Key stands by Judith Collins, staffer as threats fly

MICHAEL FOX, HAMISH RUTHERFORD AND TRACY WATKINS
Last updated 05:00 15/08/2014
Nicky Hager
ROSS GIBLIN/ Fairfax NZ
REVELATIONS: Author Nicky Hager launched his latest book, Dirty Politics, in Wellington.

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Prime Minister John Key is standing by Justice Minister Judith Collins and former "black ops man" Jason Ede after Nicky Hager's book alleged extensive collusion between the Government and Right-wing attack blogs.

Hager's book, Dirty Politics, which is based on thousands of emails hacked from controversial blogger Cameron Slater, claims Key had "overseen a government involved in more personal attacks than any in living memory".

Its contents include allegations that former ACT leader Rodney Hide was blackmailed into standing down and that Ede, a former government staffer who still works for National, helped Slater access a Labour Party computer and facilitated access to restricted information. It also implicates Collins in the leak of a sensitive email.

Key yesterday rejected the allegations as "baseless" and a Left-wing attempt to deflect talk away from policy matters.

Slater, who operates the WhaleOil website, was an independent blogger acting on his own, Key said, but admitted the pair were in contact. The emails from Ede included in the book "were nothing to do with us", Key said.

"The National Party is doing everything in my opinion above board and it's totally fine, nothing different to what any other political party would do."

Key accepted Collins' assurances that she did not leak an email relating to ACC claimant Bronwyn Pullar, though he would "seek advice" on Hager's suggestion Slater was instrumental in having a prisoner moved while Collins was corrections minister.

In a one-line statement, Collins said it was "ironic that Hager's book Dirty Politics is based on stolen emails, what-ifs and fanciful speculation".

Slater denied the prime minister's office helped him draft an information request designed to embarrass former Labour leader Phil Goff, or that Ede helped him access Labour's computer, saying the website was "open to the world".

Goff, who said he suspected the Government had facilitated the quick release of the information request, said the book extracts "provide the smoking gun that wasn't available at the time".

Slater appeared to revel in the attention: "I'm loving this. It's great stuff. Dirty Politics indeed," he wrote on his blog.

He claimed Kim Dotcom was behind the attack on his computer, though Dotcom denied this. Slater has threatened legal action against Hager, and Dotcom has threatened action against Slater.

Hager said any suggestion that Dotcom was linked to the book was "unfounded and untrue".

He was not concerned of any legal action against him to out his source. "I've taken preparations to protect my source. Obviously I knew what I was doing."

Former National Party leader Don Brash, whose emails were the subject of a previous Hager book, The Hollow Men, said it was time police investigated "how the hell Hager is getting hold of this kind of material".

Brash maintains his emails were hacked while he was National leader, which Hager denies.

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