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The Neverending Story in Mainstream Media Fairytale Land

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“Public backlash grows against pointless media speculation on coalition talks”

— is, unfortunately, not a headline we’ll be seeing  any time soon.

The media role is reporting post-election politics has not been an edifying spectacle to watch. Put simply, the most exacerbating aspect of three weeks of coalition negotiation has not been the length of time – remarkably short by international standards – but the interminable, inane,  media commentary we’ve had to endure.

As  reported on 7 October, in lieu of any actual news-worthy stories, the msm (mainstream media) has taken to either parroting National Party propaganda on a non-existent “Teal Coalition” – or engaged in an onanistic beat up on the length of time needed for coalition negotiations.

National Party de-facto spokesperson, Maserati-owner, and legend-in-his-own-mind, Mike Hosking, waxed lyrical about a so-called “Teal” arrangement;

The concept of a grand coalition? Naive in theory yes, in reality not the slightest chance.

The best suggestion for the deal that never was – but could so easily have been – was the teal coalition, the Nats and Greens.

The Greens held themselves to ransom by tying themselves to Labour.

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A teal coalition could well have worked and the Greens would almost certainly have got more out of it than they will get if the nod goes their way tomorrow (or whenever Winston decides).

Although why Hosking considers a “Grand Coalition between National and Labour as “naive” without “the slightest chance” and a National-Green coalition as something that “could so easily have been” – is never explained by him. But that’s the thing with public displays of  political-porn – it requires no internal logic or consistency.

On 14  October, I watched TV3’s The Nation – expecting a one-hour long exercise in pointless navel-gazing as to who Winston Peters will “go with”.

To my pleasant surprise, adults had taken over the programme and the viewer was treated to more pressing issues;

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In segment one, Lisa Owen discussed workers’ rights and workplace safety with Richard Wagstaff, Hazel Armstrong, and Jackie Blue. It was a critical look at the grim stats surrounding workplace accidents; deaths; injuries, and maimings.

Former National Party MP – and now Human Rights Commissioner – Jackie Blue, made the startling  admission that low unionisation in the workforce was part of the problem of workplace accidents;

I also think a fact in the forestry deaths is that they have very low rates of unionisation. They don’t have anyone speaking for them. There’s no voice for forestry workers. And I listened to an interview Helen did a year before she died, and she said she got to know the forestry workers, and once they understood the concept of a union, they wanted to be part of one.

The second segment featured an interview with BNZ CEO, Anthony Healey, supporting the Left’s call for a capital gains tax. Some of Healey’s comments would have come straight out of The Daily Blog;

“It’s really about equity in the tax system.

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Well, I think you can take a very broad based approach to it, but one of the things that I think is really important in this discussion is we’re not talking about, and my opinion is we need to tax in aggregate more; it’s about redistributing tax. So if you were to apply a broad based capital gains tax, that gives you the ability to address other things in the tax system, like company tax, like income tax, especially for those that are more needy.

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Well, I think where we really need to address tax is at the lower end of the taxation system. If you were to apply a capital gains tax where you see a lot of wealth accumulation as opposed to income, then you have room to move, and you can look at the lower income tax rate, particularly for those who are struggling to make ends meet.”

When bank CEOs are advocating Labour and Green Party tax policies, you just know that the neo-liberal paradigm has lost it’s 1980s/90s gloss.

The last segment featured a good look at how Artificial Intelligence (AI) would be impacting on jobs in the coming years and decades. People closely connected with the AI industry – Greg Cross, Grant Straker, and Ben Goertzel shared their insights as to where we were heading with increasingly advanced technologies.

Then came the panel – Tracy Watkins from Fairfax media; former National Party parliamentary researcher, Chris Simpson, and political pundit,  Vernon Tava.

What came next in the following ten to fifteen minutes was not a word uttered to discuss any of the three issues raised in The Nation. Even Lisa Owen’s opening remarks on the one year anniversary of trade unionist Helen Kelley’s death and the role she played in highlighting workplace  accidental deaths was not discussed.

Instead, Owen led the panelists down the garden path to discussing… the coalition talks and “the mysterious NZ First Board”.

It was ten to fifteen minutes of pointless pontificating and using up valuable oxygen as Fairfax political reporter Tracy Watkins lamented that Winston Peters  “ just doesn’t look like he’s enjoying it very much“.

The obligatory cliche of “the tail wagging the dog” was trotted out by Watkins and Owen. Watkins description of the coalition talks as a “circus” suggests she has been too long in politics and jaded cynicism has coloured her view of things.

Only Vernon Tava’s comments struck home when he pointed out;

“…Media, who are becoming increasingly desperate standing around in cold lobbies in Wellington shouting questions at people as they walk briskly from one hallway to another…”

The only “circus” has been a media one.

Meanwhile,  broadcast and print media have been going nuts with their ongoing speculations. For example, the 16 October edition of The Dominion Post had no less that seven distinct pieces in that edition, including an editorial headedTime for Waiting to end“;

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(Curiously, the very same editorial was republished in Christchurch’s The Press, and headed, “New Zealand needs to know who will govern it“.)

The opening statement was so ludicrously dripping with sanctimony that it beggared belief anyone could write it with a straight face;

“The New Zealand public is to be congratulated for it’s extraordinary patience over the last three weeks since the general election.”

The New Zealand public is not only patient – but a darned sight more mature than the children who currently work in our mainstream media, and who constantly pester their Uncle Winston from the back seat of  the family stationwagon;

“Are we there yet?”

“No.”

“Are we there yet?”

“No!”

“Are we there yet?”

“NO!!!”

The public are patient. They fully understand  the complexities of forming a government and that it must be done carefully. As Labour leader Jacinda Ardern explained on Radio NZ’s Morning Report on 17 October with pained patience for the benefit of the media, ;

“…The ability of a government to be both  stable and durable ultimately comes down to whether or not you have enough commonality to form a government that’s going to  last the distance.”

