Kurt Bayer

Kurt Bayer is an APNZ reporter based in Christchurch.

Spy-chief's brother Key's debating buddy

The brother of the man controversially appointed to New Zealand's top spy job after a nod by John Key is a former schoolmate and debating team member of the Prime Minister.

Ian Fletcher was made director of the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) after Mr Key urged him to apply for the role.

Mr Key rejects accusations of cronyism, claiming last week that he only "vaguely" knew of Ian Fletcher.

It has since emerged the two men met over breakfast or lunch on at least three occasions in recent years.

Mr Key has admitted their mothers were friends, and he had gone to school with Mr Fletcher's older brother Alistair.

The 51-year-old prime minister and Alistair Fletcher went through Burnside High School in Christchurch together in the 1970s.

School year books show the pair, who entered high school in 1975, were members of the debating club, and won several titles between them.They also took part in many public speaking competitions.

A squat, cheerful and long-haired future prime minister was praised for his "fluency and ease of manner" at the Christchurch final of the 1977 Royal Overseas League public speaking competition.

Last week in Parliament, when Labour Deputy Leader Grant Robertson was quizzing the prime minister over his role in Ian Fletcher getting the GCSB job, Mr Key caused uproar by replying: "His appointment was made by the State Services Commissioner, but if the member is trying to make some other allegation, then yes, I knew Ian Fletcher. I went to school with his brother. His brother was way brighter than Grant Robertson ..."

Mr Robertson will file a complaint to Parliament's Speaker that Mr Key misled the House by not fully disclosing his role in the appointment in response.

Read more: PM put mate's case for job in 2009

- APNZ

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