Clark Shoots Messenger

June 30, 2008

A tape of Helen Clark’s speech to a journalism conference in which she criticised the media has been released after an Official Information Act request by a member of the public and the intervention of the ombudsman.

On the tape, Clark is severely critical of journalists for their alleged lack of knowledge of world events, historical context, and “letting the facts get in the way of the story.”

Shouldn’t the criticism be for not  letting the facts get in the way of the story?

She claims TV3 political editor Duncan Garner had told a seminar that “politicians always lie”.

“I’m sorry, politicians don’t always lie. I’m quite appalled by that statement. I think it’s important that scrutiny is not confused with cynicism,” Clark said.

Of course politicians don’t always lie, but Garner says what he actually said was that the first instinct of politicians when cornered was to lie.

Clark says there are large gaps in journalists’ general knowledge, and in geography, sociology, and economic matters.

“Very few journalists have any comprehension of the range of relations New Zealand has, the range of issues New Zealand is involved in.”

Most journalists were too young to remember seminal events in the country’s history, she says.

“Today’s political editors of the two main TV channels were barely in their infancy, if born, when Norman Kirk brought the troops back from Vietnam, the Springbok tour, sent the frigate to Mururoa – events that to many of our age group were seminal events,” Clark said.

“Muldoon and David Lange are basically ancient history too and world war one and two are antedivulian.”

Lack of institutional knowledge in newsrooms is a concern but she’s got to remember that it’s not only young people who don’t share her memories of what she considers important. It’s 27 years since I started journalism and I don’t remember Kirk bringing the troops back from Vietnam – I would have been at high school at the time.  The Springbok tour happened a few months after I started work and I remember reporting on it, but it isn’t nearly as important to me as it obviously is to her.

Clark said trends in journalism included “making the story all about them”, a “rush to judgment” on blogging, a refusal to send journalists on overseas trips, and competition that was leading to inaccuracies.

“There wouldn’t be a day go by when something isn’t just plain wrong,” she said.

There are journalists who blog but not all blogs are journalism and not all rush – some of us take a carefully considered path to judgement ;)

I’ll concede that mistakes happen too often and it must be frustrating – but sometimes it’s not the reporting that’s wrong when it doesn’t reflect your own view.

Clark said New Zealand was fortunate to have a free media, however, and politicians still needed journalists as much as the media needed political news.  

Clark courted journalists when she became Prime Minister, and she got a pretty gentle run for a time. Now they’re reporting a different view of the world from hers and she’s taking it personally.

[Update: Karl du Fresne has another view on the media here]


Heading Feds Requires Change from Sheep

June 30, 2008

Taking on the presidency of Federated Farmers is pushing Don Nicolson to change from running sheep on his farm to leasing it for dairying.

His 212 ha farm is too small to justify the cost of employing a manager but too big for him to run by himself while also serving as president.

“My intention is to give it [Federated Farmers presidency] 24/7 attention, but I can’t do both. There is no way given the economics of sheep farming that I can employ a manager.”

His experience illustrated one of the major challenges facing farmers and a reason he was looking at joining the flood of sheep and beef farmers changing to dairying.

Last year, he made a net profit of just $1 a stock unit over his 2500 stock units. Leasing to a dairy farmer would earn him a net profit of $200,000.

“It makes no sense to stay in the sheep industry.”

Even without taking on the presidency the difference in income from dairying or sheep and beef is a pretty compelling argument for change.  But even so, this is a reminder of the sacrifices made by people who take office in voluntary organisations.

The Oamaru Mail reported last week that North Otago Council of Social Services was disbanding because it had too few members. It’s the lament of just about every voluntary organisation be it sport or leisure club, religious, service or lobby group, or political party.

Yet the voluntary sector is still a vital part of our communities and society. We’re fortunate that there still are people willing to play an active role in them in spite of the cost in financial, and personal terms and the many competing demands for their time, talent and energies.


Reef fish rule

June 30, 2008

New Zealand’s low productivity is a national disaster  according to professional company director Kerry McDonald.

Newly elected Federated Farmers president Don Nicolson  wasn’t referring to that when he made the following comments, but the reef fish he criticises contribute to the problem:

“I saw the reforms (subsidy removals) that hurt farmers, and then a transformation in the economy where we stopped seeing people leaning on shovels and growing a career through legislation, like planners and consultants. I call them the reef fish. If you analyse it, the reef fish diminished in the 1980s. We are in a revival of them again from the mid-1990s when the RMA (Resource Management Act) gave them a whole lot of ideas.

“I saw these reef fish nibbling at my production and I didn’t like it. Why should we produce more and more and more to keep these reef fish in a job?”

Carrying the analogy further, Nicolson believes the reef fish have grown to become “piranhas and sharks” – contentious perhaps, but that is how he feels.

It is not only planners and consultants, it’s many armies of people in make-work activity which goes hand in hand with the tick-box mentality bedevilling us and sabotaging productivity.  

Computers were supposed to reduce paper work, instead they’ve increased it and a lot of the paper is generated by people in jobs which require other people to set aside the productive work they are doing to deal with it.


Mothering not always natural

June 30, 2008

Deborah Coddington  is right to be concerned about the lack of care new mothers and their babies are getting from our health system.

Current policy concerning mothers and babies is to get them out of the hospital as soon as possible, regardless of how they are coping.

