Have you noticed the media’s propensity to label people and groups in a way that shows negative bias?
People speaking up for women’s right to their own spaces and fairness in sport aren’t feminists or women’s rights activists, they’re anti-trans or transphobic.
The Taxpayers’ Union is often prefaced with the label right wing which is not only showing bias, it’s wrong. Advocating for prudent use of public funds and highlighting extravagant spending is not partisan and is in the interests of all of us, wherever we sit on the political spectrum.
The Maxim Institute is often labelled, correctly but unnecessarily, conservative.
There are other examples of pejorative or just unnecessary labelling for people and groups such as wealthy, on the right but I don’t think I’ve ever come across labels prefacing those at the other end of the spectrum.
For example, do you ever come across Greenpeace, or any other individual or group with similar political views, labelled far left or left wing?
Where groups and individuals fit on the political spectrum is often a matter of opinion and whether that opinion is correct or not, it is rarely appropriate to use labels denoting that in news reports and it is definitely wrong to use labels only to show bias towards those on the right and leave those on the left unlabelled.
Broadcasting Minister Willie Jackson has denied that the $16.1 million spent on the scrapped TVNZ-RNZ merger is a waste of money – and still hopes it will go ahead one day.
Jackson was being grilled on the merger in select committee today for the first time since it was scrapped in PM Chris Hipkins’ policies bonfire on February 8.
He rejected National MP Melissa Lee’s claim that the $16.1 million exercise was a total waste of money.
“We are talking about future-proofing NZ media and while we don’t have a merger we know where we are going. And in a better time, when we don’t have a cyclone and we don’t have the floods of the century, we might be able to roll that merger out. . .
That sounds like he didn’t get the memo.
The merger isn’t supposed to be parked, it’s supposed to be scrapped, but the waste of money hasn’t stopped:
He said since the merger was scrapped, the board had met twice at a total cost of $10,300 in board fees. It would wind up after delivering a final report, which he said would be at the end of the month.
The board had met on February 16 and met again – with Jackson – on Monday this week to discuss its wrap-up report.
Cabinet papers state that the daily rate for the board chairwoman Tracey Martin was $1150 and the other eight members $865 each. . .
Why does a board need to meet twice when it’s raison d’être has been scrapped?
National MP Melissa Lee also asked about the ongoing costs of consultants.
The consultants advising the board had been paid $6.5 million since 2019 – $3.87 million of which was with Deloitte, whose contract was terminated at the end of February, as soon as possible after the merger was scrapped. Only three of the other consultants were still at the Ministry of Culture and Heritage working on the final report.
Asked why the board and consultants could not have been wound up sooner, Jackson said nobody had known for certain that the merger was going to be cancelled. “Nobody knew until February 8.” . .
There’s nothing new about idolising mortals. Deifying people has been going on for thousands of years.
The most notable one from last century was Princess Diana who won widespread adulation, the strength of which I never really understood.
Yes, she transformed from a pretty teenager to a beautiful woman. But most of us could have done that had we had the grooming assistance and wardrobe allowance available to her.
Don’t believe me? Look at early photos of Queen Camilla and compare them with more recent ones.
Yes, Diana did good work for a range of charities, some of them previously unpopular or not well known. But she didn’t do a fraction of the charitable work her sister-in-law Princess Anne did and continues to do, although she doesn’t look as beautiful, nor get the fawning media attention, as she does it.
Yes, her early death, and the way it happened, was tragic, especially for her sons and wider family. But none of that makes her a goddess or a saint.
More recently, and closer to home, our Prime Minister has been dianafied with Jacindamania affecting people here and overseas.
But if we look beyond the headlines, is at least some of the attention sexist, because she happens to be a younger woman, and what has she done to justify it?
She handled the mosque massacre well. But isn’t that the Kiwi way and wouldn’t any of our recent PMs have strived for unity, modelled calmness and compassion and been just as sympathetic – Bill English, John Key, Helen Clark . . .?
Then came Covid.
Several people with international connections and experience were begging for a lockdown before it was mandated. However, there was no rule book which could excuse the later than optimal start.
The daily sermons from the pulpit of truth drew many admirers, but others tired of them quickly, especially when the assurances about PPE and other supplies were being contradicted by the health workforce facing shortages; and other obvious failings were udderly rejected.
Then there was the failure to learn from mistakes, the delay in starting vaccines, repeated lockdowns due to that, the economic and social consequences of them, and the misery of MIQueue.
Let’s not forget that until Covid struck National was a little ahead or just behind Labour in the polls even though the PM’s personal rating was far higher than Simon Bridges’.
That was because Ardern and her government were from the start far, far better at promising than delivering.
She is praised for her communication skills but too often all she gives is a word salad, high on emotion and low on substance or a blanket rejection of the premise of a question with nothing behind the refutation.
Add to that her government’s profligate spending – millions of dollars extra each week; the stupidity of wasting money and energy on restructuring the health system in the middle of a pandemic; the expensive failure of the polytechnic centralisation, soon to be followed by the equally wasteful merger of RNZ and TVNZ; galloping inflation; crises in education, health and housing, escalating crime; a plethora of impractical requirements for farmers; Five Waters, the fostering of racial division . . .
