Time for Key to be frank about tape: Goff

JOHN HARTEVELT AND ANDREA VANCE
Last updated 17:00 15/11/2011
HAMISH COLEMAN-ROSS

People on Wellington's Lambton Quay give their opinion on the recording of the conversation between John Key and John Banks.

John Key
ROSS GIBLIN/FAIRFAX NZ
TEA PARTY: Prime Minister John Key has made an official complaint to police over the secret taping of his conversation with John Banks.

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Labour's Phil Goff has called on National leader John Key to apologise if he made ''derogatory'' remarks about the elderly during his ''cup of tea'' chat with ACT's John Banks.

Key says he doesn't recall if he referred to New Zealand First supporters "dying out".

NZ First leader Winston Peters has hinted that Key and Banks discussed the leadership of ACT and were disparaging about his party's older voting base.

"The truth will be out shortly about...how some politicians conduct themselves over another parties internal leadership problems [and] what the Prime Minister really thinks of those New Zealanders, many of whom went through a great depression, a world war, and during and after those events built a great country without peer in the world in delivering economic prosperity and social justice," Peters said in a speech in Tauranga today.

"Those two issues were discussed behind a glass wall of silence at an Auckland café just the other day," he said.

Key has lodged an official complaint with police over a secret taping of  the conversation - but is refusing to reveal what was said. Speculation suggests they discussed ACTs leadership and Winston Peter's  election fortunes.

Goff this afternoon repeated his call for Key to ''front up'' and make public what was said.

''If that is true...I think that's absolutely appalling to denigrate the older people who have built up this country. To denigrate them for having different opinions than Mr Key and Mr Banks simply isn't acceptable.

''I think its time that John Key was frank about what he said and was upfront and honest and came clean about what the nature of that conversation was.''

Goff also said the investigation was ''a hopeless waste of police time.''

''We've got far better things for our police to be doing than becoming involved in a political dispute between the Prime Minister and a newspaper.

''This farce has gone on too long. John Key can bring an end to that immediately, he just needs to front up be honest...he should have to apologise to the older people in this country."

Key said earlier not involving the police over the tape incident would be the start of a "slippery slope" and rejected suggestions the police had better things to do.

"What happens when that moves to other high profile New Zealanders having conversations with their wives about personal issues," Key said.

"In the end, we're at the start of a slippery slope here."

He maintained his view that the conversation had been "bland" and said he "genuinely" did not recall touching on Winston Peters in the conversation.

He said that after he discovered the recorder and went to front the media he "did not feel any anxiety".

He would not go in to the detail of the tape as it was before police now.

ACT "GOSSIP"

The videographer who captured the conversation, Bradley Ambrose, last night claimed that he had deleted the audio but 3 News emerged as a second organisation to have heard the tape.

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As the Herald on Sunday did at the weekend, 3 News also decided against releasing details of the tape but it posed a series of pointed questions to Banks about the future of Don Brash as ACT leader after the election.

Sources not directly privy to the conversation suggested the tape might reflect some "gossip" about ACT between the two men.

There has been ongoing speculation that Brash could be rolled as leader after the election and given a plum government job.

Labour's campaign spokesman Grant Robertson slammed Brash's party as ''in terminal decline,'' following the scandal.

Robertson said the uproar was no longer about the secret taping. ''It is about what John Key is up to with the ACT Party," Robertson said.

Key conceded the meeting was for his political advantage and reiterated that refusing to allow the tape to be released was a matter of principle.

"There are many, many times where I'm on public display. It doesn't mean a conversation I'm having can be taped."

He rejected suggestions voters would think he wanted to keep the contents of the tape a secret.

"They don't think I've got something to hide, they know like I know that the Herald on Sunday would have simply printed it (if there was something explosive in it)."

Brash said he did not know what the two had discussed but conceded it "might have" covered the question of his leadership. "Who knows? What on earth could there be embarrassing about it? I'm not fussed actually."

Herald on Sunday editor Bryce Johns said he "absolutely" stood by his claim that the tape would be a "game-changer" for the election campaign - however 3 News said it was probably less than that.

Asked if Brash was discussed in the tape, Johns said: "There were a number of people spoken about.

"I know he [Key] said it's quite banal. My view on it is that what was said would change the voting intention of some people."

The group of voters who might be moved by the tape would be wider than just potential National Party supporters, he said.

While there was a public interest in the tape, ethical considerations had over-ridden them.

- Fairfax NZ

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