That there was a connection between Whaleoil, Kiwiblog and a senior advisor in the Prime Minister's office, Jason Ede, has been a matter of political gossip for several years. But it has remained that: gossip. Nicky Hager's new book, Dirty Politics: How attack politics is poisoning New Zealand's political environment, appears to have changed all that.
The breakthrough in the writing of the book sounds exquisitely karmic. After Whaleoil publisher Cameron Slater wrote a revolting blog post headed 'Feral dies in Greymouth, did world a favour' about a young man who had died in a car crash on the West Coast, his site was hit in a presumably related denial of service attack, which took his site out for two days.
But it did more than that. It provided access for unnamed persons to retrieve a trove of correspondence between Slater, Ede and other senior figures -- which became a breakthrough in a story Hager says he was already working on. He regards the gulf between Prime Minister Key's clean, positive public image and the grubby political reality as a key element of the book.
“You are not going to believe what you read, and how bloody awful it is," said Hager at the launch this evening that was so helpfully streamed live by TV3 news.
Sadly, perhaps it's not so hard to believe.
And that's where Hager's status as a journalist beyond the day-to-day rumble of political journaism is most valuable. The self-styled bruisers of Parliamentary gallery reporting may not have been part of it, but they depend on the same system, the same people, the same words-in-their-ears for their stories.
To an extent, that's always been the case. Most great "scoops" by gallery jouraists are fed to them. Their jobs simply don't permit real, long-game investigation. There are active incentives to procure the gotcha for tonight's news. But it seems -- and, to be honest, has seemed for a while -- that what has been going on is of a different order, not least in the revelation that these people have used information gathered by the SIS for political purposes.
It's good that we get to see behind the curtain.