PMs aren’t responsible for the quality of MPs in their caucus but they are responsible for their performance, especially that of Ministers and Ardern has been slow to hold them accountable.
The most recent failure is with Nanaia Mahuta.
Yesterday evening on NewsTalkZB Barry Soper played a clip of Ardern swearing black was white and that Mahuta hadn’t breached the Cabinet manual over the entrenchment clause in the Five Waters legislation when it is clear she had (2:54).
Whatever the answer to that question, with polls it’s the trend that counts and the trend is showing growing support for National and declining support for Labour which reinforces the error of the head-to-head headline.
Why pose such a redundant proposition when governments are scrambling to spend less? Well, most governments.
But then I thought the answer might shed light on just how naive and ineffective the PM is.
Her big idea? Free early childhood education.
“I’d make it completely free. Completely free. And when I say completely free, I’d also give choice to families about at what point and stage their child accesses it. Because for some we know it provides stability to kids that they might not have in their home life.”
Hang on. Back up. Isn’t this putting the cart before the horse?
Perhaps you need to address why ‘some’ kids don’t have stability in their home life.
You’ve already thrown a whole lot more money at the problem due to the first wrong diagnosis and now there are thousands more children in unemployed homes. Dare I say it, unstable homes.
But let’s look at the evidence the PM might be inclined to take heed of. Evidence produced under her own administration.
Whether or not early childhood education improves outcomes for children is at best controversial. . .
No-one can fault the goal of improving outcomes for children but free ECE wouldn’t be the best way to do it, even if money wasn’t a factor.
The package included increasing thresholds for the subsidies and adjusting Working For Families for inflation.
That does beg the question of why increasing those thresholds and adjusting those payments for inflation is good when, they say, increasing thresholds for tax brackets and adjusting them for inflation is not.
It also raises questions about priorities for Labour and its leader when money has to be a factor.
The Government’s new public media entity will witness the loss of a third of TVNZ’s existing commercial revenue, equating to about $100 million a year, within five years, according to advice from officials.
This lost revenue will need to be supplemented by taxpayer funding from the Crown, which is forecast to contribute $211m a year to the entity over 30 years, roughly half of which will be used to plug the shortfall in advertising.
The commercial details were revealed in a late draft of a business case for the Government’s RNZ-TVNZ merger, obtained by the National Party.
The party’s broadcasting spokeswoman Melissa Lee said the documents showed the Government was wilfully destroying TVNZ’s commercial model and forcing the taxpayer to pick up the tab. . .
It’s difficult to believe anyone in the government can think this is a good use of so much money and it would be hard to find anyone in the general public who would think it is, even if it wasn’t going to be borrowed money.
It would be very easy to think of much higher priorities for $211m a year over 30 years – helping people on benefits who could work into work, which would help improve outcomes for children, and increasing health spending to address the many factors contributing to the crisis in that sector would two of them.
Jacinda Ardern’s pitch to turn New Zealand into the world’s leading manufacturer of bad ideas received fresh impetus last week in an address in New York. Her speech to the UN was a masterpiece of muddled-headed moral equivalence. It wove terrorism, nuclear war, the invasion of Ukraine and climate scepticism into a single threat to humanity demanding global action.
Ardern aspires to turn the country she leads into the conscience of the world. That NZ led the world in nuclear non-proliferation is an established myth within its shores. That it led the world in pandemic management was a myth established by the Economist Intelligence Unit in June 2020, four months before Ardern’s announcement that NZ had eradicated the virus.
Now, Ardern proposes to lead the world in a global response to misinformation on the internet cast in militaristic terms. “The weapons of war have changed,” she told the UN. “They are upon us and require the same level of action and activity that we put into the weapons of old.”
She said words have become weapons of war and has herself declared war on other people’s words through an attack on freedom of speech.
As with many dangerous progressive ambitions, this one began with the noblest of intentions. The crazed massacre of 51 people in two Christchurch mosques streamed live on the internet by the gunman on March 15, 2019 prompted Ardern to find ways to stop terrorists exploiting the internet. The result was the Christchurch Declaration, which has been adopted by nine countries, the EU, Amazon, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Twitter, YouTube and other major tech companies.
In the days before Covid, limited censorship of the internet might have seemed a reasonable idea to those opposed to terrorism. The concerns about mission creep voiced by some at the time, however, now seem prescient.
Under the guise of fighting the pandemic, the tech giants have launched a dangerous war on heterodoxy that preferences the views of the progressive elite. Seriously credentialled medical academics from leading universities were shut out of the debate over the wisdom of lockdowns and the safety of vaccines by algorithms that bar them from contributing to online discussion or buried their opinions so far down the search engine you’d have to scroll for 50 years to find them. . .
The problem gets worse when, as is often the case, there’s no opportunity for discourse with those who do the barring for those who are barred.
Even Ardern sounds nervous about where this global war on online misinformation might head. “We are rightly concerned that even those most light-touch approaches to disinformation could be misinterpreted as being hostile to the values of free speech we value so highly,” she says. But to allow the internet content to rip, she claimed, “poses an equal threat to the norms we all value”.
“How do you successfully end a war if people are led to believe the reason for its existence is not only legal but noble?” she asked. “How do you tackle climate change if people do not believe it exists?” Seen through the narrow prism of ideological catastrophism, Ardern’s crackdown on scientific dissent presumably seems reasonable. Speaking in Sydney in July she declared that concerns about the militarisation of our region by communist China “must surely be matched by a concern for those who experience the violence of climate change”.
