Sunday, June 9, 2013

Friendly fire

Russel Norman had to blog on Frogblog yesterday to explain his comments about John Key being a reincarnation of the late Sir Robert Muldoon. And he tried to reassure the Green faithful that the "furious response" he had provoked was from the Right. By doing so, he completely overlooks the fact that a number of Left-leaning commentators have laid into him as well.

And you can now add No Right Turn to the list, although its criticism is not of the Muldoonist jibe; under the headline The Greens should support leakers, not oppose them Idiot/Savant blogs:

Yesterday, in the wake of Peter Dunne's resignation over the Kitteridge leak, Winston Peters immediately called for him to be prosecuted. That's expected - Peters is a xenophobic authoritarian happy to cloak himself in ridiculous claims of "national security" to persecute his political opponents. What was unexpected was seeing this call echoed by the Greens:
Green Party co-leader Russel Norman said the inquiry into the leak to Fairfax Media does not confirm whether Mr Dunne in fact did it, and police need to investigate and force Mr Dunne to release the emails.
"Clearly (inquiry head) David Henry didn't have sufficient powers to make Peter Dunne release the emails. If the police are investigating a Crimes Act offence, then they do have the powers to get Peter Dunne to release the emails."

Dr Norman said it needs to be seen whether Mr Dunne has breached the Crimes Act.
Firstly, the idea that this leak breached the Crimes Act is utterly ridiculous. Both the offences of espionage (which peters accused Dunne of in Parliament on Thursday) and wrongful communication of official information require that the information in question "be likely to prejudice seriously the security or defence of New Zealand". John Key was quite clear in his press conference that that was not the case, and there is no possible way in which the leak of material exposing GCSB wrongdoing could be seen in that light. So, the idea that an offence has been commited is pure bullshit, and the Greens should not be trading in it.
Secondly, such prosecutions are highly dubious in a democracy. Quite apart from philosophical objections (like treason, they get the relationship between citizen and state exactly backwards and are a relic of feudalism), leaks are the lifeblood of democracy. And the more sensitive and embarrassing the leak, the greater the public interest in protecting the leaker. If Dunne leaked this report, he should be viewed as a hero, not a criminal (I take the government's assertion that the report would be published anyway with a grain of salt, given that they broke their word that they would publish the Inspector-General's report into the same wrongdoing). A party like the Greens, committed to democracy and freedom, should be encouraging such leaks, not calling for them to be punished - especially given the shit we're learning about what the GCSB's foreign masters have been getting up to.

We have no doubt at all the the Police will quickly see Winston Peters' complaint to them for what it really is; headline-hugging by Peters. Even if Peter Dunne did leak the Kitteridge Report (and that remains unproven), it is extremely unlikely that Dunne has breached the Crimes Act.

But wait; there's more! I/S calls for Norman to resign:

Russel Norman has sought to justify his position on the grounds that such leaks undermine the idea of Parliamentary oversight of intelligence agencies. Firstly, this wasn't an ISC document, so that's just a non-sequitur. But more importantly, Parliament pays the bills, so it has an absolute right to scrutinise what is done with our money, no matter how secret and sensitive. And I regard it as not just a right, but a duty of politicians on the ISC to inform the public of wrongdoing. If Norman seriously believes what he's said, then he is not doing his job properly, and should resign immediately so that his place can be taken by someone less credulous and authoritarian.
Calls for leakers to be prosecuted should be seen in the same light as calling environmentalists treasonous economic saboteurs: the last refuge of scoundrels. I expect the Greens to support democratic values and be above such things.

Goodness; that's strong stuff. We certainly don't regard Norman echoing Peters' call for the police to intervene as a hanging offence, although it is blatant politicking. But Russel Norman authoritarian? Wow; that's almost tantamount to calling him Muldoonist!

But it doesn't change one thing. If Russel Norman remains blind to friendly fire and criticism from those who would normally support the Greens, he will quickly lose support. Likewise, if he goes down the path of Winston Peters where a headline becomes more important than a principle he will alienate those who actually genuinely believe that the Greens are a party of principle. 

Footnote: No Right Turn is not a lone voice on this issue. Russel Norman needs to check out what Dr Bryce Edwards is saying too.


Mosey said...


Dont worry about the Greens for the moment. The big issue is Dunne's impending resignation from Parliament and what National will do about it. The phones are going like crazy this morning after Q&A.

National can't run Shanks, she just doesnt have what it takes to withstand national scrutiny. So who? Finlayson is the best bet, but he seems reluctant. Is there anyone really good out there who can be launched onto the national political stage?

bsprout said...

"Dr Norman says a key issue is whether the appendix to the inquiry was leaked. Unlike the body of the report, which was always scheduled to be shared with the public, the appendix is secret - and breaching it could constitute a breach of the Crimes Act."

Do you disagree with this view of Russel's, KS?

The Greens were quick to put right the billboard defacing issue that occurred in the last election and this resulted in criticism from some who thought it was squashing legitimate protests. If you decide to work within a system then it means accepting the rules that manage it and if you don't agree with those rules, work to change them using good process.

It appears that this Government often runs roughshod over good process and is selective about how it applies the rules. Russel's questions regarding the appendix are reasonable despite the criticisms.

gravedodger said...

@ sprout, do you not think that if what you and Norman are raising had in anyway become an issue to David Henry. he would have made that a significant point in his report.

I think as a pretty highly regarded Civil servant he would have.

This expose has a distinctly more thorough look to it than all the shennanigans the Green Ps colluded with during the Clark reign.

Whafe said...

Mung bean, I mean bsprout.... You see the view ahead through such restricted blinkers it is scary...

Do you support the Greens for there stance on perceived environmental issues or on the policies they lay down?

If it is for their policies, am sorry but you are deluded than i thought

Nookin said...

Wasn't it Norman who wanted a full public inquiry into GCSB? Seems to have done an about face, hasn't he?
As far as the appendix is concerned, there is not a shred of evidence that it has been leaked. None of it has been reported or adverted to. Why, therefore does Norman want the Police to investigate?

Do we ask the police to investigate whether Norman has any unlawfully obtained documents? Maybe the police should get a warrant to search all Green party files? It doesn't matter that there is no reason to suggest that they have, it is a crime after all and needs to be investigated.

Norman is, by the day, proving himself to have the principles of a jellyfish - he will go wherever the current will take him and if anything gets in the way we will see another brattish tantrum

Bogusnews said...

This is marvelous stuff.

I think for the first time the Greens are coming under scrutiny.

Long may it continue.

Keeping Stock said...

Quite so Bogusnews. Suddenly the media senses that Russel isn't as lily-white as he makes himself out to be.

And he's already backing away from the call for police to investigate Dunne, so it's clear that he's taken some heat from this. When the worm turns against you, it can turn very, very quickly.