Petering out

May 25, 2014

Winston Peters has had more political lives than a cat, but Tracey Watkins thinks he, and the NZ First party which is nothing without him, are petering out:

Anyone who kids themselves that there is life after Winston Peters for NZ First only had to watch the party floundering in the absence of its leader this week.

Frantically trying to head off an attack by their former colleague, expunged NZ Firster Brendan Horan, Peters’ front bench achieved the seemingly impossible feat of making Horan look good by comparison.

They were clueless in the face of Horan’s determination to extract utu from his former party by tabling documents he claimed showed improper use of the taxpayer funded leader’s fund. . .

Not only that, they voted against Labour’s vote of no confidence and had to belatedly ask for their no votes to be counted with the ayes.

Regardless of the ins and outs of Horan’s allegations, however, one thing seems clear: Horan is hellbent on using his last remaining months in Parliament to try to take Peters and the rest of NZ First down with him.

Even if he succeeds he will only be hastening by a few years what increasingly seems inevitable.

With its leader knocking 70, NZ First is a clock that has been slowly winding down since the 1996 election delivered Peters the balance of power. . .

Since the party’s return in 2011, Parliament has been collectively holding its breath waiting for the current team to implode given some of the more eccentric selections – like former North Shore mayor Andrew Williams, notorious for urinating in a public place.

The implosion hasn’t happened yet but there have been plenty of flaky moments. Richard Prosser launched a diatribe against Muslims that prompted hundreds of complaints to the NZ First board. The party’s Pasifika MP, Asenati Lole-Taylor, famously asked questions of the police minister in Parliament about blow jobs and has carved out a cult following on Twitter for her bizarre outbursts. Her most recent was to accuse a press gallery journalist of cyber bullying after he referred to her “shooting the messenger”. Lole-Taylor thought he was alleging she had shot an actual parliamentary messenger. . . 

It’s not quite so funny when you remember we’re paying her salary.

NZ First has never been more than Peters and whichever bunch of sycophants come in on his coat tails.

When he goes the party will go with him.

Whether it’s with a bang at the coming election or a whimper as it peters out over at least one more term is up to voters.

And those who think it could be this election should read Karl du Fresne on Peters in person at a public meeting.

He needs only sway 5% of voters and there could well be enough of the deluded and disenchanted to give him at least one more chance.


Covert’s the problem not overt

May 20, 2014

Maori broadcaster Julian Wilcox has no plans to stand for the Labour Party.

Maori TV said in a statement titled “Response to Media Speculation” that Mr Wilcox remained committed to his job as general manager of news and current affairs.

Chief executive Paora Maxwell said: “MTS accepts Mr Wilcox’s written statement and we will continue to value our editorial independence in providing impartial and independent news coverage of significant regional and national stories from a Maori perspective.”

Mr Wilcox was one of several journalists whose political ambitions or connections were questioned last week. . .

And a questions till remains – does he have any affiliation to or bias towards the Labour Party?

In the wake of the Shane Taurima furore, TVNZ has banned political journalists from joining political parties.

But as Karl du Fresne points out, the rules won’t eliminate the most troubling bias.

I struggle to accept that being a political journalist necessarily requires you to neuter yourself as a citizen. The crucial issue, surely, is how you do the job. Journalists should be judged on the fairness and impartiality of their reporting and commentary. It’s possible to be a party member and still be even-handed as a journalist.

I can think of relatively high-profile journalists who hold strong left-wing views in private but still manage to do their work with integrity, as the journalists’ code of ethics requires. There are also journalists and commentators (Paul Henry and John Campbell, for example) who quite openly lean one way or the other – but since their politics are no secret, viewers can decide for themselves how much weight to place on whatever they might say.

These are not the people who worry me. The ones we should really be concerned about are the journalists who hold pronounced political views that are not declared, but which permeate their reportage. There are a lot of them about, probably more than ever before, and they will never be controlled by arbitrary rules – such as TVNZ is now imposing – about declarations of political interest.

Last week news broke that lawyer and broadcaster Linda Clark, who is a political commentator for TV3 and occasional panelist on RadioNZ’s Afternoons, had been giving media training to David Cunliffe.

This wasn’t confirmed but du Fresne says she’s probably not the only one.

. . . If what I hear is correct, quite a few high-profile media figures have nice little undisclosed earners providing advice to politicians. In fact it’s an odd quirk of New Zealand politics that many of the commentators provided with media platforms for their supposedly objective views are hopelessly compromised.

If it’s fair to unmask Clark for grazing on both sides of the fence, then let’s complete the job by exposing all the others who are on the take. This could get very interesting.

It’s not the overt political leanings which are a threat to fair and balanced reporting, it’s the covert ones.

If we know the biases of journalists and commentators we can make an informed judgement on their work.

Without that knowledge we can only wonder.


The colour of slime

June 4, 2013

Green rhymes with clean but it is also the colour of slime and Green co-leader Russel Norman showed the dirty side of his politics in a speech at the weekend comparing John Key to the late Sir Robert Muldoon.

In doing so he reminded us he’s Australian which wouldn’t matter at jot if this comparison didn’t show he doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

Karl du Fresne who admits he’s no cheerleader for the current PM and did know the former one well said:

None of the prime ministers we’ve had since Muldoon could be compared with him, for which we should be grateful. He was a vindictive bully who cleverly exploited the politics of fear and division, and never more so than during the 1981 Springbok tour.