Claims as far-reaching as these demand debate. Ardern, however, hubristically insists there should be none. Perhaps this is because she is convinced her conclusions on climate change are beyond doubt. More likely, she fears their inability to stand up to scrutiny. Why else would she fear debate?
If her conclusions are beyond doubt, what’s to fear from debate?
Conservatives frequently describe the progressive left’s march through the institutions as if we were facing a blitzkrieg, like Poland in 1939. In fact, the progressive cause shuffles, a centimetre at a time, until it gathers unstoppable momentum. . .
The momentum is growing. People are cancelled because of their views, others are wary of speaking out and stay silent lest they lose their jobs.
Tyranny has had a makeover. It’s no longer a boot stamping on a human face forever. It isn’t a gruff cop dragging you into a cell for thinking or expressing a ‘dangerous’ idea. It isn’t a priest strapping you to a breaking wheel. No, authoritarianism is well-dressed now. It’s polite. It has a broad smile and speaks in a soft voice. It is delivered not via a soldier’s boot to the cranium but with a caring liberal head-tilt. And its name is Jacinda Ardern.
New Zealand’s PM, every online liberal’s favourite world leader, has gone viral over the past 24 hours following the circulation of the shocking speech she gave at the UN last Friday. Before the assembled leaders of both the free world and the unfree world, Ms Ardern raised the alarm about a new ‘weapon of war’. It’s a ‘dangerous’ one, she said. It poses a grave ‘threat’ to humankind. It threatens to drag us headlong into ‘chaos’. We must act now, she pleaded with the powerful, so that we might disarm this weapon and ‘bring [the world] back to order’.
What is this terrible weapon, this menacing munition, that Ms Ardern so passionately wants to decommission? It’s freedom of speech.
She was talking about words. Seriously. About ideas, disagreement, dissent. Her speech focused on the alleged scourge of ‘mis- and disinformation online’. We must tackle it, she said. She acknowledged that some people are concerned that ‘even the most light-touch approaches to disinformation’ could come across as being ‘hostile to the values of free speech’. You’re damn right we are. But us global elites must nonetheless root out virtual bullshit because it can ‘cause chaos’, she said.
Really getting into her stride, she said speech can sometimes be a ‘weapon of war’. Some people use actual weapons to inflict harm, others use words: ‘The weapons may be different but the goals of those who perpetuate them is often the same… [to] reduce the ability of others to defend themselves.’ ‘War is peace’, said Big Brother. Big Sister Jacinda Ardern sees it a little differently: war is speech. Words wound, ideas kill – that’s the hot take of this globe-trotting luvvie against liberty.
And she really is talking about ideas. Modern politicians who wring their hands over ‘misinformation’ or ‘disinformation’ are usually just talking about beliefs they don’t like. So at the UN, Ms Ardern gave climate-change scepticism as an example of one of those ‘weapons of war’ that can cause ‘chaos’. ‘How do you tackle climate change if people do not believe it exists?’, she asked. Critiquing climate-change alarmism, calling into question the eco-lobby’s hysterical claims that billions will die and Earth will burn if we don’t drastically cut our carbon emissions, is an entirely legitimate political endeavour. In treating it as a species of Flat Earthism, as ‘disinformation’, the new elites seek to demonise dissenters, to treat people whose views differ to their own as the intellectual equivalent of warmongers. Barack Obama also claims that ‘misinformation’ about climate change – which, in his view, includes painting the environmentalist movement in a ‘wildly negative light’ – is a threat to the safety of humanity. Be mean about greens and people will die.
Call me a ‘weapon of war’, but I believe freedom of speech must include the freedom to be negative – even wildly so – about eco-activists. Activists, by the way, whose hype about the end of the world could genuinely be labelled misinformation. But they are never branded with that shaming m-word. That’s because misinformation doesn’t really mean misinformation anymore. It means dissent. Deviate from the woke consensus on anything from climate change to Covid and you run the risk of being labelled an evil disinformant.
Indeed, one of the most striking things about Ardern’s speech was her claim that if the elites ignore ‘misinformation’, then ‘the norms we all value’ will be in danger. This is the most common cry of the 21st-century authoritarian – that speech can have a destabilising and even life-threatening impact, especially if it concerns big crises like climate change or Covid-19. So ‘climate deniers’ are a threat to the future of the human race and thus may be legitimately silenced. ‘Lockdown deniers’ threaten to encourage the spread of viral infection and thus may be legitimately gagged. The spectre of crisis is cynically used to clamp down on anyone who dissents from the new global consensus. Images of Armageddon are marshalled to justify censorship of troublemakers. ‘Chaos’, as Ardern calls it – that’s what will unfold if your reckless, dangerous ideas are given free rein.
