Posts Tagged ‘Fairfax’

Syria: the mendacities of the mainstream media (part tahi)



“The first casualty when war comes is truth…” Hiram Johnson, 1866 – 1945


Recent Timeline*

4 April: Trump announces he wants all remaining US forces out of Syria “very quickly”. Trump says; “Saudi Arabia is very interested in our decision. And I said, Well, you know, you want us to stay? Maybe you’re going to have to pay”.

8 April: First reports emerge of chemical gas attack in Douma, the last rebel-held town in Syria’s Eastern Ghouta province. Reports are unverified.

8 April: Russian government calls reports of alleged gas attack in Douma “fake news” and describes the story as a “false flag” operation. Russia’s Foreign Ministry states; “The goal of this… baseless speculation is to shield the terrorists and… the radical opposition that refuse to engage in a political settlement [process], as well as to justify potential military strikes from the outside”.

9 April: Trump promises major decision in next twentyfour hours  on alleged gas attack.

10 April: Syria  and  Russia invite Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to investigate allegations of chemical attack in Douma.

10 April:  Chairman of the State Duma’s Defense Committee,  Colonel General Vladimir Shamanov warned the West; “ The double standard policy has overstepped all possible boundaries. At this point, the [pro-Putin parliamentary majority] United Russia party must responsibly state that we are going to take all political and diplomatic measures, and also military measures if such need arises. Not a single unlawful action will be left without response.”

11 April: Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman says it will support any military strike on Syria in retaliation for the alleged gas attack in Douma; “If our alliance with our partners requires it, we will be present”.

11 April: Russia’s ambassador to Lebanon, Alexander Zasypkin, repeats Colonel General Shamanov’s warning to the US: “If there is a US missile attack, we – in line with both Putin and Russia’s chief of staff’s remarks – will shoot down US rockets and even the sources that launched the missiles.

12 April: French President Emmanuel Macron declared that France has evidence that Syria carried out the gas attack in Douma; “We have proof that last week, now 10 days ago, that chemical weapons were used, at least with chlorine, and that they were used by the regime of (President) Bashar al-Assad. Our teams have been working on this all week and we will need to take decisions in due course, when we judge it most useful and effective.”

Two days later, hours after the US-led attack on Syria, France releases statement on evidence of alleged gas attack: “After examining the videos and images of victims published online, (French intelligence services) were able to conclude with a high degree of confidence that the vast majority are recent and not fabricated.

12 April: OPCW (Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons) fact-finding team lands in Syria to investigate alleged gas attack in Douma. Syria’s ambassador to the United Nations, Bashar Jaafari, said; “We will facilitate the arrival of the team to anywhere they want, in Douma, to check whether or not there was use of chemical substances”.

14 April: Trump announces US-led attack on Syria, launching 105 missiles at targets in that country. Trump  states: “So today, the nations of Britain, France, and the United States of America have marshaled their righteous power against barbarism and brutality”.

14 April: President Putin of Russia states categorically: “Just as one year ago, when the Shayrat Airbase in Syria came under attack, the US used as a pretext a staged chemical attack against civilians, this time in Douma, a Damascus suburb. Having visited the site of the would-be chemical attack, Russian military experts did not find any traces of chlorine or any other toxic agent. Not a single local resident was able to confirm that a chemical attack had actually taken place.”

15 April: Trump declares: “Mission accomplished!”

15 April: Russia loses vote in UN Security Country to condemn US-led military strike. Russian UN ambassador, Vassily Nebenzia said: “Today is a very sad day for the world, the UN, its charter, which was blatantly, blatantly violated.”

15 April: US Ambassador to UN, Nikki Haley, tells Fox News Sunday that US troops will remain in Syria: “Yes, it is all of our goal to see American troops come home. But we’re not going to leave until we know we’ve accomplished those things. ”


* International time-zones not taken into account: above dates are approximate.


Saturday: a proven crime of aggression

On 14 April, the  United States launched 105 ‘Tomahawk‘ cruise missiles against Syria. The United Kingdom sent four RAF  ‘Tornado‘ jetfighters to attack and destroy targets at a former missile base near Homs. France also participated.

Despite assurances from Western governments that Bashar al-Assad’s forces were responsible for the alleged gas attack, no actual evidence has been presented regarding;

(a) who carried out the alleged attack

(b) if the so-called ‘attack’ happened at all.

Secretary of Defense, Jim Mattis, was not even certain what gas weapons were used. At a Press Briefing after the attack, he disclosed;

We are very much aware of one of the agents. There may have been more than one agent used. We are not clear on that yet. We know at least one chemical agent was used.

An OPCW (Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons) fact-finding team had barely reached Syria to determine what took place at Douma (if anything), when the US-led attack took place shortly afterwards. The OPCW team could not have found evidence or reached conclusions in the brief period of time (see timeline above) available to carry out their UN-mandated duties.

Local media reporting…

The response of our local media to report Saturday’s missile strike has been largely superficial and followed the Western narrative;

(a) the gas attack happened

(b) Syrian government forces were responsible

…From Radio NZ

Radio NZ has attempted to maintain a measure of cautious agnosticism, referring to “a suspected chemical attack“; “alleged chemical weapons sites“; and, “suspected poison gas attack“.

In most instances, the terms “suspected” and “alleged” are used. In one of it’s first stories, Radio NZ explicitly stated;

There has been no independent verification of the reports.

That caveat was not repeated on most (if any)  updates from Radio NZ.

