Open and transparent

July 30, 2019

Is this how you do the  open and transparent government you promised?:

Jacinda Ardern has personally tried to prevent media from asking about the Ihumātao dispute while on a charm offensive in the Pacific.

Her staff threatened journalists with restricted access to the PM if they did, forcing her Beehive team to intervene from Wellington. 

After crisis calls from the capital, media were allowed a second shot.  . . 

In the video at the link Tova O’Brien calls it an appalling move by the PM and says (2:40):

. . .A Prime Minister should be able to answer questions without an army of officials feeding them lines and it really plays into the narrative from her critics, from National that she’s this kind of celebrity-style politician more interested in garnering positive international headlines than dealing with the substance at home. . .

Openness and transparency join the growing list of government fails.


Sowell says

May 3, 2019


Personal or political?

May 1, 2019

Is the media’s determination to claim the scalp of National leader Simon Bridges personal or political?

Two months ago John Armstrong said the media script required Bridges to end up as dog tucker:

The media have proclaimed Simon Bridges to be dog tucker. Having issued that decree, the media will do its darnedest to make sure he does become exactly that – dog tucker.

That is the ugly truth now confronting Bridges in his continuing struggle to keep his leadership of the National Party intact and alive.

It might seem unfair. It will likely be regarded in National quarters as irrefutable evidence of media bias.

It is unfair. Some pundits had made up their minds that Bridges was the wrong person to lead National within weeks of him securing the job. Those verdicts were quickly followed by bold predictions that it would not be long before he was rolled by his fellow MPs. . . 

Those predictions are heating up again, but why?

Is it personal dislike of him?

Probably not.

There were similar campaigns against Bill English and Don Brash when they were opposition leader.

So is it partisan?

The media were just as quick to criticise and slow to praise Phil Goff, David Shearer, David Cunliffe and Andrew Little so no, it’s not necessarily partisan.

But is it political?

The media tends to be liberal on social issues and Bridges is more conservative.

Could the sustained campaign against Bridges be because he has said he will vote against the Bill to legalise euthanasia and is likely to oppose any liberalising of abortion law?


When does caution become censorship?

March 27, 2019

Chief Censor David Shank is defending his decision to classify the Christchurch shooter’s manifesto as objectionable :

. . .The Free Speech Coalition said the manifesto could be important for society to understand a dark part of New Zealand’s history.

“New Zealanders need to be able to understand the nature of evil and how it expresses itself,” coalition spokesperson and constitutional lawyer Stephen Franks said.

Free speech isn’t just about what we can express, it’s also about what we can hear and read.

Defending his decision, Chief Censor David Shanks told Morning Report a number of criteria were checked when assessing this sort of material.

“We look for exhortations to kill, exhortations to commit terrorism from someone who has influence and credibility in persuading others to do likewise,” he said.

These types of publications were not the place to go in search of reasons behind such events, because they were specifically aimed at a “vulnerable and susceptible “audience, “to incite them to do the same type of crime, he said.

“There is content in this publication that points to means by which you can conduct other terrorist atrocities … it could be seen as instructional.

“There is detail in there about potential targets for this type of atrocity and there are justifications for carrying out extreme acts of cruelty.”

Those who have the publication for legitimate purposes, such as reporters, researchers and academics to analyse and educate can apply for an exception. . .

I haven’t read the manifesto and have seen enough quotes from it to know I don’t want to but it wouldn’t be hard to find it online and the censor’s classification only applies to New Zealand.

It has already been widely distributed and will continue to be so.

Michael Reddell has been reading the Censorship Act and says:

. . . As many people have pointed out, by Shanks’s logic all manner of historical documents –  that are freely available –  would in fact be banned.   It serves the public good to be able to better understand Hitler or Mao or the Unabomber or the IRA, the PLO, or the Irgun Gang.  It won’t serve public confidence, or the public good more generally, to attempt to maintain some half-cocked ban on the Tarrant “manifesto”, in a world in which writings about it –  and quotes from it –  will be readily available in mainstream publications, serious and otherwise, internationally.  . . 

Meanwhile, Stuff has been reviewing its policy on on-line comments in light of the terror attacks and concluded:

. . . Too often, our comments section has allowed casual prejudice to seep in from the fringes.

Improvement begins with Stuff’s moderation rules and how we enforce them. Effective immediately, we’re making changes designed to cut out comment pollution. . . 

Comments made on-line, often under cover of a pseudonym, frequently fall well under the standard that would be accepted for a letter to the editor in print. A tightening up might be reasonable but Stuff’s new  rules include:

With rare exceptions, we will not usually enable comments on stories concerning:

  • 1080
  • allegations of criminality or misconduct
  • animal cruelty
  • beneficiaries
  • Christchurch mosque shootings of March 2019
  • court cases
  • domestic violence
  • fluoride
  • funerals
  • immigrants or refugees
  • Israel and Palestine
  • Kashmir
  • missing people
  • race
  • sexual orientation
  • suicide
  • Treaty of Waitangi
  • transgender issues
  • vaccination
  • vulnerable children

That’s 20 topics on which few if any comments will be permitted.

