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An unfortunate advertising placement, child poverty, and breathing air

2 September 2015 3 comments

 

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mike hosking - simon collins - 300000 plus kiwi kids now in relative poverty - nz herald

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I was reading Simon Collins’ piece on child poverty in the Herald, and a small advert caught my eye… (See image above)

I’m not sure if Mike Hosking wants to be associated with our mounting child poverty crisis. It’s simply not his style. More accurately, it makes people like him feel queasy and uncomfortable. Rich people don’t like feeling uncomfortable – that is what wealth is supposed to eliminate. It reminds Hosking, and others like him, that whilst he is enjoying their wealth, others are surviving their poverty.

That sticks in his mind, deep down, somewhere, in the places where his parents tried to instill values of fairness in him when he was a child. That makes him resentful.

That is why the affluent; the rich; the powerful; the Comfortable Classes,  hate the poor so much. Otherwise, why do they invest so much time writing so defensively and caustically, when a blogger like Chloe King airs her views, in defence of the poor and the powerless? What is Chloe King to them?

Why bother?

Because they feel guilty.

Especially when she reminds them why they should be feeling guilty.

When  Mike Hosking made his views on child poverty perfectly clear on 9 April;

“Children cost money. If you can’t afford it, don’t have them. It’s not hard.”

– he was in full vengeful retaliation mode.

This was Mike Hosking – mouthpiece for the Comfortable Class – sheeting blame for poverty to the victims who have to endure it.

It would be like the victims of the Great Depression being blamed for being out of work; no money; and relying on soup kitchens to survive each day.

Now, when I was young, growing up, we lived off my dad’s sole income; mum stayed home and herded us kids. Dad’s income paid for the mortgage, food, power (a bill once every two months!), fuel for the car (an American  gas-guzzling, noisy, metal beast that I swear was a reincarnated T29 Soviet tank  in a former life), insurance, doctor’s visits (medicine was free – remember that?), and even a camping holiday to Taupo or somesuch place. We weren’t rich by any means. But dad’s income was sufficient for the things that average Kiwi families enjoyed.

And funnily enough, we didn’t need mass consumerism or seven day shopping and other such nonsense to get by.

The point is this; not being able to “afford kids” is like telling someone they are not worthy to breathe the air or drink water.

When did an act of nature become dictated by the amount of money a person had? Especially in New Zealand – a country  once upon a time we thought to be egalitarian?!

If our fellow New Zealanders “can’t afford” to have children, I suggest it’s not the cost of having children that is the problem. It is the inadequart income being earned by New Zealanders that is the core problem (I refuse to call it an “issue”) here.

In his article, Simon Collins presented two charts showing the growth (or lack thereof) of incomes since 1982;

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Table1

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Table2.

Notice how incomes for the lowest paid have stayed low – even after Working for Familes was introduced in 2004? The lowest ten percent have moved from $15,400 to $17,700. Last year, they failed to be counted as Collins pointed out;

The report does not include figures for the poorest 10 per cent of households, who include most beneficiaries, because the names of benefits changed in 2013 and some beneficiaries appear to have reported only how much they received since the new benefit names were created, missing out their incomes for the first half of the 2013-14 year.

Very convenient for the government, no?

Meanwhile, the top ten percent have increased their income by fifty percent, from $50,200 in 1982 to $75,400, last year.

Let’s be clear here. When right-wing ‘pundits’ and cheerleaders for the rich deride the poor for having children, this is barely-coded moralism and victim-blaming.

It is attempting to paint the poor as suffering “deeply flawed character”, almost to a DNA-level.

In fact, many right-wingers openly refer to welfare recipients as “inter-generational”; the subtle nod to ‘bad DNA’ being made without recourse to the more clumsy eugenics policies of you-know-who.

By blaming the poor for the temerity to have children, the Right shift the blame and deflect attention from the real question; why are people so poor that they cannot afford to raise a family as we used to, before the advent of Rogernomics?

Is it because, since 1986, Baby Boomers have voted seven tax cuts for themselves?

Is it because, as taxes were cut, GST was introduced and increased, as was user-pays in areas such as education?

Is it because simple things like medicine has gone from being free – to five dollars for each item?

Is it because trade unions are no longer able to advocate for their members, and wages have not kept pace with productivity, as this chart from the New York Times showed for US workers (and most likely applies here as well)?

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04reich-graphic-popup

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Yes. All of the above, and more.

The next time a right winger is ranting on about the “breeding poor”, remember that what they are really trying to say is;

… it’s their fault they are poor; they are unfit humans. Their bank accounts prove it.

… it’s not my fault I’m paying less tax than my counterparts did, thirty years ago. I just voted for it.

… only the Comfortable Class should breed. For we are superior because we have the moral fortitude (and good genes) to make money and keep it.

… don’t bother me about the poor. I’m trying to enjoy my Beluga caviar and Bollingers, thank you, without being reminded…

Well, too bad.

We will continue to remind you.

Don’t choke on your bolly.

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Create a society that values material things above all else. Strip it of industry. Raise taxes for the poor and reduce them for the rich and for corporations. Prop up failed financial institutions with public money. Ask for more tax, while vastly reducing public services. Put adverts everywhere, regardless of people’s ability to afford the things they advertise. Allow the cost of food and housing to eclipse people’s ability to pay for them. Light blue touch paper.” –  Andrew Maxwell, Irish comedian

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References

NZ Herald: 300,000+ Kiwi kids now in relative poverty

The Daily Blog: Now we got bad blood – being poor in a rich world

Newstalk ZB: Mike’s Editorial – The cost of a child

NY Times: Bill Marsh/The New York Times
Sources: Robert B. Reich, University of California, Berkeley; “The State of Working America” by the Economic Policy Institute; Thomas Piketty

Previous related blogposts

When the teflon is stripped away

Mike Hosking as TVNZ’s moderator for political debates?! WTF?!

Mike Hosking – Minister for War Propaganda?

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hosking - National - flag - wanker

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 28 August 2015.

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The Donghua Liu Affair: One Year On

15 July 2015 2 comments

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composite header - donghua Liu Affair - v2

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1. The Stage is Set

Just over one year ago, the NZ Herald published a series of stories relating to a then-eleven year old letter written by then-Labour leader, David Cunliffe; alleged “big donations” made to the Labour Party by migrant businssman, Donghua Liu; and other assorted (and somewhat dubious) allegations of “impropriety”.

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NZ Herald - Businessman gifts $150k to Labour Party - Donghua Liu - David Cunliffe - letter for immigration nz

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NZ Herald - Businessman gifts $150k to Labour Party - Donghua Liu - john armstrong - david cunliffe resignation

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NZ Herald - Businessman gifts $150k to Labour Party - Donghua Liu - David Cunliffe - $100,000 bottle wine

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A time-line of events is outlined here: The Donghua Liu Affair:  Damn lies, dirty tricks, and a docile media

Judging by the activities of the office of the Minister for Immigration; TV3 journalist, Brook Sabin; NZ Herald personnel Shayne Curry, Tim Murphy,  Jared Savage,  and John Armstrong;  blogger Cameron Slater, and assorted right-wingers, it is also evident that there was a high degree of collusion between these parties.

One day before the Herald launched it’s “exclusive” that David Cunliffe had written an eleven year old letter on behalf of Donghua Liu, right-wing blogger “Barnsley Bill” (Russell Beaumont) posted this cryptic comment on blog, ‘The Dim Post‘;

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barnsley bill - russell beaumont - donghua liu - nz herald - the dim post

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Hours before Jared Savage’s story (David Cunliffe wrote letter supporting Liu’s residency bid) went live on-line at 2.29PM, Twitter chatter between the Herald’s Editor, Shayne Currie, and sundry right-wing characters were gleefully anticipating the release;

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shayne-curry-twitter-nz-herald-donghua-liu-david-cunliffe-immigration-nz1

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Some Tweets have been deleted by their authors – but the screenshot above is a permanent record of  the conversation. (Acknowledgement to  co-writer, ‘Hercules’, for uncovering this part of the story.)

