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When the mainstream media go feral: A tale of two holidays

29 July 2014 1 comment

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The people will believe what the media tells them to believe

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The recent non-story on David Cunliffe’s three day holiday should be proof-positive that the mainstream media (msm) is fixated on pumping out as many “bad news” reporting as can be generated by a headline-seeking; advertising-driven; lazy corporate-media system.

We’re all aware that whilst Cunliffe took a three day break (I’m surprised he bothered to come back, instead of telling this country to go get f- – – – – !), our illustrious Dear Leader was off on a ten-day holiday, sunning his pale, $55 million arse, on a Maui beach in Hawaii.

Whilst the media did indeed mention that salient fact (albeit in passing), it was taken as a given that the leader of a party polling 50%-plus in the polls is entitled to a holiday.

Meanwhile, the leader of a mid-twenties-polling (?) Party is – it was hinted – not entitled to any such break.

The subtext was blindingly obvious; success breeds reward. In this case, a warm, sunny Hawaiian beach.

And failure means you don’t deserve a single damn thing, so get-back-to-work-peasant!

When you look at the Tale of Two Holidays, it is glaringly obvious how differently the media – and certain ego-driven political commentators who shall remain nameless – reported both events. The public must have been scratching their heads, wondering, What-The-F**k?!

Even right-wing political commentator and National Party cadre, Matthew Hooton, remarked on the apparent contradiction on 21 July, on Radio NZ’s political panel;

 “The Prime Minister was away for ten days at his bach or his holiday home. As you say, it seems terribly unfair and Labour people are very angry with the media because they say ‘here’s the Prime Minister goes away for ten days and our leader get’s sick for two days and goes skiing for three days and then get’s criticised’

[...]

… to be completely crass about about this, if the CEO of Coca Cola and there’s the CEO of Pepsi Cola, and one of them’s sale’s are increasing making great profits, and the other one’s got a whole lot of product recalls underway and sales are down and they’re in a shambles, then the first CEO get’s to go on holiday and the other one doesn’t.”

The media’s unhealthy fixation on Cunliffe left me wondering…

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old-paper-with-quill-pen-vector_34-14879

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from:      Frank Macskasy
to:          Dominion Post <letters@dompost.co.nz>
date:     Tue, Jul 22, 2014 at 11:16 PM
subject: Letter to the editor

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The editor
Dominion Post

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There has been public disquiet that the mainstream media appears to be unfairly treating the leader of the Labour party, David Cunliffe.

This disquiet appears to have been confirmed by the recent attention and disparaging remarks by political reporters and commentators on Cunliffe’s three day holiday in Queenstown.

The same disparaging remarks were not directed at Prime Minister John Key, who himself took a ten day holiday – three times as long! – in Hawaii, at the same time.

Or the recent Donghua Liu “story”, where Mr Liu claimed he paid $100,000 for a bottle of wine to Labour – and then had to retract his allegations. No apology to Cunliffe was forthcoming, I noticed.

It appears to be different rules of reporting by the media when it comes to both men.

Of course, the media will respond that Labour is low in the polls and criticism by political commentators reflects that.

The irony is that constant negative stories by the media, including focusing on trivia (Cunliffe’s red scarf!!) and smear campaigns, feeds into Labour’s low poll rating. It is a ever-descending vicious circle.

Wouldn’t it be a fine idea if the media simply reported the news, instead of making it up and generating sensationalistic headlines, just to sell advertising space?

Far be it for me to tell the media how to do their job. I’m just an ordinary citizen who has to hear this kind of garbage day after day.

-Frank Macskasy

[address and phone number supplied]

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There is another reason why it seems bizarre that the media made such a fuss over Cunliffe’s three day break.

It’s common knowledge that Key takes his holidays in Hawaii. Which is an odd way for a Minister of Tourism to show his endorsement of the local tourism industry, and is something I’ve blogged about in the past. As usual, the mainstream media never considered it worthy of consideration.

But it seems to have been a different story  when David Cunliffe dared take three days off – supporting local businesses in the process – and all hell broke loose.

The campaign against Cunliffe was no better highlighted than the Herald’s recent Doinghua Liu Affair*, when an immigrant businessman made several allegations against David Cunliffe. Of those allegations, one (about a $100,000 bottle of wine) was retracted; one (about a supposed $15,000 book) remains unproven by any evidence; and the other two appear to have been overt attempts by Mr Liu to “curry favour” with a previous Labour minister.

Yet, the allegations were given wide prominence, even though,

  • there was very little (if any) actual evidence presented – it was all hear-say based on one man’s claims,
  • the Herald has pointedly refused to make public Mr Liu’s written statements, despite making public a copy of a letter signed by Cunliffe in 2003,
  • no apology, for the mis-reporting of the now-discredited $100,000 bottle of wine, has been forthcoming.

Then again, perhaps the purpose of the Donghua Liu Affair was not to report the news – but to manufacture it,  and in the process unfairly damage a reputation and undermine a party’s  election campaign…

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old-paper-with-quill-pen-vector_34-14879.

from:      Frank Macskasy
to:           Sunday Star Times <letters@star-times.co.nz>
date:      Wed, Jul 23, 2014 at 10:31 AM
subject: Letter to the editor

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The editor
Sunday Star Times

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John Key takes a ten day holiday in Hawaii and David Cunliffe takes a three day break in Queenstown – and the media go nuts over Cunliffe. All because of one unattributed “letter” from an anonymous individual claiming to be a “senior Labour party official”.

For all we know, the letter could have originated from the National Party’s dirty tricks team and hyped by certain TV3 and Herald commentators.

The Donghua Liu Affair was another sensationalised story based on one man’s unsubstantiated allegations – one of which has been retracted through lack of evidence.

Cunliffe addressed a family violence conference in Auckland and one tiny portion of his speech was taken utterly out of context by a headline-seeking media desperate for a sensational story. His full statement – which is rarely reported – “I’m sorry for being a man right now because family and sexual violence perpetrated overwhelmingly by men”

The true meaning of Cunliffe’s speech was lost in the subsequent media-generated hysteria.

Meanwhile, John Key refuses to apologise to crime-victim, Tania Billingsley for the shocking way in which the government botched the apprehension of the alleged perpetrator. Key says, “I don’t make apologies unless there’s a serious reason for me to do that.”

Evidently sexual violence is not a “serious” matter for the PM?

Key feels he can get away with such an outrageous comment because he knows full well that the media is fixated, with pack-like mentality, on David Cunliffe.

The public are not well-served by such poor “news” manufacturing.

-Frank Macskasy

[address and phone number supplied]

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The  concerted attacks on Cunliffe do indeed reek of a “pack mentality”; the kind of schoolyard or workplace bullying that takes place when a group recognises someone who, for whatever reason, is constrained in hitting back.

In Cunliffe’s case, he can’t “hit” back at the media. Not without adding fuel to the hysterics from the likes of Garner, Gower, Henry, Armstrong, et al.

In John Armstrong’s case, the man is simply so wedded to his mates in the  National Party  that, on the same day Donghua Liu made his allegations, the Herald columnist called for David Cunliffe to step down as leader of the Labour Party;

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John Armstrong - Cunliffe's resignation may be in order

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The fact that there was little actual evidence of wrong-doing was not a matter Armstrong considered.  Indeed, if one carefully reads Armstrong’s diatribe, one curious truth becomes apparent; at no point does he mention that Cunliffe’s letter to Immigration NZ was written in 2003 – eleven years ago;

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cunliffe - 2003 dated letter - partial

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Unless one had an eidetic memory, no human being on Earth could possibly recall signing a letter written over a decade ago.

Of course, it suited Armstrong’s purpose to omit the date. To any reader unfamiliar with the full details of the story, taking the letter out of it’s historical context gave Armstrong’s column validity that it barely deserved. It suited the Herald’s agenda to undermine the Labour leader. And it fitted like a hand-in-glove the collective media pack-attack on Cunliffe.

The entire issue became a Monty Pythonesque-style farce when,  on 22 July, when Patrick Gower reported on David Cunliffe’s exasperation with a media obsessed with finding fault with him;

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David Cunliffe owns up to getting it wrong

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Patrick Gower 3 News Political Editor

By Patrick Gower

 

Political Editor

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Labour leader David Cunliffe has done what politicians hate to do: he has admitted to getting it wrong.

And it is a long list – there is his apology for being a man and his apology for taking a holiday. There is even an apology for the scarf he has been wearing.

“I am being straight up – things I could have done better, things that I will do better.”

The Labour Party is in a crisis at just 26.7 percent in the latest 3 News-Reid Research poll.

Mr Cunliffe took three days off to go skiing in Queenstown last week and he says he got that wrong too.

 “I’m happy to say, with the information I now have about movement in the polls, when I made that decision I would have made a different decision.”

The poll shows since Mr Cunliffe took over as the Labour leader last year, voters who say he’s performing poorly have doubled, to 53 percent.

After being criticised for his red scarf, Mr Cunliffe says he won’t wear it as much.

“You know what – I reserve the right to put it back on occasionally,” he says. “But it won’t be on every day… I quite like the colour red.”

Meanwhile Prime Minister John Key takes 10 days off in Hawaii, and refuses to personally apologise to Tania Billingsley – the woman at the centre of the botched Malaysian diplomat case – but instead, it is Mr Cunliffe forced into making multiple apologies.

The scrutiny on his leadership is amplified – because Labour is so far behind.

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So there you have it, even the colour of Cunliffe’s scarf had attracted media attention and criticism.

Gower does admit one thing; “The scrutiny on his leadership is amplified – because Labour is so far behind“. So the scrutiny on Cunliffe’s leadership was not based on policies nor his  pronouncement on policy matters – it was predicated  on “Labour [...] so far behind”.

 In other others; kicking someone when they’re down. Because to bullies, when someone is down, it’s easier to put the boot in. And make no mistake, this is a form of public bullying. When a person is attacked because of the style of their clothing, what else does one call it?

However, it get’s ‘better’. Listen to Gower’s commentary at the end of this TV3 report, on the same day;

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"So David Cunliffe Cunliffe voluntarily makes multiple 'mea culpas' about what can only be described as  pretty minor issues..."
“So David Cunliffe Cunliffe voluntarily makes multiple ‘mea culpas’ about what can only be described as pretty minor issues…”
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“So David Cunliffe Cunliffe voluntarily makes multiple ‘mea culpas’ about what can only be described as pretty minor issues…”

Pretty. Minor. Issues.

Those “pretty minor issues” are the “issues” which TV3, NZ Herald, and other media outlets have been fixated upon for the last few months – and now Gower is criticising Cunliffe for raising those very same issues?!

This is what I call manufactured news. Manufactured news made worse when a political figure is boxed into a corner to address them, thereby validating the synthetic nature of said “news”.

No wonder that Cunliffe said in the same video;

“I am determined that I will be extremely careful about the way I put things going forward…”

Just what the public needs; politicians fearful of  saying plainly and clearly what’s on their minds because they are wary of their remarks being taken out of context; twisted; and  hyper-sensationalised, by an increasingly tabloid-style media in this country.

We have been poorly served by the media which is more interested in ratings and selling advertising rather than reporting events. As matters stand, we may see politicians self-censoring, thereby pressuring political journalists/commentators to generate even more of their own asinine, manufactured ‘stories’, with ever-more lurid headlines.

Fifteen months ago, John Key expressed his frustration at what he perceived as media hounding. He retaliated;

“What I should have done, and what I will be doing in the future, is saying, well, the member needs to put that down to me in writing, and I’ll be doing that to the journalists as well.

‘Cos if you want perfection of everything I have done, two, three, four, five years ago, I will get you all that information for you, but I’ll get you the whole lot and give it to you.”

Perhaps the Labour leader might consider that mainstream media are no longer merely news-gathering and reporting organisations. They are selling advertising to earn revenue to return a dividend to shareholders.

As such, the mainstream media has it’s own agenda and reporting the news is no longer as profitable as it once was. “News” now has to be “packaged” and delivered to “consumers”. The “packaging” is now more important than the content.

Bear that in mind, Mr Cunliffe; you are being “packaged” for media consumers in whatever manner will sell the product (advertising).

My advice to David Cunliffe; refuse to be “packaged”. Develop a strategy for ignoring “pretty minor issues“. Treat the  next smear campaign that rises in the same way that Key treats such matters; with casual disdain.

And give the Gowers and Garners and Henrys of the media circus a simple message; “if you want to talk with me, fine. But if it’s about “holidays” or “scarves” or non-existent $100,000 bottles of wine – don’t expect any co-operation from me when you’re vying for information.  Because I’m just as likely to give it to your competitors instead.”

So stay aloof and don’t buy into being “packaged” by the media.

It seems to work for Key.

Meanwhile, lest we forget this shameful episode…

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from:      Frank Macskasy
to:           NZ Herald <letters@herald.co.nz>
date:      Wed, Jul 23, 2014 at 11:22 PM
subject: Letter to the editor

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The editor*
NZ Herald

 

It is now nearly one month since your editorial, “Cries of bias will not stop reporting”, where the NZ Herald tried – to no avail – to justify it’s campaign of lurid allegations and sensationalised headlines against Labour leader, David Cunliffe.

So where are we now with the Donghua Liu Affair?

Claims of a $100,000 bottle of wine – retracted.

Claims of a $15,000 book – still not proven.

Claims of a Yangtze River boat-trip and $2000 donation to a rowing club – shown to be one businessman’s ineffectual efforts to ‘curry favour’ with then-Minister, Rick Barker. (One doubts that a free feed and two grand donated to a rowing club would “buy” much in the way of favours from a Backbencher, much less a Crown Minister.)

Where does that leave your paper which has promised “further revelations”? Where is the “evidence” promised by the Herald?

And why have Donghua Liu’s “signed statements” still not been made public so we may judge for ourselves as to the value of his claims?

This has been a shameful, sordid episode from the Herald and will be long remembered by many as an example why journalists rank low on surveys of trusted professions – just marginally above used-car salesmen, politicians, telemarketers, and prostitutes (no offence intended to the latter two).

Indeed, the public will have every justification in treating with total scepticism any future story involving David Cunliffe (or any other senior Labour politician).

This has not been the Herald’s finest moment.

-Frank Macskasy

[address and phone number supplied]

 

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* Note: the matter of the Herald’s reporting of the Donghua Liu Affair is now a subject of a Press Council complaint, laid by this blogger, as well as OIA lodgements with the offices of the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, and Minister for Immigration.

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References

Radio NZ: Nine to Noon – Political commentators Matthew Hooton and Mike Williams

NZ Herald: Donghua Liu’s new statement on Labour donations

NZ Herald: John Armstrong: Cunliffe’s resignation may be in order

NZ Herald: David Cunliffe wrote letter supporting Liu’s residency bid

Radio  NZ: Ministers accused of bullying Turei

TV3: David Cunliffe owns up to getting it wrong

Fairfax media: John Key changes tack over questioning

NZ Herald: Cries of bias will not stop reporting

Previous related blogposts

John Key, Minister for Tourism, MIA

The Donghua Liu Affair – Damn lies, dirty tricks, and a docile media

The Donghua Liu Affair threatens to unravel – PM and NZ Herald caught up in a dirty trick campaign?

The Donghua Liu Affair – the impending final act and curtain-fall in this smear-campaign

The Liu Affair: The first step to a complaint to the Press Council

The Donghua Liu Affair: responses from NZ Herald and Prime Minister’s Office – Is the PM’s office fudging?


 

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david cunliffe stood up on the issue of domestic violence

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen/Lurch Left Memes

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 24 July 2014.

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= fs =

The Donghua Liu Affair: responses from NZ Herald and Prime Minister’s Office – Is the PM’s office fudging?

11 July 2014 7 comments

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Dirt Unit

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1. To re-cap

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The Donghua Liu Affair hit  the headlines on 18 June, with allegations that David Cunliffe wrote a letter in 2003,  on  behalf of  business migrant, Donghua Liu.

Four days later, on Sunday 22 June, the Herald ran stories alleging  massive donations to the Labour Party by Liu. Tabloid- style stories of  $100,000 paid for a bottle of wine and $15,000 for a book, along with a $50,000-$60,000 dinner party hosted for then Labour minister, Rick Barker, and a donation to a rowing club, raged for several days.

By Wednesday, on 25 June,  the Herald was forced to retract  Liu’s claims. The “new” story was that Liu’s  “donation” was,

“… close to $100,000 and that is my closing comment in my statement…that is how much I believe I have donated in total to Labour and some of their MPs during their last term in Government.”

The so-called Yangtze River boat “dinner for Rick Barker” turned out to be some sort of staff function that Liu had invited the Labour minister to attend.

Only Liu’s donation – of $2,000 – to the Hawkes Bay Rowing Club, was confirmed.  Considering that any “link” between the NZ Labour Party and Hawkes Bay Rowing Club is tenuous at best (Barker’s daughter was a member of the club), the value of this aspect of the Liu Affair is dubious, to put it mildly.

Cunliffe’s 2003 letter was far from “avocating on Liu’s behalf”. Instead, the 11 April 2003 letter turned out to be a stock-standard inquiry sent to Immigration NZ with the rather banal request ,

“I am aware of the difficulties facing the Business Migration Branch of New Zealand Immigration Services in coping with the overwhelming numbers of applicants that have applied for consideration under these categories and the time taken to verify documents. However it would be very helpful to Mr Liu to be advised of an estimated period of time period [sic] in which he could expect a decision on his case.”

Requesting “an estimated period of time period” seems a stretch to describe it as advocating.

Accordingly, this blogger lodged a formal complaint with the Herald’s editor-in-Chief, and the Office of the Prime Minister.

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2. The NZ Herald – formal complaint & Murphy’s response

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On 28 June, I emailed a formal complaint to Tim Murphy, the Herald’s editor, on how he and his staff  had conducted themselves regarding the Liu Affair;

from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to: Tim Murphy <Tim.Murphy@nzherald.co.nz>
date: Sat, Jun 28, 2014 at 2:28 PM
subject: Formal Complaint to NZ Herald’s stories on Donghua Liu, David Cunliffe, and others
Kia ora Mr Murphy,

Thank you for your response, dated 27 June, which I consider an inadequate response to my earlier email to you

Further to your response to me, you may consider this a formal complaint regarding the nature of your paper’s stories regardiing Donghua Liu, David Cunliffe, and others.

1. On 18 June, your paper published stories relating to a letter written by current Labour MP, David Cunliffe to the Immigration Service, dated 11 April 2003. In several subsequent stories referring to this letter, the Herald omitted any reference to the date on this letter, thereby suggesting to readers that the letter was recently written.

Examples:

Ref: “Donghua Liu’s new statement on Labour donations” – http://www.nzherald.co.nz/politics/news/article.cfm?c_id=280&objectid=11281460

Ref: Liu: $100k not just for wine – http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11281832

Ref: John Armstrong: Cunliffe’s resignation may be in order – http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11276526

Ref: Editorial: Cries of bias will not stop reporting – http://www.nzherald.co.nz/opinion/news/article.cfm?c_id=466&objectid=11282539

Ref: Businessman ‘donated to Governments of both colours’ – http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11278520

The consequence of this omission in several Herald stories is that readers who are unaware of all the facts may be led to the impression that Cunliffe’s letter to Immigration NZ was a more recent event, and therefore not give due weight to his explanation that he was unaware of an eleven year old letter due to the passage of time and thus not recalling the incident.

Therefore, your reporting of this event, and omitting to refer to the letter as a “2003 letter”, is mis-leading by omission of a salient fact.

2. Donghua Liu claims that he paid $15,000 for a book at a Labour Party fundraising event. Liu has not provided a single item of evidence to back up this claim, and the Labour Party states categorically that no such fundraising event has ever taken place on the date that Liu has given.

That has not prevented the Herald from presenting Liu’s claim as a fact, for example on 21 June, where Jared Savage wrote;

“National declared a $22,000 donation in 2012, but Labour found no records of Liu donations after the Herald revealed that he paid $15,000 for a book at an auction fundraiser in 2007.”

Ref: Businessman ‘donated to Governments of both colours’ – http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11278520

The Herald presented an unsubstantiated claim as fact, thereby mis-representing the truth and giving readers an impression that this claim was verified as true.

This was mis-leading reporting of a salient event.

3. Donghua Liu claims that he paid $100,000 for a bottle of wine at a Labour Party fundraising event. Liu has not provided a single item of evidence to back up this claim, and the Labour Party states categorically that no such fundraising event has ever taken place on the date that Liu has given.

That has not prevented the Herald from presenting Liu’s claim as a fact, for example on 22 June, where Bevan Hurley wrote;

“Millionaire businessman Donghua Liu spent more than $150,000 on the previous Labour government, including $100,000 on a bottle of wine signed by former prime minister Helen Clark at a party fundraiser.”

Ref: Businessman gifts $150k to Labour Party – http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11279089

This claim was subsequently amended on 25 June, where Jared Savage wrote;

“Controversial businessman Donghua Liu has issued a new statement to the Herald confirming “close to” $100,000 in total payments to Labour and its MPs – including anonymous donations – but clarifying that the money was not for one bottle of wine.”

Ref: Donghua Liu’s new statement on Labour donations – http://www.nzherald.co.nz/politics/news/article.cfm?c_id=280&objectid=11281460

Between 22 June and 25 June, the Herald has presented Liu’s claims regarding paying $100,000 for a bottle of wine as fact.

But Liu’s claims were not only unsubstantiated claims without evidence, but also Liu did not make a formal affidavit which would have given greater legal standing to his claims.

The Herald chose to base their stories on;

1. one man’s claims,
2. a “signed statement” rather than an affidavit,
3. no evidence,
4. no witnesses.

The Herald presented unsubstantiated claims as fact, thereby mis-representing the truth and giving readers an impression that his claims were verified as true.

