Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Hiding behind "security"

Last week, we learned that John Key had accepted a free helicopter ride from a pair of dodgy businessmen, then paid for it when he realised it would look bad. We were subsequently treated to Bill English claiming in Parliament that it was "not in the public interest" to say whether Key could have made his "urgent security-related meeting" if he'd taken a car rather than a chopper. Today, we had the obvious followup:

Hon PETE HODGSON (Labour—Dunedin North) to the Prime Minister: Why is it not in the public interest to tell New Zealanders whether, if he had travelled by car from Hamilton to Auckland as previously arranged, he would have arrived in time for his “security related meetings” on 11 December 2009?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): It is my judgment that it is not in the public interest for me as Prime Minister to talk publicly about any of the details related to security-related meetings held on that date, and, from the best of my knowledge, that was the custom of the previous Prime Minister, as well.

Hon Pete Hodgson: Does the Prime Minister acknowledge that I am not seeking the subject of the meetings, the number of meetings, the venues of the meetings, the attendees at the meetings, or the duration of the meetings, but, rather, I am seeking to know only whether, if the kind helicopter pilot had not offered a lift direct to Auckland, the Prime Minister would have got there on time?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: As I said earlier, it is my judgment that it is not in the public interest for me as Prime Minister to talk about security-related matters.

The problem for Key, as Hodgson so neatly pointed out, is that whether he needed to use a chopper is not a security-related matter. And that is obvious to everyone. So why does Key persist in hiding behind "security"? Is he that afraid of admitting that he made a mistake and took an unnecessary chopper trip at the taxpayer's expense? And would admitting it really make him look any worse than he looks now?