On occasion, though, Radio NZ has reported US and other sources without questioning veracity or indicating that statements presented as facts may or may not be accurate;

At a Pentagon briefing shortly after Mr Trump’s announcement, Gen Joseph Dunford listed three targets that had been struck:

  • A scientific research facility in Damascus, allegedly connected to the production of chemical and biological weapons
  • A chemical weapons storage facility west of Homs
  • A chemical weapons equipment storage and an important command post, also near Homs


UK strikes carried out by four Tornado jets hit one of the targets mentioned by the Pentagon – a military site near the city of Homs which is believed to have housed precursor materials for chemical weapons, according to the UK ministry of defence.

The term “allegedly” is noticeably missing in these paragraphs from a 13 April story;

The attack on the city on Saturday is said by activists and medics to have killed dozens of people when government aircraft dropped bombs filled with toxic chemicals.

The international Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) is due to send monitors to Douma, but it is [unclear] how much evidence of any chemical attack might remain.

And from this 12 April story;

May, also speaking earlier on Wednesday, said all the indications were that the Syrian authorities were responsible for the chemical attack in the town of Douma and that such shocking assaults could not go unchallenged.

Radio NZ had reported that a OPCW fact-finding team had landed in Damascus on Saturday, the day of the U.S.-led attack, and in subsequent stories;

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) says a fact-finding mission has been “gathering information from all available sources and analysing it”.

Inspectors from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) are currently in Damascus and are expected to visit Douma this weekend.

No reference to the fact that Syria and Russia had both invited the OPCW to send a fact-finding team.

…From Newstalk ZB

Commercial radio station , NewstalkZB,  was the complete polar opposite to Radio NZ.  They made no pretense to journalistic impartiality, and the term “alleged” was notably missing from their stories;

14 April:

President Donald Trump says the United States has “launched precision strikes” on targets associated with Syrian chemical weapons program.

This coordinated strike marked the second time in a year that Trump has used force against Assad, who U.S. officials believe has continued to test the West’s willingness to accept gruesome chemical attacks.

…since the reported chemical attack that killed civilians in the rebel-held town outside Damascus last weekend.

…an attack could pull the United States into Syria’s civil war and trigger a dangerous conflict with Assad ally Russia – without necessarily halting chemical attacks.

In the wake of last weekend’s gruesome attack, some U.S. officials advocated a larger, and therefore riskier, strike than the limited action Trump had ordered in April 2017, also in response to suspected chemical weapons use.

But the airfield targeted by the Pentagon resumed operations shortly after the attack and, according to Western intelligence assessments, chemical attacks resumed.

And  just in case anyone doubted who NewstalkZB held responsible for the alleged gas attack in Douma;

Planning for these strikes focused on ways to curb Assad’s ability to use such weapons again.

Since last year’s strike, multiple chemical attacks have been reported in opposition areas, most of them involving chlorine rather than the nerve agent sarin, as was used in 2017, suggesting the government may have adjusted its tactics.

An attribution at the bottom revealed; “Additional reporting by AP and The Washington Post“. Not surprising then that NewstalkZB’s story looked more like a rehash of a Pentagon press release than any notion of impartial reporting;



A subsequent story on 16 April stated;

It’s unknown whether missile strikes in Syria will prevent or evoke the use of chemical weapons in future.

The only thing missing from NewstalkZB stories on Syria is a disclosure, “Approved by The White House Politburo”.

…From Fairfax

Fairfax media fared not much better than NewstalkZB, making only cursory attempts to qualify reports. As far as can be determined by this blogger, the phrase ‘unverified’ was used only once on the day the reports were first published in various Fairfax publications.

On 9 April, in a story headlined “Dozens killed in apparent chemical weapons attack on civilians in Syria, rescue workers say“, the term ‘apparent’ was as close as Fairfax dared in lieu of ‘alleged’;

Dozens of men, women and children have been killed in an apparent chemical attack on a besieged Syrian enclave near Damascus, doctors and rescue workers say.

Even when the term ‘alleged’ should have been used, it was omitted – giving reportage an air of conclusive factuality when it was not deserved;

Gregory D Koblentz, the director of George Mason University’s Biodefense Program, said the [alleged*] attack appeared to reflect how much the clout of US policy has faded in Syria.


US President Donald Trump responded to the [alleged*]   attack Sunday morning on Twitter.


The [alleged*]   attack came as Syrian government forces stepped up an eight-week long offensive against Douma, outside Damascus, the last stronghold controlled by hardline rebels from the Jaish al-Islam group.


Multiple reports, including from rescue workers and the US State Department, said an initial [alleged*]   attack had targeted a hospital. It was unclear, however, what type of [alleged*] chemicals may have been used.


Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert described the [alleged*] reports from Eastern Douma as “disturbing and “horrifying,” saying they required an “immediate response by the international community.”


Syrian doctors and rescue workers on Sunday shared with journalists [alleged*] graphic images of men, women and children they said had been [allegedly*] killed or wounded in the [alleged*] attack.

[* Author’s insert: ‘alleged’]

A statement  from UN Secretary General, António Guterres, was the only instance where the reader was reminded that reports of a so-called “gas attack” were unconfirmed and nothing more than unproven allegations;

A representative for the United Nations said that Secretary General António Guterres was “particularly alarmed by allegations that chemical weapons have been used against civilian populations in Douma” but that the United Nations was “not in a position to verify these reports.”

At no point does the 9 April Fairfax story mention that an OPCW fact-finding team had landed in Damascus after the alleged gas attack and had not yet had an opportunity to verify events. Once again, the U.S. had circumvented an ongoing investigation to judge and apportion guilt without any corroborating, independent evidence.