In the same edition of the Dompost, Tracy Watkins had a front-page piece beneath the paper’s banner, entitled, “Is the coalition deal a crown or a poisoned chalice?” She stated matter-of-factly;

“After weeks of secrecy and the bizarre silence of the two major party leaders…”

“Secrecy”? “Bizarre silence”?!

Another way of  phrasing Watkins’ prose could be;

“After weeks of  nothing to write about by the two major newspaper chains…”

As a political blogger, I write often and passionately about transparency in government; government departments; NGOs, etc.

On coalition negotiations, however, confidentiality is a prerequisite for meaningful dialogue between the parties, unfettered by pressure from pious media pundits.

Case in point, TV3’s  Patrick Gower passing judgement in 2014 on an electoral arrangement between Mana Movement and the Internet Party;

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Second case-in-point; numerous media commentators (Mike Hosking, et al) calling for the Green Party enter into coalition dialogue with National. As if such a scenario were remotely possible (or desirable).

On 11 October, Radio NZ’s Tim Watkin (former Producer of TV3’s The Nationexpressed his own personal frustration in a way that was verging on the farcical;

“Well, I hate to say ‘I told you so’. But as frustration builds over the way our new government is being built – amid casual abuse, secrecy and over-reach – we really only have ourselves to blame, for the way this administration is being born in darkness, at least. Its mother is our own complacency.

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Yet many New Zealanders fell in behind the parties’ spin, complaining that journalists were wasting time asking coalition questions and pushing for answers the poor party leaders couldn’t possibly give. ‘Focus on the issues,’ they cried.

How many of them are now among those bemoaning the lack of transparency in these negotiations and the deals being done behind closed doors?

We are left with little idea of which policies are being traded for which and have next to no notion about the priorities of whichever government might emerge, because we failed as a public to demand answers before the election.

I have no problem with these negotiations being conducted in confidence. I don’t mind New Zealand First shuttling back and forth between parties and being able to handle this process in secret. This is a time for a veil, of sorts.

But we should know, from reportage and interviews pre-election, what’s being traded.”

Tim demanded that “we should know, from reportage and interviews pre-election, what’s being traded” – seemingly forgetting that any post-election agreement would eventually reveal precisely “ what’s being traded“.

The rest of his intemperate commentary is symptomatic of political journos and commentators venting their impatience. In the meantime, the public went about their daily lives, content with leaving coalition-building to those who had been elected to carry out that task.

This is not how the Fourth Estate should be behaving. This is not reporting unfolding political events. It is not even analysis of unfolding political events. This was a naked move to artificially generate political events.

No news?  No problem.

Make some up.

The impatience of the msm was highlighted when, on several occasions, TV3’s news led with the length of time being taken for coalition talks – complete with this melodramatic graphic;

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It takes a remarkable talent to create a story out of simply… waiting. This desperation of the msm for any political activity to report  was remarked on by Auckland University political scientist, Jennifer Curtin on 15 October;

Associate Professor Curtin said the amount of time being taken was reasonable and in Nordic countries such as Sweden taking two to three weeks to form a government was the norm.

“So asking for something to happen since October the 12th in four or five days is probably a little bit unrealistic and a little bit first past the post really, in the way we’re thinking about government formation.”

Four days later, as if further illustration was required, on 19 October Mediaworks presented us an updated report that… well… there was nothing to report;

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When Tracy Watkins referred to a “circus” on The Nation, she was almost right. There has been a circus in this country since 23 September. But this time  it hasn’t come from our  political representatives.

Lisa Owen from The Nation on 21 October was honest when she admitted on behalf of the Fourth Estate;

“We’re impatient. We are impatient.”

The ‘Devil finds work for idle hands’, it is said. More so for idle children and  journalists with nothing to do, and too much time to do it in.

Let’s hope that all these well-paid, well-resourced journalists will be devoting equal air-time or column-inches to scrutinising the attacks-to-come from the Neo-liberal Establishment. Those attacks have already started.

That is where the real reporting, analysis, and commentary should be focused on.

What are the chances?

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References

NZ Herald:  Mike Hosking – Reading the coalition tea leaves

Mediaworks: The Nation (14 October 2017)

Scoop media: The Nation – Workers’ Rights Panel

Scoop media:  The Nation – Lisa Owen interviews Anthony Healy

Mediaworks:  Panel – Tracy Watkins, Chris Simpson and Vernon Tava

Radio NZ:  Labour, Greens ‘ready to go’ – Ardern

Fairfax media:  It’s difficult to know if Winston Peters is offering a crown or a poisoned chalice

Twitter: Patrick Gower

Radio NZ:  Negotiation secrecy a snub to democracy

Mediaworks: Newshub Live at 6pm (18th October 2017)

Radio NZ: NZ First board set to consider possible coalition deal

Mediaworks: Newshub webpage 19 October

Scoop media:  The Nation – Lisa Owen interviews Jacinda Ardern

Other Blogs

Cut Your Hair:  Don’t blame MMP for bad king/queenmakers

Sciblogs:  For a teal coalition

The Standard: “Reporters”

Previous related blogposts

How biased is the media? A Patrick Gower case study

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign… (tekau)

An Open Letter To Winston Peters

Once Upon a Time in Mainstream Media Fairytale Land

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 22 October 2017.

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Observations on the 2017 Election campaign… (tekau)

13 October 2017 1 comment

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At 2PM today (7 October 2017), the Electoral Commission announced the final vote results, including some 446,287 special votes cast (17% of  total  votes cast).

As a result, National has lost two seats and the Greens and Labour each pick up one seat in Parliament. The Green’s  Golriz Ghahraman and Labour’s Angie Warren-Clark enter Parliament on the Party List.

