It's the kind of empty, but very useful, phrase that could have been dreamed up by a John Key adviser imbued with the problem-solving ethos of the Wellington bureaucracy and thus well trained in the fine art of wanton obfuscation and first-grade humbug. And it probably was.
But hey, when you've been stuck in a deep hole of your own digging anything that makes life a little easier - or in Key's case a little easier to deal with Little - is not to be sneezed at.
Hence does the Prime Minister now describe his relationship with Cameron Slater as "not a proactive one". That still leaves the question of why Key continues to have any kind of relationship - proactive or not - with the Whale Oil blogger.
The slight distancing executed by Key from the politically septic, suppurating embrace of Slater - rather than an outright renunciation of that relationship - will only fuel speculation that Slater knows or has something which if it became public would seriously embarrass or damage the Prime Minister.
What was clear in Parliament yesterday was that whether such material exists or not, it's not in the possession of Opposition parties. Labour, the Greens and New Zealand First had little fresh to keep a head of steam on the saga surrounding the dirty tricks campaign run out of the Prime Minister's office.
When you're reduced to asking how many journalists in the parliamentary press gallery had been advised by Key of his new cellphone number, then Watergate it is not.
The dearth of Opposition fire-power prompted Key finally to put his head above National's bullet-riddled parapet and indulge in one of his favourite pastimes - calling Russel Norman a muppet.
The Greens co-leader responded by asking "how disgusting" would Slater have to be before the Prime Minister severed all contact with him.
Key ducked the question, but replying to a later one from Andrew Little cheekily sought to turn the tables on the new Labour leader.
"Here is a little question for him," Key said. "Has he made it quite clear to some members of his caucus ... his acting chief of staff, to all members of the Labour Party that they should have no contact with Mr Slater? And can he answer this question: when was the last time they did?"
It briefly silenced the Labour benches before Annette King interjected with: "Hey, we ask the questions." True. But to no real effect.
Debate on this article is now closed.