Among a raft of others, the Minister said that 4000 gang members were responsible for 34 percent of all class A and B drug offences, when in reality the figure was 4 percent. The homicide related charges cited by the Minister were 25 percent, itself an inflated figure, but using a consistent data set, that figure was actually zero.
Despite this, the government has not corrected the figures publicly, which they sought to defend pre election via a right wing blogger.
Not long after the commanding National Party election victory, Keith Ng wrote that, despite the best efforts of some individuals, journalists on-the-whole had failed the public in not successfully chasing up the issues around ‘Dirty Politics’. Guyon Espiner’s memorable effort to get John Key to deviate from his carefully prepared script is generally allegorical.
Last week Gordon Campbell articulated a rebuke to Ng, in part saying that if politicians just refuse to talk then there’s not a lot journalists can do. End of story.
David Fisher's work is proof this is not the case. He chipped away until the truth was revealed. It’s his second story on this issue. He first reported the erroneous data and uncovered collusion between the Minister’s office and Right Wing blogger David Farrar, who was then seeking to defend the inflated data. Now Fisher has gained Cabinet papers showing that the numbers have been retracted. All of which was revealed through Official Information Act Requests undertaken by him or by Josh Grainger, a University of Canterbury law student. Credit to the police, too, for providing the accurate data.
To me it is surprising that more journalists haven’t dug around like this in relation to the issues raised in Dirty Politics, after all there are names to be made.
Two further questions still remain, though. Why is it good enough for the numbers to be corrected behind the private doors of Cabinet but not in public? And, given Cabinet documents reveal that the incorrect data were not just used to justify the government's policy but were the very basis for creating it, should the policy be reevaluated now the problem is so vastly different to what the government was originally led to believe?