The final seat counts and voting figures:

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Acknowledgement for graphic: Radio NZ

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Acknowledgement for graphic: Radio NZ

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The results show a decisive  swing against National:

Election Results

 

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 2014  2017  change (-/+)  2014 seats  2017 seats
 National  1,131,501 (47.04%) 1,152,075 (44.4%) + 20,574
(- 2.64)
60 56 (-4)
Labour  604,534 (25.13%) 956,184 (36.9%) + 351,650
(+ 11.77%)
32 46 (+14)
Greens  257,356 (10.70%) 162,443
(6.3%)
– 94,913
(- 4.4)
14 8 (-6)
CombinedRed-Green Vote  861,890 (35.53%) 1,118,627
(43.2%)
+ 256,737
(+ 7.67)
46 54 (+8)
NZ First  208,300 (8.66%) 186,706
(7.2%)
21,594
(- 1.46)
11 9 (-2)
Special Votes 330,985
(13.5%)
446,287
(17%)
115,302
(+3.5)
Total Votes 2,446,279
(77.9% t/out)
 2,591,896
(79.8% t/out)
 + 145,617
(+ 1.6)
 —  —

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Observations

(1) The rise of Labour (aka, the “Jacinda Effect”) appears to have stripped support from the Maori Party, NZ First, and the Greens. Any shift of voters from NZ First to National was insufficient to boost the Nats percentage of total votes.

(2) As expected, Special Votes have favoured the Left.

(3) Winston Peters has been proven correct to wait before Special Votes were counted and announced before initiating coalition talks. A National-NZ First Coalition (65 seats) would prove little different to a Labour-Green-NZ First coalition (63 seats).

With only a two seat difference, Peters is in a better position to consider a three-way coalition with Labour and the Greens. The question is, will he align himself with the 1,152,075 who voted  National – or the 1,305,333 who voted against the Nats, and supported Labour, the Greens, and NZ First?

National may be the ‘largest’ party in Parliament – but the largest bloc of voters was Labour-Green-NZ First.

Choose wisely, Mr Peters, choose wisely.

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References

Radio NZ:  Election17 final results are coming

Radio NZ:  Final Election17 Results – UPDATED

Wikipedia:   New Zealand general election, 2014

Electoral Commission:  New Zealand 2014 General Election Official Results

Electoral Commission:  2017 General Election – Official Result

Other Blogs

The Standard: And the final result is…

Previous related blogposts

Election 2014; A Post-mortem; a Wake; and one helluva hang-over

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (tahi)

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (rua)

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (toru)

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (wha)

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (rima)

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (ono)

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (whitu)

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign… (waru)

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign… (Iwa)

Once Upon a Time in Mainstream Media Fairytale Land

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 8 October 2017.

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Once Upon a Time in Mainstream Media Fairytale Land…

12 October 2017 3 comments

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You can feel mainstream media’s frustration with the news-vacuum created by the two week period necessary to count the approximately 384,072 (15% of total votes) Special Votes that were cast this election.

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Winston Peters has announced on several occasions that he will wait until the Specials are counted and announced by the Electoral Commission on 7 October,  before making any announcements on coalition;

“This will be the last press conference I am going to hold until after the 7th of October… I can’t tell you what we are going to do until we have seen all the facts.

I can’t talk to you until I know what the 384,000 people who have cast their vote said…”

And you know what? He’s 100% right.

All the media pundit speculation; all the ambushing at airport terminals; all the annoyingly repetitive questions are utterly pointless. Peters simply cannot say anything meaningful until 7 October because the 2017 Election has not yet fully played out.

This is not a game of rugby where, after eighty minutes, a score determines a winner and loser (or draw).  In this game of “electoral rugby”, the score will not be delivered for two weeks.

The media – still feeling the adrenaline from Election Night “drama” – appears not to have realised this. The 24-Hour News Cycle is not geared toward a process lasting days or weeks.

One journalist writing for the NZ Herald, Audrey Young, even suggested that initiating coalition talks before the Specials were counted and announced was somehow a “good thing”;

It is surprising that NZ First has not begun talking to National yet, at a point when it has maximum leverage.

Not doing so before the special votes runs the risk having less leverage after the specials are counted should there be no change in the seats, or in the unlikely event of National gaining.

That bizarre suggestion could be taken further; why not announce a government before any votes are counted?

Pushed to maximum absurdity, why not announce a government before an election even takes place?  Banana republics fully recommend  this technique.

It says a lot about the impatience and immaturity of journalists that they are demanding decisions on coalition-building before all votes are counted. It is  doubtful if any journalist in Europe – which has had proportional representation far longer than we have – would even imagine  making such a nonsensical  suggestion.

Little wonder that Peters lost his cool on 27 September where he held a press conference and lambasted the mainstream media for their “drivel”;

“Now frankly if that’s the value you place on journalistic integrity you go right ahead, but the reality is you could point to the Electoral Commission and others and ask yourself why is it that 384,000 people will not have their vote counted until the 7th of October. 

Maybe then you could say to yourselves that may be the reason why New Zealand First has to withhold its view because we don’t know yet what the exact precise voice of the New Zealand people is.

All I’m asking for is a bit of understanding rather than the tripe that some people are putting out, malicious, malignant, and vicious in the extreme.”

The mainstream media did not take kindly to the critical analysis which they themselves usually mete out to public figures. They reported Peters’ press conference in unflattering terms and a vehemence usually reserved for social/political outcasts who have somehow dared challenge the established order of things;

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The Fourth Estate does not ‘do’ criticism well.

Even cartoonists have piled in on Peters, caricaturising him for daring to impede the [rapid] course of democracy;

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Or satirising Peters for being in a position to coalesce either with Labour or National. Despite this being a feature of all proportionally-elected Parliaments around the world, this has somehow taken the mainstream media by surprise;

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Perhaps Winston Peters was correct when he accused  New Zealand’s mainstream media of continuing to view the political landscape  through a First Past the Post prism;

“You ran a first past the post campaign in an MMP environment. And things suffer from that.”

Without a hint of self-awareness of irony, the usually insightful Bernard Hickey  offered this strangely familiar ‘advice’ to Peters;

It could have been so different. He could have simply said he couldn’t disclose his negotiating position until after the counting of the special votes and that he could not say who he would choose. Everyone would have accepted that as a fair stance.

Really? “Everyone would have accepted that as a fair stance”?!

