Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Parliamentary Porkie Pies

And believe it or not I'm not talking about David Benson-Pope.

On Tuesday Herald journalist Simon Collins had a beaut wee scoop about a new anti domestic violence/child abuse initiative that was about to be launched by the Government. naturally this had every other journalist in the Press Gallery scrambling to match it.

But what was the response from the office of Minister of Health Pete Hodgson?

His press secretaries were emphatic in denouncing the Herald story. They said it was completely wrong and no such initiative was planned. One staffer went so far as to suggest Simon Collins had got things mixed up and could be referring to a Ministry of Social Development announcement planned for next month. Even the staff in the office of acting Minister for Social Development and Employment, Steve Maharey, were running the same line.

That is until Maharey went on Radio New Zealand, Newstalk ZB, and Radio Live and confirmed the details of the Herald's story.

And sure enough the policy was announced today.

So what are we to make of this?

Well either Hodgson's staff are incompetent, or they're liars. It beggars belief that they weren't aware of the policy and that it was due for release. Press secretaries, by their very nature, are in those sorts of information loops. While evasion and manipulation is to be expected if they don't wish to talk about such things flat out lying is not.

While journalists always treat press secretaries with a fair degree of scepticism there is a firm rule that lying is not good form. Generally it gets found out and once it is there's no way a reporter will take anything that person says at face value ever again. Any residual trust is dead and buried - permanently.

Lying not only undermines the credibility of the press secretary it also damages the credibility of the the minister. Press secretaries are an extension of their minister, a mouthpiece as it were. Their actions reflect on those that titularly control them.

Pete Hodgson image is now tarred, and it's all because his staff didn't have the good sense to be straight up with the media.

One would have thought Labour would have learned a few lessons from the Benson-Pope experience.

Apparently not.

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