4. On 22 June, Bevan Hurley wrote in the NZ Herald that the paper had obtained a copy of Donghua Liu’s “signed statement” which made several claims;

“The embarrassing revelations are contained in a signed statement from Liu, which the Herald on Sunday has obtained.”

Ref: Ref: Businessman gifts $150k to Labour Party – http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11279089

The Herald has not released a verbatim copy of Liu’s “signed statement”, despite making public David Cunliffe’s 2003 letter on 18 June,

Ref: David Cunliffe wrote letter supporting Liu’s residency bid – http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11276510

It is manifestly unfair, unreasonable, and unconscionable that the Herald has not released, in full and verbatim, Liu’s “signed statement” as it did with David Cunliffe’s 2003 letter.

It is unfair because the public have recourse to only one side of the story and access to only one letter, written in 2003, but not the more recent document by Liu.

It is unreasonable, because if the Herald saw fit to quote from Liu’s “signed statement”, then it should publish the entire document, in full and verbatim, so that the public can make their own conclusions on Liu’s claims.

Otherwise, by using only excerpts, the Herald has presented only a restricted version of Liu’s statement.

The lack of full disclosure has led to the Herald presenting mis-information. This was admitted by the paper on 25 June, when Liu changed his story;

Ref: “Donghua Liu’s new statement on Labour donations” – http://www.nzherald.co.nz/politics/news/article.cfm?c_id=280&objectid=11281460

On 27 June, a Herald editorial admitted that it had mis-reprtesented facts based on Liu’s claims;

“We regret having reported inflated and conflated dollar figures.”
Ref: Editorial: Cries of bias will not stop reporting – http://www.nzherald.co.nz/opinion/news/article.cfm?c_id=466&objectid=11282539

It is unconscionable that the Herald refused to publish either Liu’s original “signed statement” or his subsequent “clarification”.

The role of the media is to present information to the public – not to restrict it’s availability.

There are few reasons why a media outlet might not disclose information;

1. Court suppression orders,
2. Where a victim of a crime, or witness, might be harmed or otherwise impacted,
3. Where children are involved.
4. Where information might be defamatory and actionable.

Liu’s “signed statement” does not fit criterias 1, 2, or 3.

Does it fit criteria #4?

If so, and if the document is defamatory and actionable, is that why the Herald chose not to publish it, verbatim?

Herald editor, Tim Murphy, alluded to this in a Radio NZ interview on 23 June.

Ref: New Zealand Herald stands by its story – http://podcast.radionz.co.nz/mnr/mnr-20140623-0732-new_zealand_herald_stands_by_its_story-048.mp3

If Liu’s “signed statement” could not be used because it contained unsubstantiated claims and statements that were potentially defamatory and actionable – why was the document used at all, as a basis upon which to publish a series of stories?

5. On 18 June, the Herald’s chief political commentator, John Armstrong, wrote a column that was highly condemnatory of David Cunliffe, and called for his resignation.

Ref: John Armstrong: Cunliffe’s resignation may be in order – http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11276526

(A) At no time did Armstrong refer to the fact that Cunliffe’s letter to the Immigration Service had been written in 2003. As outlined above, this omission of fact would have mis-lead any reader who was unaware of all facts pertaining to Cunliffe’s 2003 letter.

(B) By omitting the fact that Cunliffe’s letter to Immigration Service was eleven years old, Armstrong was able to arrive at the unreasonable conclusion;

“Either deliberately or through a lapse of memory, Cunliffe has been economical with the truth.”

This was a clear claim that Cunliffe lied.

(C) Armstrong further wrote;

“Unless Cunliffe can come up with a very good explanation, the answer has to be ‘no’.”

That statement ignores the fact that Cunliffe had already explained that the letter was eleven years old and any reasonable person would have understood that such an event would be difficult to recall.

Armstrong’s column, by itself, would amount to very little except an extreme viewpoint of one individual.

But taken in context with the Herald’s subsequent stories, based primarily on Donghua Liu’s “signed statement”, it becomes apparent that the paper has adopted an unfair and biased stance against David Cunliffe.

6. The Herald’s bias was further apparent in it’s reporting of Donghua Liu’s claims that he spent thousands of dollars on a social event for visiting Labour MP, Rick Barker. As Bervan Hurley wrote on 22 June;

“• That he spent $50-60,000 hosting then-labour minister Rick Barker on a cruise on the Yangtze River in China in 2007; and

• That Liu visited Barker in Hawke’s Bay in 2006, having dinner with him at an exclusive lodge and then meeting for breakfast the next morning. Liu said he made a donation to Hawke’s Bay Rowing, which Barker was associated with.”
Ref: Businessman gifts $150k to Labour Party – http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11279089

It has transpired that Liu’s Yangtze river boat social event was a staff party for his employees;

“”I went to China to catch up with some friends of mine, see some sights … and I made a side trip to Chongqing – I had not been to the city before.

“I was in the city a short time. Mr Liu showed me his business and that night, I attended a dinner which seemed to be a dinner he had put on for all his staff.”

Ref: Photograph shows Liu-Labour link – http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11276071

Regarding Donghua Liu’s $2,000 donation to the Hawke’s Bay Rowing Club – which has thus far been the only claim by Liu to be substantiated – in what way is a donation from a private individual to a club evidence of wrong-doing by Rick Barker?

This incident and subsequent Herald reporting appears to be an exercise in guilt-by association or guilt-by-innuendo.

There is no evidence or claim by Liu that Barker prompted the migrant businessman to make the donation.

If Liu made the donation to “impress” Mr Barker, how can that be laid at the feet of the then-Labour MP?

Why has the Herald seen fit to spin Liu’s donation to the rowing club as somehow attributable to Rick Barker and the Labour Party?

If Liu’s donation to the rowing club in 2006 was designed to “curry favour” with the then-Labour government, it should be noted that Liu had already been granted residency two years before, in 2004 (http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/10172715/David-Cunliffe-advocated-for-Donghua-Liu).

This was mis-leading, slanted reporting of a minor event.

7. In conclusion, I maintain the folllowing;

(a) the Herald has relied on the unsubstantiated claims of one man, that he made various donations to the Labour Party. These donations originally amounted to $150,000 on 22 June (http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11279089) but were later wound back to $38,000 on 27 June (http://www.nzherald.co.nz/opinion/news/article.cfm?c_id=466&objectid=11282539).

(b) the Herald has relied on a “signed statement”, rather than a legally binding affidavit.

(c) the Herald has had to change it’s story after Liu provided a “clarification” on 27 June.

(d) the Herald has not published either Liu’s original “signed statement” nor the subsequent “clarification”.

(e) the Herald does not appear to have conducted any investigation as to Liu’s motivation for making his “signed statement”, which was signed two days after Maurice Williamson was forced to resign after his involvement with Liu was made public.

(f) Unsubstantiated claims were presented as facts.

(g) the Herald has not apologised for promoting claims of a “$100,000 bottle of wine” or “$15,000 book” – subsequently admitted by Liu to be incorrect.

(h) the Herald has mis-represented Rick Barker’s invitation to Liu’s river boat party.

(i) the Herald has mis-represented Liu’s donation to a boating club and unfairly linked it to Rick Barker.

(j) the Herald’s series of stories since 18 June has been biased against David Cunliffe, Rick Barker, and the Labour Party by distorted reporting and by improper emphasis.

(k) Reporting of Liu’s claims has not been factually based nor verified, prior to publication.

(l) The Herald’s stories since 18 June have been harmfully inaccurate, as outlined above.

(m) By not publishing, in full and verbatim, Liu’s “signed statement” and subsequent “clarification”, the Herald has not disclosed all essential facts and has suppressed relevant, available facts.

I await your response and your remedies (if any), to the issues I have raised.
Regards,

-Frank Macskasy

Mr Murphy replied within the required ten (working) days outlined by the Press Council for such formal matters. His response,

from: Tim Murphy <Tim.Murphy@nzherald.co.nz>
to: “fmacskasy@gmail.com” <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
date: Fri, Jul 4, 2014 at 10:45 AM
subject: FW: Formal Complaint to NZ Herald’s stories on Donghua Liu, David Cunliffe, and others
mailed-by: nzherald.co.nz

Dear Mr Macskasy

Thank you for your follow up email below.

1. The date of the letter was prominently publicised at the time we broke the story and indeed we published the letter online. The residency application by Liu was in the mid-2000s and that was referenced numerous times in our coverage. We do not list all dates and facts in all subsequent references.

2. We stand by our report that a book was purchased and expect further ‘evidence’ of this to be made public shortly.

3. It is clear that the $100,000 for a bottle of wine was misreported, and was corrected as soon as further information became available from Liu. We clarified this on all our channels and in the subsequent Herald on Sunday and explained the error in an editorial in the New Zealand Herald.

4. We do not automatically make public documents which we obtain as part of ongoing journalistic inquiries. There are many reasons for this, including the conditions upon which they were obtained from whatever source and the need for us to pursue further matters contained within. While there seems to be an expectation that journalistic inquiry must be ‘open source’ this ignores these conditions and also the competitive nature of news gathering. The Cunliffe letter was obtained under the Official Information Act and was released to all media, so is thus automatically a public document.

5. You seem to have accepted without question MP Rick Barker’s claim he attended only a staff party in China. We do not accept this and expect further details of the hospitality for him and others in China to be revealed in due course.

6. It would be wilfully naïve to assume that the donation to the rowing club associated with an MP, the day after that MP has hosted Liu in the region, is unconnected to that MP. The donation was made and Liu made it with the intent of it being in favour of the MP.

In general, the Herald has been inquiring into Liu since late last year and reporting on his donations and immigration procedures and links with political parties since March. The issues raised regarding donations to Labour did not solely emerge from the signed statement but were established some time prior. The signed statement from Liu was used because it confirmed (albeit with inflated and conflated figures) matters which had already been becoming apparent to our inquiry.

We fully expect further details to come will show the Herald’s earlier reporting to have, as we have known throughout, been accurate and soundly based.

Yours sincerely

Tim Murphy

Editor-in-chief, Herald titles

I do not consider Murphy’s response to be adequate, and accordingly  filed a formal complaint to the Press Council on 5 July. The text of my complaint is substantially the same as my 28 June email to Tim Murphy (see above).

The complaint is based on two  Principles Breached;

1. Accuracy, Fairness and Balance
[...]
4. Comment and Fact

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3. Office of the Prime Minister – OIA Request; PM’s response; and Clarification sought

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On 19 and 26 June, I lodged a formal OIA request with the Office of the Prime Minister;

from:     Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to:          John Key <john.key@parliament.govt.nz>
date:      Thu, Jun 26, 2014 at 1:06 PM
subject: OIA Request – Reminder!

Kia ora Mr Key,

On 19 June – now one week ago – I lodged an OIA request with you and your office.

My request was as follows,

Kia ora Mr Key.

This is a request lodged under the Official Information Act.

Please provide me with copies of all correspondence, minutes, notes, reports, and any other written or otherwise recording, relating to any and all activities surrounding the procurement; storage; and planned circumstances of the release of the letter between David Cunliffe and Donghua Liu dated 11 April 2003.

This includes a request for all communications relating to the letter between David Cunliffe and Donghua Liu dated 11 April 2003, which may have occurred between yourself; any and all staffmembers in your office; any member of the National Party; any blogger; any media person; and any other group or individual who was contacted on this issue.

Information may be emailed to me, or, if the file is too large, I can supply a postal address for hard copies.

Regards,

-Frank Macskasy

Blogger

Since then, I have not received any acknowledgement to my lodged application and require you to do so, under the Act.

If I do not receive acknowledgement to my request, I will have no option but to pursue the matter with the Office of the Ombudsman.

Regards,

-Frank Macskasy

I received acknowledgement of my OIA request on 26 June, and a formal response on 3 July, signed by Chief of Staff, Wayne Eagleson;

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3 july 2014 - wayne eagleson - donghua liu - prime minister's office - OIA request

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I considered Mr Eagleson’s response to my OIA request also to be inadequate. Accordingly, I wrote back;

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from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to: Sarah Boyle <Sarah.Boyle@parliament.govt.nz>
cc: Wayne Eagleson <Wayne.Eagleson@parliament.govt.nz>
date: Sat, Jul 5, 2014 at 11:34 AM
subject: Re: Response to your request of 19 June
Kia ora Ms Boyle,

Thank you for replying promptly to my OIA request on the Donghua Liu Affair and your office’s involvement in the matter.

I find it highly surprising that, according to Mr Eagleson’s letter (dated 3 July), that “no correspondence has been sent or received regarding this matter , and no minutes, notes, reports or otherwise have been produced on the matter”.

It seems unlikely that the Liu Affair has not been mentioned in even one email?

What correspondence was sent to the Prime Minister around 18 June, when he was in the United States?

Surely the Prime Minister’s office was in touch with him when the Liu Affair went public in the NZ Herald around 18 June?

So how can there be no emails, “minutes, notes, reports or otherwise” between the Prime Minister and your office?

Mr Eagleson’s assertion simply does not seem credible.

I await clarification before proceeding with this matter to the Ombudsman’s Office.

Regards,
Frank Macskasy

Further to that email, I wrote a follow-up to Ms Boyle and Mr Eagleson,

…it is my understanding that the Parliamentary system relating to received documents involve date-stamping hard copies of any and all documents received by an MP’s office, before being filed or passed on.

Therefore, you should have a hard copy of David Cunliffe’s letter with a date-stamp imprinted on it.

In which case, why did Mr Eagleson  state “to the best recollection of events a copy of the letter was received by a member of staff from this office on or around 26 May 2014 from the Office of the Minister of Immigration”?

A date stamped hard-copy would be evidence of the date it was received by a staffer, and not have to rely on solely on memory or ” best recollection of events”, as Mr Eagleson wrote.

If the 2003 Cunliffe letter was sent by email, then that document should still be in your system and accordingly still falls within my request to  “provide me with copies of all correspondence”.

Regardless of whether or not the 2003 letter by David Cunliffe was received by electronic means or by hard copy by your Office, it still falls  within my request to  “provide me with copies of all correspondence”.
 
Further from Mr Eagleson,
“I  can confirm that this office on the weekend of 10/11 May was advised about the existence of a letter from David Cunliffe to Immigration New Zealand (INZ) regarding Mr Liu dated 11 April 2003.”
How has Mr Eagleson arrived at the firm date of 10/11 May as to  when the PM’s Office was “advised about the existence of a letter from David Cunliffe to Immigration New Zealand”? The specific date indicates that a record of the receipt of the 2003 letter has been kept.In which case, that record is part of my request, to  ” provide me with copies of all correspondence, minutes, notes, reports, and any other written or otherwise recording”.
Mr Eagleson also wrote;
“The Prime Minister would have been advised about the existence of the letter prior to it’s release under the Official Information ACT by INZ.”
That statement infers that the Prime Minister was briefed on this matter.
Which further infers that the briefing took place using notes or a written agenda for a scheduled briefing session or meeting between Mr Eagleson and the Prime Minister.Again, this falls within the scope of my OIA request, to  ” provide me with copies of all correspondence, minutes, notes, reports, and any other written or otherwise recording”.
I await further clarification on these points, before proceeding to the Ombudsman’s Office.
Regards,

Frank Macskasy

 

Having spent a brief time working in the Alliance Parliamentary Office in the 1990s, I have an understanding of the protocols of  correspondence  in  MPs’ offices. Therefore, Wayne Eagleson’s 3 July letter makes no sense and is notable more for it’s omissions than facts. Parliamentary staffers simply do not rely on memory as to when correspondence and other documents are received.

It seems that there is yet more to this story than has been made public.

 

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References

NZ Herald: David Cunliffe wrote letter supporting Liu’s residency bid

NZ Herald: Donghua Liu’s new statement on Labour donations

Previous related blogposts

The Donghua Liu Affair – Damn lies, dirty tricks, and a docile media

The Donghua Liu Affair threatens to unravel – PM and NZ Herald caught up in a dirty trick campaign?

The Donghua Liu Affair – the impending final act and curtain-fall in this smear-campaign

The Donghua Liu Affair: The first step to a complaint to the Press Council

References sites*

NZ Press Council – Complaints Procedure

EPMU – Journalist Code of Ethics

* Hat-tip – Zetetic

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Vote and be the change

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen/Lurch Left Memes

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 6 July 2014.

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= fs =

The Great Worldwide Treasure Hunt – NZ Herald style…

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The craze/phenomenon  of treasure hunts in major cities around the world has finally reached New Zealand;

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Worldwide treasure hunt for hidden $100 notes comes to Auckland

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The New Zealand Herald has decided on a similar “treasure hunt”, as publicity to re-build it’s somewhat tarnished image and reputation from the last couple of weeks. The editor, Tim Murphy as announced a Herald-style treasure hunt, with prizes secreted around the city.

Solve the clues, and you could win a magnificent prize, courtesy of the Herald… [scroll down]

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Your very own copy of;

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portrait of a prime minister

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Start the hunt early and avoid the rush!

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References

NZ Herald: Worldwide treasure hunt for hidden $100 notes comes to Auckland


 

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Vote and be the change

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen/Lurch Left Memes

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 28 June 2014.

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= fs =

The Liu Affair: The first step to a complaint to the Press Council.

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old-paper-with-quill-pen-vector_34-14879

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Following the completion of my previous story on the Liu Affair (published next day in The Daily Blog) , I wrote to the Herald editor, Tim Murphy;

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from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to: Tim Murphy <editor@herald.co.nz>
date: Thu, Jun 26, 2014 at 10:34 PM
subject: The Donghua Liu Affair & Consequence

 

Tim Murphy
Editor,
The New Zealand Herald

 

Kia ora Mr Murphy,

After recent revelations, it has become patently obvious and apparent to all that Mr Donghua Liu is no longer a credible witness to any alleged wrong-doing or alleged inappropriate behaviour by David Cunliffe, Rick Barker, or the NZ Labour Party.

Mr Liu has;

1. Failed to provide evidence for his allegations of hefty donations to the Labour Party. The closest he has come has been a $2,000 cheque he gave to the Hawke’s Bay Rowing Club, on his own volition.

2. Mis-represented Rick Barker’s invitation and attendance at a staff party, on a river-boat, in China.

3. Made no verifiable Affidavit, and provided only a “signed statement”.

4. Issued a second statement on 25 June, changing his initial allegations.

5. Offered no evidence for his second, 25 June, “signed statement”.

Since 18 June, when your reporter, Jared Savage, broke this story in a piece entitled “David Cunliffe wrote letter supporting Liu’s residency bid”, the Herald has;

* published unsubstantiated allegations;

* failed to provide subsequent evidence to back up those allegations;

* published stories damaging to the reputations of David Cunliffe and Rick Barker;

* published allegations damaging to the Labour Party (during an election year!);

* published a column calling for David Cunliffe to resign (“John Armstrong: Cunliffe’s resignation may be in order”), based on incomplete information, and omitting a crititical fact, namely that Cunliffe’s letter to NZ Immigration had been written in 2003, and was a legitimate reason why the MP may have forgotten the letter;

* resisted calls to publish, verbatim, Mr Liu’s first signed statement, or his subsequent version, thereby acting as a gate-keeper/censor of information that the public had a right to see;

* resisted calls to publish, verbatim, Mr Liu’s first signed statement, or his subsequent version, despite having no hesitation in publishing David Cunliffe’s 2003 letter to NZ Immigration (“David Cunliffe wrote letter supporting Liu’s residency bid”)

* made little or no discernible attempt to investigate the background to Liu’s allegations; his motives; and who else might have been involved.

Under your watch, the tenor of stories relating to the Cunliffe-Liu issue has been one-sided and predicated on baseless allegations.

This has been a tabloid-style, highly-emotive, unjustified witch-hunt which collapsed only because Donghua Liu’s story changed and it became apparent he was no longer a credible witness.

The Liu Affair has seriously damaged your paper’s reputation and also further eroded public confidence in the ability of the Fourth Estate to report fairly, accurately, and without bias.

Accordingly, I submitthat it behoves you to put this matter right. I therefore call upon you;

1. The NZ Herald should immediately publish a full page apology on the front page of your paper.

2. It may also be appropriate for you to re-consider your position and decide whether your role as the Herald’s editor is now tenable after this shameful fiasco.

3. On 18 June, in a highly biased, unreasonable column, John Armstrong called for David Cullen’s resignation, (“John Armstrong: Cunliffe’s resignation may be in order”). I submit that Mr Armstrong’s own position as a senior Herald staffer is no longer tenable and must take his own advice and resign.

These three steps are the basis upon which the New Zealand Herald can regain it’s reputation that has been severely dented since 18 June.

Regards,

- Frank Macskasy

 

Note: this letter will be made public on “The Daily Blog”, and subsequently, on “Frankly Speaking” (my own personal blog). Any response you care to make will also be disclosed and made public.

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Tim Murphy duly responded the following day;

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from: Tim Murphy <Tim.Murphy@nzherald.co.nz>
to: “fmacskasy@gmail.com” <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
date: Fri, Jun 27, 2014 at 7:57 AM
subject: FW: The Donghua Liu Affair & Consequence
mailed-by: nzherald.co.nz
Dear Frank Macskasy

 

Thank you for your email below and your public complaint against the Herald.

Many of your opinions below are dealt with by today’s Herald editorial, which I attach: http://www.nzherald.co.nz/opinion/news/article.cfm?c_id=466&objectid=11282539

As to your comments about John Armstrong – his opinion was responding to the revelation of evidence that a party leader had done what he had one day earlier denied doing. It was an entirely valid column. It did, of course, (consistent with the gentle approach you have taken below in regard to both John and my roles), suggest it may be in order for David Cunliffe to resign, rather than demand his resignation.

On the signed statement: There seems to be an unusual expectation being aired that inquiry journalism has now become a field in which all documents obtained are made public – a kind of open source investigative process. This, while superficially seductive, cannot always be the case in the pursuit of serious and ongoing journalistic investigations relying on confidences and respecting sourcing and legal sensitivities. Where officially available documents like David Cunliffe’s letter hurrying up the Immigration Service on behalf of Donghua Liu are released to us and to others it is obvious that they can be published in raw form.

