Welcome back Listener

02/10/2020

The Listener is back and in her editor’s letter, Pamela Stirling writes:

. . . At a time when debate is increasingly polarized and governments around the world, including our own, are acting by decree with sweeping powers that represent the greatest infringements on our civil liberties in living memory, the need for strong, respected and independent media is greater than ever.

What’s certain is that never again in a democracy like New Zealand should an award-winning and profitable current affairs publication like the Listener be so casually deemed “non-essential” by the central government. While we supported, in general, New Zealand’s stance in fighting COvid-19 we cannot, even now understand why magazines were the only products banned from the supermarkets.

This was just one of many examples where the arbitrary and contradictory essential shut down businesses which could have operated safely had safe been what governed decisions.

As the March lockdown began, the Listener was being produced remotely from home, with the same controlled and safe printing and distribution systems as newspapers. If the weekend papers with their insert magazines were permitted to publish weekly, why couldn’t we?

A conspiracy theorist might say this was politically motivated to shut down analysis, debate, and potential criticism.

I wouldn’t go that far. I think is was cock-up rather than conspiracy, the result of a government Which,  contrary to the propaganda, did not go hard and early, but was late, lax and then harsh.

However, the outcome was the same – by decreeing only businesses it deemed essential could operate,  it did shut down analysis, debate and potential criticism at a time when it was so very important.

The Listener’s 30,000 subscribers could simply have had their magazines delivered in their sanitiser plastic wrapping directly to their homes via post or courier as always. Retail copies could have been sold in supermarkets. Instead at a time when even cigarettes and alcohol were deemed essential items, the reckless dismissal of this 80 year-old New Zealand icon felt like cultural vandalism. . . 

Cultural vandalism, and albeit by accident rather than design, political opportunism.

Some in the daily media have done, and continue to do, a very good job of holding the powerful to account. But we’ll never know what the more in-depth analysis that is possible with a weekly publication like the Listener and a monthly like the soon-to-be relaunched North and South, might have uncovered.

We’ll never know what we might have learned, what might have been different, what might have changed for the better,  had their journalists been able to investigate and report.

But we can be grateful that they’re back and, as the editor’s letter shows, coming back strongly.


Media must be open about bias

17/01/2014

The strong links between Scoop journalist and the Internet Party have raised questions about its claim to be the leading independent news publication in New Zealand:

Scoop.co.nz is New Zealand’s leading news resource for news-makers and the people that influence the news (as opposed to a news site for “news consumers”).

It brings together the information that is creating the news as it is released to the media, and is therefore a hub of intelligence for the professionals (not just media) that shape what we read.

Scoop.co.nz presents all the information driving the news of the day in the form it is delivered to media creating a “no spin” media environment and one that provides the full context of what is “reported” as news later in the day.

It’s audience has a circle of influence far greater than the number of reported readers, which averages more than 450 000 a month, and it is a key part of the New Zealand media landscape.

Scoop.co.nz is accredited to the New Zealand Parliament Press Gallery and fed by a multitude of Business, Non-Government-Organisation, Regional Government and Public Relations communication professionals.

We are the leading independent news publication in New Zealand and value our independence strongly. . .

It does present media releases as they are written without editing.

But anyone familiar with opinion pieces from the likes of Gordon Campbell would be aware of a left-wing bias.

There’s nothing wrong with a bias in a media organisation like this providing it is declared.

Apropos of which I note that in the on-line version of Josie Pagani’s tale of two stories she is described as a political commentator, communications consultant, and former Labour candidate.

The print edition just called her a political commentator and communications consultant.

Omitting the reference to her former candidacy in the print edition did a disservice to readers who are entitled to know the bias of a political commentator.


Voters veer but not too far

27/04/2011

Quote of the week:

If you’re going in for politics, one of the key attributes to cultivate is patience. Sure voters veer from centre-right to centre-left over sequential electoral cycles. But parties don’t, because they are founded – the enduring ones, anyway – on firm principles.

