and success in business without risks, so New Zealanders want to work in a team but they want an entrepreneurial, and aspirational culture. And that is gradually being mothballed by continuous unnecessary regulation that is designed to get rid of every risk - and you can't.
INVESTIGATE: You see it not just in the business sector though. With this particular administration, you are seeing that same attitude applied right across the social sector, and protection for everything. Is that a problem overall?
ENGLISH: Yes, it is a problem. It's a problem because of the kind of attitudes it creates. Because if the government says that it's got the answer to everything, and if there's any problem they will fix it, people lose a sense of responsibility and consequences. National's view is, the government is there to underpin what people do, not dominate it.
INVESTIGATE: I asked John Key this, about bureaucracy capture in the civil service. Given that many of the people in senior positions were liberals appointed by the original Lange administration in the 80s, an incoming National government has to deal with that. How do you deal with a civil service that is possibly inimical to what National stands for?
ENGLISH: Well I don't believe all of them are, I mean, this is a public service who want the opportunity to serve the public instead of the Labour Party. I meet civil servants regularly, who are frustrated with the way that Labour thinks that putting together a list of things to do is the same as doing them. And that putting out a strategy to deal with some issue amounts to fixing it. What they want is the chance to be treated with respect, regarded as professionals. They don't want bucketloads more money, because they know that that's leading to a soft spending and low quality government. So I'm reasonably optimistic that the civil service is as tired of the Labour government as everybody else is.
INVESTIGATE: Is there enough accountability in the public service at the moment in your opinion?
ENGLISH: Not at the moment, no. And where there is, it is the wrong sort of accountability - I'll give you an example, this is Labour's definition of accountability: you remember a guy named Kit Richards? He wrote an e-mail the government didn't like. The guy loses his job, and can never be employed in the civil service again, while Labour are in power. Liam Ashley dies, brutally murdered, while he is in the custodial care of the state. No one has resigned, no one is responsible, no one is accountable. And that stinks. So Labour focuses on accountability for meeting Labour's political objectives, and if you get in the way of that you get dealt to. But accountability in the public service? That's long gone.
INVESTIGATE: Looking at the Brash years that followed on from your own leadership of National, why do you think National bottomed out, then bounced back up - what do you see, having had the advantage of being there at the helm, what was the thing that turned it for National?
ENGLISH: When National came out of government, it had a bad dose of low morale. I had some views about where it should go, that amounted to a longer term strategy, and I didn't articulate that very well. They wanted quicker results that got them back in the game and rebuilt the confidence of the party. Don Brash came in as a bit of a punt at the time, he only just got across the line to the leadership, but it turned out the public responded to him better, I think, than most people expected. It also meant that with a small caucus after the 2002 election, once the leadership changed it did settle down, because we stopped arguing about the leadership and got on and did a bit of work. What Brash did was gather up - in the 2002 election a whole lot of centre-right voters knew National didn't have a chance and Prebble and Peters picked a lot of them up, and Peter Dunne, with some pretty simple messages, and Brash gathered them all up. The job now is to extend beyond that group of voters.
INVESTIGATE: Jane Clifton in the Listener called John Key “Helen lite”, there is a perception that by sounding softer that National might abandon some of the ground that it has won. Is there any danger of that happening, or does the party have a cunning plan?
ENGLISH: No, there is no danger of abandoning core positions that have been hard-won and are good for the country. Some of this is just about the man for the times, and I think John Key has had a great start to the leadership because he is seen as the man for the times. Don was suffering a bit, just from being seen as a guy who had outstanding public service in the 90s, but might not be able to carry that through. So we are not going to be abandoning core positions. Look, our view of the world is fundamentally different from Labour's and I don't agree with this “Labour lite” stuff. We have to work within the constraints of MMP, which means you need to have 51% support in the Parliament for what you do - you used to be able to do it on 35%. So, of course, our job is to convince the public that we can manage the politics on their behalf, and at the same time achieve our direction, because increasingly we are moving to wanting a direction that is about aspiration, responsibility, risk-taking, and getting ahead.
INVESTIGATE: Just on the MMP point, you've seen over selective governments the damage that MMP actually does to the minor parties, every time a party enters into a formal coalition with a major one they get eaten. How will that affect politics long-term?
ENGLISH: I think it would be a mistake to judge MMP on what has happened so far to the small parties, because a number of the small parties are personality cults. So there's no particular reason for New Zealand First to exist except Winston Peters, you saw what happened to the Alliance, and then Progressives because that was dominated by one guy, Jim Anderton. United Future are going to find it hard to live past Peter Dunne's life in politics.
Now you are getting the emergence of parties that have a much stronger base, and that is the Greens and the Maori party. They've got a stronger base because they can exist regardless of the leadership - and the Greens have shown that, without Rod Donald they are still polling pretty well. They have learnt from watching all the variations that Clark has put in place, that they can get the right amounts of independence and influence, so I would see MMP in the future reflecting this. Those parties will be much more resilient than the ones who've been at the centre of MMP so far.
INVESTIGATE: One of the things that the Greens and the Maori party have done is to try and steer clear of formal coalitions.
ENGLISH: Yeah, that's one of the lessons! Don't let them swallow you up, and don't spend too much time around the Cabinet table because then you become responsible for everything instead of just your own brand. And the second thing is, that you have to have a strong clear brand that is about issues, not personalities - and that's where Act have a challenge because Act have lost their way on issues, they've become a personality party. And if they stay that way then they might get through a few more elections but they are not a permanent part of the system.
INVESTIGATE: In terms of her Majesty's loyal government, Helen Clark and team, how daunting are they, heading into a potential fourth term, for you and John Key?
ENGLISH: We are not daunted at all. This is a government that has done what it came to do, they are now looking tired and scratchy. I can see the signs, because I've been there, the signs of a fading government. They think the process is much more important than the result, so you just get endless strategies and collaborations and partnerships but no results.
They are getting scratchy and bad tempered and trying to bully the media, the past results of their personal and political judgements are catching up with them. That's what happens to third term governments, and we are not daunted by them at all. They got a long way in the past by talking their own book about what competent political managers they are, but in the end you get judged on results, not political management.
INVESTIGATE: During the Brash years, what would you say are the biggest strengths and weaknesses of National coming out of that time?
ENGLISH: I think the biggest strengths would be the hard work that's gone into building some strong positions with the New Zealand public around lower taxes, around the way government should deal with Maori - we're not going to give those things away. I think also Don's temperament and professionalism had a big impact on how the National party operates, it's a hidden effect, but a very important one. The party became more professional and better at making decisions under Brash. Coming out of it I don't see too many weaknesses really, John and I would be the first to acknowledge that we have a terrific platform of 40 plus percent of solid public support to build on.
INVESTIGATE: The Nicky Hager book, as the dust settles from that, there seems to be a growing suspicion that there was no leak out of National, but instead somebody hacked into the Parliamentary servers and stole your e-mails. What are your views on that?
ENGLISH: Yeah, look, what you are seeing here is years of spying and burglary and theft at the highest levels of New Zealand politics. Watergate was one burglary, this is much more extensive than that. So it is really important that the police focus on getting to the bottom of how all that material came into the hands of Nicky Hager and his book. Hacking is one option, I think theft and burglary is another, and I think the rash of political stories we've had about politicians in the last 12 months indicate that there's been fairly extensive private investigator or other spying activity on senior politicians, and who knows who's next.
INVESTIGATE: I have covered governments for something like 25 years now and in my view this administration would have to rank as one of the most corrupt - at an objective level, just in terms of all the stuff coming up around them - what's your view?
ENGLISH: This is an administration that has corrupted the whole political process. I have seen good, strong, experienced civil servants, reduced to gibbering idiots, because of the arbitrary control and punishment systems run by the government. I have seen all sorts of interest groups who have strong views, and in the past had advocated them aggressively in the public arena, bought off by the current government, with threats and promises. And then we've seen the straight out corrupt use of the taxpayers’ money and Parliamentary privileges, just this year, in the pledge card and Taito Phillip Field. That comes on top of a record that stretches back four or five years - no Prime Minister has been interviewed more often by the police than Helen Clark.
INVESTIGATE: What do you think of Helen as a leader?
ENGLISH: She's a ruthless and clinical leader, she's respected for her political competence, and not loved for anything else, except perhaps in the arts world. She has set a benchmark for MMP management that future governments have to reach for stability, because she has had a stable team. She is focused very much on her own stretching power, and that is shown by the fact that she has failed to renew the Labour Party. She has gone for making sure that her prime ministership is stable and not contested. She hasn't tried to ensure that the Labour Party can keep on governing, and they are about to pay the price for that.
INVESTIGATE: In light of your own political career, do you regret the Brash years in any way?
ENGLISH: No not at all. Politics comes and goes, timing is everything in politics, some of the things I was trying to do were just before their time. But the time is right now. Don Brash added much to the National party that I could not have added, even if I had been more experienced than I was. So, no, I have no regrets. I think we are in great shape now for a long and stable period in government, and that's what we are working to achieve over the next 18 months.
INVESTIGATE: Your relationship with John Key appears to be good, people were speculating that Bill might put ambition before the task at hand but you seem to have a good relationship.
ENGLISH: Yeah, we do. And that's because we think the same way about a lot of political issues, so that helps, we can make decisions quickly, because we are not arguing the point, and I think that's been demonstrated recently. The other reason it works is that we complement each other. John is a terrific marketer, a very appealing media presence, and I've got the experience of government and policy. I think we have a strong professional respect for what each can do it, and that's why it is working so well.
INVESTIGATE: Labour has made such an issue out of social engineering, its social policy programmes and the like, how does National achieve its new focus without being seen to be slipping towards what Labour has made such an issue of?
ENGLISH: Look, I think that's a real challenge. When you look at Labour's track record, the things they really cared about were those things where they were telling other people how to live their lives, and doing their social engineering. On the economy, and their delivery of services to the public, there's been a lot of talk - billions of dollars - but they are not really that focused on it, so they haven't got anywhere. One of National's core principles is freedom, we need to make sure that we don't get sucked along, in the environment that Labour has created, into accepting things that unnecessarily take people's freedom away or that have the government telling people they can't take risks that any consenting adults would think they should be able to take.
INVESTIGATE: On the whole global warming scenario, which I know Nick Smith has done some work on, there is, it appears, emerging with the National a belief that global warming is human caused. Yet there is a lot of scientific argument to the contrary. Is National wedded to the idea that it is human caused? Because if it's not human caused, then there is nothing we can do about it.
ENGLISH: We are open to the science, there's got to be good science, and not hysteria, driving the policy. We've become quite worried that policies are going to be driven by this Armageddon mentality that the world has far too many people and far too much carbon, and it's all going to unwind within the next 20 years. So we want to make sure, we've got an open ear to the science, we don't go along with this idea that Labour do that you're either - what do they say? - Helen Clark calls you a ‘climate change denier’, and it sounds like something out of the Inquisition – ‘how dare you!’. In fact, the science is complex, in our view it has moved in the direction of human causation, if more and better science says that's not the case we are open to it. In the meantime, we do believe that the risks are great enough that we need some insurance.
INVESTIGATE: What about the United Nations report suggesting cattle are a bigger contributor to global warming than cars? I would have thought, if you go back 8000 years, there would be millions more bison, elephants and antelope roaming the planet, than we have cattle now.
ENGLISH: The difficulty with climate change is going to be untangling the political agendas from the real science. It is going to suit a whole lot of people to believe that cars are not as polluting with climate change, because it would be very unpopular to curb people's capacity to drive their cars around. In New Zealand, that is a very dangerous idea, because our biggest single exporter is based entirely on cows, and that's Fonterra. Our job as a political party is to come up with sensible and reasonable policies that don't put our economic growth at risk, that don't put people's freedom to make their own decisions at risk because of some hysteria. That is a real danger, we are going to see Labour casting around trying to rebuild credibility on the environment, and look like a government with some vision, and there's a risk we'll get some pretty stupid policies as a result.
INVESTIGATE: Mark Steyn's new book, America Alone, is warning that the world is about to become a whole lot more unstable as Western civilisation heads into an unprecedented death spiral, caused by falling birth rates, rising abortions and rapidly ageing populations, while Islam is set to take over Europe within a generation. That's a pretty grim picture, if National becomes the government, how do you prepare for that kind of future?
ENGLISH: Demography is destiny, I am absolutely convinced of that. A community that stops breeding, which the Western - particularly European - countries have, is going to get swamped by those who do breed. It's a pretty fundamental fact of life on Earth. And we, in some respects, are not a lot different in New Zealand. There's a couple of points that matter: firstly, societies that can adapt to it I going to do well, and societies that really struggle with the demographic changes are going to be riven with conflict. And we've seen how nasty and brutal as conflicts can be. You've seen it in Iraq, you're seeing it in Africa, you are starting to see signs of it in the Pacific. I'm optimistic about New Zealand, though, because we have had our own reasonably intensive internal debate about history and who belongs where, and actually we have managed it pretty well by any international standard. So I think one of our advantages is going to be our ability to adapt to these demographic changes. The hard bit is going to be sorting out our role in the Pacific, where you've got the Chinese and the Taiwanese competing for influence, you've got ethnic strife in a number of places we hadn't expected before, you've got political instability in the Solomons, Fiji and Tonga. We've got a number of those communities heavily represented in New Zealand, and I don’t think we've got a clue what to do - New Zealanders are so used to having the moral high ground, where we can preach about foreign policy and cultural difference to everyone else, that we're just a bit bemused at the moment about what to do when we actually have to deal with the ugly reality of these issues. National has started already this year, on really trying to get its head around what is going to be quite a different world than the one that National was attached to, which actually ended around about 1985.
INVESTIGATE: One of Steyn's points in his book is that countries like New Zealand and Australia, because of the distance from world trouble spots may end up becoming immigration magnets for cultures fleeing Europe as those societies continue to break down.
ENGLISH: We are going to look a lot more stable, just because we don't have the geographical pressures, we don't have these populations on our borders, but I think that flight won't just be English-speaking for European - it will also include the middle-class of every country from Indonesia through to Zimbabwe. In fact, the arrival of the Zimbabwe migrants here is perhaps the shape of things to come, but they certainly won't be all European or English-speaking. So our ability to adapt to it is still going to be really quite important.
INVESTIGATE: With an incoming National government, is the anything in terms of Labour's - particularly their social agenda - policies that you would tweak?
ENGLISH: It depends what you mean by social agenda. The one thing that you can be sure of is that National is not going to carry on down the road of social engineering. When Labour had got through the prostitution bill and the civil union Bill, in 2005 the public said ‘enough!’ and every politician got that signal. What I find out is that the public are much more worried about the breakdown of fundamental social order, particularly around families, than they are about creating ever more rights and responsibilities that lead to that breakdown.
INVESTIGATE: As education spokesman, you'd be where of the tensions that exist within the education ministry and the teaching profession, whereby a lot of them are what you would call urban liberal Labour supporters and have a particular worldview that they have brought to the education portfolio themselves. Does National have any plans to look long and hard at where some of these things are ingrained in the public service?
ENGLISH: With respect to education, we've got one definite plan about teaching kids how to read, write, and do maths - and that is a private members bill of mine that got drawn last month to set national standards for literacy and numeracy which will focus schools on making sure kids can read and write and do maths, regardless of the political leanings or the educational theories of the people who are teaching them. They'll have a job to do, it will be clear what is, and they'll have to get on and do it. I think there is scope a stronger focus on schools on citizenship and a proper understanding of New Zealand's history. The problem is that too many people in the education establishment believe the same thing at the Labour Party: that the history of New Zealand is the history of the Labour movement, and that is wrong, and that's been one of the things that got us into trouble about Maori issues - that whole left-wing view of history. The third thing that I'm interested in - and these last two are not policy yet - is getting an ethos of enterprise and entrepreneurialism into our schools. Traditionally our state system has been anti-business, and anti-private enterprise, because of the political backgrounds of a lot of the staff. I see some very good things going on in schools now, through things like the Young Enterprise Scheme, but in the future I'd like to see business, in particular, take a really strong interest in their local schools. Get trades and business right into the heart of the education system and show our kids that there is a pathway for aspiration that is about self-reliance, about initiative and about reward for risk. There's not near enough of that in our schools now.
July 27, 2007
Something else David Benson-Pope fudged on...
THE SECRET LIFE OF DAVID BENSON-POPE
[Author's note: when this story was published online in November last year, David Benson-Pope refused to deny the detailed allegations contained in the full version. In fact, he went to the trouble of ringing a senior Otago Daily Times journalist at home that evening, expressly to ensure that the newspaper was not quoting him as denying the story. Instead, the quote he approved was the much more vague: "When would I have time for that?" To this day, despite many attempts to get a straight answer, Benson-Pope has still never denied the story.]
By Ian Wishart
In July 2004, at the height of the clash of cultures surrounding Labour’s civil unions legislation, the man responsible for ramming that law through Parliament laid down a gauntlet challenging the integrity of groups opposing him. Married, with two children, Associate Justice Minister David Benson-Pope was the heterosexual face of the contentious gay marriage bill, and he’d been brought in to front it amid fears that the public would react badly to having openly gay Labour MPs Tim Barnett and Chris Carter leading the charge.
Both Carter and Barnett had taken prominent positions to push through the legalization of prostitution just months earlier, and the last thing Labour wanted was even more accusations that its homosexual wing was really in control of the party.
“It’s helpful if they’re not identified as the main supporters of the bill,” Benson-Pope was quoted in the Herald, “because that lends fuel to the fire that this is pandering to the gay community, which it isn’t.”
As a father, former schoolteacher and close confidant of Prime Minister Helen Clark, Benson-Pope was the epitome of tolerant middle-class Labour – comfortable in his own marriage and reaching out to protect the rights of oppressed minorities.
It was in this context, then, that Benson-Pope threw down a gauntlet to groups opposing the Civil Unions Bill. In a media statement dated 30 July 2004, the minister accused lobby group The Maxim Institute of not declaring its interests:
“The minister responsible for Civil Union legislation is welcoming people taking an active part in the debate but he says this must be done in an up-front and open manner.”
One of the minister’s criticisms was that members of Maxim were writing letters to the editor “without identifying themselves as Maxim members” – an accusation that hit home more recently with several letters published in the NZ Herald from “Brian Edwards, Herne Bay”, without reference to the fact that he is Helen Clark’s approved biographer and media trainer.
But Benson-Pope’s main beef was that in such an important public debate, it was crucial that people were honest about declaring their interests.
It was a theme he repeated in a speech to the Orewa Rotary Club, when he launched a stinging attack on Christians for opposing civil unions:
“These type of people and organizations have found labeling people 'PC' a very useful distraction as they try to influence mainstream debate from their very narrow and often extreme standpoint.
“They represent very small minorities, yet through sophisticated use of communications, lobbying and the media, we have seen in other countries and are starting to see here, are able to carry sway far greater than their numbers indicate that ought to.
“I described their intolerance as a challenge. The way to meet that challenge is head on. Ask them to explain their views. Call on them to be honest about what beliefs are really driving their agenda.”
In case you missed it, it’s now clearly on the record that David Benson-Pope doesn’t like people pushing barrows without being honest about their own motives and background. This, then, is the standard Investigate is about to apply to David Benson-Pope. Before we get to the fresh allegations, however, we first have to give them some context by briefly re-visiting the earlier allegations.
Mention the name David Benson-Pope these days and you get two reactions. “Tennis balls” would be one, while the other is invariably: “They went too far when they called him a ‘pervert’.” Benson-Pope is a man who polarizes. The classes of children he taught at Dunedin’s Bayfield High School were divided over his brusque style, and in his seven year parliamentary career he has continued to intimidate and bully his opponents, particularly attacking National’s female MPs like Katherine Rich and reducing some to tears in private encounters.
But when National’s law and order spokesman Judith Collins picked up on a Rodney Hide comment and called David Benson-Pope a “pervert” during an incandescent parliamentary Question Time this year, you could hear jaws drop not just around the debating chamber but around the country, as little old ladies tut-tutted and the traditional kiwi support for the underdog set in.
Although Benson-Pope had bound and gagged a student, had bashed another youngster in the face, and had spanked teenage girls on their thighs and busted into their changing rooms repeatedly while girls were showering on school camps, suddenly in one fell PR swoop he became the ‘victim’ of a media and political ‘witchhunt’.
In the House, Deputy Prime Minister Michael Cullen hinted he had “dirt” of his own about National’s Judith Collins, and Labour wheeled out its own female MPs, Lianne Dalziel and Annette King, to launch a blistering attack on Collins:
"She has been prepared to expose David's wife and children to unjustified personal abuse and public attention," Ms King said. "She has laughed and she has celebrated as she made her despicable comments of 'pervert' and 'dirty old man'."
For her part, Collins denied ever calling Benson-Pope a ‘dirty old man’, nor had she ever referred to Benson-Pope’s wife and children, but it was too late: Labour’s spin machine was in high gear.
Supported by the PR wunderkinds on the Beehive’s ninth floor, Benson-Pope finally came out of hiding to begin a charm offensive with the parliamentary press gallery, explaining how “hurtful” and “offensive” he found the allegations.
“I don't think anyone should have to put up with the filthy, despicable behaviour we saw yesterday,” he told the Herald that week. "I did use corporal punishment for a little while. There was always a witness -- and one told the policy inquiry (into the tennis ball incident) how distasteful I found it. I was actually one of the people who got rid of it."
According to the newspaper, it was the accusations of violence and ill-treatment that seem to have hurt him the most.
"I guess that's why I'm bruised and cut up. I'm seriously angry about what went down, because the accusations that (Judith) Collins and (Rodney) Hide have been making are so contrary to the bulk of the work I did in the classroom, and the work I did in the outdoors."
“To be accused of being violent and bullying is pretty unpleasant."
Remember those statements professing an anti-violence mentality – in a few minutes they will become highly relevant.
But the Herald article wasn’t the only one.
“I guess I’ve been pretty upset by the attack on my integrity,” he told Close Up’s Mark Sainsbury, before complaining about the impact on “my wife and kids”. Yet in a Sunday Star Times feature a couple of days later, Benson-Pope poses with his wife and children for a large photo on page A3, above a rambling interview with both himself and wife Jan Flood. It seemed strange behaviour for a man professing concern at his family being publicly identified, to then display them in a national newspaper.
