Don Brash Writes: Nicky Hager's book
Don Brash Writes
06 December 2006
As most of you know, some weeks before
last year's election some emails sent to me were leaked to
the media, allegedly from a National Party source. This was
irritating, and even a bit embarrassing, but I took no
serious action to find the source of this leak believing at
the time that the emails had been leaked either by accident
or by a discontented member of my staff or caucus.
the election, Winston Peters boasted of having "telephone
books" of my emails, which he promised to release in due
course. He indicated that these emails would "blow your
heads off". But he eventually tabled in Parliament only a
single email and attachment, and neither came close to
"blowing our heads off".
I did, however, commission a
private investigator to see if we could find the source of
these leaked emails. That investigation found
But as this year wore on, there were more and
more references to leaked emails. Helen Clark and Michael
Cullen referred to them in the House. I became aware that
some members of the Press Gallery had seen some of them.
And so I asked the police to investigate.
thinking that a "book of emails" was due for publication
before Christmas, I sought and obtained an injunction to
prevent the publication of such a book, believing that it is
very important that members of the public can communicate
with the Leader of the National Party, and indeed with all
Members of Parliament, and have those communications treated
Great was my surprise when, a few days
later, Mr Nicky Hager announced that the injunction was
blocking the publication of his book. Hager's book was
never the target of the injunction, and as a result I asked
the court to lift the injunction as soon as
Hager contends that his book - a scurrilous
attack on both the National Party as an institution and me
as its Leader - was written with the help of emails provided
to him by six "people in the National Party (who) were
profoundly unhappy" with how some of the Party's electoral
success in 2005 had been obtained.
This edition of "Don
Brash writes" is my response to Mr Hager's book.
It is, of
course, impossible to reply to every allegation in that book
short of writing a book of my own. I don't intend to waste
my time doing that. There are literally dozens of factual
errors, some of no great significance but others of much
greater importance - such as the allegation that taxpayers'
money was used to pay for a pamphlet promoting a fair tax
regime for the racing industry; it was not. This is a good
illustration of the trouble Hager gets himself into by
having access to only part of an internal discussion.
it is important that I make some comments about the book so
that those of the public who read this can make a more
informed judgement about its merits.
I intend to comment
on the source of the information in the book, the role of
the Exclusive Brethren in last year's election, the
influence of American neo-conservatives on the National
Party, and the influence of "big donors".
information did not come from six disaffected National Party
Hager contends that most of the information
in his book was provided by six disaffected National Party
supporters who were deeply unhappy with the direction in
which I was taking the National Party.
I have no
difficulty believing that I have six political enemies
within the National Party - indeed, I almost certainly have
more than that! - but I do not have six political enemies
who had access to the kind of internal emails which Hager
includes in his book.
Rumours abound about two particular
staff members who are alleged to have provided the emails to
Hager. I am absolutely satisfied that those rumours are
The information which Hager uses was
stolen, of that I have no doubt, and he has almost certainly
broken the law in doing so. How the information was stolen
is still not clear, though of course I have views on that
which I have conveyed to the police investigating the
matter. I hope that Helen Clark, Michael Cullen, and
Winston Peters will help the police in their inquiries,
since they have all been aware of these stolen emails for
many months and it is vitally important for the health of
our democracy that the thief is discovered and prosecuted.
The role of the Exclusive Brethren
To the best
of my knowledge, I first had contact with members of the
Exclusive Brethren when I talked with two of them at
Whangarei airport in 2004. They expressed their strong
distaste for the Labour-led Government.
met with a somewhat larger group in my office in Hobson
Street, Auckland, and had two or three meetings with them in
my Parliamentary office, the last one prior to the election
being in August 2005. In addition, I was often accosted by
members of the group at public meetings throughout 2005,
usually receiving a simple message that their members were
praying for me.
Their consistent message at formal
meetings was that they were keen to get rid of the
Labour-led Government. I was told that they planned to run
some advertisements in the media, particularly around
defence and health policies.
I clearly recall seeing their
proposed advertisement about defence policy because it
advocated a massive increase in New Zealand's defence
spending to about 5% of GDP (from memory) - a figure some
five times the current level of defence spending. In my
view, New Zealand does need to increase its defence spending
above its current level, but to the best of my knowledge
nobody in the National Party caucus favours an increase of
that magnitude, and I certainly do not. For this reason, I
was particularly keen to avoid National being associated
with the ad, and my staff urged the Brethren to take
ownership of the advertisement publicly.
with whom we met were so keen to see the Labour-led
Government defeated, we strongly urged them to talk with the
Chief Electoral Officer to ensure that nothing they did
would be illegal, or would in any way implicate the National
Party, and of course they did talk to him.