We have, as the editorial points out, published stories inconvenient to both the National and Labour parties over the Donghua Liu donations and grants of residency and citizenship. And yes, in an election year! It is even more important at this time that issues of public interest are covered fully.

We are continuing to investigate the payments from Donghua Liu and the circumstances of his various migration approvals.

Thank you again for the email and we have no worries about your note or this response being published on your outlet of choice.

Yours sincerely

 

Tim Murphy

Editor-in-chief, Herald titles

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I was not satisfied with Mr Murphy’s response, and responded with a formal complaint;

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from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to: Tim Murphy <Tim.Murphy@nzherald.co.nz>
date: Sat, Jun 28, 2014 at 2:28 PM
subject: Formal Complaint to NZ Herald’s stories on Donghua Liu, David Cunliffe, and others
Kia ora Mr Murphy,

Thank you for your response, dated 27 June, which I consider an inadequate response to my earlier email to you

Further to your response to me, you may consider this a formal complaint regarding the nature of your paper’s stories regardiing Donghua Liu, David Cunliffe, and others.

1. On 18 June, your paper published stories relating to a letter written by current Labour MP, David Cunliffe to the Immigration Service, dated 11 April 2003. In several subsequent stories referring to this letter, the Herald omitted any reference to the date on this letter, thereby suggesting to readers that the letter was recently written.

Examples:

Ref: “Donghua Liu’s new statement on Labour donations” – http://www.nzherald.co.nz/politics/news/article.cfm?c_id=280&objectid=11281460

Ref: Liu: $100k not just for wine – http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11281832

Ref: John Armstrong: Cunliffe’s resignation may be in order – http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11276526

Ref: Editorial: Cries of bias will not stop reporting – http://www.nzherald.co.nz/opinion/news/article.cfm?c_id=466&objectid=11282539

Ref: Businessman ‘donated to Governments of both colours’ – http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11278520

The consequence of this omission in several Herald stories is that readers who are unaware of all the facts may be led to the impression that Cunliffe’s letter to Immigration NZ was a more recent event, and therefore not give due weight to his explanation that he was unaware of an eleven year old letter due to the passage of time and thus not recalling the incident.

Therefore, your reporting of this event, and omitting to refer to the letter as a “2003 letter”, is mis-leading by omission of a salient fact.

2. Donghua Liu claims that he paid $15,000 for a book at a Labour Party fundraising event. Liu has not provided a single item of evidence to back up this claim, and the Labour Party states categorically that no such fundraising event has ever taken place on the date that Liu has given.

That has not prevented the Herald from presenting Liu’s claim as a fact, for example on 21 June, where Jared Savage wrote;

“National declared a $22,000 donation in 2012, but Labour found no records of Liu donations after the Herald revealed that he paid $15,000 for a book at an auction fundraiser in 2007.”

Ref: Businessman ‘donated to Governments of both colours’ – http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11278520

The Herald presented an unsubstantiated claim as fact, thereby mis-representing the truth and giving readers an impression that this claim was verified as true.

This was mis-leading reporting of a salient event.

3. Donghua Liu claims that he paid $100,000 for a bottle of wine at a Labour Party fundraising event. Liu has not provided a single item of evidence to back up this claim, and the Labour Party states categorically that no such fundraising event has ever taken place on the date that Liu has given.

That has not prevented the Herald from presenting Liu’s claim as a fact, for example on 22 June, where Bevan Hurley wrote;

“Millionaire businessman Donghua Liu spent more than $150,000 on the previous Labour government, including $100,000 on a bottle of wine signed by former prime minister Helen Clark at a party fundraiser.”

Ref: Businessman gifts $150k to Labour Party – http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11279089

This claim was subsequently amended on 25 June, where Jared Savage wrote;

“Controversial businessman Donghua Liu has issued a new statement to the Herald confirming “close to” $100,000 in total payments to Labour and its MPs – including anonymous donations – but clarifying that the money was not for one bottle of wine.”

Ref: Donghua Liu’s new statement on Labour donations – http://www.nzherald.co.nz/politics/news/article.cfm?c_id=280&objectid=11281460

Between 22 June and 25 June, the Herald has presented Liu’s claims regarding paying $100,000 for a bottle of wine as fact.

But Liu’s claims were not only unsubstantiated claims without evidence, but also Liu did not make a formal affidavit which would have given greater legal standing to his claims.

The Herald chose to base their stories on;

1. one man’s claims,
2. a “signed statement” rather than an affidavit,
3. no evidence,
4. no witnesses.

The Herald presented unsubstantiated claims as fact, thereby mis-representing the truth and giving readers an impression that his claims were verified as true.

4. On 22 June, Bevan Hurley wrote in the NZ Herald that the paper had obtained a copy of Donghua Liu’s “signed statement” which made several claims;

“The embarrassing revelations are contained in a signed statement from Liu, which the Herald on Sunday has obtained.”

Ref: Ref: Businessman gifts $150k to Labour Party – http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11279089

The Herald has not released a verbatim copy of Liu’s “signed statement”, despite making public David Cunliffe’s 2003 letter on 18 June,

Ref: David Cunliffe wrote letter supporting Liu’s residency bid – http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11276510

It is manifestly unfair, unreasonable, and unconscionable that the Herald has not released, in full and verbatim, Liu’s “signed statement” as it did with David Cunliffe’s 2003 letter.

It is unfair because the public have recourse to only one side of the story and access to only one letter, written in 2003, but not the more recent document by Liu.

It is unreasonable, because if the Herald saw fit to quote from Liu’s “signed statement”, then it should publish the entire document, in full and verbatim, so that the public can make their own conclusions on Liu’s claims.

Otherwise, by using only excerpts, the Herald has presented only a restricted version of Liu’s statement.

The lack of full disclosure has led to the Herald presenting mis-information. This was admitted by the paper on 25 June, when Liu changed his story;

Ref: “Donghua Liu’s new statement on Labour donations” – http://www.nzherald.co.nz/politics/news/article.cfm?c_id=280&objectid=11281460

On 27 June, a Herald editorial admitted that it had mis-reprtesented facts based on Liu’s claims;

“We regret having reported inflated and conflated dollar figures.”
Ref: Editorial: Cries of bias will not stop reporting – http://www.nzherald.co.nz/opinion/news/article.cfm?c_id=466&objectid=11282539

It is unconscionable that the Herald refused to publish either Liu’s original “signed statement” or his subsequent “clarification”.

The role of the media is to present information to the public – not to restrict it’s availability.

There are few reasons why a media outlet might not disclose information;

1. Court suppression orders,
2. Where a victim of a crime, or witness, might be harmed or otherwise impacted,
3. Where children are involved.
4. Where information might be defamatory and actionable.

Liu’s “signed statement” does not fit criterias 1, 2, or 3.

Does it fit criteria #4?

If so, and if the document is defamatory and actionable, is that why the Herald chose not to publish it, verbatim?

Herald editor, Tim Murphy, alluded to this in a Radio NZ interview on 23 June.

Ref: New Zealand Herald stands by its story – http://podcast.radionz.co.nz/mnr/mnr-20140623-0732-new_zealand_herald_stands_by_its_story-048.mp3

If Liu’s “signed statement” could not be used because it contained unsubstantiated claims and statements that were potentially defamatory and actionable – why was the document used at all, as a basis upon which to publish a series of stories?

5. On 18 June, the Herald’s chief political commentator, John Armstrong, wrote a column that was highly condemnatory of David Cunliffe, and called for his resignation.

Ref: John Armstrong: Cunliffe’s resignation may be in order – http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11276526

(A) At no time did Armstrong refer to the fact that Cunliffe’s letter to the Immigration Service had been written in 2003. As outlined above, this omission of fact would have mis-lead any reader who was unaware of all facts pertaining to Cunliffe’s 2003 letter.

(B) By omitting the fact that Cunliffe’s letter to Immigration Service was eleven years old, Armstrong was able to arrive at the unreasonable conclusion;

“Either deliberately or through a lapse of memory, Cunliffe has been economical with the truth.”

This was a clear claim that Cunliffe lied.

(C) Armstrong further wrote;

“Unless Cunliffe can come up with a very good explanation, the answer has to be ‘no’.”

That statement ignores the fact that Cunliffe had already explained that the letter was eleven years old and any reasonable person would have understood that such an event would be difficult to recall.

Armstrong’s column, by itself, would amount to very little except an extreme viewpoint of one individual.

But taken in context with the Herald’s subsequent stories, based primarily on Donghua Liu’s “signed statement”, it becomes apparent that the paper has adopted an unfair and biased stance against David Cunliffe.

6. The Herald’s bias was further apparent in it’s reporting of Donghua Liu’s claims that he spent thousands of dollars on a social event for visiting Labour MP, Rick Barker. As Bervan Hurley wrote on 22 June;

“• That he spent $50-60,000 hosting then-labour minister Rick Barker on a cruise on the Yangtze River in China in 2007; and

• That Liu visited Barker in Hawke’s Bay in 2006, having dinner with him at an exclusive lodge and then meeting for breakfast the next morning. Liu said he made a donation to Hawke’s Bay Rowing, which Barker was associated with.”
Ref: Businessman gifts $150k to Labour Party – http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11279089

It has transpired that Liu’s Yangtze river boat social event was a staff party for his employees;

“”I went to China to catch up with some friends of mine, see some sights … and I made a side trip to Chongqing – I had not been to the city before.

“I was in the city a short time. Mr Liu showed me his business and that night, I attended a dinner which seemed to be a dinner he had put on for all his staff.”

Ref: Photograph shows Liu-Labour link – http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11276071

Regarding Donghua Liu’s $2,000 donation to the Hawke’s Bay Rowing Club – which has thus far been the only claim by Liu to be substantiated – in what way is a donation from a private individual to a club evidence of wrong-doing by Rick Barker?

This incident and subsequent Herald reporting appears to be an exercise in guilt-by association or guilt-by-innuendo.

There is no evidence or claim by Liu that Barker prompted the migrant businessman to make the donation.

If Liu made the donation to “impress” Mr Barker, how can that be laid at the feet of the then-Labour MP?

Why has the Herald seen fit to spin Liu’s donation to the rowing club as somehow attributable to Rick Barker and the Labour Party?

If Liu’s donation to the rowing club in 2006 was designed to “curry favour” with the then-Labour government, it should be noted that Liu had already been granted residency two years before, in 2004 (http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/10172715/David-Cunliffe-advocated-for-Donghua-Liu).

This was mis-leading, slanted reporting of a minor event.

7. In conclusion, I maintain the folllowing;

(a) the Herald has relied on the unsubstantiated claims of one man, that he made various donations to the Labour Party. These donations originally amounted to $150,000 on 22 June (http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11279089) but were later wound back to $38,000 on 27 June (http://www.nzherald.co.nz/opinion/news/article.cfm?c_id=466&objectid=11282539).

(b) the Herald has relied on a “signed statement”, rather than a legally binding affidavit.

(c) the Herald has had to change it’s story after Liu provided a “clarification” on 27 June.

(d) the Herald has not published either Liu’s original “signed statement” nor the subsequent “clarification”.

(e) the Herald does not appear to have conducted any investigation as to Liu’s motivation for making his “signed statement”, which was signed two days after Maurice Williamson was forced to resign after his involvement with Liu was made public.

(f) Unsubstantiated claims were presented as facts.

(g) the Herald has not apologised for promoting claims of a “$100,000 bottle of wine” or “$15,000 book” – subsequently admitted by Liu to be incorrect.

(h) the Herald has mis-represented Rick Barker’s invitation to Liu’s river boat party.

(i) the Herald has mis-represented Liu’s donation to a boating club and unfairly linked it to Rick Barker.

(j) the Herald’s series of stories since 18 June has been biased against David Cunliffe, Rick Barker, and the Labour Party by distorted reporting and by improper emphasis.

(k) Reporting of Liu’s claims has not been factually based nor verified, prior to publication.

(l) The Herald’s stories since 18 June have been harmfully inaccurate, as outlined above.

(m) By not publishing, in full and verbatim, Liu’s “signed statement” and subsequent “clarification”, the Herald has not disclosed all essential facts and has suppressed relevant, available facts.

I await your response and your remedies (if any), to the issues I have raised.
Regards,

-Frank Macskasy

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Next step, the NZ Press Council.

Note: Anyone wishing to follow suit with a formal complaint need not write a ‘novel’-length piece like I have. A formal complaint can be a few paragraphs, focusing on simply one or two points.

Information on how to proceed is given below, under “Reference sites”.

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Previous related blogposts

The Donghua Liu timeline – Damn lies, dirty tricks, and a docile media

The Donghua Liu Affair threatens to unravel – PM and NZ Herald caught up in a dirty trick campaign?

The Donghua Liu Affair – the impending final act and curtain-fall in this smear-campaign

Other blogs

The Standard: Take action against the Herald’s lies

References sites*

NZ Press Council – Complaints Procedure

EPMU – Journalist Code of Ethics

* Hat-tip – Zetetic

 


 

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Skipping voting is not rebellion its surrender

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen/Lurch Left Memes

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 29 June 2014.

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The Donghua Liu Affair – the impending final act and curtain-fall in this smear-campaign

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Heraldmobile

 

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Preface

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As the the final acts  in the smear campaign that was the Donghua Liu Affair are about to unfold, and the curtain soon to fall, it is worthwhile re-assessing what has occurred; what has been learned; and the fall-out for certain individuals.

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1. The NZ Herald

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The NZ Herald does not emerge from this Affair very well.

From 18 June, when Cunliffe’s eleven year old letter was “discovered” and made public; to 21 June, when Donghua Liu’s first “signed statement” was reported by the Herald; to 25 June, when the Herald released a “new statement” from Liu – this has been either a cock-up of colossal proportions, or self-serving connivance,  in a carefully orchestrated smear campaign.

Where does one start to unravel the mess that the Herald and some of it’s staff and editor have created?

  • The sensationalist headlines that were splashed across the paper with damaging allegations, with no evidence, and based purely on one man’s “signed statement” was trash “journalism” at it’s worst.

Businessman gifts $150k to Labour Party

Liu’s $100k wine news to Rick Barker

Labour looks in serious disarray

Labour must cling to the wreckage

Oh David – it’s come down to a question of trust

Cunliffe’s denial has done party no favours

Cunliffe working 9 to 5 to save his job

Poisoned chalice may be leader’s saviour

etc, etc, et-bloody-cetera…

  • Liu’s “signed statement” was not even in the nature of an affidavit – the latter carrying more legal weight under the Evidence Act 2006. Which means that Liu could make any wild claim he fancied, with minimal repercussions. (Not unless someone with deep pockets, and plenty of time, bothers to take a defamation case against the trouble-prone migrant businessman.)

This should have made the Herald and it’s supposedly professional, experienced staff of journalists and columnists, more cautious.

Instead we read outrageous claims of a “$100,000 bottle of wine” (or “four bottles of wine” depending on which account you read); “$15,000 books”, and “$60,000 dinners on the Yangtze River” – all without a jot of evidence or witnesses. (The Yangtze boat trip/party turned out to be a staff party that then-Labour minister, Rick Barker, had been invited to attend.)

In short, we witnessed  an appalling standard of sloppy “journalism” and “trial by media” based on no evidence, and judged guilty-by-innuendo.

  • This shameful style of media reporting was made worse by the likes of Jared Savage who wrote uncritical pieces on this story, repeating in a parrot-like fashion any fanciful claim that Liu could come up with. When only one of Liu’s claims was substantiated – his $2,000 donation to a boating club – it was trumpeted as “proof” that all of Liu’s claims had been confirmed,

“The confirmation comes after Labour has denied other allegations in the signed statement from Liu, including the claim he paid “close to $100,000″ for wine at fundraising auctions.”

Rick Barker had his own views on the rowing club donation, which seemed a whole lot more credible than Liu’s “$100,000 bottle of wine”. (‘Cold Duck’ anyone?)

  •  Or  Herald Editor, Tim Murphy, on Radio NZ’s “Morning Report“  on 23 June, where he was evasive in his answers and gave no explanation as to why Liu’s “signed statement” had not been published verbatim. Murphy said on the interview that he  stood by the Liu story, confidently asserting;

“Well, what’s not to stand by?”

We now know that Liu’s claims were either misleading, fanciful, or over-exaggerated and most likely, defamatory.

That is the most likely reason why the Herald did not publish, verbatim, Liu’s “signed statement” It would have made them a party to a defamation lawsuit.

  • But perhaps the worst offender was Herald Columnist, John Armstrong, who on 18 June, penned one of the most scurrilous pieces of “journalistic” rubbish  in recent media  history. Armstrong’s piece was written on the same day that the Herald published Cunliffe’s eleven year old letter to Immigration NZ. Amazingly, as Armstrong vilified Cunliffe for “a lapse of memory”, and demanded his resignation as Labour leader – he omitted to mentioned that the letter had been written some eleven years ago.

Armstrong’s piece was written and published at 1pm on 18 June – one hour twentynine minutes before Jared Savage broke the story detailing Cunliffe’s 2003 letter to Immigration NZ, on behalf of Donghua Liu.

Which suggests Armstrong’s haste and eagerness  in putting the journalistic ‘knife’ between Cunliffe’s ribs.

It was not until three days later that the Herald’s other right-leaning columnist, Fran O’Sullivan, attempted to inject some degree of sanity into her colleagues with her more thoughtful, restrained  opinion piece on 21 June,

Memo: David Cunliffe. Don’t let your political enemies (that includes your frenemies) push you out of the Labour leadership ahead of the election.

[...]

There is already a media-fuelled expectation that Cunliffe should either step down or be rolled so that Labour’s fourth leader in one parliamentary term can lead the party into the September 20 election.

This would leave precious little time for a replacement – be it Grant Robertson or Andrew Little – to bed their own leadership in place before going head-to-head with Key in the election campaign. It would almost certainly result in electoral defeat.

Similarly, the resignation calls Cunliffe faced after the Herald broke the story that the Labour leader had signed off a letter on behalf of Liu bordered on risible.

That letter was clearly a pro forma note written by his staffers. There was no element of special pleading. It’s no wonder he had forgotten it. It should not have sparked a Gotcha call from political journalists.

Well, I’m not so charitable.

The behaviour of the Herald (with some notable exceptions) has been nothing short of disgraceful. It has with-held information from the public. It has published defamatory claims from a vengeful businessman with no evidence to support his claims regarding Labour (rowing boat club aside). It has engaged in tabloid-style, “gotcha” political-journalism. It has demonstrated  a particularly virulent style of biased, partisan reporting.   It has not undertaken the most basic journalistic  requirements of confirming a story before going public. It has not bothered to investigate (as far as anyone can tell) who was behind Liu’s claims and why. It has abused it’s position as a major media organisation, with it’s considerable influence in New Zealand society.

As such, to take a page from John Armstrong’s 18 June opinion piece, I  issue the following;

Tim Murphy

Tim Murphy must apologise to David Cunliffe and to the NZ Labour Party promptly,  fully, and unreservedly. That apology should be placed on the front page of the Herald. It  is the very least that he should do as a matter of justice.

After which, Mr Murphy should re-consider his own position and decide whether  his role as the Herald’s editor is now tenable after this shameful fiasco.

(See Appendix B)

John Armstrong

There is no question – John Armstrong must resign immediately. His behaviour has been shocking and  inexcusable. Any notion of Armstrong as an impartial  journalist was swept away with his intemperate and openly partisan column on 18 June.

To para-phrase  Mr Armstrong, “he has called for [David Cunliffe's] head to roll for the equivalent or less. Having set the standard required of others, it is incumbent on him to himself follow suit“.

When a supposedly well-educated person writes such a travesty of journalism, there is only one course of action open.

Go, John.

Just, go.

(See Appendix B)

Jared Savage

Jared was the author of many of the pieces reporting (more like cutting and  re-pasting) Donghua Liu’s claims. There was no evidence to support Donghua Liu’s claims – but they were published and given prominence nevertheless.

Jared does not appear to have given any serious thought to questioning Liu’s claims, nor the motivations for them. This style of reporting is grossly irresponsible and undermines his profession.

Unlike his colleagues, Murphy and Armstrong, Jared is young and still learning his craft. The Liu Affair has not been to Jared’s credit, but hopefully he has learned from the experience. I encourage Jared to under-go a refresher course in journalistic ethics so that future reporting can be more balanced and accurate.

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2. A more measured p.o.v.?

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With the dust settling on the Liu Affair, and the hysteria from more ‘excitable’  media columnists and commentators dying away, I refer to the reader a more measured, thoughtful p.o.v. from Dominion Post columnist, Vernon Small, who wrote that the Liu saga hits harder when Labour’s down.

Small’s column wasn’t just a breath of fresh air, it was a full tank of oxygen in an otherwise murky atmosphere of political muck-raking, innuendo, lies,  and media histrionics.

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3. The Labour Party

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Legal Action

Without a doubt, Labour – and specifically, David Cunliffe – have no choice. They must take legal action for defamation against the Herald. The kind of shabby, tabloid-style “journalism” shown since June 18 has further undermined the Fourth Estate’s credibility (whether Herald staff and management realise this or not, is irrelevant) and must not be allowed to become the new default standard by which editors and journalists operate in this country.

For these reasons, Labour must sue for three good reasons;

  • It runs the risk that the public ‘memory’ on this incident will be fixed at the point of “revelations” about a “$100,000 bottle of wine” – not that Liu changed his story. Nor that no evidence was forthcoming.
  • If the Liu Affair goes to Court, the process of discovery may reveal who was behind this smear campaign.
  • If the phone tapping/”News of the World” scandal in Britain has shown us anything, it is that the  tabloid journalism road, where irresponsible reporting becomes an  acceptable ‘norm’, leads to unpleasant (and often illegal) consequences.

