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 Our system of government is far too secretive - our Official Information Act is now seriously out of date.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.

You can listen to a podcast of Nicky's speech and the questions here; also Teresa Cowie's report on RadioNZ here, and the State Service Commissioner's response to issues raised in the meeting here.

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