How many timers did Peters tell journalists  that he “couldn’t disclose his negotiating position until after the counting of the special votes and that he could not say who he would choose” and how many times did those same journalists (or their colleagues) persist?

I have considerable respect for Mr Hickey’s researching and reporting skills. He is one of New Zealand’s most talented journalists/commentators.

On this point, however, he has over-looked the stubborn persistence of his colleagues in their unrelenting demands on Peters.

That media drivel has extended to journalists reporting on a non-existent, fabricated “story” – a potential National-Green (or “Teal”) Coalition.

Nowhere was this suggestion made seriously – except by National-leaning right-wing commentators, National party supporters, and National politicians. It should be blatantly clear to the most apolitical person that,

(a) such a coalition has been dismissed by the Green Party on numerous occassions

(b) such a coalition would be impractical due to wide policy differences between National and the Greens

(c) such a coalition scenario was being made only as a negotiation tactic by National to leverage against NZ First, and

(d) such a coalition would offer very little benefit to the Greens.

Green party leader, James Shaw, had to repeat – on numerous occassions – that any notion of a National-Green deal was out of a question;

“Our job is to form a government with the Labour Party, that’s what I said on election night, that’s what I campaigned on for the last 18 months and that’s what we are busy working on.

I said on election night that I think the numbers are there for a new government and that’s what we are working on, so everything else frankly is noise and no signal.”

This did not stop the mainstream media from breathlessly (breathe, Patrick, breathe!) reporting repeating the “story” without analysing where it was emanating from: the Right. Or who it would benefit: National.

Writing a series of stories on an imaginary National-Green coalition scenario, Fairfax ‘s political reporter Tracy Watkins could almost be on the National Party’s communications-team payroll;

Metiria Turei’s departure from the Greens co-leadership seems to be what lies behind National’s belief that a deal may be possible – she was always cast as an implacable opponent to any deal with National. James Shaw is seen as being more of a pragmatist.

But National would only be prepared to make environmental concessions – the Greens’ social and economic policy platform would be seen as a step too far. Big concessions on climate change policy would also be a stumbling block.

On both those counts the Greens would likely rule themselves out of a deal – co-leader James Shaw has made it clear economic and social policy have the same priority as environmental policy.

There is a view within National, however, that a deal with the Greens would be more forward and future looking than any deal with NZ First.

One concern is what is seen as an erratic list of NZ First bottom lines, but there is also an acknowledgement that National was exposed on environmental issues like dirty water in the campaign.

That’s why National insiders say an approach to the Greens should not be ruled out.

But Watkins was not completely oblivious to the Kiwi-version of ‘Game of Thrones‘.  She briefly alluded to comprehending that National is pitting the Greens against NZ First;

Senior National MPs have made repeated overtures through the media that its door is open to the Greens, who would have more leverage in negotiations with the centre-right than the centre-left.

Watkins and her colleagues at Fairfax made no attempt to shed light on National’s “repeated overtures”. She and other journalists appeared content to be the ‘conduit’ of National’s machiavellian machinations as prelude to coalition talks.

Such was the vacuum caused by the interregnum between Election Day and Special  Votes day.  That vacuum – caused by the news blackout until coalition talks begin in earnest after 7 October – had obviously enabled sensationalism to guide editorial policy.

Writing for another Fairfax newspaper, the Sunday Star Times, so-called “journalist” Stacey Kirk cast aside any remaining mask of impartiality and came out guns blazing, demanding a National Green Coalition;

They should, and the reasons they won’t work with National are getting flimsier by the day. But they won’t – it’s a matter that strikes too close to the heart of too many of their base – and for that reason, they simply can’t.

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For all their dancing around each other, National is serious when it says it would be happy to talk to the Greens. But it’s also serious when it says it knows it has to make big environmental moves regardless.

If the Greens are serious about putting the environment above politics – and the long-term rebuild of the party – they really should listen.

Kirk’s piece could easily have emanated from the Ninth Floor of the Beehive – not the Dominion Post Building in downtown Wellington.

The media pimping for a fourth National-led coalition, involving the Greens, would be comical if it weren’t potentially so damaging to our democracy. Media are meant to question political activity such as coalition-building  – not aggressively promote them in an openly partisan manner. Especially not for the benefit of one dominant party. And especially not to install that political party to government.

One person went so far as launching an on-line petition calling for just such a coalition;

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The organisor is one, Clive Antony, a Christchurch “organic fashion entrepreneur”. (That’s a ‘thing’? Who knew?)  Mr Anthony explained why he wanted a “Teal” coalition;

“I genuinely think there is common ground between the National Party and the Green Party, which could result in practical policy wins for New Zealand. Environmental issues such as carbon neutrality and social issues like child poverty come to mind.”

Mr Anthony happens to be a National Party supporter.

Mr Anthony failed to explain what National has been doing the last nine years to protect the environment; why rivers have continued to be degraded; why the agricultural sector has been left out of the emissions trading scheme; why National has squandered billions on new roading projects instead of public transport; etc, etc. Also, Mr Anthony has failed to ask why National has not willingly adopted Green Party policies in the last nine years.

What has stopped them?  Party policies are not copyright.  After all, you don’t have to be in coalition with a party to take on their policies.

Although it helps if National were honest enough to release official reports in a timely manner, instead of the public relying on them to be leaked;

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This is how National demonstrates transparency and integrity.  This is the party that attempts to suppress critical information on climate change.

This is the party that some media pundits are clamouring to enter into a meaningful working relationship with the Greens.

As former Green MP, Mojo Mathers pointed out on Twitter;

“Oh my, National love the Greens now do they? Pity they couldn’t show some love for the environment over the last 9 years. #NoGreenWash

Dirty coal. Polluted rivers. Industrial dairying. Rising emissions. Billion dollar motorways. Seabed mining in blue whale habitat and more.”

Another, former Green MP, Catherine Delahunty, voiced what probably 99.9% of Green Party members are thinking right now;

“I would rather drink hemlock than go with the National Party. The last thing I want to see is the Green Party or any other party propping them up to put them back into power. They’ve done enough damage.”