“I continue to describe the Wishart claims as deeply offensive and nonsense,” Benson-Pope continued in his Close Up interview, “and I’m not resiling from that, they are, just as the behaviour of Rodney Hide and Judith Collins is deeply offensive.
When challenged by Sainsbury as to why the Investigate claims were “nonsense” and “ridiculous”, Benson-Pope replied:
“Well when you’re accused of being a vicious bully and beating children with a cane until they bleed, I challenge you to actually react calmly.”
“Did you ever beat a child with a cane until they bled?”
“Not that I’m aware, but how would I know? What I will say is that I did use corporal punishment for a short time. I found it distasteful, actually, as one of the fellow teacher witnesses comments on the police file.”
But Benson-Pope is not telling the whole story. The police file published in Investigate, and which was the basis of the “nonsense” and “ridiculous” retort, discloses students were left bleeding.
One student told police that when Benson-Pope delivered canings in the corridor outside the classroom, he did so with apparent relish:
“Mr Benson-Pope would whistle the cane in the air before taking a run up of about 10 feet. I'm estimating the distance but you could actually hear him running up. It was pretty psychologically damning, standing there bent over listening to the run-up. I'm pretty sure it was a run-up for each of the three canes on that occasion. As a result I suffered severe bruising but no bleeding. Obviously very painful to sit for the next few days.”
A second boy remembers refusing to jump the vault at PE in the third form because he didn't feel confident. He told police his punishment from Benson-Pope was the cane. He was one of two boys given the cane for non-compliance at PE that day.
“I had to wait outside the school hall while Tony [the other offender] was dealt with first. I could hear screaming and yelling. I still remember it well today because [Tony] was such a tiny boy.”
A former teacher confirmed the incident to police. “It's a lasting impression because it's the only caning I've witnessed. I remember Tony ran a lap of the assembly hall yelling in pain after the caning.”
“When it was my turn,” continues the former student who'd refused to jump the vault, “I was brought into the hall. I was bent over and caned once over my trousers by Benson-Pope. I pleaded not to be caned again but was struck once more with the cane.
“I remember Benson-Pope laughing while he caned me, and that's what got me the most. When I got home I realized I had blood on my bum.”
So when Benson-Pope accused Investigate of publishing ridiculous nonsense, he omitted to tell Close Up that the allegations actually came from within the official police file.
“Are you a bully?,” Mark Sainsbury asked Benson-Pope on TV.
“I don’t believe so.”
“Are you a liar?”
The responses to those first two questions from Sainsbury were instantaneous. But the next question appeared to give Benson-Pope something to think about, and if you study his response carefully you’ll see he actually did not answer the question directly.
“Are you a pervert?”
(four seconds of silence, so questioner moves to fill the pregnant pause)
“Because that’s what they’re accusing you of in this building?”
“I know, and that’s why I said to you earlier that it’s one of the most despicable things I think I’ve ever had to face and one of the things that my colleagues have said – was they felt like having a shower afterwards, because of the filth that was thrown at me in the chamber yesterday. And I don’t think anyone in this country, MP or not, should have to put up with that despicable mudslinging.”
The “pervert” allegation raised in parliament was based on accounts in the police file, such as one where a girl described Benson-Pope as “sleazy”:
“Quite sleazy, some of the comments he made used to grate me. The girls, including me, felt that he was always staring at our legs beneath desks…with the girls he was always sleazy if he could be, he seemed to thrive on it.”
Remember, that’s a witness interviewed by police, not by Investigate. The “pervert” label was further enhanced – again by witnesses spoken to by police – when girls told of being made to strip down to panties and nighties and forced to stand outside in the cold night air for an hour while Benson-Pope spotlighted them with a torch.
“I remember he told us that we had to take any surplus clothing off, eg, jerseys and trackpants. It was just our nighties and no footwear,” one girl said in her police statement. The police files show both girls and boys were punished this way, finding it “humiliating” and in some cases painful – having to stand absolutely still for an hour in the same spot.
“We had to stand on the concrete, outside the long dorms. There were a few girls involved, over a dozen. I remember [one girl] being there as she told Benson-Pope she couldn’t do it for health reasons – that night her ankles swelled up really badly as a result. I remember later a lot of the girls tried to comfort her.
“I remember the incident so clearly because it was freezing cold, I believe it was winter. We were out there for about an hour.
“Benson-Pope just stood there, watching. If anyone spoke he threatened we would have to stand out there longer. I imagine I was feeling pretty self-conscious standing there in just a nightie,” the girl told police.
But it was after Investigate published the police files in our March 06 issue that the cat really landed among the pigeons. The incidents just detailed occurred on the 1982 school camp, but this time stories emerged of Benson-Pope overstepping the mark on a 1997 school camp, bursting in on the girls’ shower block.
“Certainly I opened the door and shouted, or banged on the door, and shouted at students who were spending more time in there than they should have, to get out,” the minister admitted to Close Up.
“Did you go into the girls dormitories?”
“Only under appropriate circumstances. The routine had previously been that [I] would get up, make tea for the staff, deliver that, wake up the four dorms by going in, turning on the lights and opening the doors saying ‘Time for the run, out you go’…it was just because of the concerns that came out of whatever questions were raised there that we strengthened up the policies and said male staff would not do any wake-ups in the girls dorms. Can I say Mark, we’re talking about cold environment, people in sleeping bags.”
But contrast David Benson-Pope’s explanation of the dorm incident with what the girls actually told Investigate. It wasn’t a wake-up call where girls were safe in their sleeping bags, it was during the day, after an afternoon mud-run.
“He knew we were in there. It was straight after the mud run [Investigate’s emphasis], he knew we were all in there getting changed and things like that and he just wandered straight on in, and thought he had the right to do that.”
The woman says up to twenty-five girls aged 14 and 15 were in various stages of undress, some fully naked, during Benson-Pope’s “visit”.
“Girls were naked and in the process of getting changed.”
She says the Labour MP lingered, staring, for 30 seconds, before finally getting out because of the pandemonium his presence was causing.
“Screaming and yelling and telling him to get out, and all this swearing.”
The woman says it was the second time that day [Investigate’s emphasis] Benson-Pope had attempted to see the schoolgirls undress.
“He walked in on the showers one time, then later on that day walked into the dorm room while we were getting changed. Straight on in. He’s an a**hole. He really is. I don’t know if any other students did, but me and my parents made a formal complaint about it, but nothing was done about it.”
According to Bayfield High, which admitted receiving a complaint from a different family after media pressure was applied, the policies were changed so that there would be no repeat of the 1997 dormitory incidents.
But Investigate found a girl on the 1998 camp who confirmed the old leopard had not changed his spots, despite the new policy.
“I do remember one incident involving him when I was in 4th form at a school camp at Tautuku. I remember that the girls were in their dorm getting ready for a tramp and we were all mucking around and taking ages to get changed. BP [Benson-Pope] got quite agitated and just marched on into the dorm without knocking or any warning at all and yelled at us all to hurry up. At this stage quite a few of us were still trying to get changed.
“I'm not sure if anybody reported this incident to the other teachers but it was talked about for a few years after that and it didn't do much for his image with the students in my year!”
The same woman told Investigate she also found the Labour cabinet minister “sleazy”.
“He was not well liked among the kids in my year, or by too many people at all! He came across to me as really arrogant, self important and a little sleazy, and could be very domineering and intimidating to students who didn't obey him.”
These, then, were the incidents that prompted Rodney Hide to call Benson-Pope a bully, a liar and a pervert, and because of the public and media backlash, much of it overlooking the mountain of evidence in the police files, the wind turned and David Benson-Pope survived what was getting close to a political execution.
Little did anyone know, as parliament and the media stepped back from the brink back in March, that both Rodney Hide and Judith Collins had been far closer to the truth with the “pervert” label than anyone realized, because David Benson-Pope, the Minister for CYFS and Social Development, has a secret life, one well and truly worthy of a nervous twitch.
What you are about to read is R18 rated, because it has to be. It is impossible for readers to understand the mind of David Benson-Pope and whether he is fit to be Minister of Social Development if we shield you from all of the specific detail that follows. Additionally, the Labour Government will again challenge Investigate to “put up or shut up”, as the Prime Minister has done before, so this time we’re releasing enough information to prove the allegations beyond reasonable doubt. There is other information that we hold which may become relevant if Benson-Pope chooses to make it so.
When Dunedin private investigator Wayne Idour went public back in October with revelations that he’d been investigating the Labour government, it caused a shockwave in the Beehive. What no one, possibly not even Idour, realized was that it also caused shockwaves in Dunedin. Questioned on TV3’s Campbell Live, Idour at one point had admitted that he was looking into the activities of David Benson-Pope, and hinted that there might be more to come. Not only – according to observers at parliament – did Benson-Pope look stressed, but hundreds of kilometers away in Dunedin members of a BDSM (bondage, discipline, sado-masochism) group known as “Southern Kinx” suddenly froze like possums in the headlights.
“All of a sudden,” Roxanne*, one member of the group, told Investigate, “I don’t know what has gone on…but all of a sudden the Southern Kinx group – most of its official members have taken a big step back. Officially there are now only seven members. But it’s not for reasons of people dropping out because at the last ‘play party’ [a BDSM orgy] there were still 25, 30 people.”
What’s the connection between a private eye checking out Benson-Pope, and a BDSM group? Benson-Pope is part of Dunedin’s BDSM scene.
Sado-masochistic sexual torture has, surprisingly, taken off in recent years as society’s tolerance of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender sex has grown. In fact, if you search the websites [insert here] you will find it is common for sado-masochists to actively advertise online for group sex with gay men and transsexuals. The BDSM community calls itself “GLBT friendly”. If there is an intersection between heterosexuals and the queer community, BDSM is it. Gay Labour MPs Tim Barnett and Chris Carter sometimes attend BDSM functions in Christchurch and Auckland respectively, but until Investigate received a tip off earlier this year no-one knew that Benson-Pope was even more involved than either of his gay colleagues.
The tip initially came to Investigate from a moderately well-known Dunedin identity who’d been surprised to hear a friend laugh at an intimate dinner party when she saw Benson-Pope on a TV interview talking about one of his portfolios and behaviour issues. The tipster alerted Investigate about what Roxanne had then disclosed, and the magazine in turn finally made contact with Roxanne a few days later, explaining that the magazine had been given whispers of this earlier in the year and – like it or not – we were now officially on the case. We explained that we were not seeking to blow the BDSM community wide open – we were merely trying to establish the level of David Benson-Pope’s involvement. We were mindful of the ethical guidelines on prying into the private lives of ordinary people caught up in public events (see sidebar on Ethics), and told Roxanne that we would only publish what was necessary subject to getting corroboration.
“As in all groups of people,” Roxanne replied by email, “whatever the walk of life, there are those that allow an equilibrium to be maintained and those that cause disruption. Was around at mutual friends of [name deleted] and myself the other night when darling DBP showed up on TV. I, very unthinking, made a comment, joking about how I had seen him in a very different way than most. Which started what felt like, ‘question time’!
“The upshot of it is that I am now emailing you and letting you know that there is a lot more to this than most know, and a lot of personal preferences of the aforementioned do go a long way to explaining some of his behaviour both past and present. I have been to the same ‘parties’ as he has, and have sessioned with him and his Owner on many occasions. I have neither a positive nor negative view of him, but do not agree with his behaviour outside of these times. I do not wish to see the community that I know and love being brought down by one’s bad behaviour.”
In a second email, Roxanne explained she’d met Benson-Pope in the mid 90’s, while he was still teaching at Bayfield High.
“I met him through his Owner, who was an active member of the local group. Not being the public figure he is now, he was just ‘slave’, although was addressed as ‘My slave david” by his Owner.”
If you’re wondering about the capitalization of “Owner”, it is a signature trademark of the BDSM community: in emails and letters, “Dominants” are referred to with capitals in recognition of their power, while “submissives” use lower case letters for their names and personal pronouns. Investigate has included the example above purely to demonstrate the point, but from here on we’ll be using standard English grammar for personal names and the word “I”, to avoid confusing our proofreaders.
In her early 30s, with her short, mousy hair and blue eyes, Roxanne could be anyone walking down a street in Dunedin. Her husband doesn’t know about her involvement in BDSM, but as he travels a lot the issue doesn’t come up. Like many in the “community”, Roxanne is linked to a Master, or Owner, and has personally witnessed David Benson-Pope on several occasions.
“He was always more on the sub/slave side as opposed to pure submissive. Trying to use a vanilla (straight) way of explaining things is hard. It just means that his is a very serving play. Very much into puppy play, and age play, corner time, and his biggest seemed to be humiliation.”
He is also a cross-dresser, says Roxanne, but only when instructed to by his owner, “Mistress Princess”, during humiliation sessions.
“As part of his humiliation fetish he is called ‘panty-slut-boy’…when it’s humiliation time it’s normally beautiful lacy underwear.”
“In David Benson-Pope’s size?”
“Absolutely!” she confirms.
It was the “age play” that intrigued us, however.
“Age play is – that’s why I struggled when I got your email because some of the things you wrote about his school years, I just found myself quite stunned, because they’re actually his fetishes where he’s crossed the line!
“Age play is where the Dominant assumes the role of the parent and the submissive of the child, and it turns into simple things like corner time, humiliation and dressing up as a little child. Age play is more that he’s ‘a naughty little schoolboy!’, and she’s the ‘Schoolmistress’. He sits at a desk. His owner has a dungeon set up in one of her biggest rooms and she has a school desk set up there...
SORRY, THE REST OF THE ARTICLE CONTAINS REFERENCE TO SOME r18 ACTIVITIES, AND FOR THAT REASON IF YOU WISH TO READ MORE YOU WILL NEED TO PURCHASE IT FOR THE PRINCELY SUM OF $1 FROM OUR MAGAZINE SHOP: (once you see the store welcome page, click on the Benson3 link in the right hand top corner)
July 01, 2007
Media intrusion into private lives: Jan 07 issue
WHEN PRIVATE BECOMES PUBLIC
How far should the media go into the lives of public figures?
A few days ago Investigate Online posted a restricted access story on its website making fresh and serious allegations about Social Development Minister David Benson-Pope. The story was published online because its content is R18 in nature, and by requiring a credit card purchase for a nominal one dollar fee children can be prevented from accessing it.
The decision to publish the story was not taken lightly, nor was it taken because of any prurient interest in the subject matter. Our journalistic colleagues in Washington, London or Sydney would make exactly the same call – on the grounds that a Minister’s private life becomes public when he makes it relevant.
The full reasons are contained in the online edition, but what follows is a summary of the international debate on media ethics, and how far it is appropriate to go when investigating public figures seeking public office. IAN WISHART REPORTS
In a story like the Benson-Pope case, perhaps the biggest question any news organization faces is an ethical one: is this sufficiently relevant to be in the public interest? Contrary to popular misconception, the news media knows far more about most public figures than it ever publishes, because it correctly deems that much of that information has no bearing on how the person does their job.
For example, the fact that a politician may be gay is irrelevant to whether they’re a good Minister of Transport or Minister of Finance. The fact that another politician is a strong Christian is irrelevant to their performance as Minister of Health. It is only where one’s private life intersects with their public one that issues of relevance and/or the voters’ right to know surface.
Take those two previous examples: that same gay politician chooses to champion a bill favouring gay adoption of children, but without disclosing his own sexual preferences. Voters should be able to see whether he has a personal, rather than professional, interest in the subject matter. By choosing to become involved in a political issue dear to his heart and which challenges the normative situation, the politician makes his private life relevant. Likewise, a strong Christian appointed as Minister of Censorship might make decisions that many agree with, but his beliefs are indeed relevant to how he performs in that particular portfolio and should be disclosed. On the flip side of that coin, the same applies to raging social liberals occupying powerful positions.
In the essay, “Can Public Figures Have Private Lives?”, Harvard University’s Frederick Schauer has contributed significantly to the debate.
“In most of the debates about the issue of disclosing facts about the lives of candidates or office holders that those candidates or office holders would wish to keep secret, the issue is framed around the question of the relevance of the fact at issue. “Typically, as with the debates about the extramarital sexual activities of President Clinton or about past drug use or other allegedly “minor” crimes that took place in the distant past, it is alleged that the facts ought not be disclosed because they are irrelevant to the performance of the job. Regardless of whether people want the information, the argument goes, information that is not relevant to job performance has no place in the public electoral discussion.
“Such claims of irrelevance mask a host of deeper and more difficult issues. Chief among these are contestable issues about what the job actually is, and equally contestable empirical issues about the relationship of some fact to that job.”
Illustrating that point, Schauer raises the example of US judge Douglas Ginsberg whose nomination to the US Supreme Court was spiked in 1987 after reporters, using unnamed sources, disclosed that Ginsberg had been a frequent user of marijuana in the past. Leaving aside the medical argument over whether marijuana would have dulled his wits sufficiently to make him a liability on the Supreme Court bench, Schauer concentrates more on the fact that as a person supposed to uphold the law in one of the supreme positions available under the US constitution, Ginsberg simply couldn’t measure up: “The fact of past disobedience to law was material to Ginsberg’s qualifications”.
Just as it was, of course, in the fall from grace of New Zealand’s Attorney-General David Parker, after he was caught by Investigate filing false returns to the Companies Office.
“My point here,” Schauer continues, “is that a claim of ‘irrelevance’ presupposes some standard of relevance...denials of relevance often mask narrow conceptions of the positions and its responsibilities, conceptions with which others might reasonably disagree.”
This is one of Professor Schauer’s central themes: that even if a majority of voters might believe something is “irrelevant” or out-of-bounds, a functioning democracy requires that the interests of a minority who might want to hear that information be protected.
“When such disagreement does exist, however, the issue becomes more difficult, because there is now the question of when it is appropriate to make widely available a piece of information that some voters might think relevant to their voting decision, under circumstances in which the information is indeed relevant to their voting decision based on criteria that they take to be relevant.”
Schauer draws on the Monica Lewinsky affair to illustrate the tensions at play:
“The claim that marital infidelity is irrelevant to the office of President of the United States presupposes that the role of President should not include the role of being an exemplar of marital fidelity. For many people it should not, but for many others it should, and debates about relevance to the job are commonly smokescreens for debates about just what it is that the job really entails.
“It is widely known that President Clinton cheats at golf. Although it is clear that playing golf is not part of the job description of President…many people believe that maintaining certain high standards of veracity are indeed part of that job description. And if that is the case, then the empirical question is presented whether evidence of cheating at golf is some evidence of (or relevant to) a likely failure to maintain high standards of veracity in public pronouncements.”
And if New Zealand readers are suddenly sensing a merging of Paintergate, Speedogate, Doonegate and Pledgegate, read on:
“It is possible that the answer is no,” continues Schauer, “and that there is neither a causal relationship or even a correlation between the existence of the trait of cheating at golf and the existence of the trait of being abnormally dishonest in one’s public and political dealings. But it is also possible that the answer is yes, and that a cheater at golf, holding everything else constant, is more likely to be dishonest in public statements. And if this latter alternative is in fact the case, then the argument that golf behaviour is ‘private’ or none of the public’s business becomes a somewhat more difficult one to maintain.”
Cheating, however, is a personality trait that many people can agree is relevant. What about the grey areas of sexuality? After all, we all have sex lives.
“No less real is the example of the disclosure, against the presumed wishes of the candidate, of the sexual orientation of a candidate for public office. Although many of us believe that sexual orientation is both immaterial and irrelevant to job performance in all or virtually all public sector and private sector settings, it is unfortunately (from my perspective) the case that not everyone agrees.
“For a not insignificant proportion of the population in most countries in the world, having a gay, lesbian or bisexual orientation is immoral, and having a heterosexual orientation is not only morally commanded, but is also a necessary qualification for holding public office.”
Schauer’s view is that like it or not, you can’t have a meaningful public debate on these issues in a general sense but only on a case by case basis – the circumstances of each politician being different. Voters may decide that sexual behaviour is irrelevant in one case but exceedingly relevant in another, because of the different personalities or responsibilities of the politicians in question.
“It may turn out that disclosure of traits that some deliberators believe to be morally immaterial or empirically irrelevant will nevertheless properly be part of the process by which [the public] decides collectively…what its moral criteria will be.”
And again, the Harvard professor returns to the checks and balances necessary in a democracy. Even if only ten percent of the electorate believe the private life information should be disclosed, he says, and the other 90% believe it shouldn’t be, publication is justified.
“Under these circumstances, it is tempting to conclude that the majority should prevail, and that disclosure should be deemed inappropriate. But given that we are discussing the topic of the information necessary for exercising [the vote]…there is something deeply problematic about majorities deciding that information relevant to the voting decisions of a minority ought in some formal or informal way be made unavailable to that minority.”
Although Schauer hears the argument often used in New Zealand politics – that raking over the coals of politicians’ private lives will discourage good people from standing for election – he disagrees with it.
“There are moral arguments on the other side as well,” he acknowledges. “Chief among those is the argument that control over the information about one’s life is itself a central part of what is sometimes referred to as personal autonomy, and that there is no good reason why a person should be required to relinquish that right simply to enter the public domain.
“Yet if personal autonomy is the basis for the countervailing right of non-disclosure, it may be hard to distinguish this right from all of the other autonomy rights that one must forgo to enter the public arena.
“One has the right to speak or to remain silent, to live where one pleases, sometimes to work where one pleases, and a host of other rights that are commonly and properly thought relinquishable by one’s voluntary decision to stand for public office or to operate in the public domain more generally.”
In other words, what makes a public figure’s right to privacy sacrosanct when they may give up a whole lot of other rights as part of standing for office?
Naturally, Professor Schauer is not alone in his assessments of the reduced right to privacy of public figures. In a major editorial two years ago this month, Britain’s Guardian newspaper tackled the issue in the wake of the David Blunkett affair.
“The awkward truth is that the way people live their private lives does tell us things that can help to make judgments about them as public people…this is not the same as saying that the world will only be put to rights if it is run by certified saints. This country was seen through two world wars by leaders who would certainly not qualify on that score; but whatever the human failings of a Lloyd George or a Churchill, they did not include an inability to get the job done.”
