Let’s not blame the messenger

June 24, 2020

Jack Vowles thinks some in the media are overreacting in their coverage of the isolation omnishambles:

In the wake of a scattering of new cases from overseas, Stuff journalist Andrea Vance has slammed the Government for setting “allegedly unrealistic expectations” that Covid-19 would be eliminated in New Zealand. She believes the public feel they have been lied to.

Fellow Stuff journalist Tracy Watkins says the “border fiasco” has caused “incalculable damage” and “a massive breach of trust”. John Armstrong, in a column for the 1 News website, describes the situation as “calamitous”.

All are over-reacting. . . 

Social media also has plenty of posts mistakenly blaming the messengers and trying to dampen down the message too.

It must come as a shock to those who are used to a very soft approach, sometimes bordering on adulation, of Jacinda Ardern that the shine has come off her halo and her clay feet are showing.

But if the media and opposition MPs hadn’t been telling us about the omnishambles, she and her government wouldn’t have taken any action to deal with it.

The fourth estate and opposition are doing what they’re supposed to – showing us that the government has not been doing nearly as well as it should be in isolating incoming travellers to ensure Covid-19 doesn’t spread beyond those who have it when they get here.

In spite of protestations that everything is under control, there are obvious shortcomings in systems and processes:

No hold ups, oversights or obstruction. It actually takes this long – over a week – to find out how many of the 55 people granted compassionate leave weren’t tested when they should have been.

Since June 9, a negative test and at least a week in isolation were meant to be mandatory before compassionate leave from managed isolation could be granted. But that has only been the practice since June 16.

Both of those rules were bent for two Covid-infected sisters who drove from Auckland to Wellington , but who weren’t tested until after they arrived in Wellington.

The subsequent outrage was understandable, given what should have happened, the sacrifices everyone has already made, and the obvious risk of one case quickly turning into dozens.

That outrage then heightened as stories of broken protocols came forward. Mixing and mingling at isolation facilities. Testing being voluntary when it should have been compulsory. Leave for a funeral when that was meant to be banned . Even runaways .

The case of the two sisters begged the obvious question: How many others have been let out early without a test? Each of them could pose a risk of a second wave.

That question has been asked everyday – by journalists, the Opposition, even Ministers’ offices – since June 16, when the sisters’ positive results were revealed.

The answer isn’t just about giving us a better sense of the health risk. It’s also about the depth of failure that has occurred at the border, which feeds into the level of confidence in the ministry, health chief Ashley Bloomfield, the Government and the Prime Minister.

Those border measures are critical. With no signs of community transmission, the greatest Covid danger to New Zealand are the thousands of people returning home from overseas.

You’d think it would be essential to collect their information and put it all into a single database or an integrated system – contact details, symptoms, daily health check results, test results, if any.

That hasn’t happened.

Bloomfield was clear today that there hasn’t been a cock-up. It has taken so long because health officials have had to match names and dates of birth from their systems with information at isolation facilities.

Does this mean there was no proper record of who was in isolation, who was tested and when?

There was another simple way to find out that appears to have been overlooked.

All of the 55 people granted compassionate leave have been tracked down and referred for testing. Yet Bloomfield had no answer when questioned why they hadn’t been asked, when contacted: “Were you tested before you left managed isolation?”

This isn’t the first information failure for the ministry. They don’t know how many healthcare workers were infected in the workplace . Their regional public health units all used different IT systems . . . 

News of the omnishambles has led in a spike of people seeking tests for Covid-19 which isn’t surprising.

People who’ve lost trust in the government to contain Covid-19 at the border are taking responsibility for themselves. Although there is no evidence of community spread that appears to be due to good luck rather than good management, and anyone with possible symptoms will want to make sure a cold is only a cold.

It’s better to be tested as a precaution than to harbour the virus in the belief that it is no longer here and we have the media and opposition MPs to thank for giving us the information to make that call.

Contrary to what the critics are saying, they’re not overreacting, they’re simply holding the government and the ministry to account.


Sowell says

May 12, 2020

When I was at journalism school, tutors told us very firmly that journalists’ role was to report the news as objectively as possible and let readers/listeners/watchers make up their own minds about the facts and views we reported.

The good ones here still do that.


