The tea tape is making even sensible people like David Farrar say some pretty silly things. Lucky I'm here to put him back on course.

Despite the various calls to "move on" from Teapot-not-quite-gate, it's still bubbling away (see what I did there?) And it's producing some strange reactions in people who normally you can rely on to be sane and sensible in a crisis.

No, I'm not talking about the PM, who saw us through 2 earthquakes, a mine explosion and a shipwreck, only to call in the police when he felt he'd been unacceptably disrespected by a normally compliant media pack. I'm talking about DPF over at Kiwiblog, who uses Paul Holmes' take on the media's reaction to this act as a springboard to set out his own opinion. As I've nothing better to do this afternoon, I thought I'd comment on his comments on Paul Holmes' comments (ain't this interweb blogging thing just magic?).

DPF kicks off ...

"I have been amazed at how thuggish the media reaction has been, where they have tried to turn the victim of an alleged crime into the wrong-doer."

Thuggish, no less! Perhaps DPF is calling for the DIplomatic Protection Squad to start cracking a few heads?

"Many in the media have argued that because this was a discussion between two politicians with media just outside, that there was no expectation of privacy and the law doesn’t apply"

I would just note that this is a claim made by not just those "in the media". It's what I say. It's what Dean Knight says. It's what Felix Geiringer says in comments here. It's what Steven Price appears to have come around to saying. All of whom have a measure of expertise in legal matters. So, you know ... the media aren't been entirely self-interested or silly here.

"And any person who argues that the reason it was turned on, yet inside in bag, wasn’t so that it wouldn’t be noticed is either incredibly gullible or dishonest.  Numerous other cameramen have said you never leave a recorder on while in a bag, as it drains the battery, and it interferes with the quality. Anyone who seriously argues this was not a deliberate bugging is naïve at best."

Well, I am pretty gullible - I fell for that man-landed-on-the-moon story, for instance. And don't mention the whole earth-is-shaped-like-a-globe story I bought for a while there. So if there really are a host of experienced industry folks who would care to comment below and tell me that no media professional would ever, under any circumstances, throw their radio mike on a table whilst in its bag, then I will admit the error of my ways. But listening to Bradley Ambrose's account of how the recording came to happen, I honestly can't see why it is so far-fetched or unbelievable to think that it was all an honest error. As for being "naïve at best" to believe this, lets just take a moment to review what would have to be the case for DPF's conspiracy theory to hold up.

  1. The Herald on Sunday would have had to have known that following the Key/Banks photo-op, the two of them would try to kick the media out so they could have a uncensored conversation about political matters;
  2. It would have had to have instructed its cameraman to disguise his recording device, leave it behind, and hope that the DPS or media minders did not ask "just what is that suspicious object doing at the PM's elbow?"
  3. It would then get the tape of the conversation ... and after arranging this subterfuge, decide not to run the contents because the parties concerned would not play along with how it was obtained.

Frankly, that chain of events sounds far more implausible to me that the cock-up version of history, so for the moment I'm happy to go with that.

"It saddens me greatly when our media makes the UK media look honourable by comparison. Some may resile at my strong language, and say the secret recording is not in the same league as the News of the World. I agree, it is not"

Well, it's good to see we can agree that even at its worst - a deliberate attempt to capture two politicians speaking candidly in private - this episode is not as bad as hacking into a teenage murder victim's phone and deleting her voicemails, causing the parents to think she is still alive. Common ground is so rare to find these days. Now, if only someone could get Steven Joyce and the Prime Minister to join us on it ...

"But the difference is the rest of the media in the UK has condemned the News of the World, while in NZ the media are all but condoning the tactics involved in the secret recording, and instead expressing outrage that a complaint was laid with the Police."

Perhaps that is because the rest of the media in the UK threw up in their mouths a little when they heard what the News of the World had done, just as the general public did. As already has been admitted, the News of the World tactics are "not even in  the same league" as the present case. So comparing the relevant media reaction to each is a bit silly, really. The better comparison is with the "accidental" recording of Gordon Brown calling a voter a "bigot" after he finished a public walk-about during the last UK election campaign (see here). I don't remember any widespread UK media condemnation of that episode of recording what clearly was intended to be a private conversation taking place in the back of a car. And here in New Zealand? Well ... DPF gleefully posted on the event here with nary a mention of any privacy concerns or discussion of media ethics. So - the difference is ...?