Another  Fairfax story on 9 April attempted to put a caveat on the alleged gas attack with the term “suspected” – but that does not convey the same meaning as ‘alleged’;

The reported strike comes after a suspected poison gas attack killed at least 40 in the eastern suburbs of Damascus, the last foothold for the Syrian opposition in the area.

US President Donald Trump has promised a “big price to pay” for the suspected chemical attack.

Curiously, the end of the story makes a brief reference to another state ‘actor’ in the Syrian civil war, citing;

Israel has also struck inside Syria in recent years.

Again, no mention  that the alleged incident was unproven and that the OPCW  had yet to determine the facts.

Also on 9 April, an emotive piece penned by Josie Ensor presented a seemingly chilling “eye witness account” of victims of the alleged attack. The story presented the so-called “attack” as factual, with supposed “eye witness” statements and descriptions of “victims”.

The sympathies of the author is evident when she writes;

Both Syria and its Russian backer denounced the allegations as “fabrications”, while Iran, another of Bashar al-Assad’s patrons, called it a “conspiracy”.

There is no questioning of the incident’s veracity – until near the end of the article;

Saturday’s alleged attack pushed the holdout rebels back to the negotiating table. Hours later, they agreed to a Russian evacuation deal, signalling the end of the rebellion in one of the opposition’s most important territories.

Despite belatedly describing the so-called ‘attack’  as “alleged”, the author then reverted to indicating that it was a factual, proven event;

Reports sparked international outrage. But as Syrians have learned over the years, those responsible are unlikely to ever be held to account.

How can anyone be “responsible” if the so-called “attack” was “alleged” and not yet proven? If the “attack” is shown to be false, then no one could be held “responsible” for an incident that never happened. QED?!

The following day, another Fairfax article abandoned any pretext of an ‘alleged’ gas attack;

The prime minister has expressed “the strongest condemnation” of the chemical attack in eastern Ghouta, Syria, while the foreign minister has labelled it a war crime.

Dozens of men, women and children have been killed in the chemical attack on a besieged Syrian enclave near Damascus.

The deadly attack came as Syrian Government forces escalated their offensive to recapture the last rebel strongholds near the capital.

At least 40 people were killed on Saturday evening (local time) in the attack in Douma, eastern Ghouta, about 20 kilometres from Damascus, according to the Syrian-American Medical Society (SAMS), a Washington-based nonprofit group that supports health facilities in the area.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Foreign Minister Winston Peters condemned the attack, and said those behind it needed to be held to account.


News of the attack comes after the Labour-led Government promised to double New Zealand’s refugee quota from 750 to 1500 each year.

Only Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters, to his credit, held out by keeping an open mind;

“When we know who to point the finger at, we’ll point the finger then… It’s abhorrent, and it’s against international laws and standards.”

Only on 14 April – six days after reports emerged of the alleged attack –  Fairfax deigned to refer to the supposed incident as ‘alleged’;



The story even referred to an impending investigation by the OPCW and carried substantial statements from the Russians.

Was this a realisation by Fairfax management that the alleged incident in Douma had yet to be verified? That coverage by New Zealand’s mainstream media had been less than “fair and balanced”?

Unfortunately, no. The above story emanated from PBS News Hour and was carried via Associated Press, which Fairfax picked up. It did not originate from the hands of any New Zealand journalist. (Much to our shame.)

A day later, after the U.S. had launched 105 cruise missiles at various locations in Syria, Trump announced with glee; “Mission Accomplished”.  Fairfax reported the post-strike event, abandoning all notions of keeping an open mind on the alleged gas attack;

Allied missiles struck at the heart of Syrian chemical weapons arsenal in a show of force and resolve aimed at punishing the Assad government for a suspected poison gas attack against civilians and deterring the possible future use of such banned weapons.

Notice that the opening paragraph referred to “Syrian chemical weapons arsenal” – not “Syria’s [alleged] chemical weapons arsenal“. There is zero evidence that Syria possessed any chemical weapons after they were removed under international supervision in 2014;



If such banned weapons still remained in Syria, Western powers were mysteriously silent on the issue.

The “Mission accomplished” story goes on to point out – albeit briefly,  almost as an afterthought – that the OPCW had sent a team to Syria;

A global chemical warfare watchdog group said its fact-finding mission would go as planned in Douma, where the apparent use of poison gas against civilians on April 7 that killed more than 40 people compelled the Western allies to launch their attack. Syria has denied the accusation.

None of the  story’s three writers could bring themselves to use the word ‘alleged’, substituting instead  the more bland “apparent use of poison gas”.

The next paragraph again abandons any notion of journalistic skepticism;

But France’s foreign minister said there was “no doubt” the Assad government was responsible, and he threatened further retaliatory strikes if chemical weapons were used again, as did Pentagon chief Jim Mattis, who said the assault was a “one-time shot,” as long as chemical weapons weren’t used again.

As far as Fairfax’s journalists were concerned, there was no doubt that the attack had occurred; gas was used against civilians; and Assad’s forces were the guilty party. No doubt at all; no question that Western governments were 100% truthful.

The OPCW had yet to find any evidence, but that seemed not to matter for most Western journalists.

What other areas of state-government activities draws such unquestioning fealty from our much-vaunted “free press”?