She had company for her call to constrain free speech which brings no comfort:
To see how authoritarian the desire to clamp down on ‘misinformation’ can be, just consider some of the other world leaders who likewise used the platform of the UN to call for tougher controls on speech. Muhammadu Buhari, the brutal ruler of Nigeria, focused on his nation’s ‘many unsavoury experiences with hate speech and divisive disinformation’ and joined the calls for a clampdown on the ‘scourge of disinformation and misinformation’. Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, bemoaned the ‘disinformation’ against his nation. The chattering classes cheering Ms Ardern for standing up to ‘fake news’ are implicitly cheering Buhari and Lavrov, too. They are as one with that woke kween when it comes to chasing ‘misinformation’ from the public sphere.
Freedom of speech is in peril. And it isn’t only threatened by obvious strongmen – like the corrupt rulers of Nigeria or the theocratic tyrants of Iran – but also by a smiling PC woman who is feverishly fawned over by virtue-signallers the world over. Ms Ardern’s UN speech exposed the iron fist of authoritarianism that lurks within the velvet glove of wokeness. From her brutal lockdown, which forbade even New Zealand’s own citizens from returning to their home country, to her longstanding war on ‘extremist’ speech, this is a woman who poses as liberal but can’t even spell the word. If you want a picture of the future, don’t imagine a boot stamping on a human face forever – imagine Jacinda Ardern putting her arm around your shoulder and telling you with a toothy smile that you’re going to have to sacrifice your liberty to save the world from chaos.
If freedom of speech is in peril then so too are other freedoms because if we can’t speak out about other constraints how can we fight them?
. . . they fantacise about the kind of totalitarian control that’s available to the leader of the Chinese Communist Party. You can see that they fanatcise about when the day comes that they’re able to round up their political opponents and those that disagree with them and put them somewhere out of sight . .
That might be a bit over the top but it’s also a warning of what could happen if those wanting constraints on free speech win.
What we see here, cloaked in the similarly reasonable language of compassion and safety is that there is only one narrative, there is only one version of the truth and you’re right, that is a totalitarian … state of affairs.
You can listen to his interview with Cory Bernardi on Sky News at that link.
The internet has given the deranged and evil a voice but designating words as weapons of war and responding with attempts to curtail free speech is the nuclear option of censorship with all the dangers of collateral damage that accompany it.
Apropos of censorship, New Zealand media reported Ardern’s speech but while they usually also report positive responses to her utterances in international media, the only coverage I’ve come across was on The Platform where Sean Plunket interviewed Brendan O’Neill.
A new reality show has been rocked by the revelation one of its stars took advantage of a teenager’s drunkenness to get her into bed then covered her mouth and nose to keep her quiet when she called for help.
TVNZ’s FBoy Island NZ is less than a fortnight from going to air with Wayde Moore, 26, as one of 20 young men vying for the attention of three women who must decide if they are “nice guys” or “Fboys”.
The term FBoys is slang for “f*** boy”, a term for men who never intend a sexual encounter to involve a relationship or act as if entitled to sexual encounters. . .
What is a programme like this doing on a publicly owned television channel even without this complication?
Massey University associate professor Tracey Nicholls, author of Dismantling Rape Culture: The Peacebuilding Power of ‘Me Too’, said the premise of the show reinforced negative stereotypes of sexual relationships.
She said it reinforced the idea of sexual competition among men and women as “notches on a bed post as a game”. “I feel there has been a race to the bottom ever since reality TV started.”
The Government must explain why it is spending $370 million to merge TVNZ and RNZ, National’s Broadcasting and Media spokesperson Melissa Lee says.
“When I asked the Minister for Broadcasting and Media Willie Jackson why he was spending taxpayers’ money to merge TVNZ and RNZ in Parliament today, he was completely unable to say what that spending will achieve.
“At $370 million, the Government is going to spend more to merge RNZ and TVNZ than the combined net worth of those entities.
That’s worth repeating – the merger will cost more than the combined net worth of the two entities.
How can that be good use of public funds?
“The fact that the Minister responsible cannot articulate why this merger is necessary clearly demonstrates how wasteful and pointless it is. The lack of a Regulatory Impact Statement or a cost benefit analysis shows no attempt at openness or transparency.
“This Government is addicted to spending. In the middle of a cost of living crisis, it wants to spend $370 million on a merger that submitters on the legislation have said has ‘no vision or substantial rationale.’
“Worse, as many submissions have said, the editorial independence of the merged entity is not guaranteed.
“Willie Jackson cannot help himself. In Parliament today, he continued his call for a ‘change in attitude’ at TVNZ, which sounds worryingly like an attempt to influence the state broadcaster.
“The Minister’s performance and his inability to answer simple questions shows he is unfit for the challenges of New Zealand’s broadcasting and media sector. Kiwis and New Zealand’s media landscape deserve so much better.”
The state broadcasters’ decision to air FBOy Island does support the need for a change in thinking but merging the television company with RNZ, even without that high cost, isn’t the answer.
Then there’s the question of what TVNZ was thinking when it decided to run the show.
The only answer I can come up with is another question: what the F?
Free speech is one of the features that ought to differentiate democracies from inferior forms of government.
It ought not to be under threat in any democratic countries, but it is, even in a magazine with a reputation for good journalism like North and South as this discussion between Yvonne van Dongen and Sean Plunket illustrates.
Spot the irony that a well researched article on free speech was threatened with censorship.
The Platform explains how the Public Interest Journalism Fund is using public money to muzzle the media:
The Public Interest Journalism Fund has received a fair bit of attention since its inception due to the political nature of some of the criteria for funding.