But the ‘clincher’ was this post, on far-right blog, ‘Whaleoil‘, published at 12.57PM – an hour and a half before the Herald published Savage’s story at 2.29PM;

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donghua liu - nz herald - whaleoil - cameron slater - jared savage - david cunliffe

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See full story revealed here: The Donghua Liu Affair: The Players Revealed

Even the Prime Minister could not resist chipping in with his own “nudge, nudge, wink, wink” reference to being privy to more information, as he stated the following morning (19 June) after Savage’s story went live. As Savage reported;

Speaking from the East Lawn at the United Nations this morning, Mr Key said he had heard rumours that Mr Liu had given more that $15,000.

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

Key’s reference to “$15,000” related to allegations made by the Herald that Liu paid that amount for a book autographed by then-Labour leader, Helen Clark. On 16 June, Savage wrote;

But the Herald can reveal Liu, 53, also paid $15,000 at a Labour Party auction in 2007 for a book signed by Helen Clark, the Prime Minister at the time, according to a party source.

On 22 June, Herald journalist, Bevan Hurley, reported on the now-mythical $100,000 bottle of wine;

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

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

The Herald’s sole informant was migrant businessman, Donghua Liu. (More on this point later.)

2. Retractions

But only three days later, as Labour hit back demanding evidence of Liu’s claims and pressure mounted on the Herald to “put up or shut up”, a new, revised, statement appeared;

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NZ Herald - Donghua Liu's new statement on Labour donations - Donghua Liu - David Cunliffe - $100,000 bottle wine

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Savage wrote;

Liu, to whom Labour gave permanent residency against official advice, says his earlier signed statement on the wine auction was “capable of two meanings” and after repeated inquiries from the Herald he says he wants to clarify what he spent the $100,000 on.

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He said the figure was the total payments to Labour and its politicians which included the wine auctions, a $2000 donation to the Hawkes Bay Rowing Club, the Yangtze River trip and anonymous donations to MPs.

“I have no reason to inflate this number. It’s as best as I can remember,” said Liu.

The Herald’s back-tracking continued when this editorial appeared on 27 June 2014;

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NZ Herald - Editorial - Cries of bias will not stop reporting - Donghua Liu - David Cunliffe - $100,000 bottle wine

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The editorial bluster continued until the un-named author came to the salient point;

“At the weekend, the Herald on Sunday reported from a signed statement by Liu in which he appeared to claim he spent $100,000 on wine at a Labour fundraiser and $50,000-$60,000 hosting former Labour MP Rick Barker in China. The paper verified the document was from Liu and put its claims to Mr Cunliffe and the Labour Party.

On Wednesday, Liu provided the Herald with another statement, after being pressed for more detail, in which he corrected his previous implication that $100,000 was paid for a bottle of wine and limited his total spend on Labour and its MPs when it was in power to “close to $100,000”.

The Herald immediately published his clarification, with prominence on our website, where it remains, and amended the Herald on Sunday story online. The Sunday paper will publish a clarification this weekend.

Liu’s mis-statement, however, has been grasped as proof of Herald complicity in a plot against Labour. The claim is risible, across the range of political coverage but also explicitly over the Herald’s investigation of National and Labour and their damaging cosiness with Donghua Liu.

We regret having reported inflated and conflated dollar figures.”

On-line public commentary following the editorial was scathing and in no mood to be mollified by this Clayton’s apology (if that is what it was intended to be). No wonder it was eventually closed down.

3. Press Council Complaint & Consequence

On 5 July 2014, I laid a complaint with the Press Council regarding the nature and content of the Herald stories.  The  complaint referred to several Herald articles omitting to mention Cunliffe’s letter being eleven years old; that no evidence had been presented to support Liu’s claim he had paid $15,000 for a book , nor $100,000 for a bottle of wine; that the Herald had not released the full text of Liu’s signed statement, and other examples of misreporting and lack of evidence.

(Full text of complaint here.)

On 21 August 2014,  the Press Council deliberations yielded it’s decision.

Despite the complaint against the Herald being dismissed by the Press Council (hardly a surprise), it is noteworthy that the Council did issue one admonishment against the paper;

We accept in part the criticism from both Mrs Lyons and Mr Macskasy regarding the reliance on information from Mr Liu only, including his signed statement. It can correctly be distinguished from the Cunliffe letter released under the Official Information Act. We do not consider there is any obligation on a newspaper to publish it in full. While they were entitled to rely on such a statement as part of the factual basis when reporting the paper failed to adhere to a basic tenet of journalism…the need to have confirmation from a second source.

(Full text of Decision here.)

In fact, the entire series of stories emanated from just one man: Donghua Liu. Not only was the businessman’s story uncorroborated, but the Herald was reluctantly forced to concede that several of Liu’s “facts” were simply incorrect.

There is also the strange involvement of Cameron Slater, Russell Beaumont, and other sundry assorted right-wing characters, who were party to the Herald’s story.

On top of which was the even stranger fact that the Herald’s OIA request (made by Jared Savage on 16 June 2014) into Donghua Liu’s immigration was processed within 48 hours – a feat unheard of when it comes to Official Information requests.

(Full text of Immigration NZ letter here. Full story here.)

4. The Herald’s Promises of  more “evidence” and “details” to come

Part of the Herald’s defence was that the Donghua Liu investigation was on-going and more revelations were to follow. The following comments by the Herald’s then-editor-in-chief promised the following;

Tim Murphy, email to Frank Macskasy, 27 June 2014

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

Tim Murphy, email to Frank Macskasy,  4 July 2014

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

Murphy made similar commitments to the NZ press Council as part of their defence against complaints in the handling of Dongthua Liu’s allegations;

Tim Murphy, email, 7 July 2014 & NZ Herald statement to NZ Press Council, 15 July 2014;

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

Tim Murphy, ibid

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

To date, no further evidence, nor details, have been forth-coming.

I wrote to Shayne Currie, the Herald’s recently-appointed editor, asking;

It is now one year on from the Donghua Liu Affair, which ranged from 18 June 2014, to 27 June 2014, when  several allegations were made regarding David Cunliffe, Rick Barker, and the NZ Labour Party.

At least one of those allegations (a so-called “$100,000 bottle of wine”) was retracted by your paper. Another allegation, of a so-called “$15,000 book signed by Helen Clark”, was never proven.
Two complaints to the NZ Press Council were, for the most part, not upheld, though your paper was roundly criticised for sole reliance on only one source (Donghua Liu), and not confirmed from a second source. The Press Council stated in it’s findings that this was a failure of a basic tenet of journalism.
On several occassions, the then-editor of the Herald, Tim Murphy,  stated that the investigation into this story was on-going and expected further details and evidence to emerge.
I refer you to statements made by Murphy;
[See statements above by Tim Murphy]
As it has now been exactly one year since the Donghua Liu Affair, are you able to advise me as to what further “details” and “evidence” the Herald’s “continuing investigations” have uncovered?
I will be seeking comment from other ‘players’ in this story, and felt it fair that I seek your comments as well, to present some degree of balance.
I will be happy to present any comment you wish to make, verbatim.

As this story is published, Currie has not replied to my emailed questions.

5. A response from Labour’s Mike Williams

Former Labour Party President, Mike Williams, was more forthcoming when I questioned him on the Donghua Liu Affair. On 8 July, Williams told me;

“I was incensed by this. Because if the Labour Party had picked up $150,000 I would’ve known about it.”

This was all founded on bullshit. There were no donations from Donghua Liu. Not a cent.”

Williams was scathing of the manner of the Herald’s reporting of Donghua Liu’s claims;

“This story was just total bullshit, it was front page bullshit. They kind of withdrew from it, but it did damage the Labour Party at a time when it didn’t need much damage.

There’s gotta be a withdrawal or apology, I would have thought.”