Green Party (co-)leader, James Shaw, was more diplomatic;

“A slim majority of voters did vote for change, and so that’s what I’m working on… We campaigned on a change of Government, and I said at the time it was only fair to let voters know what they were voting for – are you voting for the status quo, or are you voting for change?”

Other individuals pimping for a Nat-Green coalition are sundry National party MPs such as  Paula Bennett or former politicians such as Jim Bolger.

All of which was supported by far-right blogger, Cameron Slater’s “intern staff”, on the “Whaleoil” blog;

Currently we are sitting in wait for old mate Winston Peters to choose who is going to run the country. After watching all the pundits in media talk about what the next government would look like, it started to annoy me that everyone has been ruling out a National/Green coalition and rightly so as both parties have basically written it off.

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A quick Blue-Green arrangement with the appropriate Government Ministries assigned to Green Ministers would kill the NZ First posturing dead and would probably be the death knell for NZ First forever once Mr Peters resigns.”

National’s pollster and party apparatchik, David Farrar, was also actively pimping for a National-Green Coalition;

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When even the far-right are salivating at the prospect of a Blue-Green coalition, you know something is seriously askew.

However,  judging by comments posted by Kiwiblog’s readers, the prospect of a Blue-Green coalition does not sit well with his audience.

As an interesting side-note, both Whaleoil and Kiwiblog both published their first stories on a Blue-Green coalition around 27 and 28 September. The Tory communications-strategy memo talking up a Blue-Green scenario appears to have been sent to Slater and Farrar at the same time.

It beggars belief that very few media commentators have picked up on what is really the bleedin’ obvious: National’s strategy is obviously a ploy to leverage against NZ First.

Of all the pundits, only one person seems to have sussed what was really happening and why. Otago University law professor and political commentator,  Andrew Geddis,  put things very succinctly when he wrote for Radio NZ on 30 September;

Media coverage of the post-election period echoes this existential angst. With Winston Peters declaring that he – sorry, New Zealand First – won’t make any decisions on governing deals until after the final vote count is announced on October 7, we face something of a news vacuum.

Commentators valiantly have attempted to fill this void with fevered speculation about who Peters likes and hates, or fantastical notions that a National-Greens deal could be struck instead…

That is as close to sensible commentary as we’ve gotten the last two weeks.

The 2017 General Election may be remembered in future – not for Winston Peters holding the balance of power – but for the unedifying rubbish churned out by so-called professional, experienced journalists. In their thirst for something – anything!! – to report, the media commentariate have engaged in  onanistic political fantasies.

They have also wittingly allowed themselves to be National’s marionettes – with strings reaching up to the Ninth Floor.

The National-Green Coalition fairytale promulgated by some in the media was a glimpse into the weird world of journalistic daydreaming. In other words, New Zealanders just got a taste of some real fake news.

Like children in the back seat of a car on a two-week long drive, this is what it looks like when bored journalists and media commentators become anxious and frustrated. Their impatience gets the better of them.

And a politician called them on it;

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When the antiquated, binary system of First Past the Post  was replaced with a more sophisticated; more representative; more inclusive MMP in the 1990s, our political system matured. Our Parliament became more ethnically and gender diverse. We even elected the world’s first transgender MP.

MMP is complex and requires careful consideration and time.

It is fit-for-purpose for the complexities of 21st Century New Zealand.

The Fourth Estate is yet to catch up.

 

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References

Electoral Commission: Preliminary results for the 2017 General Election

Otago Daily Times:  Peters will wait for special vote count

NZ Herald:  Winston Peters – 7 per cent of the vote, 100 per cent of the power

Newsroom:  Winston’s awful start

Fairfax media:  Winston Peters launches tirade on media, stays mum on coalition talks

TVNZ:  ‘Next question!’ – belligerent Winston Peters has press pack in stitches after shutting down Aussie reporter

NZ Herald:   Attack on media, some insults and stonewalling – Winston Peters comes out firing in press conference

Newstalk ZB:  Winston Peters hits out at media in fiery press conference

Radio NZ:  Green Party dismisses National-Green speculation

Fairfax media:  The Green Party also hold the balance of power, but they don’t seem to want it

Fairfax media:  National says don’t rule out an approach to Greens on election night

Fairfax media:  Stacey Kirk – Honour above the environment? Greens hold a deck of aces they’re refusing to play

NZ Herald:  Grassroots petition calls for National-Green coalition

Fairfax media: Govt sits on climate warnings

Twitter: Mojo Mathers

Radio NZ:  ‘Snowball’s chance in hell’ of a Green-National deal

Mediaworks:  ‘I will hear the Prime Minister out’ – James Shaw

Mediaworks:  Winston Peters’ super leak ‘great gossip’ I couldn’t use against him – Paula Bennett

Fairfax media:  Greens have a responsibility to talk to National – Jim Bolger

Radio NZ:  Special votes – why the wait?

NZCity:  Have patience, says Winston Peters

E-Tangata: Georgina Beyer – How far can you fall?

Other Blogs

Kiwiblog:  What could the Greens get if they went with National not Winston?

Kiwiblog:  How a National-Green coalition could work

The Daily Blog: Martyn Bradbury – Let’s seriously consider David Farrar’s offer to the Greens and laugh and laugh and laugh

Liberation:  Cartoons and images about negotiating the new government

Previous related blogposts

Election 2014; A Post-mortem; a Wake; and one helluva hang-over

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (tahi)

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (rua)

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (toru)

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (wha)

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (rima)

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (ono)

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (whitu)

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign… (waru)

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign… (Iwa)

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 7 October 2017.

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Letter to the editor: Duncan Garner has a John Key-style brain-fade

1 September 2017 Leave a comment

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Frank Macskasy - letters to the editor - Frankly Speaking

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from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to: Dominion Post <letters@dompost.co.nz>
date: 27 August 2017
subject: Letter to the editor

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The Editor
Dominion Post

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Duncan Garner’s column “Where’s that Brighter Future we were all promised” must be one of the worst researched and slanted pieces I’ve ever read.(26 August)

“When the Nats took command nine years ago they might as well have been presented with … the paralysing decade of deficits dished up by Labour.”

The term “decade of deficits” was coined by the National Party, not Treasury.

Treasury’s 2008 PREFU referred to deficits caused by “the sub-prime mortgage crisis, which developed in the United States in mid-2007, was the trigger for the unwinding of these imbalances and the world economy…this process of adjustment is expected to be protracted and to involve both developing and developed economies”.

In reality, Labour’s Finance Minister, Michael Cullen, posted eight budget surpluses in a row and paid down government debt. National, by contrast, increased debt to over $60 billion.

Cutting taxes in 2009 and 2010, National was forced to borrow even more.

Garner’s selective memory overlooks the GFC when he castigates “Labour’s never-ending golden economic summers had crashed, burned and disappeared” – but then excuses National’s “promise of a brighter future being ravaged by international economic cancers”!

No wonder the public distrust the media when a supposedly impartial journalist writes this kind of fake ‘news’.

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-Frank Macskasy

(Name & address supplied)

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References

Fairfax media: Duncan Garner – After nine years in power, why is National’s report card so full of fails?

Previous related blogposts

Labour: the Economic Record 2000 – 2008

That was Then, This is Now #19 – A “Decade of Deficits”

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(Acknowledgement for meme: Michael Woods)

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Time to speak up for Metiria Turei! (Part Rua)

11 August 2017 1 comment

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Frank Macskasy - letters to the editor - Frankly Speaking

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from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to: The Wellingtonian <editor@thewellingtonian.co.nz>
date: 5 August 2017
subject: Letters to the editor

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The Editor
The Wellingtonian

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It astounds me that several reactionary media “personalities” have demanded Green Party co-leader, Metiria Turei, to resign from Parliament because she was forced to lie to social welfare so her benefit would not be cut.

In 2009 then Deputy Prime Minister, Bill English was caught claiming a ministerial housing allowance for a Wellington property he already owned through a family trust. After public anger mounted, he was eventually forced to repay $32,000 to the taxpayer. (“Bill English buckles over housing allowance”, Dominion Post)

This despite his ministerial salary of $276,200 per year – plus perks, gold-plated super scheme, and free/subsidised air travel after he retires from Parliament. (“Key backs $900-a-week subsidy for English home”, NZ Herald)

Meanwhile, Metiria Turei, a 23 year old solo-mum, struggled to make ends meet and put food on the table. All this during Ruth Richardson’s infamous benefit cuts. Thousands of families were forced deeper into poverty, and the effects are still with us today with rising homelessness.

Despite this, the Establishment Media led by Duncan Garner, Mike Hosking, and Patrick Gower mount a nasty vendetta against her?

Their actions illustrate precisely why Ms Turei voluntarily disclosed misleading social welfare in the mid-1990s; the stench of double standards is stomach turning.

-Frank Macskasy

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from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to: Sunday Star Times <letters@star-times.co.nz>
date: 5 August 2017
subject: Letters to the editor

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The Editor
Sunday Star Times

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Several media “personalities” are demanding that Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei resign from Parliament because she happened to register and vote in an electorate she did not usually live in?

How many thousands of New Zealanders live overseas and still vote in the last electorate they were registered in, prior to emigrating?

In 2005, then Opposition-leader, John Key, was guilty of the same “crime” Ms Turei is now accused of, as the media reported;

“National Party rising star John Key won’t be able to vote in the Helensville electorate he represents in the election this year… The former banker, who owns six New Zealand homes, said he made the change to clear up potential misunderstanding. Mr Key and his wife, Bronagh, are listed in electoral rolls for 2002, 2003, and 2004 as “residing” at a Waimauku address in the Helensville electorate, but have never lived there.” ( “National MP’s home away from home”, NZ Herald)

The matter of “multiple residences” did not stop Key from becoming Prime Minister three years later, and later knighted.

But if a poor, young, brown woman does the same thing, the Establishment Media goes crazy?

The Electoral Act 1993 is clear:

“A person resides at the place where that person chooses to make his or her home by reason of family or personal relations, or for other domestic or personal reasons.”

It is time for the media hysteria to stop and focus on the real critical problems confronting us as a nation. Enough fake news!

-Frank Macskasy

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from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to: NZ Herald <letters@herald.co.nz>
date: 5 August 2017
subject: Letters to the editor

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The editor
NZ Herald

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Metiria Turei’s honest disclosure of her interaction with WINZ in the 1990s may have caused an unintended consequence.

In being upfront and honest about her indiscretions with WINZ, she has sparked a storm of hysteria from reactionary “media personalities”, right wing politicians, conservative commentators, and those who gleefully sit in judgement of others.

As a consequence, she has become a warning to other politicians that truthfulness, openness, and candor will not be rewarded.

Every other politicians will look at the witch hunt pursuing Ms Turei and double-down on keeping secret their secrets.

Politicians will become even more risk-averse to telling the truth.

The next time a politician is challenged to be more open, the fate of Ms Turei will cross their mind and serve as a grim warning; honesty is not well rewarded in politics. It is brutally punished.

So. Which politician would like to raise his/her hand to reveal some skeleton from their closet? Someone? Anyone?

-Frank Macskasy

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from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to: Dominion Post <letters@dompost.co.nz>
date: 4 August 2017
subject: Letter to the editor

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The Editor
Dominion Post

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National as been very quiet over Metiria Turei’s admissions of neglecting to tell WINZ that she had flatmates, so her DPB would not be cut. In the early 1990s, welfare had been savagely cut in Ruth Richardson’s notorious “Mother of all Budgets” to a level where starvation and homelessness loomed to rising numbers of unemployed.

By the end of 1991, nearly 200,000 Kiwis were out of work as free-market policies were thrust upon us.

Perhaps National does not want to draw attention to Deputy PM, Paula Bennett, who was also on welfare at the time? Questions have been raised over Ms Bennett’s activities at the time.