                                 – Jane Clifton in The Listener (preview here, full column online May 16).

One of the reasons Act is floundering is because the public isn’t sure what it’s principles are or worse suspects the party itself isn’t sure.

There is no doubt about Don Brash’s principles – he’s been quite clear about what he wants and why. He’s genuinely concerned about the state of the nation.

He wants to do something about it and has said if Act won’t have him he’ll start his own party.

It might not be hard for him to find 500 members, a name, constitution and meet the other requirements for registering a political party. But there’s a long way from forming a new party to getting into parliament, especially when a party’s principles are far further to the right than most voters are comfortable veering.

Of course under MMP you don’t need many voters – just enough to win an electorate or 5% of the vote. But it takes more than 500 members and a lot of money to do that, especially for a new party.


Bad business for good man

21/06/2010

Allan Hubbard is Presbyterian by both faith and nature.

Although he features on the NBR’s rich list, he lives a modest life, spends little on himself and drives an old VW car.

The story of his modest beginnings  and what he’s achieved is inspiring and a  few weeks ago he talked about it to The Listener.

He grew up in the Depression, one of five children in a very poor household and the poverty he experienced then was a strong motivating factor in his life.

He did well at school but his father wouldn’t let him go to Otago Boys’ because they were working class and Allan might get ideas.

He gained School Certificate and University Entrance at night school while working fulltime, put himself through university then set up an accountancy firm in Timaru.

His company prospered and as it did he used his business acumen and wealth to help others.  Some of his business dealings and philanthropic acts are a matter of public record – including underwriting the Opuha Irrigation Scheme by buying all its shares which he  sold to farmers at the original price once the scheme was operating.

The rural grapevine tells of many other acts of generosity which aren’t public, stories of people he’s helped into farms or businesses. He backs people he trusts, who are prepared to make sacrifices to get ahead, as he did,  and , very few have let him down.

Hubbard’s company South Canterbury Finance has been the subject of several bad-news stories in recent months. Now Aorangi Securities, seven trusts and Allan and his wife Margaret ( but not  it is important to stress, SCF) have been placed into statutory management.

I know little about his business dealings but have always been impressed by him as a person.

Principals of other finance companies and organisations which have attracted negative headlines have been criticised for extravagant living at the expense of their creditors.

This is not a criticism that can be made of the Hubbards.

A fact sheet on the statutory management is here.

The NBR covers the story here.

Interest.co.nz covers it here.

UPDATE: The Timaru Herald has a statement from Hubbard here.


Long blinks

17/05/2010

The speaking spot immediately after lunch is one many presenters dread and for good reason.

That’s when at least some members of the audience are likely to find the inside of their eyelids more compelling than the speaker.

Long blinks aren’t so bad if you’re not in the speakers’ line of sight but snoring is a give-away. So is the jolt of the head when you come to, even if you try to cover it up.

The Worsdworth column in last week’s Listener sought names for pretending you weren’t nodding off after you wake with a jolt.

Answers included: power (point)-napping, dishonestedium and a rued awakening.


Key tops Listener power list

01/12/2009

It’s no surprise that Prime Minister John Key tops the Listener’s top 10 in its 2009 Power List.

The panel says he is:

being identified by leadership scholars as pioneering an entirely new style of political leadership in this country. Sceptics may cite his pragmatism as evidence of overt risk-aversion, but so far his reasonable, moderate demeanour and light-handed management has worked magic for the Government’s standing. He has been the polar opposite of Helen Clark, resisting both the micromanagement of others’ portfolios and playing favourites in the caucus. His cheerful tolerance of coalition partners’ ructions – “The bulk of people who come into politics have type-A personalities!” – has saved National from being embroiled in their crises.

Bill English is second followed by Alan Bollard, Rodney Hide, Steven Joyce and Rob Fyfe.

Then comes Michael Stiassny, the country’s senior receiver. The introduction to the list explains:

Perhaps the most telling detail about this year’s Power List . . .  is that a receiver (Micahel Stiassny) comes in at No 7. Yes, it has been a tough year; a year when debt became a dirty word, when old power bases were weakened by the recession. . .