6A. Conclusion

In a previous chapter of the Donghua Liu Affair (The OIA Gambit), ‘Hercules’ and I wrote;

What appears to be an orchestrated  Beehive plot to dig dirt for throwing at Labour leader, David Cunliffe, ahead of a crucial parliamentary debate is revealed in a paper trail linking Immigration Minister, Michael Woodhouse, and the Parliamentary Press Gallery offices of the New Zealand Herald and TV3.

Hatched in National’s anticipation of a hammering in a debate on Wednesday 18 June (note the date) prompted by the resignation of ACT leader, John Banks, the plot was pivotal on having Cunliffe first deny helping Auckland businessman Donghua Liu with his residency application – before producing an eleven-year-old letter from Immigration’s files as proof that the Opposition leader was either a liar or had suffered serious brain fade.

On its own, the letter was innocuous…

…What is certain is that the real reason for the urgent 48-hour response to the OIA requests was to ensure that the Cunliffe letter was in the public domain by midday on Wednesday 18 June.

The same day that the government was facing a torrid questioning by the Opposition after the conviction and resignation of ACT MP, John Banks. A government that desperately needed a credible diversion. Relying on another beneficiary-bashing story from Paula Bennett was simply not tenable.

This was the a Dirty Trick of the highest order, involving an eleven year old letter; complicit media looking for another  easy sensational news story; Ministers with connections to right wing bloggers; and journalists who run with the pack instead of asking questions that might yield real answers.

As they say in law enforcement circles; Motive. Means. Opportunity.

The government had all three.

This was the real story behind the Donghua Liu Affair.

However, there is more to it than that.

The motivation of the National government to smear and destroy David Cunliffe’s credibility is fairly obvious. With National facing an election later that year (2014), a resurgent Labour Party led by a new leader was the last thing they needed.

But there were two other players in this Affair…

6B. Donghua Liu

As I wrote in a previous chapter on this Affair (The impending final act and curtain-fall in this smear-campaign), the Herald came into possession of the first of two statements by Donghua Liu (neither of which have ever been released publicly, despite ongoing demands for transparency);

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

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

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

Interestingly, the Herald political reporter who wrote the Donghua Liu stories made a passing reference to Maurice Williamson as well, in an email to me dated 17 July, last year;

It all started with queries about his citizenship while the Nats were in power, against advice, specifically after Maurice Williamson writing an email in support in 2010…it eventually led to Mr Williamson’s resignation as a Minister for intervening in a police matter and the discovery that Liu was also lobbying Immigration Minister Woodhouse to change policy. –  Jared Savage, email, Thu, Jul 17, 2014 at 11:27 PM

From several media reports, it seemed clear that the relationship between Donghua Liu and Maurice Williamson was more than just a formal MP-Constituent relationship. They appeared to be good friends;

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Liu, who has close ties with the minister, was arrested in December last year following a domestic violence incident…  He had previously lobbied his colleagues to grant Liu citizenship against official advice. Liu’s citizenship was approved in 2010 by then Internal Affairs Minister Nathan Guy. He later made a $22,000 donation to the National Party. TV3, 1 May 2014

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National MP Maurice Williamson lobbied a ministerial colleague to give New Zealand citizenship “as fast as possible” to a wealthy businessman – then conducted the ceremony himself the day after citizenship was granted against the recommendation of officials.The urgent VIP ceremony, believed to have taken place in Mr Williamson’s electoral office, is another close link between the former Minister and millionaire property developer Donghua Liu, who has donated $22,000 to the National Party previously. – NZ Herald, 1 May 2014

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He [Maurice Williamson] later revealed that Liu owned a bach next to his family’s house at Pauanui, and the MP had used the property and performed minor repair work on the house when Liu was in China.“I’m a fan of being a handyman and the house was good to be able to use while we were doing it,” he told Campbell Live.Mr Williamson recommended the neighbouring holiday home to Liu when it went on the market.  He also said he had eaten dinner with Liu as part of a group five or six times. – Otago Daily Times, 2 May 2014

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When Williamson resigned his ministerial portfolio on 1 May 2014,  Donghua Liu no doubt noticed his friend’s misfortune, and conveniently  supplied his statement to the NZ Herald three days later.

Donghua Liu could not have been too happy at the downfall of his ‘mate’, and was eager to exact revenge against the Labour leader, David Cunliffe.

One of the few remaining questions is; who put him (Liu) up to it? Who could have prompted a migrant businessman, with poor command of the english language, to make a formal statement, and ensure it made it’s way to the Herald’s offices?

It had to be someone well-connected with the National government; who had experience with ‘dirty tricks’; links with media; and who has/had a working relationship with right-wing blogger, Cameron Slater (who, don’t forget, published Jared Savage’s Donghua Liu story on Whaleoil one and a half hours before it appeared on the Herald’s own website!).

I think we all know who fits that ‘job description‘.

6C. NZ Herald

If, as evidence indicates, the Donghua Liu story was a cunningly concocted smear-campaign run by the National Party to discredit David Cunliffe, they needed someone – a willing ‘patsy’ –  to make the allegations of “hidden donations”. That man was Donghua Liu, loyal friend of disgraced Minister, Maurice Williamson.

They also needed a compliant media outlet who could be ‘tipped’ off about Cunliffe’s 2003 letter on behalf of Donghua Liu. That media outlet would be the NZ Herald. More specifically, Jared Savage, who has admitted to regular contact with right-wing blogger, Cameron Slater.

How did Herald Reporter, Jared Savage, know to lodge an OIA request on 16 June 2014 with Immigration Minister Woodhouse’s office, seeking, “Any correspondence, including emails, letters or queries, from any Members of Parliament in regards to Donghua Liu’s immigration status prior to 2005″.

Why was Savage’s OIA request granted within 48 hours – a feat unheard off when it come to this government responding to OIA requests by journalists, bloggers, members of the public, etc. (See:  The OIA Gambit)?

Was the Herald knowingly complicit in a smear campaign against David Cunliffe?

This blogger thinks not.

In which case, what was the Herald’s involvement?

Simply put, National’s “black ops” team  manufactured a story against Cunliffe using a twelve year old letter, and a bogus statement (note; it was not a signed, witnessed affidavit, which has greater legal standing than simply a signed statement) by a friend of Maurice Williamson – Donghua Liu.

Through Jared Savage, the Herald was offered an “exclusive”,  despite having no corroborating evidence nor a second source to back up Liu’s claims – a fact pointed out by the Press Council as a critical mistake. Remember that the NZ Press Council, in it’s decision (see:  The Press Council’s decision) on complaints laid against the Herald, stated;

While they were entitled to rely on such a statement [from Liu] as part of the factual basis when reporting the paper failed to adhere to a basic tenet of journalism…the need to have confirmation from a second source.

There could be no “second source”. Because it was all a concocted lie.

Whether or not the Herald’s editor at the time (Tim Murphy), Shayne Currie, or Jared Savage suspected that the Donghua Liu story was a pack of lies is moot.

What is indisputable is that the Herald was handed – on a plate – an exclusive story that ultimately aided in the destruction of David Cunliffe’s political career.

For the NZ Herald, that was the “pay off”; an exclusive story. They were not going to turn away from such a sensational story – especially when a competitor such as TV3 could run with it.

Shayne Currie and Tim Murphy may have been aware that Liu’s claims were bogus, but they were willing to sacrifice their journalistic integrity to throw caution to the wintry winds of Wellington’s politics and run with it anyway.

The fact that the Herald’s current editor, Shayne Currie, has not made any form of reply to my email indicates that the Donghua Liu Affair  is a story that they would rather quietly ‘went away’.

It is a unusual when a media outlet will not defend it’s own and one has to ask the obvious question – why?

Because the Donghua Liu Affair, as reported by the Herald in June and July last year, was a fabrication from beginning to end.

Otherwise, where is the new ‘evidence’ and ‘details’ promised by then-editor, Tim Murphy? Like Liu’s claims, Murphy’s promises were empty.

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Addendum1

Tim Murphy was given an opportunity to answer questions relating to the Donghua Liu Affair. A near-identical email to the one sent to Shayne Currie has not been responded to.

Addendum2

On 16 June this year – nearly the exact anniversary of the Herald publishing it’s first Donghua Liu story on 18 June 2014 – all domestic violence charges were dropped against Mr Liu.

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References

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

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

NZ Herald: Businessman gifts $150k to Labour Party

The Dim Post: June Polls – Barnsley Bill

Twitter: Shayne Currie @ShayneCurrieNZH

Whaleoil: BREAKING – David Cunliffe’s career, such as it was, is over [ UPDATED ]

NZ Herald: Key on Liu-Labour Link – More to come

NZ Herald: Under-fire donor gave to Labour too

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

TV3: Maurice Williamson resigns as minister

NZ Herald: Maurice Williamson conducted citizenship ceremony himself

Otago Daily Times: Williamson used Liu’s holiday home

NZ Herald: Editorial – Ministers and immigration shouldn’t mix

Fairfax media: Jason Ede still has Beehive access

NZ Herald: Jason Ede resigns from the National Party after Dirty Politics scandal

NZ Herald: Collins resigns – Jared Savage and Fran O’Sullivan respond

NZ Herald: Domestic violence charges against millionaire businessman dropped

Previous related blogposts

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

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

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

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

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

The Donghua Liu Affair: Evidence of Collusion between the NZ Herald and Immigration NZ?

The Donghua Liu Affair: the Press Council’s decision

The Donghua Liu Affair: The OIA Gambit

The Donghua Liu Affair:  The Players Revealed

The Donghua Liu Affair: One Year On

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Dirt Unit.

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 10 July 2015.

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Blogger threatened with lawsuit over questions of conflict-of-interest regarding Mediaworks

The following story elicited a thinly veiled defamation threat by a senior Mediaworks boardmember.

Just when you thought Mediaworks couldn’t possibly dumb-down their television service any further;

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Come Dine with Me to replace Campbell Live

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When I first heard this, my initial reaction was someone on Facebook, with a wry sense of humour, was playing ‘silly buggers’ at Mediaworks’ expense.

Then I was pointed to the media report on Fairfax’s website.

Honestly – how does one react to a decision like this? Deep sobbing tears and face-palming – or maniacal laughter that might do The Joker proud?!

If this is Mediaworks’ idea of a joke – exacted against Campbell Live supporters as revenge for daring to question executive decisions – then someone has a rather cruel, demented sense of humour.

If this is what passes for sound business decision-making in Mediaworks’ boardrooms these days – then their next round of bankruptcy will not be far away. I’m picking three months.

Whoever was responsible for this awful programming decision would be wise to never, ever admit  their part in this insanity. Their career would be in tatters if word got out. To quote a Mediaworks press release describing ‘Come Dine With Me‘;

“Week one features Monika, a Slovakian child carer, who’s all about silly with a side of spice; Tony, an eccentric real estate agent with some cutting critiques and a few ‘endearing quirks’; Hinemoa, a part-time tattooist and full-time eyebrow enthusiast; motor-bike riding, insurance broker Kyle; and stylish yoga enthusiast Sarah.”

Perhaps an answer to this incomprehensible decision to replace a highly successful, well-respected current affair show like ‘Campbell Live‘ with another (and somewhat gormless-sounding) “reality” programme lies with Mediaworks’ board member, Julie Christie.

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julie christie - gerry brownlee - mediaworks - minister - national government - TV3

“Politicians have also had a strong affection for her over the years. Murray McCully and Gerry Brownlee have been photographed out and about at her bar in the Viaduct.” John Drinnan, 15 February 2013

Image acknowledgement: Postman Productions

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In 1991 Christie founded television production-company, Touchdown Productions.The company was responsible for “reality” (aka “unscripted television“) programmes such as ‘My House My Castle’, ‘Whose House Is It Anyway’, ‘DIY Rescue’, ‘Trading Places’, ‘Treasure Island’,Game of Two Halves’,  ‘Pioneer House’,  ‘Dragons’ Den’, and others.

Julie Christie quickly acquired a reputation for being New Zealand’s own television “Reality Queen“, as TV3 itself described her, two years ago;

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Reality TV queen quits production firm  - Julie Christie - Mediaworks - Eyeworks - Campbell Live - John Campbell

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More on Christie’s involvement with reality-TV and TV3 in a moment.

In February 2006, Touchdown was sold to Dutch media group, Eyeworks. She remained as CEO of Eyeworks NZ until 31 October 2012, when she resigned. Eight months later, in June the following year as Mediaworks was put into receivership, Julie Christie was appointed to the board of directors.

There is no telling how much earlier  Christie’s June appointment had been planned by parties involved, though this had been tipped by NZ Herald media columnist, John Drinnan four months earlier.

Julie Christie remained closely involved with the company, as confirmed by Eyeworks on their website;

Former CEO Julie Christie will no longer work for Eyeworks New Zealand but remain connected to the Eyeworks Group (15 territories, HQ Amsterdam) working in an international creative role.

There is indeed a strong, formal link between Christie and Eyeworks.

The directors of Eyeworks New Zealand Ltd are;

  • Greg Anthony HEATHCOTE (NZ)
  • Johannes Petrus Christoffel KERSTENS (Netherlands)
  • Peter LANGENBERG (United Kingdom)
  • Michael David Joseph MOLLOY (NZ)

The parent company of Eyeworks New Zealand Ltd is Eyeworks Holding New Zealand Ltd. It’s directors are the same four individuals;

  • Greg Anthony HEATHCOTE (NZ)
  • Johannes Petrus Christoffel KERSTENS (Netherlands)
  • Peter LANGENBERG (United Kingdom)
  • Michael David Joseph MOLLOY (NZ)

Christie has a separate company, JGM Investments Ltd, whose directors happen to be;

  • Julie Claire CHRISTIE
  • Greg Anthony HEATHCOTE (Director)
  • Michael David Joseph MOLLOY

And JGM Investments No2 Ltd, whose directors are also;

  • Julie Claire CHRISTIE
  • Greg Anthony HEATHCOTE
  • Michael David Joseph MOLLOY

Christie’s JGM Investments No2 Ltd company is described as;

JGM Investments No. 2 Ltd. is a public hotels and motel founded in 2010. With 11 employees, the company is larger than the average hotels and motel.

By “coincidence”, the New Zealand version of ‘Come Dine With Me‘ – which has taken ‘Campbell Live’s‘ “plum” 7pm time-slot – is produced by none other than – Eyeworks NZ.

Eyeworks was not wrong when it stated that Christie “remains connected to the Eyeworks Group”.

Not exactly conspiracy theory stuff – but a possible conflict of interest?

I contacted Eyeworks and Mediaworks and put certain questions to them;

To Eyeworks I posed these questions;

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(1) Is Eyeworks currently involved in any projects intended for TV3 that might (or is intended) to be broadcast at that time?

(2) Is Julie Christie involved in any projects intended for TV3?

(3) Was Julie Christie involved in the production of ‘Come Dine with me’?

(4) Was Julie Christie involved in any way in production of ‘Come Dine with me’?

(5) Is Julie Christie involved in any production associated with your company, either currently, or planned for the future?

(6) Julie Christie resigned from Eyeworks on 31 October 2012. Your website states that she “no longer work for Eyeworks New Zealand but remain connected to the Eyeworks Group”. Can you provide details as to what capacity she ” remains connected to the Eyeworks Group”, and is she receiving any form of remuneration for her work?

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As at time of publication, Eyeworks has not replied to my enquiries.

Through a Mediaworks staffer, I asked Board member, Julie Christie;

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According to the Eyeworks website, you “remain connected to the Eyeworks Group”. This refers to your previous role as CEO of Eyeworks NZ until your resignation from that company, effective around 31 October 2012.

Can you shed some light on what your “connection to Eyeworks Group” consists/consisted of?

Did this “connection” remain in place after your appointment to Mediaworks’ Board, in June 2013?

Does the “connection to Eyeworks Group” involve two of the Board directors of Eyeworks?

