Key backs calls for secrecy

MICHAEL FOX
Last updated 09:55 15/02/2014

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Prime Minister John Key has backed calls for Countdown suppliers to be granted anonymity in any investigation into the supermarket's negotiating tactics.

He has also raised concerns about the impact of the accusations by Labour MP Shane Jones, saying any boycott of the Australian-owned supermarket chain would also hurt New Zealand suppliers, whether the claims - that have been denied by Countdown - are true or not.

Jones has used Parliamentary privilege to accuse Countdown of demanding retrospective payments from suppliers to cover the supermarket chain's past losses or risk exclusion from the supermarket's shelves.

The Food and Grocery Council confirmed it had received reports from its members of such requests but Countdown rejects the accusation.

The matter is being investigated by the Commerce Commission but Jones yesterday claimed it would be hamstrung by a "culture of fear" . "The only way they'll be able to talk to the Commerce Commission is if they have anonymity," he said.

Key said the inquiry needed to be thorough but fair to both parties and in principle, people should be able to give evidence anonymously because of the dominance of the supermarkets. "If people can't feel that they can give evidence on a basis which would allow for a fair investigation then we should look for another way," he said.

Blogger puts up hand as PM's source on Peters

Prime Minister John Key has given his "100 per cent" assurance that intelligence agencies were not spying on NZ First leader Winston Peters, indicating that his source was blogger Cameron Slater.

Key revealed yesterday that he talked regularly to Slater who runs the Right- wing attack blog Whale Oil and was recently criticised for calling a West Coast man who died in a car crash a "feral". Slater received death threats for making the remark.

Key was responding to Peters who had said the only way Key could have known he had visited Kim Dotcom three times was if he was being spied upon.

Key rejected the accusation. "I can absolutely swear my life on it, that there's been no public agency [involved]," he said.

Such a move would spell "the end" of his time as prime minister and of his government. Peters was "out to lunch and in La La Land", Key said.

"Contrary to what you might want to believe, I can read, it happened to be in the New Zealand Herald, it happened to be on the Whale Oil website, and a member of the public, basically for want of a better term, rang me up and said what was the case," Key said.

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"I assumed it was right, I said it and it turned out to be right."

He confirmed he and Slater spoke regularly, including this week when they discussed Dotcom but Key hedged when asked if Slater was his source.

"I wouldn't say that . . . I wouldn't say either way, I'm just telling you it's not GCSB or SIS."

Key said he regularly called Slater, who broke the story of the Len Brown affair, "to see what he's got on his site and mind".

Key's office has long been rumoured to be linked to the blog.

A senior staff member was caught last year sending photos of the aftermath of the press gallery Christmas party but Key has never confirmed the relationship.

Key said Slater was a blogger who wrote on a variety of topics, which he did not always agree with.

Slater confirmed he was the source.

"If the prime minister said that's the case, that's the case," he said.

Controversies surrounding Slater should not preclude the pair from having a professional relationship, Slater said.

"I've got a wide network that's got across the party spectrum. I've got contacts in the Labour Party, I've got contacts in the Green Party, I've got contacts in the Conservatives, I've got insiders in NZ First, I talk to everybody."

He described his relationship with Key as "professional . . . where I ask questions and he gives me answers".

"I wouldn't say that I'm a mate of his, I've never been to his house, nothing like that. I'd just say that it is what it is."

Slater also criticised Peters for not coming clean earlier about the visits to Dotcom's mansion. Peters had said Dotcom had originally asked him to keep the meetings confidential.

"I just want Winston for once in his life to start telling the truth . . . He's been caught red-handed," Slater said.

Other MPs had visited Dotcom "and they need to start fessing up - there's been dodgy deals going on", he said.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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