Scoop Election 08: edited by Gordon Campbell

Gordon Campbell on the non-apology to Tania Billingsley

July 22nd, 2014

The refusal by Prime Minister John Key to issue a personal apology to Tania Billingsley has been accompanied by an array of excuses. Yes, there are judicial proceedings to be considered, as well an “independent inquiry” into how the incident was handled by MFAT officials. But really…would a personal apology to Billingsley prejudice either of these investigations? Hardly. With the Pike River inquiry, Key hadn’t hold back from offering effusive expressions of compassion to the victims, for fear of prejudicing the outcome.

Yesterday though, Key’s choice of words indicated that an apology was the last thing on his mind. By saying that he reserves his apologies for “serious” matters, the Prime Minister – quite deliberately – belittled (a) Billingsley’s request for a personal apology from him (b) her sense of outrage at how this incident has been handled by his government, and ultimately (c) what has happened to her. No wonder the spokesperson from Rape Crisis was expressing concern on RNZ this morning about the Prime Minister’s response.

Why has Key chosen to react in this fashion? Billingsley had described as “incompetent” Foreign Minister Murray McCully’s handling of the incident. With Key, she had said that he seemed “bored” and “dismissive” and “annoyed” to be having to comment at all on an incident that he – like McCully – had ignored for the seven weeks between when the assault on her occurred, and when its diplomatic implications blew up publicly in the media. In short, Billingsley felt that Key’s inaction and public attitude had trivialised the attack on her. It was a verdict that his claim yesterday that he reserves his apologies for serious matters, confirmed in spades.

Key was being gratuitously offensive yesterday, and you have to wonder why. If ever there was occasion for one of those faux apologies – “I apologise if you happen to feel that way” – this was it. He could have chosen several different responses. So why this one? Clearly, he is annoyed at Billingsley, and has taken her comments as a personal criticism, as they were intended to be. Rather than accept that criticism as valid – and at the very least, as the response of a serious assault victim who honestly feels your response has been less than sympathetic – Key dismissed her concerns as unworthy of the remedy being sought.

Plainly, the government resents Billingsley for not following the script of virtuous victimhood, whereby the victim is humbly grateful for whatever attentions she is given, and is willing to collaborate in positive photo opportunities. The reality is that McCully (and his ministerial office staff) bungled this incident from start to finish, and Key seemed blasé- to-irritated when to came to answering questions about it. He was disinterested then, and he is disinterested now.

The upshot is that we have an “independent inquiry” that has been set up as a “blame the officials” process in order to whitewash the Minister. If you’re confident that the officials really were to blame, why write terms of reference that deliberately exclude the role of the Minister from scrutiny ? Deliberately, the political dimension of the investigation has been surgically removed. To date, McCully’s apology to Billingsley had been issued through the media, and not in person. Key is not interested in apologizing at all. The aim is to shut down this affair and keep it out of the election debate.

It really shouldn’t be kept out of the election campaign. Apparently, this is what that nice Mr Key thinks of Uppity Women who talk back and criticize him. The incident offers the public one of those rare glimpses into the person behind the ‘nice guy’ persona. Women voters in particular, may find his response illuminating. When a woman dares to find this man personally wanting, he will belittle her.

Colin Craig’s Delayed Gratification
And so Conservative Party leader Colin Craig still waits and waits to hear whether National will give him a free run at East Coast Bays and a free ride into Parliament. At least Craig can’t complain about the work ethic involved. The process is a mirror image for Craig’s position on welfare : that you should be required to work hard for whatever relief you get.

The longer that Prime Minister John Key delays, the harder the Conservatives faithful have to work to try and reach the 5% threshold, and thus…the bigger bang National gets for its buck, via Craig getting more of his colleagues into Parliament. It a handout disguised as a hand up. Gratifyingly for all involved, the delay enables Craig to whip his troops into greater exertions (and a bigger payoff) than would have been the case if Key had simply gift-wrapped East Coast Bays and handed it to Craig weeks ago, and let everyone go home and put their feet up. The alternative scenario of course, is that it is the very prospect of not only getting Craig but a whole posse of the virtuous, that is making National get cold feet.

Tokyo Soul…
Is this what the inside of Colin Craig’s head looks like? “Ponponpon” by the J-pop star Kyary Pamyu Pamyu is a fever dream that packs every conceivable image – big striped candy! plastic horses! time! fluorescent death skulls! white bread! bones! flights of crows! pink dancing women with blacked out faces! eggs , eggs and more eggs! – without losing its sweetly insistent, bubblegum pulse for a moment. Will innocence finally drive you insane ? It would seem so. Avril Lavigne has been taking notes.


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    1. 12 Responses to “Gordon Campbell on the non-apology to Tania Billingsley”

    2. By Grump on Jul 22, 2014 | Reply

      Just think about it for a moment – Key reserves his apologies for “serious” matters.