It’s a comment that echoes the earlier ones on relevance. Are the personal failings relevant to the particular job they have?
The San Francisco Chronicle’s test in regard to public figures is this: “Personal conduct may have a bearing on public roles and public responsibilities. The degree to which a public figure voluntarily conducts his or her life in public or the degree to which private conduct bears on the discharge of public responsibility should guide the publication of personal information.”
Journalist turned lawyer Hal Fuson, now the chief legal officer at America’s Copley Newspaper Group, told a panel discussion journalists should not pull back from disclosing facts about elected officials just because of their own worldviews.
“Worry about the facts, folks, and let the truth take care of itself. Truth is like beauty, it’s in the eye of the beholder. And facts depend on verifiability. Verifiability depends upon being able to get your hands on lots of information that people don’t want you to have, because they want to shape their stories to suit themselves, not to suit the interests of society, and certainly not to suit your desire to inform your communities.”
The American Press Institute has published an ethics “checklist” for journalists weighing up publishing private information on public figures. They include:
Does this matter affect the person’s ability to do his job?
Does this matter reflect on the person’s conduct in office?
Does this matter reflect on the person’s character?
Does the matter reveal hypocrisy?
“Character matters for public officials,” says the Press Institute. “They publish family pictures on campaign brochures and proudly reveal private matters that reflect positively on their character. Private matters that reflect negatively on their character matter to readers as well.”
The Institute concludes:
“Don’t look for easy answers. Many stories involve consideration of more than one of these questions. However you decide, you can’t ensure that you will please all your readers. If you write the story, some readers will say you are prying into matters that should be private. If you don’t, some readers will say you are covering up for people in power…Sometimes the proper decision is to publish the story along with an explanation of your reasons for publishing and your consideration of various factors. Most readers understand that these are not black and white decisions.
“You might decide that a long-ago consensual affair between adults is no one’s business, and some readers will decide that you’re covering up. Or you might decide that criminal conduct is newsworthy whenever it occurred and some readers will think you are dredging up mud about youthful mistakes because your editorial page opposes the candidate.”
Australian political reporter Peter Cole-Adams was quoted in one ethics discussion this way:
“Elected parliamentarians were, he said, the paradigm of the public figure: each chose to enter politics; was paid by the public; spent public money; lived by publicity; enjoyed perks; and had the right to defame anyone he chose from the sanctity of the parliamentary privilege…in this sense, the public, as the hirer and firer, has a right to know what its representatives are up to. ‘If they are not going to be honest…they should be careful’. The questions the press has to ask are: is it true? Is it interesting? Is it in the public interest to disclose? He noted Lord Northcote’s dictum: ‘News is what someone wants to suppress. Everything else is advertising.”
March 30, 2007
Preachers of Hate
HELEN HOODWINKED BY PREACHERS OF HATE
OSAMA BIN LADEN’S TENTACLES REACH NEW ZEALAND’S FIVE MAIN CENTRES IN MASSIVE BORDER SECURITY BREACH
Some of the world’s most extreme Islamic preachers, and organizations
linked to terrorist groups, have spent seven years infiltrating New Zealand’s moderate Muslim community – running training camps and “intensive” courses – and the Government never realized. IAN WISHART has the extraordinary story that’s left local Muslim leaders shocked and embarrassed, and raised major questions
not just about our border security, but whether al Qa’ida has been actively recruiting on the ground in New Zealand
A massive breach in New Zealand’s national security has been discovered by Investigate magazine, with revelations that senior Islamic “preachers of hate”, some with links to al Qa’ida, have been able to come and go from New Zealand with no one in the media, the Government or even the security services apparently aware of who they were.
Among the roll-call of dishonour that’s left the head of New Zealand’s Muslim community reeling and pledging major changes within mosque vetting procedures: two firebrand clerics named as “unindicted co-conspirators” in New York’s infamous
1993 Day of Terror case, when Ramzi Yousef tried to blow up the World Trade Centre the first time and a dozen other men planned to explode ammonium nitrate car bombs at other major New York landmarks.
Additionally, Investigate’s inquiries have shown that a large number of the organizations listed as international affiliates of New Zealand’s mosques have been named by the United Nations, intelligence and law enforcement agencies as supporters, fundraisers and sometimes active participants in al Qa’ida terror plots. Yet members of these organizations have been able to come to New Zealand unobstructed, supply “educational and spiritual” literature to Muslim youth here and run training camps, as recently as last July.
Undercover video footage taken by Britain’s BBC television of training camps run by the same organization overseas has shown children being trained to become suicide bombers.
The President of the Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand (FIANZ), Javed Khan, was doubly shocked to find out about the backgrounds of the extreme Wahhabi Islam visitors, because his organization had personally invited them here to help encourage local Muslims in their faith.
For seven years, preachers, whose works include book urging followers to kill Jews, Christians, pagans and Hindus, have been holding “workshops” in mosques and university student halls up and down New Zealand, yet no one from the Government, Security Intelligence Service or police ever lifted a finger to ring Javed Khan and ask why moderate NZ Muslims were inviting the world’s most extremist clerics here.
While Khan and senior figures in New Zealand’s Islamic community are now urgently reviewing their policies and links to overseas Islamic groups, there’s also growing concern about why, if the Government really regards the NZ Muslim community as friends, it never even bothered to have a quiet word in their ear. Worse, if the Government didn’t know about the backgrounds of the extremists visiting New Zealand, what implications does that have for national security?
For most New Zealanders, the story of modern Islam and the government’s walk-on-eggshells approach to it, begins with September 11:
IN THE BEGINNING
As the smoke from the gaping holes that had been New York’s twin towers still swirled in an acrid mist across Manhattan, choking rescue workers with the fumes from 3,000 vapourised human bodies and thousands of tonnes of vapourised buildings, New Zealand’s acting Prime Minister when the Islamic terror campaign struck, Jim Anderton, raced to get a press release out.
“Acting Prime Minister Jim Anderton is urging New Zealanders not to associate New Zealand’s Muslim community or Afghan refugees with acts of terrorism in the United States yesterday.
“One of the great things about New Zealand is our tolerance and the absence of political and religious extremism in New Zealand. I call on New Zealanders to remember that and not blame or associate people in New Zealand with the terrorism in the US on the basis of national origins.
“It is reprehensible to link the terrorist attacks in the US to refugees in New Zealand, let alone to New Zealand’s Muslim community. Even if Islamic extremists are ultimately shown to be responsible for the terrorist activity, refugees to New Zealand are by definition trying to get away from persecution by extremist regimes and they can hardly be blamed for that,” concluded Anderton.
Leaving aside a possibility that clearly hadn’t occurred to the Deputy Prime Minister – that refugees may simply be extremists from a losing faction fleeing persecution by the extremists of the winning side – the message of tolerance towards Islam became almost a national hymn throughout the West.
A year later, just after the Bali bombings that claimed a further 202 lives at the hands of Islamic extremists, the Labour Government was once again calling for tolerance towards the real victims of terror – Muslims themselves.
“I chose to [meet] with the Muslim community,” declared Ethnic Affairs minister Chris Carter in December 2002, “because Muslims everywhere have had a very difficult twelve months. The New York and Bali terrorism attacks have focused unwelcome attention on what is a fundamentally peaceful religion.”
Among issues raised by Muslims for the government to consider, said Carter, were:
“The fact that Arabic was not taught as part of the school curriculum, despite it being one of the most widely spoken languages in the world, [and] a lack of family counseling services that were sensitive to the cultural differences of the Muslim community.”
On a number of occasions, New Zealand’s Prime Minister Helen Clark has told the country that Islam is a religion of peace. One of the most recent of these declarations accompanied the history-making visit of the PM to the Federation of Islamic Associations of NZ (FIANZ) annual conference at the South Auckland Mosque on May 28 last year.
In a copy of the FIANZ newsletter sent to Investigate, Clark – who’d previously refused to say “Grace” at a state banquet for the Queen, broke royal protocol by wearing trousers, and had a run in with Maoridom over her place on the marae as a woman – is photographed wearing the Islamic hijab – a sign to Muslim men of her secondary status as a woman and submission to Islam’s requirements.
“In her address,” says the FIANZ document, “she acknowledged
and thanked FIANZ and the Muslim community at large for maintaining calm and building better relationships with others subsequent to attacks on Auckland masjids (mosques) after the London bombings.
“Speaking on the diverse New Zealand people she said that migration over many years has resulted in a multi-faith and multi-cultural society.
“Speaking of various initiatives by her Government she mentioned the special ‘Building Bridges’ programme by the Office of Ethnic Affairs, police recruitment of ethnic people, and the Ministry of Social Development’s ‘Building Cohesion in Society’.
“Looking to the future she mentioned three priorities for Muslim kiwis: Modernisation and transformation of the economy;
Building stronger family, young and old; Building a unique national identity of our diverse country.
“In all three, the Muslim community has a part to play…Quranic classes are necessary for a sense of identity.”
You would think such an important and history-making speech by the Prime Minister would be on the government’s website. It is not. No news release about the visit was sent out electronically to media, nor is there a report in Auckland’s journal of record, the New Zealand Herald. Instead, the only printed report of this visit is that contained
in the FIANZ newsletter, which concludes:
“We need to build a distinctive New Zealand with one identity built on each of us being sincere in who and what we are, where we come from, what our hosting home and culture are. Openness and dialogue are important to go ahead as a nation.”
Elsewhere in the same FIANZ newsletter, the familiar refrains are echoed – “Islam means peace”, it declares in an article on outreach to the wider New Zealand community for Islam Awareness Week. Few New Zealanders would know, however, that the correct Arabic translation of Islam is “submission”, not peace. To a Muslim, peace only comes through submission to Allah, but the phrase gets shortened to “Islam means peace” for Western consumption.
It is little PR shortcuts like this that make Islam an easier sell to young westerners: Islam is seen as the underdog, misunderstood and bullied by the West. But this is a carefully crafted façade largely driven worldwide by Saudi extremists and Saudi money.
According to independent estimates, the Saudi Arabian regime has spent somewhere in the region of NZ$110 billion exporting Wahhabi Islam – the variety of Islam followed by terrorist group al Qa’ida – worldwide. That money, itself the proceeds of petro-dollars, has been used to train Muslims in extremist Saudi universities
and send them overseas as missionaries to train local Muslims in the most fundamentalist strains of Islam.
To put this in perspective, bear in mind that 15 of the 19 hijackers killed in the 9/11 attacks were Saudi Arabian. Nearly all had been Saudi-trained.
The tone of Saudi extremist Islam was recognized early by New Zealand, as the Prime Minister herself noted on 21 September 2001 when she followed President Bush’s lead in separating moderates from extremists.
“President Bush made it clear that the teachings of the Islamic faith are good and must be distinguished from the terrorists who have blasphemed that faith and tried to hijack it.
“I call on New Zealanders to make that distinction too. Our country also contains people of many faiths, and all those faiths and those of peaceful intent who follow them must be respected.”
Clark did not explicitly state what al Qa’ida’s blasphemy was, but the group’s aims are on the record as being consistent with Saudi Arabian Wahhabi Islam: the submission of the entire world to Islam, as is predicted in the Qu’ran and which Muhammed instructed his followers to achieve; the introduction of Shari’a law worldwide; and a return to what Wahhabists see as fundamental Islamic values, such as women being forced to wear veils, and pagans, atheists and gays being stoned to death.
Implicitly in the Prime Minister’s statement, these are the extremist blasphemies New Zealand was joining the US in fighting against.
“President Bush has said that he sees this as an international effort. New Zealand is in it for the long haul too. What the United States is asking the whole world to address is a radical terrorist network which has shown its capability to deliver co-ordinated acts of hideous violence. New Zealand supports the United States’ determination to root out al Qa’ida and other terrorist groups worldwide. This will be a lengthy campaign,” declared Clark.
Yet despite the tough talk, the New Zealand government appears to have been asleep at their posts as Islamic extremists from Saudi Arabia quietly infiltrated the very same mosques Labour had been praising as moderate.
BILAL PHILIPS “The clash of civilizations is a reality. Western culture…an enemy Islam” – Bilal Philips
In the very same 2006 FIANZ newsletter featuring Helen in the hijab is another, seemingly innocuous, article recording the July 06 visit of “Islamic scholar” Dr Bilal Philips. It wasn’t a random visit. Philips was expressly invited here by FIANZ as a warm-up act for Islam Awareness Week.
“During his visit to New Zealand,” says the report, “Dr Bilal held lectures in Dunedin, Wellington, Hamilton and Auckland…He received his BA degree from the Islamic University of Madina and his MA in Aqeedah (Islamic philosophy) from the King Saud University in Riyadh.”
Madina is to Islam what Medellin is to Colombian drug barons: the heart of the empire. For the record, and to give you an idea of the Wahhabi pedigree of Philips, the University at Madina is regarded as the most fundamentalist of all the Islamic study centres, and the King Saud University in Riyadh was also attended by Osama bin Laden.
“The theme for [Bilal’s] lectures was “Muslim Minorities living in Western Civilisations”, notes the FIANZ report. “There were full attendances in all the Centres he presented his lecture.
His lectures were very enlightening and educational.
“A recurring advice throughout his lecture is for the Muslim community in New Zealand to join together to pursue an Islamic way of life in education, housing and commerce.”
The newsletter records that Philips visited the Federation’s offices to hold discussions with local Muslim leaders Hanif Ali and Sheikh Amir, as well as discussions with Muslim students at Victoria University and intensive workshops on how to spread Islam with “a group of enthusiastic brothers and sisters” at Auckland’s Avondale Islamic Centre.
“The visit of Dr Bilal was indeed very successful and FIANZ hope to continue in the tradition of welcoming respected overseas Islamic scholars/speakers to New Zealand to further enrich our community.”
OK. That’s how local Muslims saw Philips through their eyes. But what does Bilal Philips really talk about on his sellout lecture tours? We might never have known had Philips not shot to fame on a major investigative documentary screened on Britain’s Channel 4 last month by the Dispatches programme.
Neither TVNZ nor TV3 in New Zealand have run the programme yet, but it created huge waves in Britain and America because it exposed self-professed “moderate” Muslims at the UK’s biggest mosques preaching messages of hatred and jihad against the West as recently as just a few weeks ago. A Dispatches journalist went undercover for several months to secretly film lectures in the mosques given by Bilal Philips and others.
In one segment of the programme, Philips was covertly filmed telling Muslim men it was OK to marry 9 year old pre-pubescent girls, because the prophet Muhammad did it.
“The prophet Muhammad practically outlined the rules regarding marriage prior to puberty, with his practice he clarified what is permissible and that is why we shouldn’t have any issues about an older man marrying a younger woman, which is looked down upon by this [Western] society today, but we know that Prophet Muhammad practiced it, it wasn’t abuse or exploitation, it was marriage.”
Philips later argued to the media he was only re-stating the Qu’ranic position, but it is clear from his comments above he endorsed it.
But marrying pre-pubescent girls in the name of Islam wasn’t the only message Philips has preached. In 1991, as part of a Wahhabi infiltration of US military units stationed in Saudi Arabia for Gulf War 1, he led Islamic evangelism programmes – paid for by the Saudi government – that reportedly converted some 3,000 US soldiers to Islam, some of whom later joined Islamic jihad movements. This was first revealed in a Washington Post article on November 2, 2003, which quotes Bilal Philips.
“The clash of civilizations is a reality. Western culture led by the United States is an enemy of Islam.”
Remember: this is a man hailed at the time as a leader and a scholar by moderate New Zealand Muslim leaders, and who held sellout lectures and workshops for young Muslims up and down the country last year.
One spin-off from Bilal Philips’ efforts in 1991 however was that the Pentagon suddenly had to find Muslim chaplains to minister to its freshly converted Islamic US soldiers. “One architect of this initiative was Abdurahman Alamoudi, who was indicted Oct. 23 on money-laundering charges for allegedly taking hundreds of thousands of dollars from Libya, which is designated by U.S. officials as a state sponsor of terrorism,” reported the Post. An extra irony is that Alamoudi was an election campaign donor to both Republican George W. Bush and Democrat Hillary Clinton, evincing a “bob each way” mentality.
The article goes on to say that the Pentagon is now “worried” about the loyalties of its Islamic troops.
“Some military officials believe that the al Qa’ida terrorist network is trying to recruit Muslim members of the U.S. armed services and contractors who work with them. Other officers have expressed fears that some Muslim soldiers, sailors and airmen might one day decline to take up arms against fellow Muslims.”
A news article listed on Wikipedia and sourced to Intelwire directly links Bilal Philips to known terrorists.
“An al Qa’ida operative sought to recruit US veterans as paramilitary trainers and combat volunteers in 1992 and 1993, at the explicit direction of a cleric [Philips] who converted thousands of Gulf War soldiers to Islam on behalf of the Saudi government,” begins the report.
“Clement Rodney Hampton-El was convicted of conspiring to blow up New York city landmarks in a 1993 terror plot linked to the World Trade Centre bombing in February of that year.”
As an al Qa’ida trained explosives expert with ties to the first World Trade Centre bomber Ramzi Yousef, Hampton-El (better known as “Dr Rashid”) gave evidence at his 1995 federal trial that he’d been summonsed to a meeting at the Saudi embassy in Washington in 1992 and told wealthy Saudis were bankrolling a project to recruit US soldiers as jihadists, and that he would be given a budget of US$150,000 for his role in the project. He testified that Bilal Philips then gave him a list of US Muslim soldiers to approach and worked with Hampton-El to achieve the goal.
Philips’ involvement is a matter of public record in the court documents (US vs Rahman, S5 93 Cr.18, August 2, 1995), yet he managed to slip through New Zealand immigration in July 2006 no problems at all.
But wait, there’s more. In the mid-90s, Bilal Philips was teaching at an Islamic school in Cotabato, the Philippines – home territory to the deadly Abu Sayyaf terrorist group and an al Qa’ida recruiting ground for the Pacific (see Investigate, Feb 05).
Osama bin Laden’s brother in law, Mohammed Jamal Khalifa was documented by both US and Filipino authorities as funneling money to Abu Sayyaf via the Islamic Da’wah Council of the Philippines – an organization listed on the website of FIANZ in New Zealand as one of its international affiliates.
“In May, 1993,” continues the Intelwire story, “Bilal Philips sent for Hampton-El, who was flown first to Saudi Arabia for a week, then to the Philippines for a week.
“In Manila, Hampton-El testified, he met with Philips at an Islamic conference… sponsored by wealthy Saudis and the Islamic Da’wah Council of the Philippines. The Da’wah Council was one of Khalifa’s [Osama’s brother in law] charities.
“On his return to New York, Hampton-El told friends that he was planning to move to the Philippines and join an Islamic militant movement there. According to testimony and surveillance tapes presented at his trial…he visited training camps in the south of the country during the May 1993 trip. He also described visiting a terrorist safehouse with Bilal Philips.
“Bilal Philips, Osama bin Laden and Mohammed Jamal Khalifa were all named by the [US] government as unindicted co-conspirators in the Day of Terror trial,” reports Intelwire. For his part, Hampton-El is languishing in a maximum security penitentiary in the US where he won’t be eligible for parole until 2023.
So Bilal Philips is a very strange houseguest for moderate Muslims in New Zealand to be inviting over.
But it doesn’t stop there. The deeper Investigate dug into the moderate mosques in New Zealand, the messier it got. Of all the names of invited overseas scholars who’ve come here that it was possible for us to verify [due to variant English spellings of Arabic names], virtually none was a “moderate” – most were Wahhabi extremists and some, like Bilal Philips, have links directly to terrorists.
SHEIKH KHALID YASIN
In May 2005, another extremist Wahhabi preacher arrived in New Zealand as a guest of the Muslim Association of Canterbury, Sheikh Khalid Yasin. Trained, again, in Saudi Arabia, this American convert to Islam is well known for a verbal jihad in his lectures.
And like Bilal Philips, Yasin also rocketed to stardom in Britain as a result of January’s TV documentary exposing preachers of hate. In Yasin’s case, the TV crew found DVDs on sale at “moderate” mosques in London where Yasin says women are worthless.
“This whole delusion of the equality of women is a bunch of foolishness…There’s no such thing.”
He also claims AIDS is a western conspiracy.
“Missionaries from the World Health Organisation and Christian groups went into Africa and inoculated people for diphtheria, malaria, yellow fever, and they put in the medicine the AIDS virus, which is a conspiracy.”
But despite being welcomed by moderate Muslims in New Zealand, Yasin had a tougher time being interviewed by Nine Network’s Sunday programme in Australia, which dragged out yet more video clips of his lectures from around the world.
“There’s no such thing as a Muslim having a non-Muslim friend,” he told believers at one rally – which doesn’t gel with the gestures of friendship from the same local Muslim leaders who invited him to New Zealand.
“If you prefer the clothing of the kafirs [infidels] over the clothing of the Muslims, most of those names that’s on most of those clothings [sic] is faggots, homosexuals and lesbians.”
“How do you feel about the fact that the Government is saying we should set up some new rules to make sure that no potential terrorists are developed or cultivated. And also we want to see inside the mosque and places so we can see before something happens. How do you feel about that? Because that’s what’s being talked about. Now, if they didn’t say exactly that, I’m telling you that’s what it means!”
Naturally, young Australian Muslims digesting the questions he phrased it felt threatened, victimized and angry. Yet Yasin’s messages of hate are a very good reason for the Islamic community to be transparent.
Despite Arab TV network al Jazeera broadcasting Osama bin Laden’s admission that he ordered the 9/11 attacks, Sheikh Yasin – who has lectured extensively in NZ mosques and universities – shows himself to be a 9/11 denier.
“There has been no evidence that has surfaced, no bona fide irrevocable, irrefutable evidence that has been surfaced that showed that there is a group called al Qa’ida that did the September 11 bombings.”
He told Sunday’s Sarah Ferguson that “sophisticated entities” blew up the twin towers.
“Sophisticated entities means entities who themselves were governmentally instructed, equipped, motivated. We now know that the way the World Trade Centre fell, the way those buildings fell – they fell from internal explosive charges, the same way it’s done in a construction site.”