However, my advice to Cunliffe and the Labour Party is to defer legal action until after 20 September.  The Labour Party cannot afford distractions this close to an election.

Rapid Response Team

Unless Labour already has one, I suggest that they create a media “rapid response group” which can  ‘kick in’ when the next smear campaign rears it’s ugly head. (Mark my words, the next dirty trick is probably already in the works.)

Such a group could comprise of senior party members, MPs, legals, media minders, etc, and could ‘swing into action’ at the first hint of another event like the Liu Affair.

Every Labour candidate should have an easy-to-contact  “rapid response group” team-member on their phone’s speed-dial.

Potential Allies

If the Liu Affair has shown anything, it is the old maxim,

“United we Stand, Divided we Fall”

The smear campaign was notable for one thing; Labour stood alone against the NZ Herald, other media, and various lunatic right-wing bloggers.  It had few allies.

Perhaps this incident should serve as a wake-up call to Labour that it needs allies – potential coalition partners who can come to the aid of an embattled Labour Party. And vice versa.

God knows the Left has many enemies in the media, political sphere, business world, rant-back radio, and rabid-right blogs.

A more collegial and co-operative relationship between Labour, the Greens, Mana-Internet, trade unions, and other progressive organisations will be needed if future dirty tricks and smear campaigns are to be successfully resisted.

“United we stand, divided we fall” is not just a catchy catch-phrase. It actually means something.

 The GCSB

Last year, John Key and the National government, with support from ACT and Peter Dunne, changed legislation to allow the GCSB to carry out domestic surveillance and spy on New Zealanders.

Of course, this does not mean that I am suggesting that when Labour becomes government, that they should use the GCSB to spy on the Herald, Donghua Liu, his lawyers, Cameron Slater, Jason Ede, David Farrar, and anyone else who might be connected with this Affair, to find out who was responsible.

I am not suggesting that at all.

That would be morally wrong.

But quite legal.

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4. John Key

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It was clear from Day One, that John Key  had been fully briefed on David Cunliffe’s 2003 letter to Immigration NZ. On 19 June, John Key said he had previously known about the  letter;

“Can’t exactly recall, I think it was a few weeks ago.”

But far more interesting is that Key seems to have been aware of Liu’s “signed statement” prior to  the Herald aquiring a copy of it.

Note the following article from the Herald, written by Audrey Young, when she was in New York, covering Key’s visit to the United States . Specifically, note the date; Thursday 19 June;

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NZ Herald - Key on Liu-Labour link - More to come - $15 000 book

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Note the opening paragraph;

Prime Minister John Key believes the Labour [sic] has a lot more than $15,000 in donations from wealthy Chinese political donor Donghua Liu.

Key is quoted in Young’s article,

“I’ve heard the rumours and we’ll see what actually comes out but I’d be very, very amazed if the amount is $15,000,” he told New Zealand reporters.

But according to Herald on Sunday editor, Miriyana Alexander, revelations of Donghua Liu’s claims for other donations did not come to their attention until Saturday, 21 June;

But Herald on Sunday editor Miriyana Alexander said it only got a copy of the statement on Saturday and called the party within an hour of receiving it.

The date of when the NZ Herald came into possession of   Liu’s   “signed statement” was  also confirmed as  “on Saturday” [21 June], by Herald editor,  Tim Murphy, who was  interviewed on Radio NZ’s “Morning Report“, two days later (Monday  23 June). In the same interview, Murphy refused to say how the Herald acquired the statement.

When asked by Morning Report co-presenter, Susie Ferguson, why a copy of Liu’s statement had not been supplied to Labour, Murphy’s response was,

“There’s still more to be done. And there’s issues of sensitivities around it, for us. All these these things don’t get passed over [...] I imagine it’ll come out but it just a matter of us working through some things first.”

Timeline:

19 June (Thursday): Key  stated that he  believed  Labour had a lot more than $15,000 in donations from wealthy Chinese political donor Donghua Liu.

21 June (Saturday): NZ Herald came into possession of Liu’s “signed statement”. The Herald does not publish the “statement” verbatim, nor does it pass a copy on to the Labour Party. (A point raised by Morning Report co-presenter, Susie Ferguson in her interview with Tim Murphy.)

23 June (Monday): NZ Herald editor, Tim Murphy confirms that his paper did not acquire a copy of Liu’s “signed statement” until two days ago (21 June).

So John Key knew the contents of Liu’s “signed statement”  two days in advance of the Herald.

In my previous blogpost (The Donghua Liu Affair threatens to unravel – PM and NZ Herald caught up in a dirty trick campaign?) I posed these questions;

  1. Who had access to the Prime Minister in such a way that he could be briefed, with such detail,  in advance, on Cunliffe’s letter and Liu’s “signed statement”?
  2. Who was involved in encouraging Donghua Liu to make his statement?
  3. How did a copy of Liu’s “signed statement” get to the NZ Herald?
  4. What was the motivation in briefing the Prime Minister?
  5. Who else in the PM’s office was involved? Was it Jason Ede?

Without much doubt, Key, his  ministers,  and some of his closest advisors, were fully aware of Cunliffe’s 2003 letter and Donghua Liu’s “signed statement”.

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5. Conclusions

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1.

The Herald’s editor, Tim Murphy and  political columnist John Armstrong behaved disgracefully throughout this entire event. Either through ineptitude or complicity, they allowed the NZ Herald to become a tool for a carefully planned and executed smear campaign against David Cunliffe.

In an email to Tim Murphy (see Appendix B), I call for a full-page apology to be published in the Herald.

I also call for Tim Murphy’s and John Armstrong’s resignations.

As such, after my email to Tim Murphy, and depending on his response, I will be considering a complaint to the NZ Press Council on the matter.

I may also look at other avenues such as contacting the Herald’s main advertisers.

2.

David Liu was not the instigator or author of his “signed statement”.  Without doubt, it was a dirty trick of the sort that Nicky Hager warned us about in his brilliant exposé on corruption in the National Party, “The Hollow Men”. 

The date on Liu’s “signed statement” – 3 May – was only two days after Maurice Williamson’s enforced resignation after being found out attempting to influence a police investigation into Liu’s assault on two women.

The close timing of Williamson’s resignation and the date on Liu’s “signed statement” was a critical mistake on the part of those responsible for this smear campaign. It ties the two events together. I believe Key’s senior media strategist, Jason Ede, and right-wing blogger, Cameron Slater were probably involved.

The motive for the smear campaign was an act of utu, in retaliation for Labour prosecuting revelations against Maurice Williamson.

3.

Labour must sue the NZ Herald for defamation. Whilst smear campaigns are, unfortunately part-and-parcel of politics (because partisan voters seem not to care, as long as it is done to the “other side”), complicit or incompetant actions by media reporting such stories cannot – must not – be allowed to stand.

Unless we want to see this country’s media  become a South Pacific mirror of “News of the World“, with associated phone hacking, bribery, police corruption, and god knows what else, the kind of sensationalist, headline-driven, misleading “journalism” shown by the Herald from June 18 cannot be allowed to become the new standard of media behaviour.

Even media companies have responsibilities and obligations to behave in a responsible manner.

If not, we must look to legal remedies to ensure responsible behaviour.

 

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Appendix A

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from:     Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to:          John Key <john.key@parliament.govt.nz>
date:      Thu, Jun 26, 2014 at 1:06 PM
subject: OIA Request – Reminder!

Kia ora Mr Key,

On 19 June – now one week ago – I lodged an OIA request with you and your office.

My request was as follows,

Kia ora Mr Key.

This is a request lodged under the Official Information Act.

Please provide me with copies of all correspondence, minutes, notes, reports, and any other written or otherwise recording, relating to any and all activities surrounding the procurement; storage; and planned circumstances of the release of the letter between David Cunliffe and Donghua Liu dated 11 April 2003.

This includes a request for all communications relating to the letter between David Cunliffe and Donghua Liu dated 11 April 2003, which may have occurred between yourself; any and all staffmembers in your office; any member of the National Party; any blogger; any media person; and any other group or individual who was contacted on this issue.

Information may be emailed to me, or, if the file is too large, I can supply a postal address for hard copies.

Regards,

-Frank Macskasy

Blogger

Since then, I have not received any acknowledgement to my lodged application and require you to do so, under the Act.

If I do not receive acknowledgement to my request, I will have no option but to pursue the matter with the Office of the Ombudsman.

Regards,

-Frank Macskasy

An hour later, I received an emailed acknowledgement to my OIA request.

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Appendix B

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from:         Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to:              Tim Murphy <editor@herald.co.nz>
date:         Thu, Jun 26, 2014 at 10:34 PM
subject:    The Donghua Liu Affair & Consequence

 

Tim Murphy
Editor,
The New Zealand Herald

 

Kia ora Mr Murphy,

After recent revelations, it has become patently obvious and apparent to all that Mr Donghua Liu is no longer a credible witness to any alleged wrong-doing or alleged inappropriate behaviour by David Cunliffe, Rick Barker, or the NZ Labour Party.

Mr Liu has;

1. Failed to provide evidence for his allegations of hefty donations to the Labour Party. The closest he has come has been  a $2,000 cheque he gave to the Hawke’s Bay Rowing Club, on his own volition.

2. Mis-represented Rick Barker’s invitation and  attendance at a staff party, on a river-boat,  in China.

3. Made no verifiable Affidavit, and provided only a “signed statement”.

4. Issued a second statement on 25 June, changing his initial allegations.

5. Offered no evidence for his second, 25 June, “signed statement”.

Since 18 June, when your reporter, Jared Savage, broke this story in a piece entitled “David Cunliffe wrote letter supporting Liu’s residency bid“, the Herald has;

* published unsubstantiated allegations;

* failed to provide subsequent evidence to back up those allegations;

* published stories damaging to the reputations of David Cunliffe and Rick Barker;

* published allegations damaging to the Labour Party (during an election year!);

* published a column calling for David Cunliffe to resign (“John Armstrong: Cunliffe’s resignation may be in order“), based on incomplete information, and omitting a crititical fact, namely  that Cunliffe’s letter to NZ Immigration had been written  in 2003, and was a legitimate reason why the MP may have forgotten the letter;

* resisted calls to publish, verbatim,  Mr Liu’s first signed statement, or his subsequent version, thereby acting as a gate-keeper/censor of information that the public had a right to see;

* resisted calls to publish, verbatim,  Mr Liu’s first signed statement, or his subsequent version, despite having no hesitation in publishing David Cunliffe’s 2003 letter to NZ Immigration (“David Cunliffe wrote letter supporting Liu’s residency bid“)

* made little or no discernible attempt to investigate the background to Liu’s allegations; his motives; and who else might have been involved.

Under your watch, the tenor of stories relating to the Cunliffe-Liu issue has been one-sided and predicated on baseless allegations.

This has been a tabloid-style, highly-emotive, unjustified witch-hunt which collapsed only because Donghua Liu’s story changed and it became apparent he was no longer a credible witness.

The Liu Affair has seriously damaged your paper’s reputation and also further eroded public confidence in the ability of the Fourth Estate to report fairly, accurately, and without bias.

Accordingly, I submit that  it behoves you to put this matter right. I therefore call upon you;

1. The NZ Herald should immediately publish a full page apology on the front page of your paper.

2. It may also be appropriate for you to  re-consider your  position and decide whether your role as the Herald’s editor is now tenable after this shameful fiasco.

3. On 18 June, in a highly biased, unreasonable column, John Armstrong called for David Cullen’s resignation,  (“John Armstrong: Cunliffe’s resignation may be in order“). I submit that Mr Armstrong’s own position as a senior Herald staffer is no longer tenable and must take his own advice and resign.

These three steps are the basis upon which the New Zealand Herald can regain it’s reputation that has been severely dented since 18 June.

Regards,

- Frank Macskasy

 

Note: this letter will be made public on “The Daily Blog”, and subsequently, on “Frankly Speaking” (my own personal blog). Any response you care to make will also be disclosed and made public.

 

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References

NZ Herald: Donghua Liu’s new statement on Labour donations

Legislation:  Evidence Act 2006

Radio NZ: Newspaper stands by donation claims

NZ Herald: John Armstrong: Cunliffe’s resignation may be in order

NZ Herald:  Liu donation to rowing club confirmed

Radio NZ: Morning Report – New Zealand Herald stands by its story

NZ Herald/Hawkes Bay Today: Saga returns to bite Rick Barker

NZ Herald: David Cunliffe wrote letter supporting Liu’s residency bid

NZ Herald: John Armstrong: Cunliffe’s resignation may be in order

NZ Herald: Fran O’Sullivan: Unfounded resignation calls should be far from Cunliffe’s mind

Auckland University of Technology: Journalism Major – Bachelor of Communication Studies

Dominion Post:  Liu saga hits harder when Labour’s down

Wilson Harle: Overhaul of New Zealand’s Discovery Rules

Radio NZ: Cunliffe accuses Govt of smear campaign

Radio NZ: Newspaper stands by donation claims

Fairfax media: Labour fights new Liu donation claims

TV3: Maurice Williamson resigns as minister

Additional

Twitter: Jared Savage

NZ Herald: Donghua Liu’s new statement on Labour donations

NZ Herald: Liu: $100k not just for wine

Previous related blogposts

The Donghua Liu timeline – Damn lies, dirty tricks, and a docile media

The Donghua Liu Affair threatens to unravel – PM and NZ Herald caught up in a dirty trick campaign?

 


 

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NZ Herald

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 27 June 2014.

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The Donghua Liu Affair threatens to unravel – PM and NZ Herald caught up in a dirty trick campaign?

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Dirt Unit

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Continued from: The Donghua Liu timeline – Damn lies, dirty tricks, and a docile media

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1. Preface

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On 23 June, I described a sequence of events relating to business migrant, Donghua Liu, which culminated in the NZ Herald’s publication of an eleven year old letter written by David Cunliffe, to  Immigration NZ. The letter, as we all know by now, was fairly innocuous;

“I have been approached by my constituent Donghua Lui [sic] who is concerned at the time it is taking to process his Investment Category application.

Mr Liu’s [sic] application was accepted for processing by the Business Migration Branch on 13 August 2002.

Mr Lui [sic] wishes to set up a joint venture including Well Lee Ltd, Equus Hawk o8 ltd and Tan Long Property Development Co Ltd who will export large quantities of agricultural and horticultural products to China.

It is hope that products from the company will be available to the market in July 2003.

I am aware of the difficulties facing the Business Migration Branch of New Zealand Immigration Services in coping with the overwhelming numbers of applicants that have applied for consideration under these categories and the time taken to verify documents. However it would be very helpful to Mr Liu to be advised of an estimated period of time period [sic] in which he could expect a decision on his case.

Your assistance in this matter is appreciated.

Yours sincerely

David Cunliffe
MP for New Lynn”

Trying as hard the National Party and it’s friends in right-wing blogs and mainstream media  could, the public could not get too ‘antsy’ about a letter written more than a decade ago. When the letter was published, 99% of readers could see for themselves that, far from “advocating” for Liu, it simply asked the ordinary question;  “ However it would be very helpful to Mr Liu to be advised of an estimated period of time period [sic] in which he could expect a decision on his case.

It was the sort of letter every MP has written to a government department. The same government departments which, as an article of faith, are always “inefficient” and “slow” to respond to taxpayers’ needs, according to right-wingers.

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2. NZ Herald

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Not so innocuous though was the subsequent “signed statement”, by Donghua Liu, which the NZ Herald supposedly has in it’s possession.

This “signed statement” is notable for the following;

1. It was written by Donghua Liu, who had close links with Maurice Williamson,  the former minister who helped Liu buy a holiday-home  next to his, and  carried out maintenance/renovation work on it.

2. It was allegedly written on 3 May – two days after the forced resignation of  Maurice Williamson, as a minister in this government. This was confirmed by NZ Herald editor, Tim Murphy, speaking on Radio NZ’s “Morning Report“ on 23 June which  seemingly confirmed Liu’s motivation in penning this document,

“His reaction was, in writing this, I understand, was in light of the Maurice Williamson affair and Labour’s claims immediatly after that.”

3. The document Liu has signed is described by the NZ Herald as a “signed statement” – not an affidavit. An affidavit is covered under the Evidence Act 2006. Signing an affidavit knowing it to be false carries legal penalties.  Signing a “statement” is not covered under the Act  and has few consequences - except for defamation purposes (more on that point in a moment).

4. The NZ Herald  published an eleven year old letter written by David Cunliffe on June 18 – “after documents were released under the Official Information Act earlier today“. That online article was written by “New Zealand Herald’s investigations editor”,  Jared Savage, and was published on-line at 2.29pm. In other words, Cunliffe’s 2003 letter was published the same day it was received.

5. NZ Herald editor, Tim Murphy, interviewed on Radio NZ’s “Morning Report“ on 23 June, said that the Herald received a copy of Donghua Liu’s  3 May signed statement “on Saturday” [21 June]. Murphy confirms that the document was  a statement, not an affidavit. Murphy refused to say how the Herald acquired the statement.

6. When asked by Morning Report co-presenter, Susie Ferguson, why a copy of Liu’s statement had not been supplied to Labour, Murphy’s response was,

“There’s still more to be done. And there’s issues of sensitivities around it, for us. All these these things don’t get passed over [...] I imagine it’ll come out but it just a matter of us working through some things first.”

7. Not only has Liu’s statement not been forwarded to Labour, but it has not been made public, in it’s entirety, either.

8. Considering that Cunliffe’s’s 2003 letter was published at lightning speed, on the same day, by the Herald – there are questions which demand an answer;

  1. Why has the same media outlet  not published Liu’s “signed statement” as well?
  2. What are the “ issues of sensitivities” that Murphy referred to in his 23 June interview? What are the “things” that need to be “worked through first”?
  3. Why has he refused to make available to the Labour Party, a copy of the letter?

9. It seems inconceivable that a media outlet which has, as it’s main priority to publish news, is actively suppressing information that the public has a right to know. Since when did the Herald start to with-hold the news? And why?

10. Is it because Liu’s letter is defamatory, and contains allegations that are dubious and potentially actionable?

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3. Donation claims

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In his supposed “signed statement” – which the country has not seen or read – Liu claims that he made three donations, (as well as “entertaining previous Labour Govt minister, Rick Barker, at a dinner in 2007);

  1. a donation to a rowing club
  2. $15,000 for a book “autographed be Helen Clark
  3. $100,000 for four bottles/1 bottle of wine, again “autographed by Helen Clark

On 24 June, the Herald confirmed that  that Liu donated $2,000 to the Hawkes Bay Rowing Club. Journalist, Jared Savage (more on him in a moment), declared triumphantly,

A donation from Donghua Liu to a rowing club linked to a former Labour Cabinet minister has been confirmed…

[...]

The confirmation comes after Labour has denied other allegations in the signed statement from Liu, including the claim he paid “close to $100,000″ for wine at fundraising auctions.

[...]

Liu’s claims of donations to Labour include a signed statement saying he paid close to $100,000 for wine at an auction fundraiser in 2007.

The Herald has also been told he paid $15,000 for a book signed by Helen Clark, Prime Minister at the time. Labour says it has so far been unable to find records of the donations.

It took less than 45 minutes for two prominent right-wing bloggers to trumpet victory;

“Labour have been basically suggesting Liu is mistaken or a liar. They should be very worried that this minor donation has been confirmed, because if he is correct on a $2,000 donation, it is unlikely he’s got around a $100,000 donation.” – Kiwiblog

“Mr Liu has started that process, by confirming one of the donations….if one is correct perhaps the rest are too.  Jared Savage continues his death by a 1000 cuts on Labour.” – Whaleoil

Whaleoil’s blogpost is timed at 3.13pm – precisely 15 minutes after Jared Savage’s article went on-line on the Herald website. Fast work, eh?

However, it is fairly obvious that simply because one donation has been confirmed, does not mean that the remaining two are also authentic. Thus far, Labour’s hierarchy has adamantly insisted that (a) no fund raising events were held on the date Liu has given (3 June 2007); that the date itself – a long weekend – is not normally one used for fund-raising events; and (c) they can find absolutely no records of any $100,000 bottle/bottles of wine or book being auctioned.

If those events did occur, it would be pointless for Labour President Moira Coatsworth and Labour Leader David Cunliffe to be lying about them. It would be a matter of time before they would become public knowledge.

Of course neither Coatsworth nor Cunliffe could  have known about any donation to a rowing club – Liu was a private citizen so why should the Labour hierarchy have know about where he was splashing his money around?

For Farrar, Slater, and Savage not to make that point suggests that none of them are interested in the truth so much as promoting an agenda.

With Savage, that agenda is “saving face”, after investing so much of his time on this story. The Herald has ‘pinned it’s colours to the mast’ and is committed to painting Labour as the “villain” in this story. Others at the Herald have potentially staked their journalistic careers on a set outcome to this Affair.

With Slater and Farrar, I suspect it is much, much more.

It is my honestly held belief that one or both of those two apparatchiks of the National Party are somehow more deeply involved in this affair than has been admitted.

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4. A response from Jared Savage

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Following publication of my previous blogpost (The Donghua Liu timeline – Damn lies, dirty tricks, and a docile media), where I wrote;

“It is my sincerest, honestly-held  belief, that this smear campaign was orchestrated deep within the National Party, and that at least two well known National Party apparatchiks were involved.

It is my sincerest, honestly-held  belief, that Donghua Liu was persuaded to participate in this scheme around early May, when he signed his statement. It is my sincerest, honestly-held  belief, that he was offered, in return, that charges against him for assaulting two women, would either be dropped, or “no evidence presented” at the Court case.”

- Herald journalist, Jared Savage responded shortly after, on Twitter;

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NZ Herald - jared savage  - twitter - 24 June 2014

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But, Savage told only part of the story (to be fair, Twitter is not the right vehicle for detailed responses).

