Hard News by Russell Brown

The Unenvied Official

While volleys fly back and forth over what Lockwood Smith really said to the American senators about the nuclear ships band, I've been surprised that more hasn't been said about the predicament of the MFAT official involved.

The unnamed official, who sat in on the meeting 18 months ago and made notes that went into a diplomatic cable back to Wellington has been described by National's deputy leader Gerry Brownlee, in Parliament, as a "Labour Party lackey" and a "little lackey" and accused of "breaching every protocol we have in place".

Now hold on a minute here: this official's explicit duty was to the government of New Zealand. Is National actually suggesting that he should have taken notes of the discussions, and then personally decided - on some unspecified basis - which parts to share with his employer? I think that would have been a pretty serious breach of protocol.

Of course, that official presumably had no idea that his report would then be taken by his minister and used not once, but twice, as a political weapon. If anything's likely to induce unhealthy thoughts of self-consorship, it's that. I think the phrase here is "unenviable position".

Did Smith say those words, or something very like them? Quite probably. After all, you're setting notes made at the time by a ministry official with, presumably, some experience as a rapporteur, against Don Brash's burgeoning amnesia about the whole meeting. Otherwise, you're proposing that the official didn't just poorly paraphrase the discussion, but actually invented statements by both the New Zealand and American participants.

Smith, who didn't perform very well in an interview with Linda Clark yesterday, admitted to, in the words of today's Dom Post story, "sounding out American senators about the US contributing to a debate on New Zealand's nuclear free stand."

On the other hand, of the senators involved says he can't recall anything inappropriate being broached (the story also contains the notes released yesterday by National).

So why won't the government clear up the matter by releasing the entire transcript? Most likely because it contains some embarrassing and unflattering material with respect to our relations with the US. I'm inclined to think that perhaps meetings like these should be more openly reported in the first place.

TOP NEWS! 95bFM is now podcasting. You just need to go to the bNews page where the MP3s are posted and follow the instructions for subscribing to the podcast feed in iTunes. (It works, of course, with other podcast agreggators too.) At the moment, the content consists exclusively of daily interviews from The Wire, but I'd expect the offerings to expand quite quickly.

Will there be (legitimate) musical podcasts like those available in the US? As I understand it, the situation is this: the Australian record industry body Aria is negotiating with the publicly-funded yoof network Triple J on just that issue. If and when they reach agreement, the way would be open for Rianz to start negotiating agreements here (indeed, Rianz would look a bit daft if it didn't).

A Public Address reader has been sifting through Maxim's nzvotes.org website:

I contest Maxim Institutes claim that it is running a non-partisan website that states "the views of the parties ... in their own words". For example nzvote.org's statement of the Green Party's key principles is substantively different from the Green Charter cited as a source.

The nzvotes.org site, as at 2 August, alleges the Green Party key principles are: "Human needs can only be met without damage to other species that share the earth. Social justice and ecological wisdom."

Yet the Green Charter doesn't include the words: "needs", "damage", "species", "share", "earth", nor "justice". Whose words are Maxim using? If I remove all the words that don't appear in the Green Charter from Maxim's text, it looks like this: "Human ??? ??? ??? be ??? ??? ??? to ??? ??? that ??? the ???. Social ??? and ecological wisdom."

He's right, you know. This seems to go beyond paraphrasing, let alone "in their own words". Here's NZVotes' "key principles" page on Green Party policy - and here's the Green Party Charter it cites as a source. The two are not very alike. What's Maxim playing at here?