"I’m sorry, but isn’t that what you are meant to do when you believe the law has been broken? The media are not above the law, and do not get to decide which laws apply to them, and which do not."

While this is true, it rather begs a question. Have any laws been broken here? I'm prepared to go on the public record as predicting that there will not be any charges laid in respect of this case, much less anyone convicted for their actions. And that being so, the recording was not illegal.

But I still don't think it should be released unless the PM and/or John Banks agree for it to be. Which is exactly the stance the HoS took last weekend, in case we need reminding of that fact

Comments (9)

by Tim Watkin on November 19, 2011
Tim Watkin

It is unusual for cameramen to leave microphones on because of their short battery lives, DPF is right about that. But unusual things happen – anyone watching Q+A last weekend would have seen a phone was left on set and rang in the middle of a panel discussion. Some have said to me that was a clear set-up, but let me assure you it was cock-up, not conspiracy.

I'd also note that at the Mood of the Boardroom do this week the CEO of APN told a room of business leaders that no way, no how, as that taped on purpose. He said an APN paper would never do that and he thought such a tactic beyond the pale. So if it was ever proved otherwise, Bryce Johns would be for the sack and the CEO would probably have to follow him out the door, having staked his company's reputation on it being an accident.

by Peter Martin on November 19, 2011
Peter Martin

'As I've nothing better to do this afternoon'


Hmmm..even though the wind has dropped some and the sun has come out...I'm glad you have decided that our edification should be utmost in your mind!

by Andrew Geddis on November 19, 2011
Andrew Geddis


I agree (obviously) there is no way this was a deliberate set-up by the HoS. The only possibility is that the camerman himself spotted an opportunity and independently decided to seize it in the hope he could sell the recording later. I could be convinced of this by footage that showed him placing the microphone-in-bag on the table as everyone else was gathering up their gear to leave.

Otherwise, to believe that he put it on the table at the start of the event in the hope that the media would be kicked out and he might then be able to catch out the resultant "private" conversation stretches credibility beyond its breaking point.

by Andrew Geddis on November 19, 2011
Andrew Geddis


Is sitting out in the sun not writing a blog post better or worse than sitting out in the sun writing a blog post? Discuss ... .

Oh - and what are you doing reading Pundit on such a beautiful afternoon? You are young! Get a life, fer cryin' out loud!

by Raymond A Francis on November 19, 2011
Raymond A Francis

On the other hand it has been reported that the camerman/stalker is going to sue the PM for defamation

Any thoughts on that Andrew

Not a snowflakes chance in hell I would have thought but we do have to keep lawyers in work

by Tim Watkin on November 19, 2011
Tim Watkin

Thing is, everything about this seems unlikely, Andrew. I wasn't entirely ruling out anything. Just maybe the HoS did say, 'if there's any chance to find out what they talk about, give it a go'. I just don't know.

My point was more that if it was non-accidental, it's not just the cameraman in the gun.

by rob on November 19, 2011

"It is unusual for cameramen to leave microphones on because of their short battery lives, DPF is right about that"

Not really. Radio mics use milli amps; they run for hours on rechargable batteries- days on new long-cycle ones.

Plus, the guys says he put it there in an attempt to get a recording earlier. Since he didn't get back to it, how would he have turned it off? DPF's is a nonsense claim, sorry :)

by Andrew Geddis on November 20, 2011
Andrew Geddis


Without getting into the specifics of exactly what the PM (and Steven Joyce) have said about the cameraman, I'd simply note that if he did sue it would be for the PM, etc to show they had a valid defence for what otherwise would be highly defamatory allegations. The obvious one would be truth; i.e. that this was an illegal recording. That defence would require the PM to show (on the balance of probabilities - "more likely than not") that the cameraman intentionally recorded what he knew to be a private communication ... a different standard of proof, sure, but still tricky to meet?


To be fair to DPF, I think one of his points may be that the mic would have had to be on in the bag prior to being chucked onto the table - the cameraman's account is he hadn't time to take it out before the comments began. So, would he have turned it on prior to the event beginning, put it into the bag, then (when the event began) been so rushed he had to throw it onto the table alongside all the others whilst still in that bag?

Like Tim says, "everything about this seems unlikely" - both sides of the story, I mean.

by Andrew R on November 20, 2011
Andrew R

The best way to treat any Farrar writing, especially this close to the election, is that it is a "deniable" attack from the National Party.

Seeing what he attacks may give a good insight into what the National Party is worried about in this campaign.

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