Donghua Liu did indeed plead guilty on 1 April this year – one month earlier than Williamson’s resignation.  So there could be no “deal” between Liu and National Party apparatchiks, as the event did not arise until  a month later.

Case closed?

Not quite.

The facts are that;

14 March: Donghua Liu arrested and charged with domestic violence assault on two women.

1 April: Liu pleads guilty. But Liu is not sentenced straight away. His sentencing “has been adjourned for 10 weeks so Liu can attend a stopping-violence course“.

1 May: Williamson resigns  his ministerial posts.

10 June: Liu’s lawyer, Todd Simmonds, stated that  he would seek a discharge without conviction for his client.

22 August: Liu set to be sentenced.

So whilst I was wrong   “that he was offered, in return, that charges against him for assaulting two women, would either be dropped, or “no evidence presented” at the Court case – it seems that Donghua Liu is under the impression that he has an opportunity to be discharged without conviction.
Different tactic. Same outcome.
How would Liu have gained this belief?

If Savage read my blogpost correctly, note the wording I used;

“It is my sincerest, honestly-held belief, that he was offered, in return, that charges against him for assaulting two women, would either be dropped, or “no evidence presented” at the Court case. ” The word I chose deliberately was “offered”.

But I deliberately omitted to state  who made the “offer”.

I believe the “offer” was made by two  National Party apparatchiks (my bet is Cameron Slater and Jason Ede), that  charges against him for assaulting two women, would either be dropped, or “no evidence presented” at the Court case in return for his co-operation.

However, I missed the bit that he’d already had his court case in April – four weeks prior to Williamson resigning.

So any “offer” could only  have been made regarding sentencing (that had been deferred by the judge) – not any verdict.

Liu comes from China, where the judicial system and the government is one and the same. My bet is that Liu doesn’t know that our system is different, and Slater/Ede were counting on Liu’s ignorance.

Basically, they offered him something they couldn’t deliver on.

So let’s see what sentence – if any – Donghua Liu received on 22 August. If he is discharged without conviction or given a suspended sentence, further questions will be raised on this affair.

If Liu is convicted and sentenced accordingly; and if he was made promises that have not – could not have –  been kept; we may see another angry, rich, migrant businessman exacting revenge on people he thought he could trust.

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5. The Prime Minister

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John Key has acknowledged that he had pre-warning on the Liu Affair;

“Can’t exactly recall, I think it was a few weeks ago.”

Key gloated that there was “more to come“. As he stated on 19 June – two day before the Herald’s editor claims they came into possession of Liu’s “signed statement” – Key said, with uncanny prescience;

“I’ve heard the rumours and in the end we’ll see what actually comes out but I’ll be very very amazed if the amount is $15,000.”

For the following two days, Key revelled in the bad publicity for Labour;

“We’ve seen David Cunliffe and Grant Robertson in the last six months holding the blowtorch on National, expecting accountability of ministers and demanding transparency. That’s fair enough, and now the blowtorch is turned around the other way I hope they live to those standards.”

So Key knew in advance;

Note that all this had been told – in advance – to the Prime Minister.

Which begs the questions;

  1. Who had access to the Prime Minister in such a way that he could be briefed, with such detail,  in advance?
  2. What was the motivation in briefing the Prime Minister?
  3. Who else in the PM’s office was involved?

Whoever had the “ear” of the Prime Minister of New Zealand was of such credible standing (in the eyes of John Key), that the PM obviously took great interest in what he was being told.

And if he believed it, did he himself sight Liu’s “signed statement” as well as Cunliffe’s 2003 letter?

Could Tim Murphy, from the NZ Herald have been the source? I somehow doubt it.

This information came from those deeply involved in the Affair.

It most certainly was not Donghua Liu. He has limited english, and how much access does he have to the Prime Minister (aside from opening a non-existent  four-star hotel)? And even if Liu had asked his solicitor to contact John Key – why would the PM  have taken notice? It would have sounded like a crackpot conspiracy plan – and one that would have been dangerous to become associated with during an election year.

For Key to have become so involved in this Affair suggests that those involved had considerable credibility and trust.

It is also interesting to note that, of the three ministers that I lodged an OIA to on this issue – Michael Woodhouse, Bill English, and John Key – it is the Prime Minister’s office that has not responded to my request.

In the last twentyfour  hours, though, it seems that Key is attempting to distance himself from this affair, speaking out publicly and demanding that Donghua Liu, “put up or shut up”;

Asked whether Mr Liu should provide evidence of his donations, Mr Key said: “Yeah, absolutely he should go ahead and do that”.

“I don’t know the merits of who’s right and who’s wrong in that case. That’s a matter for the two parties to resolve.”

It is a bit late in the day for Key to be talking about “a matter for the two parties to resolve” – as if somehow he is above petty, partisan politics. Not when all his comments have fanned the flames of this Affair. As Adam Bennett wrote for the Herald,

Mr Key and National have profited from the controversy around Liu’s claims of donations to Labour including his signed statement saying he paid close to $100,000 for wine at an auction fundraiser in 2007.

Bennett’s piece is one of a handful that have started appearing in the MSM in the twentyfour hours.

Another is this item, from Fairfax media – curiously unattributed – which, for the first time, asked a serious question, ” if the statement could have been written by a National Party figure“.

Key is now rattled. The media (or at least some, within the media) have begun to realise (belatedly, albeit), that this has been a carefully orchestrated political dirty trick.

That is why Key is now playing the Prime Ministerial Paragon of Virtue, saying that “he agreed Liu should front up with evidence of the gift“.

What seemed like a “cunning plan” at the time has slowly turned on it’s orchestrators and now real questions are being asked – like who told the Prime Minister. Key’s responses, thus far, have been evasive, and indicate that he is hiding something;

I was told that there was [donations to Labour]. I’m not going to talk about my sources.”

And,

People tell me things, I hear things all the time,” he said.

He said he would not “go through that” when asked if his source was the right-wing blogger Whaleoil and would not go into whether he had seen the transcript of Liu’s statement.

Something that, if uncovered, could lose him the election and end his political career.

Which, I suspect, Mr Key is well aware of.

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Cameron Slater (L) and John Key (R)

Cameron Slater (L) and John Key (R)

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6. Conclusions

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1. An open letter to the NZ Herald

Kia Ora Mr Murphy,

Thus far your paper has decided not to release the Donghua Liu “signed statement”. This is unconscionable and goes against everything that newspapers are predicated upon; the freedom of the press to publish without fear or favour.

Well, you are exhibiting fear of something and appearing to favour someone.

How else can we begin to understand why you are with-holding this document from the public?

Why is it that I, a part-time blogger, with no training in journalism, and not paid a cent for my efforts, is having to ask questions and demand answers that your paper has so far been unwilling to do?

What is that your paper is hiding?

Do you not trust the public to read Donghua’s statement and come to their own conclusions?

It is a sad day for the Fourth Estate when it is seen to be with-holding facts and  suppressing information.

The saddest, most depressing thing in all this? You have not been censored by an authoritarian dictatorship. You have done it to yourself.

You have broken faith with the public.

-Frank Macskasy

2. An open letter to Cameron Slater

Kia Ora Cam,

Well played. But you forgot one, tiny, little, itsy-bitsy thing…

New Zealand is a small country. Secrets don’t stay secret for long. So prepare to be sprung and hung out to dry.

You’ve just brought down your own favoured government and may’ve ended Key’s career.

Thank the gods you’re not on our side.

Cheers bud,

-Frank

3. An open letter to the Prime Minister

Kia Ora Mr Key,

Again, well played. Strangely enough, I don’t actually blame you or begrudge you. Politics, after all, is a grubby game and we, the people, keep electing politicians willing and able to play dirty.

And who’s to know that Labour mightn’t have done the same thing had the jandal been on the other foot, eh?

But, it’s Game Over, sir.

Your party has a philosophy that is mighty big on taking Personal Responsibility. Well, it’s time to show some of that responsibility-taking.

It’s really time to answer some straight questions with straight answers. No more bullshit. No more spin. No more deflecting to what the Other Side has done.

Who told you about Cunliffe’s letter and Liu’s “signed statement”?

Who was involved in encouraging Donghua Liu to make his statement?

How did it get to the NZ Herald?

And who, in your office, was involved in this? Was it Jason Ede?

It really, really  is time to come clean on this.

Because in the end, the truth will out.

-Frank Macskasy

4. An open letter to Jared Savage

Kia Ora Jared,

I think you should cast your attention on the cast of characters outlined above – and not on bloggers raising questions.

You’ll get better answers.

Cheers,

-Frank Macskasy

 

 

 

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References

NZ Herald: David Cunliffe wrote letter supporting Liu’s residency bid

Radio NZ: Morning Report – New Zealand Herald stands by its story

NZ Herald: Businessman gifts $150k to Labour Party

TV3: Maurice Williamson resigns as minister

Otago Daily Times: Williamson used Liu’s holiday home

NZ Herald: Labour Party hits back at donation claims

Legislation:  Evidence Act 2006

Radio NZ: Morning Report – New Zealand Herald stands by its story

Radio NZ: Newspaper stands by donation claims

TV3: Liu hits back in Labour donations saga

NZ Herald: Liu donation to rowing club confirmed

Kiwiblog: One Liu donation confirmed

Whaleoil: One donation confirmed from Donghua Liu’s statement, what next Mr Cunliffe?

TV1 News:  Labour – No fundraiser on date Liu claims he made donation

NZ Herald: Labour Party hits back at donation claims

The Standard:  The middle of Queens birthday weekend? Yeah right!

Fairfax media: Labour fights new Liu donation claims

Herald on Sunday: Herald on Sunday editorial – Labour looks in serious disarray

NZ Herald: John Armstrong: Cunliffe’s resignation may be in order

Twitter: The Daily Blog

NZ Herald: Businessman in citizenship row up on violence charges

TV3: Maurice Williamson resigns as minister

TV3: Liu seeks discharge without conviction

Ministry of Justice: Suspended sentences

Fairfax media: David Cunliffe digs in amid rumours, poll woe

NZCity: Key rejects smear campaign accusation

Radio NZ: Cunliffe accuses Govt of smear campaign

MSN News: Key knew about Liu’s signed statement

The Daily Blog: Let’s cast the net and see what rotten fish we catch

NZ Herald: Liu should reveal his evidence, says Key

Fairfax media: Prime minister’s lips sealed on Liu leaker

Radio NZ: PM not saying who told him of claims

Additional

Radio New Zealand News: Originally aired on Hourly News, Tuesday 24 June 2014, 1PM

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Skipping voting is not rebellion its surrender

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen/Lurch Left Memes

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 25 June 2014.

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‘Tricky’ media…

25 June 2014 4 comments

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NZ Herald - if you think, the bolsheviks win

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In case anyone finds it hard to believe that some in  the msm (mainstream media) are politically partisan, the screen-shot below – of a recent NZ Herald story – should help  dispel such doubts;

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NZ Herald - Key on Liu-Labour link - More to come - David Cunliffe

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Notice the two disparate images.

On the left, Key’s image portrays him as smiling and obviously confident and relaxed.His authority is not under threat.

The image on the right, depicting David Cunliffe, shows him scowling; mouth open in mid-retort; obviously in a defensive and angry position. His leadership authority is shown to be in question in that image.  (Hence the old expression, “if you become angry, you have lost the argument“.)

It is a subtle piece of visual propaganda; one is calm, poised, confident. The other is emotional, upset, obviously responding to an attack.

So this is supposedly  an example of an impartial, non-partisan media?

And journos wonder why a large sector of  society view them with disdain and suspicion?

If the Reader’s Digest  Most Trusted Professions for 2013 is any indication, journalists need to work on their integrity;

1. Paramedics
2. Firefighters
3. Rescue volunteers
4. Nurses
5. Pilots
6. Doctors
7. Pharmacists
8. Veterinarians
9. Police
10. Armed Forces personnel
11. Scientists
12. Teachers
13. Childcare workers
14. Dentists
15. Farmers
16. Bus/train/tram drivers
17. Flight attendants
18. Architects
19. Chefs
20. Electricians
21. Miners
22. Computer technicians
23. Postal workers
24. Hairdressers
25. Builders
26. Plumbers
27. Mechanics
28. Accountants
29. Truck drivers
30. Waiters
31. Bankers
32. Charity collectors
33. Shop assistants
34. Clergy (all religions)
35. Cleaners
36. Personal trainers
37. Lawyers
38. Taxi drivers
39. Financial planners
40. CEOs
41. Call centre staff
42. Airport baggage handlers
43. Journalists
44. Real estate agents
45. Insurance salespeople
46. Politicians
47. Sex workers
48. Car salespeople
49. Door-to-door salespeople
50. Telemarketers

Lumped in with politicians, car salespeople, etc, is not a desirable place, one would think.

This will be a dirty election as the Right (National and ACT) with their media allies (NZ Herald, NBR, and rantback radio hosts) pull out the stops to destroy a resurgent Left. Those who hold power will not give it up easily.

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Rich people paying rich people to tell the news

 

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References

NZ Herald:  Key on Liu-Labour link: More to come

Reader’s Digest: New Zealand’s Most Trusted Professions 2013


 

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john key is scared of your vote

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen/Lurch Left Memes

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 20 June 2014.

 

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Letter to the Editor: Is National in trouble in the polls?

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old-paper-with-quill-pen-vector_34-14879

 

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The latest bout of bene-bashing from Bennett and the rotten National government;

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Travelling beneficiaries' payments cut

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Bennett said;

“The new rules recognise beneficiaries should be ready and available for work – not prioritising travel.

Every day we hear stories of how people cannot live on the benefit. Today you’re hearing that literally thousands can not only live on it but can afford to travel overseas as well.”

My response;

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FROM:    Frank Macskasy
SUBJECT: Letters to the editor
DATE:    Sun, 06 Apr 2014 23:16:21 +1200
TO:      NZ Herald <letters@herald.co.nz>

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The Editor
NZ Herald
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Paula Bennett's recent attack on welfare beneficiaries,
where she claimed that "21,000 beneficiaries have had their
benefits cut for going on unapproved overseas trips in the
last nine months" is simply too fantastical to be believed.

For one thing, how on earth does one fund a trip overseas on
an unemployment benefit of $210 a week (net) and pay rent,
power, food, clothing, medical expenses, school fees,
transport, phone, etc, etc?

This doesn't make sense. The arithmetic simply doesn't add
up.

One thing is for certain; National must be in trouble. They
have defaulted to Deflection #2;

1. Blame previous Labour government
2. Release story on ‘welfare abuse’
3. Blame Global Financial Crisis or similar overseas event

Perhaps National's own internal polling has them falling in
public support and Labour/Greens doing better than public
polling is suggesting?

How else would one explain Bennett's latest foray into
Fairytale Land?

-Frank Macskasy
[address & phone number supplied]

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It is interesting to note that the Herald story, written by  deputy political editor, Claire Trevett, does not question anything that Bennett has said.

Not. One. Word.

I remember that this is what the media looked like when I lived briefly in Eastern Europe in the late ’70s and early ’80s.

This is what a media mouthpiece for an autocratic government looks like; faithful; reliable;  committed to the Party (in this case, National); and unquestioning.

This is what our media has become. They have been tamed.


 

References

NZ Herald: National down as NZ First gains

NZ Herald: Travelling beneficiaries’ payments cut

Previous related blogposts

Hon. Paula Bennett, Minister of Hypocrisy


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John Banks and Winston Peters, Apples and Oranges

25 February 2014 Leave a comment

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543440_3738666104816_56663201_n

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If ever the media – especially journalist wonder why the public view them with disdain and minimal trust – they need only look at their behaviour when it comes to undignified media “scrums” around public figures.

The recent melee in Parliament’s halls, as journos tried to elicit a response from NZ First leader, Winston Peters, regarding his visit to Kim Dotcom’s mansion – was a less than edifying spectacle,

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Video - PM accused of spying on Peters

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Evidently, the Press Gallery were a bit “miffed” at Peters’ curt responses to them and refused point blank to answer their questions. So in response to Peters’ lack of response, NZ Herald reporter,  Audrey Young, wrote a “revenge piece” for her paper,

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Audrey Young - Winston Peters resists excellent questions

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A “revenge piece” being something a journo will put together to present the subject under discussion in a less-than-positive light. That’ll teach him/her/them not to co-operate with the Fourth Estate!

Apparently really, really annoyed, Young  wrote,

“We don’t recall Peters suggesting John Banks’ visits were a private matter.”

This was echoed by “Claire” (Claire Trevett?),

“Do you think John Banks didn’t need to tell us whether he had gone out there or not, or whether his privacy was breached when Dotcom said he had been out there?”

Ok, let’s get one thing straight here; Winston Peters is not being accused of accepting donations from Kim Dotcom, nor attempting to hide said donations in a falsified electoral return.

If indeed that is what “Claire” and Audrey Young are suggesting, then let’s have it out in the open. Make the allegations and ask the questions.

But comparing John Banks’ dodgy “hide-the-cheques” shell-game is in no way comparable to a politician meeting a citizen (or permanent resident, in this case). That is not journalism – that is just downright immaturity on a school-yard level. It is pettiness.

It certainly ain’t journalism.

Disclaimer: I am not a NZ first supporter. Never have been, and most likely, I never will be.

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References

TV1: Winston Peters: Spies watched me meet Dotcom

NZ Herald: Audrey Young: Winston Peters resists excellent questions

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election 2014

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 17 February 2014.

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NZ Herald – self censors?

7 February 2014 2 comments

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In a curious twist to the old problem of the media sensationalising some stories, the New Zealand Herald this year took upon itself the decision  not to  report protests at Waitangi;

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NZ Herald - protest free (1)

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NZ Herald - protest free (2)

Both images above courtesy of The Daily Blog.

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One has to ask if it is the role of the media to be self-censoring stories of events occurring in this country? If central government issued an edict banning the Herald (or other media) from covering a political protest – the media would be furious. There would be editorials up and down the country, insisting that the media was obligated to report the news, and not hold back because something might may people “uncomfortable”.

If the Herald wanted to place a small protest or scuffle or shouted abuse into context, the item could easily be placed on page 6, as a small “side-bar” news item.That would be appropriate context.

Not reporting the news raises the spectre of self-censorship. But more important – what else is the NZ Herald withholding from the public? What else have editors, managers, Board Directors, etc, decided that we should not see?

Are we children, to be spared the hurt of something that might possibly upset us?!

Interestingly, the Herald had no hesitation in reporting this non-story about the Governor-General, Sir Jerry Mateparae, at the Waitangi Marae;

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Waitangi celebrations start with scuffle

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Interesting – there was no scuffle according to the Governor-General. He even tweeted as such earlier in the day,

“My being jostled at Waitangi is news to me. I’m enjoying the scenery, the people and the day so far! Visiting HMNZS Wellington tonight.”

But that did not stop the Herald from using the mis-leading headline,

Waitangi celebrations start with scuffle

 

Even as the Governor-General was tweeting that it never occurred, it  didn’t stop the Herald from quoting Dear Leader, who jumped into the fictional story with undue haste, without first checking the facts;

Having a few protesters or radicals effectively jostling the Governor-General is undignified, it’s unwarranted and, frankly, outright wrong.

Most people go to Waitangi to have a great time but there are one or two people that go to cause trouble and use the media to advance their own causes and their own issues.”

So there we have it. The Herald is only too happy to publish  a story focused on an fictional event that never took place, complete with an utterly misleading headline.

But not so keen to report real events and the background to what is motivating protesters.

A bit of a double standard there, NZ Herald.

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References

NZ Herald: Waitangi celebrations start with scuffle

Waikato Times: PM’s comments called overblown

Twitter:

Previous related blogpost

Dear Leader – shoots from the lip. Again

Other blogs

The Daily Blog: Dear NZ Herald – a protest free newspaper is an abdication of responsibility

 

 

 

 

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malcomx newspapers

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Audrey Young, Two Bains, old cars, and… cocoa?!?!

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Audrey Young on the GCSB…

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It seems that the Herald’s Audrey Young is the only journalist in the entire country who has not bought into the Official Party Line that the GCSB Act 2003 is “vague” or “flawed”.

The GCSB Act 2003 expressly forbids it from spying on the communications of New Zealanders.

But, by a series of snakes and ladders through the stated functions and objectives of the act, it convinced itself it was allowed to help the SIS and police spy on New Zealanders.

Acknowledgement: NZ Herald – Spying on NZ: More power to watch us

She’s 100% correct of course.

The law is about as explicit as it can get, without adding crayoned drawings for the terminally dense,

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Government Communications Security Bureau Act 2003 - section 3-14

Acknowledgement:  Parliamentary Counsel Office: Government Communications Security Bureau Act 2003

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Specifically,

Section 14 states,

Restrictions imposed on interceptions

14 Interceptions not to target domestic communications
  • Neither the Director, nor an employee of the Bureau, nor a person acting on behalf of the Bureau may authorise or take any action for the purpose of intercepting the communications of a person (not being a foreign organisation or a foreign person) who is a New Zealand citizen or a permanent resident.

Which makes other journos look lazy or incompetant or both, when they repeat  government rhetoric about “vagueness” or “not fit for purpose” without checking the facts for themselves.

If  Audrey Young can present the facts, then so can every other journalist worth his/her salt.

Lift your game, people.

See previous related blogpost:  The GCSB law – Oh FFS!!!

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A Tale of Two Bains…

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The latest on the David Bain saga, and the Third Degree report on TV3 which presented damning evidence which showed Robin Bain as the most likely killer of the Bain family,

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Complaint laid against TV3 over 'biased' Bain report

Acknowledgement: NZ Herald – Complaint laid against TV3 over ‘biased’ Bain report

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Funnily enough, I cannot recall this group of obsessive-compulsives laying a similar complaint with TVNZ when Bryan Bruce (who I have much respect for, for his work on child poverty) hosted an episode on the Bain family, where he made it clear that he did not believe Robin Bain committed murder/suicide (see: The Investigator Special: The Case Against Robin Bain).