I blame the feminists who, in declaring quite rightly most deliveries are straightforward and mothers are not ill, went overboard in their quest for minimising hospital care (especially if male obstetricians or general practitioners were in charge of the birth) and made mothers feel pressured to get off the delivery trolley, pick up their blinking newborns and sail home pretending they could cope.

When our children were born 23, 21 and 19 years ago it was usual for women to have 5 days in hospital following a normal delivery and up to 10 days after a caesarean.

Now Ministry of Health policy stipulates that the Lead Maternity Carer will determine when mother and baby are clinically ready to be discharged; and that this is usually within 48 hours of the birth at least a day before breast milk comes in.

  

The Ministry’s list of reasons for delaying discharge includes feeding problems, so in theory mothers and their babies are able to stay until breast feeding is properly established. But this isn’t what happens in practice: women are often discharged within hours of birth and some maternity centres even offer incentives such as free napkins to encourage early discharge.

 

 Some women are happy to get home as soon as possible after delivery and of course should be free to do so; others may be unable, or choose not to breast feed. But many wish to feed their babies themselves and some of these need the immediate assistance which is available 24 hours a day in maternity centres to do so.

 

Without that help there is an increased risk babies will fail to thrive and mothers will develop mastitis or opt for bottle feeding in desperation.

 

I haven’t found any research into the link between feeding problems and our appalling record for violence; but an unhappy baby and the unexpected expense of formula will put strain on a family.

 

A birth blip has put pressure on maternity services and even without that it isn’t sensible to tie up tertiary and secondary hospital beds with well women. It may be better to establish mother care units but however it is done we need facilities that ensure 24-hour, on the spot assistance and advice is available from lactation specialists until breast feeding is established.


PGW wants 50% of SFF

June 30, 2008

The grapevine was right: PGG Wrightson is planning to take a 50% share in Silver Fern Farms  (formerly PPCS) at a cost of $220m.

This announcement answers the question asked on Rural Network: who killed meat industry taskforce?


ETS for agriculture is economic stupidity

June 30, 2008

David Bellamy’s biological arguments for excluding agriculture from the Emissions Trading Scheme (see post below) are complemented by economic arguments from Muriel Newman:

The primary sector remains the backbone of New Zealand’s prosperity. Last year it earned 47 percent of the country’s export returns of $35 billion. Dairying was the single biggest export earner with receipts of $7.5 billion, or 21.6 percent of the total. Meat exports ranked second with $4.3 billion or 12.4 percent. In third place, wood exports were worth $2.1 billion, or 6 percent.

The primary sector exports around 90 percent of all of the food produced in New Zealand. This is in sharp contrast to Australia, which only exports a quarter of its food production. An estimated 40 percent of New Zealanders are employed in the food industry.

New Zealand’s prosperity has, of course, always been dependent on farming…

That’s why it is incomprehensible that a New Zealand parliamentary party is undermining the farming sector. The Green Party should be ashamed of itself for blaming farmers for increasing food prices, when farmers, like everyone other New Zealander, are facing rising costs caused by increasing fuel and power prices, higher mortgages, and an escalation in rates and other government charges.

In fact, it is Green Party policies like biofuels, emissions trading schemes, and an over-reliance on solar and windpower that are the cause of much of the cost pressure increases that are occurring in New Zealand and around the world. That is why their call for an inquiry into supermarket pricing smacks of hypocrisy and political game-playing – especially in light of their opposition to the government’s proposal to delay the entry of farming into the emissions trading scheme.

Absolutely right. They don’t appear to understand that if it costs more to produce food it will cost more to buy it.

The government has estimated that at a conservative price for carbon of $50 a tonne, under their proposed emissions trading scheme agricultural payouts will fall by 12 percent for dairying, 21 percent for beef, 34 percent for sheep and 43 percent for venison. 

Anyone who has even the most rudimentary understanding of our economy will realise that these charges will not only ruin the viability of the farming sector and cause food prices to escalate to unprecedented levels, but will further undermine the wealth of all New Zealanders.

Why would any government commit to something which will be hugely expensive, damage the economy and do nothing for the environment. It is economic and political madness to impose such high costs for no benefit.


Bellamy – Belching Farting OK

June 30, 2008

Dr David Bellamy gives a compelling biological argument for excluding agriculture from the Emissions Trading Scheme in Cows and Sheep May Safely Graze:

Cows and sheep are Mother Nature’s own brand of internal combustion engines. They get their energy by “burning” cellulose, the same stuff wood is made of… Each one is a solar powered, self building, repairing and regenerating mobile mini supermarket. The solid waste from which is recycled, returning organic compost to the soil…

Exhaust from these internal combustion engines both large and small contain carbon dioxide and methane … The molecules of carbon that make up their flesh, wool, hide, burps and farts is not fossil carbon.  

It was sequestered from their pasture rarely longer than a year and most within a few days before their release back into the atmosphere.

Although somewhat modified by human influence they are part of the 97% of the main cycle of carbon dioxide that makes the living world go round. Not the 3% that the global warmers say are tipping the World, towards an omnivore driven armageddon.

This means that the decision to include agriculture in the ETS is a political one which will impose huge costs with no environmental benefit.

My case rests, when it comes to the future of New Zealand butter, beef, lamb, leather, mutton and wool please don’t fart in the face of common sense.

Quite.

 


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,411 other followers

%d bloggers like this: