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Posts Tagged ‘Radio NZ’

Thank you, Geoff, and best wishes for your future…

31 March 2014 1 comment

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geoff robinson radio nz

Morning Report co-host, Geoff Robinson

Photo Acknowledgement: Sunday Star Times

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Tomorrow (1 April) see the last day for one of New Zealand’s best media presenters; Radio New Zealand’s Geoff Robinson. It will be a sad day, and somewhere in the back of my mind, I am hoping that this is some kind of quirky “April Fool’s” joke from the good people of Radio NZ.

In all seriousness, I will miss Geoff’s steady voice and hand. As I wrote 23 November, last year,

Geoff Robinson had been a part of my mornings since I “discovered” Radio NZ in the early 199os. He had been part of my mornings since then, outlasting several partners/lovers, and being there as I had my brekky and first of umpteen coffees.

His style was professional and reassuring. He asked the questions and voiced pertinent points from his guests that screamed from my own thoughts.  He always sounded chatty and “laid back” – but his subtle questioning could be deceptively edgy and insightful.

It’s a cliche, I know, but he will be a tough act to follow.

 

All things must end. But with the certainty of change also come human feelings of loss and sadness.

As I also wrote last year; I will miss him terribly. Like a family member who hangs around, never really imposing himself, but always with something interesting to say.

All the best, Geoff!

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Previous related blogpost

Geoff Robinson – an era ends

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Categories: Various Tags: ,

Coming up on Radio NZ: Party Leader interview with David Cunliffe

24 February 2014 Leave a comment

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Radio NZ logo -  nine to noon

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9:05am Tuesday 25 February

David Cunliffe

Labour leader David Cunliffe is in the hot seat in the second of Nine to Noon’s election year, scene-setter interviews. Kathryn Ryan asks Mr Cunliffe what Labour needs to do to gain traction in the polls to prevent National from gaining a third term in office and his policy priorities.

On Nine To Noon, Radio NZ.

 

 

 

 

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“Moral mandates”, “mass medication”, and Mayors vs Ministers

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“Moral mandates”

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Nats look to 2014 governing options

Acknowledgement: Fairfax Media – Nats look to 2014 governing options

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What was that about “moral mandate”, Dear Leader?

Key said the largest party had the “moral mandate” to govern.

“If National was to go out there and poll 46 per cent or 47 per cent – very similar to the result in 2011 – and not form the Government I think there would be outrage in NZ.”

So Key now believes in large numbers and percentages?

Interesting.

Because he certainly paid no heed to the Will of the Electorate when the majority (up to 75% in some polls)  opposed partial privatisation of   State assets.

Nor did Key pay any attention to  the finer points of the results of the  2011 election.  The majority of Party Votes  went to  parties opposing  asset sales,

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National , ACT, United Future Party Votes Labour, Greens, NZ First, Maori Party, Mana, and Conservative Party votes

National – 1,058,636

Labour – 614,937

ACT – 23,889

Greens – 247,372

United Future – 13,443

NZ First – 147,544

Maori Party – 31,982

Mana – 24,168

Conservative Party* – 59,237

TOTAL – 1,095,968

Total – 1,125,240

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So even though the Conservative gained no seats in Parliament (*because of the 5% threshold),  they gained over double the electoral-support for ACT. The Conservative Party, it should be noted, opposed asset sales.

It certainly did not matter to Dear Leader on the issue of public opposition to asset sales. He was more than willing to ignore the majority of New Zealanders who opposed his privatisation agenda.

Key’s claim that “morally” he should lead the next government post-2014 because National may be the largest Party  in Parliament – he should remember one thing;  size doesn’t always count.

Key’s assertion  on having a so-called “moral mandate” to govern post-2014, is  obviously a  message directed at  Winston Peters.

His message to Peters  is simple – ‘if we’re the biggest party, then we are the rightful government. And we will push this meme in the public consciousness which will make life difficult for you if you don’t co-operate’.

This is the kind of deviousness which National’s party strategist (taxpayer funded, no doubt) has come up with, to ensure a third term for John Key.

It now falls upon Peters to see if he’ll cave to pressure from the Nats.

Other Blogs

The Standard:  Moral mandates

The Pundit:   On coming first, yet losing

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“Mass medication”

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Radio NZ logo - Jim Mora's 4-5 Panel Edwards Boag

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A curious event took place on Monday 1 July on Radio NZ’s Jim Mora’s panel…

His guests that afternon were left-wing, Labour supporter, Dr Brian Edwards and right wing, National supporter, Michelle Boag.

One of the topics of discussion was fluoridation of  urban water supplies. As is usual on issues like this, the debate became passionate.

But curiously, it was the position taken by each guest, Brian Edwards and Michelle Boag, that I found curious.

Usually, a left-winger will argue from a position of Collective action and responsibility. Like the issue of Food in Schools, the Lefts supports the stance that raising children, and ensuring their well-being, is a community responsibility.

The Right usually argues from a position of Individual choice  and responsibility. On the issue of Food in Schools, the Right reject any notion of collective responsibility and instead hold to  total parental responsibility as a default position.

I expected the same in the fluoridation debate between Brian and Michelle – only to find their positions reversed.

Brian was advocating from a Libertarian position of individual choice. He opposed flouridation.

Michelle was supporting the Collectivist position for a socialised benefit. She supported flouridation.

Their debate can be heard here:

Quicktime - Radio NZ - Jim Mora - 1 July 2013

Such complex creatures we humans are…

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Mayors vs Ministers

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Eqypt is not the only country wracked with coup d’états.

On  30th March 2010, National seized control of Environment Canterbury, postponing elections, and three weeks later appointing seven, un-elected Commissioners to run the body. The new Commissioners  were vested with new powers to  implement regional plans for Canterbury that could not appealed to the Environment Court (except to the High Court on points of law).

Roger Young, a trustee of the Water Rights Trust,  suggested one of the prime movers for central government seizing control of ECAN was the vexed problem of water rights in the Canterbury region,

After the commissioners’ own recommendations for a mixed member governance model at ECan post-2013 were ignored by the government, we see ECan now as simply a puppet to the bidding of a government which appears determined to increase irrigation and intensive farming in Canterbury despite the first order priorities in the Canterbury Water Management Strategy.

The slow pace of change behind the farm gate means that we will still have rising stocks of dirty water at a level that will haunt Cantabrians for decades.”

Acknowledgement: NBR – ECan ‘just a puppet to government bidding

The Canterbury Central Plains Water project is a half-billion dollar project, and National Ministers wanted to ensure that the money was spent according to their agenda. As we all know, farmers tend to vote National.

Three years later, and National has extended it’s power in the Canterbury region  “to oversee the Council’s consents department”. We are told that this was by invitation by the CCC.  I am reminded of puppet regimes that, once installed by a Super Power (former-USSR, US, China, etc) , duly “invited” their sponsor to send troops to help prop up the proxy government.

Was the Christchurch City Council “persuaded” by Gerry Brownlee to  “invite the Minister for Local Government, Chris Tremain, to put in place a Crown Manager to oversee the Council’s consents department“? Were there back-room dealings where Mayor Bob Parker was issued an ultimatum by Brownlee;

‘Invite us to take over; save face; and save your arse at the up-coming local body elections – or we’ll take over anyway; you have egg on your face; and Lianne Dalziel takes over as Mayor in October – Your call.’

Is that the discrete conversation that took place between Bob Parker and Gerry Brownlee?

I suspect so.

Central Government: 2

Local Government: nil

Another recent announcement had John Key confirming central government’s support for Auckland Council’s rail loop and other transport plans.

Len Brown was, understandably, ecstatic. Christmas has come early for the Auckland Mayor,

I am delighted the government has agreed to support this project

I want to acknowledge Aucklanders for being very clear in their support for this project.”

However, the Nats are not ones to offer something without expecting something else in return,

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City's shares eyed for rail

Acknowledgement: NZ Herald – City’s shares eyed for rail

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So central government will pay up a few billion bucks to upgrade Auckland’s transport system – but the Nats expect Auckland City to privatise their community owned assets?

Cheeky buggers.

Draw: 1 all

When it comes to Nanny State, National out-performs the previous Labour government in spades. Labour hardly ever engaged to this degree of interference in local government affairs.  Executive power under National is growing, and impacting more on our lives.

With National intending to increase the powers of the GCSB and force telecommunications companies to store and hand over data to police and the spy agencies, the state’s influence in our lives grows day by day.

By comparison, Labour was practically a hands-off, “libertarian” style government.

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 5 July 2013.

 

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References

Sharechat.co.nz:  Environment Canterbury elections cancelled as commissioners appointed (30 Match 2010)

Fairfax Media: Environment Canterbury commissioners named (22 April 2010)

Ministry for Primary Industries:  Government funding for Central Plains Water Irrigation (18 Feb 2013)

NBR: ECan ‘just a puppet to government bidding’ (14 March 2013)

Interest.co.nz:  Auckland Mayor celebrates Government’s agreement to support rail loop (26 June 2013)

NZ Herald:  City’s shares eyed for rail (1 July 2013)

Interest.co.nz: PM Key says IANZ decision to strip Christchurch Council of consenting power is ‘unprecedented’ (1 July 2013)

Christchurch City Council:  Council to invite Crown Manager to oversee consenting  (3 July 2013)

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Radio NZ’s new CEO is announced…

… and it is Paul Thompson, replacing outgoing CEO, Peter Cavanagh.

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Paul Thompson.

Paul Thompson.

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The appointment of Paul Thompson was (is still?) a bit of a worry.  His background, as Radio NZ disclosed in a Scoop.co.nz press relelease is firmly rooted in the world of commercial media,

Paul Thompson is currently the Group Executive Editor of Fairfax Media in New Zealand and a former award winning editor of the Christchurch Press and the Nelson Mail.

Peter Cavanagh

Acknowledgement: Scoop – Appointment of Radio NZ Chief Executive and Editor-in-Chief

Why is this of concern?

This report, in the NZ Herald, five months ago, for starters;

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Radio NZ on the hunt for next chief executive

Acknowledgement: NZ Herald – Radio NZ on the hunt for next chief executive

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Note the references made  by Herald reporter, John Drinnan,

However, a source said the board was expected to appoint a new chief executive more amenable to change, particularly over sponsorship income…

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… Critics say that has been at the expense of innovation and by resisting Government calls for new funding sources.

Acknowledgement: IBID

Radio NZ is one of the few state entities that earns very little income (if any); makes no profit; and requires constant  funding by the government of the day.

It is anathema to a right-wing party such as National – which instead prefers to lavish tax-payer funded largese on private corporation such as Warner Bros.

As such, Radio NZ’s annual budget of $31,816,000 has not changed since 2009, after National’s election to power the previous year.

Despite a successful Save Radio New Zealand Facebook campaign in February 2010, there is still considerable apprehension that National has a dark, neo-liberal agenda for Radio NZ. The Nats want Radio NZ commercialised. Commercialisation would ‘gut’ the broadcaster and turn it into a radio-version of TVNZ.

And we all know what TVNZ serves up to it’s audience…

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Pressure is also coming from right-wing bloggers and “columnists”, such as this piece of propaganda BS from conservative Karl Du Fresne, RNZ’s bias needs to be tackled. (Du Fresne’s allegations of “left wing bias” is strange, considering that he and  several other right wing commentators are often guests on various Radio NZ programmes, such as Jim Mora’s 4-5 Panel.  See previous related blogpost: Karl Du Fresne has a public baby waa-waa cry-session)

The commercialisation of Radio NZ  can only be achieved if, at first, the broadcaster’s leadership is changed, and someone more ‘amenable’ to National’s destructive monetarist ideology, is appointed.

Paul Thompson would seem to fit that bill perfectly.

However, there is a glimmer of hope that the last bastion of non-commercialised public broadcasting will not be corrupted by a National Party stooge. If Paul Thompson is being straight up with us, and his comments can be taken at face value, then he is no stooge of this shabby, incompetant  government,

I think any form of commercialisation of any of the stations or the content would be a bad thing.

The funding is what the funding is, and lets hope in future at some stage that changes. In the mean time I’m sure that we can continue to do a very good job.”

Acknowledgement: Radio NZ – Incoming RNZ head rules out sponsorship

For more on Paul Thompson’s comments on this issue, Listen to Paul Thompson on Morning Report

Let’s hope Mr Thompson is a man of his word. I think it is no exageration to say that the fate of one of New Zealand’s best known iconic institutions lies in his hands.

Don’t stuff it up please, Mr Thompson.

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Related blogpost

Talkback Radio, Public Radio, and related matters

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The fabulously talented Kim Hill…

15 June 2013 1 comment

… has ended her two week stint as co-presenter on Radio NZ’s Morning Report.

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I think more than a few folk will miss her considerable presence on the Morning Report segment of Radio NZ’s programming. Her no-nonsense, commanding  style of interview delves past the BS, and  demands answers to questions which we, the public, are entitled to know, but unable to put to those in positions of authority. (And when we do put questions to those in Authority, our efforts are “rewarded” with fob-offs; bullshit, or ignored entirely.)

Kim is one of the best interviewers we are currently blessed with, with more talent in one finger than a regiment of reporters.

Note: Kim Hill will still have her own segment on Saturday Mornings.

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Categories: Media Tags: ,

11 June – Issues of Interest

11 June 2013 7 comments

A look at issues that’ve hit the headlines (or not)…

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Looking at the pieces

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Hekia Parata – grasping at straws

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National standards pass rates rise

Acknowledgment: Radio NZ – National standards pass rates rise

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So let me get this straight. After only one year of National Standards – which is supposedly nothing more than  a means of measurement – Parata is claiming that ” new figures show students are doing better at reading, writing and maths”?!?!

Even die-hard National sycophants would look askance at the claim.

Parata is so desperate for good news that she’s willing to invent it. Some call it “political spin”. In the Real World, we refer to it as bullshitting.

However, the above Radio NZ report is sadly lacking in detail.

The NZ Herald headline was far more realistic and damning;  Parata: Concerning trends in National Standards data.  In the Herald piece, Parata concedes the reason for a slight increase in increased achievement,

We have a range of support in place to help children including Reading Recovery, Reading Together and targeted programmes to accelerate progress in reading, writing and mathematics.”

Acknowledgment: IBID

So it wasn’t ‘National Standards’ that have increased achievement. It’s the hard work of teachers in classrooms slogging their guts out and implementing “Reading Recovery, Reading Together and targeted programmes to accelerate progress in reading, writing and mathematics”.

Well, that’s nice to know.

Even Parata acknowledgment the role of teachers in raising achievement;

It’s a credit to our teaching profession to see progress being made child by child and school by school.”

So, nothing to do with National Standards then, Hekia? As usual, it’s the professional’s quietly working away in the background, while you trot out unworkable policies and spin bullshit to make it look good?

Got it.

Acknowledgment: IBID

Time for some Frankly Speaking Standards Report  Card:

Teachers: A+

Parata’s spin: F – fail

Radio NZ’s reporting: C – can do better

Winston Peters and those emails

Up until the weekend, Winston Peters has been straight-forward in his responses to media questions on the Dunne-Kitteridge Report-Vance Affair. Peters claims to have possession/access of Peter Dunne’s incriminating emails.

Since the weekend, however, his “yes” and “no” answers have given way to evasiveness and obfuscation. No more straight “yes” or “no” answers.

Peters ‘performance’ on Campbell Live yesterday (10 June) was a frustrating exercise in typical Peters evasiveness to straight forward questions. At one point, John Campbell brought up Peters sharply when the wily old politician tried to pull a ‘swiftie’,

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TV3 - Campbell Live 10 June 2013 (at  7.50)

Acknowledgment: TV3 – Campbell Live 10 June 2013 (at  7.50)

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This morning (11 June), Peters was no better on Radio NZ’s Morning Report, giving Simon Mercep the royal runaround. Listen: Radion NZ – Morning Report -  Winston Peters bats away PM’s suggestion of a bluff

Conclusion? Peters does not have the emails in his possession. If he had them;

  1. His answers would be more decisive (you can tell when Peters is bending the truth)
  2. He would be drip-feeding them to the media by now

As our American cuzzies so poetically put it, he ain’t got nuthin‘,

 

Kim Hill on Morning Report

Listening to Kim Hill interviewing political figures on Radio NZ’s Morning Report is simply electrifying. The woman has more  journalistic talent than those on Q+A, The Nation, Third Degree, et al, combined. She holds nothing back.

Check out her interview with John Key on  10 June on Morning ReportJohn Key responds to claims from Winston Peters

Powerful stuff. Excellent interviewing.

John Armstrong; the NZ Herald,Greens, and media voice for the Nats

Ever wondered what a state-sponsored media voice would be like?

Check out John Armstrong’s pro-National spin on the recent Green Party conference and his petty bagging of Russell Norman. More here, on The Daily Blog;  Sparks fly with yet more shocking right wing nuttery

Armstrong hasn’t got a leg to stand on to criticise The Greens, so he focuses on the most trivial, pointless, and childish issues to pick on. This isn’t  media independence – this is being a mouth-piece for the National Party. It’s Soviet-era Pravda and Izveztia, right here in New Zealand.

 

Demeaning rubbish.

John Key, GCSB, Prism, and denials

As reported in the NZ Herald today, Key denied using the “Prism” system to circumvent New  Zealand law to gather information on New Zealanders,

“I can’t tell you how the United States gather all of their information, what techniques they use, I just simply don’t know. But if the question is do we use the United States or one of our other partners to circumvent New Zealand law then the answer is categorically no.”

Acknowledgment: NZ Herald – Key: No GCSB legal loophole

Whut?

And remind us all, Mr Key, why we should believe you?

Especially when we already know that the GCSB has spied on 88 New Zealanders, despite  Section 14 of the Government Communications Security Bureau Act 2003 distinctly prohibiting such activities on New Zealand citizens and permanent residents. (See related blogpost: The GCSB law – Oh FFS!!!)

As well, John Key’s reputation for  brain-fades, mis-representing facts, and outright lying,  is now legendary.

I wouldn’t believe a word that comes out of his mouth.

And finishing on a positive note…

Bryan Bruce on his Facebook page, Inside Child Poverty New Zealand, today wrote,

I don’t know about you but I ‘m getting really tired of people who say “Yes … but.” They agree something is a good idea … but find a reason for justifying their inactivity.

Yes.. paid parental leave is a good idea… but we can’t afford it.

Yes feeding our kids healthy meals at school is a good idea … but.. it’s too expensive….

No it’s not. It’s about priorities.

Do you want mothers to be able to look after their babies or force them to earn a few dollars so that strangers can look after them?

Do you want Roads of National Significance or Children of National significance?

No more Yes… buts.

If it’s YES..if it’s morally right… if it’s sensible… then let’s just do it.

And Yes we can find the money for these things … we could put Company tax back up to 30%, we could make more effort catching tax cheats who rob us of up to 5 Billion dollars a year ( any idea how that happened Mr Dunne?) we could put a tax on all non-personal Bank transactions and get companies run by Charitable Trusts to pay tax on their profits and apply for rebates on the good works the ACTUALLY do.

Just say Yes… no more buts please.

Acknowledgment: Inside Child Poverty New Zealand

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10 June – Issues of Interest

10 June 2013 1 comment

A look at issues that’ve hit the headlines (or not)…

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Looking at the pieces

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Beware of Think Tanks bearing “solutions”

Ex-politician and right wing ‘pundit’ Michael Bassett appeared on TVNZ’s Q+A on 9 June 2013, promoting something called the ” Priced Out” study (see: TVNZ – Q+A -  Dr Michael Bassett on housing affordability)

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New Zealand Initiative - Business Roundtable

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The report blamed local government bodies for being part of something called  the “compact cities cult” and supposedly being unduly restrictive in zoning policies that would free up land for development to build more housing.

Having compact, dense inner cities is fine but often that is prioritised at the expense of urban development. Most people want to live in suburbs.”

Sourse: New Zealand Initiative – Priced Out

One of the report authors, Luke Malpass, stated,

Malpass also notes that the peak of new homes in the 1970s was fuelled by government welfare policies after World War II that subsidised and promoted house construction.

“The New Zealand Government basically printed money for about 50 years to pay for those policies, which is why no-one is really considering them now.”

Acknowledgement: Fairfax Media -  Cult of compact living blamed for high prices

Interesting comments… And they sounded strangely familiar. The ‘tut-tutting’ of State investment in housing; criticism of local body regulation;  the promotion of free market “solutions”…

Who/what is the “New Zealand Initiative” I wondered?

Why, it’s no less than a reincarnation of the right-wing NZ Business Roundtable, merged with the right-wing ‘think tank’, the  New Zealand Institute. (see:  Roundtable and NZ Institute morph into new libertarian think tank)

Well that explains where Bassett and Malpass are coming from – a far-right “think tank” that advocates more lunatic “reforms” that would benefit the top 1% in this country.

Yes, we have a housing shortage in this country.

But as per usual, right-wing fanatics find others to blame for the failure of the marketplace to meet social needs. The New Right steadfastly  refuse to take any responsibility for the failure of their screwy policies – the ones that have been in place since 1984.

It’s funny how the Q+A programme and Fairfax report both neglected to inform the viewer/reader that this was a product of the Business Roundtable.

And by the way, why did the BRT change it’s name?

Perhaps because the “Business Roundtable  brand” is somewhat tarnished?!

See also:

Evening Post: Poor better off than before: Kerr (7 Nov 1996)

Otago Daily Times:  Poor not poorer, Kerr (12 June 1999)

NZPA – Kiwis urged to take responsibility – 12 August 1999

National cares? Whodathunk it???

From the Dominion Post on 28 May, 2013,

Mr Key told the National Party’s northern conference  at the weekend that it was a “myth” that the party did not care about the less-well-off.

Acknowledgment: Dominion Post – Scheme may see kids clothed as well as fed

Also not myths, according to Dear Leader,  are  the Loch Ness monster, flying saucers, and Sasquatch.

Of course, it’s only a sheer coincidence that the Nats have been  engaged in wide-spread beneficiary-bashing at a time of high unemployment caused by the Global Financial Crisis.

The same GFC that Dear Leader automically falls back on to excuse National’s poor performace with the economy;

We did inherit a pretty bad situation with the global financial crisis. We have had three terrible earthquakes in Christchurch. We have had the collapse of finance companies. We have had to bail out what is, in terms of the earthquakes, the single biggest economic impact on a developed economy as the result of a disaster. The public don’t agree with every decision… but I think they believe on balance it’s been a tough three years and we’ve handled most things well. The second thing is it’s all relative. Yes, our unemployment went to 7 per cent and now it’s 6.5, but in America it’s 9 per cent officially and 14 per cent unofficially and in Spain it’s 20 per cent... ”  – John Key, 11 September 2011

National using the GFC as an excuse for poor economic performance: ok.

Unemployed, solo-mums, and other beneficiaries doing likewise: not ok.

Abusing animals for drug-heads

Green Party MP, Mojo Mathers sez,

A pack of gorgeous beagles and their human companions helped deliver to me a 60,000 strong petition calling for the ruling out of animal testing in legal high regulations. I’m sure many of you signed this petition so thank you.

Some of these beagles were rescued from an animal testing facility and I have been working hard to make sure their voices are heard by MPs who are making decisions on the safety testing regulations for legal highs.

If we don’t specifically rule it out, animals will be used to test the safety of legal highs, even though those tests are cruel and unnecessary. I have been meeting with other parties to gather support for my amendment to the Bill to rule out animal testing. “

As demanded by law, if retailers of synthetic cannabis want to peddle their ‘wares’, like this crap,

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k2_synthetic_marijuana_legal_high__N2

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- they need to test their products on animals like these,

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beagles

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- to prove their safety.

Now, I have difficulty at the best of times with the knowledge that we already test products like shampoos, soaps, toothpaste, and other stuff we humans “need” to hide our natural body odours.

But causing harm, pain and eventual death to animals to test “herbal highs” so that a bunch of hedonistic party-goers can turn on, tune out, and  trip Up is a step too far.

There is something terribly wrong with out humanity and so-called compassion when we can even contemplate such an atrocity.  This is evil.

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Budget 2013: Radio NZ and politicians

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RNZ board concerned over budget freeze

Acknowledgment: RNZ board concerned over budget freeze

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At a time when state sector workers have received little or no pay increases, perhaps one of the worst cases of worker exploitation is at Radio New Zealand.

This year, yet again, there was no provision in this Budget to give a pay rise to Radio NZ staff. Not one cent.

In fact, Radio NZ staff have not recieved a pay increase since 2009,

The Government froze funding despite an independent “baseline funding review” from accountancy firm KPMG, which showed Radio NZ was underfunded and understaffed, and underpaid its employees.

The review – commissioned by the Ministry for Culture and Heritage and which the Herald obtained under the Official Information Act – was initially withheld by the Government.

Published in November 2007, the KPMG review said Radio NZ – which broadcasts Radio NZ National and Radio NZ – needed $7 million to $7.6 million to meet commitments in 2008-2009 and was short of 25 employees. The shortfall would grow to $8.6 million to $9.5 million and 40 staff by 2010-2011.

The Labour Government last year increased Radio NZ’s funding by $2.4 million. But an insider said that money had been taken up by inflation and Radio NZ faced essentially the same problems to sustain services as in 2007.

Acknowledgment: Pay freeze tipped as Radio NZ slashes costs

Interestingly, Statistics NZ states that  salary/wage rates (including overtime) for the public sector rose by 1.6% in the year to the June 2012. (see:  Labour Cost Index (Salary and Wage Rates): June 2012 quarter) Obviously Radio NZ staff recieved none of that increase and the 1.6% figure is probably made up mostly of executive’s generous increases on their already bloated salaries.

Just a few of the state sector executives who have recieved  salary increases, as reported last year;

  • Albert Brantley – CEO, Genesis Power – $1.18 million (up 22%)
  • Don Elder – CEO, Solid Energy – $1.4 million (up 11%)
  • John Allen – MFAT -  $620,000-$630,000  (up from $580,000-$590,000, 2011)
  • Doug Heffernan – CEO, Mighty River Power -  $1.8 million (up 34%)
  • Tim Lusk – former CEO, Meridian – $1.22m  (up 42%)

And MPs are not shy at accepting regular pay increases. As the Herald’s Adam Bennett reported last December (2012);

MPs will receive a 1.9 per cent pay increase, the Remuneration Authority confirmed this afternoon.

The salary increases are deemed to have come into effect on July 1 this year meaning MPs will receive back pay for the last six months. That works out to $1400 for backbench MPs and $3895 for the Prime Minister…

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… Since 2009 general salaries and wages had risen by 5.6 per cent while parliamentary salaries excluding the $2000 and $5000 increases to make up for he loss of travel perks, had risen by only 2.9 per cent, the authority said.

Acknowledgment: NZ Herald -  MPs get 1.9 per cent pay rise

It’s self-evident how politicians view issues surrounding pay increases for themselves and executives, as opposed to staff at state owned enterprises.

What makes the zero pay increase for Radio NZ staff even more problematic – and downright reeking of surreptitious political interference – is that Radio NZ is the only remaining public broadcaster left in this country after the demise of TVNZ7 last year.

Judging by the high number of National ministers who refuse invitations to be interviewed by Radio NZ journalists, it is abundantly clear that right wing politicians fear and loathe the public broadcaster. Aside from a few gutsy journos (eg, Patrick Gower, John Campbell, and Guyon Espiner) on TV3, there are few left in corporate electronic  media willing to risk the ire of this current government.

National ministers simply don’t have the balls (except maybe Judith “Democracy Crusher” Collins) to close down or privatise Radio NZ.

Strangling it with lack of funding and underpaying staff is a safer, sneakier way to achieve that goal.

It’s pretty much like killing a potplant you got as a Christmas present from your Aunt Dotty. You can’t throw it out because Aunty would notice, so you “do the deed” by denying it water.

How else to explain that politicians have been awarded substantial annual salary increases – whilst Radio NZ staff have received nothing?

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Annual Salary Increases: 2009 – 2012

MPs % Increase

Radio NZ % increase

2009 nil

nil

2010 10%

nil

2011 1.5% + $5000 payment to compensate for lost international travel perk

nil

2012

1.9% (backdated 6 months)

nil

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This is not just about the “politics of envy” – this is about the principles of  equity. We simply cannot afford to let a taonga such as Radio NZ wither and die.

Easy Solution?

The easiest solution? Tie ALL salary adjustments of state sector employees, management, executives, as well as the judiciary and elected representatives, to determinations by the Remunerations Authority.

If a salary increase is good enough for members of Parliament, then it’s good enough for everyone else paid by the taxpayer.

As  John Key exhorted in 2009,

“I think it is wholly appropriate that the Government leads by example.”

Acknowledgment: Key urges restraint on MP salary rises

Indeed, Mr Key, indeed.

Now would be a good time to show that you mean what you say.

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References

Save Radio NZ

Beehive: Key urges restraint on MP salary rises (22 Jan 2009)

Radio NZ: RNZ board concerned over budget freeze (16 May 2012)

Statistics NZ: Labour Cost Index (Salary and Wage Rates): June 2012 quarter

Additional

NZ Herald: Pay freeze tipped as Radio NZ slashes costs (31 Aug 2009)

TV3:  Govt accused of pay rise double standards (26 March 2012)

NZ Herald: CEO Pay Survey: Salaries stall for NZ’s top bosses (8 June 2012)

NZ Herald: Top public sector pay packets revealed (11 Oct 2012)

NZ Herald:  MPs get 1.9 per cent pay rise (20 Dec 2012)

Previous related blogposts

Why the Remuneration Authority just doesn’t get it

From July 1 onwards

TVNZ7 – value for money!

TVNZ7 – Picking at the body before it’s cold

21 May – Public meeting: TVNZ7 gets the big tick!

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Talkback Radio, Public Radio, and related matters…

A radio talkback host finally discovers her audience?

On 17 February, NZ Herald columnist, Kerre Woodham, wrote about NZ First MP Richard Prosser and his tedious racist ranting in a little-known, trashy, magazine called “Investigate”,

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Bigotry lurks below surface

Acknowledgment: NZ Herald – Bigotry lurks below surface

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Investigate” is a right wing/”Christian”/pro-gun/climate-change-denying/anti-Labour rag that goes where no intellgent media cares to go. In short, a perfect vehicle for the likes of the Richard Prossers of the world.

Woodham, a talkback radio host on Newstalk ZB, expressed her views forthrightly on her nightly talkback slot. To her surprise and mine, she wrote,

But the first three or four callers out of the blocks all thought Prosser had a point and came up with the same sort of ignorant generalisations. All male Muslims marry 10-year-old girls. They all wish the West harm. They stone women to death. They. They.

Source – IBID

As if all 1.6 billion people have exactly the same beliefs, values and attitudes.

It was incredible. I had no idea people really thought like that – yet they walk among us.”

Really, Kerre?

I’m somewhat surprised that she has only just discovered the feral nature of so many talkback callers?! The fact that anonymity protects these callers only emboldens their unsophisticated, bigoted worldview.

Once upon a time, bigots would express their rants only in smoke-filled tearooms up and down the country’s factories or the old-style booze-barns, where alcohol disconnected their last remaining brain-cells, whilst at the same time lubricating their tongues into uncontrolled warp-drive.

Not any more. Since commercial radio hit our shores, bigots have been provided with a ready-made podium that reaches across the country, and in their mad rantings, validate each others’ crazy beliefs. Much like Fox has it’s own viewers in the US.

So it kind of staggers me that she’s only just realised this? Extraordinary.

One can only assume that Kerre mentally ‘zoned out’ (as I do when ads are on television) during her caller’s rants, and only returns her attention when they stop to draw breath. Or their caregivers are urging them to take their meds.

Worse still, even some radio hosts contribute to this swirling sewer of prejudice. I think we all know who I’m referring to.

Regarding Prosser. He’s a distraction.

And I really can’t be arsed writing any more about him any further.

Radio NZ – How helpful is the NBR really trying to be?

The National Business Review (NBR) published a piece on alternative funding, written by Peter Griffin on our last remaining non-commercial public broadcaster, Radio NZ (see: The NPR model and what may be in store for Radio NZ).

Martyn Bradbury has dissected and deconstructed most of the Griffin’s op-ed here: Why the NBR are wrong about Radio NZ.

Essentially, Peter Griffin’s piece boils down to shifting funding from the State, to private donations – a form of quasi-privatisation. It is typical neo-liberal, Libertarian bullshit to further “remove the State from our lives”. (Ignoring the fact that many/most of us actualy like having the State providing certain services.)

It also means further reductions in government spending, thereby allowing for more tax-cuts.

That’s what it usually always boils down to; tax cuts. More money for the One Percenters, and for Middle Class aspirationists (aka, The Terminally Deluded).

It’s a money thing for people like Griffin and other Friedmanite Fellow-travellers.

It’s hardly ever a value thing.

Oscar Wilde once said, “What is a cynic? A man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.” That observation describes neo-liberals to perfection.

The NBR article reports that Radio NZ has an annual budget of $31,816,000. Which, by the way, has not changed since 2009.

That’s $7.24 (approx) for every man, woman, and child in this country. Per year. Or 14 cents a week, per person.

Well, bugger me. 14 cents a week, per each New Zealander?!

It occurs to me that for 14 cents a week, we’re getting a pretty damned good service for our money.

Could I really, really, really be radical, and suggest… pauses… that we raise it to… pauses 20 cents a week?!

Jeez, most of us probably have that stuck down the backs of our sofas!

If 14 cents a week is what troubles Mr Griffin, then I seriously question his priorities. In fact, if I sent Mr Griffin a cheque, for 14 cents, every week, I doubt he’d take the time and effort to go down to the bank and deposit them into his account. But who knows – maybe he needs the cash? Especially since he’s currently on some junket study in the “US on a Fulbright-Harkness Fellowship to study innovation in media”.

I suspect “innovation in media” is a crude code for further commercialisation and lessensing of state involvement in media matters.

What is deeply troubling is that National has a not-so-secret agenda to commercialise Radio NZ.

Radio NZ has the biggest viewing audience in the country. But it doesn’t feature in radio ratings because it has no advertising and thus no revenue. Commercially-speaking, it is ‘invisible’.

The barbarians at the gate, National, want to change this. They want Radio NZ monetised, mongrelised, and earning bucks so the Nats can balance their books and probably cut taxes again and again and… (See previous blogpost: NZ media; the Good, the Bad, and the Very, Very, Ugly.)

In return we get a dumbed down State radio. Like TVNZ. Imagine ‘Seven Sharp’ on Radio NZ, instead of ‘Checkpoint’. The rumbling you just heard was my stomach turning.

Which is why Peter Cavanagh is being “encouraged to move on” at the end of this year.

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Radio NZ on the hunt for next chief executive

Acknowledgment: NZ Herald – Radio NZ on the hunt for next chief executive

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Make no mistake. This is the current agenda.

As Jonathan Coleman revealed in 2010,

Broadcasting Minister Jonathan Coleman says he has not threatened Radio New Zealand board members with removal, but has made his expectations for their performance clear.

Documents released under the Official Information Act to One News show that Dr Coleman has told Radio NZ not to expect any new funding for the foreseeable future.

Radio NZ costs about $38 million a year to run, but the Government is demanding a shake-up to counter rising costs.

In meeting notes from last November, Dr Coleman was advised that replacing the board was an option if they could not find a solution.

“A defensive approach to wait out for the next year or two in the expectation that it will again be business as usual is not an option.

“Members of boards who are not able or prepared to meet these expectations might need to move on or be replaced by members who can.”

Dr Coleman wrote to board chairwoman Christine Grice at the start of the month asking for a list of the options being considered.

“We have to be prepared for an environment where there may be no new funding available for a number of years,” the letter said.

“This may require a change of mindset on the part of the board and senior management, one that embraces open-minded consideration of alternative revenue models, as well as a thorough examination of options for reconfiguring services.”

This morning, Mr Coleman told Radio New Zealand’s Morning Report programme board members were aware they had no option but to deliver cost-saving measures like other Government-funded organisations.

“What I have said to the chair (Christine Grice) is that there is a significant challenge here and I do need reassurance that you feel you have the right personnel on the board, and that you personally are up for the challenge,” he said.

That challenge involved looking at all operational options including staffing numbers, sponsorship arrangements and studio budgets. (Source: NZHerald.co.nz.)

And thus, the National Business Review’s funding suggestions are indeed helpful – to their neo-liberal masters.

The attack on Radio NZ – our last public, non-commercial broadcaster – takes on new and disturbing dimension. It takes Dumber and Dumber to it’s final conclusion.

An Open Message To a New Incoming Government

This has to end.

No, I don’t mean outlawing National (tempting… tempting…) as an anti-social gang. I mean that it is time that a new centre-left government took measures to protect the assets that we, as a nation and people, have built up over the years and decades.

National governments come and go every three years – but the damage they do to our state assets and services can have on-going, lasting effects that lock-in negative consequences, for the foreseeable future.

As Geoff Bertram stated on 13 February, when he addressed an anti-asset sales rally in Wellington;

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Geoff Betram

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“Here’s the problem. Electricity was once an essential service provided to households at the lowest price, consistent with covering the industry’s costs.

Since 1986 the sector has been corporatised and part-privatised, and it’s pricing has been driven by the quest for profit by giant companies that have the market power to gouge their consumers.

As the owner of three of those companies, the New Zealand government has therefore become a predator. And now the Treasury wants to cash in on that rort by selling out half the government’s stake.

What that means in terms of the options for the future, for government to turn around and come back from the predator model, and return to a social service approach for energy supply, is being closed off.” (See previous blogpost: Wellingtonians rally to send a message to the Beehive! (part rua))

If neo-liberal governments can take action to close off future policy changes which could potentially return State services to “a social service approach” - then surely it is not beyond the wit and means of centre-left governments to do likewise. But in the opposite direction.

It is incumbent on the next centre-left government that it must look at ways and means to entrench and protect our state assets. Whether those assets be roads, hospitals, an airline, power companies – or a non-commercial broadcaster – it is time that the potential for market-based “reforms” is closed off – once and for all.

Is it possible to entrench legislation?

Yes, it is.

I. Entrenchment

Section 268, sub-section 2, of the Electoral Act 1993, states, in part,

2) No reserved provision shall be repealed or amended unless the proposal for the amendment or repeal—

(a) is passed by a majority of 75% of all the members of the House of Representatives; or

(b) has been carried by a majority of the valid votes cast at a poll of the electors of the General and Maori electoral districts…

If the Parliamentary term can be entrenched for three years, requiring either “a majority of 75% of all the members of the House of Representatives… or… by a majority of the valid votes cast at a poll” – then surely we can use the same mechanism to lock-in and safe-guard public ownership of our remaining state assets.

That should include Radio NZ and an accompanying legal charter guaranteeing its funding and non-commercial structure.

II. Funding

How does one protect and guarantee funding for a particularly vulnerable entity such as Radio NZ?

There is one mechanism already in place, and which has been operating at arms-length from success governments since 1977; the Remuneration Authority (see: State Services Commission – Remunerations Authority).

The Authority’s role, as outlined on the SSC website,

The Authority

Under the Remuneration Authority Act 1977, the Remuneration Authority is responsible for annually considering and determining the remuneration and allowances of Members of Parliament and the Judiciary, as well as specified statutory officers and members of local authorities and community boards. The Authority also determines the fees for the appointees to Independent Crown Entity boards. The Authority is made up of a Chair and two members; all of whom are part time. The Authority is supported by an executive officer.

We have the tools, we can re-build it…

It should be a simple matter to amend legislation to insert the following,

The Authority also determines the fees for the appointees, and operating-budget increases in line with ministerial salaries, to Independent Crown Entity boards.

Those are two suggestions.

No doubt a Labour (or Green)-led Coalition government has far more intellectual/institutional fire-power at its disposal to dream up ways and means to protect future funding for crucial state-owned entities such as Radio NZ.

This should be a top priority, along with addressing child poverty and unemployment in this country.

Otherwise, this term we lose 49% of Solid Energy, Meridian, Genesis, Mighty River Power, and further sell-down of Air New Zealand. And when the Middle Classes get another rush of blood to their heads and re-elect the Nats again (say, 2020 or 2023), they’ll sell the rest. And then sell 49% of TVNZ. And six years later sell the remaining 51%…

It’s a cut to our state companies and services by gradual degree. Until there is nothing left. And power prices end up soaring so most low-income neighbourhoods are in darkness and our state hospitals are over-flowing with the sick, as infectious diseases run rampant.

And Radio NZ sounds like ‘The Rock’ or ‘The Edge’.

A new centre-left government must make this a priority.

There is no alternative.

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 28 February 2013.

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Karl Du Fresne has a public baby waa-waa cry-session – part rua

29 April 2013 7 comments

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Continued from: Karl Du Fresne has a public baby waa-waa cry-session

On 27 march, Karl Du Fresne had a bit of a public melt-down over Radio NZ, complaining,

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RNZ's bias needs to be tackled

Acknowledgement: Fairfax Media – RNZ’s bias needs to be tackled

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He accused Radio NZ on being a left wing organisation;

But on some programmes, a stubborn Left-wing bias persists.

Kim Hill is the worst offender. This is a problem for whoever runs RNZ, because she’s also its biggest name.

Chris Laidlaw lists to the Left too, as does Jeremy Rose, a journalist who frequently crops up on Laidlaw’s Sunday morning show. Rose appears to be on a lifelong mission to convince people that there are humane alternatives to nasty, heartless capitalism.

Acknowledgement: IBID

Part of the problem is that National Ministers regularly refuse to front on Radio NZ to explain government policy.  An example this morning was typical of National ministers ducking for cover whenever negative stories hit the media.

The Salvation Army will be closing services and making staff redundant, as government funding is cut for critical  social services;

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Salvation Army warns of cuts to budgeting services

Acknowledgement: Radio NZ – Salvation Army warns of cuts to budgeting services

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Cuts to services – such as provided by the Salvation Army – will hit the poorest; most down-trodden; people and their families, in our society. It would be like stealing coins from a blind beggar on the footpath.

All the while, National spends-up large on Tim Groser’s job-hunt at the WTO;

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NZ First calls on Groser to refund travel costs

Acknowledgement: Radio NZ – NZ First calls on Groser to refund travel costs

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And National’s colossal spend-up on consultants and witch-hunts is now legendary;

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Consultancy culture' cost $525m last year - Labour

Acknowledgement: Radio NZ – ‘Consultancy culture’ cost $525m last year – Labour

PM defends money spent on MFAT leak

Acknowledgement: Radio NZ – PM defends money spent on MFAT leak

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The above stories all reflect badly on National. But is it the fault of state-owned, Radio NZ? Is the broadcaster “left-leaning”, as Du Fresne charges?

Or, is the reason somewhat more prosaic?

So, Minister for Social Development, Paula Bennett, was invited to appear on Radio NZ’s “Checkpoint” this morning (29 April) to explain why funding for social services for organisations such as the Salvation Army, will be cut.

When Bennett was invited to front on “Checkpoint” – she refused. Instead she provided a written statement. (Well, wasn’t that ‘big’ of her?)

Hear: Radio NZ – Checkpoint – Labour speaks out against recession funding cuts

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Paula Bennett - not prepared to front on RNZ.

Paula Bennett – too un-nerved to front on Radio NZ?

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This is not the first (nor last) time that National Ministers have refused to front on Radio NZ. It happens with annoying regularity (with Dear Leader John Key being the worst offender).

On the other hand, Labour’s spokesperson on social issues, Jacinda Ardern, accepted an invitation to take part in the story.

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Jacinda Ardern - accepted RNZ's invitation to take part in interview.

Jacinda Ardern – accepted Radio NZ’s invitation to take part in interview.

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If Ministers like Bennett, Ket, et al, – whose salaries are paid by taxpayers – do not have the courage of their convictions to appear on TV, radio, or other media to explain their policies – then they are not worthy of our electoral support nor attention. They are a waste of space.

And right wing munters like Karl Du Fresne should have nothing to whinge about.

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Karl Du Fresne has a public baby waa-waa cry-session

11 April 2013 10 comments

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RNZ's bias needs to be tackled

Acknowledgement: Fairfax Media – RNZ’s bias needs to be tackled

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The right wing, it would be fair to say, dislike the media. Or, most of the media. Fox News, religious programming, and Rantback Radio are acceptable.

But nothing that challenges us to think.

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Kark Du Fresne’s recent outpouring of grievance in Fairfax Media’s ‘Manawatu Standard‘ made it plain and obvious to the reader that he has a problem with Radio NZ.

Du Fresne referred to RNZ as “left wing”. And then listed all those people whom he thinks are guilty of being “left”. People like,

Kim Hill

Chris Laidlaw

Jeremy Rose

Kathryn Ryan

Obviously, these people all need to be brought before Parliament’s House Committee for Un-New Zealand Activities. (Which, we don’t have – yet – but I’m sure one of Mr Du Fresne’s right wing colleagues such as Maggie Barry could easily organise one. More on Maggie Barry in a moment.) Then the H.C.U.N.Z.A.  can ensure that Hill, Laidlaw, Rose, and Ryan never work in this town again.

Our American cuzzies did that in the 1950s, during what we now refer to as the “McCarthy Era“,

Senator Joseph McCarthy

So what were Du Fresne’s allegations?

So what might the new RNZ chief executive do to enhance the organisation’s standing in a political climate that is less than favourable? One obvious step is to take a tougher line against the editorial bias that still permeates some RNZ programmes.

Which would be interesting to consider – except that Du Fresne doesn’t actually spell out where “the editorial bias that still permeates some RNZ programmes” actually lies.

He tells the reader that  “the editorial bias” is there – but not where, precisely. It’s all rather… nebulous.

Du Fresne then claims that,

Public broadcasting organisations, by their very nature, tend to be Left-leaning.”

Really? What “nature” is that, I wonder?

Perhaps Du Fresne is refering to Public broadcasting organisations challenging peoples’ thinking – whereas right-wing media tend to reinforce preconceptions and  prejudices?

He goes on to say,

It’s not hard to understand how this comes about. Journalists distrustful of capitalism naturally gravitate toward state-owned media organisations, seeing them as untainted by the profit motive.”

Now that is an intriguing claim to make.

Especially considering that Maggie Barry (who I referred to above), was the morning presenter on Radio NZ’s “Morning Report” in 1986, and hosted  “Nine To Noon” show in 1990.

Later, in November 2011, Ms Barry stood as a political candidate in the general election, and won the seat of  North Shore.

She stood as a National Party candidate. National being New Zealand’s main centre-right political party,

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And then there’s Richard Griffin, Radio NZ’s one-time political editor, who worked for National Party ex-Prime Minister Jim Bolger, as his  press secretary in the late 1990’s.

National, as I understand it,  being New Zealand’s main centre-right political party.

Then there are the regular guests on Radio NZ – who are well noted for their National or ACT Party affiliations, or who simply express right-wing views;

  • ex-National President, Michelle Boag;
  • National & ACT supporter and anti-MMP campaigner, Jordan Williams
  • rightwing blogger and National Party apparatchik,  David Farrar;
  • ex-ACT MP and Party President,  Rodney Hide;
  • ex-ACT and later, ex-National MP, Stephen Franks;
  • former speech-writer and press secretary for National and right-wing commentator, Matthew Hooten;
  • and former police officer and front-person for television’s “Police Ten 7“, Graham Bell (who holds right wing views on many issues).

There are probably others I’ve forgotten to list.

So what is the “... ideological mindset that permeates the entire organisation” that Du Fresne refers to?

We don’t know. Again, he doesn’t tell us.

But I wonder what Ms Boag; Mr Farrar; Ms Barry; Mr Williams; Mr Hide; Mr Franks; Mr Hooten; Mr Bell, and Mr Griffin might say about Du Fresne suggesting that,

This becomes self-perpetuating, since the more Left-leaning an organisation becomes, the more it attracts other people of the same persuasion.”

Perhaps Radio NZ might not appear so “left-leaning” if National ministers – especially John Key – actually bothered to take up invitations to front for interviews?

On almost every occassion when government policy is under scrutiny, or when National is being heavily criticised, National ministers almost always refuse to be interviewed, to present their side of things.

The result is that National’s critics often accept invitations to be interviewed – thereby giving an impression of anti-National  bias.

But it’s only an impression of bias because National Ministers refuse most invitations for interviews.

One then has to shake their head when Du Fresne then demands,

But publicly funded broadcasters have an obligation to make programmes that reflect the views and interests of the entire community – not just those the broadcasters happen to favour.”

Bollicks. Anyone can read between the lines and understand what he is really saying. Let me “fix” the above statement so we clearly understand what Du Fresne is actually demanding of Radio NZ,

But publicly funded broadcasters have an obligation to make programmes that reflect the views and interests that I’m comfortable with – not just those the broadcasters happen to favour for the rest of New Zealand who are a bunch of leftie, pinko, mung-bean eating, hippies.”

And this bit really takes the proverbial cake,

This is explicitly stated in RNZ’s charter, which commits the organisation to impartial and balanced coverage of news and current affairs.”

Really, Mr Du Fresne?

Du Fresne’s demand that Radio NZ fulfill it’s Charter requirements (though he yet again omits to tell us how Radio NZ has been derelict in it’s duty) is in contrast with his views on TVNZ’s  (now defunct) charter,

The Clark government saw where things were going and tried to arrest the decline by imposing on TVNZ a public service charter, which was largely ignored. Today, the unremitting diet of banal, so-called reality shows and American crime dramas on the two publicly-owned channels is indistinguishable from the offerings on their privately-owned rivals, and disillusioned viewers have been driven into the welcoming arms of Sky TV. ” – 16 October 2010

Acknowledgement: The Spectator – Time to sell off TVNZ

The notion of the public service broadcaster survives in the form of Radio New Zealand, but otherwise it’s in peril. TVNZ is in the process of being released from its obligations under the public service charter introduced under Labour. Its sole objective in future will be to return a dividend to the government (not that viewers will notice much difference, since the charter was largely ineffectual).” – 23 July 2011

Acknowledgement: Karl du Fresne – The changing TV landscape (sorry, media ecology)

No demand anywhere amongst his writings that TVNZ abide by it’s Charter. Just a resigned acceptance. And usually  followed by none-to-subtle hints to privatise TVNZ.

Perhaps the most pertinent point of Du Fresne’s whinge-session is this remark,

Overall, RNZ presents a more balanced range of perspectives than it used to. But on some programmes, a stubborn Left-wing bias persists.”

Bingo!

There we have it; “Overall, RNZ presents a more balanced range of perspectives than it used to”.

And then, “But on some programmes, a stubborn Left-wing bias persists”.

And then states that   “Kim Hill is the worst offender“.

To put it bluntly – Du Fresne seems utterly confused in what he is demanding. On the one hand he states,

But publicly funded broadcasters have an obligation to make programmes that reflect the views and interests of the entire community

[...]

This is explicitly stated in RNZ’s charter, which commits the organisation to impartial and balanced coverage of news and current affairs.”

But he also admits that,

Overall, RNZ presents a more balanced range of perspectives than it used to…”

Whilst then stating,

“But on some programmes, a stubborn Left-wing bias persists.”

What Du Fresne has omitted to say is,

“But on OTHER programmes, a RIGHT WING bias IS PRESENTED.”

Because, my fellow New Zealanders, when people like Stephen Franks, Rodney Hide, Michelle Boag, or David Farrar are guesting on Radio NZ and expressing their right wing views – that is when Radio NZ is meeting it’s Charter obligations and presenting the Right Wing point of view.

For example, listen to Stephen Franks (if your stomach can bear it) on Jim Mora’s 4pm Panel on 8 April. Franks is ranting some right-wing rubbish, as usual, on people’s “reliance” on insurance,

The Panel with Stephen Franks and Tino Pereira (Part 1)

The Panel with Stephen Franks and Tino Pereira (Part 2)

I think we all know what is going on here. Du Fresne isn’t interested in  “balance” at all. He is demanding unquestioning, Stalinist-style, fealty to the current National government.

He even let’s it slip, near the end of his diatribe against Radio NZ,

“The second, more pragmatic, reason is that the Left-wing bias apparent in some of RNZ’s programmes is hardly likely to endear the organisation to the politicians who control its fate.”

Why would a supposedly independent public broadcaster need to “endear” itself to the government-of-the-day?

And does that logically mean that when Labour is in power, that Radio NZ must “endear [itself] to the politicians who control its fate”?

Du Fresne does add this caveat, though,

“In saying this, I’m not suggesting for a moment that RNZ should become a tame government puppet. That would be far worse than the status quo.”

Bullshit. That is precisely what Du Fresne is calling for; becoming a tame government puppet.

Ironically, four years ago, Du Fresne had this to say about Radio NZ,

Another commenter sneered at my statement that the news media functioned as a marketplace of ideas, claiming this was a meaningless slogan typical of “faded old neoliberal ideology”. Really? Perhaps I’m imagining all those lively and informed expressions of opinion and exchanges of ideas – exchanges that help shape public opinion on the issues of the day – that I see every day in newspaper stories, opinion pieces and letters to the editor, or hear on talkback programmes and interviews on Morning Report. Priggish leftists hate this stuff because it permits the dissemination of views they disapprove of.” – 30 May  2009

Acknowledgement: Karl du Fresne – Why leftist academics hate the media

So back in May 2009, Du Fresne was positively gushing with adoration at Radio NZ?!

So what’s changed?

Plenty.

In 2009, the msm* were in love with Dear Leader and the six month old National government could do no wrong. The Media-Key “honeymoon” was just beginning. Media reports critical of Key were minimal. Everyone loved Key and National.

Now, four years on, as the “honeymoon” has ended and a bitter “divorce” is in progress, the media is reporting one scandal after another. National policies are drawing heated criticism from all sectors of society. National poll ratings are gradually falling. And Dear Leader is no longer as popular as he once was.

That is the nub of the issue here. The  Right are beginning to feel defensive and threatened.  Like a cornered wild beast, they are  lashing out at their critics – especially the media,

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Herald - John Key calls media 'Knuckleheads'

Acknowledgement:  NZ Herald – John Key calls media ‘Knuckleheads

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And people like Karl Du Fresne -  an unrepentant  Right Wing political commentator – is bitter. He’s not feeling the love anymore, folks.

On a final note; Du Fresne complains that Radio NZ is biased and left wing.

Perhaps we might take him more seriously if his own columns were less biased and right wing.

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References

Wikipedia: McCarthyism

Wikipedia: Kim Hill

The Listener: Karl du Fresne

Notes

* msm = mainstream media(newspapers, radio, televison broadcasters – as opposed to “New Media” such as bloggers, websites, youtube, etc)

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Talkback Radio, Public Radio, and related matters…

23 February 2013 3 comments

Coming  to “The Daily Blog” on 1 March…

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NZ media; the Good, the Bad, and the Very, Very, Ugly

17 January 2013 10 comments

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could anything be more exciting than television

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A man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.” – Oscar Wilde

It’s no great secret that the news media in this country – with perhaps one or two exceptions -  has been going downhill  in the last three decades.

As an example, the previous entities, the ‘Evening Post‘ and ‘Dominion‘ in Wellington,  once employed three reporters – two full time and one part-time – to cover  local body politics and events in the city.  No councillor or mayor could pass wind without one of the journos picking it up. If something smelled rotten, the journos would sniff it out fairly smartly.

Now, with continuing cutbacks at Fairfax media, and most sub-editors gone, the combined entity known as the ‘Dominion Post‘ has one journalist covering City Council activities on a part-time basis. Coverage has becomes sporadic, disjointed, and out of context.

Which is why Wellingtonians now have little idea what’s happening at their  Council.

TVNZ and TV3 once had current affairs programmes, at prime time, conducting in depth investigations into government activities and dubious behaviour from dodgy politicians.

Many of those programmes, ‘Holmes‘, ‘Assignment‘, have gone.  ‘Sunday” was an hour long on Sunday nights – that’s been cut to thirty minutes.

The main current affairs prpgrammes – TVNZ’s ‘Q+A‘ and TV3′s ‘The Nation‘ – have been relegated to Sunday mornings at 8am and 9am. Hardly conducive to encouraging the public to be aware of political issues in our country. Only insomniacs and the  most committed political junkie would be willing to forego a Sunday morning lie-in to watch TV journos in action with our elected representatives.

Private and State radio is perhaps  the only part of the  industry that has remained consistent.

Talkback Radio – idiot voices screaming at other idiot voices on issues that idiots know little about.

It is the realm where superficial “knowledge”  is the main currency and shrill prejudice holds sway over calm reasoned analysis on issues. Imagine allotting a bunch of bigoted, ill-informed rednecks  equal speaking time at the Oxford debates, shouting down their more knowledgeable and wiser debating opponants, and that gives an insight into talkback radio.

Even the talkback “hosts” are not ones to rise above the common, noisome mud of prejudice and wilful ignorance, as happened last week,

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Radio Network apologises for 'dyke' slur against Alison Mau

Full story

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Charming.

But hardly surprising.

It’s all part of the commercial radio game; win as many listeners as you can by being as offensive and outrageous as you can. That wins ratings, which in turn let’s you sell more advertising, leading to higher profits, which results in  increasing dividends to ever more demanding shareholders.

In a free market society, being offensive and prejudiced (or even better still, offensively prejudiced) is profitable. (See: Laws told off for ‘shoot rabid reporters’ comment)

Ever wondered why radio stations and newspapers “love” Michael Laws so much? Wonder no more. He sells advertising.

Ironically, when radio stations like NewstalkZB are then held to account for  offensive behaviour, the additional publicity they gain – as in the case of the subsequent NZ Herald story above – gives them even more public attention. And higher ratings. And sell more advertising… It’s a win/win for them.

Radio NZ – after the political assassination of TVNZ7 – the last remaining non-commercial, public service media in this country.

And National is gunning for it,

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Radio NZ on the hunt for next chief executive

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It’s fairly obvious why Peter Cavanagh is resigning as  Chief Executive: National has plans to commercialise Radio NZ.

This will no doubt be aided and abetted by Radio NZ board chairman, Richard Griffin. As well as having been a former Radio NZ political editor, Griffin took the job of  press secretary to former National, prime minister, Jim Bolger (See:  Richard Griffin to chair Radio NZ board).

The stage is set…

For National,  non-commercial SOEs such as Radio NZ and TVNZ are anathema to their free market ideology – the very same ideology that saw the closure of TVNZ7 by deliberate political design, despite public support for the channel,

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We need public service TV

See: TVNZ7 supporters rally at Parliament

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The commercialisation of  media such as TVNZ is of considerable benefit to National Party (and perhaps Labour?) politicians, for two very good reasons,

  1. They yield a profit to the State, thereby making government’s job much easier to balance The Books.
  2. Commercialisation encourages ratings-driven programming. Hence the preponderence of crime ‘drama’, reality TV shows of every description, cheap US sitcoms, home improvement shows, and more cooking programmes than you can shake a wooden spatula at.

The second rationale has a by-product that governing politicians welcome with cunningly-disguised glee; ratings driven programming does not include current affairs shows and documentary making. These are now funded by NZ on Air – and even NZOA has been captured by National’s party apparatchiks,

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Call for McElrea to resign from NZ On Air

Full story

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… to fund brain-deadening crap like this,

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The GC

See previous blogpost: NZ on Air funding soft-core porn garbage? Since when? Since now!!

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It is no coincidence that the gradual demise of intelligent programmes that inform and challenge  the viewer has been consistant with the rise and rise of commercialisation of the media – especially the state owned “public broadcaster”, TVNZ.

Quite simply, junk programmes such as cooking porn;  MaF officials measuring the size of fish in someone’s bucket; and crime ‘dramas’ depicting the latest grisly murder (usually a female victim) in ghoulish detail, is what sells advertising.

And it should be no surprise that as the media shies away from serious reporting of current affairs, we had the lowest voter turnout last year since 1887 (see:  Steve Liddle: Election apathy shows need for civics at school).

The Americanisation of our media (“if it bleeds, it leads”) is creating the Americanisation of our electoral process (apathy and low voter turnout – see: Voter turnout in 2012 US presidential elections 9% lower than 2008 ).

Major political parties – especially those on the Right, such as National – love this kind of thing. An unsophisticated public results in low-information voters. Low information voters allow  governments to get way with all manner of dubious policies such as cuts to services; more user pays; environmentally-damaging activities, and further implementation of neo-liberal ideology.

It literally encourages the dumbing-down of society until the consequences are satirised in movies like this,

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idiocracyposter0eo4

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Idiocracy” was produced as a speculative “what if” sf movie. It’s now more like a documentary. If you haven’t see it – this blogger strongly recommends that you do. You’ll be feeling a creepy sense of deja vu throughout it (and you’ll never look at ‘power drinks’ in quite the same way again).

It now appears that we, the New Zealand public, have till the end of the year to mobilise to pressure National not to interfere with the running of Radio NZ.

A statement from the Coalition for Better Broadcasting on 16 January, said,

The real story here is that the National Government – having fully commercialised TVNZ and done away with non-commercial TV channels Stratos, TV6 & 7 – is also slowly strangling RNZ to the point that it cannot survive. In 2007 a KPMG report to the Ministry of Culture and Heritage found that RNZ was already running as efficiently as possible. It recommended a funding increase to allow RNZ to continue its high standards. But the following year, the National Government froze the RNZ budget and that freeze still exists with RNZ operating on the same budget as 5 years ago.

The CBB believes this is a shockingly poor way to treat our national radio broadcaster: the station we rely on in times of emergency, disaster and crisis. We note the repeated absence on RNZ of our Prime Minister (who prefers to goof around on commercial stations) and many of his Cabinet colleagues. This fact and frequent remarks made by Ministers, makes it clear that the decision to freeze funding to RNZ is an attempt to influence the station’s ability to present in-depth news and current affairs. This contradicts statutory requirements that the government does not influence RNZ editorial stance and may even be illegal.

See: Response to the Resignation of RNZ CEO Peter Cavanagh

The under-funding of Radio NZ has been abysmal, with National wilfully attempting to strangle the broadcaster by a lack of money.

The situation for Radio NZ has become so dire that in late 2011, the Crown Entity registered itself as a charity,

The state-owned broadcaster registered itself as the Radio New Zealand Charitable Trust with the Charities Commission last month.

Some of its charitable purposes, which were listed on the commission’s website, included education, research, fundraising and providing grants to a number of individuals and groups.

A spokesperson for Broadcasting Minister Jonathan Coleman said the broadcaster still received $34 million a year but couldn’t say how long it had been receiving that amount.

A financial review of Radio NZ for the 2009/10 financial year showed it had a net deficit of $498,000 after tax, compared to a surplus of $13,000 the year before.

The review said RNZ had been too cash-strapped to participate in the 2010 New Zealand Radio Awards or put in a bid for the Rugby World Cup 2011 coverage.

See: Radio New Zealand ‘forced to register as charity

This is a deliberate campaign against Radio NZ and constitutes political interference – something that is strictly forbidden by law. National has found a way to circumvent that law.

Make no mistake, the dumbing down of Radio NZ is National’s final mission-plan to eliminate all critical, in-depth  media analysis and reporting  in this country. Turning Radio NZ in a radio-version of TVNZ would destroy any remaining  semblance of serious current affairs programming, resulting in another medium for mindless, unquestioning, consumerism.

This is the neo-liberal agenda at it’s nastiest. To be successful in re-shaping a society into a “free market”, the new right must first remove all critical elements in society and either destroy it or marginalise it.

The commercialisation of Radio NZ would be the beginning of that marginalisation. Next would be a partial privatisation, followed by a full-scale sell-off.

This blogger encourages the reader to;

1.

Join Save Radio New Zealand on Facebook. Get your friends and family to “Like” the facebook page – the more the better! Support a replacement for Peter Cavanagh  who will  maintain the non-commercialised status  of Radio NZ.

2.

If you have a National MP as your electorate MP, let him/her know your your vote in 2014 will depend on what happens to Radio NZ.  Tell your National MP that not only will you vote for another Party, but you’ll be making a donation to them as well! Demand that Peter Cavanagh’s replacement support and maintain the non-commercialised status  of Radio NZ.

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Write a short letter to your local newspaper and voice your feelings on this issue. The deliberate demise of TVNZ7 was bad enough – but attacking Radio NZ is the final straw. Demand that Peter Cavanagh’s replacement support and maintain the non-commercialised status  of Radio NZ.

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Write to Labour Leader David Shearer and demand that, if he expects voter support, that Labour reverse National’s  policies and undoes any commercialisation of Radio New Zealand.

On Point #4, the demise of TVNZ7 and impending commercialisation of Radio NZ  underscores one very critical issue: that important services such as Radio NZ must be protected by entrenched legislation that makes it difficult – if not impossible – for incoming  National regimes to to undermine such Crown entities.

It is unbelievable that an organisation such as Radio NZ – which has been operating in one form or another since 1925 – is vulnerable to the ideological machinations of a “government” that has been in office for only the last four years.  In existence for 88 years – vulnerable to attack in four?!

A new Labour-led government’s Broadcasting Minister’s first task must be to enact legislation that;

  • entrenches protection for Radio NZ,
  • denies right governments any opportunity to commercialise the broadcaster,
  • ring-fenches funding and ties it to the rate of inflation – perhaps by the Remuneration Authority which also sets MP’s salaries and perks.

The same protections must be in place for any new non-commercial public TV broadcaster that is set up by an incoming Labour-led government. Crown Entities must be free of covert political interference by the likes of Key, English, Joyce, et al, who cannot resist sticking their grubby fingers into places they shouldn’t.

At the risk of sounding overly-dramatic, this issue is not just about saving Radio NZ from commercialisation. This is a battle for the minds and souls of New Zealanders.

As Dave Armstrong wrote in August 2011,

Despite its budget freeze, National Radio continues to do an excellent job. Its current affairs programmes are intelligent and objective. That’s why you rarely hear the prime minister on Morning Report or Checkpoint. As the recent BBC Hardtalk episode showed, Mr Key becomes dangerously exposed when interviewed by a tough, intelligent journalist. He tends to send in street-smart Gerry Brownlee to take one for the team on Radio New Zealand, while he has a cosy yet inane chat with ex-children’s presenter Petra Bagust on Breakfast or talks to Veitchy on sports radio about hot chicks. That’s far more fun than explaining to Mary Wilson why parents are going to have to pay more for childcare.”

See: Govt consigns RNZ to an undeserved chilly place

In countries ruled by totalitarian regimes (late Soviet Union, North Korea, Iraq under Saddam Hussein, Syria, United States, etc), despots control the media with an iron fist. Members of the state security apparatus watch every word printed; every word uttered; every picture or video screened.

In the West, we do despotic control of the media in more subtle ways. We use “market forces” instead of  secret police forces.

The Western model is far more successful because the general populace doesn’t realise it’s happening. In fact, the general populace rather like “Master Chef Albania” or “CSI Timbuktu” or “Mumbai Squalid Home Improvement”. Unfortunately, watching such drivel doesn’t make the populace any smarter or informed. It simply prepares them for Talkback radio.

It’s up to the rest of us to lead the fight and stop National in it’s tracks.

Spread the word, people.

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FB save radio nz page

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Previous related blogposts

The Ridges are on tonight!!!

I’ll tell you what I want, what I really, really want

Public Broadcasting – down, but not out

From July 1 onwards

TVNZ7 – value for money!

TVNZ7 – Picking at the body before it’s cold

21 May – Public meeting: TVNZ7 gets the big tick!

The radio station, the newspaper columnist, and Dear Leader

NZ on Air funding soft-core porn garbage? Since when? Since now!!

References

Scoop.co.nz:  PM has questions to answer over NZ on Air link

Fairfax: Call for McElrea to resign from NZ On Air

NZ Herald: Radio Network apologises for ‘dyke’ slur against Alison Mau

NZ Herald: TVNZ reveals Seven Sharp presenting team

NZ Herald: Radio NZ on the hunt for next chief executive

Scoop.co.nz: Response to the Resignation of RNZ CEO Peter Cavanagh

Other blogs

Tom Frewen: GC In Breach Of Funding Agreement?

Pundit:  TVNZ kills ad-free channels to grow profits

Tumeke: Seven Sharp already looks blunt

Brian Edwards: TVNZ exchanges current-affairs for a mess of pottage at 7pm

Tumeke: Is the NZ Herald a newspaper or a Police press release?

Tumeke: The future of RNZ

Whoar: “..Radio NZ tops 2012 ratings..”

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NZ Truth – Cameron-style

[This blogpost best read to the popular cult-hit, Gangnam-style.]

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Source

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The sleaziest blogger in New Zealand, Cameron Slater,  taking up the reins of editing the sleaziest newspaper,  ‘Truth‘ – appropriate. There must be some fundamental law of bio-physics which explains the process how such clumpings take place.

The appointment is ostensibly to give a boost to ‘Truth’s‘  circulation – a Big Ask in this age of internet and freely available news-content. Better newspapers than kitty-tray-liner-’Truth‘ are finding that their circulations are falling, despite attempts and gimmicks to stem the slide.

What Slater has to offer ‘Truth‘ is a bit of a mystery.

More sleaze? Plenty on the internet, with blogs such as the one Cameron edits.

A return to the Page Three Girl, with unfeasibly large mammary glands? How quaint.

Listings of recent divorces, such as the ‘Truth‘ used to publish? Care factor; nil.

Stories of political corruption and incompetance? Plenty of those. But considering that National is in power, I doubt his political handlers on the Ninth Floor will take kindly to their attack-pooch turning on their own. They shan’t be amused.

Or will he launch ongoing attacks on the Parliamentary Opposition? Bashing Labour, the Greens, Mana, NZ First, etc, will be a pointless exercise. Not being part of the government, what would be the point?

Or else Slater can just make up any old sh*t. As TV3′s Duncan Garner took him to task on 15 March, this year, when Slater was caught out fibbing (again),

For the record, claims made by the Beached Whale (Whale Oil blogger Cameron Slater) that 3 News secured footage of John Key’s 2008 speech from the PSA are inaccurate.

The footage is held in our library.

It brings into question the credibility and accuracy of all his other blogs, read by dozens of followers.

Big claims from a big man on a small blog site.

It’s a shame he is wrong. Why does Slater make so much of his stuff up?

Source: Whale Oil lies again – opinion

The most stomach turning aspect of this appointment is not that Slater will be ‘Truth’s‘ editor – the two are a perfect match for each other – but his comments today on Radio NZ’s ‘Morning Report‘,

It used to be that journalists held the powerful to account. They went out there and they outed people  that basically caused the working man grief.”

Hear: Radio NZ – Blogger takes helm at Truth

Yes, it’s terrible when someone does things that  “caused the working man grief”. Things like this,

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Full story

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Full story

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Slater had nil reservations about posting personal details of a port worker. Perhaps he thought that smearing a man whose wife had died from a terminal disease would not “cause the working man grief “?

Let’s hope Slater is more responsible  in his new, paid role.

What are the chances?

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Teapots and Tearooms – a tale of two tapes

22 October 2012 9 comments

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Hark back to 11 November 2011; two men met at a cafe for a chat over a cuppa tea.

Nothing unusual about that,  you might think?

Except that the men were John Banks and John Key;  leaders of two political parties;  campaigning for an upcoming election; and about 40 journalists were present to  record the event and report it for their respective media outlets.

The publicity stunt went awry when a recording device was discovered on their table, and Dear Leader was not impressed,

John Key remains intractable today about the teapot-tape fiasco, maintaining and repeating his line that he is a victim of a deliberate attempt by the Herald on Sunday to covertly record his conversation with John Banks. .

Continuing on from his defiance yesterday, the Prime Minister reiterated on Firstline his stance against “News of the World tactics” and said he went to the police because it was “a matter of principle”. 

Firstline host Rachel Smalley, who has seen part of a transcript of the conversation, told Mr Key that hacking into the phone of a family whose child has been murdered, like the News of the World did, is very different to mistakenly leaving a microphone on a table.

“No it’s not,” Mr Key replied, “it’s an illegal attempt to get information and that’s the principle”.

“I have a totally clear conscience about what I’ve done, I think it’s the Herald on Sunday and the cameraman that may not have a clear conscience and in the end, they will have to answer to the police,” he said.

“There are many times where I am in a public place but that doesn’t mean I can be taped…I don’t care about the tape, I haven’t heard the tape but my recollection of the conversation was that it was pretty bland”. ” – Source

John Key was fairly adamant; he was outraged that he had been recorded without his knowledge and point-blank refused to permit the contents of the tape to be made public.  On 30 November he made his Royal Displeasure further known when the coercive arm of State authority – the NZ Police – raided the offices of Radio New Zealand, searching for copies of the “teapot tape”.

Further raids on other media followed.

Contrast Key’s wrath with his attitude toward the alleged video-taping of  his meeting with the GCSB on 29 January, this year.  In response to allegations made by David Shearer, Key responded on 16 October,

There was no tape, to say the GCSB erased it is a very serious allegation and he should put up or shut up, he should apologise.” – Source

Indeed, Key challenged Shearer to present the tape on more than one occassion.

Does such a tape or any other form of recording exist?

We don’t know. The GCSB says it has searched and “found nothing”.

But most pointed is that a spokesperson for the Prime Minister said on 12 October,

We are checking that there is no recording that GCSB made. ” – Source

Let’s re-cap;

On 29 January, Key visits the GCSB for a briefing. He makes some sort of speech in the GCSB cafetaria.

On 11 October, Key is interviewed by TV3 where he stated point-blank that he was unaware of any recording made of his visit to GCSB HQ on 29 January. (See: Secret GCSB recording catches Key out – Labour)

On the same day, GCSB boss, Ian Fletcher, states categorically,

The department has made exhaustive enquiries of its records and its IT systems, and can find no audio-visual recording of the Prime Minister’s visit to GCSB on 29 February 2012.” – Source

On 12 October, Key’s office announces that they are “checking that there is no recording that GCSB made“.

On 16 October, Key invites  the Labour leader to present any recording,  “and he should put up or shut up“.

This seems a remarkable turnaround for our Prime Minister?!

He obviously wasn’t aware that he was being recorded – and yet, after checking with the GCSB – is agreeable to Shearer releasing any recording that might be in his possession?!

This seems in stark contrast to Key’s anger at being recorded last year, in Epson – also unknowingly -  when he not only refused to release the tape – but called in the police to enforce his diktat.

Key was obviously having none of it.

So why the sudden change of heart at being unknowingly recorded in the GCSB’s cafetaria?

What happened between 12 October and 16 October that allowed Key to comfortably challenge Shearer to “ put up or shut up“?

Fairly bloody obvious, I would think.

The GCSB found the recording before copies could be made (otherwise it would have leaked by now); deleted it; and then advised the Prime Minister “that no recording existed”.

There is simply no other way to explain Key’s inexplicably contradictory responses on being unknowingly recorded on two separate occassions, only 110 days apart.

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Sources

NZ Herald: Bugged in the Act

NZ Herald: PM blocks release of chat tape

TV3:  Key reiterates that he is ‘teapot-tape’ victim

Dominion Post: Radio NZ hands over ‘tea tape’ interview

TV3: Key to take staffer to GCSB meetings

Scoop: GCSB in the House on Wednesday

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Mischief making with Matthew Hooton?

21 August 2012 7 comments

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Matthew Hooton is a right-wing blogger, political commentator, and National Party fellow-traveller.  He has been an occassional  guest panellist on Martyn “Bomber” Bradbury’s excellent “Citizen A”, as well on as Radio New Zealand’s late-Monday morning slot, “Politics with…”.

In his favour, he is one of the more coherent from the neo-liberal camp and can present a reasoned opinion without resorting to cliched, right-wing rhetoric or blame-speech. In short, you can listen to him without groaning; face-palming, and eventually reaching for the “off” switch or the Remote channel-changer.

Lately though, this blogger has been hearing something unusual from the man who is a self-professed fan of the original, neo-liberal, ACT Party.

It turns out that Matthew Hooton is either a closet Winston Peters fan, or has been up to  a subtle piece of mischief-making  lately…

On Radio NZ’s  political segment  on Monday late-afternoons, hosted by Kathryn Ryan, Mr Hooton has been making some very strange noises about a National-Conservative Party-NZ First coalition.

Those with a fair memory will recall that NZ First has been in coalition with National once before, in 1996.

See: 45th New Zealand Parliament

To put it mildly,  Peters’ decision to go with National was unpopular with the public. The coalition deal did not last long and neither did it  end well.

But considering it was New Zealand’s very first coalition government under MMP,  Peters might be forgiven. It was a steep learning curve for the entire country.

So why has Mr Hooton been saying things like,

If you assume that this report makes it much more likely that the Conservative Party will come into Parliament, and if you also assume that Winston Peters  would prefer not to be  a third wheel on a Labour-Green government , then National really  can get it’s support down as low as say 40% now, and with New Zealand First and the Conservatives be assured of forming a government.

[abridged]

But if the government does accept these, then National now knows very clearly it’s  path to it’s third term is through that Winston Peters-Colin Craig deal.” – 13 August

Listen:  Politics with Matthew Hooton and Josie Pagani

Then, forget about all this nonsense  flirting with these one-MP parties, and focus on forming a government – god help me for saying this – with New Zealand First and the CCCP [Colin Craig's Conservative Party - not the USSR].” – 20 August

Listen:  Politics with Matthew Hooton and Mike Williams

It seems fairly clear that, having learned the lessons  of the late 1990s, it seems highly unlikely that Peters would risk another public backlash by coalescing with National. It would  be annihilated in the following election…

… which, may give us a clue why Matthew Hooton has been dropping little “hints” about a potential National-NZ First-? Coalition arrangement.

Could it be that, like this blogger, Matthew Hooton has seen and understood  the portents in the political tea-leaves, vis-a-vis latest political opinion polls, which show a steady decline for National?

Could it be that Mr Hooton understands that ACT and Peter Dunne are dog-tucker – especially once MMP reforms are implemented?

And could it be that a third term for National can only be guaranteed if,

  1. Colin Craig’s Conservative Party breaks the new 4% threshold, and,
  2. NZ First does not make it back into Parliament?

Without NZ First, a Labour-Green-Mana Coalition may be unable to beat a National-Conservative Coalition. It may come down to a simple one or two seat majority, as happened last year.

So why would Mr Hooton be touting a National-Conservative-NZ First Coalition?

Because, traditionally, supporters of NZ First tend to be disaffected voters.

They vote against the incumbent government (in this case National), just as  voters cast their ballot for NZ First in 1996, believing it to be a vote against the incumbent Bolger-led National government.

If a meme can be developed that  there is a possibility that NZ First may opt to join a National-Conservative Party coalition (even though there is zero indication of this happening), then that may alienate potential voter-support for Peters.

After all, what would be the point of voting for Peters if he simply props up the current government? That would be the subtle, psychological message that Hooton may well be trying to implant in Voterland’s collective psyche.

It’s a kind of reverse psychology; “a vote for NZ First is a vote for a John Key-led government”. Which would put off voters who don’t want a Key-led National coalition, thereby reducing NZ First’s chances of breaking the 4% threshold.

They may instead vote for the Conservative Party, which presents itself as the new “maverick kid on the block”.

(And yes, I know the Conservative Party is most likey to coalesce with National. But, like voters who opposed asset sales still voted for John Key, those who vote for Colin Craig may not consider that eventual outcome. All they see is an new Alternative Option.)

So when the likes of Matthew Hooton drop little hints of a National-NZ First deal – just ask yourself; what’s Matthew up to?

Is he happily fomenting mischief?

Or is he really a closet fan of the Dapper Suited One?

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Bolivia, New Zealand, and Tony Kokshoorn

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As the economy continues to stagnatebusiness confidence plummets, unemployment remains stubbornly high, and other negative social and economic indicators feature in our daily media reporting,  National’s desperation for any means for economic growth becomes more apparent.

The national cycleway fizzled out; the Christchurch re-build moves at a snail’s pace; and the Sky City convention centre has become a liability as the public is (rightly) concerned about increasing problem gambling.

National continues to look at easy, quick-fix solutions. And nothing is easier as a quick-fix than digging a hole and extracting precious stuff. You can’t get easier than that.

Facing staunch public opposition, on  20 July 2010, National announced that it was backing away from mining in Conservation land. In an attempt to allay mounting public anger, Energy Minister Gerry Brownlee stated categorically,

At the time the discussion document was released, I made it clear that it was a discussion. There were no preconceived positions from the Government. We have no intention of mining national parks.”

See:  Govt confirms no mining Schedule 4, national parks

But it seems that the Nats cannot help themselves.  Like a kleptomaniac drawn to shiny things, National disclosed on 25 June,

The Government has confirmed plans to survey for minerals in world heritage sites on the West Coast.

Aeromagnetic surveying will be conducted in the South Island from Haast to Karamea, including large chunks of Te Wahipounamu South West New Zealand world heritage area.

The surveying follows a similar project in Northland last year, when more than 13,590 square kilometres of the region were surveyed from February to August. That was followed by an announcement from Energy and Resources Minister Phil Heatley this month, of a competitive tender process for exploration permits for metallic minerals in the region. “

See:  Mineral hunt in heritage areas

They said were  “just looking“.

On the following day – probably sensing rising public unease – Dear Leader John Key rushed to reassure the public,

I can give you an assurance we won’t be mining on world heritage sites.   What we are doing is gathering information for a variety of other reasons.”

See:   Key: No mining in world heritage areas

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One wonders what Key’s “ variety of other reasons  ” are?!

As one media report states,

The Conservation Department says it is one the great natural areas of the world, with “landscapes of untouched beauty”.

The West Coast surveys will not include areas protected under Schedule 4 of the Crown Minerals Act. However, the schedule does not prevent mining in world heritage areas such as Te Wahipounamu.

Economic Development Ministry spokeswoman Tracy Dillimore said yesterday that Te Wahipounamu would be surveyed to provide a good understanding of the geology and mineral potential of the wider area.

“New Zealand is potentially highly prospective for a wide range of minerals. The Government would like to see New Zealand maximise the benefits of safe and environmentally responsible development by reputable operators”.  “

See:  Mineral hunt in heritage areas

On 11 July, in response to a Herald-Digipoll, Grey District mayor, Tony Kokshoorn was invited to comment on the issue of mining on the West Coast, on Radio New Zealand’s  ‘Afternoon With Jim Mora’s‘ show.

To say that Kokshoorn was enthusiastic about mining – including open cast mining – would be the understatement of the year,

” … Look the benchmark has always been talked about in the last two years was when Gerry Brownlee said they were going to actually mine on Schedule 4  [DoC] land. What happened was you had a big protest  that was just alluded to a minute ago, down Queen Street and they said 50,000 went down there and that was taken as the benchmark and people were against mining on Conservation land.

But the benchmark is totally wrong. I mean, it’s a well known fact it was nothing like 50,000 people. It was more like only 25,000 or 30,000 people that marched in the first place, so it’s all out of kilter. The bottom line here is that  West Coasters  and a lot of people in New Zealand, they do want mining. They want to actually get  the wealth that’s in the ground, out, so we can have  good health, education, and policing. 

Why would we send our workers to Australia and the rest of the world, to earn big wages and earn those countries valuable overseas exchange when we can have it, and we can have wealth ourselves?

Jim Mora asked,

Even if it’s open-cast, a lot of it?

Mayor Kokshoorn replied,

Yes, of course. Look, it’s a pin-prick  on the surface. The West Coast runs from Karamea to Haast, which is the equivalent of Wellington through to Auckland.  It’s a huge, huge, area. We’re not going to ruin the crown jewel that we have, and which is our rain forest. We’re gonna make sure they stay intact.

There’s a big tourist industry round that and you got to go back to the fact that the Resource Management Act 1991 was put in place for that exact reason, and was to get a win/win so we can actually manage our environment and at the same time get economic development for our region. So for anyone to think that somehow we’re going to ruin it; we’re going to get the chainsaws out again; or we’re going to get the bulldozers out, that is just absolute rubbish.

Those days went many, many years ago. “

Source: Radio NZ   The Panel with David Slack and Ali Jones (Part 2)

Tony Kokshoorn sez “we’re not going to gret the bulldozers out again”. In which case,  pray tell, Mr Mayor, how do you propose to dig an open-cast mine? With f*****g teaspoons???

And how can he say that “those days went many, many years ago” – of chainsaws and bulldozers – when that is precisely how open cast mines are dug out of ground or mountains. Let us be absolutely candid and straight up; open cast mines are excavated with bulldozers and other massive earth-moving equipment.

The waste material – millions of tonnes of rock – has to be dumped somewhere.  Much of those tailings contain toxic heavy metals and other elements,

Mining can cause serious long-lasting water pollution through acid mine drainage. Copper, lead, zinc, cadmium and arsenic can leach out when water contacts the exposed rock in mine workings or tailings. This pollution is very serious and can be a problem that remains long after a mine is abandoned.

On Mt Te Aroha, poisonous waste -  from just 90,000 cubic meters of tailings of the Tui mine, (which was abandoned in 1970 when the mining company went bankrupt) , is costing taxpayers over $17.5 million to attempt to fix. The Martha Mine will have over 40 million cubic meters of toxic tailings.  Which means the Tui Mine tailings are just 0.225% of  the volume of the Martha mine tailings !

See:  How would outstanding  areas  be degraded by gold mining?

To remind folk what an open-cast mine looks like, this is the Newmont mine in Waihi,

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Perhaps the most dubious claims made by the likes of Tony Kokshoorn, Steven Joyce, et al,  is that mining will create new jobs and increase our wealth.

As recently as 5 July, Key stated,

New Zealanders, mostly, understand that while we owe it to future generations to do everything we can to protect our environment, we must also do all we can to leave them with a robust and sustainable economy where they can expect a good job and a good standard of living.

We have always believed that New Zealand’s mineral wealth can play a large part in the economy, and we have also always believed this can be done with a minimal impact on our environment”. “

See: Poll backing for more mineral searches cheers Key

They almost always point to Australia as an example.

However, Australia’s wealth is predicated on several other factors as well,

  • A$1.3 trillion-dollar compulsory savings fund
  • Stable political system and economy
  • Strong trade union movement that ensures regular wage increases and protection of conditions
  • The service sector of the economy, including tourism, education, and financial services, accounts for about 70% of GDP. Source

Far from rolling in cash, Australia has a balance of payments that is more than 7% of GDP negative, and has had persistently large current account deficits for more than 50 years. Source

As well,

”  One single factor that undermines balance of payments is Australia’s narrow export base. Dependent upon commodities, the Australian government has endeavoured to redevelop the Australian manufacturing sector. “

See:  Balance of payments of Australia

So it appears that the mining industry is not quite the ‘gold mine‘ that many believe for Australia.

More to the point, in de-constructing the illusion that mining is some kind of economic ‘panacea‘,  is the example set by Bolivia. A cursory comparison of fiscal indicators between Bolivia and New Zealand yields some interesting facts,

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Bolivia

New Zealand

Population

10,629,000 [2]

4,416,000 [1]

Gross domestic product (2011)

US$24.604 billion [2]

US$161.851 billion [1]

Gross domestic product per capita (2011)

US$2,314.826 [2]

US$36,648.204 [1]

GDP Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) Total (2011)

$50.904 billion [2]

$122.193 billion [1]

GDP Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) per capita (2011)

$4,789.212 [2]

$27,668.367 [1]

Gini coefficient [3]

58.2 (high, 2009) [3]

36.2 (medium, 1997) [3]

Unemployment

5.5% (est.) [4]

6.5% (est.) [5]

Growth

5.1% (2011 est.) [4]

2% (2011 est.) [5]

Inflation

6.5% (2011 est.) [4]

4.5% (2011 est.) [5]

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Sources

[1] Source IMF

[2] Source IMF

[3] Source Wikipedia – The Gini coefficient measures the inequality among values of a frequency distribution (for example levels of income). A Gini coefficient of zero expresses perfect equality where all values are the same (for example, where everyone has an exactly equal income). A Gini coefficient of 100 expresses maximal inequality among values (for example where only one person has all the income) .

[4]CIA Factbook

[5] CIA Factbook

Bolivia’s economy is heavily dependent on oil, gas, and mining,

Bolivia’s estimated 2011 gross domestic product (GDP) totaled $23.3 billion. Economic growth was estimated at about 5.1%, and inflation was estimated at about 6.9%. The increase in GDP primarily reflected contributions from oil and gas production (7.9%); electricity, water, and gas distribution (7.6%); construction (7.2%); transport and communications (6.0%); and financial services (5.5%). Exports rose by more than 30% between 2010 and 2011 to $9.1 billion, due mostly to increased commodity prices, not increased volume.

In 2011, Bolivia’s top export products were: hydrocarbons (45% of total exports), minerals (27%), manufactured goods (24%), and agricultural products (4%).

See: Wikipedia Bolivia Economy

Quite simply, Bolivia’s reliance on mining and hydrocarbons does not seem to have yielded the wealth that people like Key, Joyce, Kokshoorn, and others, are telling us should be our reward for digging bloody big holes in the ground.

Whilst the Bolivian GDP grew two and a half times that of New Zealand, the income appears not to  have “trickled down” to ordinary Bolivian workers.

In fact, as the chart above shows, GDP per capita and GDP Purchasing Power Parity per capita is greater for New Zealanders by several orders of magnitude, than it is for Bolivians.

Further GDP per Capita rankings can be found here:  List of countries by GDP (nominal) per capita. Despite Bolivia’s higher  GDP growth, New Zealanders’ per capita incomes are far higher. Our standard of living is greater.

Accepted wisdom tells us  that our more diverse economy is more productive, and a  subsequently greater wealth-producer. Opportunities for higher wages (than Bolivia) abound throughout our economy that includes food processing, wood and paper products, textiles, machinery, transportation equipment, banking and insurance, tourism, as well as mining and hydro-carbon extraction.

As David Slack said on the same panel, hosted by Jim Mora, when he addressed the NZ Herald-Digipoll ‘support’ for mining,

I’m  kinda dismayed that there’s still this Lotto mentality that wants to just find a way to just happen upon our wealth rather than developing  our economy so  that we’ve got more high value business so that we’ve got perpetual wealth from that…  [host interuption]

… Yeah, well you’ll have it once then it’s gone, and you’ll only be getting the royalties off it, not the whole damn thing.

If mining was such a quick-fix wealth creator, then Bolivia should be light-years ahead of us. It clearly is not, and this blogger believes that our higher per capita income can be attributed to the  diversification  and sustainability of our economy.

It should also be remembered that, as David Slack  pointed out, New Zealand does not earn $100 million from the extraction of Mineral X. We benefit from only the royalties (currently set at  1 or  5 %), some taxes, and a few thousand jobs.

See: Taxation and Royalties for Mining Companies

This Fairfax article is  illuminating,

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Full story

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Compare,

” Crown royalties from the mining industry returned just $6.5 million last year… “

With,

” Mining was a $2b a year industry, with $1.1b in exports… “

Obviously, New Zealand makes bugger-all from mining royalties.

And if the mining companies are owned by offshore interests (eg; New Zealand’s two biggest gold mining companies; Newmont, which owns the open pit Martha Hill and underground Favona mines at Waihi, is US-based; and Australian-based OceanaGold), then profits made are remitted overseas, worsening our balance of payments. Only company tax (which can be minimised) and employment of local people provide any measurable benefits to our economy – and even those are minimal.

Where the mining activities result in a tax loss, this loss may be set off against income from non-mining activities, although the benefit of the mining loss is reduced by 50%; ie $300 of mining losses are required to be offset against $200 of non-mining income. The reasons for these unusual offset arrangements relate back to a period when mining companies paid a lower rate of tax than ordinary companies.

Mining companies are prohibited from grouping their profits or losses with other mining companies or with non-mining companies.

Despite these limitations, the tax regime for mining companies is generally regarded as concessionary. For example, it allows mining companies to immediately deduct their exploration expenditure and any expenditure incurred in the development of the mining licence. Thus buildings, mine-shafts, plant and machinery, production equipment and storage facilities, which would ordinarily be capitalised under standard accounting conventions, may be deducted immediately for income tax purposes.

See: Taxation and Royalties for Mining Companies

Further regarding taxation, the Fairfax article   states,

“… but the Government had not yet done any work on how much more tax or jobs could be created from expanding mining into conservation land.”

“More tax”?

Doubtful.

Dear Leader is already on record opposing the Capital Gains Tax, and any other tax for that matter,

National is not going to be raising GST. National wants to cut taxes not raise taxes. “

See: Key ‘no GST rise’ video emerges

And lastly; jobs.

How many workers does the mining industry employ?

Number employed: 4,000 directly, another 8,000 indirectly, as suppliers of goods and services

See: Key Facts of New Zealand Mining

By comparison, the tourism sector plays a significant role in New Zealand’s economy,

Tourism Satellite Account 2011 Report [1 MB PDF]

Year to March 2011 (released October 2011)

  • Tourism Expenditure
    Total tourism expenditure was $23.0 billion, an increase of 2.1 percent from the previous year. 
  • Tourism Contribution to GDP
    Tourism generated a direct contribution to GDP of $6.9 billion, or 3.8 percent of GDP.  The indirect value added of industries supporting tourism generated an additional $8.8 billion to tourism. 
  • Domestic and International Segments
    Domestic tourism expenditure was $13.2 billion, an increase of 2.5 percent from the previous year. 
  • Tourism Export Earnings
    International tourist expenditure in 2011 ($9.7 billion) represents 16.8% of the total export earnings ($52.4 billion).  Tourism is New Zealand’s second largest export earner, followed dairy ($11.6 billion or 19.9% of exports) in 2011. 
  • Tourism Employment
    The tourism industry directly employed 91,900 full-time equivalents (or 4.8 percent of total employment in New Zealand), an increase of 0.6 percent from the previous year.
  • Tourism Contribution to GST
    Tourists generated $1.7 billion in goods and services tax (GST) revenue.

See:   Ministry of Economic Development – Tourism satellite account

It should not escape anyone that there is a high degree of irony here. A multi-billion dollar industry (tourism) relies on the very environment that the Mining industry would despoil with their activities.

To sum up;

  1. Mining is not as beneficial to a modern economy as some insist.
  2. Bolivia is a mining nation and is lagging behind New Zealand in per capita income.
  3. Bolivia’s GDP is growing 2.5 times faster than ours – but so is their inflation, whilst incomes still lag behind ours.
  4. Australia’s mining wealth is considerable – no doubt – but their balance of payments  is more than 7% of GDP negative, and has had persistently large current account deficits for more than 50 years
  5. Australia is far too reliant on mining wealth; their economy is far too dependent on commodities; and they need to diversify.
  6. Crown Royalties are minimal – 1-5% .
  7. Big profits by foreign-owned mining companies leave New Zealand.
  8. Open cast mining creates a considerable impact on the environment, despite claims to contrary.
  9. Mining companies enjoy  a taxation regime that  “is generally regarded as concessionary”.
  10. And far more New Zealanders are employed in the Tourism sector than in the mining industry.

To repeat David Slack’s comments from Radio New Zealand,

I’m  kinda dismayed that there’s still this Lotto mentality that wants to just find a way to just happen upon our wealth rather than developing  our economy so  that we’ve got more high value business so that we’ve got perpetual wealth from that…  [host interuption]

… Yeah, well you’ll have it once then it’s gone, and you’ll only be getting the royalties off it, not the whole damn thing.

Whilst Dear Leader John Key stated,

New Zealanders, mostly, understand that while we owe it to future generations to do everything we can to protect our environment, we must also do all we can to leave them with a robust and sustainable economy where they can expect a good job and a good standard of living.

We have always believed that New Zealand’s mineral wealth can play a large part in the economy, and we have also always believed this can be done with a minimal impact on our environment.

See:  Poll backing for more mineral searches cheers Key

I know who I believe.

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Additional

NZ Herald:  Optimism dips in struggling economy

NZ Herald:  Poll backing for more mineral searches cheers Key

Fairfax Media: NZ economic growth ‘unspectacular’

NZ Herald:  Unemployment rate lifts to 6.7pc

Crown Minerals Act 1991

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= fs =

21 May – Public meeting: TVNZ7 gets the big tick!

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21 May – Public meeting: TVNZ7 gets the big tick!

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400+ People pack Wesley Church Hall tonight!

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Frank Macskasy Blog Frankly Speaking  Save TVNZ7

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A chilly Monday night in downtown Wellington, and people were steadily filing in, to fill  a reasonably sized hall in Taranaki Street’s Wesley Church Hall,

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Frank Macskasy Blog Frankly Speaking Save TVNZ7

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The Goodnight Kiwi was on hand to greet people, as they filed into the hall,

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Frank Macskasy Blog Frankly Speaking  Save TVNZ7

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Within another half hour, and the hall was full, with people standing around the walls, in the doorway, and out into the foyer.

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 Frank Macskasy Blog Frankly Speaking  Save TVNZ7

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The crowd numbered 400+ and seemed to represent a wide spectrum  middle  New Zealand, young and old,

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 Frank Macskasy Blog Frankly Speaking  Save TVNZ7

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Completing a panormaic view of the packed hall, which kept filling even as the guest speakers were addressing the audience,

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Frank Macskasy Blog Frankly Speaking  Save TVNZ7

Note: From this point onward, a fault in my camera results in a degraded image-quality.

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Soon after 7pm,  Wellington Central MP and deputy leader of the Labour Party, Grant Robertson opened the meeting;  welcomed the audience; and introduced the guest speakers; moderator, Wallace Chapman (broadcaster); Clare Curran (Labour spokesperson on Broadcasting); Sue Kedgley (ex Green MP);  Dr Peter Thompson  (Victoria University, Senior Lecturer in Media Studies ); and Tom Frewen  (Journalist & Media Commentator),

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Frank Macskasy Blog Frankly Speaking  Save TVNZ7

 

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Wallace Chapman is better known in his role as host for TVNZ7′s popular “Backbenches” – though Robertson was at pains to point out to the audience that Chapman was present in a personal capacity only, and not as a representative for TVNZ7 or any other body.

Wallace Chapman welcomed the audience and commented that no public service TV channel was immune from political interfence, whether the BBC and Radio New Zealand.  He said that  TVNZ7 and its’ supporters were often dismissed  by critics as supporting “minority viewing”. Chapman said that 1.4 million viewers per month was not minority viewing, and quoted Noam Chomsky regarding minorities.

Chapman then read out a selection of letters and emails from people who supported TVNZ7. He quoted one young viewer who said,

I don’t feel left out of society with TVNZ7. I feel included.”

Chapman then introduced Labour’s spokesperson on Broadcasting, Clare Curran.

Clare Curran

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Frank Macskasy Blog Frankly Speaking  Save TVNZ7

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Ms Curran began by asking the audience,

Who remembers ‘Goodnight Kiwi’?”

A sea of arms shot up – probably 99% of the audience raised their arms.

Ms Curran said that ‘Goodnight Kiwi’ was out in the foyer (see photo above) and the costume was the same that had been used by TV2 in it’s public promotion of itself.

She then asked,

Who remembers Fred Dagg?”

Perhaps not as many hands went up this time, but still the vast majority indicated that they knew the name.

Ms Curran explained that the actor who played the popular ‘Fred Dagg’ character, John Clarke, was a well -known comedian and satirist on Australian TV. Clarke did short, satirical skits each evening on Australia’s public channel, lampooning some aspect of politics in Australian society.

She said,

We need ‘Backbenches’ to take the piss out of politicians.”

Curran said that ‘Backbenches’ was the only show on television that took a light-hearted, often satirical view of politicansm and this would be lost when TVNZ7 was closed down. She added that “we have already lost TVNZ6 and government was about to lose TVNZ7“.

She reminded the audience that Australia’s government invested $912 million on their public service ABC and SBS channels.

By comparison, TVNZ7 cost New Zealand only $16 million.

Ms Curran  then asked the audience,

Remember what happened when they threatened to take the bird call off Radio New Zealand?

She said that public outrage had stopped that from happening and we needed the same to happen to stop politicians from pulling the plug on TVNZ7.  Ms Curran added that we needed a proper debate on public broadcasting in this country. Curran said that it was government that was killing TVNZ7, just as it had frozen all funding for Radio NZ and had not increased its’ budget for the last three years.

Ms Curran added that this was the same government that had appointed National Party functionary, Stephen McElrea, to NZ on Air’s Board of Directors. McElrea is John Key’s electorate secretary. She said NZ on Air was now funding commercial tv projects such as “The GC”, and added,

Labour believes that public TV is essential and it must be resurrected if TVNZ7 is killed offWhen we get  a Labour-led government soon, let’s put it in[public TV] place. Let’s make a decision now that we do value public TV.   “

Ms Curran said that all other Opposition parties were supporting this issue and not just the Labour Party. She said,

We think Peter Dunne supports public TV.

Today Grey Power issued a media release supporting retention of TVNZ7 and  were appalled at it’s [impending] closure. “

Ms Curran then read out a few emails she had received, supporting TVNZ7,

It was inexpensive. “

In its’ absence, we’ll just get more junkfood telly. “

TVNZ7 is an incubator of ideas.

Ms Curran then concluded her talk with a passionate plea,

This is an opprtunity  for us to get mad and get involved. We must fight to keep it. And if it’s killed off, we must bring it back. “

Sue Kedgley

Wallace Chapman then introduced the next speaker, ex-Green MP, Sue Kedgely,

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Frank Macskasy Blog Frankly Speaking  Save TVNZ7

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Ms Kedgley went straight for the government’s “jugular”, stating that it was fatuous that National can’t find $16 million to fund TVNZ7 when other countries can afford public TV.  She said that even Russia  could afford public TV.

Ms Kedgeley suggested that if government was so cash-strapped that there were options to raise money to fund TVNZ7. She suggested,

  • Funding TVNZ7 from a levy on Sky TV. Sky TV already pays to have TVNZ channels Kidzone and Heartland  on their channels.
  • Sell off spare spectrum and use a $200 million windfall for public TV.

She said there were many other options but the reason National wasn’t exploring them was,

National doesn’t believe in public TV because it’s outside the ‘market’. “

Ms Kedgeley was adamant that it was important that some broadcasters,  “were not beholding to corporations and could ask the hard questions.”

She suggested that National was keen to get rid of TVNZ7 because of a perceived “left wing perspective”, and said,

We have the most de-regulated media in the world.  There’s no regulation for local content. No controls on cross-ownership. No rules around pay-TV at all.

Ms Kedgeley said that as corporations were buying up our print and electronic media, that there were fewer and fewer independent sources of news other than the internet.  There was nothing to stop Rupert Murdoch from buying other TV channels in this country and he could buy TVNZ if the government decided to  sell it if they’re re-elected in 2014.

She said there would be less and less current affairs on TV if TVNZ7 was closed down. Ms Kedgeley referred to current affairs programmes on TV1 and TV3 being relegated to Sunday mornings and contrasted that with current affairs shows broadcast on TVNZ7 during prime-time .

Ms Kedgeley added that if we lose public TV, “our children will grow up learning more about Los Angeles than our own communities“.  She decried the situation that it seemed that TVNZ’s “main growth area was making TV channels  for Sky’s pay-tv business“.

She told the audience that the previous broadcasting minister, Jonathan Coleman, had once said,

New Zealanders don’t give a toss about public service TV. “

Ms Kedgeley replied, “How wrong he is!

So what can we do? ” Ms Kedgeley asked,

We can mobilise to support TVNZ7!

We can support Clare’s  Private Member’s Bill promoting public TV!

But we may have to wait for the next Labour-led government to set up a new public TV. I think this is the beginning of grass-roots public support for public TV. “

As Ms Kedgeley spoke, this blogger noticed more and more people entering the hall. There was standing room only,

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Frank Macskasy Blog Frankly Speaking  Save TVNZ7

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Tom Frewen

Next to speak was radio journalist and commentator, Tom Frewen. Mr Frewen has hosted the excellent  ‘Focus on Politics‘ on Radio NZ and is possibly one of the finest investigative journalists and commentators we have in this country.

Mr Frewen started of with a challenging statement to the audience,

I come not to save TVNZ7, I come to bury it.”

He added that if this meeting was being held in Invercargill or Christchurch, tv cameras from local television stations would be present to report the event. Mr Frewen said that a lack of television cameras was noticeable because Wellington had no regional public TV, and other networks were not interested in reporting this event.

He said that he was under no illusion that TVNZ7  would not be saved by this government, or by TVNZ,

We can’t have it unless politicians want to spend money on it. Labour and the Greens will have to break with the idea that TVNZ will support public TV. It will not.

On a lighter note, Mr Frewen that he did not  like calling it TVNZ7,

It should be ‘One’.”

There was clapping from the audience at that simple statement.

Mr Frewen remarked on how bad our commercialised TV had become in the last 20 years. He said that it is up to politicians to sort this out,

“We can’t have public meetings every month I’m mad as hell, but there’s no point in being angry. I want you [pointing at politicians seated at guests table] to fix it“.

He also called for an investigation by the Auditor-General regarding NZ on Air’s funding for “The GC”.  Mr Frewen wanted to know why funding was going to a Dutch production company. He suspected that NZ on Air had been “taken for a ride“.

Mr Frewen said he wanted a proper public discussion on this issue and wanted a framework of public TV presented to the public,  to determine if people liked a proposal.

His final comment was short and succinct,

And that’s it.”

The next speaker to be introduced was Dr Peter Thompson, a Senior Lecturer in Media Studies at Victoria University,

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Dr Peter Thompson

Dr Thompson accompanied his talk with  a power-point presentation that summarised his comments point-by-point.

He began by stating that it was a like wishing for a ‘digital tooth fairy’ to assume that once TVNZ7 is “buried”, then public-interest  programmes would be broadcast elsewhere.  He cited the ghettoisation of current affairs programmes (‘Q+A‘,’ Think Tank ‘, ‘The Nation‘, etc) on Sunday mornings, instead of prime-time viewing. He said that the lack of funding for TVNZ7 was a purely political decision by National, and nothing else.

Dr Thompson said that despite  appearances, government  does not “speak with one voice”. He said that government departments have different priorities and do not always want the same thing.  He said Cabinet had looked at TVNZ7  but that it did not meet their criteria to be “fiscally neutral”, so handed it back to TVNZ.

Dr Thompson said that eventually we could have a situation where people could have any channel, as long as it was Sky. He added,

But viewers can only choose what they watch if it’s available.

He added that free-to-air commercial TV isn’t free,

You pay for it through the ads you see on TV. The cost of those ads is part of the stuff you buy.”

Dr Thompson then broke his talk down into three broad areas,

1. Costs

He said that the cost of Sky for subscribers was approximately $1 per day.

He contrasted that with the cost of TVNZ7 to taxpayers – 1 cent per day.

Every household could pay $10 per year to fund and save TVNZ7.

2. Re-reregulate Sky and pay-TV.

3. A levy on Pay TV.

Dr Thompson offered several funding models that would pay for TVNZ7.  These ranged from a small levy of pay TV, telcos, and internet providers, to other options such as subscriptions to public TV. He said subscriptions might work for public TV, but not public radio.

He suggested another option of returning to a form of TV licensing.

Dr Thompson said that it was a right of citizens in society to have access to a non-commercial, public TV.  He added that levying Sky TV would be putting some of their profits back to the public. Dr Thompson called it a “polluter pays principle”, to which their was laughter  from the audience.

Dr Thompson revealed that he was both optimistic and pessimistic in his feelings about TVNZ7.

He said that he believed TVNZ7 will be canned by the government.

But he also believed that, in the end,  something bigger in public TV would arise. He was confident that the public would reclaim their right to have public TV.

Dr Thompson concluded his talk by offering copies of his speech to those who were interested. He received good applause from the audience.

Audience Participation

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Frank Macskasy Blog Frankly Speaking  Save TVNZ7

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Wallace Chapman then welcomed questions from the audience and posed the first question himself to Tom Frewen,

NZ on Air says they are in the ‘diversity game’. They say they have ‘something for everyone’. What do you say to that?

Tom Frewen replied that it’s not always about diversity. He said it’s about “who the programmes are made for“.  He said it’s about whether the programmes are made for the viewer – or for advertisers.

He raised the example of the recent ‘Strongman‘ mine-disaster documentary, that had been shown on TV3. Mr Frewen said it was a fine documentary,and had obvious relevance to the Pike River mine disaster. He said the closing commentary, shown immediately before the end-credits, made it obvious that the doco referred to current mining issues.

He then questioned, ” but where was the panel discussion afterwards? The government got off very lightly “.

Mr Frewen said that NZ on Air had been taken for a ride on “The GC”. The producers had noticed that there was “spare money sloshing around” and had presented “The GC” as a documentary for NZ on Air funding.  He said the final product “was for advertisers, not for us“.  He said programmes had to be made for the viewer, and not for advertisers, otherwise it was a commercial exercise and not public  TV.

A question from the audience;  “There were no votes in this. How do we get the public onboard?

Clare  Curran said she had a couple of suggestions.

Firstly, she said, we needed a public discussion on this. It won’t happen overnight, she said, but we needed a public conversation on this issue. She asked people to talk to friends, family, and workmates, to make this an issue.

Secondly, she invited people to vote for Labour, so that a Labour-led government could re-introduce a stronger public TV system, with guaranteed, ring-fenced funding and at arms-length from political interference.

Another question from the audience; “How do they calculate ratings for TVNZ7, especially for arts programmes?

One of the panellists replied that Nielson collects data from 500 households, using an electronic box mounted on TV sets. The box collects information on when a TV is switch on and what channels and programmes are being watched.

However, the box does not monitor actual watching by the viewer, and does not record if the viewer stops watching to go make a cup of tea during the ad breaks, or if the viewer has left the room, or fallen asleep on the couch.

Another question; “How are the 500 households chosen? “

Answer; Households were chosen by their demographics, to ‘roughly represent’ the composition of New Zealand society. However, that demographics would not take into account small minorities,

You won’t see Armenian programming on television “, one of the panellists remarked.

Another question; “Referencing the Leveson Inquiry [investigating Murdoch's corporate activities and corruption in the UK], should we be having a Royal Commission of Inquiry into media ownership in New Zealand ?”

Ms Curran answered the question by saying,

  1. We needed a public debate on media ownership in this country.
  2. The Commerce Commission was  engaged in an investigation into media contracts and content.

Next question came from Tom Frewen, and pointedly asked Wallace Chapman,

Why do you think there is no discission or reporting of this on other television networks?

Mr Chapman relied that aside from ‘Media7‘ [media commentary programme on TVNZ7] broaching the subject, no other television channel wanted to be seen referencing this issue. He said it was not an issue that benefitted coverage by other television stations.

Dr Thompson asked the audience a question of his own; “If public TV was administered by a foundation, what should it look like?  There were considerable infrastructure issues to work out with a fully independent public TV broadcaster, if it was to be separate from TVNZ.  What sort of public TV do we want? “

One audience member offered a suggestion that an independent  trust could be modelled on the charitable trust  that owned the ‘Guardian‘ newspaper in the UK. He said it was important to remove TVNZ7 out of the hands of politicians.

Another audience member said that a charitable trust could be funded by the Lotteries Commission, and agreed that it was important to keep public TV out of the hands of politicians.

Another audience member suggested a subscription-style funding model, such as the PBS Network in the United States.

Dr Thompson replied that there were problems with that system in terms of ‘economies of scale’. New Zealand needed 270 million people to make a fully-funded subscription model work. There were simply not enough people in this country to make a voluntary subscription system work.

Tom Frewen added that a subscription model was  another form of pay-TV. It would work only if there was no other available alternative model. He agreed with Dr Thompson that the population was too small to make it work properly.

Sue Kedgeley said she was not in favour of subscriptions either and would rather see at least one commercial-free, free-to-air TV channel.

Ms Curran said that NZ on Air needs to be looked at to see how they are spending their [taxpayers] money. She added,

TVNZ7 should have been growing, so our children do not grow up with American accents. We need to have public TV  independent of government, and funding ring-fenced. Labour is committed to public TV.”

One member of the audience stood, and was obviously passionate – if somewhat misguided in his criticisms – when he seemed to attack the politicians on the panel, demanding to know, over and over again,

What are you doing about it?

Ms Curran attempted to placate the obviously agitated man, and Grant Robertson stepped in to explain that the Opposition were the opposition because the public had not voted for opposition parties in sufficient numbers. He said that if the public wanted public TV, they have to support it at the ballot box,

Sue Kedgeley added that the public has not had a passionate debate on the issue, and that we needed a group to fight for public TV, much like ‘Greenpeace’ fought on behalf of the environment. “We need a Greenpeace-style body campaigning passionately for public TV and to carry it through “, she said.

Mr Chapman agreed that there was considerable public frustration on this issue.

This blogger then had an opportunity to address the audience and panel,

I’ve no doubt that TVNZ7 will not be saved by this government. Unless 50,000 people take to the streets, National’s record of listening to the public is not great.

I suggest two ways that a future public TV channel could be kept out of politicians hands, because that, to me, is the greatest threat.

Firstly,  funding should be independent. I suggest a body such as the Remuneration Authority which decides the pay and conditions of politicians and which is independent of their control. Such an independent body could be legislated to fund public TV and Radio NZ, and make funding  automatically inflation adjusted. That takes control awqay from politicians.

Secondly, we need to use the power of contracts, which the New Right use to good effect,  to bind governments to maintain public TV. A contract could be for a term of 7 years which would be two parliamentary terms plus one year. That should take it well out of the hands of  any National government.”

The next member of the audience asked how many peple in the audience had Sky TV, and suggested that Sky customers suspend their subscriptions for one month, as protest against the demise of TVNZ7.

Another member of the public demanded to know, “Can we get Dr Thompson on TV?

Wallace Chapman replied,

I don’t know how we can do that. “

Dr Thompson added that his appearance on TV [to speak on behalf on TVNZ7] would be unlikely,

State TV is to shy of upsetting government.

He said that Jim Blackman, who ran ‘Stratos TV‘ until earlier this year, tried to link up with TVNZ7, and there were some talks on the issue, but nothing came of it.  He suggested that people should get in touch with Mr Blackman and support him.

Grant Robertson then stood and said that he was promising to commit to forming a Campaign for Public Broadcasting  and would work through the Save TVNZ7 website to keep people informed on progress.

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Frank Macskasy Blog Frankly Speaking  Save TVNZ7

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He seemed determined that this would happen, and suggested that members of the audience should volunteer to participate.

Mr Robertson thanked the audience for turning up on a chilly Monday night, and thanked Wallace Chapman, for flying down from Auckland to attend and host this public meeting.

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Frank Macskasy Blog Frankly Speaking  Save TVNZ7

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Grant Robertson also paid tribute to Wallace Chapman for his role in fronting ‘Backbenches’, and for making politics fun for viewers to watch.

There was a loud, enthusiastic round of applause from the audience, and the meeting concluded.

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Postscript

This blogger met the blogger from  ‘Kumara Republic‘, and we chatted about our respective bloggings.

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Copyright (c)  Notice

All images are freely available to be used, with following provisos,

  1. Use must be for non-commercial purposes.
  2. Where purpose of  use is  commercial, a donation to Russell School Breakfast Club is requested.
  3. For non-commercial use, images may be used only in context, and not to denigrate individuals.
  4. Acknowledgement of source is requested.

Previous Blogposts

NZ on Air funding soft-core porn garbage? Since when? Since now!!

Fear and loathing in the Fascist State of New Zealand

Fear and loathing in the Fascist State of New Zealand – Part Deux

Fear and loathing in the Fascist State of New Zealand – Part Trois

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Money in the Banks (Part #Wha)

As previously reported (Money in the Banks Part #Toru), ACT President confirmed that John Banks had requested Kim Dotcom to split his $50,000 donation into two lots of $25,000, so they could be recorded as “anonymous”. He told Checkpoint’s Mary Wilson,

He has given me an indication as to why he made that suggestion – and that was that he initially was going to put in $25,000 of his own money and he figured that other people should be putting in the same sort of numbers.”

However, in a bizarre twist, that original story has been removed from Radio NZ and has been replaced with this “correction”,

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Full Story

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The story  “ACT president confirms Banks suggested donation be split” no longer exists on the Radio NZ News page, and the hyper-link goes to the new story, “ACT president ‘mistaken’ over donation comment”.

Audio link: Listen to Radio New Zealand’s political editor on Checkpoint

George Orwell would be doubleplusgood happy at this example of  re-written history – or “error correction”, as it was described in the novel of “1984″.

However, be that as it may, this blogger heard the original interview between Mary Wilson and Chris Simmons, and can confirm that Simmons did say,

He has given me an indication as to why he made that suggestion – and that was that he initially was going to put in $25,000 of his own money and he figured that other people should be putting in the same sort of numbers.”

It occurs to this blogger that Simmons slipped up; inadvertantly stated a truth he did not intend to disclose; and has somehow pressured Radio NZ to remove all traces of that interview from the broadcaster’s website. (A screenshot of the above “correction story” has been kept, in case that story disappears as well. We are living in strange times.)

The issue was discussed on this evening’s  “News and Late Edition”.

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Acknowledgement

Mark H

Related Media

NZ Herald:  Act Party president flip flops on money

Dominion Post: ACT chief retracts statement on Dotcom gift

Dominion Post:  Five questions Banks must answer

NBR:  NBR readers don’t believe Banks

Duncan Garner:  If Banks called Dotcom – he’s gone

Related Blog Posts

Frankly Speaking:  ACT woefully behind the times?

Tumeke:  ACT Party President tells truth then retracts comments #dotcomgate

The Standard:  Resignationwatch: Oopsie

The Dim Post: The source of the Prime Minister’s confusion

Waitakere News: Banks denies engaging in homosexual relationship with Kim Dotcom at SkyCity

Pundit: Why John Key’s doing the right thing, but is still in trouble

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Foreign fishing boats, Hobbits, and the National Guvmint…

2 March 2012 7 comments

… what could be the link, you wonder?

Those of us with reasonably long-term memories can recall the industrial dispute between Actor’s Equity and Peter Jackson, which became public on 27 September 2010.

The s**t quickly hit the fan, with allegations; counter-allegations; hysterical threats; and quite a bit of egoism.

There was even a panic that “The Hobbit” would be taken out of New Zealand and made in Eastern Europe, or Kazahkstan, or Outer Mongolia. None of it was true, as an email dated 18 October 2010, between Jackson and Economic Minister, Gerry Brownlee clearly stated.

But it certainly ramped up the public hysteria; the moral panic against the “hairy arm of unionism”; and seemingly threatened our very national identity.

In response, the government did something quite extraordinary; they passed legislation to change the status of all employees  “so that workers involved with film production work will be independent contractors rather than employees“.

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It was done unilaterally and it was done within twenty hours. Assent by the Governor General was given the following day,

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Legislative history

28 October 2010 Introduction (Bill 229–1), first reading, second reading, committee of the whole House, third reading
29 October 2010 Royal assent


Reference

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It usually takes a natural disaster of cataclysmic proportions, or a Declaration of War, (or the passing of MP’s superannuation regulations in the deads of night) to effect legislation at such breathtaking speed.

Legislation usually takes months to pass, from First Reading; to Select Committee;  to the last Reading; passing; and enactment.

The last time Parliament passed legislation at near light-speed was in the late 1980s, when they passed a law regarding their superannuation entitlements. That was done late at night; when the media were absent; most of us were asleep; and took a matter of hours.

(When the media  discovered this, and duly reported it, public odium was heaped upon politicians – even more than usual.)

So it was unusual and quite bizarre that National passed what was called the “Hobbit Law” in one day flat.

Something must’ve spooked the horses. Perhaps our politicians were dazzled by the bright lights of Hollywood glamour?

Korean and Indonesian fishing boats, by comparison, are not quite so dazzling and glamourous. In fact, they stink of fish; the crew look wretched; and the fishing boats themselves are dangerous rust-buckets that will sink with little provocation.

Yet, in the last couple of weeks, the fishing industry and our use of FCV (Foreign Charter Vessels), with the cheap, exploited labour of their Korean, Indonesian, and other nationals’ crews, has hit the international headlines. All of a sudden, the New Zealand fishing industry was in the global media spotlight – and for all the wrong reasons.

The world had discovered that we were using cheap, exploited labour to do our dirty work. The New Zealand fishing industry was practically engaging in slave labour,

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On March 25, 2011, Yusril became a slave. That afternoon he went to the East Jakarta offices of Indah Megah Sari (IMS), an agency that hires crews to work on foreign fishing vessels. He was offered a job on the Melilla 203, a South Korea-flagged ship that trawls in the waters off New Zealand. “Hurry up,” said the agent, holding a pen over a thick stack of contracts in a windowless conference room with water-stained walls. Waving at a pile of green Indonesian passports of other prospective fishermen, he added: “You really can’t waste time reading this. There are a lot of others waiting, and the plane leaves tomorrow.”

[abridged]

The experiences of the fishermen on the Melilla 203 were not unique. In a six-month investigation, Bloomberg Businessweek found cases of debt bondage on the Melilla 203 and at least nine other ships that have operated in New Zealand’s waters. As recently as November 2011, fish from the Melilla 203 and other suspect vessels were bought and processed by United Fisheries, New Zealand’s eighth-largest seafood company, which sold the same kinds of fish in that period to distributors operating in the U.S. (The U.S. imports 86 percent of its seafood.) The distributors in turn sold the fish to major U.S. companies. Those companies — which include some of the country’s biggest retailers and restaurants — sold the seafood to American consumers.”

Full Story

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On the 25th of this month,

The Government has received a report from the ministerial inquiry into the use and operation of Foreign Charter Vessels. Primary Industries Minister David Carter and Labour Minister Kate Wilkinson said they would consider its recommendations before announcing any decisions. The inquiry was charged with looking at labour, immigration, maritime safety and fisheries laws around the use and operation of fishing boats. Former labour minister Paul Swain chaired the panel, launched after a series of damning revelations about slave labour conditions and abuse. ” (Source)

Five days later, the report from the Ministerial Inquiry was released  to the public,

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Source

Radio NZ: Listen to more from Checkpoint

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There we have it;

  • New Zealand had been using slave labour to fish it’s territorial waters, and exploiting the crews of FCVs for our profit,
  • Fishing companies like Sanford deny that any problem of abuse and exploitation is occurring,
  • and most astonishingly, our government is dragging it’s feet on this horrendous situation and implementing only  six of fifteen recommendations from the Ministerial Inquiry’s report.

In an interview on Radio NZ’s “Checkpoint“, on 1 March, the Minister for Primary Industries, David Carter, had this to say in response to being questioned on this issue,

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RNZ: “So fifteen recommendations – you’re acting on the first six? Why not take them all onboard?”

Carter: “Because some of the others require two things; legislative change and we need to investigate how we can progress that through the House. And equally importantly, some of them would have, or potentialy could have, economic impacts on the industry.

That is why we have released the Report today. We want the industry to comment on the other recommendations so that we can do some more work on them and take something back for a Cabinet process [interuption] in a couple of months.”

RNZ: “In the future do you see that these recommendations  will be taken on?”

Carter: “I think a good number of those recommendations will be taken on.”

RNZ: “How many?”

Carter: “Well at this stage we’ve, ah, ah, we’ve certainly kicked of the first six because they’ve been able to be done without legislation. As I say, the others now need further investigation to find out what their impact will be  before we agree to do them. But one thing the government is absolutely determined to do is raise the standards so there is no chance for abusive labour practices occurring on foreign charter vessels whilst they’re in New Zealand waters.”

RNZ: ” Will you take on the recommendations that have – that may cause problems economically? Make it unviable?”

Carter: “What we want to do is… the first thing I’d like to make is that foreign charter vessels operate and improve the efficiency of the New Zealand fishing industry. We therefore want to know what would be the economic impacts of these further changes.

Radio NZ: Minister talks about crackdown on foreign fishing vessels

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What comes out of David Carter’s comments is that,

  1. The governments wants to consult with fishing companies before implementing any further recommendations. These would be (some of) the same fishing companies that contracted and used Foreign Charter Vessels to catch fish for them, to sell for big profits to overseas markets.
  2. The govermnment “want[s] to know what would be the economic impacts of thse further changes – before implementing any further recommendations. Obviously, “economic impact” is more important than the maltreatment, abuse, and exploitation of other human beings?
  3. According to Carter, the government will have to “investigate” the recommendations further as “ some of them would have, or potentialy could have, economic impacts on the industry“?

Two months?!

And yet this is the same government that passed legislation through the House in one day, to satisfy the demands of Warner Bros corporate executives!

Where were the concerns of government on that issue? Where was the investigation into what “economic impact” that would, or could be, in fast-tracking law through Parliament at a speed rarely seen in this country?

Where was the desire for thegovernment to seek comment from the  film industry, before considering  legislation”?

What we are seeing here is the amorality of a government that values the glitter and glamour of a Hollywood “epic” movie above  the fact that modern-day slavery is taking place in our territorial waters, and New Zealand companies are profiting from the misery and violence   inflicted on other human beings.

The NZ Seafood Industry Council laid it all out last October (but we were too pre-occupied with lost penguins and hillside signs, to take note of this news item,

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‘We need more cheap foreign fishermen’

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New Zealand’s fishing industry needs more cheap Asian labour not less, the Seafood Industry Council (SeaFIC) told a ministerial inquiry into the use of foreign charter vessels.

FCVs, flagged in mainly Asian states, operate New Zealand’s deep sea fishery with around 2000 low wage crews from Third World countries.

SeaFIC says New Zealand-flagged fishing boats cannot get local crews and they now want to import low wage labour as well.

Despite high unemployment it was hard to get New Zealanders to work on fishing boats.

New Zealanders did not like being at sea for weeks at a time, working in uncomfortable conditions and living in an isolated and enforced alcohol and drug free environment.

“It is not seen as an attractive work place for many people.”

SeaFIC says FCVs hiring Asian crews was no different to companies going to low wage countries.

“Many New Zealand businesses have exported jobs previously done in New Zealand to other countries with wage rates considerably less than minimum wage rates in New Zealand.”

It named Fisher & Paykel, Fonterra and Icebreaker.

Air New Zealand uses Chinese crew on its China service who are paid less than New Zealanders doing the same jobs.