For example, when the story reported that;

Dunford said missiles first struck a scientific research centre in the Damascus area that he said was a centre of Syrian research, development, production and testing of chemical and biological warfare technology. The second target was a chemical weapons storage facility west of Homs. He said this was believed to be the main site of Syrian sarin and precursor chemical production equipment.

The third target was a chemical weapons equipment storage facility and an important command post, also west of Homs, Dunford said.

– did no one in the Fourth Estate bother to ask the most basic question: why were those “facilities” destroyed when they potentially held vital evidence that the OPCW team could have uncovered?

By 16 April, the murky smog of  chemical weapon hysteria began to part just a little so that questioning voices could be heard. Perhaps someone at Fairfax realised that Western allegations of a so-called “gas attack” were just that: unproven allegations.

A story entitled “Syrian government deploys forces in Douma after alleged chemical attack” used the term ‘alleged’ three times, once in the title;

Syrian state TV says another 5,000 security forces are deploying in a town near the capital that was brought under full government control a week after an alleged chemical attack.


In Assad’s view, the airstrikes that were launched in response to an alleged chemical weapons attack by Syrian forces on the town of Douma will unify the country.

Following paragraphs returned to the less neutral term ‘suspected’;

The town was also the scene of a suspected poison gas attack on April 7 that prompted the US, Britain and France to launch missiles on Syrian military targets early Saturday.


The pope spoke after airstrikes by the United States, France and Britain aimed at taking out Syria’s chemical weapons capacity, following a suspected poison gas attack on a Damascus suburb that killed dozens, including children.

The OPCW fact-finding mission to Syria was again only briefly alluded to;

An international fact-finding mission from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons is in Syria and expected to visit Douma.

Better than previous reporting, without doubt. But not by much.

[To be concluded in Syria: the mendacities of the mainstream media (part rua).]





Thanks to ‘Francesca‘ for the OPCW link,  Progress in the elimination of the Syrian chemical weapons programme.


Wikiquotes: Hiram Johnson

Politico:  Trump – ‘I want to get out’ of Syria

BBC:  Syria war – At least 70 killed in suspected chemical attack in Douma

RT News:  Moscow calls ‘chemical attack’ in Douma ‘fake news,’ warns against Syrian intervention

BBC:  Trump promises ‘major decision’ on Syria chemical attack

Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons:  OPCW Will Deploy Fact-Finding Mission to Douma, Syria

RT News:  Duma defense chief says Russia may respond with military force to US strike on Syria

Reuters:  Saudi could take part in military response in Syria – Crown Prince

Al Jazeera:  Russia threatens to shoot down any US missiles fired at Syria

Reuters:  France has proof Syrian government conducted chemical weapons attack – Macron

USA Today: French report lays out the evidence – Assad forces conducted chemical attack on civilians

RT News:  ‘They can go anywhere they want in Douma’: OPCW team arrives in Syria to investigate alleged attack

Military Times:  President Trump’s statement on the U.S. military action in Syria  Statement by President of Russia Vladimir Putin

Bloomberg:  Trump Says ‘Mission Accomplished’ With Syria Strike Unanswered

The Guardian:  Russia loses vote condemning strikes

Fox News:  Amb. Nikki Haley on Trump administration’s Syria strategy

The Guardian: ‘No alternative’ – Theresa May sends British jets to join airstrikes on Syria

US Department of Defense:  Briefing by Secretary Mattis on U.S. Strikes in Syria

Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons:   Progress in the elimination of the Syrian chemiucal weapons programme

Radio NZ:  Syria – Toxic gas attack kills at least 70 in Douma

Radio NZ:  US and allies launch strikes on Syria chemical weapons sites

Radio NZ:  US ‘has no moral right to blame other countries’ – Russia

Radio NZ:  Macron has ‘proof’, to decide on Syria air strikes

Radio NZ:  UK’s May summons ministers for Syria meeting

Radio NZ:  The path to the attack on Syria

Radio NZ:  Syria warned US still ‘locked and loaded’

Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons:  OPCW Will Deploy Fact-Finding Mission to Douma, Syria

NewstalkZB: Russia vows to retaliate after missiles target Syria

NewstalkZB:  Effects of Syria strikes unknown

Fairfax: Dozens killed in apparent chemical weapons attack on civilians in Syria, rescue workers say

Fairfax: Syrian news agency reports missile attack

Fairfax:  Nowhere to hide from Syria ‘gas attack’

Fairfax:  NZ expresses ‘strongest condemnation’ of chemical attack on Syrians

Fairfax:  Russia claims alleged chemical attack in Syria staged by UK

PBS News Hour:  Russia says suspected chemical attack in Syria was staged by UK

Fairfax:  ‘Mission Accomplished’ in Syria, Trump declares on Twitter

BBC:  Last of Syria’s chemical weapons shipped out

NPR:  Syria Gives Up Chemical Weapons … But A War Rages On

Reuters:  Syria hands over remaining chemical weapons for destruction

Fairfax: Syrian government deploys forces in Douma after alleged chemical attack


The Independent:  The search for truth in the rubble of Douma – and one doctor’s doubts over the chemical attack

Reuters:  French declassified intelligence report on Syria gas attacks

Previous related blogposts

The Sweet’n’Sour Deliciousness of Irony: Russia accused of meddling in US Election

Trump escalates, Putin congratulates

Trumpwatch: The Drum(pf)s of War

Trumpwatch: One minute closer to midnight on the Doomsday Clock

One minute to midnight?

It is ten seconds to midnight





This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 23 April 2018.



= fs =

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

17 January 2013 13 comments


could anything be more exciting than television


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Radio Network apologises for 'dyke' slur against Alison Mau

Full story



But hardly surprising.

