Election 2014

16 Nov 2011

Tea tape comparison wrong, says UK lawyer

2:25 pm on 16 November 2011

The lawyer for the family of murdered English schoolgirl Milly Dowler, who had their phone hacked by a British newspaper, does not agree that the 'tea tape' incident involving National Party leader John Key is comparable.

Mr Key has declined to allow a recording of his conversation with ACT Party candidate John Banks at a cafe meeting on Friday to be released because he says it was a tabloid newspaper tactic similar to those uncovered in Britain.

Lawyer Mark Lewis told Morning Report he believes Mr Key's conversation should be published.

"If it's about politics and it's politicians discussing it, then I think the public have a right to know."

The now defunct News of the World newspaper used phone hacking and employed private investigators, and Mr Lewis says most of what was recorded and published was celebrity tittle-tattle where no public interest was involved.

University of Canterbury journalism lecturer Jim Tully also says there's no comparison between the UK newspaper phone hacking incidents and the recording. He believes the contents of the conversation should be released in the public interest.

Reaction shows panic - Gould

The former British Labour Party politician and retired University of Waikato Vice-Chancellor, Bryan Gould, says the incident raises questions about Mr Key's political management.

"He's actually, I think, panicked. He recalls very well, I've got no doubt, what he said. He doesn't want that broadcast."

Mr Gould says there have been similar incidents involving politicians being unwittingly recorded both in New Zealand and overseas, and in those cases, the people involved did not complain to the police.

Mr Key laid a complaint with police on Monday over his discussion with Mr Banks being recorded without their knowledge.

Freelance cameraman Bradley Ambrose left a microphone on the table during the meeting which was organised as a public endorsement from National of Mr Banks' campaign for the Epsom seat.

Mr Ambrose gave the recording to the Herald on Sunday, which says it has decided not to publish the contents for legal and ethical reasons.