Timing

April 4, 2020

Letter to the Editor in what will be the last Listener, unless someone comes to its rescue:


Big holes in fourth estate

April 2, 2020

Bauer Media has announced it’s closing:

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced the closure of Bauer Media, bringing an end to decades of media.

Bauer Media publishes multiple popular Kiwi magazines including NZ Listener, Woman’s Day, New Zealand Woman’s Weekly, North and South and Next. . .

I subscribed to North and South when it first launched and was proud that it accepted some of my freelance contributions.

I’ve subscribed to the Listener for several years and bought it every week before that.

Both have always had high standards of journalism and will leave a big hole in the fourth estate.

They, like much of the mainstream media will have been struggling and the dearth of advertising in the wake of the Covid-19 lockdown will have been the last straw.

How many will follow, including perhaps daily papers?

MediaWorks has asked all staff to take pay cuts as it fights for its survival.

Most of us get most of our news and views online now, some of which is of a high standard, some of which is anything but.

The higher the standard the greater the cost of producing it, and too few are willing to pay for quality even though we need a strong fourth estate more than ever now governments all over the world have imposed draconian restrictions on us.


Safe better than essential

April 1, 2020

The government is deciding what is an essential business or service, Act says it would be better to determine what is safe:

 . .. If the objective is to stop the spread of COVID-19, then the test should be whether something can be done safely, not whether it is essential. Moving to a test of safety rather than necessity would be a much better way of fighting the virus while salvaging businesses.

‘Essential’ Compromises ‘Safety’

The Government rightly says it is essential to have food available. Once food is available in an area, no other activity is permissible. But making people travel further to visit a smaller number of bigger and busier stores undermines our goal of reducing the spread of the virus. Supermarkets have remained open because they are essential but they have only undertaken safety mechanisms more recently. Under a safety approach, only food stores with safe processes would be allowed to open, but all stores with such processes would equally be able to open. . .

It would be just as safe for butchers and greengrocers to be open, following best practice of allowing one customer in, one out and keeping everyone two metres apart, as it is for supermarkets, perhaps even safer if it meant fewer people in supermarkets.

Couplands announced yesterday it will close its South Island plant because it mostly supplies its own shops in the south and these aren’t deemed essential.

The bakery supplies about a third of the South’s bread. The plant closure will cause shortages and panic buying. Again, providing the stores have practices which keep their staff and customers safe, they should be able to stay open and lower the pressure on supermarkets.

Instead of the objective test ‘can this be done in a way that is safe’ we are facing a subjective test ‘does the Government think you need this.’ This level of government power is not sustainable.

Breakdown Of The Rule of Law

Subjectivity leads to absurdities and a breakdown of the rule of law. The Government has decided that eating halal meat is a goal important enough to justify opening some butcheries. Driving to the beach for a walk or a picnic is not. Which one is safer? . . .

Halal meat can be bought from supermarkets and a halal butchery isn’t any more or less safe than any other butcheries. It’s the safety practices they follow to protect staff and customers safe that matter, not religious practices.

If the decision to close butcheries isn’t reversed millions of dollars of meat will have to be dumped. That would be an unconscionable waste.

The closure of butchers is also risking animal welfare:

The Government’s decision to exclude independent butchers from the essential business list during the COVID-19 lockdown will cause an animal welfare crisis in the New Zealand pork sector, says an industry group.

All independent butchers across the country have been classified as non-essential businesses and been forced to close as part of the Alert Level 4 lock-down for COVID-19.

However NZ Pork said the decision would likely result in the sector having no place to house up to 5,000 surplus pigs on farms every week.

“By not being able to sell fresh carcass pigs to the independent butchers and other segments, we will be faced with a significant animal welfare issue,” said chief executive of NZ Pork David Baines . . 

Back to Act:

Trust The People

Underpinning the ‘essential’ approach is a belief that people can’t be trusted to judge what is safe. (Can I do this without coming within two metres of others?, without touching things other may have touched?).

Safety Approach: Essential For The Recovery

We are going to have to recover as an economy. Free Press is approached daily by businesspeople in a state of despair. Their working capital may or may not last the first four weeks, it certainly won’t last further. Being able to operate under a safety approach is, to borrow a term, essential. Essential to what? Essential to people protecting their livelihoods in the coming months. . . 