But I guess for these folk, that’s not bias, eh?

Over the years there have been many programmes presenting both sides of the case.

For one side to lay a complaint of “bias” is therefore just a little cheeky. More to the point, it illustrates a kind of growing “cult” mentality for some in the  Pro-Robin/David Did It camp.

They remind me of Creationists and Climate Change Deniers.

Not healthy.

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Old cars…

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Something that caught my eye last week was this item in the Dominion Post,

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Ageing-car-fleet-seen-as-added-danger-on-roads

Acknowledgement: Dominion Post – Ageing car fleet seen as added danger on roads

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It occurs to me that much like trucking figures are being used as indicators of  macro economic growth, our nationwide  car fleet can be an indicator of the economic well-being (or otherwise) of ordinary New Zealanders at street level.

In April, John Key boasted of “strong economic growth” in 2012,

We’re seeing some great results. We achieved 3% economic growth in New Zealand last year, which is higher than most developed countries, and business confidence is increasing. Over the weekend, I met Christine Lagarde from the International Monetary Fund while in China, who said she believes our economic plan is “very stable and it’s also very promising“.”

Acknowledgement: Scoop Media –  John Key: Growing our economy

Yet, if our car fleet is getting old, and fewer are being scrapped, then that indicates that the gains are not trickling down to workers.

According to Statistics NZ,

Annual growth in the labour cost index (LCI) salary and wage rates eased for the third consecutive quarter, Statistics New Zealand said today.

  • In the year to the March 2013 quarter, salary and wage rates (including overtime) increased 1.7%. This includes a 0.4% rise in the March 2013 quarter.

  • Private sector salary and ordinary time wage rates increased 1.8% in the year to the March 2013 quarter.

  • Public sector salary and ordinary time wage rates rose 1.5% in the same period. This rise in the public sector came from increases in central government (up 1.5%) and local government (up 2.1%).

  • In the March 2013 quarter, 13% of all surveyed salary and ordinary time wage rates increased.

  • Of the 13%, the median increase was 2.4%, the lowest in 12 years.

  • 56% of the surveyed sample increased in the year to the March 2013 quarter.

  • Of the 56%, the median increase was 2.9%, the lowest in 21 months.

Acknowledgement: Stats NZ – Labour Cost Index (Salary and Wage Rates): March 2013 quarter

Note the statistic buried amongst the fifures above: “In the March 2013 quarter, 13% of all surveyed salary and ordinary time wage rates increased“.

The corollary to that is that 87% had no increases to their  salary and ordinary time wages.

Little wonder that our car fleet is aging. People cannot afford to buy new (or even newer second hand) vehicles.

Wherever the wealth is going, it’s not trickling down to the 87%.

So much for Key’s pledges in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012, to boost New Zealander’s wages. Add that one to his list of lies; broken promises, and dashed expectations.

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And we told them the wealth would trickle down

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The Price of Cocoa…

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Three cans of cocoa tell an interesting story.

Can A is the oldest, with an expiry date of April 2011. The can measures 110mm (H) x 75mm (D). It contained 200g net dry cocoa powder.

We purchased Can B sometime  in 2011 (?). The expiry date was March 2012, so it’s the second oldest can.

Interestingly, it also contained 200g net dry cocoa powder. However,   whilst the contents remained the same as Can A – the dimensions of the can inexplicably increased; 130mm (H) x 75mm (D). Same diameter as Can A – but 20mm taller. Contents remain the same net weight.

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KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

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A month ago we purchased Can C (expiry date, March 2015). The dimensions of this can is the same as Can B: 130mm (H) x 75mm (D). But this time, the contents decreased from 200 to 190g net dry cocoa powder. Ten grams less.

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KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

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So the up-shot? The can-sizes have gotten bigger – whilst the contents has reduced by 5%.

On 9 June, I emailed Nestle to find out what was going on,

Kia ora,

It has recently come to my attention that two cans of Nestle Baking Cocoa measure 110mm X 75mm, whilst the other measures 130mm x 75mm.

Both contain 200g net  cocoa powder.

The smaller can measuring 110 x 75 has a “best before” date April 2011.

The larger can, 130×75 has a “best before” date March 2012.

It appears that you have increased the SIZE of the can, whilst the contents remain the same.

Is there a reason why the size of the cans  was increased, by 20mm in height?

And can you confirm that the price stayed the same; increased; or reduced; when the change was made from a 110mm height to 130mm height?

(The email was sent prior to purchasing Can C.)

Perhaps not surprisingly, I received no reply from Nestle.

Unfortunately, I never retained the receipts for Cans A and B, otherwise I could compare prices. But what’s the bet that the retail price probably increased?

So next time Dear Leader stands before the Press Gallery and claims credit for his government policies resulting in  low inflation or a drop in food prices – just remember; there are lies; damned lies, Prime Ministerial utterings, and statistics.

Mix all four together and you get a “drop in inflation and food costs less”.

And thus it came to pass…

“As short a time ago as February, the Ministry of Plenty had issued a promise (a “categorical pledge” were the official words) that there would be no reduction of the chocolate ration during 1984. Actually, as Winston was aware, the chocolate ration was to be reduced from thirty grams to twenty at the end of the present week. All that was needed was to substitute for the original promise a warning that it would probably be necessary to reduce the ration at some time in April.” – George Orwell,  ‘1984’

Doubleplusgood!

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 4 July 2013.

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Sparks fly with yet more shocking right wing nuttery…

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malcomx newspapers

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It’s a funny old world we live in…

On the one hand,  the likes of Karl du Fresne  denounce Radio NZ as a left-wing organisation;  journalists are branded “leftist”; and  media pundits  feel the need to defend journos from being labelled as “left wing partisans” – whilst at the same time openly partisan, right-wing columnists like John Armstrong and  Fran O’sullivan are (mostly) unchallenged as  they spread their pro-National messages.

Armstrong’s recent column was nothing more or less than an unpaid Party political broadcast (for National, in case there was any doubt),

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Get-tough Greens preparing for battle

Acknowledgment: NZ Herald -Get-tough Greens preparing for battle

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Out of 31 paragraphs, Armstrong dripped political diarrhoea from nearly every one. Even the Greens’ democratic process took a hammering,

“So much for democracy. Not that too many at the conference seemed to mind. By all accounts, the motion to streamline the party’s antiquated remit system easily obtained the required 75 per cent backing to effect a change to the party’s standing orders.”

Pardon moi?! WTF?!

The Greens “easily obtained the required 75 per cent backing to effect a change to the party’s standing orders” - and Armstrong still derides the process with a curt “So much for democracy”? He thinks that a  75% acceptance of a remit isn’t democractic?!

I think if the Nats had won 75% of the vote in 2011, Armstrong would be spinning a completely different story. He would’ve wet his incontinence-knickers at such a result.

It’s fairly self-evident that  Armstrong’s pro-National leanings have clouded his judgement to such a degree that he no longer recognises when his diatribes are  bizarre, biased – and quite frankly – bullshit. He isn’t the Herald’s “chief political commentator” – he’s National’s media-liaison/spin doctor.

It’s a wonder that his salary isn’t paid directly by National Party Head Office.

Armstrong also commented,

“National Party-aligned bloggers were not the only people asking in the wake of that attack who was being Muldoonist now.”

Well, actually, Mr Armstrong, not many people were asking that. Only you and your pals, the National Party-aligned bloggers.

Perhaps Mr Armstrong and the National Party-aligned bloggers should be a little less thin-skinned. If John Key can throw muck at Russell Norman and the Greens, I’m sure that our smile-and-wave Dear Leader John Key can take a few jibes thrown back at him. Or is the Prime Minister so weakened by constant criticism from the media, public, and Left that he desperately needs shielding from those Big Bad Bolshie Greens?!

Oh, the poor wee flower.

This next bit by Armstrong illustrates the desperation of the Right wing and their venal, lapdog journos,

Norman appeared to offer further evidence of that later in the week when he rounded on the chairman of the Electricity Authority, Brent Layton.”

“Rounded”?!

Good lord, did Russell actually bite that poor man, Brent Layton?! Russell by name, Russell by breed?!

Whatever did Layton do to deserve such a “rounding”?!

Oh yeah. This,

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Power authority head attacks Greens-Labour electricity plan

Acknowledgment: NBR -Power authority head attacks Greens-Labour electricity plan

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Aside from the curious situation of a State sector CEO making political comments which are outside his purview, it seems clear that far from being the innocent injured party in an unprovoked political attack – Russell Norman was responding to an under-handed, well-planned, partisan assault on the Greens and Labour from Mr Layton himself.

As Norman said – and with considerable truth, I might add,

“Dr Layton’s extraordinary foray into political debate is nothing more than a National Party-appointed civil servant who has failed to do his job and is now trying to protect his patch.”

Perhaps if Layton can’t stand the political heat, he should stick to his role as a civil servant running a government department. Being a well paid civil servant for the Electricity Authority, he should be over-seeing lower power prices for all New Zealanders – but instead has  done the bidding of powercos and stood by as electricity prices continue their inexorable climb.

After the 2014 election, this may not be a problem for Mr Layton. He will no doubt be “persuaded” to seek employment elsewhere.

So basically, what we have with Armstrong’s “column” is National Party propaganda spin with a bit of Green-bashing thrown in . Simon Lusk, Cameron Slater, and David Farrar  couldn’t have organised it better. (Or, maybe they did?)

The only question that remains to be answered: why is the NZ Herald paying John Armstrong’s salary?

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Pay Walls – the last gasp of a failed media business-model?

22 June 2013 4 comments

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Humpty Dumpty and Paywall

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NZ, Wellington, 25 May – Journalists and other staff working for Fairfax media, were told last week  of a review that the company was carrying out. Management told staff that times are tough; advertising revenue was down; and that job losses had not been ruled out. Incredulous staff were told that there would have to be a reshuffle to make things work and that their would be job losses.

Staff were given no further details.

According to Radio NZ,

Acting general manager Andrew Boyle says there are potential job cuts across the entire company, from advertising to editorial.

Acknowledgment: Radio NZ – Fairfax looks at job cuts

And according to Stop Press,

He’s unable to say how many of Fairfax NZ’s roughly 1800 staff will be affected by the restructuring, as the company is still in early consultation with its business departments. However, he does expect it to be wide reaching including editorial, sales and operational roles. Pre-press (ad placing) and a contact centre run by Fairfax are also in the scope, he adds.

Acknowledgment: Stop Press –  Job cuts on the horizon for Fairfax, company looks towards paywalls

Fairfax NZ acting general manager, Andrew Boyle, was quick to make reassuring noises to his readers,

We still intend to be the largest newsroom in the country. We know competing with quality local content is vital to our future.”

Acknowledgment: NBR – More jobs at risk as Fairfax continues to restructure

Which was reinforced with his statement to Stop Press,

At the end of all this we will remain the largest newsroom in the country and we won’t compromise what we’ll do for our readers.”

Unfortunately, if past trends with the Dominion Post, Evening Post, and The Dominion are any indication, Mr Boyle’s optimism is not confirmed by past experience.

Since 1983, newspapers in  Wellington have gone through radical changes in both style; the number of titles available – and page-count.

Whilst prices have risen, the number of pages has dropped.

To illustrate;

Monday 20 May 2013

Tittle: Dominion Post

Price: $1.70

Page count: 24

Front Page Headlines (stories):

  1. “Mystery as China blocks NZ meat”
  2. “The tragic toll of asthma”

Monday 26 May 2003

Title: Dominion Post

Price: $1.00

Page count: 44

Front Page Headlines:

  1. “Millions creamed from pokies”
  2. “Only two All Black canes expected”
  3. “Woman with rifle threatens shoppers”
  4. “Hollingworth resigns for sake of office”
  5. large photo-story of father/son Tae Kwon Do contestants in national competition

Monday  24 May 1993

Title: The Dominion

Price: 60 cents

Page count: 44

Front Page Headlines:

  1. “Cyclist killed in horrific accident”
  2. “Woman dies in domestic related incident”
  3. “Referendum may not have Senate vote”
  4. “Bolger rules out Aussie marriage”
  5. “Hutt Council may scrap its school recreation programme”
  6. “EnergyDirect faces another court challenge”
  7. + 6 mini-item single-column stories
  8. + photo-story on rugby league player, Robert Piva

Title: The Evening Post

Price: 60 cents

Page count: 28 (TV  Week: 16 pages)

Front Page Headlines:

  1. “Projects blamed for Hutt debt”
  2. “Eve determined to keep going”
  3. “Waite caps off  Kiwi golf clean-up”
  4. “Million Cambodians vote for peace”
  5. + 6 mini-item single-column stories

Monday 23 May 1986

Title: The Dominion

Price: 25 cents

Page count: 20

Front Page Headlines:

  1. “Sea and air rescue of 20,000 gears up”
  2. “Grampa takes a bow”
  3. “Rock fall injures rafters”
  4. “Car batters wineshop”
  5. “Bodies found in snow”
  6. “Tear gas use defended”
  7. “Mosely ends racing career”
  8. “Tour lifts cloud for Dairy Board Chief”
  9. “Tories get jobless vote”
  10. “Wholesalers seek change in margins”
  11. “Wages action meets tough line”
  12. “Douglas expects Cabinet reversal”
  13. + 6 mini-item single-column stories
  14. + 1 mini-item story

Title: The Evening Post

Price: 25 cents

Page count: 36

Front Page Headlines:

  1. “Freeze stretched to Feb 29 – Back-dating kills allowances”
  2. “Ferries sale, planes fly – Storm battering travellers”
  3. “600 bed down on board”
  4. “Her new car met train”
  5. “Gale shuts out containership”
  6. “Edward lunches with Cabinet”
  7. “Mud, water rupture hill road fill”
  8. “The longest gale”

Generally speaking, as the price of newspapers has risen, the page count has dropped, and the number of news stories on the front page has also reduced in number. Content within newspapers has most likely also reduced.

According to one source, whilst readership levels remain fairly positive, advertising revenue has also dropped by at least 40% in the last financial year alone.

Staffing levels have also been slashed. Three years ago, about a hundred sub-editors were made redundant – a process that began in 2008, but received very little media coverage (see:  Fairfax says 100 further jobs to be cut in NZ ). Those who were kept on were reassigned to “hubs” that Fairfax set up to supply a centralised news service to service  its various metropolitan dailies.

Only Fairfax’s on-line staffing levels – those who maintain the Stuff.co.nz website – have shown an increase in numbers, as the company diverted more resources to it’s web presence.

Financially, APN’s NZ Herald is in an even  worse financial state. So much so that APN has not found any willing buyers for the ailing newspaper and remains on the market to this day.

According to Stop Press, Boyle is considering pay-walls Fairfax NZ’s online publications,

We’re investigating quite actively what paywalls might mean. There’s a lot of modeling and research work being done but I can’t tell you a definitive time line for it or what it might look like.”

Both Fairfax and APN are actively considering the pay-wall model – but are afraid to make the first move, lest  the other hold off, and readers flock to a free web-version of their competitor.

As Whakatane Beacon editor, Mark Longley pointed out,

If one major newspaper website charged and the other one remained free, well, that would be a tough call.”

Acknowledgment: TV3 News – News sites to adopt pay wall

An additional problem is that there are plenty of other on-line sources of free msm news; Radio NZ, Radiolive, NewstalkZB, TV3, TVNZ, etc. On-line readers may simply desert Fairfax and APN to where free material can be accessed.

There are already three pay-to-view publications in New Zealand; the Listener, Whakatane Beacon, and the Ashburton Guardian.

On TV3 News, Ashburton Guardian editor, Coen Lammers said,

If you want to know about Ashburton you have got to come to us, people have no choice really. If they value our journalism they’ll pay for it.”

Acknowledgment: IBID

That may work well in a town or small city, but in larger cities people have recourse to alternative sources of news. In fact, this blogger questions whether a pay-wall will turn around the fortunes of these large media chains when the problem is not with the readership – but with the content of their publications.

As the numbers above show (with one exception), the page count has dropped dramatically since 1983. It’s not possible to offer a similar service to readers even as page numbers drop – and advertising clients still have their advertisements crammed into fewer remaining pages.

Something has to give, and it has unfortunately been the quality of news presented.

To give an example; in the mid 1990s, the Evening Post alone assigned two reporters  to covering Wellington City Council issues. A third reporter was assigned part time. The Dominion most likely also had their own reporters covering Council issues.

This blogger has learned that the Dominion Post – an amalgamation of the former Evening Post and The Dominion – has assigned just one reporter to cover Council business.

How is that geared toward improving coverage of City Council issues?

Another case in point;  “fluff pieces” dominating  the front page does not help to present a serious, credible image of a newspaper;

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dominion-post-21-may-2013-front-page

Acknowledgment; Dominion Post, 21 May 2013

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Whilst burying serious news stories – of a nature that may  will have incalculable consequences for the future of our country – somewhere in the back pages, does not scream Serious Media;

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dominion-post-21-may-2013-business-page

Acknowledgment; Dominion Post, 21 May 2013

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Putting  Fairfax’s Stuff  (a god-awful name, by the way) website behind a pay-wall simply presents the same reduced news service, with a price-tag attached. This is not a clever business model. Especially when the “consumer” has free alternatives to choose from.

If Fairfax (and APN) are finding that revenue from advertising is falling, perhaps it is appropriate for management to re-visit their business strategy. Their model may be wrong when they treat print advertising separate from their online service.

Perhaps if Fairfax and APN proprietors treated both print and online media as a combined service, their clients may think more favourably about using it. Shoe retailers are masters at presenting a good deal for shoppers.

The last thirty years have shown that reducing the quality of media publications has proven disastrous in terms of  building readership and a strong advertising base. Trying to ‘sting’ readers for using an on-line service harks back to the old  “cost-plus” business mentality. That didn’t work out well either.

If Fairfax and APN want to grow their revenue then they need to get a lot more clever than simply putting their hands out and expecting readers to ‘cough up’. They will be mightily disappointed.

There is good reason why this blogger ceased buying newspapers ten years ago. I have a reasonably good memory that harks back to fine journalists like Lidia Zatorski who use to cover the Wellington City Council brief. If the mayor so much as sneezed – Ms Zatorski and her colleagues knew about it.

The Dominion Post is a pale shadow of it’s predecessors. My current short-term subscription of the Dompost confirms to me that nothing much has changed for the better (and said subscription will shortly be cancelled). Quite simply, the Dompost is hardly worth the paper it’s written on.

As a customer, this is how I see it.

And really, isn’t the customer always right?

Good luck on the pay-wall.

I’ll be on the other side.

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 27 May 2013.

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Source Acknowledgments

Various individuals

References

National Business Review:  Fairfax says 100 further jobs to be cut in NZ (26 Aug 2008)

Stop Press: Sky TV profits up, APN suffers losses, and Fairfax not doing so well (22 Feb 2013)

Stop Press:  Job cuts on the horizon for Fairfax, company looks towards paywalls (21 May 2013)

Radio NZ: Fairfax looks at job cuts (21 May 2013)

National Business Review: More jobs at risk as Fairfax continues to restructure (22 May 2013)

TV3 News: News sites to adopt pay wall (24 May 2013)

NZ Herald: Maori TV payout and the year of the paywall (24 May 2013)

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NZ Herald mis-represents Green Party spokesperson on synthetic ‘highs’

21 June 2013 3 comments

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Legal highs linked to deaths - coroner

Acknowledgment: NZ herald – Legal highs linked to deaths – coroner

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In a shocking piece of misleading journalism, the NZ Herald yesterday (14 June) mis-quoted Kevin Hague, the Green spokesperson on Health issues.

Herald journalist Kurt Bayer claimed that the Greens supported using animals for testing “party pills” (also known as synthetic ‘highs’).  Bayer wrote,

The SPCA and Greens today finally agreed that some animal testing of party pills was necessary for the sake of keeping young people safe.”

Source: Legal highs linked to deaths – coroner

This was shown to be wrong when the Greens posted their actual media release on-line on their website. The release stated,

The Green Party welcomes the Psychoactive Substances Bill as it is reported back to the House today, and is delighted that an amendment limiting animal testing has finally been included, despite the submissions on animal testing being rejected by the chair of the Select Committee. – See more at: http://www.greens.org.nz/press-releases/bill-win-communities-and-animals#sthash.JM62c6sB.dpuf

The Green Party welcomes the Psychoactive Substances Bill as it is reported back to the House today, and is delighted that an amendment limiting animal testing has finally been included, despite the submissions on animal testing being rejected by the chair of the Select Committee. – See more at: http://www.greens.org.nz/press-releases/bill-win-communities-and-animals#sthash.JM62c6sB.dpuf

“The Green Party welcomes the Psychoactive Substances Bill as it is reported back to the House today, and is delighted that an amendment limiting animal testing has finally been included, despite the submissions on animal testing being rejected by the chair of the Select Committee…”

Source: Bill a win for communities and animals

Bill a win for communities and animals
Bill a win for communities and animals

The Green Party statement went on to specifically state their opposition to animal testing,

“However, we will still be putting forward our amendment to rule out the use of data from animal testing being used as proof of safety.

“Our amendment is much simpler and more practical to enforce than the Minister’s amendment and doesn’t allow any animal testing.

We have not seen any evidence that we need to allow animal testing of recreational drugs. In fact, the evidence we have seen is that all the proposed animal tests can be replaced with modern and effective non-animal tests,” said Ms Mathers.”

Source: IBID

The Green Party statement was in stark contrast to the story penned by Bayer and published online at 3:15 PM on Friday Jun 14. The offending portion stated,

 The SPCA and Greens today finally agreed that some animal testing of party pills was necessary for the sake of keeping young people safe.

An amendment limiting animal testing has now been included in the Psychoactive Substances Bill.

“This bill is a necessary and practical step to end the harm caused by allowing untested drugs to be the market,” said Green Party health spokesman Kevin Hague.

