Alexander Speirs looks at what effect chief executives think the Nicky Hager book has had
Nicky Hager's expose Dirty Politics has undoubtedly been the focal point of the impending election. New Zealand's own Watergate has continued to dominate headlines through the campaign, while the public - willingly or otherwise - appear largely oblivious to the details.
Sentiment among the CEOs however has taken a strong line against the Dirty Politics saga, disparaging what they say has been an untimely diversion from the real issues in a crucial election for New Zealand.
"I think the whole saga is actually quite sad to be honest," said Peter Reidie, CEO at Goodman Field.
"It's been a total distraction for people who are looking to make positive decisions for the good of the country and what the right policies are. Instead we're all focused on who's who in the zoo."
Seventy two per cent of CEOs said Dirty Politics was not a justifiable exercise in the public interest. "We have discovered nothing we didn't already either know or suspect of the probity of the cast of characters, " said Kim Campbell, CEO of the EMA.
"Whatever the public interest Hager thought he was serving, using stolen information sends a corrupting message that you can receive stolen property and make money from its sale, as long as you embarrass enough important people."
The majority of CEOs felt Hager had been given a free pass of sorts and should have been taken to task over the use of stolen material. Many compared the situation to the scandalous News of the World phone hacking saga which saw journalists imprisoned for theft of material.
Seventy eight per cent of respondents said the exercise was tantamount to a political sting operation to derail the Key government.
Veda Chief Executive John Roberts going as far to call Dirty Politics a "clearly planned conspiracy to derail the National Party's election campaign. The bigger question is: who planned it?!"
One Capital Markets chief said "The faux outrage by the opposition politicians is laughable. This is a well-planned exercise staged so Labour has plausible deniability, but it will have done no different. The litany of attacks on the Prime Minister is not for this democracy and shows how desperate the left are and how they would conduct themselves if in power."
Source and motivation aside, Hager's book has failed to make a material impact on the polls for Labour or any of the left - the unintended consequence of largely shutting out media electioneering to focus attention on Dirty Politics.
Xero Chief Executive Rod Drury said "it all looks pretty co-ordinated" and called for "leaders on both sides of the benches to clean up their acts".
John Barnett, CEO of South Pacific Pictures offered perhaps the most reasoned response, saying "Hager is a gadfly who often causes us to examine our society. He has attacked both the right and the left before. It's too easy to dismiss it as a left wing loony conspiracy. We tend to shoot the messengers rather than examine the messages."