The more businesses that continue operating, the more people who are able to keep working, the less the economic and social damage the lockdown will inflict and the faster the recovery will be.

What Would A Safety Approach Look Like?

A safety approach would involve a basic set of rules that people must follow. A two metre rule (Free Press regrets this would exclude televised dance competitions). Can you do this whilst remaining two metres from others? Yes or no? A ‘touched object’ rule. Can you do this without touching objects others outside your household have touched? Yes or no? A regular testing approach. Can we guarantee regular testing and contact tracing is possible? Yes or no? Obviously there is more to do, but we need to start developing a safety approach rather than an essential approach, pronto.

The only justification for the lockdown is to keep us all safe.

Whether or not a business can operate safely should be the only criteria for allowing it to do so through the lockdown.

That won’t compromise personal health and will help economic and social health.


Terrorist pleads guilty

March 26, 2020

The man charged with the Christchurch mosque attacks has pleaded guilty:

At the High Court in Christchurch, Brenton Tarrant admitted 51 counts of murder, 40 of attempted murder and one under the Terrorism Suppression Act.

Until today he had denied all of the charges and was scheduled to stand trial in June. The guilty plea means he has become New Zealand’s first convicted terrorist.

The 29-year-old showed no emotion as he appeared via audio visual link in the High Court at around 10am.

No explanation for Tarrant’s change of heart was given during today’s hearing. He has been remanded in custody until May. . . 

This will save the taxpayer the cost, courts the time and most importantly the families and friends of those killed the distress of a prolonged defended trial.

The Prime Minister decided she would not say Tarrant’s name. That was a powerful political statement but it does not, and should not, fetter the media.

The names of criminals should be made public unless the court makes a suppression order.

Tarrant has pleaded guilty to the horrific slaughter of innocent people and his name should be associated with his crime.


Taxpayer funded competing with taxpayers

March 5, 2020

Taxpayer-funded RNZ is running an advertising campaign which doesn’t tell the whole truth:

The New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union is slamming Radio New Zealand’s use of taxpayer money for misleading advertising suggesting New Zealanders do not have to pay for its content, unlike other media organisations.

Taxpayers’ Union spokesman Jordan Williams says, “The idea that we don’t pay for RNZ is ridiculous. Unlike other media organisations, all New Zealanders are forced to pay for RNZ.”

“Private platforms also present a much more diverse range of views and perspectives.”

“In addition to being dishonest, RNZ’s advertising is an underarm bowl to those private media organisations, many of which are kneecapped by the state subsides for RNZ and TVNZ.”

Example of RNZ online advertising:

 

We’re all paying for that premium content through our taxes whether or not we listen to it.

Galling as these advertisements are to taxpayers, they’re worse still for those with which the state broadcaster competes:

 Stuff recently campaigned on the value of journalism.

Billboards, bus backs, paid social posts – it was everywhere. RNZ drove its message so hard it even featured in a digital display in Stuff’s own lobby. Trolling maybe?

The message was right, but only in part. RNZ doesn’t run ads. RNZ doesn’t have paid subscriptions for its content.

This, though, is only because it doesn’t need to.

You already pay for its content through your taxes, so its journalism doesn’t need to be either ad-funded, like ours is, or supplemented through a paid content model like, say, the NZ Herald.

It’s simple:

    • Commercial media make money through ads and subscriptions, which they then use to pay for public interest journalism.
    • Public media are Government-funded to pay for public interest journalism.

But, like newsrooms the world over, the advertising and subscription revenues commercial media once thrived on no longer sustain the number of journalists we once could. As audiences have shifted from newspapers to websites, so have advertising dollars. But the slice of the pie left for news organisations is tiny after the giant global platforms like Google and Facebook take their share.

In short, funding journalism, especially in regional New Zealand, has become increasingly hard. The pursuit of a new, sustainable business model to support journalism is something that is common across competitors; one galvanising connection that brings us all together. . .

Plurality of journalistic voices is deemed in the public interest. RNZ is chartered to serve that public interest. It is its purpose to serve an audience, not to compete for audiences; audiences which in one way or another are needed to fund the great journalism created by many organisations and many companies across New Zealand each and every day.

Journalism and mainstream media are under threat from digital platforms and social media.

Struggling businesses don’t need the taxpayer-funded outlet which competes with them.