Yasin calls for homosexuals and lesbians to be put on trial for immorality, “and if they are tried, convicted, they are punishable by death”.
In his Sunday interview, and in his lectures to Muslim students in Australia, he preaches the message that Muslims everywhere are victimized. When Sunday raised the case of the Islamic bookshop in Sydney caught selling a how-to book on suicide bombing, Yasin simply denied it.
“There is no books [sic] in no Muslim bookstore that says how to become a suicide bomber. This witch-hunt against Muslims is what we are against. I have not been able to find one single incident.”
Another Muslim scholar brought out to New Zealand in 2001 – just months before 9/11, was American convert Siraj Wahhaj, invited here by FIANZ. Wahhaj was once hailed as a “moderate” in the US, and became the first American Muslim to deliver the daily prayer in the US Congress, in 1991, as a recognition of his “moderate” views. But like Bilal Philips before him, Siraj Wahhaj was leading a double life: teacher’s pet moderate Muslim on the outside for the benefit of politicians and the media, die-hard radical extremist on the inside. Wikipedia records that Wahhaj was named by the US Department of Justice as another of several “unindicted persons who may be alleged as co-conspirators in the attempt to blow up New York City monuments” including the World Trade Centre in 1993.
As Salon magazine reported on September 26, 2001, Wahhaj had a close relationship with an Islamic terrorist, the “Blind Sheikh” Omar Abdul Rahman, inviting him to speak at Wahhaj’s Brooklyn mosque and even testifying as a character witness for Rahman in court.
Wahhaj, who like Philips slipped into New Zealand without opposition by the SIS, police or border security, is also quoted in Salon as calling the original Gulf War 1 – against Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait – “one of the most diabolical plots ever in the annals of history”, and “part of a larger plan, to destroy the greatest challenge to the Western world, and that’s Islam.”
Comparing the fall of Soviet Russia to the current crisis in the West, Wahhaj warned America too will be crushed unless it “accepts the Islamic agenda”.
Journalist Daniel Pipes, in The Danger Within, details a 1992 address Wahhaj gave to an audience of New Jersey Muslims.
“If only Muslims were more clever politically, he told his New Jersey listeners, they could take over the United States and replace its constitutional government with a caliphate. ‘If we were united and strong, we’d elect our own Emir [leader] and give allegiance to him…Take my word, if 6-8 million Muslims unite in America, the country will come to us’.”
So that was Siraj Wahhaj’s agenda just a year after reading the opening prayer in the same US parliament he was hoping to overthrow, and he is welcomed as an esteemed speaker by moderate Muslims in New Zealand.
The website MilitantIslamMonitor.org has compiled its own research on Wahhaj.
“There’s no such thing as a Muslim having a non-Muslim friend”
“Wahhaj extolled the joys of martyrdom in this Jihad website entry, ‘No one who dies and goes to Paradise is going to want to come back to this world, except a Martyr, a person who gave their life for Islam, for Allah, they will want to come back to the earth and die ten more times in the way of Allah, because of the great gifts Allah has given them in Paradise’.
“Wahhaj often writes and speaks on the subject of martyrdom in Islam. Some of his works are entitled: ‘Are you ready to die?’ ‘The blessing of Death’ ‘The easy way to Paradise – how to get there’.
“In addition to martyrdom Wahhaj is a proponent of polygamy and has produced many tapes on the subject.”
While the latter topic might fit Labour Party policy in New Zealand, it is doubtful Wahhaj’s commitment to military jihad would.
For his part, Wahhaj has told American media they’ve misunderstood him, that “Islam is a religion of peace”, and that he really is a moderate.
ISLAMIC YOUTH TRAINING CAMPS
In addition to general visits and lecture tours by people like Bilal Philips, the Muslim community has been seeking specialist input for the spiritual training of young Muslim men in New Zealand. The FIANZ Annual Report for June 2000 through May 2001 records one such “North Island” camp, held at the Kauaeranga Forest Education Camp on the Coromandel Peninsula between 12 and 14 January 2001.
“The theme of the camp was ‘The Khilafah and man’s role as Khalifah’.”
While the words may not mean anything to the average reader, the “Khilafah” is the Arabic word for the restoration of the Caliphate – worldwide Muslim rule under one Caliph. The last Caliphate fell with the collapse of the Ottoman empire in Turkey after World War One, and extremist Muslims blame the West for this. A “Khalifah” is the future leader of Islam worldwide, the one who will unite the planet under one crescent.
“In accordance with Islam, it is the duty of the Muslims worldwide to elect a Khalifah. Such an appointment is seen as a duty (fard) similar to all other duties within Islam. The duty is seen as inevitable, and any divergence from the path is considered a grave sin, and therefore any neglect of this duty will be punished accordingly. The establishment of a Khilafah is seen as vital, because without it Islam cannot possibly be applied,” notes one Islamic scholar on the point.
Jemaah Islamiyah, the group responsible for the Bali bombings, is trying to establish a Khilafah state ruled by Muslims that covers Australia, through Indonesia and South East Asia, which is one of the reasons Prime Minister Helen Clark outlawed Jemaah Islamiyah in 2002.
“Jemaah Islamiyah is an extremist Islamic organization…its stated goal is to create an Islamic state…the organization has established links to al Qa’ida, based on a shared ideology and cooperation in relation to terrorist activities and training,” said Helen Clark.
Meanwhile, the FIANZ annual report detailing the NZ youth camp continues:
“Sixty brothers, aged between 15 and 25, attended…to improve and encourage youth practice of Islam and also to foster a greater awareness of one another amongst New Zealand Muslim students.”
Nor were South Island Muslim students left out. They had their own camp near Mosgiel in mid April 2001.
“The theme of the camp was ‘Islam is the Solution’. Approximately 100 brothers and sisters attended.”
There was another big training camp only weeks later, from 3 to 10 July 2001, arranged in association with Auckland’s Al-Manar Muslim Trust (affiliated to Mt Roskill’s Masjid-e-Umar mosque), which hosted 40 young Muslims from around the country.
“Three Sheikhs from Saudi Arabia supervised it,” notes an Al-Manar briefing on its website. “The camp was very successful, the youths and their families expressed their gratitude for such an activity, where the principles of Islam, strengthening the brotherhood ties and the development of the youths’ skills were the main purposes of the camp.
“At the closing ceremony of the camp, which was held in a very beautiful area in the north of New Zealand, prizes were given to the participants by Dr Anwar Ghani, the president of…FIANZ.”
Similar camps have been held every year since, many of them with invited Saudi-trained preachers like Yahya Ibrahim, who inspired the youth at the 2004 Muslim Youth Camp held at Tui Ridge Park in Rotorua.
A Canadian of Egyptian descent who currently lives in Australia, Ibrahim hit the headlines just over a year ago when US Homeland Security officials barred his entry to the United States on unspecified grounds. Ibrahim had been scheduled to speak at an Islamic rally in Texas, and had been seen by some as a “moderate”. Others, however, are not so sure. Fluent in Arabic, he specializes in translating the works of some of Saudi Arabia’s most extreme Wahhabi preachers into English. Among them, three books by Sheikh Abdurahman al Sudais, whose views and television broadcasts across the Middle East urge Muslims to kill “Jews and worshippers of the Cross” as well as “Hindus”. It would be fair to say Sudais is an equal opportunities genocidal maniac.
Another of Ibrahim’s translations is Explaining the Hadith of Battling The Jews, a book often used by the terrorist group Hamas to justify suicide bombings and other attacks on Israel. The translation includes verses like “…the decrepit nation in which the scattered Jews of the world were gathered unrightfully and in oppression – the State of Israel – shall cease and be erased from existence.
“It is abundantly clear that the big battle is inevitably coming and that the Word of Tawheed (Islamic monotheism) will be victorious without a doubt.”
In another of his translations it is written, “Allah has cursed the Jews in the Qu’ran on numerous occasions, informing us of his anger towards them…the enemies of the Prophets – especially the Jews – shall not be given inheritance of the earth during
their worldly life and they shall face a grievous everlasting punishment in the Eternal Fire in the next life.”
In one of his own lectures, available on the internet, titled “How kuffars [infidels] try to take the light out of Islam”, Ibrahim himself tells Muslims they can have nothing in common with Western society, Christians or Jews, that all are “evil” – hardly the message of moderation when Prime Minister Helen Clark talked of the “peaceful intent” of Muslims.
Then there’s the comments of Ethnic Affairs Minister Chris Carter in January 2003, a full year before the New Zealand Muslim community invited Yahya Ibrahim here to train Muslim youth in January 2004.
“New Zealand’s Muslim community should be applauded for their declaration of peace and goodwill today,” Ethnic Affairs Minister Chris Carter stated.
“Ten Muslim groups from all over the country have signed a declaration to all New Zealanders affirming their commitment to peace and stability, and to being an integral part of our nation.”
The signed declaration Carter refers to was issued in the name of FIANZ, but it was FIANZ a year later that brought in Ibrahim.
One of Ibrahim’s taped lectures begins with a statement that the Qu’ran warns all Muslims who their “enemies will be”, and he then launches into a stinging attack on liberal western society, atheists, Jews and Christians. Further on in the tape, Ibrahim launches into homosexuals.
“When we look around and see the society that we are living in, we see people who are committing fornication and Allah punishes them by giving them a disease like AIDS. We look again and we see the murders, we look again we see the drug addictions, we look again and we see the prostitution, we look again and we see the disbelief in the laws of Allah: there is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is his prophet! There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is his prophet! These words stand for everything against that, stand against drugs and prostitution and disbelief. These words stand against all of that.”
It is hard to reconcile the teachings of Yahya Ibrahim to kiwi Muslims on a youth camp, and his translation works heralding a coming world battle where Islam will reign victorious, with the stated declaration that Muslims are happy to be part of a New Zealand liberal society lead by a very liberal Labour government.
As Canadian commentator David Ouellette remarked after Ibrahim was banned from the United States a year ago, “In Australia, Ibrahim is widely considered as a ‘bridge builder’ between Muslims and non-Muslims. Yet, publicly available information on Ibrahim appears to point to the profile of a hardcore activist of the Wahhabi strain working to spread in the West the hateful, terror-inspiring Salafi ideology, the likes of whom should not be welcome in free societies fighting Islamic extremism.”
FUNKY COLD MADINA: SAUDIS IN NZ
You could put down a visit by one of the men above as just an aberration, a mistake made by innocent Muslim leaders in New Zealand. But taken as a whole – given that the visits involved packed lecture sessions up and down the country, youth training camps in some cases, and that all of them are extremist Salafi/Wahhabi firebrands – it does raise questions about what kind of Islamic society in New Zealand local Muslims are aiming for.
Take Auckland’s Al-Manar Trust, mentioned earlier as a Saudi-backed organizer of the youth camps. On its website, Al-Manar says one of its prime objectives is the introduction of Shari’a in New Zealand – at least among Muslims.
“One of the main objectives of the Al-Manar Trust is to expand the knowledge [of] Islamic Share’ah principles between Muslims in New Zealand.
“To achieve that goal, Al-Manar Trust has organized the following Share’ah educational courses in co-operation with Saudi Arabian universities: The first educational session – in co-operation with the International Islamic Youth Association.
“The courses were run by eight lecturers [who] came to New Zealand from the University of Imam Mohammed Bin Saud in Riyadh. There were 300 participants in the courses.
“The second educational session – after the major success of the first session, another session was held in co-operation with Al-Haramain Charity Association, between 11 July till 21st of July 2001.
“Over 250 attended the lectures given by Sheikhs from Saudi Arabia.”
Take a moment to join some dots here. Early in the article under the “Youth Camps” heading you’ll recall Al-Manar Trust organized a national Muslim youth training camp from the 3rd to the 10th of July 2001, supervised by three Saudi sheikhs. Lo and behold, on 11 July a group of Saudi sheikhs from Al-Haramain charity begin conducting intensive lectures for adult Muslims. By a process of elimination it seems highly likely it was Al-Haramain involved in the youth camp as well. Which makes the next piece of information we’re about to give you highly relevant.
It is true that New Zealand Muslims used to overwhelmingly be moderate, but in the last few years the balance has started to tip – only the media and politicians haven’t noticed it. The first public inkling of trouble came in late 2003 when genuine moderates in Christchurch warned the Government that extremist Saudi’s linked to the Al Haramain terrorist organization were infiltrating the local mosque.
“An Islamic ‘charity’ involved in fundraising for al Qa’ida and the southeast Asian terror network Jemaah Islamiyah is trying to set up a front organization in New Zealand, and may get approval to do so,” Investigate reported in November 2003.
“Al Haramain operates in more than 60 countries worldwide, and its attempts to get a toehold in New Zealand hit the headlines last month when a group of Muslim community leaders sent a letter to the New Zealand government, warning that the Saudi-backed Al Haramain would bring chaos and disaster to New Zealand if their application is approved.
“That application includes setting up an Islamic school to teach Wahhabi Islam – the radical branch of the religion – and establishing an ‘Islamic bank’ in New Zealand.
“While daily news media have played down Al Haramain’s links to terrorism, Investigate has now confirmed an extensive relationship between the ‘charity’ and al Qa’ida. Those links include Al Haramain’s involvement in a series of al Qa’ida suicide bombings in Saudi Arabia earlier this year  – the Saudi government shut down ten offices…as a direct response after discovering it was funding Osama bin Laden’s organization.
“Additionally, a senior figure in Indonesian-based Jemaah Islamiyah arrested three months ago [in 2003], Omar al Faruq, has told investigators that his organization has received extensive funding and moneylaundering services from Al Haramain.”
The website for the Wellington mosque, iman.co.nz, noted in a 2003 news release (still on the web) that two senior figures from Al Haramain, Sheikhs Abdul Majeed Ghaith al Ghaith and Menea al Dakeel, toured NZ mosques in May 2003.
Despite being warned of the threat, Labour’s then Foreign Affairs Minister Phil Goff dismissed the fears of the Islamic moderates in Christchurch, saying the government was “leaning towards the view that it’s mainly an internal conflict in the Muslim community in Christchurch that they need to sort out among themselves,” and describing Al Haramain as “largely a distinguished and peaceful charitable organization focusing on the education and welfare of the Muslim community around the world.”
What neither Goff nor Investigate knew in late 2003 was that Al-Haramain didn’t have a toehold, but a stranglehold on NZ Islam and had been indoctrinating local Muslims for at least two years.
Within months of making arguably one of the most ignorant comments of his career, Phil Goff could only watch from the sidelines in 2004 as the United Nations froze the worldwide assets of Al Haramain because of its strong links to al Qa’ida and other terror groups, whilst masquerading as a distinguished and peaceful charity.
The damage to the Christchurch mosque, however, had already been done. Although the UN move kept Al Haramain officially out of the picture, the Saudi financiers of terror and Wahhabi Islam simply fronted up with some other Muslim ‘charities’ to help New Zealand’s Muslim community and their mosques.
The resulting tension has split the Muslim community in Christchurch into different factions.
Disquiet was also voiced in the New Zealand Herald last year by local Muslim leader Abdullah Drury, who warned that 30 years of making the Muslim community a mainstream part of New Zealand was disappearing out the door because the huge influx of recent immigrants under Labour has changed the balance of power. Where once Muslims had a sense of their NZ identity, Drury says the new leaders’ “hearts, minds, rationale and prejudices are still firmly rooted in their home countries.
More than one North Island critic has stated that some Canterbury Muslims think they’re still living in Africa or the Middle East.
“Why are things falling apart now?” asks Drury. “The most significant contribution stems from the massive and poorly planned influx of immigrants and refugees from Africa and the Middle East in the 1990s. Nobody in the local Muslim community
ever anticipated or planned this.”
From 13,000 Muslims in 1996, there are now almost 37,000, and the Islamic community has jumped 50% under Labour.
“The pioneering Muslim families who established Islam in this country have been effectively overwhelmed: swept out of office by the superior numbers of the new faces, or entrenching themselves and encouraging newcomers to set up their own Islamic prayer arrangements.
“There was also a substantial change in composition. In the 1970s most Muslims in New Zealand were…mostly from societies with long traditions of interaction with white Anglo-Saxon culture and customs: Indians, Fiji Indians or Pakistanis.
“Now, there is a substantial bloc, often Arab or African, with considerably poorer education than their predecessors, with vastly different language skills and cultures to those this country has traditionally absorbed.
“This,” warns Drury, “has exacerbated community differences along ethnic, linguistic or cultural lines inside mosques from Christchurch to Auckland…very quickly [the Arab/African faction] use their disproportionately larger numbers to vote in their own leaders. Consequently, a fair number of mosques in New Zealand are currently being administered or dominated by people and groups who have arrived in this country within the last 10 years, some substantially less.”
And if that’s a warning from a moderate Muslim worth listening to, consider this: the new leaders in New Zealand’s mosques have strong ties to Wahhabism.
The Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand (FIANZ) website notes the Islamic organisations and educational institutions it is now affiliated to. The majority of those links, checked out by Investigate, track back to extremist organizations with known involvement in either exporting Wahhabism or terrorism.
As the FIANZ annual report from 2001 notes:
“Over July-August-September 2000 New Zealand was blessed, or more accurately blitzed, by several visits by various groups of scholars from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
“The first such group came from the Al Imam Mohammed bin Saud Islamic University of Riyadh between 25 July and 12 August. They were led by Dr Abdul Aziz al-Omari.”
Try this as an interesting exercise: Google al-Omari’s name and you’ll find it’s the exact match for a 29 year old Saudi hijacker killed on one of the planes that hit the twin towers a year after this NZ visit. Although unlikely to be the same person, you’ll find both Omari’s attended the same university.
The FIANZ report continues:
“Sheikh al-Omari ran an 11 day Islamic Seminar at the new Blockhouse Bay mosque. This group then split into three parties who traveled the country giving lectures and conducting brief courses in Aqidah, Fiqh and methods of Da’wah [spreading Islam].
“Between 23-25 August Dr Abdul Aziz al Shaum and Dr Mohammed al-Sawai al-Omari, also from the Imam Mohammed bin Saud Islamic University, conducted a similar whirlwind tour of New Zealand, visiting Muslim communities in Auckland through to Dunedin in a matter of days.”
The question of precisely why Saudi Arabian clerics from some of the most extreme, terror-linked Universities in the world, were sweeping through New Zealand every year remains unanswered. But they kept on coming.
“Over 25-28 August, the World Assembly of Muslim Youth and the South Pacific Da’wah Council organized a Da’wah training course in Auckland featuring Dr Abdullah al-Malki, Dr Sayeed al-Ghamdi, Dr Abdul Rahman Mohammed al-Jarri and Brother Abdul Rahman al-Fifi of the King Khalid University in Riyadh.
“Drs al-Malki and al-Ghamdi then went on to visit Muslims in Christchurch, Dunedin
and Wellington over 29 August-1 September. The other two scholars made corresponding visits to Hamilton and Palmerston North over the same period.”
Sayeed al-Ghamdi’s name is similar to another of the 9/11 hijackers, although the two are not the same.
But what of some of the organizations mentioned here?
THE WORLD ASSEMBLY OF MUSLIM YOUTH
Based in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, this charity (WAMY) is involved in education programmes for Muslim youth, including training camps, in New Zealand.
“The Muslim Association of Canterbury (MAC) received an air cargo from WAMY, Saudi Arabia, that was intended to cover an Intensive Islamic course run by WAMY,” records a Christchurch mosque newsletter for August 2002, a year after 9/11.
“On 16 July ,” a MAC report says, “four scholars from WAMY in Saudi Arabia visited the mosque and conducted a 10 day Intensive Islamic course. More than 300 brothers and sisters attended the course. There was a special scholar for the children.”
The World Assemby of Muslim Youth is also listed as a special affiliate of FIANZ. But what does it really do?
Left wing American journalist Greg Palast, no friend of the Bush administration’s War on Terror, nonetheless highlighted the ongoing involvement of WAMY in the US as a failure of national security:
“On November 9, 2001,” wrote Palast in a 2004 dispatch carried by Scoop in New Zealand, “when you could still choke on the dust in the air near Ground Zero, BBC Television received a call in London from a top-level US intelligence agent. He was not happy. Shortly after George W. Bush took office, he told us reluctantly, the CIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and the FBI ‘were told to back off the Saudis’.
“We knew that. In the newsroom, we had a document already in hand, marked ‘SECRET’ across the top and ‘199-I’ – meaning this was a national security matter.
“The secret memo released agents to hunt down two members of the bin Laden family operating a ‘suspected terrorist organisation’ in the USA.”
The “suspected terrorist organization”, it transpired, was WAMY.
“Called the World Assembly of Muslim Youth,” writes Palast, “the group sponsors soccer teams and summer camps in Florida. BBC obtained a video of one camp activity, a speech exhorting kids on the heroism of suicide bombings and hostage
takings. While WAMY draws membership with wholesome activities, it has also acted as a cover or front, say the Dutch, Indian and Bosnian governments, for the recruitment of jihadi killers.
“Certainly, it was worth asking the bin Laden boys a few questions,” says Palast, “but the FBI agents couldn’t, until it was too late.”
Remember, WAMY has been actively involved in Muslim youth camps in New Zealand right up until now.
But, as Palast points out, the “back off the Saudis” instruction meant the US headquarters of WAMY, in Virginia, wasn’t raided by the FBI until May 2004, long after the bin Ladens had fled, presumably taking with them all incriminating information.
Although a squad of 50 agents reportedly surrounded and sealed off the WAMY office, they “seized mostly empty files and a lot of soccer balls,” wrote Palast.
Over on Wikipedia, the encyclopedia acknowledges WAMY’s claim to be nothing more than a football-mad bunch of Muslim boy-scouts, but then refers to evidence about WAMY that’s emerged from some of the Guantanamo detainee hearings:
“The terrorists that plotted the 1993 World Trade Centre bombing kept literature handed out by WAMY. Here are some samples: ‘The Jews are enemies of the faithful, God and the angels. Teach our children to love taking revenge on the Jews and the oppressors’.
