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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…

[...]

… 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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Seven Sharp turns into Serious Shite?

23 February 2013 9 comments

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toilets-watching-bare-ass-on-tv

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The State of Media

With so much happening in this country over the last thirty years, one would think that this should be the Golden Age for investigative journaliasm and documentary-making.

Sadly, this is not the case.

On the contrary, our print and electronic journalism  have been relegated and turned into ‘McMedia ‘; quickly produced; lacking in any substance of value; and just as quickly (with some exceptions) forgotten.

In terms of documentary-making, what really stands out (confirmed by a ten second survey conducted in my household) is Bryan Bruce’s insightful and provocative doco, ‘Inside Child Poverty‘ (see:  Inside Child Poverty – A Special Report).

No other single, one-off documentary came to mind.

In terms of television current affairs, the only recent stories that came to us were stories to do with Novopay and the Bronwyn Pullar-ACC story which saw a government Minister and several ACC executives lose their jobs. ‘Campbell Live‘ and several ex-TVNZ7 documentaries such as  ‘The Court Report’ featured in our household discussion of what stuck in our minds.

Other current affairs such as ‘Q+A’, ‘The Nation’, and vastly under-rated ‘Think Tank’, were consigned to ghetto-times of Sunday mornings. TVNZ’s ‘Sunday‘ programme – on at a more watchable time-slot of 7pm – was cut from an hour to thirty minutes (less, once you excise advertisements for unfeasibly fast cars, personal hygiene products, and the latest Briscoes “sale”).

The print media is still reasonably diverse, though Wellington’s “Dominion Post” is fast losing circulation and becoming thinner and thinner. (Don’t think we haven’t noticed Mr Williams and Mr Thompson.) Constant reductions in staffing levels has resulted in a predictable down-turn in news stories – especially relevant news stories, which put issues and events into context.

For example, prior to the ‘Evening Post’ and ‘Dominion‘ being amalgamated, the ‘Post‘ employed two journalists to cover Wellington City Council issues on a full-time basis, and a third journalist, part-time. Former journalist, Lidia Zatorski, wrote some of the most insightful pieces on Council-related issues. (The mayor couldn’t sneeze without Ms Zatorski noting time, place, and potential effects on the capital city.)

As a result, Wellingtonians were well-served with an on-going stream of local body reports that not only informed readers – but also put events into context. Events weren’t isolated – they were linked, giving us an overall impression what was taking place in our city.

These days, Fairfax media has one journalist, working part time, covering City Council issues. There could be a mass shoot-out between Councillors, disagreeing on what colour to paint park-benchs, and we’d probably not know until a week later.

With TVNZ, a state-owned, supposed “public broadcaster”, dumbing-down has plumbed new depths in a stagnant pool of irrelevancy with it’s much-criticised, ‘Seven Sharp‘.

The replacement to ‘Close-up‘ (which, in itself was a replacement to ‘Holmes‘), ‘Seven Sharp’ may have met “demographic targets” and “consumer needs” – but fewer and fewer people are watching it. In fact, it’s turning viewers away in droves.

TVNZ’s descent into Idiocracy – like many things in the last 30 years – began with the corporatisation of state-owned bodies. Turning a profit was to be the number one goal – and television was no exception.

In 2003, the  Labour Government attempted to mitigate the worst effects of commercialisation by implementing a Charter for TVNZ to follow. The Charter would supposedly direct TVNZ to offer quality programmes for viewers,

Provisions included,

  • Having the presence of a significant Maori voice, including programmes promoting the Maori language and programmes addressing Maori history, culture and current issues;
  • Include the tastes and interests not generally catered for by other national television broadcasters;
  • Provide independent, comprehensive, impartial, and in-depth coverage and analysis of news and current affairs;
  • Promote understanding of the diversity of cultures making up the New Zealand population;
  • Feature New Zealand films, drama, comedy and documentary programmes;
  • Provide for the informational, entertainment and educational needs of children and young people;
  • Observe a code of ethics that addresses the level and nature of advertising to which children are exposed.
But National would have none of that “socialist” stuff, and by July 2011, Broadcasting Minister Jonathan Coleman had repealed the Charter with the euphemistically sounding Television New Zealand (TVNZ) Amendment Bill. It was the end of any semblance of public broadcasting and Coleman’s assurances that,

The removal of the Charter will have little impact on what is shown on the screen. TVNZ will still screen content of relevance to a broad cross section of New Zealanders, and they will still screen high levels of New Zealand content.”

Source

- was a mealy mouthed, empty promise.

In fact, almost 16 months earlier, Coleman had told the public what he really wanted for TV 1 and TV2,

Everyone … could be a lot happier if they had that clear view where you go in TVNZ to find public broadcasting content and where you can expect to find frankly nakedly commercial stuff.”

Source

Coleman also made this extraordinary at the same time, in March 2010,

My view was if we could get that demarcation … once everyone has got access to digital television, which isn’t too many years away, if you know that if you go to 7 or maybe 6 and 7 you can get what most people could describe as quality broadcasting content.

“Then if you flick to One and Two you get whatever they serve up … it would bring some more honesty and clarity to the situation,” Coleman said.

“The 7 schedule pretty much already fits that definition broadly.”

IBID

His reference to  “going to [TVNZ]7 or maybe [TVNZ]6 and 7 you can get what most people could describe as quality broadcasting content” was the same TVNZ7 that National canned in July year, despite strong public opposition. (And politicians wonder why we distrust them?)

Parts of TVNZ6 was later leased to SkyTV for pay-viewing only.

In July 2011, Coleman stated as bluntly as he could, that removing the Charter and rejecting non-commercial   public-service content, would give TVNZ,

“…the flexibility it needs to effectively pursue commercial objectives”.

Under National, TVNZ programming was pre-ordained  to be 100% commercialised and ratings-driven. Much like giving children ice cream on demand, the viewing public got what they (supposedly) wanted; entertainment ‘lollies’.

In return, National would “milk” it as a cash-cow (as with Genesis, Mighty River Power, Meridian, Air New Zealand, and until lately, Solid Energy).

Seven Sharp‘ – or ‘Seven Shite‘ as one Facebook commentator labelled it – was simply the natural end-result of this process.

This was made no more clearer than when TVNZ chief executive Kevin Kenrick admitted to a Parliamentary Select Committee that the broadcaster was now,

“... entirely driven by consumer behaviour”, and Seven Sharp was “absolutely in the right territory…”

“… And now there are so many more opportunities and places you can access the news and as a result of them I think that consumers are looking for short, sharp soundbites; they’re looking for a punchy delivery.”

Source

Well, if viewers are “looking for short, sharp soundbites; they’re looking for a punchy delivery” – they are showing it in a strange way by deserting TVNZ and switching on to ‘Campbell Live‘ instead,

The ratings head-to-head between Seven Sharp and Campbell Live reveals TVNZ’s new offering outperforming TV3 in total audience terms all but twice in its first two weeks.

But over the same period, the TVNZ show lost the key demographic both channels are chasing, those aged between 25 to 54, eight times.

Figures supplied by Nielsen TAM show that apart from the first big bang on February 4 where 508,500 tuned into Seven Sharp compared to 246,300 on TV3, there have been plenty of nights where the two have been separated by barely a percentage point or two of the total television audience.

For Campbell Live, February 12 was historic. It was the first time the channel won the slot since TV3 began in November 1989, a win it repeated three days later by taking 7.2 per cent of the total audience aged five and over with 298,800 viewers to 242,300.

Source

Perhaps TVNZ’s attitude toward public broadcasting and criticisms for a lack thereof, can be summed up by  this comment by Kendrick,

There has been a lot of commentary about Seven Sharp which has typically come from less than 12 commentators, and they tend to reinforce a more traditional perspective of what current affairs has been as opposed to a reflection of what it might be.”

Source

There is an underlying arrogance in Kendrick’s remarks. It is a “We Know Best What You Want” conceit. Never mind if the public are craving intelligent, challenging TV content – we’ll get dumbed-down viewing because that’s what “We Really Want”.

Which is a self-fulfilling curse; the more crap broadcast, the more crap some viewers will watch, which then shows up in the Ratings…

Public reaction

Meanwhile, apart from the “12 commentators” that Kendrick dismisses  in a cursory, derisory manner, what people are really  expressing is just as critical of ‘Seven Sharp’.

As Facebook users have said to this blogger,

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Jenny B

“Apparently it has the pollings. Sad reflection that NZ’ers prefer to be entertained than educated.