Do you receive any form of remuneration from Eyeworks?

When did Mediaworks commission ‘Come Dine With Me’?

Were you connected with commissioning ‘Come Dine With Me’ for TV3?

Who initiated the project ‘Come Dine With Me’?

Were you connected in anyway with the production of ‘Come Dine With Me’, especially in the light of Eyeworks comment that you “remain connected to the Eyeworks Group” ?

What was your role in determining the programming schedule for ‘Come Dine With Me’?

What in-put, if any, did you have in deciding that ‘Come Dine With Me’ would fill the 7pm to 7.30pm timeslot, weekdays.

When was that decision made?

Do you perceive any possible conflict-of-interest between your membership of Mediaworks’ Board, and “remaining connected to the Eyeworks Group”?

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As at time of publication, Christie has not replied to my enquiries.

To Mark Weldon, CEO of Mediaworks since August last year, I put the following;

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According to the Eyeworks website, one of your Board members, Julie Christie “remains connected to the Eyeworks Group”. This refers to her previous role as CEO of Eyeworks NZ until her resignation from that company, effective around 31 October 2012.Can you shed some light on what your understanding of her “connection to Eyeworks Group” consists/consisted of?

To your knowledge, does this “connection” remain in place subsequent to her appointment to Mediaworks’ Board, in June 2013?

To your knowledge, has Julie Christie received any form of remuneration from Eyeworks?

Are you aware that two of the Board directors of Eyeworks are also Board directors of her own company, JGM Investments Ltd and JGM Investments No2 Ltd, namely;

  • Greg Anthony HEATHCOTE
  • Michael David Joseph MOLLOY

When did Mediaworks commission ‘Come Dine With Me’?

Were you or Julie Christie connected with commissioning ‘Come Dine With Me’ for TV3?

Was Julie Christie in any way involved with the production of ‘Come Dine With Me’?

Who initiated the project ‘Come Dine With Me’? Was it Mediaworks, or did Eyeworks “pitch” the project to Mediaworks?

What was your role in determining the programming schedule for ‘Come Dine With Me’?

What in-put, if any, did you have in deciding that ‘Come Dine With Me’ would fill the 7pm to 7.30pm timeslot, weekdays.

When was that decision made?

Does Mediaworks have a Conflicts of Interests Register for Board Members?

If so, has Julie Christie registered any conflicts of interest on such a Register?

Do you perceive any possible conflict-of-interest between Julie Christie’s membership of Mediaworks’ Board; Ms Christie “remaining connected to the Eyeworks Group”; whilst Mediaworks purchases productions from Eyeworks?

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Mark Weldon did not reply, but Rod McGeoch, Chairperson of Mediaworks sent this response the following day;

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Dear Mr Macskasy
I am the Chairman of Mediaworks. I have been a lawyer for more than 40 years and a director of many companies over the last 20 years.
Mediaworks is a private company with one shareholder. Short of breaking the law it is entitled to run its affairs as it wishes.
As it happens Julie Christie has made all the appropriate disclosures. The board and the owner value very much her experience and connections. My views as expressed here ,mean I believe, that the answers to your enquires are unnecessary.
Any suggestion that her behaviour or interests have in any way interfered with her duties would in my view be likely to be defamatory of her.
Yours faithfully
Rod McGeoch

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I seem to have “touched a nerve”. When thinly-veiled threats of defamation lawsuits start flying, it suggests that someone finds the tenor of questioning to be uncomfortable.

To make it crystal clear for Mr McGeoch and his 40 year old lawyering career, I am asking questions, not making assertions. It would be a fairly simple matter to refute the questions with simple answers.

Thus far, no refutations or clarifications have been forthcoming.

However, an apparent conflict-of-interest still remains to be addressed by Mediaworks. Especially when the programme that replaced ‘Campbell Live‘ was created by a company – Eyeworks – with which Julie Christie is still associated, and whose Board members also sit on two companies with which Christie is involved with.

The perception of murkiness in all this cannot easily be overlooked.

The Director’s Guide, from the Financial Market’s Authority, refers specifically to potential conflicts of interests;

• Be aware of possible conflicts of interest

Make sure any conflicts you personally have are officially recorded. All companies should have an Interests Register and a process for managing potential conflicts

Where you have an ‘interest’ in a transaction, you need to be able to show how your company (or your parent company if your constitution allows this) benefits and gets fair value from it.

• Check if your company constitution allows related party transactions (transactions between related companies). If so, do any special
conditions apply and are they in the best interests of your company?  Related party transactions are also likely to be material to investors and should be disclosed in any disclosure documents.

• Ensure you have a good understanding about what falls within the definition of a related party.

There is no telling how Christie has benefitted from Eyeworks acquiring the contract to produce ‘Come Dine with Me‘. But what we do know – from Eyeworks’ own admission – is that Christie continues to “remain connected to the Eyeworks Group… working in an international creative role”.

Whilst Christie is no longer a Director of Eyeworks, she is still closely associated with two  Eyeworks Directors via two other companies.

We do not know how Eyeworks acquired the contract to produce ‘Come Dine with Me‘. But we do know that Christie is on Mediaworks’ Board of Directors.

We do not know what role Christie played in the production of ‘Come Dine with Me‘, except;

  • her involvement in the reality TV industry is well known
  • Eyeworks admits that she continues to “remain connected to the Eyeworks Group… working in an international creative role

The 7pm-7.30pm time slot is prime time, and a lucrative slot for advertising within programmes, as Rod Rod McGeoch, Chairperson of Mediaworks, stated candidly on 11 April 2015;

“We put news on, but only because it rates. And we sell advertising around news. This is what this is all about.”

For Eyeworks to produce a product and schedule it at prime time would have meant a profitable exercise for the company. That required, first of all, to get rid of ‘Campbell Live‘, thereby leaving the slot open.

As usual, it boils down to money.

Someone has made a lot of money out of this.

The final question; is Mediaworks new owners – Oaktree Finance – aware of all this? They should be.

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In a rare moment of sanity (hopefully) prevailing, this also appeared in  Fairfax stories (9 June);

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John Campbell talks to Radio New Zealand about possible role

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There is hope yet, that the corporate lunatics have not gained complete control of  Asylum Aotearoa. John Campbell and Mihingarangi Forbes is a Dream Team, second only to a full non-commercial, public-service television broadcaster being re-established in this neuron-deprived nation of ours.

This must be one of the top priorities (along with addressing child poverty, polluted waterways,  and housing problems) of any incoming Labour-Green(-NZ First?) government. Every New Zealander with a conscience and deep, abiding interest in the future of our country, must be on the back of a new progressive government to get this done.

I know I will.

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References

Fairfax media: Come Dine with Me to replace Campbell Live

TV3 “News”: Come Dine with Me launches on Monday

Mediaworks: Management

NZ on Air: Julie Christie

Wikipedia: Eyeworks Touchdown

TV3 News: Reality TV queen quits production firm

Scoop media: Sale of Touchdown Television to Eyeworks Group

NZ Herald: Julie Christie quits Eyeworks

NBR:  MediaWorks in receivership

NZ Herald: Media – MediaWorks eyes TV queen Julie Christie

NZ Herald: Anger over Campbell Live’s replacement Come Dine With Me

Business.govt.nz – Companies Office: Eyeworks New Zealand Ltd

Business.govt.nz – Companies Office: Eyeworks Holding New Zealand Ltd

Business.govt.nz – Companies Office: JGM Investments Ltd

Business Profiles: Greg Anthony Heathcote

Business.govt.nz – Companies Office: JGM Investments No2 Ltd

Find the Company: JGM Investments No. 2 Ltd.

Financial Markets Authority: A Director’s Guide

NZ Herald: New majority owner for Mediaworks

NZ Herald: John Campbell enlists lawyer as replacement rumours swirl

Fairfax media: John Campbell talks to Radio New Zealand about possible role

Additional

NZ Herald: Prime News outrates TV3 as audience numbers halve

Previous related blogposts

Campbell still Live, not gone

The Curious World of the Main Stream Media

Producer of ‘The Nation’ hits back at “interference” allegations over ‘Campbell Live’

This is news?!

Radio NZ – Mediawatch for 24 May 2015 – TV3’s Mark Jennings interviewed re Campbell Live

Friends, Kiwis, Countrymen! I come to praise John Campbell, not bury him

Other bloggers

Postman Productions: Media ‘crack whores’ & dirty deals

The Daily Blog: Dirty Politics – Coming To A TV Station Near You

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Sam Caughey - @peachysam - twitter - John Campbell - TV3 - Come Dance with me

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 20 June 2015.

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Housing Minister Paula Bennett continues National’s spin on rundown State Houses

18 June 2015 1 comment

Another broken promise from National…

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National Party - 2014 election - social housing policy - Housing NZ

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On 12 June, Social Housing Minister, Paula Bennet was interviewed on Radio NZ’s ‘Nine to Noon‘ programme. Kathryn Ryan asked why there were so many  thousands of State houses in desperate need on maintenance.

In the interview, Bennett claimed that money was not a problem in Housing NZ’s maintenance programme;

@ 4.29

“What I will say is that it’s not a money problem. So there is enough money there for us to get that stock up. It is a big programme of work that is constantly ongoing…

[…]

…So it’s not a matter of neglect.”

And again @ 5.41

“Which is really my point. So we’re saying it’s not actually about the money. The money is there to be spent for maintenance.”

Bennett’s statements were a parroting of  Bill English’s previous claim, made on 5 June  on Radio NZ’s ‘Morning Report‘, who also denied  money was the core problem of run-down Housing NZ properties;

“They’ve done a very large scale programme – insulated every house that it can, which is 48,000 houses over the last four or five years.

It’s got to deal with the same limitations of process as everybody else, it’s got to get consents, it’s got to find a workforce, but it’s not short of money to do the job.”

Bennett and English have both blamed lack of tradesmen and other spurious excuses for rundown houses.

But according to Housing NZ, the reason for our run-down State housing stock is very much a matter of lack of money, as I pointed out to Kathryn Ryan in an email I sent to her during her interview with Bennett;
from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to: Nine To Noon RNZ <ninetonoon@radionz.co.nz>
date: Fri, Jun 12, 2015
subject: Paula Bennet on Housing maintenance funding
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Kia ora Kathryn,Paula Bennett’s assertion that Housing NZ has plenty of funds for maintenance is at variance with this statement from Housing NZ’s 2013/14 Annual Report;

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The responsive repairs programme, which includes work on vacant properties, is dependent on demand, which was higher than expected in 2013/14. Consequently, the budget was overspent due to higher volumes of work orders. The average cost per work order was also higher as a result of more comprehensive repairs and upgrades being carried out on vacant properties. To mitigate this overspend, we deliberately reduced the planned maintenance programme, which decreased the percentage of maintenance spend on planned activity. [p28]

Furthermore, on page 36 of the 2013/14 Annual Report, Repairs and Maintenance is given as $220 million for the period.This is $1 billion less than the $1.2 billion quoted by Bill English to TVNZ’s Corin Dann on 24 March, this year.

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Either Bennett is ignorant, or she is spinning.

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Either way, not a good look.

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-Frank Macskasy

Ms Ryan read out my email, on air, subsequent to the interview.

Hopefully, the media will pick up on what is obviously a gross distortion from National’s spin doctors. By asserting that  there is no lack of money available, this shifts responsibility from  government to blaming others for lack of maintenance.

It also deflects attention from the fact that National has used Housing NZ as a cash cow by demanding dividends, in a futile attempt by Bill English to balance the government books and post a surplus (which he has also failed at spectacularly), as this ‘Dominion Post‘ editorial highlighted;

This year the Government expects to get $220m in tax and dividends from the corporation. It wants profits as well as social services. And it is also in thrall to its ideology of semi-privatisation.

Housing NZ was explicit in it’s 2013/14 Annual Report;

The responsive repairs programme, which includes work on vacant properties, is dependent on demand, which was higher than expected in 2013/14. Consequently, the budget was overspent due to higher volumes of work orders. The average cost per work order was also higher as a result of more comprehensive repairs and upgrades being carried out on vacant properties. To mitigate this overspend, we deliberately reduced the planned maintenance programme, which decreased the percentage of maintenance spend on planned activity. [p28]

It is up to the media to challenge Ministers when they make assertions that are patently untrue.

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References

Radio NZ: The state of state housing

Radio NZ: The state of state housing (audio) (alt. link)

Radio NZ: State housing criticism valid, says English

Government Minister sees history repeat – responsible for death

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CGw9SZjUgAA0Shw.

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 13 June 2015.

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The Curious Case of Cameron Slater, the Hacker, and the unforgivable crime of stupidity

12 June 2015 2 comments

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tv3 - the nation - more dirtypolitics - whaleoil - cameron slater - ben rachinger

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Cameron Slater is not a well man.

A recent exposé by TV3’s ‘The Nation‘ revealed that Cameron Slater has allegedly been conspiring with IT consultant, Ben Rachinger, to hack left-wing blogsite, ‘The Standard‘ to steal personal information.

According to a NZ Herald report, the matter is now evidently a matter of a Police investigation;

“The complaint is being investigated by Counties Manukau CIB.

There are a number of complexities to the investigation, including the posting online of documentation which has already compromised the investigation and is making our inquires more difficult.

Police are taking a cautious approach, and working through a number of complex steps to gather the necessary information to advance the enquiry.

Any decision on charges is some way off at this stage, and will be made after a thorough assessment of all relevant information.”

Any potential charges would most likely relate to attempting to procure a crime, if the allegations are found to have merit.

This alleged txt-message from Slater to Rachinger alone, seems to be an admission that he was fully aware of the dubious, and potentially illegal, nature of his activities;

“It’s no small thing I’m doing this, I could be being set up in a sting by a media person or cops.”

His ISP may also take a dim view if he has been using his internet connection for nefarious purposes.

Aside from the sheer illegality of these allegations, three things stand out in this grubby affair;

1. If proven, it seems that Cameron Slater’s desire for revenge on those he perceives have slighted him, is a psychopathy that reveals a deeply troubled human being.

In which case, Slater requires psychiatric attention, not prison or a fine.

2.If proven, it demonstrates that Slater has little hesitation in circumventing or breaking the law. He was convicted in September 2010 of eight counts of breaching name suppression orders and one count of identifying a victim in a sex case on his  blog. He is currently being sued  by Auckland businessman, Matthew Blomfield, in a defamation case.

3.If proven, Slater’s behaviour is worse than a simple matter of law-breaking – it shows his sheer stupidity in thinking that an attempt to hack another website could be done without being discovered.

Has he learned nothing from Nicky Hager’s ‘Dirty Politics’, in that it is virtually impossible to keep secrets in a small country like ours?

With certain exceptions, stupidity is the most unforgiving crime of all. It appears that Slater has learned nothing from recent experiences. Life’s lessons seem to have little value for this tragic character.

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References

TV3: The Nation – More Dirty Politics?

NZ Herald: Right-wing blogger accused of paying off hacker

Fairfax media: Whale Oil blogger Cameron Slater guilty

Previous related blogposts

That was Then, This is Now #25 – Keeping the buggers “honest”

Latest from Whaledump2 – Jordan Williams and Cameron Slater

When Karma caught up with Cameron Slater

Are Cameron Slater and Judith Collins bare-faced liars?

The Slater-Key Txt-Messages Trip-Up – Did Cameron Slater Plan this?

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Dead Whale.

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 7 June 2015.

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Campbell Live, No More

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77wNkZgE_400x400

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Campbell Live‘ was more than just current affairs.

It was more than just a vehicle for advertising.

It was the heart and soul of the nation, and epitomised those values which we Kiwis profess to hold dear; fairness, tolerance, and giving others a fair go.