The idea that media might be incentivised to adhere to the criteria in order to not miss out on funding has led to questions being asked by MPs in parliament, by commentators, and has no doubt contributed to the rapid decrease in trust the public have in media.
The perception has grown that funding is only available to media who consistently toe the line on political issues and in particular those related to the Treaty of Waitangi or co-governance. Those seeking to challenge these things need not apply.
Of course, it is possible that the New Zealand media simply have a completely homogeneous view on the highly contentious topic of the governance of the country. However, it is difficult to understand why no mainstream media have endeavored to present the other side of the debate in terms other than denigration and accusations of racism.
But could a relatively small recurring fund really have this much impact on the entire media landscape? The amount is not particularly large in the grand scheme of things.
We decided to look closer at the fund and exactly what those receiving funding had to agree to. The information is all available publicly and in plain sight. A copy of the standard funding agreement is available on the NZ On Air website. Upon reading the documentation we were struck by two significant things:
The funding agreements are set up like loans.
In the first section of ‘General Eligibility Criteria’ a document is provided as a ‘resource’ called Te Tiriti Framework for News Media which references He Puapua as an authoritative document. . .
Those with mortgages will understand what a default event is and know that it ultimately can result in one losing their home. . .
Media companies are unlikely to have their homes at risk but they will be very aware of the risk to their businesses should they transgress and have to repay any or all of the money they’ve been given loaned.
If you click on the link above you’ll find the general terms of the agreement include default ifyou breach the agreement or if we reasonably believe you are likely to breach this agreement.
That will be making the media very, very cautious and very, very unlikely to cover dissenting views.
That is essentially how the Public Interest Journalism Fund is set up – like a loan. Not only do applicants have to thoroughly explain how they will adhere to the particular co-governance model of understanding the Treaty in order to get the funding in the first place, they have to agree that should they deviate from presenting this perspective NZ On Air can say that they have defaulted on the agreement and demand the funding be repaid. . .
What are the odds that a funding application that included a ‘Te Tiriti response’ that disputed modern ideas of co-governance – even criticised it – would get funded? Slim to none would be my expectation.
Instead, Kiwis wanting to produce and create their content will need to leaf through the provided Framework, tick the boxes, and fall in line. That means, among other things, promoting ideas laid out in He Puapua, agreeing that due to colonialism we live in a society that perpetuates racism, supporting a vision for constitutional reform of New Zealand, and restructuring of “non-Government organisations…according to te Tiriti o Waitangi”. . .
This explains why there is so little coverage of anything that questions this orthodoxy, why there is so little rigorous examination of legislation that gives Maori more rights than other New Zealanders and why there is such a propensity to cover accusations of racism against people who question this without examining the issues raised.
It also justifies the distrust the public have in the media’s focus and objectivity.
RNZ plans to introduce sign language to its news bulletins and other programmes.
Ms Verily Woke, head of diversity and inclusion for the broadcaster said it was insulting to the hard of hearing and deaf that only two of Aotearoa New Zealand’s official languages were used on the radio.
“This is an exciting innovation which we believe is a first for radio anywhere in the world,” she said.
”I’m cognisant of the risk that some or our audience may be turned off by this practice and will then turn us off as a result. But wouldn’t the motu benefit from the occasional few minutes of silence?
“And frankly, people who aren’t open minded enough to do the mahi that will be required to keep up, aren’t the audience we want.
“For some time now we’ve been aiming for quality rather than quantity when it comes to listeners, those who share our world view.
“We know threading te reo through our news bulletins, interviews and opinion pieces has turned off the lazier listenership. But those who have stuck with us, educated and upskilled to understand everything we’re saying, and undoubtedly agree with it, will remain loyal.
“We’ll leave communication everyone can understand to commercial stations that have to sully themselves with advertising which is quite different from us bowing to the dictates of our political masters who fund us.”
MS Woke said the initial trial of sign language began after the midnight news this morning and will run until noon.
“Trevor Mallard’s conduct during the protest has degraded the office he occupies. His instruction to journalists not to engage with protestors shows a disdain for fundamental democratic principles,” says Free Speech Union spokesperson, Jonathan Ayling.
“The Press Gallery literally exists to report on parliamentary news and events. Dictating to them how they may report on a story is an unacceptable restriction on press freedom which has a critical role in our democracy, now more than ever. Freedom of the press is founded on free speech, and it protects our basic liberties by giving us access to credible information.”
“It was especially alarming to hear the Speaker made the Press Gallery Chair relay to Barry Soper that there would be ‘consequences’ if he continued to ignore his instruction – that is to say, if he continued to do his job as a member of the free and independent media.”
“Similar comments by a Minister at another time would rightly result in the Prime Minister demanding their resignation. The Speaker’s disdain for democracy is palpable. Only his removal can restore dignity to his office.”
But open government appears to be on the wane. This is partly because of the growth in the “communications industrial complex”, where vast battalions of people now work to deflect and avoid, or answer in the most oblique manner possible. We journalists are vastly outnumbered by spin doctors.
And it is partly because of the very tight media ship captained by Jacinda Ardern. The prime minister has won plaudits the world over for her empathetic and straightforward communication style.
But it’s an artfully crafted mirage, as my colleague Andrea Vance wrote last year. “At every level, the Government manipulates the flow of information,” she wrote.
