20 Aug 2014

National's campaign not harmed - English

1:14 pm on 20 August 2014

The National Party's election campaign is not being derailed by fallout from the Dirty Politics book, the party's deputy leader Bill English says.

Bill English during the G20 meeting in Sydney in February.

Bill English. Photo: AAP

A week on from the release of the book by Wellington writer Nicky Hager, the Prime Minister John Key is facing constant questions about Justice Minister Judith Collins' actions in passing information to a blogger.

Mr English told Radio New Zealand's Morning Report programme he did not believe voters were as concerned as the media is about matters raised in the book.

"I've been out campaigning in Christchurch, Dunedin, I'm in Motueka today - I can almost guarantee no-one will raise it.

"People do have a real interest in whether the economy is going to kick on, deliver them wage increases, what's going to happen with their interest rates and they're waiting for the politicians and the media to get back to it."

Mr English said Ms Collins was a minister with a good track record. "I certainly do back Judith Collins as a minister who's out there campaigning to get National re-elected," he said.

Nicky Hager's book Dirty Politics outlines how Ms Collins passed to right-wing blogger Cameron Slater the name and phone number of a public servant she suspected of leaking information about Mr English double-dipping on his housing allowance to the Labour Party.

The public servant, Simon Pleasants, was subsequently criticised on the Whale Oil blog and received death threats.

Mr Key said yesterday he accepted Ms Collins stance that Mr Slater already knew Mr Pleasants' name but said it was still unwise to hand over the information.

A public law specialist at Victoria University's School of Law said passing on the details of a public servant could violate the Cabinet manual.

Dean Knight told Radio New Zealand's Nine to Noon programme the action risked compromising public service neutrality and Mr Pleasants' privacy, and he believed that would be of interest to the Privacy Commissioner.

Papakura voters say revelations harmful

Voters in Ms Collins' electorate of Papakura told Radio New Zealand yesterday the revelations were harmful to the National Party's image.

Judith Collins

Judith Collins speaking to media at Parliament in May. Photo: RNZ / Chris Bramwell

One woman said she found Ms Collins' conduct had harmed her reputation.

"I did trust and believe in her, but she showed too many indiscretions, and she's using her lawyer's knowledge to get herself out of it all the time," she said.

While some said it was the kind of behaviour needed from strong politicians, another said the minister was pushing the boundaries and not being "straight up."

But in Christchurch, several voters said it was Nicky Hager's book that was damaging, and was distracting New Zealanders from the main election issues.

One interviewee said the book was just used as a tool to cause damage before the election, and that Mr Hager was a conspiracy theorist.

Another Christchurch resident said it was harmful for democracy.

"It's not allowing the New Zealand people to hear the real campaign which should be about the various parties' policies," she said.

In the regions, voters had a range of views, from apathy, disillusionment, to unwavering support for the Prime Minister.

Judith Collins has held the Papakura seat since 2008 and at the last election had a majority of almost 10,000 votes.

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