“We support strong regulation for party pills and legal highs – we can’t continue to put our communities at risk.”

The third and fourth paragraphs appear to indicate Green support for the first paragraph, which is erroneous.

The Green Party position was more accurately reported on Radio NZ’s website,

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Animal testing must be last resort in legal highs tests

Acknowledgment: Radio NZ – Animal testing must be last resort in legal highs tests

The Green Party welcomes the Psychoactive Substances Bill as it is reported back to the House today, and is delighted that an amendment limiting animal testing has finally been included, despite the submissions on animal testing being rejected by the chair of the Select Committee. – See more at: http://www.greens.org.nz/press-releases/bill-win-communities-and-animals#sthash.JM62c6sB.dpuf
The Green Party welcomes the Psychoactive Substances Bill as it is reported back to the House today, and is delighted that an amendment limiting animal testing has finally been included, despite the submissions on animal testing being rejected by the chair of the Select Committee. – See more at: http://www.greens.org.nz/press-releases/bill-win-communities-and-animals#sthash.JM62c6sB.dpuf
The Green Party welcomes the Psychoactive Substances Bill as it is reported back to the House today, and is delighted that an amendment limiting animal testing has finally been included, despite the submissions on animal testing being rejected by the chair of the Select Committee. – See more at: http://www.greens.org.nz/press-releases/bill-win-communities-and-animals#sthash.JM62c6sB.dpuf
The Green Party welcomes the Psychoactive Substances Bill as it is reported back to the House today, and is delighted that an amendment limiting animal testing has finally been included, despite the submissions on animal testing being rejected by the chair of the Select Committee. – See more at: http://www.greens.org.nz/press-releases/bill-win-communities-and-animals#sthash.JM62c6sB.dpuf

This issue was brought to this bloggers attention by Facebook user Jeanette Wilkinson who, at first, took the Herald story at face-value. Ms Wilkinson wrote on the DiscussioNZ page,

“I am extremely disappointed with the Green Party right now…in fact your credibility has taken a huge dive in my eyes upon reading this article below …especially where it mentions the Green Party finally deciding that SOME animal testing is required on animals for vile dangerous and totally unnecessary evil party pills and substances … I thought the Green Party would have some common sense and not support this at all and be inclined to have unnatural and dangerous chemical highs banned completely!”

When the actual Green Party policy was brought to Ms Wilkinson’s attention she accepted that the Green Party’s actual position had been mis-represented,  and also added,

” I also believe that synthetic highs should be illegal and banned then none of this controversy would be happening and wouldn’t that be a much better result for all moreso our young people?”

In a series of tweets by this blogger, I brought  Kurt Bayer’s attention to the mis-reporting of Green Party policy on animal testing, and asked for his response,

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Kurt Bayer twitter profile

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@KurtBayerAPNZ Hi Kurt. Your story “Legal highs linked to deaths-coroner” appears to have misquoted Green policy. http://tinyurl.com/mq6k6gx

@KurtBayerAPNZ Will you be publishing a correction? Note, I am in process of blogging this story.

@KurtBayerAPNZ I can email you my draft blogpost for you to comment on. Would like your response on the record.

As at midnight on Saturday, no response had been received from Bayer.

It will be interesting to see if the Green Party pursues this matter through the Press Council.

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 16 June 2013.

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References

Green Party:  Bill a win for communities and animals (14 June 2013)

Bill a win for communities and animals

NZ Herald: Legal highs linked to deaths – coroner (14 June 2013)

Facebook link: Discussion NZ

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Peter Mazany: We don’t Need No Edukashun!

30 April 2013 3 comments

From the NZ Herald, on 26 April, Peter Mazany makes his case for running a Charter School;

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Peter Mazany - Charter schools 'vital' for some students

Acknowledgement: NZ Herald – Peter Mazany: Charter schools ‘vital’ for some students

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This op-ed piece sounds more like a self-promotional advertisement than anything truly news-worthy,

Our company Schoolsims NZ has submitted an application to start a Partnership School/Kura Hourua.

I and some of my colleagues have taught or have positions at tertiary institutions in New Zealand. I have received prizes for my work when teaching at the University of Auckland as the most distinguished teacher and as the MBA teacher of the year. I do not and will never have a teaching degree and without the partnership schools initiative, this opportunity to start a school and prove the value of our teaching and learning methods would never have been available. I am sure that some of the other applicants are in the same position.

We are working with about 50 schools and provide them with an effective form of simulation-based learning for NCEA accounting with a large computer-based component.

Our target is to double the effectiveness of teaching and learning in half the time and half the cost over a range of standards in NCEA accounting, business studies, and maths.”

Of particular mirth/derision, is Mazany’s statement,

I do not and will never have a teaching degree…”

He sounds positively proud of the fact he has no formal training/education in teaching!?

One wonders if he’ll be de-motivating his Charter School students to likewise not  seek further, higher education?

Why should children in Mazany’s Charter Schools seek higher education? Aftrer all, Mazany has set himself up as a role model.

But more chilling was this statement in his promo;

Our method can produce huge benefits in results, efficiency, flexibility, speed and cost.”

One can imagine the outcome of a regime that focuses on “results, efficiency, flexibility, speed and cost“,

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regimented school children

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This is education for our children. “Results, efficiency, flexibility, speed and cost” sounds more like an assembly line for pre-programmed automatons.

It will be a primary issue for an incoming Labour-Green government to remove all funding from  Charter Schools and to eliminate this bastardised, dumbed-down, profit-generating version of “education” from our society.

As an aside, I wonder if Mazany paid NZ Herald to publish what is, in effect, an advertorial.

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Hat-Tip

“Burnt out Teacher”, Man expanding business seeks wealthy partner(-ship school)

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John Armstrong, bloggers, and the free market

19 September 2012 2 comments

NZ  Herald  “chief political commentator” seems to have taken issue with bloggers. Well, two bloggers, mostly,

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John Armstrong NZ herald bloggers

Full bizarre story

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Armstrong’s bizarre comments were… well, bizarre.

Personally, I put it down to an unholy mixture of jet-lag*; long nights; too much/too little caffeine;  mid-life crisis; with a fair whack of frustration. Something has obviously crawled up his bits.

In fact, his comments in his column (above) were not just downright unprofessional, but  suggestive of  poor health. Comments like,

Here is a blunt message for a couple of old-school Aro Valley-style socialists…”

Get off our backs.’

Stop behaving like a pair of tut-tutting old dowagers gossiping in the salons.’

In short, stop making blinkered, cheap-shot accusations of the kind you made this week…”

And those were in just the first paragraph. After that, it was all downhill.

The tirade was directed at two gentlemen, Gordon Campbell and Bryce Edwards. Both responded in their own ways, and style,

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Full story

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Full story

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All three are worth reading.

All  three  speak volumes about the state of journalism in this country.

Firstly; John Armstrong represents the Old Guard of the Fourth Estate; conservative; part of The Establishment; close to government. In fact, how close to government was exemplified by this extraordinary statement from opinion piece above,

“The rapidly growing influence of Edwards’ blog was initially down to its being an exhaustive wrap-up of all of the day’s political news. It is now starting to develop a much more political dynamic that is unlikely to please National.”

With an admission like that, you begin to realise why someone like Armstrong would be so belligerent to the likes of Campbell and Bryce, who are hardly Establishment-types.

Since when was it ever the concern of a journalist whether what s/he  wrote was ” unlikely to please National “?!

A journalist is not put on this Earth to “please National” (or Labour). They are here to tell us what’s going on – regardless of whether or not National (or Labour)  are  “displeased”.

That one remark validates every criticism every made of the NZ Herald that it is a clandestine mouthpiece for the National Party. There is no other way it can be interpreted.

Secondly; whilst Armstrong represents the Old Guard of journalism, Campbell and Bryce are part of the  New Wave of Media. In large part, this involves the latest advent of mass-media, the internet. But the internet is simply the tool – it is an attitudinal sea-change  that best encapsulates what Bryce and Campbell represent.

When Rogernomics engulfed this country, it introduced the concept of the “free market” and “choice” to our economy. Some of it benefitted our nation – much of it did not. Thousands who lost their jobs will attest to that.

But the liberalisation and de-regulation of New Zealand was not simply something applied to our economy. It reached into, and affected every part, of our society.

MMP, for example, did to the electoral/political system was the removal of tariffs did to the  importation of consumer products; it gave the Voter/consumer a greater choice in who to vote for.

That same liberalisation encouraged the de-regulation of the Media. It was no longer the province of  card-carrying journos, feature writers, and freelancers. Suddenly, anyone could get “in on the game”. The internet did for citizen journalists, bloggers, and non-establishment commentators  what the typewriter and paid salaries did for mainstream journos.

The richest irony here is that John Armstrong is a cheerleader for the de-regulated free market – the same de-regulated free market that has pissed him off by letting everyone in on his turf.

Right about now, Armstrong should understand what it felt like when our shops were flooded with cheap clothing and shoes from Fiji, China, and India – whilst New Zealand seamstresses and shoemakers were forced out of business.

Or how Labour and National politicans felt when MMP changed our political landscape and Parliament was flooded with Greens, NZ Firsters, Alliance, ACT, etc.

The de-regulated free market is such a wonderful thing – until it’s your arse that is bitten.

Painful eh, John?

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Addendum

Armstrong complains about the tough nature of his job – especially accompanying John Key and his entourage to the APEC conconference in *Vladivostok last week.

Perhaps instead of writing travelogue pieces (see: Curse of Russky Island strikes ) he might have considered writing about Key’s pursuit of a Free Trade Agreement with Russia. This might have been a worthy topic, considering that Russia appears to have an unhealthy, close relationship with the Russian Mafia. (See related blogpost: A FTA deal with Russia?! That’s a big “NYET” Comrade Key! )

Even the Guardian and Washington Post felt the situation warranted some decent investigative journalism. (See: The farce of Russian elections , Russia’s presidential election: rigging is a delicate art, Putin’s government moves to quash public dissent )

But we got none of that (unless I’ve missed it).

A story of a sovereign state that appears to have  close connections to gangsters would seem to be much more of a story than interesting scenery in Vladivostok.  That might’ve made an interesting story for Armstrong to pursue – especially if we’re going to be cosying up to our Russian cuzzies with a FTA.

Newsworthy, I would have thought.

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Sources

Bloggers don’t let the facts get in the way

Gordon Campbell on journalism, and John Armstrong

Political round-up: Blogging backlash

Curse of Russky Island strikes

Who owns what: for an answer, start here

Previous related blogpost

A FTA deal with Russia?! That’s a big “NYET” Comrade Key!

Tracey Watkins on John Key – Surprised?!

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Nat’s support plummets in yet another poll

- Neil Watts, Blogger, Fearfactsexposed

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But Fairfax subscribers denied the leading news, again. 

Little wonder Fairfax Media are struggling financially and virtually giving their publications away to attract subscribers.

Consistently failing to provide their readers with the news – if the news is damaging to their friends in the National Party – means that Fairfax Media’s credibility as a news provider is poor, and declining.

While less partisan news media jumped immediately on the third poll in a month showing National’s support crumbling, Fairfax avoided the story, as they have done with other polls that are unfavourable to their mates on the Right.

While this highly newsworthy story led the political news on TV last night, as well as on the New Zealand Herald website and Radio New Zealand, Fairfax once again applied the eerie Orwellian denial they have used in the past when a news item doesn’t suit their political agenda.

Predictably, when stuff.co.nz  finally got around to mentioning the poll just before 9am today – some 15 hours after their rivals – it was only to provide readers with the National Party’s spin on the results, with a piece heavily dominated by John Key’s response.

As usual, the Opposition were completely sidelined from Fairfax’s story, and more importantly, the major implications of the latest poll – that Labour and the Greens could form a centre-Left government with a combination of support partners – were completely avoided.  This angle is so obvious to any real journalist, that Fairfax again show their desire to provide propaganda over news, by avoiding it all together.  As I noted here three weeks ago, after they avoided reporting on another negative poll for National, this illustrates exactly why such powerful, biased media corporations are a very real danger to our democracy.  By stifling the debate, controlling the message, and starving the Opposition of comment, media organisations like Fairfax can and do have a frightening influence on our freedom.

Remember how their brainfart polls told readers over and over how the National Party were going to romp back into the Beehive last year?  In detailed analysis of the reasons why New Zealanders didn’t vote, it was found that “a large proportion of non-voters cited the polls predicting the National Party’s victory, and decided the election was a foregone conclusion. The percentage of non-voters who said this was a factor was far higher in 2011 than in 2008″, according to The New Zealand Herald.

Critics at the time – myself included – noted the flawed methodology of these polls, and suggested that they were designed more to influence rather than inform voters.  The resulting election turnout was the lowest in 120 years, with the supposably invincible National Party pushed much closer than the polls had suggested.   Funny that, when their chums in the National Party are riding high in the polls, stuff.co.nz and the Dom Post can’t find a font big enough, but when the news is bad…well, it just ain’t news.  Orwellian, Fairfaxian, call that what you will

Following a week where their political editor was heavily criticised for providing the Prime Minister with a series of glowing PR pieces as she escorted him around Europe,  and where the most damaging elements of a number of issues were avoided, this is not a good look for Fairfax.  Last week, they effectively ran the spin for John Key on the class size backdown, painting Key as “a leader who listens”, complete with a leading survey.  They neglected to mention that the “listening leader” is ignoring New Zealanders over asset sales, and dodged figures picked up by other media showing that power prices would rise significantly once the assets were privatised.  As if all of this isn’t damning enough for Fairfax’s credibility, another survey showed that 50% of stuff respondents favoured the Nazi solution of eugenics to tackle the problem of breeding “ferals”; is this a clear sign of Rightwing propaganda in action?

Had enough of this international corporation providing propaganda disguised as news?  Please share this blog [Fearfactsexposed], join us on Facebook , and tell your friends to boycott everything that this National Party spin corporation publish.  Only a strong public backlash will make Fairfax Media take notice, so let’s bloody have one!

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Fearfactsexposed:  Jet-setting Key accompanied by Fairfax political editor, again

NZ Herald:  Poll: Labour could form Government

Fairfax:  Key not fazed by poll results

Radio NZ: The National Party’s support is faltering in the wake of a series of political difficulties this year

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Acknowledgement

Reprinted from the blog, Fearfactsexposed, with kind permission.

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Jobs, jobs, everywhere – but not a one for me?

12 June 2012 9 comments

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Every so often, we see media articles like this recent ‘Herald‘ report,

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Full Story

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The story presents a picture of lazy, unprepared, unwilling unemployed – the usual cliched stereotype so beloved by the right wing who begrudge spending their taxes on a social welfare net (but at the same time prefer to live in a First World society without beggars lining the streets like some Third World, poverty-stricken nation).

The story refers to unemployment at 6.7% – and fails to mention that in December 2007, unemployment stood at 3.4% – placing us fifth fifth among  twentyseven OECD nations, behind Norway, The Netherlands, South Korea and Denmark.

In fact, contrast the above story with this one from the Herald, four years ago,

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Full Story

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The two headings could not be more contrasting – polar-opposites, in fact,

The miracle of full employment

 Monday April 7, 2008

Jobless unprepared for realities of workforce

Sunday May 27, 2012

A further scrutiny of the first story reveals the following;

  • A grand-total of four employers were interviewed
  • Two of the four offered minimum wage, two did not specify the rate offered
  • The jobs are not specified whether full time, part time, or casual
  • One employer admits that some  employees had walked out, but she does not disclose why

Too many questions are left unanswered.

Reading between the lines, though, one gets the impression that we are not being given the full story.

After all, even on $13.50 an hour, the gross wage is $540 for a 40 hour week.

Contrast that to $229.01 a week (gross) unemployment benefit for someone 25 and over.

The minimum wage is barely livable – but still vastly preferable to the dole.  Our Rest Homes are staffed by hundreds of  hard-working, dedicated people earning $13.61 – just eleven cents above the dole,

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Frank Macskasy Blog Frankly Speaking

Full Story

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Rest home work is hard and stressful – and yet we have people willing to put up with the pressures and  do the work necessary to look after our aged and infirm.

Which then poses questions as  to why the four employers in the top article are unable to attract and retain staff?

In this bloggers experience, employers who find it hard to attract and/or retain staff generally have “issues” with their managagement style; working conditions; pay and hours; and other related matters.

To further drive home some simple truths, these media reports should serve to dispel the nasty and manipulative myths surrounding those who are jobless,

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Frank Macskasy  Blog  Frankly Speaking

1000 apply for 150 K Mart jobs – Otago Daily Times – 11 June 1997

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Frank Macskasy  Blog  Frankly Speaking

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Frank Macskasy  Blog  Frankly Speaking

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Frank Macskasy  Blog  Frankly Speaking

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Lazy journalists who write inept stories without due diligence in research, and offering balance, add nothing to the sum total of human knowledge. Nor even a wee bit of insight as to what is really happening in our communities.

It’s easy-peasy to write a story that reinforces preconceived prejudices against a minority in society. No real talent required.

When politicians do it, it’s because they are utterly clueless and have no plan or policy to address unemployment. “Bene-bashing” is the de-fault setting of right-wing politicians who have no other options except to shift blame for poor economic activity onto the heads of welfare  recipients. (Because as we all know, the unemployed, solo-mums, widows, invalids, etc, are the ones who actually govern this country. Right?)

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But we expect better from journalists who are charged with asking questions; probing behind official lines; and holding our elected representatives to account.

Not assisting politicians’ to avoid responsibility.

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Media

Jobless unprepared for realities of workforce

The miracle of full employment

Unemployment rate lifts to 6.7pc

Reference

WINZ: Unemployment Benefit (as at 1 April 2012)

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20 May: End of the Week Bouquets, Brickbats, & Epic Fails

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- End of the Week Bouquets, Brickbats, & Epic Fails -

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Frank Macskasy - blog - Frankly Speaking

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Think Tank

TV3’s current affairs “chat” show,  “Think Tank” is  hosted by John Tamihere, on Sunday mornings. This half hour programme discusses critical issues confronting our nation, but in a low-key, constructive manner. There are no flashy graphics; no distracting backgrounds; and the guests are encouraged to offer their views without being talked over by other guests or the host.

The only slight criticism? that this excellent show is “ghettoised” on Sunday mornings (alongside TVs’s “The Nation” and TVNZ’s “Q+A”).

It would be a radical moment in our media history if “Think Tank” (as well as “Q+A” and “The Nation”) were re-scheduled for prime-time evening viewing. The public might actually be exposed to intelligent viewing for a change.

Shayne Currie (Editor, New Zealand Herald)

Who tweeted   (@ShayneCurrieNZH), ‘We wouldn’t want to be populist now would we Mr Key‘, after Dear Leader whinged on Newstalk ZB that  “the media are in a more aggressive and hostile mood towards us” . Key singled out the Sunday Star Times and NZ Herald  for special criticism.

Nice one, Shayne.  Sometimes it takes a gentle reminder for politicians to understand that the Herald is not Pravda, nor is  Sunday Star Times New Zealand’s own Izveztia.

AFFCO workers

Locked out by their employers, the Talley Brothers – millionaire businessmen  – who are hell-bent on driving down  staff’s wages and destroying the Meatworkers Union.

The AFFCO meatworkers are ordinary New Zealanders – they could be any one of us – who have been harrassed and persecuted by the Talleys.

In a display of sheer courage that our ANZAC forebears would be proud of, the workers have faced up to the bullies who are their employers.

These brave men and women should be hailed as true Kiwi battlers.

An incoming Labour-led government should not forget the AFFCO workers when they next review employment legislation.

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Frank Macskasy - blog - Frankly Speaking

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Paula Bennett (National MP

For planning to force welfare recipients to immunise their children for no other reason than they are receiving welfare assistance from the State. This has to be the worst case of State coercion since military conscription.

If National wants everyone immunised, by law, then make it compulsory for everyone. Yeah, right! There would be rioting in the streets, and this rotten government would fall within a week.

But it’s fairly obvious that Key, Bennett, and their  misguided mates are exploiting the vulnerability of New Zealanders who happen to be on welfare, for their own political ends.

This country’s economy is in dire straits; we are stagnating; unemployment is on the up; and kids are starving and going through pig-slop buckets to get a feed. Plus on top of that numerous scandals and dodgy deals, and National is desperate to focus public attention elsewhere.

In the 1930s, the nazi government used gypsies and jews as scapegoats.  We can’t use jews – Israel would kick Key’s sorry arse to the curb. And we don’t have gypsies.

But we do have welfare beneficiaries, and the public doesn’t mind if they’re ‘bashed’ around a bit.They are the 1930s “jews”  of our society.

This is shameful. For a New Zealand government to demonise a sector of the population in such a  cynical manner  is unforgivable.

Pita Sharples (Maori Party)

For citing that there had been a number of gains for Maori the upcoming budget, such as  “funding for treatment of cancer, funding for tackling rheumatic fever…”

Yes, Mr Sharples – but at the expense of raising prescription charges from $3 to $5, which will hurt welfare beneficiaries, superannuitants, and low income earners the hardest. Many of whom already have to make hard choices whether to pay the rent and electricity bill, or cut back on food, medicines, etc.

Many of those low-income earners are the Maori Party’s constituents.

By any definition, that is not a “gain”, Mr Sharples. This is robbing Pita to pay Paul.

Wally.

ACT Party

For not distancing itself from racist bigot, Louis Crimp, and returning his $125,520 donation.  Is ACT so desperate for funds that it willingly accepts money from a person who believes,

I don’t give a stuff what I’m called. You have to look at the facts and figures. This is the problem with New Zealanders. Most of them dislike the Maoris intensely – I won’t say hate – but they don’t like to say so.”

At what point does a Party draw a line and refuse to accept financial support because the donor is just so repugnant?

Act’s president, Chris Simmons, said he disagreed with Mr Crimp but respected his right to have a view,

One of the beauties of the Act Party is we believe everyone should have their say.”