When I was writing about New Zealand’s response to the pandemic for The Washington Post, almost every minister or ministry I contacted for an interview responded with a variation on: I’ll need to check with the prime minister’s office.
Since coming home, I’ve been surprised by the lack of access to ministers outside carefully choreographed press conferences. . .
What’s happened to that promise to be the most open and transparent government?
Perhaps the most alarming, and certainly the most prevalent, trend I’ve noticed is the almost complete refusal of government departments and agencies to allow journalists to speak to subject experts.
Like, you know, the people who are actually implementing complicated reforms and know what they are talking about.
Instead, all questions go through the communications unit, and almost always via email. That means we have no opportunity to ask for clarification or follow-ups or even to get answers in plain English. We often just get insufficient answers written in bureaucratese.
There is no opportunity to get them to put their words in a more digestible form. There’s no opportunity to ask them to explain the background to a decision.
There’s certainly no chance to ask them anything like a probing question. That, of course, is the whole point of this stonewalling.
Just as there’s rarely a chance to ask Ministers anything like a probing question.
I would have thought it was in the Government’s interest to get across its talking points and try to frame the conversation. Apparently not.
This obfuscation and obstruction is bad for our society for two key reasons.
One: It’s in everyone’s interest to have journalists understand the complicated subjects they’re writing about. We need to ask questions. We can’t explain things we don’t understand.
Two: It’s called the public service for a reason. They work for the public, aka you. It is the job of the Fourth Estate to hold the powerful to account. So we should be able to ask reasonable questions – like “When will the $1.25 billion Transmission Gully motorway open?” – and expect something that at least resembles an answer.
The Ministry of Health has backtracked on a claim by director general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield that tests requisitioned from private businesses were not already in New Zealand when the Ministry took them.
Last month, when news broke that the Ministry was requisitioning tests ordered by private companies for its own stocks, Bloomfield said private and public orders of the tests were being “consolidated” into one order for the Government.
Bloomfield twice assured the public that tests taken by the Ministry were “forward orders” from overseas, not tests already in New Zealand.
“Many businesses already have tests onshore and we’re not requisitioning those or doing anything like that,” Bloomfield said.
This was only partly correct. While tests from one of the manufacturers, Abbott, were not being requisitioned, tests from another manufacturer, Roche, very much were.
He added, “we have discussed with our three main suppliers which are Abbott, Roche and Siemens, that forward orders of tests that haven’t arrived in the country be consolidated into the Government’s stock so that it is there for the whole country including private businesses”.
While no stocks of Abbott tests that are already in the country have been requisitioned, a substantial stock of Roche tests have been, a fact the Ministry now admits. . .
Did someone in the Ministry withhold information from the DG, mislead or lie to him?
National’s Covid-19 spokesman Chris Bishop said the Government had been “tricky” on the issue of RATs “right from the start”.
“They have used sophistry and deliberately confusing language to hide what happened here,” Bishop said.
“Which is that the Government nicked tests from the private sector because they were too incompetent to order their own,” he said.
When asked about the requisitioning fiasco, Bloomfield and ministers tend to answer with reference to Abbott’s tests, which had not been requisitioned.
This was despite no companies with Abbott tests on order actually alleging their orders had been taken. The two largest firms who complained their tests had been taken, InScience and Health Works Group, both ordered Roche products.
In a press conference last month, instead of answering what had happened to the missing Roche tests, Bloomfield answered questions relating to Abbott tests – tests which no one had reported as being stolen. . .
Was he deliberately giving misleading answers or did he simply not know? This is unfortunately reminiscent of the assertions that there was enough PPE when health workers were saying there wasn’t, and it was they who were proved right.
On Friday in a conference call to discuss a self-isolation programme that I had sent to MBIE two weeks ago, I was stunned by Associate Health Minister Ayesha Verrall’s opening line that only theGovernment or a Government-approved agency could communicate anything to do with the proposal from here on, and that “Sir Ian” was to refrain from writing “bad faith” articles for the Herald.
Given that everyone else in the meeting was either a government official or already part of a government group, it was clear these pre-meeting conditions were aimed solely at me.
I accept totally the concept of Chatham House rules when it comes to meetings such as this. The idea that I would not have honoured that most basic of principles is demeaning and something I take extremely seriously.
It was for that reason I left the meeting before it began.
I have finally realised that this is not a Government that wishes to consult transparently and openly or even make any concessions that it has made mistakes over the past two years. It is not one that seriously wants the input of people who are offering to help them from off the bench and they have made it very clear now that any advice offered will be conditional upon them controlling the messaging. . .
Remember that promise to be the most open and transparent government ever?
It’s yet another where the words have been made lies by the actions, or lack of them.
Rather than being the most open and transparent this government is closed and opaque and the public service, which is supposed to be apolitical, has been infected by the same lack of transparency.
Journalism reached another low yesterday with the breathless reporting on National leader Chris Luxon’s property portfolio.
Had he acquired them through crime or by luck, owning seven houses – four of which are his family home, a crib, an apartment in Wellington and his electorate office – it would indeed be a story.
But there is no question about how he was able to buy them. He got an education then used it, his ability and personality, to succeed in well paid jobs and invested wisely.
Media attention wasn’t just on the number of houses, it then focused on his family home and that he didn’t know its value.
How many people know their houses are worth unless they are planning to sell them?
In spite of at least one journalist trying to blame Luxon for the increased value of his home, it’s government policies and the Reserve Bank which have fueled the steep rise in house prices all over the country.
But why attack someone for their wealth anyway?
Journalists ought to be celebrating success, not sneering at it.
How much better we all would be if more people were successful and if that was shown as something to aspire to, not something to criticise.
If the media had even a passing interest in balance, they might have pointed out that Luxon took a massive pay cut when he entered parliament which shows he’s not in it for the money.
Apropos of which, wouldn’t it be interesting to know how many other MPs took a pay cut and how many got a pay rise?
It is to Chris Luxon’s credit that he is one of the few MPs to have taken a pay cut – in his case of over $4,000,000 a year – to enter Parliament, having left the top position at Air NZ. He is clearly motivated by public service rather than raiding the taxpayer’s wallet.
Trapping politicians, baiting them, trying to catch them out and make them look silly, hypocritical or indecisive … that’s what now passes for political journalism. And of course the journalists always come out on top, because they can set themselves up as judge and jury, are responsible to no one, pay no penalty when they get things wrong (as they frequently do) and always have the last word.
What’s more, they’re highly selective about whose feet they hold to the fire. Luxon wields no real power at this stage of his political career, yet he’s subjected to far tougher treatment than the sainted prime minister, who clearly enjoys immunity from difficult questions. But most New Zealanders still believe in giving people (even conservative politicians) a fair go, and the media are probably doing far more damage to themselves than to Luxon.
Journalists usually rank at or near the bottom of trusted occupations and the blatantly biased way the media has focused on Luxon’s faith and finances shows why.
As the likelihood of Chris Luxon leading National grew, so too did criticism of his religion.
Almost every interview since he became leader canvassed that and most did it as if they were investigating something foreign and somewhat suspect.
Am I the only one to see the irony of this from people who don’t question the imposition of prayers in Maori at many official events or the annual mixing of church and state with the political pilgrimage to Ratana?
Does anyone doubt the questioning would be much softer, the suspicion much less overt and more polite for Christians if they were also Maori or Pacifica?
Who doubts that they would be far gentler on an adherent of another faith, and that being an atheist or agnostic would have gone unremarked?
These days, some religions are more equal than others.
Simon Bridges made this point in his memoir National Identity (p261):
Note that I say Christinas are the new pariahs. . . For some reason, Kiwis today are more comfortable with religions that our culture has traditionally had little to do with than they are with the religion our has traditionally had little to do with than they are with the religion our country was founded on . .
Overall though, officially, New Zealand has become a post-Christian secular society. Your average Governor-General would choke on her cucumber sandwiches were a prayer or Bible reading incorporated. Well, with one very significant exception. In recent years with the public renaissance of Maori culture, most public events will have a religious dimension in a Maori parry or karakia. . . There is an exquisite irony in what’s happened here. Our public servants and civic leaders, who’d spit on the ground during a Pakeha’s Christian prayer, beam like Cherhire Cats when the same is done in te reo. I love this. God works in mysterious ways and he clearly has a sense of humour. . .
Those haranguing – and that’s not too strong a word – Chris Luxon on his religion and views on conscience issues like abortion, euthanasia and conversion theory – would be most unlikely to question people of other faiths so belligerently.
Perhaps they’ve forgotten, if they ever knew, just how much our culture and laws owe to Judeo-Christian mores.
And what does it say about them that Luxon’s Christianity is far more an issue than Jacinda Ardern’s socialism?
The media have declined to cover something remarkable: on Sunday Jacinda Ardern made a Facebook post on vaccine side-effects that got 33K comments. For reference, Simon Bridges' leadership-ending FB post got 20K.
[Disclaimer to this thread: please get vaccinated]
Could the reluctance to report this have anything to do with the Public Interest Journalism Fund which Karl du Fresne calls the Pravda Project.
. . . Judith Collins and David Seymour were putting the heat on Jacinda Ardern over Labour’s so-called Public Interest Journalism Fund. Collins wanted to know whether the fund – applicants for which must commit to Treaty principles and support for te reo, among other things – was influencing the editorial decisions of media outlets. Seymour more pointedly asked what would happen to a media outlet that had accepted money from the fund but wanted to report something deemed inconsistent with Treaty principles.
Ardern brushed off the questions as if they weren’t worthy of an answer, but that’s by the bye. What interests me is whether the exchange in the House was reported by any media outlet that has accepted, or has its hand out for, money from the fund.
This highlights another potentially disturbing and insidious aspect of the media slush fund. Can we expect mainstream media outlets to report criticism of the fund or possible revelations and concerns about its misuse, or will that be left to independent journalists such as Adams?
You see what’s happening here? I’m already wondering whether the media are choosing to ignore stories about the fund that might not reflect favourably on it or them. The mere fact that it’s necessary to ask this question shows how media companies compromise their credibility by accepting money from a highly politicised government agency.
Incidentally, “Public Interest Journalism Fund” strikes me as a bit of a mouthful, and time-consuming to type, besides. So I’m giving it a shorter, punchier name: the Pravda Project, after the old Soviet Union’s esteemed official press organ, on the assumption that the PIJF will exhibit the same fearless independence and unstinting commitment to the truth.
