PM's adviser takes photos for WhaleOil

MICHAEL FOX
Last updated 17:05 12/12/2013
press gallery aftermath
Jason Ede
CLEAN UP: Photos taken of mess left behind following the Press Gallery christmas party last night by a National Party advisor.

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A senior adviser in John Key's office has been caught crouching among cigarette butts, taking photos of the aftermath of Parliament's press gallery party.

Jason Ede, whose role includes "getting out National's message to a range of bloggers", was seen taking the photos about 7.30am today.

They show some food, broken plastic cups and cigarette butts left on the ground after the party which finished about 2am.

The photos appeared on the Whale Oil website, run by Cameron Slater. He used the photos to attack the media as "sanctimonious hypocrites".

They had "gone into bat for the parliamentary cleaners to be paid more, calling MPs and staff messy" and had criticised smokers for lighting up in the parliamentary precinct, Slater said.

Ede did not return a request for comment but sent an email to press gallery chairwoman Claire Trevett.

"I want to apologise to you as chair of the press gallery for passing on the photo I took outside Parliament today," he said.

"It was a silly, spur of the moment thing to do, and I consulted no-one."

A spokeswoman for Prime Minister John Key's office ignored questions about whether it was appropriate for an adviser to the prime minister to be supplying such information to the blog. She confirmed Ede was the photographer.

"It is our understanding Mr Ede took pictures of the aftermath of the press gallery function and sent them to a blogger," she said.

"Mr Ede did this off his own bat.

"In terms of the function, a number of staff from the prime minister's office attended and enjoyed themselves and we appreciate the media putting on such a good function."

When asked by Fairfax Media in October about Ede's relationship with Whale Oil, the spokeswoman said Ede was a senior adviser in the National leader's office. He provided communication advice and support to the prime minister and to National Party MPs, including in the area of social media and other media.

"Jason works a lot in the area of social media and that includes getting out National's message to a range of bloggers and other social media sites," she said.

Trevett said Ede was seen this morning by two witnesses. He had crouched among the butts taking photos with his phone.

"I'm a bit baffled by it," Trevett said.

"I just don't see what it shows, really ... a party of 600 people leaves a bit of a mess.

"And I do think it's odd that someone who does work in the prime minister's office would refer information on anonymously to a blogger, especially that kind of information."

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"It does make me wonder what other contributions Mr Ede might have made, as well as whether this is sanctioned by the prime minister in any way."

The party finished about 2am, with gallery members staying behind to clean up.

The gallery has an arrangement to make a contribution to the cost of cleaning if the mess is considered excessive. As of this afternoon no request had been made.

The gallery also provided a small gift to the cleaners to thank them for their work after the party.

The party included ministers, leaders and senior MPs from across the political spectrum and other invited guests.

Whale Oil was the blog that broke the scandal of Auckland Mayor Len Brown's extra-marital affair just after the October local body elections.

Labour's Deputy Leader David Parker said there had long been speculation about the links between Key's office and Whale Oil.

"Today's unsavoury events prove beyond a shadow of a doubt the links between Cameron Slater and the ninth floor of the Beehive," he said.

"This raises serious questions about the source of many of Cameron Slater's stories. We can now safely assume future leaks regarding confidential government information and political attacks National wants to distance itself from, come from John Key's office."

Slater refused to discuss his connections with Ede.

"I have no idea who I received images from, I don't disclose who my sources are," he said.

"I get many, many things from many different people across the political spectrum and I don't reveal who my sources are."

The media would run the same story if it was a party held by a political party, he said.

"You guys run around pointing the finger at how Parliament pays the cleaners, you run all of these stunts and you have a great big piss up and knees up filled with corporate whores, professional lobbyists, various other different people, leave an unholy mess and you don't even have to pay to have it cleaned up because the taxpayer picks up the bill, so yeah I do have an issue with it."

- © Fairfax NZ News

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