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

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

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

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

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

And National is gunning for it,


Radio NZ on the hunt for next chief executive

Full story


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

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

The stage is set…

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


We need public service TV

See: TVNZ7 supporters rally at Parliament


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

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

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


Call for McElrea to resign from NZ On Air

Full story


… to fund brain-deadening crap like this,


The GC

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


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

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

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

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

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

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




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

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

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

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

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

See: Response to the Resignation of RNZ CEO Peter Cavanagh

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See: Radio New Zealand ‘forced to register as charity

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

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

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

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

This blogger encourages the reader to;


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


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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As Dave Armstrong wrote in August 2011,

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

See: Govt consigns RNZ to an undeserved chilly place

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

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

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

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

Spread the word, people.


FB save radio nz page




Previous related blogposts

The Ridges are on tonight!!!

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

Public Broadcasting – down, but not out

From July 1 onwards

TVNZ7 – value for money!

TVNZ7 – Picking at the body before it’s cold

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

The radio station, the newspaper columnist, and Dear Leader

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

References  PM has questions to answer over NZ on Air link

Fairfax: Call for McElrea to resign from NZ On Air

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

NZ Herald: TVNZ reveals Seven Sharp presenting team

NZ Herald: Radio NZ on the hunt for next chief executive Response to the Resignation of RNZ CEO Peter Cavanagh

Other blogs

Tom Frewen: GC In Breach Of Funding Agreement?

Pundit:  TVNZ kills ad-free channels to grow profits

Tumeke: Seven Sharp already looks blunt

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

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

Tumeke: The future of RNZ

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



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Guest Author: Reactionary distractions hide NZ’s 9.1% unemployment

– Neil Watts,  Blogger, Fearfactsexposed

28 August 2012


Shocking new unemployment figures hidden by hard-Right red herrings.

Damning new unemployment statistics released by Roy Morgan Research yesterday reveal that the true rate of unemployment in New Zealand is much greater than the official 6.9% claimed by the Government.

According to Roy Morgan’s figures, unemployment is sitting at 9.1%, with a further 9.6% under-employed and looking for work.  That’s almost 20% of New Zealanders not achieving their productive potential and not contributing to the economy.  These figures are an economic disaster, and point to the single worst management of the economy in New Zealand’s history.  Little wonder the Government were busy rolling out Paula Bennett’s latest poor-hate policy this week, to give their friends in the mainstream media something else to talk about.

And, of course, John Key’s favourite Rightwing propagandists at Fairfax Media were more than happy to ignore the shocking new figures and concentrate instead on National’s latest initiative to demonise the poor;  forcing beneficieries to take complulsary drug tests.

Here we go yet again.  It’s as predictable as the sunrise – as soon as National are likely to be tarnished by bad news, they simply get Herr Paula to pull out another piece of dog-whistle poor-hate to remind the rest of the proletariat that all of our problems are caused by the dirty, filthy, lazy, unemployed, and not by the failed free market dogma that crashed the world’s economy, and is now being touted as the only way to fix it.

There isn’t a single word on Stuff about the Roy Morgan report, which is interesting, considering that when their polls show National doing well with voters, Fairfax struggle to find a font big enough.  Instead, they do National the usual courtesy of focussing on the distraction, with the bold headline “Beneficiery drug testing plans unveiled”.  They are effectively making scapegoats of the most vulnerable to justify the unthinkable. Now, in what kind of historical regimes have we seen this strategy before?  It’s a dangerous and morally bankrupt Government that attempts to blame soaring unemployment on the unemployed themselves.

While unemployment is an increasingly worrying issue for struggling New Zealanders, Fairfax revealed their abject contempt for our concerns, by making a facetious joke out of the Opposition’s attempts to save jobs at Dunedin’s Hillside manufacturing plant.  Labour Leader David Shearer’s visit to the plant yesterday and his calls to save New Zealand’s manufacturing industry might be serious to ordinary Kiwis, but Fairfax didn’t even bother reporting his comments, instead publishing the following maliscious, poor taste comments:


Office sceptics are wondering . . . would productivity rise at Dunedin’s Hillside engineering workshops and would they get more contracts if Labour MPs would just leave them alone to do their jobs? Labour leader David Shearer was the latest to visit yesterday, and our reporters can recall two visits by former leader Phil Goff and one by David Cunliffe in the past year.

Mr Shearer said the workshops were “a national asset” and their future had to be secured to protect skilled jobs and flow-on economic benefits to other businesses.”

Clearly, New Zealanders losing their jobs is something of a big joke to Fairfax.  It certainly isn’t a big deal to their mega-wealthy shareholders, like climate change denying serial polluter Gina Rinehart, who owns most of the corporation’s shares.  Perhaps that’s why big news today of a record Arctic ice melt, resembling a giant slushie, hasn’t been reported by Ms Rinehart’s own personal propaganda company.   According to the story published on the more reliable New Zealand Herald’s website:

“Michael E. Mann, a lead author of a major UN report in 2001 on climate change, said the latest data reflected that scientists who were criticised as alarmists may have shown “perhaps too great a degree of reticence.”

“I think, unfortunately, this is an example that points more to the worst-case scenario side of things,” said Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Penn State University.   “There are a number of areas where in fact climate change seems to be proceeding faster and with a greater magnitude than what the models predicted,” Mann told AFP.  “The sea ice decline is perhaps the most profound of those cautionary tales because the models have basically predicted that we shouldn’t see what we’re seeing now for several decades,” he added.”