. . . The availability of money, coupled with a completely absent sense of constitutional propriety, appear to offer the divine intervention Ardern and Robertson need going forward. Their gig is to bribe the media in the run-up to the next election in the hope that they will save Labour. This is happening in two ways. First, the direct distribution of cash from the Public Interest Journalism Fund aimed at keeping the media on side until the next election. All the big daily papers have dipped into it already, and applications are now open for a further swag of taxpayer money. The second way the government is trying to keep the media on side is by over-paying them for printing the masses of Covid announcements. I’m reliably informed that the government negotiated none of the regular discounts available to those who advertise on a grand scale in newspapers and TV. The expectation is that none of the media greedies will bite the government hand that feeds them. Or not very hard.
If my information is correct, it is corruption, pure and simple. In normal circumstances there would be rebellion. But in the topsy-turvy world of this pandemic, I’m not sure that anyone any longer cares much about constitutional propriety.
Privately owned media has a lot more leeway in what it chooses to report and how it reports it.
But publicly owned media has a much greater responsibility to be balanced and fair.
Regardless of whether its privately owned or publicly, the Pravda Project makes it look like the media is softer on the government and harder on the opposition which leads it wide open to accusations of bias.
The Free Speech Union is calling for the couple – one reportedly a child of a Government official – who breached lockdown not to have name suppression says Free Speech Union spokesperson, and lawyer, Stephen Franks.
Both are adults, their parents and what any of them do ought not to be relevant.
“Name suppression will be the worst move for the Auckland couple charged with a cunning move to Wanaka via Hamilton. There are no good reasons for name suppression, and three bad ones.
“First, shame – the fear that your hypocrisy or lying will be uncovered should be a primary deterrent.
“Second, shame should be the main punishment for a ‘social’ crime. Police resources and court time are wasted in such cases, which would not be true if the community were able to impose a more natural and automatic punishment and if Stuff was free to publish what it ‘knew’. Insider arrogance and the love of having ‘secret knowledge’ lies behind much of our substitution of police and court resources for open reporting.
“Thirdly, in this case name suppression will be an own goal. The Streisand effect will operate eventually even if the defendants are tempted by the thought that they can hide their shame behind a court order, and even if the QC gets them a discharge based on some technicality.
“Effectiveness of community consensus against contagion depends on the restrictions being seen as fair. Name suppression will contribute to suspicion, that the elite don’t think the cost of lockdown, let alone the health risks of Covid spreading, outweighs an embarrassment cost to some of them scoffing at the law. We need to see the law being enforced, with details that will deter others.
“We, the public, should know. Freedom of speech is our right to know, not just journalists’ right to tell us. Free speech protects us from potential hypocrisy of powerful insiders. We need to see immediately that we are indeed equal before the law. And true remorse or contrition would have the people charged not trying to hide behind an application that is a byword for privilege.”
Yesterday afternoon I read that the couple’s lawyer was seeking name suppression.
A very few hours later I knew the couple’s names which left me none the wiser as I know neither. Several posts on social media show that lots of other people know too.
A suppression order would stop publication but it couldn’t make those who already know the names unknow them.
I agree with the FSU’s arguments against suppression, but the decision on granting it or not is up to the court.
You are welcome to debate the issue but any comments that attempt to share the names or identifying information will be deleted.
Why was one of the biggest protests of recent times relegated to the back pages of print media?
My expectation for print media on the first publishing day after the march (on Saturday, July 17)was that a protest of that breadth and size would have front-page coverage in the major metropolitan and regional newspapers.
I was surprised, then, when one of the biggest weekend papers relegated substantive reporting (assessed as page coverage) to page 5 behind a $20,000 fraud story on page 1, whiteware sales on pages 2 and 3 and free meals for schoolchildren on page 4.
Was a protest about land and fresh water and taxes really less important than whiteware sales? . .
Recent photos of wintering practices in Southland has Blair Drysdale responding to the trial by media.
In general it’s the same group of people wanting dairy cows inside, who also campaign for pigs and hens to be outside.
Winter certainly has its challenges but it’s a very reliable season as it’s just damned cold every day and that suits me just fine. As farmers though, and especially those with breeding livestock, we like all the inclement weather with its southerly snowstorms to arrive now and not in spring.
The challenges are very real given we’re having a wetter than average winter which on the back of a dry autumn meant winter crops are below average, putting pressure on livestock and farmer.
Throw in some sneaky covert photography of stock on winter crops that get plastered over social and mainstream media by a few environmental activists and it is a pressure cooker situation for some farmers. The reality is that if they were genuinely concerned about animal welfare MPI would be their first port of call. . .
Are shedding sheep the answer to the wool industry’s woes? Lee Matheson, managing director at agricultural consulting firm Perrin Ag, investigates.
A perfect storm has been brewing.
Low wool prices, increasing shearing costs, dilapidated wool harvesting infrastructure (historically known as woolsheds), a tightening labour pool and an apparent lack of consumer recognition of wool’s inherent values and performance as a fibre, are all contributing to increasing moves towards shedding sheep.
It is a potentially divisive and emotive topic when raised with sheep farmers. . .