Some in media have been less reticent. Certain reactionary “media personalities” have attacked her mercilessly. No doubt these same (predominantly white, well-paid, middle-aged male) critics lived saintly lives when they were in their 20s? Of course they did.

She was 23 when she filed an incorrect address so she could vote for a friend in the McGillicudy Serious Party. The whole point of McGillicudy was to take the mickey out of politics.

When did some lose their tolerance for youthful silliness to such a degree that, decades later a pack would be baying for her blood?

-Frank Macskasy

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from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to: North and South <north&south@bauermedia.co.nz>
date: 5 August 2017
subject: Letters to the editor

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The editor
North & South

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Recent disclosures by Green Party co-leader, Metiria Turei, that she was forced to lie to social welfare in the 1990s has provoked the usual outrage from the reactionary Establishment media. Media “personalities” Patrick Gower, Duncan Garner, and Mike Hosking – all affluent white men – are baying for her blood.

However, this is not about so-called welfare fraud. This is about one gutsy woman speaking out against a broken welfare system. Since Ruth Richardson’s disastrous benefit cuts in 1992, thousands of families became mired deeper in poverty; creating worsening homelessness; hungry and barefoot children going to school; and a rise of poverty-related disease.

It is in this environment of punishing the poor and those who lost their jobs during the ideological re-structuring of our economy, that has pushed many to lie or with-hold information to WINZ. It is a matter of sheer desperate survival.

Not that Messrs Garner, Hosking, and Gower would know anything of surviving poverty. Their homes are warm; their beds comfy; their bellies full. When Fairfax political journo, Tracy Watkins joined the media feeding-frenzy, accusing Ms Turei that she “failed the most basic political test – the hypocrisy one”, it was probably written after a nice meal, with a glass of ‘cheeky pinot’ (or was it a Brown Bros riesling?) on her work-desk at home. (“Mad, bad or bold? Metiria Turei’s big gamble”, Tracy Watkins, Fairfax)

No cold, damp homes or empty stomachs for these Media Establishment journos, thank you very much.

Meanwhile, Deputy PM, Paula Bennett, has been noticeably low-key on this issue.

Herself a former DPB beneficiary, Bennett made full use of social welfare to obtain a free University education through a Training Incentive Allowance (TIA), and a Housing NZ grant to buy her own home. (“Bennett knows about life on Struggle St”, Fran O’Sullivan, NZ Herald)

As Social Welfare Minister, one of her first acts in 2009 was to terminate the TIA. No other solo-mum or solo-dad would have the same chance she did.

There have been questions asked about Bennett’s activities whilst on the DPB. Those questions remain unanswered. Unlike Metiria Turei, the Ministry of Social Development appears to show no interest in our Deputy PM’s past.

While Bennett keeps her head down, her “attack dogs” in the Establishment media are ripping into her opponant, Ms Turei.

After all, how dare she speak out about the grim realities of living on welfare?

Such is Ms Turei’s real “crime”.

-Frank Macskasy

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[address and phone number supplied]

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References

Fairfax media:   Bill English buckles over housing allowance

NZ Herald:  National MP’s home away from home

Legislation:  Electoral Act 1993

NZ Herald: Key backs $900-a-week subsidy for English home  (alt ref: The Indian Weekender:  Know your leaders – Bill English and Paula Bennett)

Fairfax media:  Tracy Watkins – Mad, bad or bold? Metiria Turei’s big gamble

NZ Herald:  Fran O’Sullivan – Bennett knows about life on Struggle St

Additional

NZ Herald:  Political Roundup – The Consequences of Metiria Turei’s benefit confession

Previous related blogposts

Hon. Paula Bennett, Minister of Hypocrisy

Tips from Paula Bennett on how to be a Hypocrite

Some background info for Guyon Espiner

Time to speak up for Metiria Turei!

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“Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over

 

humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the

 

habits of the poor by the well-housed, well- warmed,  and well-fed.”

 

– Herman Melville, 1819 – 1891

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 6 August 2017.

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Journalist blocks TDB Blogger

8 August 2017 4 comments

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On 2 August, The Daily Blog’s administrator – Martyn Bradbury – published a story on Gerry Brownlee accusing Mediawork’s journalist Patrick Gower of being a “cheerleader for Labour”;

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If that message truly came from National minister Gerry Brownlee, I thought it was a ‘Trumpian’ example of childish stupidity. An intemperate ‘tweet’ from a naive, newly elected, fresh-faced member of Parliament could be excused on the basis of inexperience.

But a senior politician of  Brownlee’s record should know better. He has been in Parliament for two decades.

I sought out Gower’s Twitter account to make precisely that point.

When I access Patrick Gower’s twitter account – @patrickgowernz – this is what I found:

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A close up of the message informing that I had been ‘blocked’ by Mr Gower;

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I was a little surprised.

Three years ago I ran a series of blogposts on Gower’s own intemperate twitter posts and media comments on Laila Harré  and the electoral accommodation between the Mana Movement and the fledgling Internet Party;

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The three stories above were highly critical of  Gower’s attacks on the Mana-Internet alliance. In my view Gower’s on-going vendetta was a naked attempt to influence the 2014 election.

As I wrote in August of that year;

It seems obvious that Gower has a personal thing against Mana and Kim Dotcom.

His most recent utterances on 29 July made that perfectly clear, when he has again stated,

“And David Cunliffe has repeatedly and pointedly refused to rule out working with Internet-Mana to form a Government.”

At every opportunity, Gower has repeatedly demanded Cunliffe rule out working with Mana-Internet.

Why?

When a journalist demands that a political party make a definitive policy statement to rule out a potential coalition partner is not reporting the news – it is a naked attempt to influence it.

It is one thing to ask a party leader who they will/won’t deal with, post-election. That is a perfectly legitimate question to ask.

But to pressure a party leader to rule out a potential coalition partner?

Gower has stepped beyond the bounds of what is acceptable journalism. It is not his job to dictate to any party leader who they should/shouldn’t coalesce with. His job is simply to report their decisions.