      If letting foreigners get away with raping (yes, yes, allegedly raping, I mean attempting to rape) NZ citizens isn’t serious, we’re even worse than I thought.

    3. By Cabion on Jul 22, 2014 | Reply

      But what is John Key supposed to be apologising for? An alleged rape or the handling of the alleged perpetrator by govt officials?

    4. By Kat on Jul 22, 2014 | Reply

      Perhaps Key has been told to now appeal even more to male voters by not apologising to this woman.

      If ever there was an apology for a man it is John Key.

    5. By richarquis on Jul 22, 2014 | Reply

      “If ever there was an apology for a man it is John Key.”

      I think that is supposed to read “If ever there was a sorry excuse for a man it is John Key.”

    6. By Penny Bright on Jul 22, 2014 | Reply

      Isn’t it a breach of ‘natural justice’ to be a judge in your own case? How is it proper for the Minster of Foreign Affairs, Murray McCully, whose actions in this case of alleged criminal offending by a foreign diplomat, have been criticised on a number of fronts from a number groups and individuals, to set the terms of reference for this ‘inquiry’ and pick the person heading it? How ‘mickey-duck’ is this? Penny Bright

    7. By john on Jul 23, 2014 | Reply

      Cunliffe has made enough fake and insincere apologies for everyone.

      Now you want one from Key for an issue he didn’t even know about, let alone have anything to do with.

      The reality is you are trying to use the rape as a political weapon to beat people who didn’t have anything to do with the stuff up.

      It must be election time – the commentators are in the sewers.

    8. By Ion on Jul 24, 2014 | Reply

      When John Key’s mask slips, as it has dome quite few times over the years, it is not a pretty sight. The common touch he has in spades, but I don’t get the impression he gives a rats arse about people really. If New Zealand’s government is by the people, of the people, for the people, then this country has a population of 4000 – and of those, most aren’t even New Zealand residents or citizens. But what would you expect of one who grabbed with both hands Roger Douglas’s Licence to Loot the Common Weal?

    9. By David on Jul 24, 2014 | Reply

      I think John Key won’t apologise because the issue has become politicised.I’m a Green Party supporter but realised the moment Jan Logie was spending time with Tania that the issue would turn political in nature, and people would take sides and see it from either a Government or Opposition point of view. Key might have been prepared to apologise early on, but once it was overtly politicised, he would not consider doing so.

    10. By Kat on Jul 24, 2014 | Reply

      John Key……

      Really, is this the guy the majority of New Zealanders ‘really’ want to lead the country?

      The majority?


    11. By Merrial on Jul 24, 2014 | Reply

      ” The incident offers the public one of those rare glimpses into the person behind the ‘nice guy’ persona.”

      Looking back over the last 5 years, it seems to me that the appearances of “that person” have been fairly frequent. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve seen him on TV with that sort of dead look around the eyes, as he gets snippy over unwelcome questions or political situations which don’t reflect well on him or his party.

      Watching him do it in relation to the sensitive issue of alleged sexual violence against women is illuminating, but not really surprising, in my view.

    12. By Barnzy on Jul 26, 2014 | Reply

      This is par for the course for “Team Key” National MPs, All Blacks or both are immune from having to face public scrutiny over their misdemeanours and this seems to be part of the contract for being a member of this elite group. Is it any wonder that so many National Mps are leaving the ship at the election? those who stay are swearing allegiance to the team whereas the function of a Member of Parliament is to represent their electorate. Party vote, I suppose, lets them off the hook in this respect but trust National to abuse MMP and corrupt it to the point of absurdity.

    13. By Robert Miles on Jul 28, 2014 | Reply

      Malaysian officer of course, and so many people find Malaysian officers and diplomats not very nice people. Even more than in Kenya during the 1950-60 Emergency, Britain failed to do an adequate job of repressing the more barbarian elements.
      I have always assumed their are a number of links between the loss of the two Malaysian airliners. Since the early 1970s the US and Russia have had naval, land and air missile systems and radars capable of taking anything within 120-180km. Even Talos over Hanoi.
      Malaysia and Singapore and Thailand are increasingly unstable states , in strategic positions with sophisticated French and Swedish designed naval surface and submarine forces, nothing could be more interesting to Russia and India. Russia is now only interested in developing submarines SS.SSBN and SSN for its Navy and basic frigates and Corvettes thats why its letting France build its Mistral helicopter carriers. It assumes surface navies have little future and the USN CVNs are no more likely to be much around in five years than Russian cruisers and destroyers.
      As for Ms Billinsgate women judge men not by pyhsical acts but by whether they like the man and his image, standing, position etc. Women are different and the technical physical act or abuse is not the point of decision or differentation. Probably a very distasteful Malay officer.

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