Outrageous isn’t it?  But, what can you do about it?  Well, you can share this page, you can join our ever-growing protest on Facebook , you can boycott Fairfax’s publications, and you can avoid  Oh, and please tell your friends!   Kia ora New Zealand.





Roy Morgan: New Zealand unemployment was 9.1% with a further 9.6% of workforce under-employed  New Zealand Real Unemployment at 9.1%

Tumeke: NZ real unemployment rate 9.1%?

NZ Herald: Record Arctic ice melt ‘like a giant slushie’

Fairfax Media: Today in politics: Tuesday, August 28

Fairfax Media: Beneficiary drug testing plans unveiled

Radio NZ: Hillside shouldn’t be broken up – Labour

ODT: ‘Crying shame’ if Hillside closed





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Guest Author: Bennett’s child poverty shocker ignored by Stuff

– Neil Watts,  Blogger, Fearfactsexposed

July 16, 2012


Fairfax avoid today’s leading political news, again.

Fairfax Media have yet again applied their eerie “1984″ technique of ignoring big news when it is likely to cost the National Party votes.

Yesterday’s outbursts in Parliament from “Social Development” Minister Paula Bennett, in which she made flippant remarks about child poverty, was leading the political news at other, more moderate media today, but there wasn’t a word about it from Gina Rinehart’s Fairfaxian double-thinkers at

The New Zealand Herald ran the story under the headline, “Bennett slammed over child poverty claim”, while Radio New Zealand used Speaker Lockwood Smith’s assessment that “Bennett’s behaviour was worse than a three-year-old”.  Such newsworthy fair would delight any real news editor, and is indeed the sort of hard-edged information that has traditionally sold newspapers.  But, over at Fairfax – where news values takes a back seat to partisan loyalty to the National Party – readers were denied anything at all on Bennett’s latest lapse of judgement.

In fact, avoiding the worst of Paula Bennett’s ourageous, reactionary bile over the years, has effectively made this Minister a one-woman credibility disaster for Fairfax Media, who appear to simply groan and then bury their Rightwing heads in the sand every time a National Party member makes an embarassing gaff.

I won’t pretend otherwise; Paula Bennett truly disgusts me.   That’s the only way I can describe the feeling that fills my stomach every time I’m reminded of her existence.  Aside from being a despicable bully and a nasty little fascist, her role in cultivating policies that contribute to child poverty is abhorrent. Denying child poverty is even worse.  She makes ‘Ministry of Social Development’ sound nothing short of Orwellian, and embodies all that is vulgar and immoral about the current Government.   To see a major news corporation avoid the worst of her faux pas is simpy offensive to fair-minded and thinking New Zealanders.

Fairfax’s coverage of Bennett’s bullying of beneficiaries three years ago was woefully inadequate at the time, and they seem to be deflecting any criticism this time around by distracting readers with one of those dodgy, un-scrutinized on-line polls about whether beneficieries should be drug testesd; cue their army of brainwashed, redneck readers, dog-whistled into beneficiery bashing action.

Come on New Zealand!  We need NEWS from our news media, not daily doses of Rightwing propaganda.  Please help make a difference by sharing this blog, boycotting Fairfax’s publications, avoiding, joining us on facebook (Fearfacts) and telling your friends to do the same.  Kia ora.


NZ Herald:  Bennett slammed over child poverty claim

Radio NZ:  Bennett’s behaviour worse than 3 year old speaker

Tumeke:  Paula Bennett sees no child poverty

Tumeke: Paula Bennett misleads country on drug







Reprinted with kind permission from Fearfactsexposed



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Investing in someone elses’ future

5 August 2012 54 comments





Firstly, let’s cut to the chase and address John Key’s assumption that he has a ‘mandate’ from the country to pursue many of his Party’s unpopular policies, including state asset sales.

No, he does not.

As Bryce Edwards said on Radio NZ last year,


Full Story


As reported in the NZ Herald,

Moreover, only an estimated 93.2 per cent of the 3,276,000 people who were eligible to vote were enrolled, so the 2,254,581 people who did cast their votes (including special votes) leaves just over 1 million who stayed at home. “

See: 1 million didn’t bother to vote

So doing a bit of simple arithmetic,

  1. 2,254,581 people voted
  2. 1,058,636 voted National
  3. The population of New Zealand is approximated 4,430,000
  4. 1,058,636 is about 24.5% of the entire population.
  5. John Key’s “mandate” is roughly one quarter of  the country’s population.

The Nats can dress that  up any which way they like, but that’s not a mandate. That is  a minority in drag, masquerading as a “majority”.

But still a minority.


National Conference


Let’s cut to the next ‘chase’.

The recent National Party Conference in Skycity had nothing to do with conferencing or  the Party’s internal workings. It was purely and simply a public relations exercise  to raise “troop” morale and present National in a positive light to the public.

It was about appearing decisive and on-message. It was about strong leadership and confidence, reminiscent of Rob Muldoon, and Dear Leader played his part perfectly as he gave the rallying cry to his fellow MPs and Ministers.

Key thundered,

Our policy of partial share sales is a win-win and I stand totally behind it.”

See: Labour, Greens hit out at asset share plans

After months of various scandals, resignations, disastrous flip-flops, and gaffes, the Party pulled out it’s “ace-in-the-hole” – John Key. “The Boss” laid down the law, and as Tracey Watkins from Fairfax said,

No more tip-toeing around. That is the clear message from National’s annual conference, where the Government’s economic programme has been invested with a new sense of urgency.”

