National leader Don Brash is facing a legal onslaught over the use of an injunction which it is claimed has prevented the release of a book alleging he and his party deceived the public and possibly acted illegally.
Investigative researcher Nicky Hager today revealed he had been poised to release the book — The Hollow Men: A Study in the Politics of Deception — covering Dr Brash’s rise to lead the party and its conduct since then, until stopped by the injunction.
Hager said the book was based on a various pieces of information, primarily from six sources in the National Party who had become concerned at the party’s direction and tactics.
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“They were willing to help the book to be written because of their unhappiness that their party had been acting unethically, dishonestly and even illegally and was getting away with it,” Hager said.
None of the allegations were new, but Hager said the book would prove that Dr Brash and his closest advisers had repeatedly misled the public about them.
The latest attacks on Dr Brash’s credibility and his handling of those attacks has many speculating that it will once again raise questions about a change in National’s leadership.
Amongst the book’s allegations was that Dr Brash had worked for a longer period with the Exclusive Brethren than he has previously admitted, and had been well aware they were spending $1.2 million attacking Labour and the Greens.
During the election campaign Dr Brash initially denied knowledge and then later admitted limited contact. Hager claims he has more yet to reveal on the association.
Hager said his sources had received the information legally, including emails, and then leaked the material to him.
He accused Dr Brash of using the law to block politically damning evidence that National had deceived the public.
He said National’s finance spokesman John Key had also known about the Exclusive Brethren’s campaign, despite his denials .
Mr Key said Hager was wrong and he had only limited contact with the Exclusive Brethren and did not know about their campaigning.
Hager refused to answer many of the questions reporters asked about the book, saying they related to emails covered by the injunction.
He would discuss only material not covered by the emails.
“The reason we have continued with launching news of the book is so that the public and everyone involved in the legal cases knows, at least in general terms, what National is trying to suppress,” Hager said.
Dr Brash said he had nothing to hide and denied the allegations made by Hager.
Dr Brash said he had no problem with people making critical remarks about him or National and he would like the book to be published, but he objected to the use of “stolen property”.
“Some of the information he has is stolen, if he has what I think he has,” Dr Brash said.
“He can go to court, he can get the injunction set aside.”
Dr Brash gained the injunction last week.
It was not targeted at Hager, but covered anyone with the emails or their content.
The New Zealand Herald, along with TV3 and Television One are seeking to overturn the temporary injunction. Other media organisations are said to be considering similar courses.
The Herald went to the High Court at Wellington to seek an urgent judicial review and hearing to overturn the injunction banning publication of the content of Dr Brash’s office emails.
The Herald would also pass its copy of the book to court, to comply with an order associated with the injunction.
In a memorandum filed with the court, the Herald’s lawyer Bruce Gray described Dr Brash’s injunction – and related orders – as “inconsistent with the rights of freedom of expression affirmed and protected by Section 14 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights…”
TV3 today confirmed it, too, had applied to the High Court to have Dr Brash’s injunction rescinded.
A hearing on the Herald and TV3 actions is expected next week.
Hager said he would also approach the courts next week to get the injunction lifted, but hoped National would lift it before then.
The injunction applied to publication of the emails and also required anyone holding copies of Dr Brash’s emails to hand them over to the court.
Hager said he had since returned all his material to his sources.
Deputy Prime Minister Michael Cullen said Dr Brash obviously had material he wanted to cover-up.
New Zealand First leader Winston Peters said the book would show who was pulling the strings behind National and he knew of many people in the party who were worried about its direction.
Yesterday Mr Peters said his party had, in his absence, destroyed copies of Dr Brash’s emails in his possession, after he complained to police that some had been stolen.
Mr Peters said he had no contact with Hager over the emails.
Rumours about emails and a controversial book on Dr Brash have been swirling around Parliament for months, Hager confirmed he had began researching the book after Dr Brash’s One Nation Orewa speech in 2003.