“Here are some examples of what specifically to teach the children: ‘In 1989 Abdul-Hadi Nemin carried out his own heroic operation while on bus #405 of Tel Aviv-Jerusalem line; he charged at the bus driver, chanting ‘Allahu Akbar’ [God is great!], twirled the steering wheel toward the cliff and caused the bus to take a big fall. As a result of his courageous act, 14 Israelis were killed and 27 were injured’.”
This was the kind of “boy scout” training WAMY was caught teaching to Muslim youth. WAMY had been run by Omar bin Laden and Abdullah bin Laden.
The Muslim youth group has also been named in a major United Nations report,
“Terrorism Financing: Roots and trends of Saudi terrorism financing”, prepared for the UN Security Council in December 2002. The report states that WAMY, Al Haramain and the Muslim World League – another ‘charity’ supporting New Zealand’s mosques – are all major fundraising arms for al Qa’ida and other terrorist entities.
It is interesting, too, how these ‘charities’ are able to fly a dozen preachers all the way from Saudi Arabia to New Zealand just to run a youth camp or a few lectures. The Al-Manar Trust in Auckland acknowledged as much in its newsletter.
“Al-Manar Trust was able to build a very friendly relationship with Islamic associations overseas. Some of these associations have provided Al-Manar Trust with valuable books and resources.”
One of its goals, it says, is building an “Islamic nation” here.
“The youth activities organized by Al-Manar Trust include [a] weekly lecture for Muslim youths, sports activities and camping. The activities’ aim is to reinforce the Islamic principles and to strengthen the brotherhood ties between them. Al-Manar Trust is very keen to continue providing these activities to our youth because we believe in the youths’ important role in building the future in our Islamic nation.
“Protecting our youth from the influence of the western society that they live in is a very important factor in achieving our goal.”
In other words, forget warm fuzzy talk from the government about common ground: whatever the Muslim leaders are saying publicly, privately some appear to be creating a state within a state, a kind of Islamic apartheid which will grow in significance as Islamic immigration grows, helped by theology and resources from Saudi Arabia’s extremist, terror-linked “charities”.
Al-Manar has already used that expertise and resource to begin Islamification outreach programmes “at New Zealand universities and visiting prisons”. The Trust says it recognizes “the importance of introducing Islam and its principles to the New Zealand society. Therefore, the Trust intends to provide the public and university libraries with a set of Islamic books, which are simple, easy to understand and very comprehensive. There is a lot of potential to spread the word of Allah in New Zealand. New Zealand is a very peaceful country where Islam has no enemies
and the people are kind, simple and keen to read.”
Among the resources Al-Manar has, it boasts its library “has the full set of Dr Tarek Sweedan cassettes”. Sweedan, or under one of the many alternative English spellings of his Arabic name, Tareq Sweidan, hosted a TV show in the United Arab Emirates two years ago where he urged Muslims to find gay men and kill them:
“Anyone caught committing sodomy – kill both the sodomiser and the sodomised. The clerics determined how the homosexual should be killed. They said he should be stoned to death. Some clerics said he should be thrown off a mountain. This is an abominable act in human life, and so the punishment is severe.
“If moral values sink to this level, Man becomes lower than a beast. Therefore the punishment was extremely severe, and the position of Islam was clear and courageous. There should be no lenience in this case, and governments and countries must enforce the law strictly against anyone committing such an abomination.”
New Zealand has certainly seen its fair share of stoned gay men in recent years, but the stoning Sweidan contemplates would be a vastly different kind of experience.
Over at CooperativeResearch.org, Tareq Sweidan was named, along with Abdullah bin Laden of WAMY, of being involved in a US finance company allegedly raising money for terror.
Under the heading, “Prisoner’s Library”, the Al-Manar newsletter says:
“We have noted that the prisoners are the largest group in New Zealand to accept Islam as their faith…We believe there is a lot of potential work that can be undertaken in that area, such as a small Islamic library in each prison. Therefore we need support
from Muslims around the world to help us by providing the Islamic books, particularly the translation of the meanings of our Holy Qura’an and translation of various hadith.”
The Sunday Star-Times published details of the Aotearoa Maori Muslim Association converting Maori prisoners to Islam three years ago, although the AMMA claimed its comments had been deliberately sensationalized by the newspaper. Nonetheless, a young Muslim woman calling herself ‘Penelope’ posted a message on the NZMuslim.net bulletin board warning of the dangers of prison outreach:
“These converts are Maori gang members – drug traffickers, drinkers, wife beaters, thieves, rapists – you name it, they are the dregs of NZ society. The interviewer got it right – they are drawn to Islam because they perceive Osama Bin Laden as a hero, beheading videos as light entertainment and jihad as their cause against Christian/Judaic non-Maori New Zealanders. I think it is only fair to warn you that these despicable criminals are not interested in Islam as a religion – they are only interested in submission and power for themselves and their gangs and they will use the name of Islam to hide behind whilst continuing their evil and illegal practices.
“FIANZ is doing the Muslim community in NZ no favours by financially supporting this “missionary of Islam” in his conversion of uneducated thugs. Do you really want these people in your community representing your religion? The sooner all NZ Muslims and the Muslim councils of NZ advise FIANZ to withdraw any support from this man the better, or you will all be tarred with the same brush. NZ does not need an Islamic Black Power or Islamic Mongrel Mob gangs – these men will never change their ways, drug-dealing and death are part of their lives – even their own people live in fear of them.
“It is the responsibility of FIANZ to stop financing this madman before it is too late and he and his converts degrade the good name of Muslims in NZ.
“Do not be flattered that these criminals are converting to Islam – they see Islam as a way to oppress and terrorise the good and lawful people of this land and Islam will eventually take the blame! Every decent Kiwi is certainly ashamed of them.
“And don’t think it won’t happen, because if this man continues bringing these undesirables to Islam – it will!”
THE CALL OF THE WILD ONES
Naturally, we wanted to put all of these issues to FIANZ and its President, Javed Khan. To his credit, Khan just about fell off his chair in shock when Investigate began running through the list of people and organizations with terror links that FIANZ had brought out here.
We began by raising the visit of Bilal Philips just six months ago, a man whose photo is in the latest FIANZ newsletter. Javed Khan was unaware of Philips’ videotaped comments about marrying nine year old girls, and was stunned to hear about his involvement in the Day of Terror trial.
“No, I was not aware of any of that!”
Khalid Yasin, who’s been to New Zealand on numerous occasions, was another whose statements took Khan utterly by surprise. When we told him of Yasin’s claim that Muslims were not permitted to have non-Muslim friends, for example, Khan was audibly disappointed.
We took Javed Khan through the many statements of Siraj Wahhaj, from his comments on martyrdom to his wish to overthrow the US government, to his involvement in the Day of Terror case and his desire for polygamy.
“No, I was not aware of any of this, to be quite honest,” admitted Khan.
On the links between World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY) and al Qa’ida, Khan told Investigate, “I am aware that at one stage WAMY was blacklisted by the US, as an organization which was affiliated with al Qa’ida or had some sympathy
with al Qa’ida. But that blacklisting I understand has been lifted because after further investigation they found this allegation was not founded on any sort of concrete evidence.”
When we pressed Khan’s memory further on the point, he told us that a letter had come from WAMY rejecting the US allegations. But in fact, there has been no lifting of the blacklist. Although WAMY continues to operate in 55 countries, including
New Zealand, and works closely with the Western charity Oxfam, its literature for children’s camps in other countries has been found to include incitement to hate crimes and jihad against Jews, and at least one of the 9/11 hijackers was on its payroll. Osama bin Laden’s nephew remains the organisation’s Treasurer at head office in Saudi Arabia.
WAMY organised a big youth camp here in New Zealand only seven months ago.
Javed Khan says New Zealand’s Islamic federations had initially cut ties with WAMY when it was blacklisted, “but they wrote to us, saying that this was a totally false allegation and WAMY was not involved in any of those activities. And we have been involved for quite some time with WAMY – they helped us out, well previously they used to but not now, after the United States started to take control of funds going out. But our youth camps were very well organized and we wouldn’t have anyone coming talking to us promoting hostage taking or suicide bombing. To my knowledge no one has ever come and taught anything like that to our youth.”
But the problem, as we pointed out to Khan, was not necessarily what the al Qa’ida linked groups and preachers actually said while they were in New Zealand, so much as the mana that would rub off on them in students’ eyes because of the fact they’d been invited by the New Zealand mosques. In other words, by being welcomed as esteemed leaders, wasn’t FIANZ unwittingly encouraging NZ youth to search out more of their lectures and material online and start buying into the global jihad?
“It could happen, yeah, I agree it is possible.
“But now I think we have become much wiser. What we have decided to do, before inviting any overseas speakers in the future, is that we will vet what they are saying, their websites, all those things, well in advance of extending any invitation for them to come here.
“We were a bit lax and we took people on face value in the past, but after coming to know about all this, and there was some talk internally about one of our speakers, we have decided that we have to be extremely careful before inviting anybody to come here to New Zealand. We have become much wiser as parents and we will really investigate into the backgrounds of any people who want to come here and decline somebody who has the sayings and doings that you have described.”
We asked Khan about Auckland’s Al-Manar Trust, which had worked closely with WAMY on the youth camps and whose library was carrying the “stone the gays to death” Tareq Sweidan cassettes.
“That would be a concern to me, yeah,” says Khan, although he adds that the guys who run Al-Manar are “pretty moderate sort of people, although they are from an Arab background, but I have pretty regular discussions with them.” On the issue of comments like building an “Islamic nation”, Khan laughs, putting it down to a poor command of the English language. “I’m sure they mean ‘Islamic community’.”
But if the New Zealand mosques are moderate, we ask, why are there so many ties to Wahhabi organizations linked to terror?
Khan ponders the question for a moment, and says he hears what we’re saying in regards to some of those organizations.
“But you’ve got to remember we’ve had associations with some of these organizations since FIANZ was formed (in 1979), before al Qa’ida even existed. The extreme teachings that are advocated, or that any of these people are advocating, are not taken any heed of as far as we are concerned.
“Look,” he says, “we don’t have those firebrand-type teachers or speakers [based] here, like demagogues, who go out telling people ‘this is what you need to be doing…committing suicide is becoming a martyr’ – we don’t have anybody like that who does things like that, and if we find anybody doing that we’ll deal to it pretty quickly.
And yet…and yet, we ask Khan, the reality is that for seven turbulent years FIANZ has been inviting in men who are the rock stars of international Wahhabism – latterday Pied Pipers – without even realising what songs they’re singing. It hardly inspires confidence in FIANZ’s ability to diagnose the problem.
And precisely how do moderates teach young Muslims to view the wider New Zealand culture, given its current climate of extreme liberalism?
“Everybody has a TV, youngsters these days are not fools. We advocate that you abide by the law of the country in which you live. If the law of the country legalizes homosexuality then you have to respect that law, although it is against the teachings of Islam. But you have to accept that that’s the law, and whatever is legal you cannot go against in that country. Now that has been coming out very strongly, the imams have been telling their congregations that we are living in a country with its own set of laws and you have to live by the laws of this country.”
Whether that message is strong enough to combat the allure of the “rock stars” remains to be seen. Khan says that although there have been strong historical ties to Saudi organizations, that source of money has dried up recently and local Muslims are having to dig into their own pockets to pay mosque expenses.
He insists that the community is moderate but, as we remind him, the parents of the kids who blew up the London Underground were moderates: their children were not.
Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Massey University, Peter Lineham, is one who believes the New Zealand government is aware of a growing extremism in the young but was hoping no one would notice.
“The complexity of Islam is that very often we see the face of the woman from Hamilton, who is a very moderate Muslim, but certainly there are other voices in Islam. You need to bear in mind that the Government is pretty nervous about the potential for radical Muslims – within the international Western security
framework there’s a great deal of nervousness about terrorist links with Islam but they deliberately won’t talk about it.
“I think this is why they’re promoting things like religious dialogue, because their attitude is that religious dialogue, and the proposed religious harmony agreement coming out later in the year – I think the hope is that documents like this will convince Muslims to not align themselves with the radical side of Islam.
“I suspect that these are things that the Government is very concerned about but doesn’t want to draw attention because it figures that there will be a negative reaction from the Islamic community that perceives itself being attacked. And so they therefore try and work with moderate Islamic leaders. If you look at the people associated with these religious harmony dialogues like the one coming up in Hamilton next month, they’re clearly trying to build and strengthen the moderates. They’re following the British line on this.”
The problem, as Lineham himself acknowledges, is that the British are failing to make a dent in the uptake of extremist Islam, despite six years of bowing, scraping, and praise for “tolerance”.
In July last year, to mark the first anniversary of the London Tube Bombings, the Times newspaper in Britain published a national opinion poll of British Muslims. There are one million Muslims living in London. Of those polled, 7 percent agreed suicide attacks on civilians in the UK are justifiable.
That’s 70,000 Muslims in London who support mass murder in the name of Islam. The figure rose to 16% (160,000) who supported suicide attacks against military targets in Britain – that’s roughly one in every six Muslims!
No similar poll has ever been commissioned in New Zealand, but if seven percent of Kiwi Muslims supported suicide bombings here, that’s still a hefty 2,600 people – some of whom might just be prepared to volunteer for martyrdom, especially
after listening to some of the hardline preaching in NZ’s mosques that nobody realised was going on.
As Mark Steyn notes in his book America Alone, another poll of British Muslims found 60% want to live under shari’a law in England! Ask the 300 who attend the intensive Islamic courses each year in New Zealand, and you’d probably get a near-100% agreement.
With a few more years’ percolation, and immigration growth in double digits every year, imagine the sort of headache New Zealand could end up with.
Religious studies professor Peter Lineham remains cynical about the Government’s current reliance on “Interfaith dialogue” to promote greater understanding and tolerance.
“The problem with interfaith discussions, as I see it,” says Lineham, “is that the interfaith attracts the people who are interested in interfaith discussions and they’re not necessarily a fair representation of their faith communities. The Christians who’ve been involved have very rarely been representative of the whole of the Christian community. I do think that the Christian community in NZ does have to find some way of living with people from other religions, but for those of us who are Christians the concern is that we can’t do that in a way that reduces our allegiance to our faith. And unfortunately, the leaders of the interfaith discussions do seem to have a more relativist approach to their faith.”
In the meantime, the big question is whether the seven year security breach – that allowed some of the most extremist Wahhabi clerics on the planet to hold seminars and training camps in New Zealand – has had an impact on the hundreds of young Muslims who attended. As terror analysts like Rohan Gunaratna point out, al Qa’ida works by shoulder-tapping people quietly, and setting up small localized cells that no one, not even their parents, knows about.
The people who listen to Islam’s firebrands will not become suicide bombers overnight, if ever, but the more exposure they get to messages of hate over the long term, the less these people will feel they belong to New Zealand society.
How can they belong when the Qu’ran, in verse after verse quoted by Bilal Philips and others, repeatedly tells ordinary Muslims not to mix with infidels, not to become part of their society, and to remain a nation apart?
And how can a good Muslim sit back and twiddle their thumbs when the same Qu’ran then instructs him that the entire world must submit to Islam in order for the Mahdi to return and usher in the end times? The Qu’ran says that infidels are actually born Muslims who rejected the faith and must be brought back to it. That’s why they call Western converts to Islam, “reverts”.
So those twin tensions exist: reject the infidel world, then conquer the infidel world for Allah, and in doing so earn a place in Paradise. That is precisely the message being preached by people who have been welcomed in NZ’s mosques.
To an extent, of course, this is a one-dimensional portrait of the problem. There are young kiwi Muslims who do have Western friends while maintaining their own faith and managing to pray five times a day. They enjoy McDonalds and they wear the hijab. They have been born here, they’ve grown up here. New Zealand is indeed home.
If young Muslims can maintain that balance and perspective, and if other New Zealanders in turn can tolerate those differences, then a comfortable balance may yet be found. But that will become a harder task if the local mosques don’t start rejecting
Wahhabi preachers and literature. It will become a harder task if Muslim children only go to Muslim schools and don’t mix with other cultures. It will become a harder task if Muslim teenagers are told on camps by people like Khalid Yasin, “There is no such thing as a Muslim having a non-Muslim friend.”
Already, on NZ Muslim websites in New Zealand, you can read messages where people say they no longer have a nationality – their nationality is Muslim. Unlike Christians, who were instructed to tolerate Roman control, Muslims are told in the Qu’ran they are not allowed to live by Rome’s rules – they either make Rome submit, or leave themselves.
A pretty similar warning has been issued by the Australian government, with both John Howard and his deputy Peter Costello warning hardline Muslims that if they want to live under Shari’a, they’ll have to leave Australia.
One final question that arises out of this story: where is the SIS, where is border control? How did several men with known links to terrorism and al Qa’ida walk repeatedly through immigration gates at New Zealand airports? Are the intelligence agencies taking the view that it’s better to watch from a distance than ban outright, or are the agencies as totally unaware as the Prime Minister seems to be?
In the meantime, the photographic image of New Zealand’s first elected female Prime Minister – a woman who has built her entire career on feminism and women’s rights – voluntarily wearing in her own country what millions of women around the world see as one of the ultimate symbols of oppression of women – that image will echo in the minds of many in the months to come as people weigh up whether Labour has allowed a massive breach of New Zealand’s national security.
As this issue was going to press, the Government issued a news release welcoming a decision by Saudi Arabia to send more a further 350 of its own students to study in New Zealand, “as part of an expanded scholarships programme for Asia and Oceania”.
“This represents a strong endorsement by Saudi Arabia of the quality of our teachers and the excellence of our learning environments,” boasted Tertiary Education Minister Michael Cullen.
“There has been steady growth in students from the Gulf States studying in New Zealand institutions since 2001. More than 500 Gulf students are currently enrolled in New Zealand institutions, many from Saudi Arabia and Oman.”
It does beg the question however: if Saudi Arabia loathes Western culture so much, why is it really boosting the number of its students in New Zealand to more than 700?
March 09, 2007
RESCUING 111 INVESTIGATE: JUN 03
Leaked documents suggest the collapse of the police emergency communications system is imminent, and as HAMISH CARNACHAN reports, public lives may already be at risk...
Picture this: A police officer gets an urgent dispatch to a violent domestic involving a woman and her enraged partner. He speeds to the address, lights flashing, siren wailing, and arrives on the scene - a run-down house slap-bang in the middle of a nasty neighbourhood. Onlookers start to crowd around the patrol car, some start taunting the officer with obscenities, and unrestrained rogue dogs start barking menacingly. Even above the commotion outside vehicle the officer can hear the battle raging inside the house. He picks up the radio to call for back-up only to met with a staccato retort from a flustered call centre operator. "Standby units." Seconds turn to minutes and there’s still no reply from the operator. What does he do? Does he risk getting injured going in alone, or does he wait until the dispatcher is free to send help?
It may be hard to believe, but this is a dilemma that many of New Zealand’s frontline police officers are forced to face on a daily basis. And while the police have had a pretty tough time of time it lately, what, with questionable time delays in response to burglary callouts and then a high-speed pursuit ending in civilian casualties, this investigation suggests things are whole lot worse.
Backed up by leaked documents and testimony from within the ranks of the New Zealand Police Force, Investigate details a - frankly - shocking series of allegations which raise grave concerns about the efficiency of the current police communications system, and highlights the futile battle frontline officers are fighting to get the tools they need to do their job properly – keep the public safe.
The internal police reports, sent to Investigate by an officer working in the Bay of Plenty Police District, spell out a clear warning that the situation is so bad it is only a matter of time before lives are lost as a result. While blame is pointed squarely at low staffing levels in the Northern Communications centre, which covers the upper half of the North Island, and the resulting overloaded system, we discover the issue is by no means isolated to this region alone.
The reports we reveal here are not one-off inci-dents either. A few phone calls to random police stations around the country opened up a Pandora’s box of dissatisfaction, criticism, and widespread misgivings about the current communications system. And alarmingly, given the sober nature of the declarations, this is an issue that has plagued the police for years because, argue some critics, the bureaucrats who hold police purse strings are more interested in accountability than officer safety. Hung-over from the excessive budget blowouts of the 1990s, concerns are being raised that the culture of police spending has gone from one extreme to the other.
Although it happened more than four years ago, fresh in the mind of most officers is the fate of Constable Murray Stretch, who in 1999 was brutally bludgeoned to death in Mangakino whilst trying to apprehend a burglar on his own. As these reports reveal, there is a growing fear that a similar tragedy is imminent.
In one of our leaked internal reports, filed by a Bay of Plenty Senior Sergeant to one of his superiors, he complains that poor staffing levels are leaving officers unable to attend callouts and isolated in the field – a situation police are becoming increasingly wary of given the violent nature of today’s crime and criminals.
He writes, "This…is submitted to bring to your attention the dangerous situation of linking channels. Channels were linked through the period when I was working until 2300 hrs. The one female operator was running Whakatane, Tauranga, Rotorua and Taupo areas. We were fortunate that it was a quiet night yet [at one stage] she was running burglars in Tauranga and Rotorua, then a robbery in Taupo.
"Prior to these jobs occurring I came across youths fighting on the street. Attempts to get through to inform comms [communications] what was happening was met with ‘standby units’. I couldn’t even get through to Opotiki base to let the member there know what I was doing. I was met with a choice of sitting in the car for 10 minutes, watching these guys smacking each other around whilst waiting to get through, or going to sort it out. I did the latter and as anticipated was able to deal with it myself. My concern is what if the outcome was different?"
The Bay of Plenty officer goes on to state in his report that it was the third consecutive day in which police lines of communication had been clogged for "hours on end".
"As I type this," notes the Senior Sergeant, "the operator has told everyone to standby, that she has six jobs coming through. She is talking at 100 miles an hour to keep up and co-ordinate cordons. Staff could not do [personal and vehicle background checks, or inspect the occupants] etc due to the jobs coming in.
"My concerns are:
· The safety of staff on the street that cannot get on the air due to heavy airtime traffic (even on a relatively quiet night).
· The welfare of the operator. This report is in no way critical of her. She was doing an excellent job in the circumstances and I wonder how long she could keep it up without burning out.
· Criticism has been levelled at staff not …letting comms know where they are. Having spoken to my staff and then experiencing it myself whilst working swing shifts, I can see they can’t get through. It is difficult on a normal night but impossible when linked.
