Nicky Hager said that "Dirty Politics" is in effect a sequel to "The Hollow Men," about a new phenomenon that didn't exist at that time, namely the use of blogs - an idea derived from Republican politics whereby you could have negative publicity without accountability - with no backlash. You could also run things which the media wouldn't run.
He has had a very strong reaction around country because people had been feeling uneasy but not understanding what was going on - a series of constant attacks on people and attacks on parties. Other things the book is about - the same attacks were being used by corporate sources for corporate issues, with Cameron Slater taking money to attack people personally especially public health people. Also the machine that was being used to attack the National Party's opponents was also being used within the National Party, and people within the National party should be feeling the most angry about what is in the book.
Another idea out of US politics the two-track system. Parties know about negative campaigning, that it is very effective, not only for attacking opponents but also for stopping people voting. But it is dangerous, so the leader stays above it while the other people do the dirty work.
Re the effect of the book - the polls haven't shifted but he never expected quick result. But there has been a huge reaction - people feel that things have gone wrong and something has to be done about it.
So what should be done about it? Our system of government is far too secretive - our Official Information Act is now seriously out of date. We need to change the transparency laws. Improving the news media is the best defence a society can have - we should be building up the public broadcasting service in a huge way. The third thing that need to be fixed is the deligitimising of politics for people such as academics, scientists, all those who know about what is going on. If we don't have the maximum freedom of speech for such people then we are leaving politics to the Cameron Slater's of this world. Countries need intelligent motivated people and the great reservoir of those people is in the public service. What we have at the moment is that we don't have a public servant who doesn't think that they are doing something wrong if they get themselves involved in what is going on as a citizen.
Nicky said he feels he has written a book about ethics - a manual of all the things that we don't want, and all the things we can do to change things for the better.
Sue Bradford's well-attended talk on the concept of a left wing think tank in NZ has provoked considerable discussion among attendees. Below is a considered response by Geoff Fischer in which he questions whether an institution of the general form discussed by Sue would necessarily represent a solution to any of the Left's problems.
Sue Bradford, has been part of many of the left-wing political parties which have come and gone (or stayed as the case may be) in New Zealand over the past forty years. In each case she has left disillusioned and her disillusion has been attributed at least in part to the fact that her fellow left-wingers have shyed away from serious thinking on the issues that matter. Her proposed solution is a "left-wing think tank" which appears to be something akin to a political party consisting of professional thinkers without any direct connection to the mass of the public, or any involvement in political processes.
Whether the think tank proposal is designed to provide a last line of defence and a citadel from which the left may re-emerge armed with new thinking with which to engage the forces of the right on more equal terms, or whether to provide a comfortable refuge for those old warriors of the left who have been defeated in the political arena, might be a subject of contention, but most of us would opt for the former view.
Despite that, there will be obstacles in the path of such an initiative. Even if the funds can be found to launch and sustain the left-wing think tank project, the essential element of "thought" may be lacking. If the left is incapable of profound thought in its many and various existing parties and associations, why would things be any different when a selection of those same individuals who presently make up the left are assembled under the banner of a "think tank"? Would the name itself make the difference? Would the selective nature of its membership make a difference? I suspect that neither would be the case. If the left is not capable of creating a coherent, cohesive and astute political movement or party, why should we expect it to be able to establish a think tank which would be all those things?