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June 6, 2017 | by  | in Politics |
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Political Round Up

There have been numerous high profile cases going through the New Zealand courts this past month. New Zealand gained international attention after John Oliver reported on the highly ridiculous Eminem v The New Zealand National Party. There’s also been Andrew Little v Lani and Earl Hagerman, in which Little was sued for defamation after statements made about Hagerman’s donations to the National Party — a case that was threatening to bankrupt him until he was cleared. This week let’s look at the most recent in the line of high profile cases: Cameron Slater v Colin Craig, a background-heavy case that is a tangle of different participants and court sessions, but nonetheless an interesting one.

Colin Craig is suing Cameron Slater for defamation. Quite frankly, the trial proceedings have been a complete mess, and the New Zealand Herald  has described it “as strange and unlikely” and having had “dragged its sorry carcass around courtroom 14 this past fortnight.”

So, where did this mess all start? Well the absolute beginning is right-wing blogger Cameron Slater (as seen in Dirty Politics) publishing sexual harassment allegations about Craig on his blog Whale Oil. Craig resigned from the Conservative Party after he breached the terms of a secret settlement between himself and his press secretary, Rachel MacGregor. The agreement had bound the parties from talking about its contents, and was reached between MacGregor and Craig in mediation talks after MacGregor laid a sexual harassment complaint. Craig breached the agreement after he partook in a series of media interviews detailing the settlement. Craig had to pay damages to MacGregor as a result.

After being later suspended from the Conservative Party, all hope being lost for regaining the leadership, and a rather pathetic attempt to regain support via a mass email to the membership, Craig announced he was suing Slater along with Conservative Party member John Stringer. Craig alleged that Stringer defamed him in statements made about the sexual harassment allegations — the action against Stringer was settled out of court for an undisclosed amount. Additionally, NZ Taxpayers’ Union founder Jordan Williams was successful in a defamation claim against Craig, regarding flyers distributed to 1.6 million homes in 2015 in which Craig alleged that Williams was running a “malicious” campaign.

Which brings us to where we are today. Cameron Slater announced he would lodge a counterclaim, which is being heard alongside the main defamation case. Craig’s press secretary has been a witness in the Slater case, having to once again detail her harassment. Of all elements of the proceedings, this aspect has unfortunately been the one that has received the greatest amount of press.

Another key witness was Madeleine Flanagan, who is a long friend of Slater’s (11 years), and an ex-lawyer of Craig’s (from when he and his wife were adopting a child and worried about reputation). Flanagan detailed the push and pull between seeking to find out what Slater had on her client, but also being unable to be open with Slater about who her client was and feeling like she was betraying their friendship. She also told the court that Slater had assumed her client was a second accuser, an assumption he then went on to publish.

The amount of money being sunk into claims and counterclaims is insanity, but perhaps not surprising for anyone who remembers Craig suing The Civilian for an apology and $500 in 2013. Then there’s the sheer awfulness of someone having to repeat their sexual harrassment suit again and again, especially in a relatively high profile case (and possibly made worse by how hilarious people find it). And finally there’s the fact that Slater and Craig are two people for all intents and purposes on the same side of the political spectrum but also widely different — they are both right wing but have differing views on social issues.

Okay, we’re done, let’s move on to the upcoming election. Big news recently is the announcement that New Zealand gangs — Black Power, the Mongrel Mob, Nomad, and Tribesmen — are joining together to mobilise voters. Mongrel Mob member Harry Tam told Newshub,we are concerned about our children, we are concerned about futures.” Members said they were frustrated with the portrayal of gangs among the New Zealand public. Māori Party MP Marama Fox told Newshub, “we’re here to help because those are our people. If they think that they put their faith in us, that’s up to them.” Fox also criticised the government’s response to gangs (e.g. banning gang regalia in public spaces), saying “the gang strategy I don’t believe is the best one, I think too many people are tarred with the same brush.”

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