The rest is up to us, the people to evaluate that information.

Pull your head in, Paddy.

I was unaware up until 2 August that Gower had – at some point – blocked my access to his Twitter account.

Think about that for a moment. A journalist’s job is to present information to the public. It is their paid role; their raison d’être.

I can understand if Gower declines to allow me to post comments on his page. It’s his Twitter account; he sets the rules (within Twitter’s own Terms and Conditions). I have no argument with that.

But his action to block a person from even reading what he has written strikes me as totally contrary to what a journalist should be. Journalists should never decide who can  and can’t read their material. (Which raises an interesting side-issue on pay-walled journalism.)

Gower’s action poses some interesting questions;

Who else has Gower blocked?

How on Earth can a seasoned journalist feel so threatened by a blogger that probably 99.99% of the population does not read?

What will Gower’s employers do if they expect him to interview me on a breaking story that I may be privy to – and I decline?

Is this professional behaviour from a seasoned journalist?

And how will Gower react if a public figure blocks him from their Twitter or Facebook account?

Gower’s blocking of me suggests that he has taken my criticisms badly. Which is ironic, considering the harsh criticism that Gower has dished out to Hone Harawira, Kim Dotcom, Laila Harré, et al.

Not a good look, Mr Gower.

Heat. Kitchen. Door.

 

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References

Wikipedia: Gerry Brownlee

Twitter: Patrick Gower

TV3: Opinion – Dotcom does Key a Winston favour

Other Bloggers

The Daily Blog: Martyn Bradbury –  Twitter Watch – Witness Gerry Brownlee’s petty & dangerously paranoid attack on Patrick Gower

Previous related blogposts

Patrick Gower – losing his rag and the plot

Waiting for Gower’s Twittering of indignation

How biased is the media? A Patrick Gower case study

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 3 August 2017.

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Some background info for Guyon Espiner

1 August 2017 5 comments

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On Radio NZ’s ‘Morning Report‘ on 26 July, Co-Host Guyon Espiner interviewed Green Party co-leader, Metiria Turei on why she didn’t find a job to support herself at University and pay for the care of her baby. He was critical in her activities in the McGillicudy Serious Party and the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party instead of seeking some sort of part-time employment.

The reason why any job seeking by Ms Turei during the early/mid 1990s would have been futile is common knowledge to those who remember the ‘Mother of All Budgets’ by then Finance Minister, Ruth Richardson;

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Prime Minister Jim Bolger and Finance Minister Ruth Richardson make their way to the House of Representatives for the presentation of the 1991 budget. Richardson was from the radical wing of the National Party, which promoted individual liberty and small government. This was reflected in the budget, which severely cut government spending, including on welfare. Richardson proudly proclaimed her plan as the ‘mother of all budgets’, but such was its unpopularity among voters that it – along with high levels of unemployment – nearly cost National the next election.

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Unemployment at that time reached levels not seen since the Great Depression of the 1920s/30s;

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Unemployment Rate

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Unemployed Number of People

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Nearly 200,000 people were out of work at the time.

There simply was no  work for thousands of New Zealanders who had lost their jobs.

In April this year, a well known journalist wrote this analysis of Jim Bolger and the extreme neo-liberal “reforms” of the early 1990s;

Bolger says neoliberal economic policies have absolutely failed. It’s not uncommon to hear that now; even the IMF says so. But to hear it from a former National prime minister who pursued privatisation, labour market deregulation, welfare cuts and tax reductions – well, that’s pretty interesting.

“They have failed to produce economic growth and what growth there has been has gone to the few at the top,” Bolger says, not of his own policies specifically but of neoliberalism the world over. He laments the levels of inequality and concludes “that model needs to change”.

But hang on. Didn’t he, along with finance minister Ruth Richardson, embark on that model, or at least enthusiastically pick up from where Roger Douglas and the fourth Labour government left off?

Bolger doesn’t have a problem calling those policies neoliberal although he prefers to call them “pragmatic” decisions to respond to the circumstances. It sets us up for the ride we go on with Bolger through the 1990s, a time of radical social and economic change.

Judge for yourself whether or not they were the right policies but do it armed with the context. Bolger describes his 17-hour honeymoon after becoming PM in 1990. He recalls ashen faced officials telling him before he was even sworn in that the BNZ was going bust and if that happened nearly “half of New Zealand’s companies would have collapsed”.

The fiscal crisis sparked the Mother of All Budgets and deep cuts to the welfare state. Some believe this was the start of the entrenched poverty we agonise about to this day.

That author was Guyon Espiner, co-host of Radio NZ’s ‘Morning Report’.

Either Espiner has forgotten the lessons of history, grimly recounted to him by former Prime Minister Jim Bolger – or he wilfully chose to ignore the dire circumstances that Metiria Turei, and thousands of other New Zealanders, found themselves in at the time.

Neither is an edifying prospect for a supposedly professional journalist with a wealth of knowledge to tap into. He should have known that he was demanding the near-impossible from Ms Turei.

The interview was one of a series throughout mainstream media where the scent of blood has been picked up by the journalist-pack, and they are in full flight of their quarry.

The circumstances of why she was forced to lie to WINZ is almost incidental.

The fact that she did lie to WINZ is of secondary importance to the Right; the mainstream media; and to the Establishment.

The real reason she is being pursued and vilified is because she dared to speak out. While the Establishment will tolerate benefit fraud – and occassionally make sport of anyone discovered doing it – they will not tolerate anyone from the lower classes stepping forward to tell their story.

Ms Turei’s grievous crime is not the money she took. It is her subversion.

That is the real threat to the Establishment.

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#iammetiria

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References

Radio NZ:  Greens say household income report is damning

Te Ara – The Encyclopaedia of New Zealand:  The ‘mother of all budgets’

Trading Economics: Unemployment Rate

Trading Economics: Unemployed Number of People

The Spinoff:  Neoliberalism has ‘failed’ and the ‘model needs to change’

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 27 July 2017.

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