Perhaps in this day and age of bottom-lines; stakeholders; shareholders; mission statements; unbridled consumerism; value-for-money; and all the other faddish buzz-words of this Corporate Age – a show like ‘Campbell Live‘ was an anachronism, reminding us of another New Zealand.

John Campbell and his hard-working team of professionals reminded us that we are better than just consumers chasing, en masse, the cheapest bargains. He reminded us that we are still citizens, and that we should still care about the country we live in.

Friday 29 May 2015 will be a sad day for many. Today, we have lost a little bit more of our spirit. (To those who don’t ‘get’ it – don’t worry. You’ll never understand.)

Today, we lost another small piece of what it means to be a Kiwi.

Today, we lost a little more of our soul.

Today, we lost a friend.

Thank you, John and your team. And my apologies that we could not help you, as you’ve helped us, over the years.

That is my deepest regret.

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He aha te mea nui? He tangata. He tangata. He tangata

(What is the most important thing? It is people. It is people. It is people)

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Previous related blogposts

Radio NZ – Mediawatch for 24 May 2015 – TV3’s Mark Jennings interviewed re Campbell Live

Friends, Kiwis, Countrymen! I come to praise John Campbell, not bury him

Related

NZ Herald: Political roundup – Who killed Campbell Live?

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This blogpost was also published on The Daily Blog on 29 May 2015.

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Categories: Media Tags:

Friends, Kiwis, Countrymen! I come to praise John Campbell, not bury him

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Campbell Live - GCSB - John Key

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Whatever is slated to replace ‘Campbell Live‘, I care not one whit. Short of the second coming of Jesus Christ; time travellers from the future; the breakout of world peace, or some other vastly improbable event, our household will no longer be watching TV3 News and whatever follows.

Mark Weldon and Mark Jennings have badly underestimated that public backlash that will follow this incomprehensible decision.

Campbell Live‘ is a decade-long brand that media companies spend millions in advertising to promote and instill in the public’s consciousness – and at a stroke they have destroyed it.

Conspiracy?

There are rumours – unsubstantiated, I would emphasise – that the Prime Minister demanded from Mediaworks’ CEO, Mark Weldon;

“I want that leftie bastard gone”

The item referred to in The Standard blogpost refers to a piece in Mana News  (now deleted), and was itself based on a Facebook post;

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save campbell live - facebook - I want that leftie bastard gone

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As mentioned, there is no hard evidence that the alleged quote is factually correct, and could well be the result of a well-intentioned – albeit badly misguided – critic of this government. However, it would not be the first time Key has abused the media;

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Herald - John Key calls media 'Knuckleheads'

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Interestingly, it is not beyond the realms of possibility that Key might have had that conversation (or something similar) with Mark Weldon. In a well-researched piece, Rex Widerstrom shone a spotlight on the link between Key and Weldon;

1: He’s the man John Key picked to chair the “Summit on Employment” in 2009(1)

2:He’s also the man John Key picked to lead The Christchurch Earthquake Appeal(2)

3: He’s also the man who used that position to breach the Bill of Rights Act and force “the advancement of religion” into the Christchurch Earthquake Appeal Trust’s constitution(3)

4: And he’s the man Cameron Slater (Whaleoil) characterises as “allegedly a friend of John Key”(4)

5: Slater also asked on October 15 last year “Who will be the first (of many) casualties under Mark “I’m the boss” Weldon at Mediaworks?” with one commenter on that story saying “The man is a tyrant who doesn’t play nicely with others. Frankly, I love the idea of Weldon and John Campbell having to work together …”(5)

6: he’s also the man whom insiders were picking as a potential National Party candidate for the safe seat of Tamaki(6)

7: And he’s a man who praised John Key’s program of asset sales announced in 2011 as “bold, it was clear, it was early – and very positive…” and called those who were cautious about it “fearmongering”. That’s the same assets sales program that had to be drastically cut back and became something of an embarrassment to the government(7)

8: He’s the man who made a substantial personal gain ($6 million) as a result of Key’s asset sales announcement(8)

9: He’s also the man who, as CEO of the NZX, characterised those who voiced concerns about aspects of the Exchange’s operations as mentally ill(9)

10: He’s the man who’s already got rid of two of Mediaworks’s main financial watchdogs – chief financial officer Peter Crossan and company secretary and lawyer Claire Bradley(10)

11: He’s the man of whom blogger Cactus Kate (business lawyer and commentator Cathy Odgers) noted “Mediaworks currently does not employ anyone on your television or radio with a larger ego than Weldon, even Willie Jackson, Sean Plunket and Duncan Garner combined can’t compete” and that “NZX was the greatest reality soap opera in town under Weldon’s leadership, the casting couch of characters was enormous as disgruntled staff left and new bright eyed disciples were employed”(11)

12: He’s the man Odgers also described (in a blog post now deleted by referenced by another, also right wing, blogger) as a “weasel word corporate-welfared CEO…” and a “shallow self-promoting tool”(12)

13: He’s the man who said there was no conflict of interest in allowing the NZX to be the provider of NZX services, the supervisor of its members, a listed participant on its own exchange and the market regulator… a statement one broker described as “utter balderdash”(13)

Weldon was also appointed by Key, or one of his Ministers, the Capital Markets Development Taskforce in 2009/10; the Tax Working Group in 2009; and the Climate Change Leadership Forum in 2007.

Key gave him a QSO in the 2012 Queen’s Birthday Honours List.

[Note: numbers in parenthesis in above extract refers to sources given by Rex Widerstrom. Please refer to the full story for additional information.]

Is it a conspiracy between the National government and Mediaworks?

There is no evidence to prove such an allegation. National supporters will quickly dismiss any such suggestion with derision.

However, when Nicky Hager released his expose on National’s dirty tricks campaigns against it’s opponents, the reaction from many was either automatic derision, or, the casually dismissive, “So what? We all knew it was happening!

If it ever was proven that National had a hand in Campbell’s sacking, would National’s apologists respond in the same way? You bet.

Despite the unproven veracity of the claimed comment between Key and Weldon, there are proven links between the National Government and Mediaworks. In 2011, National bailed out Mediaworks facing a crippling $43 million debt;

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Prime Minister defends loan to MediaWorks

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Which was a story initially denied by National, only a month previously, and spun in a way that stretched credulity;

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Government denies MediaWorks loan

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The loan-that-was-not-a-loan was re-paid by Mediaworks two years ahead of time;

MediaWorks’ subsidiary RadioWorks has repaid the $32.28 million outstanding on a “loan” signed off by former Communications Minister Steven Joyce that allowed the media group to defer payments to the Crown for radio spectrum licences.

The balance of $32.28m of principal plus interest was paid on Wednesday – almost two years ahead of schedule, current minister Amy Adams said in a statement.

MediaWorks had originally owed $43.3m plus GST and had previously made two payments of $11.9m. The Crown charged the private equity-owned company interest of 11.2 percent.

Government officials had recommended against loaning RadioWorks the money, but Mr Joyce, a former owner of RadioWorks, then approved the loan.

Note the reference in the media report above; “[Minister] Joyce, a former owner of RadioWorks, then approved the loan“. Joyce was indeed owner of RadioWorks, until it was bought out by CanWest, in April 2001. CanWest was also former owner of TV3.

Also note the reference that Key discussed the bail-out of MediaWorks with then CEO, Brent Impey, at a “social event”. Key has conducted government business at other, similar, “social events“;

Earlier this week, a spokesman for the Prime Minister said Mr Key’s diary showed no scheduled meetings with Sky City representatives since July last year.

“Having said that, the Prime Minister attends numerous functions and is quite likely to have come across Sky City representatives at some stage.”

Mr Key was asked last July in a question for written answer from Green MP Sue Kedgley whether he or any of his ministers had met representatives from the casino to discuss changes to the Gambling Act.

He replied: “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”.

Mr Key said he was unable to speak for other ministers as to whether they had met casino representatives.

Mr Key’s spokesman today refused to say what date Mr Key’s offer to make a deal with Sky City was made.

Commercialism?

Mediaworks’ rationale for canning ‘Campbell Live‘ has rested solely on it’s supposed ratings.

