Last year, at the height of the "teapot tapes" saga, John Key was eager to claim that the police searches of media organisations and vigorous Crown Law intervention to defend his claim that the taping was illegal was nothing to do with him, and that these bodies were all "just doing their jobs". Now it turns out that he personally called the Solicitor-General to thank him for that intervention:
Prime Minister John Key personally phoned Solicitor General David Collins to pass on his gratitude for work on the so-called teapot tape case, two days before the election.So much for prosecutorial independence. And while not a smoking gun, it certainly shows Key has been deceitful in his public claims about the case.
The Solicitor General's office is meant to be kept strictly independent from all political influence.
However, an email obtained under the Official Information Act showed Collins wrote to an unnamed counsel saying: "The PM phoned this morning and asked me to pass on to you his personal thanks for your work on Ambrose. He was very complimentary notwithstanding my attempts to say you were just doing your jobs! Well done. D "
The email is dated November 24 and referred to Bradley Ambrose, a freelance photographer who left an electronic device on a table, inadvertently recording a conversation between Key and Act Party leader John Banks.
Also deceitful: Key's response to an OIA about the case:
In his response, Key's chief of staff Wayne Eagleson did not mention Key's phone call to Collins but did provide transcripts of media interviews, and a copy of a press release.(While the response was made by Eagleson, it is Key's legal responsibility under the Act)
I guess they just decided that the public didn't need to know about it. Sadly, there's no penalty for this sort of violation of the OIA. Which is why officials think they can ignore the law.