In fact I would suggest that in terms of personality, Key is the least like Muldoon. Anyone old enough to remember the political unpleasantness of the late 1970s and early 80s – which probably excludes a lot of Green voters – would have reacted with astonishment to Norman’s bizarre attempt to compare the two men. . .
Norman’s tirade wasn’t just bizarre.
Over at Keeping Stock, Inventory 2 points out it was contrary to his party’s statement of values among which is engage respectfully without personal attacks.
Norman isn’t the first to attack the PM personally – Labour has had several attempts to throw mud at him and each has ended with them looking dirty.
Mud sticks to the hand that throws it and until recently the Green Party had clean hands.
That was one of its strengths and one of the reason the party appealed to some people who might well be National voters, including women for whom environmental concerns are important.
The PM also rates well with women and one of the reasons for that is that he is unfailingly warm, genuinely interested in people and moderate.
Norman showed none of those characteristics at the weekend.
It was a speech which appealed to his dark green adherents but would have been another  turn-off for the floating voters in the middle he needs to convince if he’s to be part of a LabourGreen government.

Need for professional body to speak on education

November 14, 2012

Karl Du Fresne has worked out what was wrong with Ministry of Education head Lesley Longstone saying New Zealand’s education isn’t world class:

. . . Had she spent more time here, she would understand that only teachers and their unions are allowed to say there’s anything wrong with the education system, and that only they are entitled to define what’s wrong and what’s right. Longstone riled the teachers by drawing attention to the stubbornly high proportion of under-performing Maori and Pacific Island students. Teachers are allowed to highlight this, but only as a way of exposing government failings and condemning inequity in the system. When they are not focusing on the system’s failings, teachers are forever talking up our internationally high achievement rankings (which Longstone acknowledged), for which they like to take credit.

What upsets the teachers when the head of the Ministry of Education brings up the subject of under-achievement is that it threatens to turn the debate in a direction they don’t like. When teachers talk about under-achievement, it’s with a view to leaving the system unchanged but having more money ploughed into it: more teachers at the chalkface, higher pay (to encourage more people to take up the profession) and smaller class sizes. But when Longstone brings the subject up, in the teachers’ eyes it can only be because the government wants to soften us up for some wicked neoliberal experiment such as charter schools.

How much simpler everything would be if we forgot foolhardy alternative ideas and left it to teachers to control the education debate. That’s the natural way of things. The sooner the English interloper comes to terms with this peculiar fact of New Zealand education, the sooner we can all get back to normal.

Doctors have professional bodies which speak on general health matters as distinct from a union which speaks on industrial matters.

When education is in the media it is almost always the union which is quoted, confusing professional matters with industrial ones.

Teachers are badly in need of a professional body which speaks on education without the left-wing industrial bias which reduces the authority of union utterances.

 


Why are the gods only angered by politics?

August 17, 2012

Karl du Fresne is not impressed by primitive superstition being delivered straight-faced on the news:

Due respect for Maori culture is one thing. Expecting us to swallow primitive superstition is quite another – yet I heard a reporter on Morning Report this morning solemnly relaying a Maori warning that recent volcanic activity on White Island and Mt Tongariro was a sign that Ruamoko, the god of earthquakes and volcanoes, was unhappy about the way the government was proceeding with the partial sale of state assets. This comes only a couple of weeks after the Maori Council’s lawyer, Felix Geiringer, invoked the Maori belief in taniwha at the Waitangi Tribunal hearing on water rights. . .

. . . As if citing taniwha wasn’t bad enough, we’re reduced to an even more abject embrace of stone-age superstition when the state-owned radio network can report, with a straight face, that the Maori god of earthquakes and volcanoes is cutting up rough because he (she?) doesn’t like what the government is doing.

What next? Will we be told that Tangaroa, the sea god, plans to unleash a tsunami that will rise up from Wellington Harbour and destroy the Beehive? Will Radio New Zealand report that John Key is at risk of being hit by a bolt of lightning directed at his head by Tawhirimatea, the weather god? . . .

Are the gods left wing or has their ire been raised by policies from the left in the past?

If they’re going to get angry,  why only about politics?

Why can’t they be enraged about child abuse; educational failure; gang culture; violence; drug, alcohol and gambling addiction; crime . . . and instead of directing their tantrums at innocent bystanders, couldn’t they aim it at the perpetrators?

If gods care about assets and water shouldn’t they also care about people?


Faster not necessarily better

January 16, 2012

Another quote of the day:

. . . how is the common good of humankind (or indeed anyone) advanced by hearing about the death of a tragic derelict five minutes, half an hour or even half a day before it was on a radio news bulletin or news website? Karl du Fresne pointing out that faster news isn’t necessarily better.


What’s up at TV3?

November 23, 2011

Karl du Fresne isn’t impressed with scalp hunting by journalists:

THE ELECTION campaign has brought to the fore a new style of television journalism.
It is aggressive, confrontational, highly opinionated and designed to provoke a reaction. Its chief practitioners are Patrick Gower and Duncan Garner of 3 News. . .

The Gower approach illustrates two trends in modern political journalism. One is to strive at all costs for what former British prime minister Tony Blair called “impact” – something to excite the public blood lust.

The other is to put the journalist at the centre of the story. The modern political reporter is no longer content to be a passive observer, but wants to be a player – a maker and breaker of careers.

He has followed this up by asking what’s going on at TV3? It is worth reading in full so I’m not going to paraphrase it.

I am however, pleased that someone who admits he’s voted Labour more often than National, shares my disquiet over both the tactics and the bias.

We aren’t alone. Someone has referred last night’s documentary on child poverty to the Electoral Commission.

 


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