"Whilst I appreciate how difficult it is when we are short staffed, we cannot allow this situation to continue with the linking occurring on an ever frequent basis. One day it may cost the life of a colleague."
Another report leaked to Investigate, from the same area of operations, raises concerns about "an identifiable hazard under the Health and Safety legislation", and concludes with near identical concerns about officer safety.
"I wish to bring to your attention the fact that Whakatane/Tauranga are experiencing more and more occasions of our radio channels being linked with Rotorua/Tauranga, to the detriment of our work capabilities and safety.
"It is only a matter of when, not if, an officer is injured because he cannot get on the radio for help or backup."
Again, this officer raises the issue that police staff are failing to call in background checks because the "problem of [long communication delays] has become that common".
And perhaps most surprising, as the report reveals, is the fact that the communications centre is failing to inform frontline officers of future problems. On this occasion, it failed to arrange any advance measures to tackle low staffing levels despite knowing about pending shortages five weeks in advance.
"They also advised me that the channels were having to be linked between the hours of 0300-0700hrs for seven days… Around 0800hrs in the morning is the time when we experience the drunks coming out of the nightclubs and violence erupts quickly and from nowhere. Very unnerving when working by yourself and you cannot call on the radio because all the channels are linked."
These findings come in the wake of another complaint, from Palmerston North police, detailing similar concerns about the Central Communications centre, situated in Wellington and covering the lower half of the North Island. The unnamed officer was recently quoted in the Herald saying, the situation was putting lives at risk and "ultimately it’s the public getting stuffed by it and they don’t even know. The reason cops are standing off a bit is because we’re not getting any backup. They can’t get on the radio".
Phone calls to police stations in the South Island reveal similar discontent with the Southern Communications centre based in Christchurch. One disgruntled South Island officer, speaking on condition of anonymity, says the Christchurch call centre is invariably clogged as staff simultaneously juggle police communications, triple one emergency calls and dispatches.
"We only have one channel for the greater part of the top of the South Island. When we have a major incident we want to be able to split off to another channel so we can resolve it, not have all this interference. I can’t do that from my end – it’s got to be done through Southern comms [responsible for the entire South Island]. That’s part of the problem. They’ve regionalised the communications whereas once we dealt with it ourselves."
It was eight years ago that police communications were centralised into Southern, Central and Northern command units, re-placing regional networks in which each of the 12 police districts ran their own operations room. The process took place in conjunction with the failed $100 million Incis project to upgrade the police force’s mainframe Wanganui computer in the 1990s. This centralised Computer Assisted Dispatch (CAD) system was supposed to be linked into Wanganui when Incis came on line.
As we now know, Incis was a monumental failure that never eventuated. Its only legacy is the piecemeal national communications set-up now in place - established from the outset to be heavily dependant on the technology Incis was supposed provide. As Police Associations president Greg O’Connor explains, when the plug was pulled on Incis in the late 1990s, the rationale for CAD disappeared.
"While Incis was being built a national comms centre was also being built. The problem was, it was a technology led programme from the start. The Deputy Commissioner [of Police] said to me at the time that the rest of the country should have the same service as Auckland. That was a prophetic statement at the time because Auckland had lousy service."
According to O’Connor, another issue with the CAD system adopted by the New Zealand Police was that it had originally been developed for Melbourne – solely for a metropolitan area where everyone has a street address. This, he says, created "massive problems when we grabbed it and tried to make it work for the whole country" because of computer recognition difficulties with rural locations.
Additionally, O’Connor says the system has always been under-resourced and during the planning process "no one really defined the role of the new comms centres – there’s confusion around what their task is supposed to be".
That point is backed up by a police study, released in 2001, on the ‘Strategic Evaluation of the New Zealand Police Position Concerning the Use of Force When Responding to Potentially Violent Situations’ – in short the ‘Shuey Report’, named after one of the authors, the Assistant Commissioner of the Victorian Police.
One of the recommendations highlights that "urgent decisions be made and formally announced to districts concerning the command role (or otherwise) of the three communications centres during the course of operational deployments".
The review also found that "the three communication centres have been in place for over four years and the vexing question of their incident command/control role has yet to be resolved… Many anecdotal incidents were also raised by those interviewed, sufficient to reinforce this concern".
And yet, despite O’Connor’s certainty that "police managers are well aware of the problems", two years on it seems there still hasn’t been any action taken to address these apparent deficiencies.
"Most of the district commanders I’m sure would go back to the old system if they could," he says. "The biggest complaints I get are from provincial towns where one dispatcher is expected to cover three areas. Nobody that works in a city that used to have their own comms centre believes they’ve now got it any better."
As far as O’Connor is concerned, the lack of redress in this area can be directly linked back to the budget blow-out over the Incis project – a monster that regularly returns to haunt the police with "crippling accountability".
"The police have got a poor reputation with their investment in technology and the New Zealand Police will pay for Incis for a long time. I think police spending under the current regime is a lot tighter today. Under this commissioner, police spending has now got credibility back."
But, while that might be heart warming for the bean counters in Wellington, frontline officers have been left out in the cold, still worried for their lives and the lives of the public. So does O’Connor accept their concerns? The answer is a predictable "yes" but he also warns "that with the treasury people having so much influence in running the police" it is going to be detrimental to the force as a whole.
As the leaked reports show, it is already having a detrimental affect on frontline officers’ field capabilities. Yet, according to most police who spoke to Investigate, a solution to the situation of overloaded communications centres would not require a substantial investment. They suggest that providing frontline officers with a secure radio frequency, which can’t be decoded by criminals monitoring police channels as is the case at present, and mobile data terminals, to quickly run background checks, would certainly ease pressure on the three central communications networks.
Unfortunately, despite a $4billion surplus, Budget 2004 was somewhat parsimonious with the latest round of funding for police, and the communications issue has once again been overlooked for a spot on the Government’s list of top ‘priorities’ for the sector.
In a recent speech at the opening of a new police station on Great Barrier Island the Police Minister, George Hawkins, proclaimed that while there are many ways the government can spend money on police "the most satisfying is investing in police property".
"A solid and committed police capital works programme ensures staff enjoy comfortable, satisfying conditions in which to carry out the work they do. I am pleased to say that the current Government is investing around $12million per year on the refurbishment and rebuilding of stations nationwide."
It’s statements like these that have some critics fuming. They say suggesting officers’ comfort is a higher priority than safety shows that the Minister is about as in touch with policing issues as he was with housing when the leaky building crisis surfaced – or sank.
But regardless of what his detractors imply, it appears Hawkins has no idea of the communications problems police are facing. He informs Investigate that there are "no known issues that require attention" and that "police are not aware of any major issues involving the communications centres".
"Police are confident in the knowledge that the Comcens [communication centres], which are a mission critical function of policing, are working efficiently, effectively and producing the required outcomes," he says. "Police have deployed sufficient resources to these areas to achieve the required outcomes."
Although Hawkins was the MP who initiated a select committee inquiry into INCIS in 1999, these latest assurances might seem a little flimsy given there is little sign that apparently persistent problems are being rectified. Four years ago he openly criticised police under the National Party for failing to pull the plug on the doomed project.
He was quoted in the Herald saying, "I think by 1997 the police had realised this was a nightmare, but instead of doing something they fluffed up their pillows and rolled over."
In a more recent finger-pointing exercise he notes that police infrastructure and morale has "been gutted under the previous National-led government". And, in the same March 2003 briefing paper, the Minister again goes on to express confidence that under Labour the "police have the resources necessary to focus on crime prevention and resolution throughout New Zealand".
Clearly he isn’t getting his information from the same sources. Back on the communications issue he tells Investigate that the centres have "ongoing programmes to improve business and technology process and practices".
He also asserts that "performance targets are being met and customer surveys both internal and external have not highlighted any major issues", which seems to fly in the face of the Shuey report findings.
And yet this examination isn’t the first time the national communications network has been called into question. Sadly, overloaded systems have already been blamed for deaths in the past, and many questions still remain unanswered.
In 2001 a 12-year-old boy whose father lay dying after a diving accident near Whangarei had his emergency call diverted to Wellington’s Central Communications Centre because the northern call centre was overloaded. The diver’s death prompted concern that re-routing calls was causing life-threatening delays in access to emergency services.
Investigate’s latest revelations show the persistence of a serious problem that has continually failed to be addressed. Perhaps, too, they may shed some light on the recent search and rescue operation off the coast of Oamaru. Five men were left stranded in the water for hours, even after activating a rescue beacon when their boat was swamped. Two were subsequently rescued, one body was retrieved and the other two remain missing.
While the episode is currently under investigation by the Search and Rescue Council, reviews of internal processes by the National Rescue Coordination Centre and police are also being examined. Communication discrepancies were initially blamed for the delay, but the report, which is expected to be complete in six weeks, should shed more light on such claims.
Meanwhile, O’Connor, like the officers who filed the leaked reports, makes a clear point that the systematic failures in no way reflect the level of commitment that communications centre staff put into an "incredibly demanding job". He says they are doing the "absolute best they can" given the limitations of the tool they’re expected to work with.
"It’s when things aren’t working that we talk about them. Most of the time it does work but Murphy’s Law says it will always fail at the worst possible time."
So does that mean lives are potentially being put at risk?
"Yes, but lives are always at risk when police are out there dealing with criminals. It’s an inherently dangerous occupation. Policing is about risk minimisation though and you do that by using the best technology available so that every officer has contact with their home base. Anything that reduces that communication with home base increases the risk."
BOOMTOWN BRATS INVESTIGATE: AUG 03
Tthe rest of new zealand is paying for auckland’s new transport network through petrol taxes, but now aucklanders are getting uppity about paying their share of a rates increase. HAMISH CARNACHAN asks whether aucklanders are becoming BILLION DOLLAR BOOMTOWN BRATS...
It’s the fresh face of the new metropolis – shiny, colourful, and clean – a showpiece, of sorts, for where Auckland is heading, and also where it has been. Af-ter a long and difficult gestation, the Britomart is open for busi-ness after more than $200 mil-lion dollars, and the derailing of at least one mayoralty.
And this is just the start of grand plans that are afoot for Auckland. Plans, the authorities tell us, that are needed "to meet the changing face of the city", but plans that are likely to come at a cost to the entire country and are already causing widespread dissent.
The opening of Britomart is only the first completion in a concerted campaign of infrastructure development that will see massive amounts of money being spent in the nation’s largest city over the next 10 years. So what are these projects and where is the city heading? And as local body bureaucrats butt heads over where they want to take Auckland, is the much talked about ‘integrated transport network’ ever likely to leave the station?
To answer these questions we need to descend into the depths of Auckland’s new transport hub, to a place one enthusiastic commentator termed – "the genesis of the city’s future".
It certainly is a futuristic space. A stainless steel lattice sparkles floor to ceiling, reflecting a delicate array of pastel lighting flanking the tracks that snake their way into the underground enclosure. From the main platform you can see the light at the end of the tunnel linking the trains in the depot with the outside world and their ultimate destinations. But the end to Auckland’s transport woes, which Britomart was sold to the public as, is still a long way out of sight.
The trains have been revamped but these metallic pythons have merely shed their skin. They are almost 50 years old and outdated when it comes to meeting modern crash safety standards. The new depot looks impeccable, but at the end of the day it is just that, a depot – a glorified railway yard.
Presently, the place seems to be more congested with sightseers and the curious than true commuters. It’s little wonder either. Digital displays flash and blink, but only herald false promises - the trains still run exceptionally late. And beyond the clean confines of the space-aged station the rail network is a shambles of line faults and graffiti covered shacks.
But, as Auckland City mayor John Banks hastily points out, Britomart, the largest transport and heritage project ever undertaken by a local authority in the history of New Zealand, "is not the end – it is only the beginning."
Quite a turnaround from a man who was once an outspoken critic of the project, calling it that "temple at the bottom of Queen Street" and slating the council for signing it off days before he was elected. Now, he sees it working in with his campaign promise of decisive action on Auckland’s congested roads – something the Ferrari-driver says Aucklanders identify as their number one concern.
The greater Auckland area is New Zealand’s fastest growing region, with a population set to reach 1.65 million by 2021, an in-crease of almost half a million people. Auckland City’s own population is set to reach 530,000 by 2021. Another significant increase given that the latest Census figures put the number of people residing in Auckland at 388,000.
Banks says to compete with major regional hubs like Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney, Auckland must focus on the pressures associated with such growth and that means developing a modern transport network.
"With enormous population pressures comes the need for substantial infrastructure development in the areas of roading, public transport, wastewater and sewage," says Banks in crusading manner. "This represents $9 billion over the next 10 years. For this city the biggest investment with the greatest urgency and best return is transport."
And by his own admission, transport is exactly what Banks has built his mayoralty around: "A simple vision of completing the region’s integrated transport network by 2010."
Lines drawn on paper in planning committees might look "simple", but ratepayer scrutiny and funding shortfalls may threaten the certainty of the schemes.
Almost $300 million will be spent on the notorious Spaghetti Junction and Grafton Gully motorway logjam and, despite vocal opposition from environmentalists and residents, plans for the promised Eastern Corridor motorway are "moving forward" according to Banks. State Highway 20 – the Western Corridor through Mount Roskill which forms a "critical part of the triple bypass" – is also moving ahead. And that is just a start.
"But it’s not just about building roads," says Banks. "It is about giving Auckland a modern, integrated transport network, which embraces the triple bypass with affordable public transport."
Indeed, Banks’ council is working with other agencies on an array of plans optimistically expected to be functional within 10 years. These include:
· New and refurbished trains by 2006
· Investigating a rapid transit corridor through the central city, from Britomart to Newmarket, for completion by 2006 - $700 million.
· Creating a North Shore bus way from the Harbour Bridge to Albany at a cost of $200 million.
· Upgrading ferry terminals and suburban railway stations and double tracking of the western line by 2008.
Most Aucklanders would argue that it is long overdue, but when it comes to footing the bill it seems few are prepared to fork out for the proposals, which come with a hefty price tag. It is estimated that $2.5 billion will be needed over the 10-year period.
Some ratepayer groups from within the wider Auckland region have made headlines after urging residents to drip-feed rates payments while they mount a legal challenge against the latest hike. The new Auckland Regional Council (ARC) rates have smacked some residents with rises of over 600 percent to recover the costs of the region’s transport upgrades.
Only time will tell if the rating furore means the ARC will be scrutinised more closely in terms of the value for money it provides on transport and other services, but Transit New Zealand’s latest agenda of national roading projects may throw another spanner in the works. The draft schedule released in January listed Auckland as having 18 of the 20 most urgently listed projects. In a recently revised list only three have survived, some suggest because of the angry reception from the rest of country over a perceived inequity.
Even Transit’s first schedule would have left a massive funding shortfall for Auckland so the region’s mayors are lobbying central government for a national 10c-per-litre petrol tax. Although the proposed tax would be distributed regionally (by population) this scheme has not gone down well with the rest of the country either.
But fair or not, Auckland’s traffic congestion is imparting a huge toll on both the regional and national economy – to the tune of around $1 billion a year is the general consensus. It is a cost the Government is clearly concerned about. Finance Minister Michael Cullen has said a range of funding options are being considered to get the city moving and the Government is investigating burrowing hundreds of millions of dollars to help solve the region’s transport woes.
Banks can understand that any national levy will not be popular, but according to him the cost to the economy is reason enough for the rest of the country to help fix the problem.
"Auckland is responsible for a third of the country’s economic wealth," he says. "As the nation’s engine-room Auckland needs to do better if this country is to achieve our potential on the world stage. At the heart of the problem is the fact that Auckland’s economic infrastructure has been left unattended to for far too long. "When we complete the region’s motorway network the wins will be significant."
And yet Banks admits that there is "not a hope" of completing the network proposals without adequate finance, so where does the vision of an integrated and modern system stand in light of funding troubles - derailed or still on track? "The region’s mayors are collectively committed to completing our transport network and the Government is committed to giving us the tools to finance the $2.4 billion funding shortfall.
"We are working with the Government on specifics and we are working on timeframes. It is my commitment to have all the money bolted down by the end of the third quarter of this year. We are quietly confident the Government will deliver what we need to fix Auckland’s problems."
Will local government deliver though? No amount of money will fix the local-body bickering that some critics, Banks included, say continues to stall the transport system upgrades and has plagued the Britomart project since its inception.
While the Auckland Regional Transport Network Limited [ARTNL] provides public transport infrastructure like stations and railway lines, the ARC provides the transport services. Local councils have no authority to do anything about the graffiti covered stations or the abysmal scheduling. Banks and Waitakere Mayor Bob Harvey say the set-up is simply dysfunctional.
"The more the nightmare goes on with transport and rail the more people will realise it’s not working," says Harvey. "It’s not working because of the infrastructure around us [the region’s mayors]. We’re not getting the delivery because ARTNL and the ARC cannot agree to agree."
Banks says all the mayors want ARTNL to take control and run the rail network in and out of Britomart but key players in the ARC pursuing "their own agendas" refuse to relinquish control.
An international consulting company has delivered the region an ambitious draft, aiming to increase train patronage in Auckland from the present 2.24 million journeys a year to 25 million by 2015. Banks says the ARC has yet to approve the plan.
"We have confidence that they [ARTNL] can run it to a world-class standard, but I don’t have any confidence in the long-term transport in Auckland run by the ARC," says Banks. "I have no confidence that they can deliver and they need one hell of a shake-up – they’ve performed hopelessly."
Banks adds that, "fortunately", ARTNL has recently received $22 million of funding from Infrastructure Auckland. That money is to go towards improving signature stations throughout the greater Auckland area, yet it seems that much sorting out lies ahead if passenger rail is to transform the face of transport in and around the region.
That’s what has got residents so riled – as with Britomart there is a massive amount of spending but at the moment it all appears to be superficial. Furthermore, North Shore and Rodney District ratepayers say they are paying for a rail network that doesn’t even service their area. The ARC’s response is that the residents benefit from other public transport projects.
But Harvey was similarly unimpressed, albeit for slightly different reasons, after his first jaunt into the "super station". In the Herald he wrote of the experience: "I wanted more than what was delivered. I am bitterly unhappy that a great opportunity for a city as dazzling and stylish as Auckland has been lost…" In line with Waitakere’s "eco-city" mandate, he has been an outspoken advocate of light rail.
A spokesman from Harvey’s office says the decision to pursue heavy rail was a "major setback" for Waitakere because diesel-engine trains create excessive noise and particle pollution, in addition to other shortcomings.
"Light rail also offers a safer capacity to run trains on lighter rail through town centres – to shopping complexes and entertainment venues," says the spokesman.
Having lost the vote on light rail as an option for the region, Waitakere City Council is lobbying ARTNL for electrification and double tracking of the northwest line to improve the speed and reliability of the service.
Banks’ predecessor was also in favour of light rail but the mayor mocks that proposal as having "about as much support as Christine Fletcher had on election-day".
"Not only was it going to be very expensive but it was also slightly wacky," says Banks. "A $1.8 billion light rail network across the grid-locked streets of Auckland would have brought the city traffic to a standstill. We have committed to heavy rail, electrification and extending services."
They may not see eye to eye on the rail network, but Banks and Harvey have a shared consensus on the future of the Whenuapai Airbase when the Air Force moves to Ohakea sometime within the next five years. After the Government announced the closure of the military air facility, Harvey and his counterparts at North Shore (George Wood) and Rodney (John Law) collectively put the hand up to say they wanted the land to establish a second commercial airport. The Auckland City mayor sees merit in the proposal too.
"I am totally committed to maintaining the open space at Whenuapai for future public use, including an airport," says Banks. "I don’t want to see it carved up into state housing – I don’t want to see a fine open space like that transformed into an urban ghetto. Not that I’m against state housing, but we have so little open space left in this city we need to preserve what we’ve got."
The Whenuapai Airbase was Auckland’s main airport from 1954 to 1965, before the international airport opened in Mangere. While the runway at the site would not be able to handle anything much larger than a Boeing 737, Harvey and his associates say most of the infrastructure is already in place to cater for domestic and smaller transtasman and Pacific flights.
The standing joke in the city is that it can take longer to drive to Auckland Airport from the North Shore than it takes to fly to Wellington. Harvey is not laughing though, he’s deadly serious.
"Many Aucklanders have had the frustration of having to leave home for any flight from Mangere hours and hours before the actual departure time, simply because there is so much traffic congestion on the road slowing us all up."
He says a second airport at Whenuapai will offer travellers a faster alternative. Which makes sense if funding can be found for roading plans in the area - new motorway construction proposals, from the northwest of Harvey’s city to the North Shore, run right past the site.
But cutting down commuting time is not the only benefit supporters envisage for a second airport. Late last year Harvey informed a Waitakere City Development Committee of the significance of the airbase as a "strategic asset". He said its current military operations contribute approximately $60 million to the local and sub-regional economies of the northwest of the greater Auckland area.
Housing Minister Steve Maharey has said the Housing Corporation is negotiating to buy some of the land at the now defunct Hobsonville airbase – waterfront property that locals say is "prime real estate" - for state housing. It’s little wonder then that the mayors are so keen to get their hands on the land at Whenuapai rather than see it similarly carved up into lots by Housing New Zealand as is proposed for the site across the road.
Harvey says the region, as a whole, cannot afford to lose tens of millions of dollars generated by the airbase without it being replaced.
"While the eventual departure of the air force is a significant loss to the economy, it also represents a great opportunity to bring new life into the area," he says. "The development of a commercial airport at Whenuapai makes sense at so many levels, and Waitakere City looks forward to pursuing this option with both regional and central government support."
However, shortly after the mayors announced their plan, Michael Cullen said it was unlikely such dreams would get off the ground. Cullen even found an unlikely ally in National Party Helensville MP and Associate Spokesman for Transport and Commerce John Key.
Key published a statement on his website which says: "Living close to an airport sounds like a good idea – unless you are one of the unfortunate homeowners on the flight path, or the project ends up a financial lemon, in which case it could leave a sour taste in ratepayers’ mouths."
He goes on to suggest that "perhaps Whenuapai Airbase can – and will – be converted into Auckland’s second airport", but he warns ratepayers of the potential price.