Despite ‘Campbell Live‘ improving in ratings over the last few months, the company has “reviewed” the programme, and decided to ditch it, in favour of something else. According to MediaWorks’ Group Head of News, Mark Jennings, the new show is described thusly;

Campbell Live is to be replaced by a four-day-a-week programme presented by two people.

[…]

Mr Jennings said audience research suggests that people want more stories at a shorter length, and TV3 had already been trying to get more stories into Campbell Live.

[…]

He said people want a mix and a mix of personalities

Considering that ‘Campbell Live‘  already often presents three or four stories, of varying lengths, within it’s half-hour slot – even with advertising breaks  removed! – it is hard to see how much shorter a story can get. Are we talking about four-minutes-once-over-lightly?

Many issues and problems confronting our nation are deep and complex. It is hard to see how making a story shorter gives viewers the details  necessary to inform and enlighten.

In effect, it seems to be a continuing dumbing-down of the 7PM timeslot.

Radio NZ reported Jennings explaining why TV3 had not actively promotedCampbell Live‘;

Asked about criticism of the lack of promotion for the programme and Mr Campbell, Mr Jennings said Campbell Live was an established programme and he didn’t think that publicity campaigns would make much difference to the size of its audience.

Really? And yet TV3 heavily promotes entertain shows like “The GC“;  “X Factor“; “The Block“, and “The Bachelor” – programmes that are high in entertainment (questionable) but lacking in any informative value whatsoever. Like consuming a constant diet of sugar and carbs, but nothing else of a substantive, nutritional nature.

Even the ratings argument does not entirely stack up when we see the figures;

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TV Ratings - All round rises at 7pm - Campbell Live - Seven Sharp - Throng - TV3 - TVNZ - Mediaworks - television

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Acknowledgement: Throng.co.nz

Note the highs where ‘Campbell Live‘ (in green graph) outperforms ‘Seven Sharp‘ (though not often in the same evening) and note how viewing numbers are steadily increasing for ‘Campbell Live‘ but remain relatively static for ‘Seven Sharp‘.

For ‘Campbell Live‘, the numbers are moving in the right direction.

But if Mediaworks is looking at cancelling low rating shows on TV3, then perhaps it should be looking elsewhere, as Throng website reported on 22 May;

Most watched on TV3

  1. Campbell Live: 330,830 (7:00pm – 7:35pm)

  2. The Graham Norton Show: 298,660 (8:35pm – 9:35pm)

  3. Jono and Ben: 224,210 (7:35pm – 8:35pm)

  4. 3 News: 220,930 (6:00pm – 7:00pm)

  5. Live at the Apollo: 169,260 (9:35pm – 10:35pm)

If ratings are the sole determinant of what goes/stays, then TV3’s News at 6PM should be the first to face the chop. At 220,930 viewers, it 109,900 behind ‘Campbell Live‘. Even ‘Jono and Ben did better, with 3,280 more viewers.

Interestingly, TV3 gains viewers after it’s 6PM News.

Note how TVNZ loses viewers after the TV1 News;

Most watched on TV ONE

  1. One News: 700,220 (6:00pm – 7:00pm)

  2. Seven Sharp: 429,510 (7:00pm – 7:30pm)

  3. Millionaire Hot Seat: 386,220 (5:30pm – 6:00pm)

  4. Location Location Location: 382,170 (7:30pm – 8:30pm)

  5. Coronation Street: 255,130 (8:30pm – 9:25pm)

TV1 loses 270,710 viewers after their 6PM News.

The upshot of this should be blatantly obvious to the dullest TV executive (take note please, Mark Weldon); Mediaworks has hot property in the form of  ‘Campbell Live‘.

Seven Sharp’ – not doing quite so well in viewer retention.

Campbell Live‘ should be promoted by Mediaworks – not dumped and replaced by some lowly imitation of TV1’s execrable ‘Seven Sharp’ .

Has Mediaworks  actually taken the time and effort to conduct a focus group on how ‘Campbell Live‘ is perceived? This is important because one of the most important commercial factors in a product or service is branding.

If ‘Campbell Live‘ has a more positive branding than, say, ‘Seven Sharp‘, then Mediaworks is being foolish and short-sighted in not capitalising on it.

If whatever replaces ‘Campbell Live‘ fails to attract numbers, then those responsible should – and must – fall on their corporate swords and resign.

If the leaders of Labour and ACT could take responsibility for their parties dismal results at the last election, then so should the entire Board of Mediaworks, starting with Mark Weldon.

Conclusion

Companies  expect hard work and dedication from their employees, and fair enough. But to then shaft employees who have given that hard work and dedication, and put their heart and soul into their profession – is a poor reward.

For those  executives at Mediaworks who made the decision to axe ‘Campbell Live‘, I have a clear and simple message for them. They may expect the same loyalty from viewers toward TV3, as they themselves have shown to John Campbell, his team, sponsors, advertisers, audience,  and loyal fans.

I look forward to repaying in kind.

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Addendum1

The team at Campbell Live thanked Action Stations for the petition mounted to save the programme;

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Action stations logo - campbell live

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A personal message from the team at Campbell Live to each and everyone of you…

From everyone on Campbell Live, your support and kindness has saved us during these past seven weeks. Not only did it lift us personally, it reminded us why we’re here and that what we do matters and can make a difference. To the 86,000 people who so kindly signed the petition, and even marched for us, thank you – very much. We’re so proud to have you as viewers.

Pip Keane, John Campbell, Ali Ikram, Anna Burns Francis, Sarah Stewart, Tory Evans, Chris Jones, Jayne Devine, Julian Lee, Lachlan Forsyth, Marise Hurley, Michael Hardcastle, Mike Wesley-Smith, Sarah Rowan, Claire Eastham-Farrelly, Tristram Clayton, Vanessa Forrest, Billy Weepu, Dan Parker, Whena Owen, Lee Thomson, Emily Samonta, Jendy Harper, John Sellwood, Kate McCallum, Graeme Mulholland.

Addendum2

From Hilary Barry, one of John Campbell’s closest colleague and friend, shared her feelings with a audience of hundreds of thousands of viewers;

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How many of us felt the same? For many of us, John  Campbell was like the Conscience of the Nation; the person we could most trust to tell a story that held authority to account; truth to power; and spoke for the ‘ordinary Kiwi battler’.

Someone in  mainstream media recently asked me, in a roundabout way, if we would feel the same if Mike Hosking left NewstalkZB.

I suggest not.

Hosking does not engender the same empathy and respect that Campbell does.

Not even close.

 

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The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones…

– Julius Caesar, ActIII, scene ii

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#boycottTV3

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References

NZ Herald: John Key calls media ‘Knuckleheads’

TV1 News: Prime Minister defends loan to MediaWorks

Fairfax media: Government denies MediaWorks loan

TV3 News: Mediaworks pays off ‘loan’ 2 years early

Fairfax media/Website: Key’s six million dollar man – Steven Joyce

NZ Herald:  SkyCity deal was PM’s own offer

Radio NZ: TV3 – New show won’t be ‘light and fluffy’

Throng: Ratings – All round rises at 7pm

Throng: TV Ratings – 22 May 2015

Youtube:  Hilary Barry’s tears for John Campbell during 3news

Other bloggers

The Daily Blog: Martyn Bradbury – And then they came for Campbell Live – the end of political journalism on NZ television

The Daily Blog: Rex Widerstrom – Thirteen things you (probably) didn’t know about Mark Weldon (CEO of Mediaworks)

The Standard: I want that left wing bastard gone

Previous related blogposts

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

Doing ‘the business’ with John Key – Here’s How (Part # Rua)

Doing ‘the business’ with John Key – Here’s How (Part # Toru)

The Curious World of the Main Stream Media

Producer of ‘The Nation’ hits back at “interference” allegations over ‘Campbell Live’

Campbell still Live, not gone

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media sensationalism and laziness - Jon Stewart

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 24 May 2015.

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= fs =

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