The unfair competition from the state-owned Landcorp has been a bone of contention for farmers but at least it hasn’t run a campaign putting down private sector competitors the way RNZ is. That it’s doing it with what isn’t the whole truth makes it worse.


Not cricket

February 21, 2020

We were in Vejer de la Frontera, a wee village in south west Spain when New Zealand was playing England in the final of the Cricket World Cup last year.

It was early evening there and we were listening to the commentary on my farmer’s phone as we went for our pre-prandial walk.

When we got to the main plaza I heard some English accents from four people sitting outside one of the bars. I asked them if they were following the cricket, they said they’d tried but couldn’t get any commentary from England.

I said we could get it from New Zealand, they asked us to join them and we sat there in Spain, about as far away as we could be from Radio Sport and listening as if we were at home.

We might be able to listen to overseas international matches in future but it’s unlikely anyone will be able to listen to home internationals and domestic games now NZME hasn’t been able to come to an agreement with New Zealand Cricket for the broadcast rights.

New Zealand Media and Entertainment’s Radio Sport has today announced it has chosen not to renew the rights to broadcast live commentary of New Zealand Cricket’s domestic season (domestic and international matches played in New Zealand) next summer.

Radio Sport will continue to keep Kiwi cricket fans in the know across next summer with match updates, robust opinion, in-depth analysis and plenty of talkback.

NZME’s Head of Talk Jason Winstanley said, “Radio Sport has enjoyed being the ‘Home of Cricket’ for over 20 years and we treasure our connection with New Zealand cricket fans. We have been in discussions with New Zealand Cricket for some time but haven’t been able to reach agreement on the rights. Our cricket coverage has run at a loss – something we’ve previously been prepared to wear, but we’re now taking the opportunity to rethink our offering in this space. . .

This is a business decision from both NZME and NZ Cricket and one the latter might come to regret because there is no obvious successor to NZME.

It’s business, but there will be a lot of fans who think this decision is hardly cricket.

 


Bigger not better for media

December 16, 2019

Stuff and NZME have enlisted an unlikely ally in their quest to merge:

NZ First leader Winston Peters has thrown his support behind NZME buying rival news agency Stuff, saying such a deal is in the “national interest”.

NZME, publisher of the NZ Herald, has sought the Government’s support to buy Stuff, which is owned by Australian media company Nine.

The proposal is being considered by Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media Minister Kris Faafoi.

Peters today threw his weight behind NZME’s proposal saying it “is in the greater public interest and the national interest”. . . 

One of the commitments would be to keep a certain number of regional newspaper titles open, Peters said. Regional news was “as important as a hospital, as important as a school” in provincial areas. . . 

Business and media should know that if the government is the answer they’ve asked the wrong question.

Newspapers have been losing readers for decades and all mainstream media is struggling with so much competition from online news sources, but the answer is not for newspaper companies to get bigger, it is for them to get smaller and more local, as Karl du Fresne, writing about the Wairarapa Times-Age, said:

. . .if any papers could survive in the new media environment, it would be those that specialised in local news. Not only is local news important to people because it directly affects them in their daily lives, but it’s also the segment of the market that has been least disrupted by the internet. If you want local news, you must get it from a local provider. . . 

If the success of the Oamaru Mail is an example, smaller and more local is a far better way to go.

I started my journalism career on the Oamaru Mail way back when it was a daily paper and the first in the country to use computer printing.

It is now a weekly give-away, and its healthy size is evidence that it has the support of readers and the advertisers that fund it.

Its owned by Allied Press which also owns the Otago Daily Times (ODT), the only privately owned daily paper in New Zealand.

The Oamaru Mail succeeds because it concentrates on local news, written by people who live in and know the district it serves, its people and issues.

The ODT is following other daily papers with a drop in circulation, but it’s losing readers at a much slower rate than those owned by the companies wanting to merge.

One reason for the slower decline is that its hatched, matched and dispatched advertisements are available in the paper on the digital edition, not the free online version. This ensures older readers keep buying it.

Another reason is that it too has teams of local reporters throughout its circulation area ensuring that local stories get good coverage with the national and international news and views.

Rather than allowing the two big companies to merge and become even bigger while attempting to keep local papers alive by insisting some regional titles stay open, it would be better to sell the smaller titles and let them thrive as local papers, with local staff covering local issues for their local communities.


