National News Brief, Thursday October 30

Labour's "neutron bomb" a fizzer, John Key not involved in H-fee scam; Labour to match National's credit crisis assistance plan; 'new evidence' in David Bain case; Contact offers incentives to keep customers; New Zealanders bad for the environment; and more

  • Labour has pulled back from a "neutron bomb" allegation about National leader John Key's involvement in a notorious 1980s white collar crime after party investigations failed to uncover any evidence against him. The DominionPost quotes John Key saying Labour's investigations are "a desperate attempt" to smear him and that he had nothing to do with the Equiticorp-related H-fee scheme, which landed businessman Allan Hawkins in jail in 1992. The Press reports that the SFO has confirmed Key was "an innocent witness" and says it understands Labour president Mike Williams had been working on the story with the New Zealand Herald.
  • The Herald itself says Labour thought it had a smoking gun last weekend – "a signature on the A$39m first H-fee cheque bearing a striking resemblance to Mr Key's", but it turned out the signature belonged to an Australian-based executive of the firm Key worked for. The Herald confirms minor discrepancies in Key's recollection of events: He has said he left Elders in 1987 when he didn't resign until June 1988, six months after the first H-fee payment, and that he didn't pay for a lunch with a former colleague as claimed. The paper's headline describes the strategy as a "fizzer".
  • Lawyers for multiple convicted killer David Bain says they want to go back to the Privy Council as new evidence has emerged that could see the charges against him dismissed. The Council has already found Bain has suffered a miscarriage of justice and that a new trial should be held, but supporter Joe Karam says "specific pieces of forensic evidence" now render a retrial impractical.
  • The Otago Daily Times leads with news that Contact Energy is offering customers incentives of discounted bills and bonus Fly Buys points to stop them signing up with competitors. Following the company's announcement of 10%-15% price rises last month and a director fee pool increase last Thursday, consumers have chosen to shop around for better power supply deals, the paper says. Contact says it's normal to offer customers incentives to keep their business.
  • A mystery phone call from pipeline workers now missing or dead after a boating tragedy off the Christchurch coast yesterday did not trigger an alarm, the Press reports. There was just background noise on the phone call made around 6.30pm yesterday and colleagues presumed if the men were in trouble they would use their radio or locator beacon. A search for the men began at 7.15pm and police were notified at 8.30pm.