 Loving Campbell taking on social issues now. But last Century, Sunday night was the time for hard political journalism – why are we being fed sop?”

Taura J

“They assume the audience is stupid. They assume the ratings won’t be good enough, which in turn, won’t draw the advertisers. Which in turn, won’t pay for their prime time news slot. They apparently don’t think there’s enough local news around because everyone is watching garbage.

The so called mainstream media has been manipulated by other influences for years. I have sat and watched the quality of journalism rot like a gangrenous limb every night in TV. Watched objectivity, that grand bastion of true journalism vanish in favour of opinion pieces and puerile garbage about feuding families and neighbours and the bad natives who are too lazy to do anything worthwhile.”

Hone W

“Advertisers react to raw data, and I’d be fairly sure the drive for less hard news content on TV is coming from the viewers, (us).. not any grand conspiracy…
As long as the value of a given programme is rated by viewer numbers, and nothing else, car crash footage will always beat political debate.”

Matthew H

“every body i know is crying out for decent news & political shows in prime time, instead of this diet of cooking shows & crap sitcoms, with all the political talk on a sunday morning… if, as he says,  consumers are the ones who ask for this low-rent shit that claims to be ‘news’, then no bastard asked me”

David MF

“Seven Shite”

Alastair F

“State television has been wallowing in the sewer for at least 15 years. Nothing has changed.

 Their political independence has never been credible. You wouldn’t trust TV3 to report impartially on a corporate scandal involving Mediaworks and you wouldn’t trust The Press to report impartially on a scandal involving Fairfax, so why would you trust state television to duly criticise its owner?”

Jill M

“I didn’t think it was possible to get worse… but it has.”

Mike P

“TVNZ news and current affairs seem to be following an agenda of ‘keep ‘em dumb.’ Looking at comparisons between SevenSharp and Campbell this is plainly obvious, but the the same is true between  Breakfast and Firstline, and increasingly so in the 6pm slot.

Here’s a question, as state broadcaster how much influence is placed on their independence and impartiality. Can we truly believe that at a time when John Key is singing the ‘nothing to see here’ tune that the state owned and operated news service are singing along.”

Mike M

“Is it for education or entertainment ?”

Robbie K

“Given Kiwi’s television addiction, you could put any crap on TV and it will find an audience, so ratings don’t really come into it. Television is the cheapest form of entertainment available, so not hard to understand our love affair with the box.

However, I cannot accept New Zealanders are so intellectually deficient they can’t handle cerebral programming. Natural history and science programs rate very well in this country, so the problem is not what Kiwi’s choose to watch, it is simply that what is offered up is mindless rubbish. Is Kevin Kenrick cerebral enough to understand this? Now there’s a question.”

Robert G

“Some harder journalism asking questions about things like the obscene prices expected of us by oil companies, the Sky City Casino deal, a constitution for New Zealand among other things, would be better.”

Mark H

“Feel free to include my thought that Kevin Kenrick is an idiot.”

Marianne H

“I’ve switched to 3 and Campbell after years of sticking with TV One”

Wendy EM 

“I do not believe the content that 7 sharp even hits it with the under 35 year olds after all they have SKY television and reality shows and Seven sharp is hideous of course the people that are over 20 tend to be with Campbell Live, I have moved to Campbell being in my 50!!! I am embarrassed by TV ONE in every journalism respect. Campbell Team are on the pulse night after night.”

Alison W

“The mainstream media generally get their tips and news from Tweets, Facebook posts and freelance bloggers. I would rather read and view the news of intelligent, articulate, investigative, freelance bloggers and journos, than have my mind dumbed down and filled with the biased agendas of a right wing, Fairfax driven media. That being said, Campbell Live does at least demonstrate a social conscience, and I made the switch to watching that over a year ago now. Seven Sharp is Seven Dull.”

Taura J

“The so called mainstream media has been manipulated by other influences for years. I have sat and watched the quality of journalism rot like a gangrenous limb every night in TV. Watched objectivity, that grand bastion of true journalism vanish in favour of opinion pieces and puerile garbage about feuding families and neighbours and the bad natives who are too lazy to do anything worthwhile.”

Daphne M

“NZ tv show’s are alright! It’s when the MP’s start adding their bits in that the flavour become’s kawa (sour). If MP’s, had real job’s, instead of being in a studio for picking on somebody about their job,..  then,it’s time to GO!!! Leave the real worker’s to do their own job’s….KEEP YOUR NOSE, OUT!!!”

Duncan L

“I no longer watch what passes for news generated by any teevy broadcaster in NZ – I turn to Triangle/Face for Al Jazeera and DWTV, and occasionally, if I can stop my soul from rising up and strangling my moral conscience, Voice of America.

News on NZ teevy is dominated by road accidents, boozy teenagers, sport and scandal – as for expecting any in-depth analysis or anything remotely resembling investigative or critical journalism, well, we’re screwed, unless you happen to be one the unlobotomised, multi-tasking few who can listen to the radio (and I’m refering exclusively to the National Programme here) at the same time as they walk and chew gum. 

I’m ashamed, sometimes, to be part of the institution which churns out the next-generation of wannabe journalists whose sole ambitions seem to be getting a job with a corporation and their grinning mugs on the small screen.”

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Sell it?

Writing for the Herald on 8 February (see: Perhaps now’s a good time to sell off TVNZ), columnist Toby Manhire suggested that TVNZ was so far gone in terms of quality that it was irredeemable and fit only to be hocked of.  He said, in part,

So sell TVNZ. It would end any residual confusion within the organisation about their purpose. It would end any misplaced vestigial attachment by audiences who still dream of the Goodnight Kiwi. Paradoxically, it might encourage TVNZ to pursue more public-interest journalism to retain a “national voice” reputation. For anyone who believes, as I do, that New Zealand should have a mainstream public TV broadcaster, it would blow away any fog around the question of whether we currently have one. We do not.”

In case Toby Manhire is being dead serious and not indulging in wry tongue-firmly-in-cheek black humour, any suggestion to sell TVNZ because it has been dumbed down, is simply rewarding National for deliberately undermining our State broadcaster.

It is not a solution. It is a reward for bad behaviour.

Not only would it fulfill what might be a deliberate agenda to alienate public support for TVNZ – but it closes of future avenues to bring the broadcaster back from the brink.

A future progressive government would have a massive task on it’s hands; to effectively undo decades of commercialisation and bring back a true public service.

But it’s not impossible.

If free-marketeers can wreck it – we should be able to repair or replace it.

One classic suggestion is to make TV1 a non-commercial station, funded by a fully commercial, go-for-trash, TV2 broadcaster.

Or to fund public television through a small levy on pay-to-view broadcasters, such as SkyTV.

More importantly, any such progressive reform would have to be entrenched in legislation and tied up in so many safe-guards that it would take years for any future National government to undo  and wrecking it all over again. (See upcoming blogpost, ‘Talkback Radio, Public Radio, and related matters’, on ‘The Daily Blog‘, on 1 March.)

One-stop shop or multiple platforms?

An argument has been made that public-service programming should be left to NZ on Air, which would be responsible for dispensing contestable funding for documentaries, current affairs, and other public interest programmes.

So  programmes like ‘Inside Child Poverty‘ and ‘The Nation‘ could be funded by ‘NZ on Air‘, and broadcast by any number of  electronic media, irrespective of whether of who owns said broadcaster. As it’s curreently mandated to do.

To a degree that has some validity.

Unfortunately, at least two cases point against ‘NZ on Air‘ as the sole agency for intelligent tv viewing,

Key defended ‘NZ on Airs‘ public funding for ‘The GC’ by claiming,

They make their decisions completely independentlyOur board is to appoint the board, and their job is to make the funding calls.

Source

Yeah. Nah.

“Independent”, Mr Key?

I don’t think so.

Not when your own Electorate Chairman and National Party Regional Deputy, Stephen McElrea, sits on ‘NZ on Airs‘ Board – which is responsible for funding decision-making. (see:  Call for McElrea to resign from NZ On Air)

Only a politician might think  that is “independepent” and “non-partisan”.

Secondly, there are two other  reasons why this country needs a committed non-commercial; fully funded; dedicated  public service broadcaster.

It is the same reasons why we have a committed non-commercial; fully funded; dedicated  public service radio station, Radio New Zealand. Namely;

  • Convenience

Much like going to a supermarket which retails a wide range of goods, and saves us the effort of going to separate retailers for fruit & veg; meat; fish; hardware, the supermnarket is a convenient  one-stop shop.

It’s what consumers want. And in a market-driven society, what consumers want, consumers get.

Why should it be any different for a one-stop broadcaster/shop?

In fact, we already have racing channels; religious channels; shopping channels; cartoon channels; etc, etc, etc.

So why not a committed non-commercial; fully funded; dedicated  public service television station?

  • A sense of purpose

TV3 did well to broadcast  ‘Inside Child Poverty‘ and it’s ‘Campbell Live‘ programme is to be commended for it’s investigate and advocacy journalism. Long may TV3 survive and return good dividends to it’s shareholder(s).

But we also need a dedicated  public service television station that has a sense of purpose that is different to commercial TV.

We need a sense of purpose that is not controlled by ratings; has public service as it’s #1 goal; and broadcasts programmes that are challenging as well as informative. Programmes that might not be commercially successful, but nevertheless spark public debate on isues.

Such as ‘Inside Child Poverty‘ did, in November 2011.

Unfortunately, programming such as ‘Inside Child Poverty‘ by commercial broadcasters is a rarity, and TV3 received much flak for the courage they displayed that day.

It is a fact that almost every OECD nation, as well as Russia,  has a public service tv broadcaster. Australia has seven; ABC1, ABC2, ABC3, ABC News 24, SBS1, SBS2, and NITV (National Indigenous TV).

It is depressing to realise that this   National government refuses to give New Zealanders what other countries already have.

Conclusion

There is no arguing with the simple fact that Nationaland ACT have zero interest in public service broadcast.

In fact, if anything, the dumbing down or ghottoisation of public broadcasting serves their political  interests. After all, a commercialised broadcaster will most often choose to focus their News stories around crime/police/court reporting – which is cheaper than investigative journalism, as police feed information directly to journalists in News Rooms.

Investigative reporting – such as  “Campbell Live”  – is much rarer.

Documentaries that look behind the superficialities of our society – such as  Bryan Bruce’s  ‘Inside Child Poverty‘ – is rarer still.

Which is probably why right wing governments love the commercialisation of our broadcasting.

Evidence for this is  on TV1, 7pm, week nights.

I rest my case.

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Previous related blogposts

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

Public Broadcasting – down, but not out

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

The Ridges are on tonight!!!

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

Sources

Fairfax media: Government signals big changes for TVNZ (13 March 2010)

TV3: TVNZ Charter abolished (13 July 2011)

NZ Herald: Perhaps now’s a good time to sell off TVNZ (8 Feb 2013)

NZ Herald: Susan Wood new host of TVNZ’s Q+A (21 Feb 2013)

NZ Herald: Seven Sharp staff in talks on show (22 Feb 2013)

NZ Herald: Seven Sharp vs Campbell Live – who’s winning? (22 Feb 2013)

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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

Full story

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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.

3.

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.

4.

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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*

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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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= fs =

National – what else can possibly go wrong?!

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A contributor to The Standard blog, ‘Jenny’, made a very simple – but insightful post, detailing National’s track record in the last three and a half years,

This is a government determined to gift everything they could possibly wish to the rich and powerful, and on behalf of this greedy sector force onto the rest of New Zealanders.

More Pokies

More drilling

More fracking

More booze

More junk food

A fire sale of public assets

More pollution

More corruption

More scandal

Less sovereignity

Less civil liberty

More toadying to foreign powers

More toadying to foreign corporates

More spying snooping and videoing of New Zealand citizens

More bail-outs

More tax cuts

More job cuts

More benefit cuts

Have they actually done anything worthwhile or positive?

See:  Katherine Rich on the Health Promotion Board: The next outrageous piece of Nat cronyism

Jenny posits the question, “Have they actually done anything worthwhile or positive?

Try as one might, despite inane rhetoric and vague promises, no National Party MP, functionary, or groupie could possibly point to any success achieved by John Key and his colleagues.

Not . One.

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1.Economic Growth

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National’s “Master Plan” for economic growth and job creation seems to revolve around four events – none of which have been particularly successful,

  1. The rebuild of Christchurch. Despite being an opportunity to upskill 160,000 unemployed and a major boost to the economy – nothing much is happening. Instead, National is content to allow tradespeople from overseas to come into the country and carry out  the work. With few apprenticeships, we are woefully unprepared for the looming demand for tradespeople – a damning lack of planning by National and it’s naive reliance on the “free market” to provide skilled workers.
  2. The Rugby World Cup – far from being a major boost, seems to have contributed very little to our economy. In the last three months of 2011, GDP grew  just 0.3% – half  that  predicted by economists. It seems that Dr Sam Richardson’s prediction, that $700  million was a hopelessly unrealistic expectation proved to be unerringly correct.  Who is ultimately responsible for National throwing $200-plus million of our tax dollars at this exercise in outrageous extravagance? Murray McCully? Steven Joyce? John Key?
  3. The Sky City/Convention Centre deal. Our illustrious Dear Leader promised 1,800 jobs from this planned project, in return for re-writing gambling legislation and permitting Sky City to increase pokie machine and gaming tables by up to 500. Potential social fall-out surrounding increased problem gambling was casually dismissed by both John Key and Sky City’s CEO Nigel Morrison.    Unfortunately, as with most of John Key’s figures and promises, the expectation of 1,800 jobs was as fictitious as much of what he says.
  4. Asset sales. With weak growth; a stagnant economyhigh unemployment; and New Zealanders continuing to escape to Australia, National’s one (and only) trump card appears to be the partial-privatisation of five state owned corporations. As has been pointed out, ad infinitum, floating shares in these SOEs will not contribute to economic growth; nor create new jobs (in fact,  it is likely to result in redunancies, if past privatisations are any guide); nor create real wealth. It simply shuffles bits of paper (shares) around from investor-to-investor-to-investor. And if investors need to borrow to buy these shares, we are using overseas funds for speculative purposes. Which sounds suspiciously like our love-affair with speculative housing-“investments”.

As Business NZ has stated, our economic growth has been ‘unspectacular’. And that’s coming from one of National’s own business allies. (Just as Business NZ seemed somewhat unimpressed as National’s lack of planning and direction last year, just prior to the election.)

Otherwise, National’s Grand Plan can be summed up as a reliance on a “two pronged” approach to growing the economy; a hands-off “free market” approach, and tax cuts. Not only have neither worked terribly well, but these measures have been counter-productive.

Tax-cuts  gave massive increases in income to the richest 10% of New Zealanders – whilst the GST increase has made life harder for the poorest and lowest-paid in this country.

Right wing cheer-leaders who bleat on about their rich masters “working hard and deserving  increased wealth” may be aspirationists who one day hope to become one of the Master Class – but I hope they’re not holding their breath. That day will be a long time coming.

Tax cuts have also resulted in a government budget blow-out. Borrowing $380 million a week, whilst claiming that National is “not borrowing for tax cuts is credible only to National; their salivating sycophants; and low-information voters (for whom “The GC” is the height of documentary-making).

Tax cuts have also not delivered the promised boost to the economy by increasing spending and consumption. This is not surprising, as the tax cuts were given to the wrong sector of society.

High income, wealthy, asset-rich families tend to use their tax-cuts to reduce debt or spend on investments (shares, kiwisaver,  etc) that do not directly help small businesses.

Low income, poor, families spend everything. These are the the people who will buy more food to put on their tables; clothes; shoes; medication; and other consumables. These are the people that small businesses rely on on for their custom. And the retail supermarket sector is suffering a massive drop accordingly.

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Middle income families continue to stuggle not to fall behind. Any tax increase they may have gained has been swallowed up by increased gst, government charges, increased user-pays, etc.

I think most people have since ‘twigged’ that National has indeed borrowed for tax cuts. And we’re having to pay back those massive borrowings by  cutting services; slashing the state sector; and selling our state assets.

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2. Asset Sales

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National’s asset sales programme has been an unmitigated disaster from Day One.

Since National first announced their decision to partially privatise Meridian, Genesis, Mighty River Power, Solid Energy, and Air New Zealand, this issue has been opposed by the public.

National has used it’s so-called “mandate” from last year’s election to proceed with their policy, and passed enabling legislation only last Tuesday (26 June).

Any notion of a “mandate” is shaky and open to interpretation.

Whilst the National-ACT-Peter Dunne Coalition has 61 seats, and Labour, NZ First, Greens, Mana, and Maori Party have 60 seats – the number of Party votes cast tells a different story.

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

The irony of the Conservative Party gaining more Party Votes than ACT and United Future combined – yet winning no  seats in Parliament  – will not escape most fair-minded people. Adding the Conservative’s 59,237 party votes to the anti-asset sale bloc, yields a majority of voters opposed to National’s programme.

It is only the current rules of MMP (now under review) that allows this quirk to take place.

Add to that, opinion poll after opinion poll showing  60% to 80% of respondents  opposed to asset sales, and National’s mantra that “We have a Mandate” becomes patently untenable.

A recent  NZ Herald poll, where respondents were asked to leave a comment, as well as a “Yay” or “Nay” vote yielded results that were thoroughly predictable,

For: 151

Against: 552

The National Party understands this only too well. Hence their desperate, ad hoc  schemes to bribe the public with all manner of ‘sweeteners’,

  • giving first option to buy shares  to “mum and dad” investors
  • a bribe of “loyalty” shares
  • promise of “affordable” shares  for investors

There is a considerable degree of arrogance in National’s pursuing of their asset sales, despite considerable public anger.

On 26 October last year,  Dear Leader  said,

They don’t fully understand what we’re doing. My experience is when I take audiences through it, like I did just before, no-one actually put up their hand and asked a question. “

On 3 May, as a 5,000 person march wound it’s way through Wellington, John Key grinned to reporters and cheekily said,

How many people did they have?  Where was it? Nope wasn’t aware of it. So look, a few thousand people walking down the streets of Wellington isn’t going to change my mind. “

And on 26 June, Key tried to dismiss TV3 journalist John Campbell with this demeaning insult,

No, um, and with the greatest respect to your financial literacy, you’ve proven that you don’t actually have any. “

Key said pretty much the same about Greens co-leader, Russel Norman,

With the greatest respect to [Green Party co-leader Russel Norman], I’m sure he’s a great bloke, he doesn’t know much about economics. “

It is fairly obvious that Key has very little time for anyone who opposes his views. In fact, he gets downright belligerent and  derisive.

Who does he remind me of? Someone else who used to belittle and deride anyone who dared disagree with him – especially in economic matters. Who else was famous for his arrogance? Another Prime Minister,

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Despite public opposition and several valid commercial reasons made clear that these sales will be financially disadvantageous to our economy, National carries on, oblivious to all but it’s own ideological fanaticism.

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This is a Party totally out of touch with the rest of the country.

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3. Welfare

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In 2008, the GFC (Global Financial Crisis) hit the world with a social and economic recession not seen since the 1920s/30s. Coporations like Lehmann Bros collapsed. General Motors filed for bankruptcy protection. Others had to be bailed out with billions of taxpayers’ dollars. Millions lost their jobs and homes, and unemployment skyrocketed. Europe is tottering on the brink of a domino-like collapse of their currency.

Here in New Zealand, unemployment doubled from 3.4% by the end of 2007, to 7.3% by the end of 2009.

When criticism is levelled at National’s inability to address our stagnating economy, John Key and Bill English point to the GFC, stating it’s not their fault,

We did inherit a pretty bad situation with the global financial crisis.” – Source

This is a global debt crisis and you certainly wouldn’t want to add more debt at that time unnecessarily.” – Source

The economic downturn that may occur on a pronounced basis in Europe is factored into our books.” – Source

But when it comes to those who are the casualties of the economic downturn; the unemployed, National suddenly sings a different tune when it comes to Cause-and-Effect,

The Government is considering requiring beneficiaries to immunise their children.” – Source

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett yesterday said contraception would eventually be fully funded for female beneficiaries and their 16 to 19-year-old daughters. ” – Source

Prime Minister John Key says beneficiaries who resort to food banks do so out of their own “poor choices” rather than because they cannot afford food.” – Source

Under the Government’s new youth welfare policy, announced by Prime Minister John Key at the weekend, 16- and 17-year-old beneficiaries would receive a payment card for food and clothes from approved stores.” – Source

And perhaps – worst of all – was  this piece of vileness from Finance Minister, Bill English,

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[click on image to go to TV3 website]

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English’s smirking disdain, for all those New Zealanders who have lost their jobs due to the global financial crisis, was plain to see.  Shame on him; his revolting attitude; and shame on every person in his electorate who voted for this arrogant little man.

The National Creed

1. The  Global Financial Crisis – a handy excuse for poor economic policies and mismanagement.

2. The Unemployed – a handy scapegoat for National’s inability to grow the economy and create new jobs.

3. If in doubt, never take responsibilty; refer to #1 and #2.

Latest redundancies;

Will drug testing be used to  “sort this lot out smartly”, Mr English?

And more bizarre is Paula Bennet’s admission that National “has ruled out universal drug testing of all beneficiaries, with drug and alcohol addicts being exempted from sanctions for refusing or failing a drug test when applying for a job“.

See:  Addicts escape beneficiary drug testing

Which means that if addicts and alcoholics are not tested – that leaves only those  workers who’ve been unfortunate enough to lose their jobs through New Zealand’s ongoing stagnating economy.

Adding insult to injury doesn’t begin to cover the humiliation which National intends to thrust upon workers who’ve lost their jobs.

And all because National has no job creation policies.

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4. Sky City/Convention Centre

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This is perhaps one of John Key’s shonkiest deals. It is no wonder that the Auditor General is investigating the Sky City “arrangement” – so I have little faith that the investigation will yield much that is incriminating of Dear Leader.

As Key stated with utter confidence, on TV3’s ‘The Nation‘ on 17 June,

KEY: The involvement I had, as Minister of Tourism was to go and talk to a number of critical players, and as part of a general conversation say to them, “Hey, look, New Zealand’s interested in building a convention centre. Did that with Sky City. I did that with people out at ASB Centre The Edge. I did that with Ngati Whatua. That’s not unusual.  I mean, and to argue that that would be unusual would be to say, well, look I have discussions with people in Whangarei about building a museum there. And I have discussions  with people in Auckland about building  a cycleway.

So now what we’re  talking about about is, ok, was there undue influence or was the process correctly handled, that’s what the auditor general  will say.

So let me tell you this, for a start off, ok, in terms of the expression of interest process, my office had absolutely no involvement, no correspondence, [ interuption by Rachel Smalley] no phone calls, absolutely nothing. So when the auditor general  comes in there will be no correspondence, no phone calls, no discussions, zero. “ - Source (@ 6.37)

That statement does not instill confidence in me. Dear Leader has just stated, on record, that no evidence exists of his meeting(s) with Sky City management. Key admitted meeting with Sky City’s Board in late 2009,

I attended a dinner with the Sky City board 4 November 2009 where we discussed a possible national convention centre and they raised issues relating to the Gambling Act 2003“. – Source

But what was said or agreed on, we don’t know. As Key has stated, “when the auditor general  comes in there will be no correspondence, no phone calls, no discussions, zero”.

This is not a very good  example of transparency. It is certainly not the “transparency in government”  that Key has promised this country on several occassions.

In fact, it’s dodgy as hell.

See:  Doing ‘the business’ with John Key – Here’s How

In the same  blogpost ( Doing ‘the business’ with John Key – Here’s How )  dated 23 April, this blogger outlined John Key’s somewhat dubious tactics for pushing through dubious policies,

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Promise Big Numbers.  It doesn’t matter if the numbers never eventuate because they were fictitious to start with. By the time the media and public realise the true facts, the issue will be all but forgotten. A week may be a long time in politics – but a year positively guarantees  collective amnesia for 99% of the public.

From December, 2010,

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Cycleway jobs fall short

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6:00 AM Wednesday Dec 8, 2010

The national cycleway has so far generated just 215 jobs – well short of Prime Minister John Key’s expectation of 4000.

In May, Mr Key said he expected the $50 million project, which involves building 18 cycleways throughout the country, to generate 4000 jobs.”Source

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Who can remember the initial cycleway project and the promise of 4,000 new jobs?

Precisely.

From March, this year,

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Key defends casino pokie machine deal

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08:23 Mon Mar 5 2012 – AAP

Opposition parties are accusing the government of selling legislation through an agreement that will see Auckland’s Sky City build a $350 million convention centre in return for more pokie machines…

…  But Mr Key says it’s a good deal for New Zealand.

“It produces 1000 jobs to build a convention centre, about 900 jobs to run it… ” Source

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In a year’s time, who will recall the promise of 900 new Convention centre jobs?

Who will care that only a hundred-plus eventuate?

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Well, it didn’t take one year. It took only a matter of  months. On 5 March, John Key asserted,

 “It produces 1000 jobs to build a convention centre, about 900 jobs to run it, and overall the number of pokie machines will be falling although at a slightly lower rate.”

See:  Key defends casino pokie machine deal

But then, on 5 June,  the NZ Herald reported,

Job numbers touted by Prime Minister John Key for a proposed international convention centre at SkyCity are much higher than official estimates.

Mr Key has said a deal allowing SkyCity more gambling facilities in exchange for funding the convention centre would provide 900 construction jobs and work for 800 people at the centre.

But the figures are much higher than those in a feasibility study done for the Government by hospitality and travel specialist analyst Horwath Ltd.

Horwath director Stephen Hamilton said he was concerned over reports the convention centre would employ 800 staff – a fulltime-equivalent total of 500.

He said the feasibility study put the number of people who would be hired at between 318 and 479. “

See:  Puzzle of Key’s extra casino jobs

Sprung! Another of Dear Leader’s “little white lies” uncovered.

Next ‘cast iron guarantee’ from Dear Leader, who said on his website,

SkyCity has agreed to pay the full construction costs of the centre – estimated at $350 million. The company has asked the Government to consider some alterations to gambling regulations and legislation.”

See:  John Key -Convention centre development moves ahead

Yeah, I’ll bet that Sky City has “asked the Government to consider some alterations to gambling regulations and legislation“…

In business, it’s called a ‘contra-deal‘.

But it’s seems that even this deal is not as “free” for tax-payers as Key has made out. In fact, it has been uncovered that  taxpayers are definitely ‘stumping up’ some of their hard-earned cash,

Budget documents reveal that if the plan goes ahead, taxpayers will contribute up to $2.1 million to ensure its design and facilities meet Government expectations...  The Prime Minister, however, is defending the budget allocation of millions of dollars towards a potential Sky City convention centre.

John Key says he has always said his preferred position is that no taxpayer money would be spent – and that if it does go ahead, it will have economic spinoffs. “

See:  Govt misleading public over Sky City: Labour

So… Key has (once again) mis-led the public, and his stock-standard explanation is that “if it does go ahead, it will have economic spinoffs .”

John Key  claims that “a new convention centre would bring 144,000 additional nights of Auckland stays for business tourists, who generally spent twice as much as other tourists“.

See:  Casinos safer than pubs, Key says

But as Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ, said somewhat more convincingly,

Tourists come to see the country and the culture – not the casinos. If tourists were really focused on gambling, they would be going to Las Vegas – not the Sky City casino venue in Auckland.

See:  Tourists Come to See Country & Culture – Not Casinos

What’s the bet that the forecast for “economic spinoffs” will be as accurate as National’s predictions for spin-offs from the Rugby World Cup or national cycleway?!

See:  Weather and World Cup fail to lift GDP

See:  Current account deficit widens to $2.7 billion

See:  Growth slows – GDP up just 0.3pc

How many times have we heard Prime Minister John Key make all sorts of promises that this or that will deliver jobs and economic growth – only to see the promise fail. Which is then  usually followed by an excuse relating to the global economic slowdown?

It’s getting rather predictable and tedious.

What Dear Leader has tried to gloss over and  dismiss is the inevitable consequence of increasing pokie machines: more problem gambling. Both John Key and Sky City CEO, Nigel Morrison,  have tried to trivialise this growing social problem,

The incidence of harm cited from Lotto is greater than that from pokie machines in casinos. Getting those facts across is difficult.  We’re not just on about growing our gaming machines.  We would like to grow our table games product and expand our operations to meet the growth of Auckland. “

See:  Casino boss: Lotto does more harm

Gambling addiction in many way is as pernicious – if not worse – than alcohol and drug additions. A compulsive gambler can damage not only his/her own life – but those around them. Houses have been lost; businesses crippled or closed down; families torn apart,  as problem gamblers suck others down into a whirlpool of uncontrollable gambling.

See:  Barred gambler coaxed back to casino

See:  Mum steals $330k from marae to feed pokies

From a Ministry of Health  report,

Overall, the prevalence of problem gambling in New Zealand adults was 0.4% (about 13,100 adults). Additionally, the prevalence of moderate-risk gambling was 1.3% (representing a further 40,900 people). In total, 1 in 58 adults (1.7%, or 54,000 adults) were experiencing either problem or moderate-risk gambling.

Other key findings of this study include:

  1. Maori and Pacific people experience more gambling-related harm than other people
  2. people living in more socioeconomically deprived areas are more affected by gambling-related harm.
  3. this study may help to inform the provision of problem gambling intervention services and public health activity, as the study showed that:
    • problem gamblers can be found in both urban and rural areas
    • Maori and Pacific people appear to be under-represented in intervention services
    • people experiencing gambling problems are more likely than other people to be current smokers, have hazardous drinking patterns, have worse self-rated health, and have a high or very high probability of a mood or anxiety disorder. “

See:  A Focus on Problem Gambling: Results of the 2006/07 New Zealand Health Survey

Interestingly, the above report, using 2006/07 data, and posted online in 2009, is the most recent Ministry of Health report available. Nothing more recent – and perhaps more damning of current gambling policies – is apparent on the Ministry of Health website.

Why is that?

On a more personal level, this blogger is aware of an elderly couple who were both addicted to pokie machines. Badly in debt, they were forced to down-size their family home and buy a smaller, more modest,  property. One of the couple died soon after, leaving the other who continued her gambling habit.

Not only has this elderly woman lost her surplus cash from the house-sale, but has gambled using equity in her current home.  She often ‘borrows’ money from her grown up children.

Her  modest house is deteriorating through lack of maintenance.

Not only has this woman lost all equity in her home, she is now more reliant on  both the State and her family.

Meanwhile, this article on Sky City’s most recent posted profits should be cause for concern,

”  Sky City Entertainment, one of the biggest gambling operators in the country, has seen a significant rise in profits over the course of the last year. The company attributes this growth to the earnings generated by the Sky City Casino in Auckland.

Over the course of 2011, profits for Sky City rose by over $10 million to $78 for the year. The company believes that the changes made to Sky City Auckland are to thank for this impressive profit increase over the course of the past year.

$50 million was spent on renovating the gambling facilities available the casino, but the company still managed to offset the costs with improved profits. In addition to building a new VIP lounge, Sky City also renovated other areas of the casino to make them more attractive to players.

Slots [pokies]  brought in the amount of increased revenue, seeing a rise by 17%. Non-gaming elements also helped to boost profits. Auckland’s recently-revamped hotels and restaurants garnered a great deal of attention from patrons.

It seems that the adage “you have to spend money to make money” is true for Sky City.  “

See:  Sky City Sees Huge Revenue Jump

If the convention centre is National’s only scheme to grow the economy and to create 170,000 new jobs – we are in deep trouble.

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5. TVNZ7

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Nothing best illustrates  National’s narrow vision of the role of government than the demise of TVNZ7. Nothing.

Whether the previous Broadcasting Minister, Jonathan Coleman, or the current Minister, Craig Foss – their attitude has been the same; market forces shall prevail – and public-interest programming shall be the responsibity of NZ On Air, who shall contract such programmes to current commercial broadcasters.

Except that this is a cop-out.

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The beauty of TVNZ7 is that public broadcasting was, in the main, focused on a single broadcasting platform. The public knew where to go to watch certain types of programming.

Just as the public now go to supermarkets to buy their meat, fish, veg & fruit, and bread – instead of going to a butchers; a fish shop; a  fruit & veg produce store; and a bakery. Imagine the uproar if John Key told us we must go to five different food retailers to buy five different sorts of foodstuffs?! Dear Leader would have a size 9 boot imprinted on his backside.

TVNZ7 fulfilled the same public demand; niche programming on a niche broadcaster.

Just as, currently we have racing on the TAB channel; Chinese programming on CTV; parliament on Parliament TV, etc.

Ironic that politicians have no problem broadcasting their “debates” (inverted commas used deliberately), deeming their squabbles and shrill screams a must have - but not public, non-commercial TV.

Or, that we can have non-stop horse racing on a free-to-air TV channel.

But we are not entitled to have access to non-commercial public TV.

Whatever concept National has of public television, it is clear that Broadcasting Minister, Craig Foss’s vision is different to the rest of New Zealand,

“…  the government was ‘committed’ to supporting local content through NZ on Air, instead of directly funding single broadcasters. “

See:  No help for titanically pointless bill

Having public TV through NZ On Air is akin to selling vegetarian/vegan food products in butcher shops. You have to go looking for it. It’s not easy to find. And it’s buried amongst ‘crap’ you’d rather not have to put up with.

And what makes NZ On Air funding of  ‘Media7/Media3‘  “public television” – when it will have advertisements peppered throughout?

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Take out the advertising of underarm deodorants; cat/dog food; toilet ducks; panty shields;  the latest 4WD monstrosity from Korea; promos for the latest US crime/cop shows; reality TV shows; home improvement shows; US sitcoms; and voyeuristic, soft-core porn like “The GC”,  and a 30 minute current affairs programme from TVNZ7 becomes a 20 minute show on TV3.

There goes our chance to focus on critical social issues, as commercial advertisers compete for our attention.

What next? Advertising in Tolstoy’s  “War and Peace”? Shakepeare’s “Macbeth”? Anne Frank’s Diary?

We are being ripped off in more ways than one. We deserve better than this.

But not, it seems, according to National; there is more than an element of vindictiveness in their decision to can TVNZ7. As if it was their opportunity to “stick it to us” after their embarrassing backdowns on mining in conservation schedule four estates; their attempt to cut teacher numbers and increase classroom sizes; and ongoing resistance to state asset sales.

The closure of TVNZ7 is a clue what National thinks of us. And it ain’t very pleasant.

See: Pundit – TVNZ kills ad-free channels to grow profits

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6. Education

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Current cutbacks to state and social services is a re-run of the 1990s. National’s cuts now, mirror those of last century.

Bolger, Richardson, Shipley, and Bill English  ran amok – slashing health, education, police, military, and anything else they could lay their cold, clammy, neo-liberal hands on.

At one stage, in the late 1990s, the health system was so badly run down that   patients requiring critical surgery were not receiving it – and were dying on waiting lists.

See: Died waiting for by pass

See:  Funding cut puts centre in jeopardy

See:  Myers warns few jobs, more poor, ahead for NZ

This year, as part of National’s on-going agenda to cut government services; reduce the size of the State; and to pass on savings  as tax cuts to the rich, National has cut staffing levels; departmental budgets; and services.

The New Zealand middle class tolerates this – until it affects them, personally.

Enter: 24 June – Minister Parata and her plans to slash teacher numbers and increase class sizes.  That was a step too far, and a teacher-parent-principal-Boards alliance fought back. Hard.

Bill English – a bloodied veteran of the Bolger-cum-Shipley administration of the late 1990s –  recognised the signs that a revolt of the middle classes was in the offing.   National’s merciless cuts to social and government services in the ’90s had resulted in an electoral thrashing in the November 1999 elections.

Upshot: 7 July – Government u-turn on cost-cutting policy.

This is now the second major policy u-turn by National. Their previous bloodied-nose, in July 2010, when Gerry Brownlee was forced to announce a back-down on National’s proposals to mine schedule 4 conservation land, was a stunning exercise in people-power.

In my previous blogpost (Why Hekia Parata should not be sacked), I argued that Educational Minister, Hekia Parata should not be forced to step down from her ministerial role. As I pointed out, “sacking Parata for policies that every other Minister has been implementing seems pointless. Especially when National’s essential policy of cutting expenditure and services would remain unchanged”.

However, recent revelations from OIA-released  document have revealed,

The papers for the education budget reveal class size funding ratio changes went even further than what was announced.

Education Minister Hekia Parata originally urged changes that would seen 1300 fewer teachers hired over the next four years than would have happened under the existing funding formula.

That plan to curb growth in teacher numbers would have seen a “a minimal net reduction” in staffing of about 260 after four years.

The Government eventually decided on a less aggressive plan to cap teacher numbers, with almost the same number proposed to be employed in 2016 as now.

That plan to save $174m over four years was agreed and written in to the Budget but Parata was forced in to an embarrassing backdown earlier this month, which cancelled the plan and returned to the status quo.

However Parata’s original plan was to cut $217m. “

See:  Deeper teacher funding cuts ditched

It appears that Ms Parata’s inclination was for even deeper cuts to Education services  than, (a) the public was initially aware of and (b) that her National ministerial colleagues could stomach.

This explains, in part, why Key torpedoed  Parata’s plans to cut education services; he was thoroughly exasperated with an an incompetant  Minister who badly overestimated her abilities and could not “sell” even a watered down version of her plans. He must have been spitting tacks that, had Parata’s initial plans to cut $217 million (instead of $174 million) gone ahead,  she would have found herself in a much deeper hole, and the fallout to National would have been much worse.

This blogger has come to the conclusion that Hekia Parata is way over her head, and should step down as Education Minister forthwith.

At any rate, she will be gone at the next cabinet re-shuffle.

Tea-lady might be a good, safe role for her?

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7. ETS – Another of Key’s broken promises

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John Key is adamant that National will not consider slowly raising the retirement age from 65 to 67, because it is a committment he has promised to keep,

I’ve made it quite clear it would be my intention to resign from parliament if I broke that promise to New Zealanders.”

See:  Govt against raising retirement age

This blogger finds it hard to understand Key’s reticence to “breaking” an election promise. After all, he’s broken promises not to raise GST; to retrieve the bodies of the Pike River miners;  to address growing youth unemployment; stem the flow of migration to Australia; grow the economy; and now, to implement an ETS.

In May 2008, Key stated,

Key outlined a series of principles an ETS should have, including…

… It should be closely aligned with Australia’s ETS.

It should not discriminate against small and medium businesses in allocating emissions credits and purposes. “

See: Nats call for a delay to emission trading scheme law

At the time, Key also stated,

This not about National walking away from an ETS, we support that. . . we just simply want to get it right and we now have the time to get it right.  “

That was four years ago.

Since then Australia has implemented it’s own carbon tax that will lead in to a full ETS by 2015,

The A$23-a-tonne price on carbon emissions started yesterday [1 July 2012] , directly affecting 294 electricity generators and other companies.

The federal Government is aiming to cut carbon emissions by 5 per cent by 2020, with the carbon tax shifting to an emissions trading scheme in 2015. “

See: Protests greet day one of Aussie carbon tax

By contrast, National has been delaying implementing New Zealand’s own version of an ETS, and has now “postponed” it until 2015.

And yet, four years ago, Key stated that New Zealand’s emissions trading scheme should ” be closely aligned with Australia’s ETS  “.

Our Aussie cuzzies have already started their carbon tax/ETS.

With National postponing the ETS for farmers, industrial and commercial polluters, until 2015 – that means that Dear Leader’s “postponement” will have lasted seven years – over two Parliamentary terms.  How long does Key need to ‘get it right’ ?

Ten years?

Two decades?

Perhaps the turn of the 22nd century?

Let’s cut through the BS here. John Key is not “postponing” the ETS – he is postponing it indefinitely. National has no intention of ever implementing it. So much for Key’s statement,

Ours is not a political agenda here, we want a good ETS that works.”

That deserves to be immortalised,

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See also: Tumeke – Blue ignores Red to pretend to be Green while turning to Brown to subsidize big polluters

See also: Tumeke – The Emissions Trading Scam and the audacity of Farmers

The sooner the Nats admit this deception, the better for the entire country. Until then, the only sector paying the ETS is… us, the public.

Which leads on to…

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8. Tax Cuts & Government charges

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In 2009 and 2010, National cut taxes.  The rationale, as National explained in their 2008 document,

In the short term, National’s tax package will give households confidence and some cash in their back pockets to keep the economy going and to pay down debt.

In the longer term, our tax package encourages people to invest in their own skills and make best use of their abilities, because they get to keep more of any higher wages they earn. It encourages them to look for and to take up better and higher-paying jobs that make more use of their skills.

See: National Party  Tax policy

However, what National giveth with one hand; National taketh with the other.

Any benefits from the ’09 and ’10 taxcuts have been more than swallowed up (for low and middle income earners) by increases in a myriad of government and SOE charges.

The most recent have been Family Courts fees, which have risen astronomically.

From July 1 2012, services which used to be free to couples in dispute, now incur considerable court fees,

  • Child custody disputes: $220
  • Property disputes: $700
  • Hearing of any application for each half-day, or part half-day: $906

Of all National’s user-pays regimes, charging couples who are separating; highly stressed; and where violence may be involved, is mind-boggling. We thought it was miserly when National decided to tax children in the last budget – but these user-pays Family Court fees hit people who are vulnerable in the extreme,

But Family Law Specialists director Catriona Doyle says most families try to avoid handing custody and property decisions to a judge and only use the Family Court as a last resort in irresolvable conflicts.

The few people who waste the court’s time by filing repeatedly or unnecessarily won’t be put off by the fees because they’ll either be wealthy enough to afford it or earning little enough to have the fees waived, she says.

“It’s going to hit the middle class and lower income families where $220 is a lot of money.”

Women especially will be hit hard, as they are often financially disadvantaged when a relationship breaks up, Ms Doyle says.

Rather than trying to keep children out of court, the ministry should be aiming to resolve conflicts before children are affected by them, she says.

“Leaving children in a conflict situation where the parents are at war is neglect and abuse. The kids who live in that situation are damaged.”

A judge should be the person to decide if a case is genuine or flippant, especially when children are involved, she says.

“It’s not something that should be addressed by Parliament or a court registrar”.

See:  Family court fees will hurt women – lawyer

Minister of Courts, Chester Borrows, stated plainly,

What we are trying to do here is have a disincentive for people to be able to bring these matters before the court. “

See:   Family Court fees tipped to hit low earners, children

(Note: As a matter of interest, Chester Borrows is the very same Minister who stated he would be buying shares in SOEs, when they were partially-privatised. See:  Conflicts of Interest? )

National complains that  court costs have risen  from $84 million in 2004/2005 to $142m in 2010/2011 – hence Family Court fees must be imposed.

This is faulty logic, and is penalising people who are attempting to sort out damaging relationship breakdowns.  Using Family Courts is preferable to taking the law into one’s own hands. Disincentiving people from using the law – which Parliament put in place to protect us all – is like disincentivising people from calling the Police if you’ve been burgled.

Instead, if we are being “encouraged to resolve issues ourselves”, find the burglar; beat the crap out of him; and retrieve our stolen property ourselves.  That is what Borrows is advocating.

Further using Borrows’ “logic”, National should implement high user-pays charges in public hospitals, as  ” a disincentive for people ” to use hospitals.

It sounds ridiculous? It is ridiculous.

It is also dangerous. Borrows and his idiotic fellow ministers are playing with peoples’ lives. Putting expensive, punitive barriers up at a time when families most need society’s help defies logic, common sense, and most of all, compassion.

But then – when did anyone ever accuse the National Party of being compassionate?

And will the Dear Leader, John Key,  take responsibility if something goes horribly wrong, and an emotionally-stressed family explodes into violence because they had no way out through the Family Court? Like hell he will.

This is a death waiting to happen.

On your miserable head be it, Mr Borrows.

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9. More on those tax cuts

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As an aside, National’s 2008 Tax document makes this derisable claim,

” This makes it absolutely clear that to fund National’s tax package there is no requirement for additional borrowing and there is no requirement to cut public services.

Jeez. No wonder people don’t trust politicians.

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10. Alcohol law reforms

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The latest offerings of irrationality from John Key’s Universe; evidently Dear Leader does not believe that minimum pricing for alcohol would work. He suggests (with a straight face, no doubt) that minimum pricing for booze would not work because it could drive people to drink lower quality liquor instead of reducing consumption,

What typically happens is people move down the quality curve and still get access to alcohol.”

See:   PM sceptical dearer booze will cut consumption

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Mr Key, how do I mock thee? Let me count the ways… (with apologies to Elizabeth Browning)

 How do I mock thee? Let me count the ways.
I ridicule thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when laughing at you hard
For the ends of Banality and Idiotic Government.
I mock thee to the level of every day’s
Most quiet need, by sun and ecobulb-light.
I deride thee freely, as men strive for human rights.
I caricature thee purely, as they turn from praise.
I jeer at thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my voter’s faith.
I scorn thee with a scorn I seemed to lose
With my lost saints. I sneer at thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if  The People choose,
I shall but take the piss better after you are voted out.

Why so contemptuous, you ask?

Because raising the price of  tobacco has been the number one tool of both Labour and National governments.

As recently as 12 June, John Key stated on a Fairfax online interview,

The Government is unashamedly trying to deter people from smoking through price, particularly young people who are very sensitive to rising tobacco prices. I know this is difficult for those that have smoked for quite some time, but for your long term health I can only encourage you to try and give up. “

See: Blogpost –  Fairfax; An hour with Dear Leader (@ 12.57)

So high-pricing for tobacco is useful for ” the Government is unashamedly trying to deter people from smoking ” – but not for alcohol?

Raising prices to deter smoking works. But raising prices to deter binge-drinking doesn’t?

It boggles the mind how Dear Leader can hold two conflicting viewpoints, simultaneously, without suffering a brain explosion.

Or is it simply that the liquor industry is a generous donor of funds for National’s election campaigns?

In the meantime, life goes on,

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See:   Ambulance base for Wellington party central

See:   ‘Pressure valve’ medics patch up night’s drunks

See:   BERL Report – Costs of harmful alcohol and other drug use

See:   Drunk kids flooding our hospitals

See previous blogpost: A kronically inept government

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11. Government Cost cutting = Economic suicide

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On 12 May, this blogger posted a piece on National’s slashing of our MAF biosecurity.

In part, I posted this dire warning,

Now, we have the prospect of  having entire suburbs in Auckland being contained in some kind of loose “quarantine”, after a Queensland fruit fly was caught in a pest surveillance trap,

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Considering that the Queensland fruit fly costs the Australian economy approximately  $160 million a year, this is a very real threat  to New Zealand’s own $5 billion annual horticultural industry.

Five billion dollars, per year, every year. All under threat because this government wanted to save a few million bucks by employing fewer biosecurity staff.

As if the discovery of a  painted apple moth in 1999; the varroa mite infestation of our honey hives in 2000; and other isolated instances of pests found in this country did not serve as a warning to us – National  proceeded to cut back on biosecurity staffing.

This blogger wonders sometimes (actually, all the time) what goes through the minds of our esteemed Honourable Ministers of Her Majesty’s Government. These are supposedly well-educated men and women, with support from thousands of University-educated advisors – and yet they still manage to accomplish the most incredibly moronic decisions conceivable.

National has put at risk this country’s  $5 billion industry – simply to save a few million dollars.

They have risked horticulturalist’s businesses; workers their jobs; and all the down-stream economic activity – to save a small percentage of billions.

This blogger has three pieces of advice for all concerned,

  1. John Key must  accept the resignation of  David Carter, Minister for Bio-security immediatly.
  2. National must reinstate biosecurity services to pre-2009 levels.
  3. Horticulturalists (and others who own farms and other agricultural businesses) should carefully consider whether National is working on their behalf – or for the sake of implementing false economies. What is the point of an orchardist voting for National – if National is going to screw his/her business by cutting back on essential government services such as biosecurity?!?!

Hopefully, this  fruit fly is a lone bug; perhaps a stowaway in someone’s bag or in a container offloaded at Ports of Auckland.

If so, once again we’ve been lucky.

But how long will our  luck hold out?

See previous blogpost: Bugs and balls-ups!

It seems our luck ran out some years ago,

The kiwifruit growers’ association is considering legal action over the outbreak of the vine disease PSA and says it can’t rule out seeking compensation.

An independent review released on Wednesday into how the bacterium came into New Zealand has found there were shortcomings with biosecurity systems, but it does not say that caused the entry.

The disease was first confirmed near Te Puke in 2010 and has infected 40% of the country’s kiwifruit orchards. It is expected to cost the industry $410 million dollars in the next five years.

Ministry for Primary Industries director general Wayne McNee asid the review did not determine how PSA came into the country but does show where improvements can be made.

NZ Kiwifruit Growers president Neil Trebilco says he can’t rule out that compensation will be sought by growers.

See:   Kiwifruit growers take legal advice over PSA

A damning report into the outbreak of kiwifruit virus PSA is another in a series of warnings over the biosecurity system that the Government has failed to act on, Labour’s biosecurity spokesman Damien O’Connor says.

The independent report was commissioned by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) following the devastation caused by the virus in the Bay of Plenty orchards with an estimated cost of $400 million.

The report, released yesterday, found “shortcomings” in New Zealand’s biosecurity system although it could not say how the incursion had occurred.

It said MPI could improve protections and must work more closely with industry groups.

The report also suggested resources be moved from low-risk industries to high-risk ones such as the kiwifruit sector.

O’Connor said there needed to be a complete overhaul of the biosecurity system.

The National Government cut biosecurity funding in 2009 and had accepted the growing risk caused by faults in the system, he said.   “

See:  Labour: Govt ignored biosecurity warning

Anyone with two inter-connecting neurons would’ve figured out very quickly that if a government cuts biosecurity then we put ourselves at dire risk of pests entering our country. Like the varroa mite. Or PSA bacterium.