That may be, Mr Simmons. But by accepting a racist’s money, you are giving tacit approval to their abhorrent prejudice.

It’s called tarred by association.

Think about it.

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And for the final category, the Epic Fail of the Week,

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Louis Crimp

Businessman and bigot.   Unfortunately, he may not be alone is holding such racist views.

We have a long way to go, in this country.

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Dear Leader: I’m so Ronery…

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Frank Macskasy Blog Frankly Speaking

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In the last week, John Key has shown  tell-tale signs that he’s losing it.  At the very least, he appears to be somewhat frazzled and it is this blogger’s contention that the pressure and stress from the last few months are beginning to take their toll on Dear Leader.

More importantly, there is a definite chill in the air. The media and the public are not quite as adoring as they were during National’s previous term in office.

How else to explain this incident, a week ago on 10 May, when Key was doing one of his  repetitious Smile & Wave photo-ops at the Holy Family School in Porirua East,

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Frank Macskasy Blog Frankly Speaking

Full Story

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Two things jump out at the reader straight away,

  1. Look at the expression on Key’s face. Unless the camera caught him at an awkward moment, his face appears to  be expressing a feeling of… disdain? Discomfort? As if he didn’t really want to be there?
  2. When the Prime Minister asks a group of children if they have dreamed of being the Prime Minister – and then retorts with, “Frankly, the way it’s going at the moment you can have the job” –  that is a man who is not in a Good Place.

Aside from indicating that something is obviously   ‘bugging’ Dear Leader, that comment was utterly inappropriate.  You don’t ‘shoot down‘ children’s bright-eyed, youthful enthusiasm with such a cynical come-back. If John Key has a problem with his job, he needs to address it – not take his stress out on a bunch of kids, who, judging by the image above, were excited to see him.

His comment, a day earlier, on a radio show, seemed to further illustrate his growing frustration.  When he was questioned about the Sky City piokies-for-concention-centre deal, his annoyance was obvious,

I’m out there trying to promote a convention centre which we don’t put any money in and all I get is grief. OK? That’s what I get is grief. “

Wow! Talk about ‘wired‘. To quote our American cuzzies, “Dude! You need to chill!”

One further thing that comment reveals is that John Key doesn’t seem to get it. He doesn’t seem to comprehend community concerns with problem gambling and the fact that pokie machines are heavily implicated as the worst possible  form of gambling. They certainly appear to be the most profitable, despite declining numbers.

For good reason. Problem gamblem affects not just one individual, it can tear apart families and impact severely on businesses where gamblers may be working. Company embezzlment is often motivated by the culprits’ addiction and uncontrolled access to gambling machines.

People have lost their family home due to a gambling addict in their midst.

That is why Key is “getting grief”.

And he should expect more of the same.

That was followed, five days later by an extraordinary ‘whinge’ on NewstalkZB, with rightwing radio talkback host, Leighton Smith. When Smith questioned Key on the media’s increased willingness to be more critical when scrutinising National,  Key tore into the media,

The second point is that… what is true, is the media are in a more aggressive and hostile mood towards us…

… despite contrary to their opinions, I’m not that bent out of shape about that. “

Strangely, he then ‘channelled’ Helen Clark, and referred to a comment she made to him about her term as Prime Minister. As if Key was trying to use Clark’s standing as some kind of attempt to legitimise or justify his own performance.

Helen Clark came up to me at the swearing in of the Government in 2011 and said to me, ‘I remember what it was like, the first term was sort of okay, the second term was disastrous and the third term was diabolical.”

He also referred specifically to the NZ Herald and Sunday Star Times, saying,

  The Herald has turned more tabloid – that is an absolute statement of fact.  It was trying to lift circulation, especially casual sales at dairies, and had brought over David Fisher (from the Herald on Sunday) as “an investigative journalist, so-called“. “

Hear:  John Key with Leighton Smith (P1)

By that afternoon, Key resorted to form and denied he had ever made those critical comments. When questioned  by journalists, who referred to his remarks naming the Herald and Sunday Star Times, Key grinned his usual vacuous grin and responded,

“… Don’t think I did. (Journalist interjecting; “Yeah, you did“) Not specifically. Just said their headlines were wrong…”

Key said a damned sight more than just “their headlines were wrong“!

Snapped, Dear Leader. That was an outright lie.

See:     Key bemoans ‘hostile’ media (video)

See:     Key bemoans ‘hostile’ media (report)

The pressure is now on John Key and National. They sleep-walked through their  first three years in office, despite unemployment rising; growing debt that would’ve made Muldoon blush; a stagnating economy; and thousands more Kiwis voting with their feet and leaving the country.

As this Facebook User described the event,

Not content with having New Zealand’s so-called journalists follow him around like lost puppies eager to lick up whatever verbal vomit he puked their way during his first term, our venerable leader expressed his exasperation that some of the pups have grown into wolves and now seem intent on going for his jugular.

Well i say good job- it’s about time the media in this country got real where Key is concerned and started to ask some serious questions about his background, his motives and his real agenda for this country and whether that agenda is going to be to the great detriment of the vast majority of New Zealanders.
Did Mr Key think he could just carry on running the country as though policy, legislation and inter-party deals were just another series of currency trades?

Perhaps he thinks the media should just stand idly by and provide tacit approval for his backroom deals with big business donors and cronies- because for a while there they did- without question. Maybe the increasingly wonky John Key thought we’d all just turn a blind eye to his massive hypocrisy over the John Banks donation scandal and his inability to comprehend the ethical considerations raised by Banks actions and their incompatibility with his position as a Cabinet Minister. Not to mention the morally bankrupt deal that gifted the unpopular Banks the Epsom seat in the first place. ”  –  Newstalkzb is a Right-wing Propaganda Machine

Now, in their second term, the public are expecting a heckuva lot more than  bashing solo-mothers and raising charges on  prescription medicines. “Reforming” welfare is not going to create any meaningful new jobs (does 150 extra staff for WINZ really count?).

Especially when Paula Bennett herself admitted on 29 April, on TVNZ’s Q+A,

No. There’s not a job for everyone that would want one right now, or else we wouldn’t have the unemployment figures that we do.

See:   Q+A: Paula Bennett interview

Not enough jobs for everyone. But plenty of money to throw around on welfare “reforms”, hiring more WINZ staff, and giving solo-mothers free contraception (which seems a bit of a case of  slamming the barn door shut after the baby has bolted…).

Here’s a thought – job creation!! Damn, I bet no one in National has come up with this bold new idea! (Holy Common Sense, Batman,  I’m a fricken genius!)

If John Key is stressed now, six months into his second term, he has no idea what’s in store for him. As a Green co-leader said, Key needs to toughen up. Whinging to rightwing talkback hosts and venting at schoolkids is not a meaningful response to the critical problems faced by this country.

If John Key has a problem with understanding this – call a snap election, and be done with it. Let the people decide his fate.

Who knows – he might not have to worry about being PM any longer.

He might even get a decent nights’ sleep.


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Additional

You can have my job, John Key tells kids

Key bemoans ‘hostile’ media

Key denies slamming NZ media

Key backs off comments on ‘Herald’ in media gripe

Other Blogposts

Fearfactsexposed:  Key attacks media for doing its job

Kiwipolitico:  Whining John

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The radio station, the newspaper columnist, and Dear Leader

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Frank Macskasy Blog Frankly Speaking

Full Story

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In another of her  mouthpiece columns for the official Party Line,  NZ Herald columnist (and National Party fan),  Fran O’Sullivan wrote a glowing report on how jolly well John Key was doing,

”  Finally, the PM is putting a stamp on his Government as he lifts its tempo and gets some serious purchase on major issues.

So far Key is making reasonable headway as he stands shoulder-to-shoulder with Cabinet ministers while they unveil pre-Budget announcements on hot issues, such as Paula Bennett’s on welfare reform.

However, two comments stood out in Ms O’Sullivan’s cheerleading piece.  One raised this blogger’s hackles – the other seemed totally at variance with reality.

The hackle-raising bit;

”  What is on the TPP table from the US perspective is a “gold standard 21st century deal” which is more focused on complex economic integration issues which impact on national sovereignty.

There will be much more water under the TPP bridge before a deal is cemented. And Key will have to deploy considerable salesmanship to make those tradeoffs (if the deal is done) palatable to New Zealanders.  “

Pardon?!

“Palatable to New Zealanders” ?!?!

What – pray tell – is Ms O’Sullivan referring to? What inside-info is she privy to, that us lesser mortals are not aware of?

One thing that we do know is that John Key  has absolutely no hesitation in doing back-room deals which he may believe “benefits the country” – but in the long-term would create a social/economic mess for a future government to deal with.

Let’s be clear: Key is a creature of the financial world where quick, short-term gains are the order of the day – and devil take the hindmost. And never mind the consequences.

That is how the global financial crisis came about; very shrewd, clever, highly educated men and women – doing dumb, irresponsible things.

The question that begs to be asked – and answered – what “unpalatable” things is Key contemplating? What the hell is he up to???

And what will it cost us?

Next – the bit that seems “at variance with reality”,

”  But Key has more than held his own on television programmes such as Campbell Live or on Radio NZ’s Morning Report against critical news presenters trying to expose chinks in his political spin.  “

Now, this blogger might be wrong, but when, precisely, did John Key last front to be interviewed or answer questions on Radio NZ?  Not just ‘Morning Report’ – but any part of Radio NZ?

Every time Key has been invited to speak on Radio NZ (aside from last year’s election campaign), he has refused point blank.

If Ms O’Sullivan is aware of something that this blogger has missed, then so be it. We would stand corrected.

In the meantime, the perception is that Dear Leader is “gun shy” of Radio NZ. His Smile & Wave persona doesn’t work quite so well on radio – especially when the interviewer is a professional. Not a right wing lackey and mouthpiece,  such as Leighton Smith on NewstalkZB.

Perhaps Key is aware that not only is his media “honeymoon” well and truly over – but divorce proceedings have begun.

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Related blogposts

Doing ‘the business’ with John Key – Here’s How (Part # Rua)

Doing ‘the business’ with John Key – Here’s How

Does this man never learn?!

Reference

Key gets serious over NZ’s major issues

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Citizen A – 17 May 2012 – Online now!

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Citizen A

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- 17 May 2012 -

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- Phoebe Fletcher & Phil Twyford -

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Issue 1: John Key attacks the media and then says he didn’t attack the media, legitimate concerns about the fourth estate or the need to get prescription cost increases, union bashing and Teacher basing out of the headlines?

Issue 2: Paula Bennett has announced a new board of business people to evaluate welfare reforms. What do we pay Paula for and why are they only business people?

Issue 3: Did the revelations in the Sunday Star Times last weekend of how involved John Key was with the ‘financial services hub’ idea concern anyone else?

Citizen A broadcasts 7pm Thursday Triangle TV

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Acknowledgement (republished with kind permission)

Tumeke

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Lies, Boards, and Aucklandports (#rima)

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Last night…

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Source

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In the NZ Herald,  Port chairman Richard Pearson said,

Judge Travis had encouraged the company to return to mediation and it would do so in good faith. The only thing that has changed is that the judge has encouraged the parties to have one more crack at mediation. That is it.”

One could practically hear a collective sigh of relief from the citizens of Auckland; port workers would be back at work; and POAL would return to mediation.

Brilliant!

Common sense prevails!

People were practically dancing in the streets!!

But then, by this morning,  an industrial “atomic bomb” was detonated,

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Full Story

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It should be noted that, as in the case of a Union required by law to give two weeks notice of  a strike, an employer must also give two weeks notice of any intention to lock-out workers. No ifs, no buts, no maybes; that’s the law.

It is one thing for POAL to issue a two weeks notice to port workers. That is lawful (though not terribly wise).

It is also another thing for an employer to lock-out workers immediatly, as seems to be happening. That is illegal. It is just as illegal as a strike without notice, as happened recently in Wellington.

It is also hardly a sign of good faith bargaining, as Labour Party employment issues spokeswoman Darien Fenton said today,

Any good faith bargaining was impossible with a lockout notice looming. That action is in defiance of an agreement reached just yesterday with the Employment Court that good faith negotiations would resume with the Maritime Union.”

On this issue, it appears that POAL management have mis-calculated. The Union has every right to seek legal remedies through the Courts, and indications are, that the Maritime Union will do so.

This incident should give considerable cause for concern to the Auckland Council. It has been more and more apparent recently that POAL management are practically out of control, and are pursuing an agenda of their own.

That agenda became more apparent with the shock revelations uncovered by the NZ Herald that a POAL manager is also  a director of another company – and has been recruiting non-union contract-labour to work on the ports,

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Full Story

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This is no longer an industrial dispute – this has the odour of conflict of interests at best, or corruption at worst.

The Auckland Council has every right to be concerned.

Someone may be planning to personally profit from the dispute and de-unionisation of Ports of Auckland.

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The Green Party’s media statement on this issue sums matters up perfectly,

Auckland Mayor Len Brown must step into the ports dispute now that workers have been locked out, the Green Party says.

The Maritime Union says Ports of Auckland has illegally issued striking workers a lockout notice, a day after the parties were convinced by a judge to head back to mediation.

“The Ports of Auckland’s decision to lock out the union workers is in direct defiance of the settlement reached between Ports of Auckland and the Maritime Union in the Employment Court,” Greens industrial relations spokeswoman Denise Roche said.

This lockout notice is yet another example of the bad faith bargaining by the Ports of Auckland management.”” – Source

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The Employment Relations Act 2000 is quite specific in stating that an employer cannot replace striking workers,

” 97. Performance of duties of striking or locked out employees
  • (1) This section applies if there is a lockout or lawful strike.

    (2) An employer may employ or engage another person to perform the work of a striking or locked out employee only in accordance with subsection (3) or subsection (4).

    (3) An employer may employ another person to perform the work of a striking or locked out employee if the person—

    • (a) is already employed by the employer at the time the strike or lockout commences; and

    • (b) is not employed principally for the purpose of performing the work of a striking or locked out employee; and

    • (c) agrees to perform the work.

    (4) An employer may employ or engage another person to perform the work of a striking or locked out employee if—

    • (a) there are reasonable grounds for believing it is necessary for the work to be performed for reasons of safety or health; and

    • (b) the person is employed or engaged to perform the work only to the extent necessary for reasons of safety or health.

    (5) A person who performs the work of a striking or locked out employee in accordance with subsection (3) or subsection (4) must not perform that work for any longer than the duration of the strike or lockout.

    (6) An employer who fails to comply with this section is liable to a penalty imposed by the Authority under this Act in respect of each person who performs the work concerned.”

It would appear that by hiring new port workers, the POAL are clearly breaking the law. It remains to be seen if management can flout the law with impunity. If so, why shouldn’t Unions?

Perhaps  the previous Labour Government did not go far enough, when they enacted the Employment Relations Act to replace the odious and largely discredited Employment Contracts Act.

Perhaps it it time to remove the law preventing other Unions from supporting those who are on strike.

After all, the right to strike – to withdraw one’s labour –  is a fundamental human right. The West openly supported the Polish Solidarity Free Trade Union movement in the 1980s – especially the right to strike.

If employers such as AFFCO, POAL, et al, are prepared to lock-out workers in a methodical agenda to smash unionisation of their workers – then obviously the law is ineffectual.

When a new Labour-led government takes office, this blogger will be making representations on the following issues;

  • That the Employment Relations Act be strengthened,
  • That Unions be free to give industrial support to fellow striking Unions,
  • That representatives from the Labour Department and other Third Parties  be permitted to attend industrial negotiations, as impartial observers,
  • And that City Councils and other local bodies are given more direct control over Council Controlled Organisations CCOs) than they do at present

This will be a matter of urgency for a new incoming Labour-led Government. Union-busting cannot be allowed in this country.

Anyone in doubt as to POAL’s duplicity may wish to listen to this interview earlier today,

Radio NZ: Listen to more from Richard Pearson on Checkpoint

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Additional

Ports negotiator alleged to have sought workers

Other Blog Posts

Chris Trotter: Only People Power Can Save Our Ports

Tumeke: PoA u-turn over manufactured crisis

No Right Turn:  Psychopathic management in action

Socialist Aotearoa: There is Blood in the water

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Lies, Boards, and Aucklandports (#Rua)

10 March 2012 1 comment

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Full Page advertisement in NZ Herald – three days in a row!

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If anyone remains in doubt that there is a Class War against Auckland port workers, by Ports of Auckland Ltd (POAL), then doubt-no-more.

For three days in a row, POAL has purchased full page advertisements in the NZ Herald – one one of the most expensive forms of newspaper advertising in the country.

This is on top of their factually dodgy “Fact Sheet” which contains at least one outright lie; Lies, Boards, and Aucklandports.

One wonder how the Board and CEO (Tony Gibson) can get away spending tens of thousands of dollars of company money on these adverts? This is revenue from POAL that should either have been used to upgrade the company; pay the workers’ salaries; or paid to Auckland City Council as a dividend.

Is this legal?

Is it acceptable use of company money?

And what does Auckland City Council and Len Brown have to say about POAL money being used in this manner?

I’ve stated this before, and will repeat it again; POAL CEO Tony Gibson and Board, are out of control.

Auckland City Council must reign in this rogue management – or sack them and appoint a new Board of Directors, and new CEO.

And if Auckland City Council and Len Brown decide that the Board and CEO must be relieved of their duties – then no ‘golden parachute‘!

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1.  Sack the Board and CEO of Ports of Auckland Ltd!

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2.  Appoint a new Board and CEO of Ports of Auckland Ltd!

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3.  Reinstate the sacked maritime workers!

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4.  Engage in meaningful negotiations!

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5.  Len Brown: End this farce now!

 

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Additional

Ports of Auckland protest action reaches Sydney

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Unfortunate Outrage?

9 November 2011 13 comments

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It seems that practically any criticism of our Dear Leader, these days, elicits a critical response from certain quarters. Robyn Malcolm’s remarks at the opening of the Greens’ campaign have been described by the NZ Herald, as “vitriolic”,

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Full Story

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The NZ Herald article carries on with similar comments,

But fronting the campaign opening in Wellington, Malcolm savaged Mr Key’s performance.” – Ibid

Robyn Malcolm’s comments consisted of the following,

“”We have a leader who seems to be more interested in talking about his cats on the radio, being seen at the rugby and getting on the cover of the Woman’s Weekly. I thought that was my job…”

“We ended up voting in a Government who’ve revealed their total lack of interest in leading us into the 21st century with any innovation, courage, or social integrity, despite what a nice guy he [Mr Key] seems to be…”

“An unshakeable and abiding love of fossil fuels … and an inability to follow through on promises of any kind, but will make anything up for a Hollywood mogul should they happen to come down this way…” ” – Ibid

Ms Malcolm’s comments are critical, certainly. Hard-hitting, probably.

But “vitriolic“? And “savaging“?

These are subjective interpretations – opinion – not impartial reporting. To some people, Ms Malcolm’s remarks would be harsh. To others, they would be fair comment. The determination of how we,   the public, might feel about her statements should be left up to us to determine – not prompted by a media report.

Gordon McLauchlan, on Jim Mora’s Radio NZ afternoon panel, made precisely the same pertinent observations and criticised  the Herald’s slanted reporting of this event.

One wonders how it came to pass in this country, that an ordinary citizen can be vilified in such a manner by the press, for daring to criticise our elected representatives. This sort of thing was more common in my parents’ country-of-birth, prior to the collapse of the Soviet empire.

As an aside; I heard most of Ms Malcolm’s speech on the radio.  I was driving at the time, so wasn’t paying much attention. What I can recall is that she was certainly critical of John Key and his love-affair with photo-opportunities – but certainly did not sound anywhere near “vitiriolic”. Quite the opposite, I considered her words and tone to be quite measured and reasonable.

If anyone has been “savaged” – it is Robyn Malcolm by the unreasonable editorialising in the Herald’s article. The tone and wording of that article is truly, vitriolic.

What is just as bad, is the outrageous hypocrisy shown by Auckland City Councillor, Cameron Brewer, who joined in the hysterical condemnation of Ms Malcolm. Brewer was reported in the same newspaper (NZ Herald) as saying,

Given Robyn Malcolm is clearly so anti the Government and the Prime Minister, she is far too partisan to front this all-important public consultation and plan . Her personal politics will really colour this council and the plan itself. It is just not appropriate in local government to employ someone whose politics are so pointed to be fronting a public consultation campaign.” Source

Brewer has demanded that Ms Malcolm be replaced because of her perceived partisanship, saying,

The mayor now needs to urgently reconsider whether she is the best ambassador to launch the plan.” – Ibid

Is this the same Cameron Brewer who recently considered seeking the  candidacy for the National Party in the Tamaki electorate?

Why yes, I believe it is.

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Source

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So, let’s be quite clear about what Cameron Brewer is saying;

  • Voicing comments that are anti-government and  critical of John Key makes it  “inappropriate” for Robyn Malcolm to be connected with an Auckland City Council project because she could be seen as “partisan”,  is not acceptable.
  • Supporting the current government and intending to stand as one of their candidates, whilst being a member of the same Auckland City Council, is not partisan and  is acceptable.

My parents came from an Eastern European country that, prior to 1989, had been ruled by the local Communist Party. The power and influence of the Party reached into all areas of public life.

For example, if, as a teenager, you wanted to go to University then you had to be a member of the youth wing of the Party, the “Young Communists”. If you wanted a good job, you had to be a full member, in good standing, of the Communist Party.

I think we know where I’m coming from on this issue.

In essence, for Brewer to accept Robyn Malcolm as the representative of Auckland’s Waste Management and Minimisation Plan, she must be a card-carrying, Key-cuddling, member of the National Party.

Thank you, Comrade Brewer, for showing us how little you value political diversity of opinion.

Will you be following up with a One-Party state and Gulag prisons for dissidents such as Ms Malcolm?

And me next, I suppose?

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