Prurience or public interest?

November 15, 2019

The media is reporting a lot of detailed and sexually explicit evidence in its coverage of Grace Millane’s modern trial.

I can only imagine how harrowing  it must be for her family to sit through it all.

It’s been hard enough coming across it in the news without knowing anyone involved.

I have not read anything of the trial but haven’t been able to avoid hearing about it in news broadcasts.

I’ve also heard talkback discussion on whether we’re getting too much information.

The media’s right to report and the public’s right to know are important planks in an open justice system. But the line between what’s in the public interest and prurience can be a very fine one.

 


Rural round-up

October 31, 2019

NZ aware of ASF threat – Sally Rae:

New Zealand’s pork industry would be “decimated” if African swine fever (ASF) was to hit the country, New Zealand Pork chairman Eric Roy says.

Since China reported the first case of ASF just over a year ago, it has culled more than 131million pigs, or around 40% of the previous pig herd.

Some private sector estimates suggested the culling might have even been larger than official estimates, BNZ’s latest Rural Wrap said. 

NZ Pork was concerned the disease was spreading “quite rapidly” and was now in Timor-Leste, or East Timor, as it continued to move south from China. It has been confirmed in the Philippines and South Korea. . .

Kiwi vegan loonies are treasonous – Ryan Bridge:

How do you know there’s a vegan in the room? They’ll tell you.

It’s an old joke but a good one.

Vegans are like evangelical Bible Belt Christians from the United States. They want to ram their ideology down your throat at any chance they can get.

On Tuesday, you will hear in the news stories about a new survey of consumers. They will claim a third of Kiwis are on their way to becoming vegetarians or vegans. We’re all going green. 

But make no mistake, the percentage of Kiwis who are vegetarian or vegan remains at 3 percent. Yes, 97 percent of us are still into our meat and so we should be, especially in New Zealand. . .

Women elected to DairyNZ board – Pam Tipa:

Two Waikato dairy farmers were elected to DairyNZ’s board last week. Tracy Brown is a new member and Elaine Cook was re-elected at the annual general meeting in Hamilton on October 22.

They are two of five farmer-elected directors and three board-appointed directors who contribute to strategy and priorities on behalf of dairy farmers. DairyNZ now has a board of five women and three men.

Chair Jim van der Poel welcomed the directors and acknowledged their role in “playing a key part in setting the future direction of DairyNZ”. . .

A voice for telling rural stories – Alice Scott:

A strong desire to capture the essence of people and tell their stories  won a former West Otago woman the Rural Champion category at the NZI Rural Women NZ Business Awards recently. Alice Scott reports.

Kate Taylor, who now lives in Hawke’s Bay, grew up in the small southern farming district of Dunrobin. 

She says entering the Rural Women business awards was a way for her to ”walk the talk” and share her story, as she has for so many years been preaching to the people she interviews.

Mrs Taylor is the youngest of four Rivett girls and grew up on her family’s sheep and beef farm known as The Glen. She attended Blue Mountain College, in Tapanui, and got her first job in Gore, at radio station 4ZG, then did a journalism course at Christchurch Polytechnic . .

NZ lamb exporters welcome Brexit deadline extension–  Maja Burry:

An extension to the Brexit deadline is being welcomed by New Zealand lamb exporters, who had been worried about possible disruptions to Christmas trade.

European Union leaders have agreed to extend Brexit until 31 January next year – meaning the UK will not leave as planned on Thursday. The bloc would also allow for a so-called “flextension” – meaning the UK could leave before the deadline if a deal was approved by Parliament.

The UK market is very important for chilled New Zealand lamb exports ahead of Christmas and there had been concerns from industry that the UK’s departure from the European Union during this period could present border delays and increased administrative costs. . . .

Deer farm for sale with tourism and hunting options :

An iconic Hawke’s Bay station founded on pioneering spirit and nurtured over 100 years by the same family is now on the market for the first time.

Historic Te Rangi Station, located 50 minutes north of Napier Airport is generating strong interest among farming circles as far afield as the South Island from potential buyers recognising the opportunities a deer fenced station of this scale and summer safe location offers. . .


Why wouldn’t the Herald print this?