According to Key’s figures, it will cost around $30 million to patch the "worn-out cement slab" runway at Whenuapai – Auckland Airport intends to spend $70 million on its second runway, which is due to be completed in 2006.
"Don’t forget to factor in the other requirements for a modern, commercial airport – efficient terminals, fuel storage, car parks and shops," adds Key.
Auckland Airport’s 2002 financial figures show its gross income for 2001 was $201 million. A little over a quarter of that was generated by 71,000 plane landings, with the balance made up of parking fees and terminal and commercial property leases.
Key believes that at one-fifth the size of Auckland Airport, Whenuapai is unlikely to be able to reap the same handsome rewards.
"These space constraints will dictate smaller airlines and charter flights, resulting in lower landing fees and fewer passengers for its shops. That spells out a greatly reduced income.
"Whenuapai, as a commercial airport, would create some jobs but not many unless it can challenge Auckland Airport head on and that is unlikely.
"Whenuapai is worth preserving but only as a military airfield, not some second-rate, loss-making commercial folly destined to bleed dry the local ratepayers."
Any commercial airport at Whenuapai would also need new resource consents for noise, aesthetic and emission pollution, and would likely face strong opposition from neighbouring residents. Although Auckland Airport is situated in an area classified as ‘industrial’, work on the northern runway faced significant delays while submissions were worked through.
Investigate offered Harvey a chance to discuss Key’s claims but the mayor said he was running late for a meeting and could only offer the following brief statement: "John Key believes that the airport is absolutely essential. He’s double dealing here. He is terrified of being fired by his electorate because some people are concerned about the proposal."
Harvey is confident his hopes haven’t been dashed yet. "It’s very much alive and well, the process has just been slowed somewhat." A spokesman for the mayor is able to confirm that budget airline Virgin Blue is interested in using Whenuapai as its centre of operations and Infratil, a commercial operator, has a written agreement with Waitakere City Council to run the airport if the Government does approve the venture.
Harvey’s office says the Beehive was expected to announce what will happen to the airbase at the end of July but, because of the debate generated, the decision has been stalled. The outcome is not anticipated until the end of August now.
Whether the region requires another airport or not is clearly a contentious issue, but the result of putting the brakes on Auckland’s infrastructure needs is more clear-cut. One only needs to look to Los Angeles as an example of where we might be headed. The Auckland skyline is crowded with cranes and the region is still experiencing a construction boom. More investment, more jobs, more progress all indicate greater demand is going to be placed on resources already under immense strain.
Auckland already has the second greatest urban sprawl (per capita) in the world, next to LA, and the population of the region continues to expand rapidly. In 20 years’ time the number of cars in Auckland is expected to double - commuting times only seem set to increase.
Residents can gripe about increased rates and in the end the majority will decide if the mayors’ vision for the city is 20/20. But perhaps Aucklanders have to come to terms with the fact that there is a cost associated with living in a large cosmopolitan city because, as Banks suggests, "Doing nothing is no longer an option."
If fixing Auckland’s economic infrastructure is really the key to unlocking the city’s potential and delivering benefits to the nation, New Zealanders can either embrace the new city and support its development or gamble that the purveyors of gloom have got it wrong.
The first strokes of the surgeon’s scalpel have touched the face of Auckland but anyone who has ever been caught in a clogged arterial jam understands it will take a lot more than a cosmetic makeover to get the city moving again.
February 27, 2007
Benson-Pope and the Naked Schoolgirls
Labour MP David Benson-Pope’s parliamentary career may be on the rocks today, after new revelations from Investigate magazine.
The magazine’s website has today revealed major new allegations against Benson-Pope, including a much more recent criminal assault, which may well force police to re-open their investigation into the besieged cabinet minister. Those fresh revelations include:
• That Benson-Pope physically assaulted a teenage schoolgirl by slapping her on the thigh, leaving a red mark. This incident happened in 1997 just two years before Benson Pope entered parliament, making it a very recent assault allegation • That Benson-Pope watched naked schoolgirls while they showered, after bursting in on them in the shower block at a school camp in 1997 • That later the same day Benson-Pope again burst in unannounced on girls showering and getting changed after a “mud run” • That Benson-Pope burst in on schoolgirls as they were getting changed ready for a tramp at a school camp in 1998 • That a formal complaint by a girl and her parents to the then Bayfield principal Bruce Leadbetter about the indecent behaviour went ‘unanswered’, despite a promise from the principal that he would forward it to the Board of Trustees for investigation • That Benson-Pope socialized with students, including taking them on high-speed drives through the country side fast enough that the car appeared to become “air borne” as it jumped a rail crossing • That Bayfield High School has a bigger problem with teacher violence and sexual behaviour than earlier publicized – that one teacher there was sleeping with a sixth form student in the late 1990s, and that another teacher assaulted students even worse than the Benson-Pope incidents
Investigate magazine was inundated with emails and phone calls from former Bayfield students after running a cover story on David Benson-Pope last week. As a result of new information, the magazine contacted more than a hundred former pupils by email in order to corroborate the fresh allegations that had come to light.
Of the latest criminal assault allegation from 1997, one student told Investigate David Benson-Pope used a ruler to slap her across her thigh, leaving “a red mark”. The student’s crime, apparently, was failing to count to ten in German. She told Investigate her reaction was one of shock.
“[I thought] Holy shit!, and I looked around the room to see if anyone else had seen it and people had.
“I seriously would like to have him in a room and tied to a chair so I could knock the living shit out of him! To be quite honest.”
Some of the former schoolgirls contacted by Investigate since the magazine came out have distinct memories of what they regard as unacceptable sexual behaviour by David Benson-Pope on school camps.
One woman has told Investigate Benson-Pope walked unannounced and uninvited into the girls dormitory while they were getting changed after a mud run.
“He knew we were in there. It was straight after the mud run, he knew we were all in there getting changed and things like that and he just wandered straight on in, and thought he had the right to do that.”
The woman says up to twenty-five girls aged 14 and 15 were in various stages of undress, some fully naked, during Benson-Pope’s “visit”.
“Girls were naked and in the process of getting changed.”
She says the Labour MP lingered, staring, for 30 seconds, before finally getting out because of the pandemonium his presence was causing.
“Screaming and yelling and telling him to get out, and all this swearing.”
The woman says it was the second time that day Benson-Pope had attempted to see the schoolgirls undress.
“He walked in on the showers one time, then later on that day walked into the dorm room while we were getting changed. Straight on in.”
This incident happened at the fourth form camp in 1997. The woman told Investigate she and the other girls were embarrassed and dumbfounded that a senior male teacher felt he had the right to enter the girls’ dormitories at all, when it should only have been female staff permitted.
“He’s an arsehole. He really is. I don’t know if any other students did, but me and my parents made a formal complaint about it, but nothing was done about it.”
She says they took their concerns in the first instance to Bayfield principal Bruce Leadbetter.
“We were told to write a letter and it had to go in front of the Board of Trustees. But that never happened.”
When Investigate phoned Bruce Leadbetter for comment, he wasn’t happy to hear from us.
INVESTIGATE: “There was actually a complaint made to you about him being found in the girls’ showers at a school camp, is that correct?”
BL: “I have no comment to make about anything, I’m sorry.”
INV: “Is that true though?”
BL: “I say I have no comment to make about anything, sorry.”
INV: “By making no comment, I’m anticipating that could be true and one of the other allegations –”
BL: “Listen, did you hear what I said? I have no comment –
INV: “- one of the other allegations is that the school had a culture of violence under your reign.”
BL: “I find this pretty, pretty rude.”
INV: “Bruce, if that teacher walked through the girls’ showers on a school camp –
BL: “Don’t threaten me, don’t use a bullying tone, I have no comment to make.”
And with that he hung up the phone.
If Bayfield High did discipline David Benson-Pope, and there’s no evidence they did, it didn’t work.
According to another female student in an email to Investigate, David Benson-Pope again tried to see naked schoolgirls on the 1998 fourth form camp, his last year at the high school before entering parliament.
“I do remember one incident involving him when I was in 4th form at a school camp at Tautuku. I remember that the girls were in their dorm getting ready for a tramp and we were all mucking around and taking ages to get changed. BP [Benson-Pope] got quite agitated and just marched on into the dorm without knocking or any warning at all and yelled at us all to hurry up. At this stage quite a few of us were still trying to get changed.
“I'm not sure if anybody reported this incident to the other teachers but it was talked about for a few years after that and it didn't do much for his image with the students in my year!”
The same woman told Investigate she also found the Labour cabinet minister “sleazy”.
“He was not well liked among the kids in my year, or by too many people at all! He came across to me as really arrogant, self important and a little sleazy, and could be very domineering and intimidating to students who didn't obey him.
“BP also taught my mother at Bayfield High School in the 70s. He was new to teaching then and according to my mum he was not well liked then either. She says he quite often used scare tactics to get students to obey him.”
Another female student, who started at Bayfield ten years earlier in 1987, says she never saw inappropriate behaviour involving David Benson-Pope, but was aware of rumours.
“I had an encounter with David Benson Pope in the stairwell one day after some girls had been nasty and spreading rumours. He told me that what other people thought was irrelevant, that I knew the truth and that’s what matters. I often think of this as I face similar situations throughout my life. He was a brusque, sometimes arrogant man, but I don't believe he was ever inappropriate.”
Remember, her memories reveal there were allegations about David Benson-Pope in 1987 – clearly unrelated to either the 1982 school camp where he watched girls in their nighties, or the 1997/1998 incidents 10 years into the future while he was a Dunedin City Councillor preparing to enter parliament.
Another aspect of Bayfield’s school culture to emerge as a result of Investigate’s sweeping survey of former pupils was sexual activity between schoolchildren and teachers.
One former schoolgirl, who started at the school in 1995 told us this:
“Bayfield has a bit of a reputation for pupils marrying, or getting into relationships with teachers, not necessarily while they were at school but certainly after. I can think of two at least that are still going strong.
“However, in my form there was a girl who was apparently sleeping with a PE teacher and now that we all think back she was in nearly every sports team he coached. He had team barbeques at his house too. He was "advised to leave" but the grapevine said that they were still together, at least for a while after he had left. The affair began while she was in sixth form and into the seventh form.”
Remember, those statements come from a girl who attended in the late 90s. What then do we make of these comments from a woman in the class of ’84:
“[student name deleted] was rumoured to be having a relationship with the [deleted] teacher (that was [teacher’s name deleted] wasn’t it?) after she left high school which I thought was odd given the age difference.
Investigate found more corroboration for the late 90’s incident when we raised it with another student we were questioning:
INV: There’s suggestions that a PE teacher, or a gym teacher was having –
STUDENT: - having an affair with a student? Yep, and they’re still together. I can’t remember his name, but her name was [deleted].
He got fired and she was told never to see him again but apparently they’re still together.
There are claims from former Bayfield students on the Oldfriends.co.nz website that sometimes they used to get “pissed” with teachers at the teachers’ homes after hours.
Another student, this one male, told Investigate he remembers going for a drive with Benson-Pope in what appears to be a low-rent version of a Helen Clark motorcade:
“I can clearly remember being in BP’s Green Fiat with two other students (as I recall) when the car was able to get airborne travelling at speed over a few railway mounds that intersect various points of the roads out on the Taieri! Looking back now that was inappropriate behaviour from a teacher (adult), even if egged on by his students.”
But like others, this student has also backed up Investigate’s claims that Benson-Pope ogled schoolgirls in their nighties.
It began, he said, when he and some others were caught raiding the kitchen.
“In 1982 (as I recall) I attended a school camp at Whare Flat. I and several other students were caught having broken the rules, in my case having been out of my bed after lights out. Nothing too untoward, I was getting something to eat from the kitchen in between two bedrooms at each end of the cabin. How I was caught is material in that there were two teachers on patrol with a powerful torch and my silhouette was enough to identify me and others through the cabin curtains.
“The punishment for this was for us guys to strip down to our grots, and stand outside along with some of the other girls, (they were allowed to wear nighties), who had also been caught out for similar reasons. There was more than one teacher in this group, one of whom was definitely David Benson-Pope.
“I distinctly remember having the torch shone upon me in a way that I consider to have been humiliating… Perhaps Mr David Benson-Pope would like to refer to the Bayfield High school’s policy of having male students stand outside in their underpants in the company of girl students, while a powerful torch is being shone upon them? One can only hope that the nighties were thicker than the curtains!”
With fresh allegations of criminal assault that are only a few years old, and large numbers of witnesses to David Benson-Pope repeatedly sexually harassing naked schoolgirls, Investigate believes the Minister’s position has become untenable.
Investigate approached Benson-Pope through his lawyers for comment, but no reply had been received two hours after the deadline passed this morning.
Minister of Sleazy Developments: Feb 06 issue
MINISTER OF SLEAZY DEVELOPMENTS
Another blow to David Benson-Pope’s credibility
He’s already been sprung for shoving a tennis ball in a student’s mouth and bashing another in the face with his fist, and he’s been trying for two months to prevent Investigate from accessing more police documents. But now IAN WISHART can report Labour cabinet minister David Benson-Pope stands accused of making teenage schoolgirls strip to underwear and nighties at a school camp, and that’s not all
You’d think we’d already heard all there was to know about the David Benson-Pope case: the tennis balls, the bleeding nose, or the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy he claimed was setting him up on the basis of false allegations. But no, buried deep in more than 1,000 pages of documents released to the news media in December are previously unpublished allegations that the former school teacher used to make scantily-clad 14-year old girls parade for him at school camp, that he was “sleazy” towards the girls in his care and that he harassed a female teacher and vandalized her students’ best work as part of a personal vendetta.
Although Benson-Pope is no longer an associate Education Minister, as Social Development and Employment Minister he retains extensive responsibilities for youth issues.
While Investigate has been probing the police file, the embattled cabinet minister has been fighting tooth and nail to prevent more still-confidential police documents being released to the magazine. It raises an obvious question: does David Benson-Pope have something more to hide over the police decision not to prosecute him for assault despite a prima facie criminal case?
On 1 December last year, police announced that a long-awaited release of their investigation file into the Benson-Pope case had been delayed after direct submissions from the minister’s lawyer, John Haigh QC.
As a result of that delay, Investigate immediately lodged an Official Information Act request with police seeking copies of the behind the scenes submissions from the cabinet minister, and details of any other correspondence between police and the minister.
When the Benson-Pope file was released, those items of correspondence were mostly not included. The first inkling of a reason why came in a brief three paragraph letter to Investigate from Police National Headquarters on December 19:
“I have carefully considered your request, but following submissions from Hon. David Benson-Pope I have decided to refuse it in terms of sections 9(2)(g)(i) and 9(2)(a) of the Official Information Act 1982.”
Section 9(2)(a) of the Act allows for suppression to protect the privacy of individuals, and s9(2)(g)(i) is more complex. What police were arguing under that section is that because Benson-Pope is a Minister of the Crown, he’s entitled to special privileges: according to police, Benson-Pope’s submissions to the police - on whether he should be charged or whether Investigate could access the documents – could not be released under the Official Information Act because they come under the category of “free and frank expressions of opinions” between a Minister of the Crown and officials of a government department.
Before turning to that precise constitutional showdown between Investigate and the police, however, it’s worth briefly recounting what the criminal investigation of David Benson-Pope actually discovered.
There were three main areas police were investigating:
1. Did Benson-Pope, while he was a school teacher at Dunedin’s Bayfield High in 1982, shove a tennis ball in the mouth of a student and then tape his hands to a desk so he couldn’t remove the ball?
2. Did Benson-Pope attend a school camp that year where he punched a student in the face, causing a bleeding nose?
3. Did Benson-Pope force male and female students to go outside in their underwear and stand in the freezing cold at a school camp for up to an hour as a disciplinary technique?
So what really happened? Initially David Benson-Pope denied categorically that it happened, but he subtly changed his tune to the ‘Winebox defence’: “I cannot recall”.
The police file however, tells a very different story about the MP’s teaching style. According to one woman interviewed by police about events when she was a 14 year old in Benson-Pope’s class, the Labour MP was a “sleazy” teacher.
“Quite sleazy, some of the comments he made used to grate me. The girls, including me, felt that he was always staring at our legs beneath desks…With the girls he was always sleazy if he could be, he seemed to thrive on it.”
David Benson-Pope, according to another police witness, used to address female students in his class as “fluffy-bunnies”. A former female art teacher at Bayfield High School also has negative memories of David Benson-Pope as a teaching colleague.
“I feel that David Benson-Pope harassed me over a couple of years. He had a position of responsibility and was the president of the PPTA. Basically, if you didn’t agree with his way of doing things and way of thinking – he made it known.
“Because my kids went to a private school he assumed I was a National party supporter. Because I wouldn’t agree with his proposed strike action he made my life difficult in the staffroom by yelling at me.”
The teacher also accuses David Benson-Pope of stealing material from her class, and vandalizing students’ work as part of his alleged vendetta against her:
“He would also come and take materials from my art room – that I had budgeted hard to get – and tell me that because he had a position of responsibility and I didn’t there was nothing I could do to stop him.
“Eventually the last straw was a time when he interfered with displays of my best students’ work. Some of the pieces were lost as a result. I walked out of the school threatening human rights action. Eventually there was mediation and Benson-Pope apologized.”
Last year, when the allegations of the MP’s brutality first surfaced, he initially claimed his accusers were liars, and school bullies. Ironically, however, one of the themes running through the police file has been bullying by Benson-Pope, that he treated bright students well and the less-academically able badly, or that he simply enjoyed picking on the helpless.
One student told police that when Benson-Pope delivered canings in the corridor outside the classroom, he did so with apparent relish:
“Mr Benson-Pope would whistle the cane in the air before taking a run up of about 10 feet. I’m estimating the distance but you could actually hear him running up. It was pretty psychologically damning, standing there bent over listening to the run-up. I’m pretty sure it was a run-up for each of the three canes on that occasion. As a result I suffered severe bruising but no bleeding. Obviously very painful to sit for the next few days.”
A second boy remembers refusing to jump the vault at PE in the third form because he didn’t feel confident. He told police his punishment from Benson-Pope was the cane. He was one of two boys given the cane for non-compliance at PE that day.
“I had to wait outside the school hall while Tony [the other offender] was dealt with first. I could hear screaming and yelling – I still remember it well today because [Tony] was such a tiny boy.”
A former teacher confirms the incident. “It’s a lasting impression because it’s the only caning I’ve witnessed. I remember Tony ran a lap of the assembly hall yelling in pain after the caning.”
“When it was my turn,” continues the former student who’d refused to jump the vault, “I was brought into the hall. I was bent over and caned once over my trousers by Benson-Pope. I pleaded not to be caned again but was struck once more with the cane.
“I remember Benson-Pope laughing while he caned me – and that’s what got me the most. When I got home I realized I had blood on my bum.”
There is no question he was an unorthodox teacher. Many former students and teachers spoken to by police felt that although his discipline style was a hang-over from the ‘Mr Gormsby’ era, his teaching approach was “new age” or “ahead of its time”. Significantly so that even those attacked by Benson-Pope still respect many of his classroom achievements.
But it was out of the classroom, according to police witnesses, that even more borderline behaviour took place. Benson-Pope had a huge interest in outdoor education, and organized many of the school camps each year and other outdoor excursions.
“There was some funny discipline at the camps,” one teacher says in her witness statement, “including kids having to run behind a car in the nighttime.”
In 1982, Benson-Pope took fourth-formers to a camp at the Catlins reserve south of Dunedin, where a large number of students have now told police that teenage schoolgirls were made to stand outside in their nighties in the early spring cold as part of “discipline”.
One former schoolgirl remembers she and her friends in the dormitory had been “talking” after the lights went out, and Benson-Pope warned them that “if we didn’t shut up we would be outside.
“He was yelling at us, angry, telling us to get outside.
“I remember he told us that we had to take any surplus clothing off, e.g. jerseys and trackpants. It was just our nighties and no footwear.”
In other words, girls were effectively forced to strip to underwear and nighties by Benson-Pope, according to the witness. Although some of the teachers spoken to by police say it was female teachers responsible for disciplining the girls on camp, this witness and others can only recall Benson-Pope being there.
“We had to stand on the concrete, outside the long dorms. There were a few girls involved, over a dozen. I remember [one girl] being there as she told Benson-Pope she couldn’t do it for health reasons – that night her ankles swelled up really badly as a result. I remember later a lot of the girls tried to comfort her.
“I remember the incident so clearly because it was freezing cold, I believe it was winter. We were out there for about an hour.
“Benson-Pope just stood there, watching. If anyone spoke he threatened we would have to stand out there longer. I imagine I was feeling pretty self-conscious standing there in just a nightie.”
Another senior female teacher says, “Generally he threw his weight around on those camps, but apart from forcing a girl to complete an activity that she was distressed about I have no incidents to report.
“I was not a fan of his, I just found him arrogant and actively avoided him. I was just wary.”
And remember, that’s a teaching colleague of Benson-Pope’s, not a disgruntled student.
One student remembers smelling alcohol on Benson-Pope’s breath during the camps, while a female student interviewed separately also told of staff drinking, and how one female teacher “looked the worse for wear” in the morning.
Another of his fellow teachers, Bayfield’s former Senior Master, told police he remembered an alleged assault on camp that appears to be different from the ones the media and police investigated last year.
“There was one incident at a school camp that occurred at Tautuku Camp. It was about an assault, it was serious enough that we tried to get Benson-Pope back from camp, but he wouldn’t come back from camp.
“I cannot remember how it came to the notice of the school, but the headmaster dealt with it in the end.”
The Senior Master says he was unaware of the tennis ball incident or the bash to a student’s face on camp.
“If a parent had come to me as Senior Master telling me their child had been taped to a desk and a tennis put in his mouth and left like that, I would have gotten Mr Benson-Pope into my office and found out what had happened. He would be reprimanded for it and made to apologise to the family. The child could well be moved from his class.
“If the parents had wanted it dealt with in the school we would; if they had gone to the police we would leave it to the police to deal with. It could well have been an assault.”
But Phil Weaver – the boy at the centre of the tennis ball incident – didn’t tell his parents. His mother was dead and his father, according to reports on the police file, wasn’t coping well.
