National’s campaign chair Steven Joyce says the Herald on Sunday has many questions to answer about the illegal taping of a conversation between John Key and John Banks.
“There are a number of inconsistencies in the story which together suggest an attempt to conceal a deliberate News of the World-type covert operation,” says Mr Joyce.
“Firstly, the radio transmission device was concealed inside a pouch and placed next to the Prime Minister. Any camera operator knows that if you are seeking to obtain legitimate audio, you don’t muffle it by leaving the microphone in a pouch. This was an experienced cameraman, and the only possible conclusion is that the concealment was deliberate.
“Secondly, the Herald on Sunday article states the cameraman approached the Prime Minister’s staff to retrieve the microphone during the meeting and was rebuffed. The problem is that no approach was made until after the meeting was over. If the approach had been made during the meeting to inform staff that a recording or transmitting device was left on the table, it would have been retrieved immediately.
“Thirdly, the Herald on Sunday article states that the taping was discovered on the cameraman’s return to his office. That is untrue. When the cameraman approached the Prime Minister’s staff member for the return of the microphone, the cameraman acknowledged he was aware the conversation had been recorded.
“Fourthly, the Herald on Sunday article describes the cameraman as a ‘freelance cameraman’, and makes no attempt to disclose his working relationship with the Herald on Sunday. However in an email to the Prime Minister’s office last night chief reporter David Fisher seeks the return of the wireless microphone, which he says was ‘taken from our staff member’.
“The conclusion one is left with is that the Herald on Sunday deliberately arranged the taping, in an unwelcome introduction of UK-style News of the World tabloid tactics into the New Zealand media environment, and is now deliberately seeking to distance themselves publicly.
There are questions about all of this which need to be answered.
There are enough inconsistencies in the stories to raise suspicions even though New Zealand has been relatively free of covert recording by the media of private conversations.
There is another question to be answered too: why did none of the security people who accompany the Prime Minsiter not notice the bag in which the microphone was concealed which was apparently sitting in full view on the table at which the men were sitting?