Without referring to the Rena grounding it said most ships operating on the New Zealand coast are crewed by people from the same low wage countries used by FCVs.

It said New Zealand was seen in other countries as a source of cheap skilled labour and pointed to Qantas hiring New Zealand crews at rates lower than Australians would get. The New Zealand film industry was based on cheap labour, SeaFIC said. 

There were not enough New Zealanders to fill vacancies created if FCVs were ordered out.

The inquiry opened public submissions in Wellington today. It will hold hearings in Auckland, Nelson and Christchurch.

It was set up following a University of Auckland study into FCVs and media reports citing cases of labour abuse and exploitation.

Last year an aged FCV, Oyang 70, sank off the Otago coast, killing six.

The government in setting up the inquiry said they were concerned at the damage to reputation New Zealand was suffering over FCVs and allegations it  was a form of human trafficking.

SeaFIC say there is no evidence that FCV companies are failing to pay their crews according a code of practice which requires crews to receive the New Zealand minimum wage.

New Zealand’s reputation is not a function of compliance by the companies, but the result of public opinion.

“The intensity of comment in the media, whether based on fact or allegation, may present risk to international reputation.”

FCV crews do not pay tax or Accident Compensation levies.

“A tax paying, single New Zealand resident not entitled to any additional tax or welfare assistance would need to earn $37,650 gross ($32,760 net) to be better paid than a crewman on a FCV.”

Through FCVs, the fishing industry was transferring over $65 million annually to citizens of developing countries.

By comparison, it said, the New Zealand Government gave just $31 million to Oxfam and Volunteer Service Aboard to work in such countries.

SeaFIC admitted that their submission was not supported by all its members and amounted only to a majority view of fishing quota owners who use FCVs.

Source

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Words fail me.

Actually, no. I do have words.

On this issue, the people and government of New Zealand  has let itself down badly. For the pursuit of money, we have turned a blind eye to naked, brutal, exploitation. We have lost sight of  simple, common decency and how to treat foreign workers.

As far as I’m concerned, if the U.S. government, or Europe, decided to boycott our seafood exports – then we richly deserve it.

This is what happens when a society is governed by the dictates of the “free market”.

Where do we go from here, as a society? Do we continue down the road of valuing profit before human dignity? Or do we reassess our priorities and decide that we need to regain some of the basic  values of fairness that we seem to have forgotten in the last 27 years?

It’s our call.

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Previous Blogpost

Roosting Chickens

Is this where New Zealand is heading?

Additional Reading

Radio NZ: Parliament debates Hobbit law change

Helen Kelly (NZ Council of Trade Unions): The Hobbit Dispute

Employment Relations (Film Production Work) Amendment Bill

Legislative History: Employment Relations (Film Production Work) Amendment Act 2010 No 120, Public Act

Slavery and Food Security: The Fishing Fleet

 

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What is wrong with (some) people?!?!

16 January 2012 1 comment

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Perusing the on-line news section of  Radio NZ, I was struck by this short story,

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Source

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Help me out here, folks, ‘cos this is another one of our recent (?) behaviours that has me utterly perplexed. Now call me kinda old fashioned… But what kind of moron doesn’t let an ambulance pass?!?!

Perhaps it’s just another one of those human behaviours that has been with us, since the first Cave Child graffitied a nice piece of cave wall-art, about a zillion years ago.

Or, perhaps it’s an unpleasant reminder of the quantum-shift in some peoples’ thinking, that they are more important than anything/anyone else – including an ambulance with lights and sirens blazing/blaring, as the medics try to save some poor schmuck who is bleeding to death…

Perhaps nothing better illustrates the  Ayn-Randian-Me-First attitude, that neo-liberalism espouses, than someone who refuses to move over because… well, because they don’t want toHell, I pay my taxes! I have a right to be on the road!! Screw everyone else!!

If that’s the case, I hope such people are a tiny, tiny, tiny minority. But, judging by the selfishness expressed on many internet fora – I sadly think not.

Just like the able-bodied person who parks in a Disabled Person’s carpark… “Hey, I’ll only be a few minutes!” Or, “Hey, why should they get all the best carparks?!”

Or the smoker who doesn’t care a hoot about lighting up in a car, with children in the car beside him/her  (I’ve seen this myself)… “Hey, f****n nanny state isn’t going to tell me where I can or can’t smoke!

And of course, there are the drunk drivers (those that are still alive) who drink; drive; and just don’t care.

It’s all human selfishness.

Once upon a time, selfishness was deemed an undesirable virtue. Now, there is practically an entire political ideology built around it.

Anyway, the point is simple: People! See the ambulance? Get out of the way! It could be your friend or family member they’re racing to assist!

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And if you see some idiot holding up an ambo or fire appliance, despite  lights and siren going full tit…

Use your cellphone; dial *555; and report the idiot.

The next life you save could be someone precious to you.

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Support & Donations

St John Ambulances

Wellington Free Ambulances

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From a fellow-blogger, @ Dimpost…

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Fellow blogger, Danyl Mclauchlan, from the excllent “Dim-Post“, was a guest on Radio NZ, this morning.  The discussion revolved around poverty; the growing wealth-gap; and why “growing the pie” is an abject failure under current New Right social and economic conditions.

His comments are insightful and crystal clear to understand, and I recommend folks to have a listen, here.

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Additional links

Radio NZ

The Dim Post

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Greed is Good? Part Deux

6 January 2012 8 comments

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Bryan Bruce’s eye-opening documentary, Inside NZ: Child Poverty,  was broadcast last year on TV3,  and finally brought out into the open what had only be barely acknowledged: New Zealand as a society was failing it’s children, especially in low-income families.

Radio New Zealand TV Reviewer, Simon Wilson, described the documentary as;  “Outstanding. The most significant piece of New Zealand Television in years” – for good reason.

Bruce’s  doco raised public awareness, for sure. But I think it’s done more than that. Along with the “Occupy Movement”, I think we are finally seeing a new realisation that the last 27 years in New Zealand has not produced the “trickle down” benefits.

When 150 Rich Listers increase their wealth by 20%; when tax cuts have to be funded by borrowing other peoples’ savings from overseas, and have benefitted mostly the top 10%; when the income/wealth gap continues to widen; when we have to sell the family “silverware” just to paint schools – something is seriously wrong with this picture.

New Zealanders may choose to overlook your documentary (I hope TV3 re-broadcasts it) , but they won’t be able to ignore the next message, and the next, and the next.

Eventually it will percolate into our collective psyches that the promises made of  by the New Right economists; politicians; and their fellow-travellers; of “trickle down” benefitting us all – has been a hoax. Or a scam. (Pick whichever word you prefer.)

The next message that our socio-economic values are terribly awry, will be the increasing flood of New Zealanders leaving for Australia.

The more I look at this phenomenon, the more I’m thinking that our brothers and sisters are not leaving (just) because of “higher wages”.

There’s more to it than that. There is a massive dislocation in effect. People have lost that sense of belonging to a community – and once that no longer exists, why not shoot through to richer pastures?

What’s to keep our children here?

The answer is; not much. Our children can’t even buy their own home in NZ anymore. Why? Because my generation (baby boomers) have bought up most of the available stock, using borrowed funds from offshore, which has pushed up prices and “locked in” ownership to my generation.

New Zealanders can turn all this around. But it means making decisions at the ballot box based on what is good for our country, rather than our own wallets. (John F Kennedy said it much more eloquently.) Until then, we will be the victims of our own selfishness and short-sightedness.

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Sourced from “Inside Child Poverty NZ”

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On his Facebook page, Inside Child Poverty, Bryan Bruce has started a Poll; Should we raise the retirement age by 1 year to pay for free school lunches to all school children?

The responses opposing raising the retirement age are not just unhelpful – they are indicative of the very nature of our society; our self-centredness; and how badly we have gone so far off the tracks.

Raising the retirement age by one year, to pay for free lunches? Absolutely!!And there are some very good reasons to do so.

  1. If we don’t have healthy children, we have no future (or not much of one). Because it is our children who pay for the retirement of the elderly. The connection is fairly simple.
  2. My generation, the “baby boomers”, have had it “sweet”. We had free education; free healthcare; and many other state-provided services.
  3. Then, after 1984, all that changed; “baby boomers” voted seven tax cuts for themselves; implemented User Pays in tertiary education, and elsewhere; sold off state assets that had provided many of these services; and succeeding generations made do with much less of what my generation enjoyed.
  4. The feeling I’m getting from the responses on Bruce’s FB page is that it is  becoming a generational  “resource war”  -  the aging baby boomers vs succeeding generations.
  5. Well, I can tell you now who will lose that “war”; the elderly. If we continue to deny the services that we ourselves enjoyed – expect to see the flood of migration to Australia turn into a torrent. We’ll be “killing the Golden Goose” for sure because it is the younger generations who will be the ones who support the elderly and greying Baby Boomers into their retirement.

Am I painting the picture clearly enough here?

The question, to me, is not whether we should be raising the retirement age by one year – we should be asking our children; is one year enough? Can we do more for you, our children?

Because as sure as sunrise follows night, if we don’t look after our children; if baby boomers continue to vote more and more resources for themselves – the result will be predictable. And I for one will not blame our young people for leaving this country for richer pastures.

If we don’t look after our children, why should they look after us?

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Additional Blog Entries

Greed is Good?

“Building better public services” – Really?

Further Reading

Greed of boomers led us to a total bust

Rich list shows rich getting richer

New Zealand’s wealth gap widens

Rolls Royce sales rocket as super-rich drive in style

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New Year’s Wish List for 2012…

29 December 2011 9 comments

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My New Year’s wish list for 2012. Nothing too extravagant – just a few things that, in my ‘umble opinion, would make New Zealand the egalitarian social democracy we once had – before someone thought that pursuing the Almighty Dollar was more important than building communites.

In no particular order,

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  Stop the asset sales process. This government has no mandate to privatise any of our SOEs. There is also no rationale for any privatisation, as dividends  exceed the cost of borrowing by the State.

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  Halt the Charter Schools programme. There is little evidence that Chart Schools achieve better results  than  non-Charter Schools, and at least one major research project on this issue indicates that Charter Schools are a waste of time.

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  Introduce “civics” into our classroom curriculum. I’ve never considered this a necessity – up until now – but our recent low voter turnout – coupled with peoples’ apalling knowledge of how how political system works – is disturbingly. A modern democracy can only flourish if the public participate; contribute; and take ownership of the system.  Apathy breeds cynicism, frustration, and ultimately disengagement, disempowerment, and a violent response.

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  Implement programmes to assist those in poverty – especially families with children. Meals in schools (breakfasts and/or lunch) would be a great start. Build more state housing. Support programmes that help get young people  into training, upskilling, and  other constructive activities.

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  Stop bene-bashing and tinkering with the welfare system. Our high unemployment is a symptom of the current economic recession – not the cause of it. Instead, government must focus on job creation policies; training and upskilling of unemployed; and spending on infrastructure that maximises new jobs – not reduces them.

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  It’s time to wind back our liberalisation of liquor laws in this country. That particular experiment has been a colossal failure. Split the drinking age to 18/20; ban ALL alcohol advertising; put in place minimum pricing; reduce hours of retailers and bars; give communities greater voice and control of liquor outlets; make public drunkeness an offence; and implement the other recommendations of the Law Commission’s report, ‘Alcohol In Our Lives: Curbing the Harm‘.

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  Increase funding for Pharmac so that sufferers of rare diseases, such as Pompe’s,  can have hope for their future, instead of mortgaging it merely to postpone death for another day. We can do this – we must do this.

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  Release and make public all relevant information regarding the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA). Making such deals in secret is hardly the transparency-in-government that John Key says he supports.

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  Maintain and keep funding TVNZ7. The planned closure of this station – and replacement with a shopping channel – would be a blow to decent public television in this country. We can, and must do better, than simply a channel devoted to more mindless consumerism.

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  Cease from further cuts to the civil service. Sacking loyal, conscientious, workers is not the “capping” – it is adding to the unemployment dole queues. It is gutting the system that makes a modern society function and we are losing decades of collective skills and experience for no discernible purpose. We went through this in the late ’80s; early ’90s; and late ’90s – and our services suffered as a result.

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Raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour. Stat!

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  The Ministerial committee on poverty is set to end homelessness by 2020. This is simply not good enough!!! Bill English was interviewed on Radio NZ  on 16 December, and his responses to Kathryn Ryan’s questions were not reassuring. This excerpt from the interview was most telling,

RYAN: “It’s to report every six months, the committee. What measures will it use?”

ENGLISH: “Well, look, we won’t  spend a lot of time arguing over measures, there’s any number  of measures out there ranging from gini co-efficients  to kind of upper quartile [and] lower quartile incomes. Lot of of that is already reported in the MSD social report that it puts out each year…”Bill English and the new ministerial committee on poverty

If the Committee doesn’t monitor itself, how will it be able to measure it’s success (or fail) rate?

Poverty and unemployment have to be the top priorities of this government. Nothing else is as important.

Like the way in which the Jobs Summit, in early 2009,  sank beneath the waves,  I do not hold out for much success though.

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  Less spent on roads – more on rail and other public transport. Our continuing reliance on imported fossil fuels will not help our economy or environment one iota.

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  No mining on the Denniston Plateau (or any other Conservation lands). This ecologically-sensitive wilderness area needs to be preserved for future generations.  If we want to make money our of our environment – tourism is the way to go, contributing to approximately 10% of this country’s GDP.  John Key. Minister of   Tourism (NZ – not Hawaii), take note.

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  No deep-sea oil drilling. The stranding of the ‘Rena’ and subsequent loss of  of 350 tonnes (out of around 1,700 tonnes) of oil into the sea is the clearest lesson we’ve been taught that NZ is simply not prepared to cope with a massive deep-sea oil spill. An event such as the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, last year in April, by comparison lost 780,000 cubic metres of oil. An event of that magnitude would be catastrophic to our countrry.

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  Free healthcare for all young people up to 18.  And children to have first priority when it comes to our resources and funding. The future of our nation depends on healthy, well-educated, balanced children growing up as productive members of our society. Who knows – if we look after our children properly, they might feel more connected to our country and more motivated to live here instead of leaving for Australia. If we want our children to have committment to New Zealand – we need to be committed to them.

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Those are a few of my New Year’s wish list.  There are probably others that I may add at a later date – but they’ll do for now.

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National’s Standards: F-minus

21 December 2011 2 comments

Former education minister, Anne Tolley, and John Key have some serious explaining to do,

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Source

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It is a serious matter for a Minister of the Crown to allege that a news-media story has been fabricated. Aside from being potentially slanderous – it is a distasteful mis-use of ministerial power. It is State power attempting to intimidate and destroy the credibility of the media.

This is Third World, banana-republic stuff.

It is not what we expect from our elected representative. (And make no mistake, MPs are our elected representatives – well-paid civil servants.)

Some background,

John Hone Riiwi Toia Mutu and wife Debroah Anne Mutu have been deregistered as teachers and ordered to pay $20,000 each in costs after a hearing by the Teachers Disciplinary Tribunal.

Mrs Mutu was a principal at Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Kaikohe in 2004 when her husband, who was a teacher at the school, was found on a mattress with a 15-year-old student.

Mrs Mutu tore up the student’s written complaint about the incident, which occurred when she was home alone.

Mr Mutu was suspended by the school’s board of trustees in 2007 and his wife resigned in 2008, but she was later employed as a principal at a Kaitaia school before being appointed one of the Education Ministry’s 46 student achievement practitioners.

The practitioners are ministry-appointed experts sent into schools to help them implement national standards.

Labour has accused Mrs Tolley of misleading Parliament and the public after education spokeswoman Sue Moroney raised questions at the final question time last term on October 6.

Mrs Tolley replied, saying “that principal has never been suspended”.

A ministry spokesman said the information it had provided Mrs Tolley “at the time was correct” and it became aware of the allegations against Mrs Mutu only subsequently, when she appeared before the Teachers Disciplinary Tribunal a few days later.

“The minister did not know at the time she answered questions in the House that Mrs Mutu had been stood down.

“Debroah Mutu had not fully disclosed the serious nature and extent of the charge against her to the ministry at any time prior to October 10.”

The ministry terminated Mrs Mutu’s practitioner role when it learnt she was before the tribunal, the spokesman said. It had since reviewed its secondment process.” – Source

This raises several issues,

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  • If, as a ministry of education spokesman claimed, “the information it had provided Mrs Tolley “at the time was correct” and it became aware of the allegations against Mrs Mutu only subsequently, when she appeared before the Teachers Disciplinary Tribunal a few days later” – why did Tolley not issue a correction in the House at the first available opportunity?
  • Key was asked if Tolley should have issued a correction  when she discovered the principal had been stood down and Key replied,  “That’s one option always available to a minister to make sure they correct that.”
  • Will Tolley be issuing an apology to Radio NZ?
  • How does the apparent incompetence of the Ministry of Education relate to this government’s on-going cuts to civil servants? Are we going to see more of these horrendous mistakes as National makes further cuts to government departments – until their efficiency is serious degraded to such a level that they cannot function in any meaningful fasion?
  • And is this how the leaky homes fiasco  and the down-grading of the mining safety Inspecorate began?

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Conclusions based on public information seems to indicate the following;

  1. Anne Tolley mis-led Parliament by making statements denying that the Mutu’s had been struck off.
  2. Tolley’s intemperate remarks attacking Radio NZ were an abuse of ministerial power.
  3. Tolley was advised within a week about the Mutu’s being struck off – and did nothing about it. Despite knowing the true situation, she made no effort to correct her earlier statement to the House.
  4. The effectiveness of the Ministry of Education, and other government departments, may be threatened as ideologically-driven cutbacks began to have inevitable consequences to public service  competance and productivity.

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Considering that Ms Tolley is now Minister of Police, I believe the public need to be confident that she is competant and not prone to lashing out at news media who raise valid issues.

This blogger considers that she is not up to the task, and should stand down.

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Additional

Tolley ‘didn’t know of charges’

Not much festive cheer for MPs’ staff

MPs get pay rise package of $7000

Further scrutiny of Tolley’s Mutu answer

National MPs: Anne Tolley

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