See: Damp protest shows heat gone from asset sales fire

Ms Watkins tends to present political issues  from a position favourable to National  and her piece on 23 July was no exception. But she also had a valid point – National was fighting back. They were on a counter-offensive on several fronts.

But as the dust settled, and the “whizz-bang-gosh!” factor faded, the public’s  momentary distraction returned to the issues and problems currently confronting us as a nation.

As much as Dear Leader might wish it, those issues and problems will not go away.


State Asset Sales


National is desperate to sell this lemon to the public as a going concern. Indeed, the issue was presented as one of several issues on a leaflet/questionnaire that the Parliamentary wing of the Party mailed out,



The Nats are sensitive to recent public protests and an ‘insider’ advises this blogger that Ministers are tracking correspondence; internal polling; and letters-to-editors on the subject.

In an effort to “sweeten” the deal and to assuage public opposition, National is offering,

  • preference to “mum and dad” investors
  • a three year loyalty share-bonus scheme
  • a minimum of $1,000 dollar share parcels
  • a guarantee of shares to New Zealand investors wanting parcels of up to $2,000
  • Treasury setting up a retail syndicate of share brokers and banks to help first time share investors potential investors.

See: Kiwis encouraged to take up SOE shares

National’s “carrot” is matched by it’s “stick”.  As Bill English threatened in June last year,

We are saying that New Zealanders are at the front of the queue, but if not enough of them show up, it won’t be 49 per cent. I wouldn’t want to exactly guarantee every share but we have got to look at how to make that happen.”

See: ‘Buy state-asset shares or foreigners will’

So the message is crystal-clear; ‘If  we don’t buy these assets (which we already  own),  John Key and Bill English will sell our companies to overseas interests’. It’s like watching a rather bad, cheaply-made, B-grade gangster movie from the 1940s.

But the ‘rort’ doesn’t end there.  Treasury estimates that any loyalty scheme will end up costing taxpayers up to half a billion dollars. That’s because giving away free shares as a “loyalty bonus” still incurs a cost – nothing is for free,

A “loyalty” scheme to sweeten state assets sales for investors could cost the taxpayer $500 million – more than $100 for every man, woman and child in New Zealand – according to Treasury numbers.


In a report to the Cabinet last year, the Treasury said incentives to encourage local investors to buy shares “typically range from 5 to 10 per cent of total value ($250 million to $500 million based on a $5 billion programme)”.

The Government says it expects to raise $5 billion to $7 billion via the sales programme.

Based on the Treasury’s $500 million upper estimate of the cost of a loyalty scheme, the forgone revenue works out to just under $113 for every man, woman and child here.

See: $112 a head for asset loyalty

Labour Leader, David Shearer summed it up thusly,

Effectively, the taxpayer will be paying for a loyalty scheme that a small number of New Zealanders who can afford to buy shares will be able to enjoy. It’s clear there’s some real winners here, and the losers are most New Zealanders. “

Based on the Queensland experience where Queensland Rail was privatised in 2010;  where  a share-bonus loyalty scheme of 1:15 shares was used; the cost to Queensland taxpayers would be $360 million, according to our  Parliamentary Finance & Expenditure committee. To which Key was reported as saying, that the figure was,

“… a possible number. I haven’t seen their workings so I wouldn’t want to agree with that at this point.”

Key’s comments were reported on the NZ Herald website at 5:30am, Tuesday 24 July, 2012.

By mid-day, on the 24th, he had changed his views from ” a possible number  “, to,

These numbers that the Labour Party are coming up with and the Greens are farcical.”

See: PM: Asset loyalty won’t cost hundreds of millions

First point: that report on the Herald’s website was posted at 12:18pm on the same day;  Tuesday 24 July, 2012.  Not quite seven hours had passed before National’s spin-doctors had noticed Key’s blunder, and Dear Leader changed his stance.

Second point: the figures were not from the Labour Party, nor The Greens. They were Treasury’s figures.

Was this a deliberate attempt to undermine the credibility of those figures by shifting it’s provenance from Treasury to opposition parties?

Key then made this extraordinary comment,

If you think about the entire float that could be in the order of $5 billion to $7 billion. Let’s argue that it’s $5 billion for a moment if you then turned around and said about 20 per cent of that could be for mum and dad, it could be more it could be less – but just for the purposes of maths that’s a billion. If you apply the Australian Queensland model that’s one in fifteen shares – that’s 6 per cent. Six per cent of a billion is $60 million for the entire programme.”

20 per cent “?!?!

What happened to the 49% that Key and English have allocated to “mum and dad” investors,

Counting the Government’s controlling shareholding, we’re confident 85-90 per cent of these companies will be owned by New Zealanders, who will be at the front of the queue for shares.”

See: Running up $5-$7b more debt not the answer

Was this an unintended slip from Key that National is counting on only 20% of shares going to New Zealanders?

And did he think that no one would notice?

Acknowledgement:  Cheer up Mr Key – Fairfax still love you

This is disengenuous of Dear Leader. On the one hand, National is claiming that 49% of shares will be allocated to local “mum and dad” investors – and on the other, they are calculating a bonus-share loyalty scheme on a figure of 20%. Key is shuffling figures around and quoting them to suit daily events.

This is not the first time Key and English have done this.

In January last year, when John Key announced National’s policy to part-privatise five state assets, he stated,

If we could do that with those five entities … if we can make some savings in terms of what were looking at in the budget and maybe a little on the upside you’re talking about somewhere in the order of $7 to $10 billion less borrowing that the Government could undertake.”