October 17, 2019

Speak Up for Women has the column by Rachel Stewart the NZ Herald wouldn’t print:

It seems far-fetched that the mere hiring of a Massey University venue by a feminist organisation could cause so much indignation and rage, but these are not typical times.

A bunch of females getting together within a public space to discuss the issues currently affecting them is far from new, and very far from radical.

Yet, the idea that ‘Feminism 2020’ would dare to congregate at a venue on Massey’s Wellington campus saw a number of students stage a sit-in, which culminated in the handing over of a petition calling on the university to cancel the event.

What is so threatening about women coming together and talking? According to the protestors and petitioners, the organisers of the event – Speak Up for Women – are essentially devil incarnates.

Petition organiser Charlie Myer said the university shouldn’t be “facilitating this kind of discussion”. Feminism 2020 “could have [the event] anywhere” but it wasn’t appropriate for them to hold it at a university, which was supposed to support transgender students.”

Last time I looked universities were required to respect and uphold the quaint, old-fashioned tenet of free speech too. And Massey has, thus far, held out against the pressure of every thrown guilt trip known to mankind. You know, we don’t feel “safe”.

Myer also disputed the group was feminist and simply meeting to discuss women’s issues. “If your feminism isn’t intersectional, it isn’t feminism.”

Don’t you just love it when men tell women what feminism actually is? I find it adorable. Like a possum in my pear tree. So endearing.

Another endearing move was to then see the spokesperson for diversity and inclusion accreditation business Rainbow Tick Martin King say that if Massey did not cancel the event it was likely it would trigger a review of its accreditation.

The spectre of losing their Rainbow Tick must be downright scary for them. I mean, since students are now their financial customers, Massey naturally wants to keep the client happy at all costs.

But back to ‘Speak Up For Women’ and their apparently devilish ways. Why do some students so feverishly want them cancelled lest they be “harmed” by their words? Of course, you’d think simply not attending would put paid to that, but I’m being far too logical.

No. These students believe that no one should be allowed to discuss, debate, or hear the reasons why many women are concerned about an amendment (currently on hold) to the Births, Deaths, and Marriages Registration Bill that would allow a person to change their legal gender by simply signing a declaration.

The group formed because they were legitimately concerned the amendment would prevent women from excluding men from changing rooms, bathrooms, women’s prisons, women’s shelters and any other women and girls-only space. In a nutshell, they don’t agree that trans women are women just because they say they are.

The group supports the current law, which allows a person to change the sex on their birth certificate if they go through certain steps – specifically applying in writing to the Court and obtaining a medical sign-off from a doctor.

They also make it clear they support the rights of transgender people to live without violence and discrimination.

However they don’t agree that trans women should be allowed to compete against natal females in sport. In their view, it’s not a level playing field.

Now, what’s so heinous about that? Why does holding such views mean they should be de-platformed, cancelled, and marginalised?

Eerily, many of the organisers and some of the speakers are lesbian so why would the ‘L’ part of the LGBTQ be considered such a threat to organisations such as Rainbow Tick? Is the imperative of ‘diversity’ no longer extended to lesbians? Or feminists – regardless of their sexual preferences? Good ol’ intersectionalism strikes again! It’s a conundrum.

And therein lies the problem with intersectionalism. The manic race to win the title of ‘most oppressed and marginalised group’ sets up a spiralling vortex of ever-tightening circles of meaninglessness.

Will there be protests if the event goes ahead? Will the protestors consist mainly of male activists telling those women to shut up? Because that’s the rub for me. Seeing men shouting women down via megaphone, rattling windows, banging doors and generally screaming at them, reminds me why I’m a feminist all over again.

Tactics like these are being employed in Britain and the U.S. and where they go, we tend to go. If similar methods are on show at the ‘Feminism 2020’ event, it’ll be quite the statement.

Ask yourself this.

Why is it that some men are angry, abusive, and disruptive around such incredibly important issues to some women? What’s driving their need to shut women up? Why is free speech good for the gander, but not so welcome from the goose?

When did an open discussion by women about women’s rights become so threatening?

Actually, more to the point, when didn’t it?

What is in here that would stop it being published?

No-one is being defamed.

No-one is being incited to harm anyone or do anything illegal.

It’s a point of view with which some may agree or disagree, in part or in whole.

Why wouldn’t the Herald publish it?

 


Sowell says

September 21, 2019


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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