“From what I knew of his father he was a bit of a drinker, I remember Phil got beatings off his father,” one student told police.
The incident involving the tennis ball has been well-reported. Weaver tried to remove the punctured tennis ball from his mouth but Benson-Pope shoved it back in and used black tape to bind Weaver’s hands to the desk so he couldn’t pull the ball out of his mouth. According to witnesses, Weaver was left bound and gagged for more than 20 minutes until the end of the class. The police file notes the nine children witnessed it, which police call “strong” evidence for a court trial, and “none appears to have any hidden agendas”.
David Benson-Pope continued to deny to police that the incident took place, a stand so at odds with the corroborating evidence that police said his position was an “aggravating” feature of the crime in the decision as to whether to prosecute.
Police concluded a prima facie case existed and said charges could include kidnapping, which carries a maximum penalty of 14 years jail for anyone who “detains any person without his consent…to cause him to be confined…”
Other options included cruelty to a child and common assault.
On the second charge of assaulting a student at the school camp by punching him in the face, police only had two witnesses, but both remembered it clearly.
No charges were considered over Benson-Pope’s actions making students stand in the cold in their underwear while he watched them.
So this, then, is the background to Investigate’s decision in early December to apply for copies of all communications between David Benson-Pope and police on the case. We wanted to ascertain that no improper pressure had been brought to bear on police, particularly after news reports that Benson-Pope had sought a delay in the release of the file to the public.
THE OIA REQUEST
When police came back with their refusal to release the extra documents, the magazine immediately appealed to the Ombudsman over whether the information was indeed confidential because Benson-Pope was a cabinet minister.
“In regard to the refusal under s9(2)(g)(i), Ombudsman’s ruling in Case 983 makes clear that only opinions of an exceptionally free and frank nature should be withheld. It is difficult to see how Mr Benson-Pope’s communications with the Police could fall into this category. Mr Benson-Pope’s position as a Minister of the Crown means that there is considerably more proper public interest in the processes leading to a police decision not to charge Mr Benson-Pope, than perhaps would apply to an ordinary criminal offender.
Additionally, s9(2)(g)(i) is more properly designed to protect legitimate Crown business in the affairs of state, rather than to protect a Minister of the Crown against whom police found a prima facie criminal case.
It is of particular public importance to see that a Minister of the Crown cannot bring undue private influence to bear on a police investigation that he is the subject of, and indeed the Minister’s plea to police for information to be withheld under this section is itself of public interest, as it may be seen to be of itself an exercise of such influence. An ordinary member of the public gets no protection from this section in such circumstances.
Accordingly, Investigate seeks to widen its OIA request to include the content of communications between Police and Mr Benson-Pope on the Investigate OIA request.
It is the magazine’s submission that the public interest properly requires full disclosure of the documentation or information originally sought, so as to clear the Minister of any suggestion of improper influence being brought to bear. Again, the fact that he pleads s9(2)(g)(i) indicates that his communications to police must have been, by definition, exceptionally free and frank, and the public have a right to know how much so.
Turning now to s9(2)(a), again the issue here is not mere tittle-tattle of no public interest. The Minister already has a reduced right to privacy by virtue of holding high public office, and the OIA was not intended to protect the privacy of Ministers of the Crown on matters of public interest. Rather, this section was to provide protection in the first instance to ancillary people, members of the public, who might be harmed by the release of OIA material out of proportion to their involvement in the circumstances at issue.
The Minister’s reduced right to privacy is further reduced by the circumstances of the specific criminal case, and the fact that Police found a prima facie case against the Minister existed. This is an extremely rare and constitutionally important circumstance, against which Mr Benson-Pope’s wish not to have the content of his communications with police must fail.
I would draw attention to the Court of Appeal’s comments in TVNZ, The Queen v David Bain, CA255/95, where the justices wrote: “The substantial public interest in the murder and the trial is however relevant in another way. The material presented to this Court demonstrates significant media interest in and speculation about the suppressed evidence. The suppression might itself “promote distrust and discontent”. That speculation is not in the interests of the administration of justice and is itself a reason supporting the revoking of the prohibition order.”
Investigate magazine seeks an urgent review of the police refusal to disclose the information requested, given the proximity to Christmas, the fact that the material has already been collated and reviewed by Police (subject to the addition of the latest communications) and our impending magazine deadlines.
When we got a reply from Chief Ombudsman John Belgrave, we were not expecting the answer we received. At the centre of it all, says Belgrave, is section 9(2)(g)(i) of the Official Information Act, which reads:
9(2) …this section applies if, and only if, the withholding of the information is necessary to –
(g) Maintain the effective conduct of public affairs through
(i) The free and frank expression of opinions by or between or to Ministers of the Crown or members of an organization or officers and employees of any Department or organization in the course of their duty;”
“In general terms,” argues Belgrave, “the purpose of this section is to avoid prejudice to the generation and expression of free and frank opinions which are necessary for good government.
“The ability of Ministers, officials and others to express their opinions on relevant issues in a free and frank manner is an essential ingredient of the climate necessary for the effective conduct of public affairs.”
To back up his analysis, Belgrave cites the 1982 Danks Committee report that led to the creation of the Official Information Act:
“To run the country effectively the government of the day needs nevertheless to be able to take advice and to deliberate on it, in private, and without fear of premature disclosure. If the attempt to open processes of Government inhibits the offering of blunt advice or effective consultation and arguments [Belgrave’s emphasis], the net result will be that the quality of the decisions will suffer.”
In other words, Benson-Pope’s submissions to police and vice versa are protected speech necessary for the maintenance of public affairs.
“The information at issue,” says Belgrave, “reflects opinions put forward on behalf of Mr Benson-Pope by his lawyer, and responses by the legal advisor for the police. For the purpose of my investigation it has been submitted that such exchanges should occur without any inhibition from concern about disclosure under the Official Information Act.
“It has been further submitted that an expectation of confidentiality existed on the part of Mr Benson-Pope’s lawyer.
“By way of basic approach, I consider that the lawyer for a person in the position of Mr Benson-Pope should be free to express views and opinions without concern that such communications will be released into the public domain under the Official Information Act. The prospect of public disclosure in my view would be likely to inhibit representations that may (and should) properly be made on behalf of the client.
“There is, however, no absolute rule and it is necessary for the actual information and issue to be considered.”
Chief Ombudsman Belgrave did consider the documents Investigate is seeking, and says he’s satisfied that the opinions of both lawyer John Haigh QC and the police legal advisor “were expressed freely and frankly”.
He refuses to release those communications because of the “expectation” of confidentiality. However, even that isn’t the end of the matter – Belgrave is required by law to consider whether the withholding of the information “is outweighed by other considerations which render it desirable, in the public interest, to make that information available.”
To that end, Belgrave says he looked again at the content of Benson-Pope’s submissions on why he should not be prosecuted, and why Investigate shouldn’t be allowed the documents, and determined that although the information might be “interesting” it was not of public interest to release it.
Naturally, Investigate fought back.
“It is a standing maxim of New Zealand law that “There is no confidence in iniquity” [Gartside v Outram, 1857, 26LJ Ch 113, per Wood VC, restated many times including European Pacific Banking Corp v TVNZ, I Wishart and Ors, 1994]. Iniquity as determined by the Privy Council does not even mean a test as high as illegality. Mere immorality is sufficient to trigger it,” we told Belgrave.
“In a similar case to the one in question, a police officer supplied information in confidence to a reporter which revealed corruption by members of the police force. Despite statutory obligations on secrecy, the courts discharged an interim injunction to allow publication in the public interest. Full publication that is, not merely reporting the matter to “proper authorities”. Cork v McVicar, The Times LR, 31 Oct. 1984.”
In another British case, the issue of a public figure claiming confidence also came under fire:
“It is in the public interest that P’s article is displayed on the website. P’s past behaviour described in the article is closely linked to his present political platform and the public should be aware of such an inconsistency in someone who is eligible. It is thus a “pressing need” and not merely information that is “interesting to the public” (Lion Laboratories v Evans  QB 526, 537).
“Additionally, David Benson-Pope has an overwhelming conflict of interest in hiding behind the protections of s9(2)(g)(i). He is, in Investigate’s opinion, using his Ministerial position to influence the police and intimidate them. The activities in question do not relate to his time as a Minister. Neither he nor the Police can claim immunity from scrutiny on that basis. To do otherwise would be for the Chief Ombudsman to confirm that the Labour Cabinet are indeed above the law of the land, even for alleged criminal offences predating their political office, let alone criminal offences committed in office.”
The magazine then mounted an attack on the idea that letters from lawyers to police in this case should not be divulged.
“You cite in your letter that Benson-Pope’s responses to police regarding the case should somehow enjoy some kind of privilege similar to a lawyer-client privilege, even though no privileged relationship exists between the accused and Police. Indeed, the legal maxim applicable is “anything you may say can be taken down and used in evidence against you in a court of law…”
“I am unable to find any statutory ground for such a privilege inside the Act itself, nor does the section that Benson-Pope relies upon include it. Accordingly, if it is not one of the statutory defences available in the Act the Ombudsman has a duty to rule in favour of the release of the information.”
The key argument appears to rest on whether Benson-Pope’s legal submissions fall within the tight definition of the section 9 defence.
Firstly, the section applies “if, and only if”. In other words, it is a last resort section. And it can only apply if it is necessary to “maintain the effective conduct of public affairs”. Not just any conduct of public affairs – there is a suggestion inherent in the section that disclosure might result in some kind of breakdown of public affairs were the protection not in place.
Remember, the affairs in question were not public administrative matters, but personal affairs of an allegedly criminal nature that happened in a public place. For the Ombudsman to let Benson-Pope off the hook on Ministerial grounds would be like suggesting the Ombudsman should be immune from parking tickets because they hinder his ability to carry out his job without interruption.
But continuing with our breakdown of the section, it only applies to “free and frank expressions of opinion” to or from Ministers or officials that are “necessary to…maintain the effective conduct of public affairs”.
In other words, not all free and frank expressions of opinion to or from Ministers or officials are covered, only those vitally necessary to maintain the effective conduct of public affairs.
“Is David Benson-Pope’s desire to avoid more political embarrassment really a matter of national security and the maintenance of the rule of law? Because that is the implication from your letter, with respect,” we suggested to Belgrave.
And even if the Ombudsman is correct (and we think he isn’t) that the submissions are covered by that section, there’s still the question of whether public interest should take precedence over Benson-Pope’s right to privacy.
The Benson-Pope case is a criminal justice issue, where justice should be seen to be done. There is some suggestion that police were pressured in regard to releasing the original documents under the OIA, and that too is a matter of enormous legitimate public interest.
The Ombudsman drew a distinction between what might be interesting to the public, and what is genuinely of public interest. He didn’t feel the Benson-Pope documents were genuinely in the public interest.
Public interest is a legitimate defence in two scenarios – breach of confidence (alluded to above) and the right to privacy. As we’ve already explained that any claim to confidence fails on the iniquity test, or would if it was put to the court. By this, we mean that although the MP’s legal submissions are unlikely of themselves to be iniquitous, they are central to the overarching prima facie criminal case, and as such an important part of the picture.
The Ombudsman has already confirmed the submissions were extremely “free and frank”, which again is relevant to determining whether they were so frank as to possibly intimidate police out of prosecuting.
Then there’s the novel defence raised for the first time by the Ombudsman himself, which is that an expectation of privacy existed to such an extent that it overrides the Official Information Act’s presumption that information should be released.
The dominant recent case on privacy in New Zealand is Hosking & Hosking v Simon Runting & Anor  NZCA 34 (25 March 2004).
Lord Goff, in Attorney-General v Guardian Newspapers Ltd (No. 2)  1 AC 109, has been cited in the Hosking case in NZ as follows:
“His Lordship went on to discuss three limiting principles: (a) the principle of confidentiality only applies to information to the extent that it is confidential; (b) no duty of confidence attaches to useless information or trivia; and (c) the public interest in protecting confidences may be outweighed by the public interest in disclosure, particularly in the case of disclosure of iniquity”.
Elsewhere in Hosking, the point is made by the Court of Appeal:
“The test for the "privacy" of information, i.e. information that warrants protection (that its disclosure would be highly offensive to a reasonable person of ordinary sensibilities), taken in Campbell from the judgment of Gleeson CJ in the High Court of Australia in Australian Broadcasting Corporation v Lenah Game Meats (2001), comes directly from the American privacy jurisprudence.”
In other words, the test as to whether the information being withheld is ‘private’ needs to be more deeply considered in the light of existing case law definitions. Is the Benson-Pope information likely to be “highly offensive to a reasonable person”? The actual test in US law is:
“SS 652D Publicity Given to Private Life
“One who gives publicity to a matter concerning the private life of another is subject to liability to the other for invasion of his privacy, if the matter publicized is of a kind that
(a) would be highly offensive to a reasonable person, and
(b) is not of legitimate concern to the public.”
Not only would the suppressed Benson-Pope data have to be “highly offensive” to remain private, it would also have to be of no legitimate concern to the public. Yet if there were truly no legitimate concern, he would never have been investigated in the first place.
And further through Hosking:
“The Court in Aubry [Les Editions Vice-Versa Inc v Aubry and Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (1998) 157 DLR (4th) 577] recognised, however, that expectations of privacy may be less in certain circumstances. This will often be the case if a plaintiff is engaged in a public activity where the public interest in receiving the information should take priority.”
The Hosking judges considered this aspect further in quoting some US jurisprudence on the issue:
“But privacy is not the only cherished American value. We also cherish information and candour, and freedom of speech. We expect to be free to discover and discuss the secrets of our neighbours, celebrities and public officials ... The law protects these expectations too – and when they collide with expectations of privacy, privacy almost always loses.”
In Bradley v Wingnut Films, a New Zealand case involving filmmaker Peter Jackson cited in Hosking, the American definition of whether the information should be private was used:
“The Judge also felt the plaintiff would have difficulty establishing that the matter would be highly offensive and objectionable to a reasonable person of ordinary sensibilities.”
As we told the Ombudsman, his provisional view that an issue of privacy exists should be reconsidered in view of warnings from the Court of Appeal on precisely this matter in Hosking:
“In his judgment Randerson J listed several reasons for his conclusion that the courts should not recognise a separate privacy tort. The same reasons were at the forefront of the arguments in this Court. The first of these is that the deliberate approach taken by the legislature to date on privacy issues suggests caution towards "creating new law in this field". Emphasising this, the respondents contend that the deliberate exclusion from the Bill of Rights Act indicates a clear decision not to introduce any broad privacy protection in our law.”
Investigate believes it is unconstitutional for the Ombudsman to make a decision on privacy not grounded in statute – the OIA – or common law. Indeed, as the upholder of the Official Information Act, it would be ironic indeed for the Ombudsman to be creating new privacy laws where no legal basis for them exists.
The judges in Hosking, in the magazine’s view, deliver a killer blow to Benson-Pope or his lawyer’s arguments regarding privacy, when they say this:
“The question is how the law should reconcile the competing values. Few would seriously question the desirability of protecting from publication some information on aspects of private lives, and particularly those of children. Few would question the necessity for dissemination of information albeit involving information about private lives where matters of high public (especially political) importance are involved.”
Not only is there no inherent right to privacy, but political figures have even less protection, a point the judges develop at paragraph 120 of the Hosking ruling:
“The present case raises an important issue in relation to private facts. Should public figures have lower expectations of privacy in relation to their private lives, and how does this impact on the families of public persons? Prosser identified three reasons why, in the United States context, public figures are held to have lost, at least to some extent, their right of privacy: (1) by seeking publicity they have consented to it; (2) their personalities and affairs are already public facts not private ones; and (3) there is a legitimate public interest in the publication of details about public figures. That third factor is an important consideration to which we will return.”
David Benson-Pope holds high political office as an elected MP and Cabinet Minister. He is accused of a crime potentially carrying a prison sentence. There can be no higher legitimate public interest in a democracy than scrutiny of elected public officials by the news media.
The Hosking judges continued, ruling, “that voluntary public figures (those who engage in public activities, assume a prominent role in institutions or activities having general economic, cultural, social or similar public interest, or submit themselves or their work for public judgment) have no right of privacy in relation to public appearances or activities. But as Lord Woolf CJ said in A v B (supra at 554): ‘Where an individual is a public figure he is entitled to have his privacy respected in the appropriate circumstances. A public figure is entitled to a private life. The individual, however, should recognise that because of his public position he must expect and accept that his actions will be more closely scrutinised by the media.
“ ‘The right to privacy is not automatically lost when a person is a public figure, but his or her reasonable expectation of privacy in relation to many areas of life will be correspondingly reduced as public status increases. Involuntary public figures may also experience a lessening of expectations of privacy, but not ordinarily to the extent of those who willingly put themselves in the spotlight’.”
In fact, so tough is the privacy test for politicians internationally that New Zealand courts note even their families are fair game for public scrutiny, especially if criminality is alleged:
“In the United States the families of people who court public attention will also have lower expectations of privacy because the legitimate public interest in the public figure is not necessarily limited to the individual himself. In Kapellas v Kofman 1 Cal 3d 20 (1969) a newspaper editorial was published urging electors not to vote for a certain candidate for the city council. The article referred to the fact that three of the candidate’s six children had committed various offences and misdemeanours. She sued for, inter alia, an invasion of her children’s privacy but the claim failed, with the Court observing (at para ): ‘... when the legitimate public interest in the published information is substantial, a much greater intrusion into an individual’s private life will be sanctioned, especially if the individual willingly entered into the public sphere ... The children’s loss of privacy is one of the costs of the retention of a free marketplace of ideas’.”
On the issue of what is legitimate, the Hosking bench wrote:
“Legitimate public concern -
“There should be available in cases of interference with privacy a defence enabling publication to be justified by a legitimate public concern in the information. In P v D, absence of legitimate public interest was treated as an element of the tort itself. But it is more conceptually sound for this to constitute a defence, particularly given the parallels with breach of confidence claims, where public interest is an established defence. Moreover, it would be for the defendant to provide the evidence of the concern, which is the appropriate burden of proof if the plaintiff has shown that there has been an interference with his or her privacy of the kind we have described.
“Furthermore, the scope of privacy protection should not exceed such limits on the freedom of expression as is justified in a free and democratic society. A defence of legitimate public concern will ensure this. The significant value to be accorded freedom of expression requires that the tort of privacy must necessarily be tightly confined. In Douglas v Hello! Brooke LJ formulated the matter in the following way (at para ): ‘[A]lthough the right to freedom of expression is not in every case the ace of trumps, it is a powerful card to which the courts of this country must always pay appropriate respect’.”
The Hosking Bench returned to the definition of public interest used by the Ombudsman to provisionally reject Investigate, and concluded that the balance should fall to the media’s advantage unless there was a compelling reason not to:
“The importance of the value of the freedom of expression therefore will be related to the extent of legitimate public concern in the information publicised.
“The word "concern" is deliberately used, so as to distinguish between matters of general interest or curiosity to the public, and matters which are of legitimate public concern. We accept in this respect the observation of Eichelbaum CJ in TV3 Network Services Ltd v Broadcasting Standards Authority (at 733) that there is a difference between material that is "merely interesting" to the public and material "properly within the public interest, in the sense of being of legitimate concern to the public".
“A matter of general interest or curiosity would not, in our view, be enough to outweigh the substantial breach of privacy harm the tort presupposes. The level of legitimate public concern would have to be such as outweighs the level of harm likely to be caused. For example, if the publication was going to cause a major risk of serious physical injury or death (as in the Venables case), a very considerable level of legitimate public concern would be necessary to establish the defence.
“The line is to be drawn when the publicity ceases to be the giving of information to which the public is entitled, and becomes a morbid and sensational prying into private lives for its own sake, with which a reasonable member of the public, with decent standards would say that he had no concern. The limitations, in other words, are those of common decency, having due regard to the freedom of the press and its reasonable leeway to choose what it will tell the public, but also due regard to the feelings of the individual and the harm that will be done to him by the exposure.”
Applying any of these tests, Benson-Pope’s plea to privacy in regard to his communications with police must fail.
Justice Keith, in a separate judgement in the Hosking case, went further, calling the media’s right to freedom of expression “central” to our democratic system:
“The importance of freedom of expression -
“The right to freedom of expression is recognised in our law (notably by Parliament in s14 of the Bill of Rights), as in the law of many other parts of the world, as being of the highest importance in a modern democracy. The purposes and values underlying it are also widely accepted. They include individual liberty and self-fulfillment, the value of the marketplace of ideas and the protection and advancement of democratic self-government.
“The right of privacy should not interfere with publication of matters of public record, or obvious significant public interest,” Justice Keith writes [our emphasis].
At paragraph 267 of the Hosking judgements, Anderson J also warns strongly against the idea that public figures should enjoy special privacy protection:
“Freedom of expression is the first and last trench in the protection of liberty. All of the rights affirmed by NZ Bill of Rights Act are protected by that particular right. Just as truth is the first casualty of war, so suppression of truth is the first objective of the despot.
“In my view, the development of modern communications media, including for example the world wide web, has given historically unprecedented exposure of and accountability for injustices, undemocratic practices and the despoliation of human rights. A new limitation on freedom of expression requires, in my respectful view, greater justification than that a reasonable person would be wounded in their feelings by the publication of true information of a personal nature which does not have the quality of legally recognised confidentiality.”
Apart from the overwhelming public interest in finding out why police chose in the end not to prosecute (and Benson-Pope’s frank submissions are relevant to that quest), Investigate believes his plea for confidentiality fails at one final hurdle.
The Ombudsman has referred to Benson-Pope’s lawyer John Haigh QC expecting all discussions to be confidential, and that this expectation of confidentiality is crucial for the maintenance of public affairs.
However, if that is indeed the case, why did the police release dozens of pages of interim submissions from John Haigh QC and even Benson-Pope himself in the original document release? Surely releasing those documents must compromise the “expectation” of confidentiality for others dealing with police in future?
In Investigate’s view, Labour MP David Benson-Pope’s actions up to the date of this issue going to press indicate he still has something to hide, and the magazine will pursue this until the question is resolved.