Prime Minister John Key has hit back at Opposition claims over his relationship with spy boss Ian Fletcher.
It emerged yesterday Key's links to the director of the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) date back to their childhood. Key went to school with Fletcher's brother and their mothers were "best friends".
Labour's deputy leader Grant Robertson wants to know why Key didn't disclose the relationship earlier and how it is being managed. Fletcher reports directly to Key and the prime minister's relationship has come under scrutiny in the wake of illegal surveillance of internet mogul Kim Dotcom.
Green MP Steffan Browning says the links are deeper than Key has admitted, levelling accusations of "nepotism".
Key hit back angrily in Christchurch today, saying the attacks were "totally unfounded criticism and pretty low rent".
He said he made it "absolutely crystal clear" to State Services Commissioner Iain Rennie that he knew Fletcher. The GCSB boss returned from overseas to take up the post at the foreign spy bureau early last year.
"The board and the panel knew. I didn't undertake the recruitment, that was fully done by the State Services Commission, so you really have to say, in a small country like New Zealand ... would the criteria be that no-one could get hired because I might know them?," Key said.
Key accused Browning of lying. "It’s actually not true the things that Stefan Browning's been saying. And he needs to pull his head in."
Key denies the pair were friends when they both worked in London. “From the best of my memory, from the age of about 18 to the age of about 48, so for 30 years, or three decades, I didn't have any dinners or lunches or breakfasts with Ian Fletcher, nor do I actually recall actually seeing him in that time. So, I'm not a great and close friend of him."
In recent years Key has shared "breakfasts" with Fletcher, in his previous role as director-general and chief executive of the Queensland State's Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation, he said.
Key hit out at Labour and the Greens who he said "have made a massive number of claims about my involvement in the Dotcom case and every single one of them has proven to be incorrect".
"And if that’s what they think the big issues of the day are, well, they'll be in opposition for a very long time," he said, adding: "There endeth the sermon."
Will you be voting in this year's General Election?Related story: Map: Voter enrolment rates declining