It is alleged
by Hager that one member of the Exclusive Brethren sent an
email to both John Key and one of my two so-called "public
email addresses" on 24 May 2005, with an attachment
detailing how members of the group proposed to operate
during the election campaign; that a staff member
responsible for monitoring those "public email addresses"
forwarded that to me on the same day; and that a short time
later I acknowledged receipt of that email and indicated
that I had forwarded it to the campaign director, Steven
Joyce (which of course would have been the appropriate thing
I certainly have no recollection of seeing that
email, or of opening the attachment. John Key has denied
seeing the email or the attachment, and Steven Joyce has no
recollection of seeing it either. I can't deny that the
email exists - it may do - but I do strongly assert that I
have no recollection of seeing it, or of opening the
attachment. Since my four email addresses were routinely
getting hundreds of emails each day, that is perhaps not
The fact of the matter is that all manner of
special interest groups, as well as private citizens, send
volumes of material to Members of Parliament, with all sorts
of suggestions - some of them good and helpful, but others
wild and totally impractical. Over the 12 months prior to
the election, I received many thousands of emails, including
some which propounded some very weird ideas. Most of those
emails were, of necessity, never read by me.
The role of
members of the Exclusive Brethren became a matter of huge
public interest in the last few weeks of the campaign after
I bumped into Rod Donald, then co-leader of the Green Party,
on a street in Rotorua. He asked me rather aggressively
whether the National Party was responsible for an anti-Green
pamphlet which he waved under my nose. I said that we were
not responsible for it, and that I didn't know who was.
That was the truth.
A few days later, seven members of the
Exclusive Brethren acknowledged that they had produced the
pamphlet. To the best of my recollection, I was not told
about their intention to issue any anti-Green pamphlets, and
for this reason I did not connect the anti-Green pamphlet
which Rod Donald showed me with the "anti-Government"
campaign which I had been told about.
And of course, the
rest is history, with lots of media accusations that I had
deliberately misled the public on this issue. There was
certainly no deliberate intention to mislead anybody.
the best of my knowledge, members of the Exclusive Brethren
did not contribute financially to the National Party at any
level, though it is certainly true that in some electorates
they were actively involved in helping to erect billboards
and distribute National Party pamphlets. Nothing about
that assistance was in any way illegal. And of course,
negative third party advertising is not illegal in New
I am told that the union that represents
journalists, the EPMU, had members driving up and down the
main streets of our major cities on the eve of the election
chanting anti-National slogans over loudspeakers. I have
also been told that the same slogans were still chalked on
city pavements on Election Day - and that is
The role of American
Hager's book notes that early in
2004 I met with Richard V Allen in Queenstown as a result of
an introduction by Matthew Hooton, at that time one of my
unpaid advisers, and that Mr Allen assisted in arranging
meetings for me in Washington a few months later. The book
describes Dick Allen as a leading American
"neo-conservative", with ultra-right-wing views, and says
that Mr Hooton urged that my meeting with Mr Allen should be
Well, for starters, the meeting in Queenstown
was not in private - it was held in a coffee shop, and the
meeting was ended when a journalist from a radio station
reminded me that I was due to talk to him.
Allen, though a life-long Republican, categorically denies
being a "neo-conservative".
He certainly did arrange a
series of meetings for me in Washington in June 2004, and I
am very grateful for his doing that. For the Leader of the
Opposition - and not a government minister - I got quite
extraordinary access to a very wide range of senior US
Administration people as a consequence of Mr Allen's
contacts and friendships in that city, including meetings
with the Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage; the
Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and Pacific
Affairs, James Kelly; the senior Asia specialist on the
White House National Security Council Staff, Dr Michael
Green; Special Trade Representative Robert Zoellick; the
heads of a number of Washington-based think-tanks; and
several leading Republican and Democrat members of the US
House of Representatives and Senate.
All of those named
would, I suspect, resent being identified as "key US
far-right" figures, as none is, though they are Republicans.
If Winston Peters were to ask Mr Allen to organise meetings
in Washington, I strongly suspect he would be sent to the
Did meeting those people influence the
National Party's foreign policy? I found the meetings were
very helpful in giving me a fuller understanding of US
foreign policy, but there was no significant change in the
National Party's foreign policy during the time I was
Leader. To be sure, I indicated that, had the National
Party been in government when the US sought support for the
invasion of Iraq, we would have provided that support, along
with the United Kingdom and Australia. But that was a
policy position determined by the National caucus months
before I became Leader.
In short, there was no "neo-con"
influence on the National Party's policy positions, and any
suggestion to the contrary is nonsense.