Tariana Turia is ninth then John Whitehead and Peter Jackson. The top 10 has an 11th place – it’s filled by Phil Goff.

Then there’s those who have been delisted:

Craig Norgate who was 4th in the Business and economy section last year; Andrew West who was 3rd in agriculture  and Pat Snedden who was 4th in health and medicine.

The panel that selected the 2009 almanac of influence was chaired by Listener senior write Rebecca Macfie. Members were Lynn Freeman who hosts Radio NZ’s arts programme; Karl Du Fresne, Chris Wikaira, director of PR firm Busby Ramshaw Grice; Jane Clifton; Jacqueline Rowarth, Director of Agriculture at Massey; Bernard Hickey, Alan Isaac who chairs NZ Cricket, is a director of Wakefield Health, trsutee of NZ COmmunity Trust, chair of McGrathNicol & Co and advisor to Opus International; and Stephen Franks.

The full list and commentary won’t be online until Boxing Day. I subscribe to the magazine and if I didn’t I’d fork out the $3.90 for this issue.


Questions on nil returns

13/08/2008

What might you expect to show on a political party’s annual return to the Companies Office for the structure through which the party exists?

Some of the things I’d expect to see are membership, donations and fund raising coming in and rent or rates, wages, stationery, postage, advertising, power and GST going out.

But as Keeping Stock points out an article in this week’s Listener by David Fisher explains New Zealand First Incorporated has been filing nil returns for 15 years.

I read the whole story in the magazine which is not yet on line and was left wondering:

1) Does the party have another vehicle which does have income and expenditure?

2) If so who knows about it?

3) If not how are the party’s operations funded?

4) Do party officials know anything about the running of NZ First?

5) If not who does?


Wordsworth’s words for non-voters

12/08/2008

The Listener’s Wordsworth column search for words to describe people who choose not to vote elicited some gems:

Neglectors and poll faulters were suggested to describe the unmotivoted and unballotable.

Then there was non compos electis and dyselectic.

One of the people who came up with non voters were suffering from electile dysfunction suggested it could be treated with Keyallis.

The prize went to ballot-proof and electshuneers.


EFA Anti-Democratic – Clark

24/06/2008

It’s not Helen but Linda Clark who, with Chapman Tripp colleague Andy Nicholls, delivers a blistering attack on the Electoral Finance Act in this week’s Listener. The preview is here but the full story won’t be on-line for a couple of weeks.

The Listener does this to encourage us to buy a copy of the magazine and I’m not going to interfere with that so will resist the temptation to copy the whole piece. Instead here’s a taste of what they say:

An Act rushed through late last year is threatening our right to really know who we will be voting for – even our politicians are playing a waiting game, and it needs to be fixed now.

…The EFA’s dampening effect on the current election campaign is so serious, it is anti-democratic.

Though National has said, if elected, it will repeal the EFA, it needs to be fixed now if this campaign is to be a fair contest. Voters should be able to see for themselves what and who is up for election and not just in a flurry at the last minute.

… parties … are holding back their candidates from campaiging and robbing voters of the opportunity to be informed.

… election advertising … commits political parties to key promises… And in the contests for electorates, which these days are given scant media coverage, it helps voters identify one candidate over another.

People don’t even know which electorate they’re in after the boundary changes, let alone who the candidates are. The Waitaki Electorate has the highest number of registered voters in the country, but the returning officer said she got lots of forms back from people saying their details were correct but they’d been put in the wrong electorate.

The EFS is getting in the way of this campaign with the problems stemming from both the scope of the Act’s intention and the way it was drafted.

 …Parties have found calculating expenditure complicated by what is now a very broad definition of what constitutes election advertising…it’s possible a party logo alone will be deemed to be an advertisement – no one seems sure.