With approximately  550,000 shipping containers and 4.5 million people entering New Zealand each year, it stands to reason that we are at extreme risk of unwanted organisms being brought into the country.

National was warned as far back as 2009, when 60 Biosecurity jobs were “dis-established”.  It therefore defies understanding as to why National believed that cuts could be made to frontline MAF Biosecurity without serious consequences.

Spelling out those consequences,

  1. Millions – even hundreds of millions of dollars of valuable export dollars lost,
  2. Jobs lost,
  3. Businesses ruined,
  4. And not one single government minister taking responsibility.

The only question now remaining to be asked: how many farmers and horticulturalists will vote for National at the next election?

Remember:  you get the government you deserve.

This time, it is farmers and horticulturalists who have been warned.

See:   Risks involved in cutting MAF Biosecurity jobs

See:   Farming at risk if biosecurity jobs cut, PSA warns

See:  Minister warned about biosecurity concerns

See:  Fruit restrictions in place

See:  Biosecurity savings ‘false economy’

See:  Biosecurity NZ webpage

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12. The Terminally Ill

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During the 2008 general election, Prime Minister  John Key adopted the Herceptin campaign.

Pharmac was funding herceptin treatment for women suffering from breast cancer only up to a nine week period.  Breast cancer patients wanted treatment extended to twelve months. Pharmac refused, stating there was no evidence that an extended treatment period would prove beneficial,

Pharmac CEO,  Matthew Brougham, said,

A fresh review of the science and other information has failed to convince us that 12-month treatments offer any additional benefits over the concurrent nine week treatment.”

See:  Nats pledge funding for 12-month Herceptin course

Enter,  John Key. As the 2008 election campaign swung into full force, Key leapt upon the issue,

National recognises that many Kiwis have limited access to modern medicines. We will improve that access.

“We will boost overall funding for medicines and speed up the registration of new medicines, with final approval remaining in New Zealand.

“These initiatives will be funded within the indicative health spending allocations in the Prefu [Pre-election Fiscal and economic Update].

“They are also further examples of our determination to shift spending into frontline services for patients, rather than backroom costs.”

See:  Key says Nats would fund 12-month Herceptin treatment

The election promise was one of many that Key made (along with tax cuts and the perennial “getting tough on crime), and on 10 December 2008, the Prime Minister-elect announced,

I am proud to lead a government that has honoured such a commitment to the women of New Zealand.

“The commitment was part of National’s first 100-days action plan.  I am pleased that the Herceptin funding policy effectively applies from the swearing in of the Government on 19 November.”

See:  Government honours Herceptin promise

Unfortunately, John Key’s belief that ” National recognises that many Kiwis have limited access to modern medicines. We will improve that access. We will boost overall funding for medicines and speed up the registration of new medicines, with final approval remaining in New Zealand -  seems only to apply during election campaigns.

At other times, Key  does not seem to want to know.

Allyson Lock is one of five New Zealanders who suffers from Pompe Disease. It is a terminal condition.

There is medication available (called Myozyme ), but it currently receives no funding from Pharmac agency Pharmac.  It is an expensive drug, but without that medication, Allyson and her fellow sufferers will not survive.

See: Mum not prepared to wait and die

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Frank Macskasy Frankly Speaking Blog Pompe

IN SEARCH OF CURE: Allyson Lock will travel to Brisbane every fortnight for five years to receive treatment for the rare incurable disease Pompe.

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Allyson and her group have appealed to John Key for funding for their medication – without success. In fact, Key wants nothing to do with Allyson and other Pompe sufferers.

At a recent “on-line  chat” with John Key, hosted by Fairfax Media, several people including this blogger attempted to put a question to the Prime Minister; why was National not prepared to fund medicine for Pompe as they had for breast cancer sufferers?

See previous blogpost:   Fairfax; An hour with Dear Leader

After all, Pharmac had expressed the same reservations regarding the efficacy of  Myozyme as they did with long-term  herceptin treatment. Yet, that did not stop Key from ensuring breast cancer sufferers had full access to a year-long course of herceptin.

John Key and Health Minister Tony Ryall have wiped their hands of Allyson.

It is not election year.

So there are no political points to be scored in saving the lives of five fellow New Zealanders.

I look forward to John Key proving me wrong; a link to this blogpost will be sent to media as will as the Prime Minister’s office. The rest is in his hands.

To Prime Minister, John Key;

Fund treatment for Allyson and others, Mr Key. They deserve no less than breast cancer sufferers. You can either oversee funding for their treatment – or attend their funerals.

Your call, Mr Prime Minister.

See previous blogpost:   Priorities?

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Related blogpost

The wheels are coming off, and there’s a funny ‘plink-plink’ sound

A John, a Tony, and a Winston

Additional

David Cunliffe:  Speech – The Dolphin and the Dole Queue

Gordon Campbell:  Efficiency Is Not Your Friend

Acknowledgement

Thanks to ‘S’  for proof-reading.

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= fs =

It’s Wednesday night…

…  9pm, and no ‘Backbenches’.

Gutted.

Nothing else on TV… it’s all bollocks…

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Related blogpost

Another stake through the heart of quality broadcasting

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= fs =

Categories: The Body Politic Tags: ,

Public Broadcasting – down, but not out.

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If there is one thing that the demise of TVNZ7 has highlighted, it is National’s inability to read the public mood. It has also demonstrated, with stark, glaring reality, that National has little interest in maintaining social services. If it can close them down, with minimum fall-out,  it will.

National could easily have funded TVNZ7. At roughly $16 million per annum, itwas probably the cheapest public broadcaster of any nation on this planet.

It simply chose not to. Because it didn’t want to.

TVNZ7  was a non-commercial station, and therefore made no money for National.

It probably also took viewers away from the state-owned, money-making, TV1 and TV2, thereby lessening the dividend paid to State coffers.

Yet, TVNZ7’s viewership was growing – past one million viewers per month. It was offering intelligent programming that was light-years ahead of most of what any other Broadcaster was providing the public.  People can only take so much “reality” shows; infomercials; grim, misogynistic US crime/cop shows; US “comedies” (anyone for a re-run of “Friends“?); and soft-core porn like “The GC“.

None of which mattered one jot to John Key and his materialistic-minded fellow MPs, nor their right-wing philistine-supporters  who deride  non-commercial broadcasting because it doesn’t fit  their moronic world-view of Market Rules.

Above everything that National has mis-managed; stuffed-up; or run-down – their wilful failure to preserve TVNZ7 speaks volumes about their culture of crass materialism and lack of understanding about the needs of society.

They simply could not understand why people wanted TVNZ7 saved. They did not want to understand.

Which is a dangerous thing to have, when a country’s governing Party doesn’t understand the needs of it’s own people. Such a Party is out of touch, and it’s little wonder that the Nats have made so many cuts that even our Navy is in dire danger of collapsing; the Police are considering marching on Parliament; and the education sector is in open revolt against their own Minister.

This is a re-run of the late 1990s.

Labour and the Greens have promised to resurrect public broadcasting in this country.

This blogger  commends them for that.

But we need more than a public broadcaster. We need strong mechanisms put in place to entrench a non-commercial television station, to protect it from future interference by a right wing government of simple-minded fools. Such a mechanism will require legislation and the power of contracts to guarantee the viability of a public broadcaster

Those contracts have to be cast-iron, with penals for breaches  so great, that no future National leadership will even countenance interference.

In the meantime, National has won this round against it’s own citizens. In Syria, their government kills their own people. Here in New Zealand, if a government wants to exercise vindictive power, it simply takes away part or all of  a social service.

That’s how National operates.

Only the naive expect otherwise.

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PS:

And wouldn’t it be fun if, on Monday morning, everyone who supports TVNZ7 phoned John Key’s office…

Phone: (04)817 6800
Fax:     (04)472 2075

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= fs =

From July 1 onwards…

27 June 2012 6 comments

… TVNZ7 will be gone,

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New Zealand’s only public service, non-commercial TV broadcaster will be closed down – another casualty of National’s ideological mania for cost-cutting and gutting of our public services.

The National Party does not build social services – it cuts them. And where they can get away with it, National will close down or privatise  a social service.

This is what the public of New Zealand gets when they vote for a National government.

It is up to a Labour-led government to eventually re-build what National has wrecked.

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Additional

Save school jobs, mother asks Key

2500 jobs cut, but only $20m saved

Biosecurity cut backs leaves industry vulnerable

MFat cost-cutting plan in a shambles

Key backs cut-off for cheap homes plan

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= fs =

Categories: Media, The Body Politic Tags: ,
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