Student leader 'revolted' by politics

MARTIN VAN BEYNEN
Last updated 05:00 19/08/2014
Sam Johnson sees gay marriage as
SAM JOHNSON: Politics in New Zealand "needs to get itself cleaned up".

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Student Volunteer Army kingpin Sam Johnson says the underhand tricks exposed by Nicky Hager's book Dirty Politics have left him revolted by politics.

The book claims to show collusion between Whale Oil blogger Cameron Slater and political and commercial interests to undermine opponents.

Johnson, 25, is mentioned in the book as a client of professional election strategist Simon Lusk who, the book claims, combined with Slater to undermine candidates who were competing with candidates advised by Lusk.

According to the book, Lusk, in March, 2011, took exception to a Green Party MP's favourable comment about the student army and asked Slater: "Cam, can you bash this c... [the Green MP]. I'll write it... Sam is a client. He will pay off long term."

Johnson said Lusk had advised him on his community board campaign and had been one of his 10-20 mentors.

"The whole thing is revolting. There's obviously dirty tricks and games played on every side but I just think we're coming up to an election and we are promoting all these campaigns to get young people to vote... the whole thing needs to get itself cleaned up.

"That's on all sides. This is not restricted to Whale Oil or Simon Lusk. It's everywhere. It's quite disheartening. I think we need values-driven politics.

"Even before this book, I've been put off all sorts of politics. The council debacle was enough to put me off. I've seen friends go in and spat out the other side."

He had never paid Lusk, who had given him some "really good advice".

"Lusk's advice had been for him to ‘go back to law school and don't get too caught up in the celebrity of what you've been turned into'. I had no idea there was this other side to it."

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Johnson said he had been labelled as a National Party supporter and he was inclined to the centre right.

"The PM is a great supporter of mine but equally I'm a bit of greenie at times."

He had met Hager who had told him if he was ever interested in going into politics he should come and see him and "he would talk me out of it".

Johnson said he was working on a United Nations disaster risk prevention project.

According to his website, Lusk does not talk to the media.

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