…What is prevailing is confusion and conservatism…The (Electoral) Commission…has opted not to provide any sign-off of expenditure before the election…

The trouble is none of this ofers any of the parties any certainty that what they are doing is not in breach of the EFA… some MPs may have already overspent…

Elections should never be decided by the courts and electioneering should not be such a guessing game.

…Constitutional laws require bipartisan suppport to be durable, They ought to be non-political.

There is more – buy a copy and read all it for yourself.


Exporting Industry Saves Power

19/06/2008

The Listener  asks why manufacturers have had to cut production in four of the last seven years.

If there is a silver lining in New Zealand manufacturers packing up and shifting offshore, it must be that some other country has to provide their electricity. Right now, it seems certain that if we manufactured rather than imported many of the products we depend on, the current electricity generation capacity would fall far short.

The Bluff aluminium smelter reports it cut production by nearly 300 tonnes last month in response to the record highs reached on the electricity spot market. Similarly, Pan Pac pulp and paper mill in Napier reported it had shut down three of its five pulping machines.

This indicates the spot market is working properly – it is deterring consumers when prices reveal a risk to supply. But what sort of economy do we claim to have when in four years out of the past seven some of our biggest industrial companies have had to cut production for fear the electricity will run out?

We’re supposed to have a first world economy. But exporting industry and the jobs which go with it should be a long way down the list of strategies for saving power in a first world country.

This can hardly inspire overseas investment. But it is not only the economic picture that looks tarnished when the electricity situation is closely examined. The clean, green brand takes a hit too. For example, the start of this year has seen the most electricity ever produced by gas-fired stations in a March quarter.

The March quarter covers summer for at least part of which hydro lakes should be at their peak because of the snow melt, so why didn’t we have enough generation to meet demand then?

Demand has increased – more poeple, more electrical appliances and a lot more irrigators – our summer power bill is tens of thousands of dollar because of irrigation.

But in a first world country capcity should expand to meet demand. The expensive and torturous RMA process is one reason it hasn’t – a farmer I know has spent more than two years and hundreds of thousands of dollars getting consent for a private hydro scheme, on his own property, which will provide enough power for more than 1000 homes.

 


Eating more meat may be healthy sign for world

15/05/2008

Last week’s Listener had a story headlined Let them (not) eat meat. It referred to the Independent report which said 760 million tonnes of grain will be used to feed animals this year, with 8 kg of grain needed to produce 1 kg of beef.

 

The story goes on to say that “globally we are eating more meat than we used to – 50% more than in the 1960s – with consumption predicted to double by 2050. So to help our futures and those of our children, the experts recommend eating less meat and more veges…”

 

In this week’s Listener Tanya Hart, Marketing and PR manager for Beef & Lamb NZ responds. She points out the story lacks local context because:  

 

…the vast majority of New Zealand’s beef- and lamb-producing livestock is not grain-fed or produced via intensive feedlot systems. Our livestock are raised on extensive, natural pastures with no intensive farming. This results in low pollution, lower use of fertiliser and more efficient energy use. The Independent article Boland sources clearly refers to global farming systems that are substantially different from the sustainable farming practices here.
Second, New Zealanders are not eating more meat “than we used to”. We eat red meat in moderate amounts well within the “safe” guidelines outlined in the recent World Cancer Research Fund report and within those of the Ministry of Health, the National Heart Foundation of New Zealand and the Cancer Society of New Zealand.
Though eating less meat might seem a simple solution to a “global food crisis”, it has serious nutritional implications. Eating less meat is likely to lead to inappropriate diets that will not necessarily protect against obesity, cancer or rising food bills. Lean red meat is an excellent source of a whole range of nutrients and, when eaten three to four times a week, is an essential part of a healthy, balanced diet.

Eating too much meat is linked to cancer and heart disease, but too little can result in health problems too. Rather than being cause for concern, an increase in world-wide consumption of meat may be an indication that people in developing countries like China and India are becoming better off and so able to spend more on protein. That would be good news for our sheep and beef industry and also for the health of those people.  

 


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