All media have the right to rules on what they will and will not allow whether it’s in print or on-line but this list of topics on which no comments will be enabled appears to be well over the top and cross the line from caution into censorship.


Stuff stuffed the headline

March 21, 2019

Federated Farmers was approached by a Stuff reporter asking questions about firearms.

The story was initially headlined Federated Farmers say AK-47 and AR-15 guns are needed to control pests on farms.

There is nothing in the story that says that. The headline was a complete misquote of what Feds spokesman Miles Anderson did say.

Feds were alerted to the headline but an email to members from chief executive Terry Copeland says the story stayed on the website for three hours and that it took intense pressure from the Feds comms team to get it altered.

The story is now headlined Federated Farmers says semi-automatic firearms have a place on farms.

The email says a phone call and an explanation from a Stuff Editor-in-Chief. Stuff has added its ‘regret’ about the misreporting at the bottom of the story.

That the mistake was made in the first place was at best careless, that it took three hours and intense pressure to get it corrected is appalling.

It is particularly disappointing when emotions are heightened in the wake of the mass murders in Christchurch and the need for quiet reason and facts on the issue of gun control are essential.

The email from Feds gives the questions and answers emailed from and to the reporter:

What do most farmers use guns for?

Mainly pest control (rabbits, possums, Canada geese and feral pigs) and humanely euthanizing livestock. Also recreational hunting and target shooting.

On average how many guns would one farmer own? Most farmers own a 0.22 for shooting rabbits and possums, a shotgun for ducks and geese and rabbit control, and a centrefire rifle for deer and pigs, and euthanizing large animals such as cattle.

Generally, what types of guns do farmers use? As above. Farmers use the right firearm for the right job. Quite a lot of the firearms farmers use for pest control are semiautomatic, such as 0.22 rifles and shotguns. These are used to target small fast moving pest species such as rabbits, hares, wallabies and Canada geese. For these species there are often only very limited opportunities to shoot at them and they are commonly found in groups. For Canada geese, for example, hunters may sit in a crop paddock all day for only a few opportunities to shoot at a mob of geese, which may arrive in a mob of up to 100 birds. Four geese eat as much as one sheep and shooting is the only way to control them.

Does the farming community support gun reform? Should the government make it harder for individuals to get gun licences?

Federated Farmers will participate in any process that reviews the law.

What is Fed Farmers’ opinion on military style semi-automatic guns for farming. How common are they? How necessary are they?

Military style semi-automatic rifles are not in common use by farmers. There is no need for general public sales of detachable, high-capacity semi-automatic rifle magazines.

For the record:

My farmer bought an air rifle (for which no licence is needed if you are aged over 18) a couple of years ago when rabbits started invading the lawn and garden. Neither of us owns any other firearm.

Some of our staff own rifles and shotguns which they use for controlling rabbits, possums, ducks, geese, deer and pigs, for recreational hunting and for the mercifully rare occasions when it’s necessary to euthanise cattle.

None own military style arms nor would they have any need to.


Did you hear the union roar?

March 15, 2019

There was no surprise that Shane Jones replied to questions about a conflict of interest with bombast.

That is business as usual for him.

But threatening Hamish Rutherford, the journalist who broke the story, is a new and disturbing low:

There is a degree of rough and tumble in journalism and, if you’re going to give it out, you have to take it.

But this week vague claims were made which were quite troubling.

On Monday, in an interview with Morning Report, Shane Jones, possibly the most forceful personality currently in New Zealand’s Parliament, described me as a “bunny boiler”.

Whatever he means by that, I would have happily let that pass. Much of the reaction has been fun. I never imagined I would have to explain those sort of cultural references to my parents, themselves avid RNZ listeners.  . .

But Jones also described me as “unethical”, a more serious claim which he has not clarified, despite implying that he might use parliamentary privilege to say more – an ancient right MPs have to say literally whatever they want without legal repercussions, so long as they say it in the House.

It is an ancient and important right. But I understood, at its core, was the need to promote free speech, not to stifle it.

This has led to a difficult couple of days. I have not been able to defend myself as I have not known what the accusations might be.

Jones (or any MP) could say anything at all about me, or you, with no legal comeback.

After Question Time and an urgent debate, it still is not clear. Shane Jones did not use his privilege, but he could do, at any time. . . 

That politicians who resort to personal attack don’t usually have anything substantive to counter criticism will be little comfort.

This is an abuse of power, no more and no less and one which the union representing journalists ought to be condemning.

But did you hear the union roar? I haven’t heard, or read, so much as a whisper from E TŪ, which represents journalists, or any other union.

Nor have I come across anything but a mild that’s not appropriate from Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister and leader of the Labour Party which is supposed to stand up for workers.

If I’ve missed the union’s defence of a colleague and condemnation of his attacker, please correct me.

If there hasn’t been one, it is yet another example of unions putting politics before the people they purport to represent.

Disclosure: Hamish Rutherford’s parents are friends and I’ve known him for several years. I was an admirer of his work for the depth of his research, understanding of issues and non-partisan approach long before I met him.


Sowell says

February 26, 2019


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