The role of
One of the over-riding themes of Hager's
book is that Don Brash was and is a puppet of the "extreme
right-wing", that people associated with the economic
reforms of the late eighties and early nineties strongly
supported my bid for the leadership in October 2003, that
wealthy donors provided very considerable financial support
to the National Party while I was Leader, and that I was
very much more involved personally in the fund-raising
effort than I have been willing to acknowledge.
certainly true that some of those associated with the
economic reforms of the late eighties and early nineties
were very frustrated that the Labour-led Government was
adopting policies likely to slow the growth of living
standards in New Zealand, and wanted a strong advocate for
the kind of economic policies which orthodox economic policy
advisers all over the world, including those in the New
Zealand Treasury, strongly favour.
They saw me as able to
argue for those policies effectively, and to explain to the
New Zealand people why those policies were in the public
interest. Some of them were very enthusiastic when I
announced, on 25 October 2003, my intention to challenge for
the leadership of the National Party because, rightly or
wrongly, they felt pessimistic about National's electoral
prospects under the previous leadership. I have little
doubt that some of them phoned members of National's caucus
to advocate on my behalf.
But given those involved, I
suspect few had strong contacts in the National caucus, and
even fewer would have had any influence on how the members
of the caucus voted on the leadership.
Hager quotes from a
speech he claims I gave when the caucus met to decide the
leadership on 28 October 2003, and has me telling the caucus
that it would be much easier to attract the financial
support of the business community with me as Leader than
with my predecessor.
What will no doubt interest the
police is that, while I wrote that paragraph in the context
of a much longer speech, written on my home computer and
prepared for delivery to the caucus, the speech was never
given. The caucus went straight to a ballot with no
speeches, either by the previous Leader or by me.
book lists a number of people he is confident did contribute
to National Party funds, and I suspect that some of those on
that list did so. Why do I think that? Because several of
those named have been personal friends for a very long time,
and told me they had contributed. People like Alan Gibbs,
who was a next-door neighbour when I first moved to
Christchurch at the age of six and who was in what we then
called Standard 1 with me. People like Douglas Myers, with
whom I met from time to time 30 years ago to lament the fact
that the New Zealand economy was growing more slowly than
other developed countries. People like Roderick Deane, whom
I have known since we both did doctoral theses on similar
subjects in the sixties.
But I don't know for sure who
contributed, and Roderick Deane, for example, has told the
media since the publication of Hager's book he has never
contributed to any political party in his life. I didn't
personally collect cheques - that task was, correctly, left
to the Party President and the General Manager of the Party.
With almost no exceptions, I never knew what individual
donors may or may not have contributed - and in the case of
the exceptions, I knew only because they insisted on telling
Did I meet with people who were potentially donors?
Of course I did - every time I met with leaders in the
business community I knew I was meeting with people who had
the potential to support the National Party financially.
But I was not soliciting their financial support, and I
strongly suspect that most of the business leaders with whom
I met contributed nothing at all to the Party's funding. My
meetings were no different in this respect to dozens of
meetings which Helen Clark and her ministers have with union
leaders - indeed, I strongly suspect that Labour ministers
put more direct pressure on union leaders for funding
support than ever I did on business leaders.
allegation that Peter Talley contributed $1 million to the
National Party is, as he has made clear to the media in
recent days, totally incorrect.
Most important of all,
there was never any suggestion at all that actual or
potential donors were looking for specific policy
concessions in return for their financial support. The
allegation, for example, that National's policy on accident
compensation was driven by financial support from the
insurance industry was and is a total fabrication of the
Labour Party. I have no idea whether any insurance company
did in fact contribute to the National Party's funding, and
two of the largest insurance companies have stated publicly
that they contributed nothing to any political party in the
2005 campaign. Moreover, our commitment to reintroduce
competition into the accident insurance market was made
almost as soon as the Labour Government re-nationalised the
accident compensation industry in 2000, and has been
reiterated many times since.
But of course, Hager
never lets the truth get in the way of a good conspiracy
theory. He has used information very selectively,
apparently modified some of the emails he has obtained, and
drawn conclusions which are, in many cases, quite absurd.
One could get the impression from reading the book that the
only thing my close advisers and I did all day was meet with
narrowly-based religious groups, wealthy friends, and
American neo-conservatives, which is patently
A few months ago, Hager fed the line to a
Sunday paper that the SIS had infiltrated the Maori Party.
Subsequent investigation proved that claim to be, in Helen
Clark's words, a "work of fiction". Mr Hager specializes in
outrageous claims. Nobody should take them too
As indicated earlier, there are lots of
statements in Hager's book with which I disagree strongly.
I do not intend to comment further on the issue until the
police form a view on who stole the emails which provide
some of the titillating material in the