Hard News by Russell Brown


Inside the Shrine

At the beginning of the week, I suggested that the most useful effect of Judith Collins' Oravida troubles was that they were illuminating an interesting  National Party network. I didn't quite expect that by the end of the week we'd have seen inside an Oravida office complex that did a pretty good impression of a shrine to senior National figures.

Patrick Gower's barnstorming visit to Oravida's Shanghai offices screened on 3 News last night and if you haven't already seen it, you should see it.

Apart from being an example of the kind of chutzpah that makes journalists high-five each other (how on earth did Paddy talk them into letting him just wander around with a camera?) the report also found many pictures of Minister Collins -- and two pictures of the company's founder and CEO Stone Shi playing golf, on different days, with Prime Minister John Key. Two? Wasn't it just that one time, Prime Minister?

Well, it was at first, when Key was asked about his relationship with Shi on The Nation and said "when I played golf with him it was because I was bought at a charity event and he bought that charity event."

But Gower discovered that the "charity event" at which Shi paid $56,000 for his prestigious golfing buddywas was in fact a National Party fundraiser. Both occasions were, it seems. So did the Prime Minister really not know the difference between a charity event and a National Party fundraiser?

Key's response to Gower -- um yes, it was a National Party fundraiser, but he couldn't be "sure" whether he was "right or wrong" when he had previously said it was a charity event -- is remarkable.

Ironically, the whole report was only possible because Gower was in Shanghai with the Prime Ministerial party for the inking of some important economic agreements. It should have been pure cream for the PM. But, like Collins, Key is doing a really lousy job of not looking guilty.

Collins in particular has witheld the truth and given odd and contradictory accounts of matters that she continues to insist are unremarkable and straightforward. But if she and her leader really want journalists to believe there's nothing to see here and move on, they're not exactly being convincing about it.

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