John Key: 'Ask me anything'

HAMISH RUTHERFORD
Last updated 05:00 23/08/2014
John Key in Mt Roskill

ANSWERS: John Key responded to the public's questions.

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John Key tested his own theory that the public cares much less about Dirty Politics than the media in Mt Roskill yesterday, telling two audiences to ''ask me anything''.

There were questions on abortion [Key is pro-choice but would vote for status quo if it came to a vote], South African rugby referees [Key was diplomatic but believes the All Blacks will beat the Wallabies by 10 tonight] and many versions of ''can I get a selfie?'' [of course you can].

The only person who touched on the issues thrown up from the release of Nicky Hager's book Dirty Politics linking Key's office to shock jock blogger Cameron Slater was a Foodstuffs headquarters staffer, asking about the media coverage of the election campaign.

''Why are they focused on all the crap they've focused on in the last week?'' 

Key responded that he didn't control the questions, was usually quoted out of context and he might be made to look silly if he walked away from the cameras.

Even a room full of teachers at Mt Roskill Grammar did not raise anything from Hager's book, although a couple muttered that class sizes were more of a problem than Key claims.  Instead, the prime minister was probed about the cost of housing, how much tax they were paying, sale of land to foreigners and how the little gains they were making were being sucked up by their council.

All week Key has been trying to move the conversation on but failing, as tranche after tranche of Slater's hacked emails are dumped on the web to support Hager's Dirty Politics allegations.

Meanwhile, questions about Slater receiving preferential treatment in the release of an Official Information Act request from the Security Intelligence Service refuse to die. After a week of Key denying that he was personally briefed by SIS director Warren Tucker about the OIA release to Slater, a video from 2011 emerged in which he stated that Tucker had briefed him.

But Key stuck to the line yesterday that he meant his ''office'', not himself personally; Tucker and Ombudsman Beverly Wakem have also insisted their references to Key being briefed referred to his office, not Key himself.  The ''Key me'' may now appear in the political vernacular, as an odd take on the ''royal we''.

But more than a week after the revelations of Slater's emails, and apparent links to the ninth floor of the Beehive, Key is counting on the likelihood that voters are being lost in the minutiae.

Any further specific questions can be batted away as part an inquiry for the security watchdog, almost certainly a post election problem should Key be re-elected.

In the meantime, unless new material comes to light raising fresh issues, or contradicting Key's words, he may just win the battle to move the conversation on to something else.

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