And so the saga of the Brash email invesigations ends, not with a bang, but with continued denials by those exposed

When my book The Hollow Men was published over three years ago, the National Party-aligned PR man Matthew Hooton wrote a furious newspaper column saying that the source material for the book had obviously been illegally hacked and that he and others were going to investigate and bring me to justice. Time has proved him wrong on both points.

Egged on by Hooton, former National Party leader Don Brash complained to the police about my leaked materials, prompting a long police investigation. The police, predictably, found no evidence of hacking or crime. Instead of accepting these findings, Hooton accused the police of political bias and he, Brash and a small set of right-wing commentators demanded a new police inquiry. Under this angry criticism, the police launched a high-level second investigation.  A total of three years of police investigation ended last week and, despite all those wasted police resources, the conclusion was once again that hacking was "highly unlikely".

As the newspapers reported, the police found no evidence of “hacking of any sort, no evidence of any interception or use of similar devices. No evidence of anything, really – in fact there was absolutely no trail to follow.” Adding in all the evidence, they wrote, "the chances of illegal electronic entry become more remote. The general consensus is that this was not the manner in which the emails were obtained." Elsewhere in the report they said they were "confident that the Parliamentary computer was not hacked" and that "there was no evidence to implicate Mr Hager as having committed a criminal offence in obtaining and publishing the emails and documents."

For everyone except the grumpy cabal who pushed for the police investigation, this was the end of the matter. But before forgetting about the whole thing, the release of the police report gives an interesting political snapshot.

You probably haven't seen the two police reports (they weren't released on the Internet) but they are pleasingly detailed and unambiguous. I don't think anyone who reads them will give any credibility to Hooton and cos original allegations of hacking and crime. This makes the responses from Brash, Hooton and other National Party figures (who would presumably have seen the reports) all the more interesting.

The first person to comment was Hooton, using his Monday morning commentator spot on Radio New Zealand. You would hope that a news organisation, where he had previously loudly aired his views about hacking and stolen e-mails, would have put it to Hooton that the police had found no evidence to support his allegations. Alas no. Instead Hooton, the PR man, simply scooted around the fact that he'd been proven wrong and came up with a new and even more far fetched allegation. "The only strange thing about it," he said, "was that there was some information in the book that only could have come from [National Party donor] Diane Foreman's home, and couldn't have come from Parliament and that's still unresolved." Sigh. It does not reflect well on Radio New Zealand that they continue to employ this shameless spin doctor as a commentator.

The next person to respond to the police finding was John Key, at his weekly Monday afternoon press conference. This was disturbing in a different way. Leaving aside that some press gallery journalists seemed primarily interested that the prime minister had said a rude word ("bollocks"), the remarkable thing was that a three year investigation by police professionals had made no impression on Key at all. The insight that this small event gives into the mind of the prime minister is that he didn't just dodge the unpalatable information like Hooton, he simply didn't believe information that didn't suit him. Thus his conclusion, at the end of a police inquiry that disproved the hacking theory as comprehensively as was possible, was to tell the reporters that he believed the parliamentary computers had been hacked "but I can't back that up". Maybe this is how things are in the world of currency trading that he comes from: there's no such thing as solid fact or principle; everything is fluid and adjustable.

A few other people made similar comments, repeating the now familiar claims about hacked parliamentary computers and theft. The joke is that this short list of people had something rather obvious in common. Pretty well all the people proclaiming that there had been wrong doing were people who had been exposed in my book doing what I described as dishonest, dodgy or manipulative things themselves. Don Brash, John Key, Matthew Hooton (PR adviser to Brash), Richard Long (chief spin doctor for Brash) and John Ansell (advertising consultant to Brash). They naturally felt hurt and angry about their secret actions and discussions being revealed to the public.

But for three years they have turned this on its head and painted themselves as the victims – avoiding responsibility for their own actions and attacking me for exposing them. For all but the utterly partisan and self interested, the police investigation should at last have put an end to that.

*For further insight into the emails debate and Nicky's discussion of how they were sourced, see here.

Comments (8)

by stuart munro on March 19, 2010
stuart munro

All of which tends to obscure the real issue: that National party leaders illegally and secretly conspired to make an end run around electoral finance rules.

And Labour, when they were caught, let them off, because the integrity of our democratic system is not a priority for them.

Had the emails been hacked, the perpetrator should be fined. But the National and Exclusive Brethren conspirators should have hanged.

by Bruce Thorpe on March 22, 2010
Bruce Thorpe

To be fair to Labour, Stuart, it was an open and shut legal case and if it had been I think Labour would have pursued it.

It was there efforts to close such doors that resulted in the EFA that caused Labour so much grief from media and ACT party activists

by stuart munro on March 23, 2010
stuart munro

Labour caused itself its own grief on the issue. They wanted a bob each way, so they let the hollowmen wriggle off the hook.

They should have hanged, notwithstanding Palmer's little alteration to the treason laws in preparation for the indefensible disposal of public assets.

by Red Tussock on April 05, 2010
Red Tussock

No doubt the real villain is sensationalist journalism that made the whole story grow and grow, just like Pinnochios nose, it all got a bit out of control eh Nicky. Any server admin knows how copies of emails can be lifted without trace ... the sad thing is that we have a police force that lack the ability to nab the vindictive little pricks that carried out the crime.

by Mr Smith on June 18, 2010
Mr Smith

Great work Nicky, as usual the national supporters are trying to distract people from the fact the national party are a bunch of deceitful hollow men,  Anyone that read your book (The Hollow Men) can only applaud you for showing what goes on behind the false public image of this party .

by jack on December 01, 2011

I am wondering if it was John Key who had given the order for those emails to end up in your lap.  He has no integrity.   I haven't read the book but since John Key has been Prime Minister,  his actions say opposite with what he promised.  I still can't believe it, he has flipped flopped so many times but the public still trust him!

by Jonathan Plowman on June 02, 2013
Jonathan Plowman

I believe this fellow would have had something to do with the Brash email thefts. Makes for interesting reading at any rate.

by Philip Grimmett on January 02, 2014
Philip Grimmett

Thank you Nicky,  for your ongoing work. I am saddened at the direction of NZ, and I admire your integrity. 

Heartening to know that a few independent journalists are trying to hold the powerful to account in NZ. 


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