See: John Key reveals plan for asset sales

The figure of $7 billion to $10 billion proceeds from a partial asset-sale then shrank,

First, the Government gets to free up $5 billion to $7 billion – less than 3 per cent of its total assets – to invest in other public assets like modern schools and hospitals, without having to borrow in volatile overseas markets.”

See: Running up $5-$7b more debt not the answer

And finally, English confessed all,

If we did get $6 billion, that would be a gain of sale [of $800 million] which is just a product of the accounting. I just want to emphasise that it is not our best guess; it’s just a guess. It’s just to put some numbers in that look like they might be roughly right for forecasting purposes...”

See: English admits his SOE figures just a guess

Key did precisely the same thing over the Skycity-convention centre-pokie machine contra-deal.

He advised the country that building a new convention centre (in return for changing the law to allow up to 500 additional pokie machines for Skycity), would result in up to 1,900 new jobs in Auckland,

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

See: Key defends casino pokie machine deal

Key’s figures turned out to be rubbish.  The true numbers were disclosed last month by Horwath Ltd director,  Stephen Hamilton,

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

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

See: Puzzle of Key’s extra casino jobs

Key  had either made them them up out of thin air, or else he has some very poor advisors.


Frustrated – Where to from here?


And lastly, the sheer economics of the partial asset-sales cannot be  commercially sustained, as  BERL reported in May of this year,

The interim loss of earnings resulting from reduced dividends and the period of time before the new assets reap benefits is never recouped.

”Subsequently, the option of asset sales can only significantly improve the Government’s accounts if a set of assumptions are adopted that are at the extreme ends of plausibility.”

‘While the initial offering may be directed towards domestic purchasers, future private share transactions could increase the portion of shares [and earnings] in overseas investors hands.

”Such an outcome would lead to a further deterioration in the external deficit and external debt position.”

See: Asset sales will leave Govt worse off


Unbelievable that a number of New Zealanders still believe that National is a sound manager of the economy. These muppets couldn’t run a corner Dairy – they simply wouldn’t have a clue how much to charge for a packet of chippies.

No wonder Labour Leader David Shearer expressed his frustration at Dodgy John’s slippery numbers, when he said,

We absolutely have no idea how much this loyalty scheme is going to cost New Zealanders. He was happy to go out and announce the loyalty scheme at the National Party conference but he’s not prepared to come out with the numbers now.”

See: PM: Asset loyalty won’t cost hundreds of millions

Either way, National is keeping information on asset sales secret – or they have no idea what’s going on. Conspiracy or cock-up – neither option is particularly reassuring.

The ground keeps shifting, and this blogger believes it is a deliberate ploy to deny information to sales-critics and the public. Without solid information, it becomes harder to mount a sound critique of National’s plans – though BERL has done a fairly reasonable job of it.

Accordingly,  this blogger invites “mum and dad” investors to exercise caution as shares are made available to the public,


Full story


A Possible Solution?


As BERL stated in their report, selling state assets will eventually impact on the government’s balance sheet. Quite simply, any short-term gain through sales proceeds will  eventually be whittled away by reduced dividends from half of these state assets sold into private ownership,

The interim loss of earnings resulting from reduced dividends and the period of time before the new assets reap benefits is never recouped. “

Plain english: we will  lose money on the deal.

Selling any of these State assets defies understanding.

As Treasury stated last year, the revenue stream is quite significant according to their own SOE Economic Analysis  that, “…on average, the SOEs have performed favourably when compared to the averages for the quartiles computed for the benchmark companies“.

See: Treasury SOE Economic Profit Analysis 25 November 2011

On average, Treasury show a 14.5% average shareholder (Government) return. Compare that to other investments, and it’s a fairly remarkable achievement for state enterprises which – according to free marketeers – are not supposed to operate more effectively than private enterprise.

See: Assets returning record dividends – Greens

In a further,  surprising turn of events, in February 2001, Finance Minister Bill English agreed, stating,

Generally the SOE model has been quite successful in that respect.”

And even  went so far as to complain that they were making excessive profits! (There’s no satisfying the National Party!? They sell under-performing state assets, explaining that the “market will improve their performance” – and then complain when state assets are making too much money! Then the Nats will flog them off to reduce returns and make them more “competitive”.)

See: State-owned power returns excessive, says English

By contrast, Contact Energy – an electricity corporation privatised in 1999, and now mostly Australian-owned – retails it’s electricity at a higher price than it’s competing, state-owned rivals.

See: 226,000 shop for power savings

National has stated several reason for wanting to sell 49% of Meridian, Genesis, Might River Power, Solid Energy, and further down-sell Air New Zealand – but their   main, carefully-worded, rationale has been to “reduce debt/invest in new assets/infrastructure”,  according to Bill English,

We are firmly focused on keeping the Government’s overall debt as low as possible and that is the most important consideration over the next few years.”

See: Govt says asset sales will cut debt

If  National is planning on extracting $6 to $7 billion from most New Zealanders’ pockets, then they are dreaming. A small minority (the 1%, as usual) might have the resources – but even they, I suspect would have to off-load their own assets to buy into the five offered SOEs.

It is more than likely that, like Contact Energy, the majority of new shareholders will be corporate and/or offshore  investors.  New Zealanders simply don’t have the savings to buy their own energy comnpanies and airline.

If National wants to realise $6 to $7 billion  from partial-privatisation and is serious in not wanting major foreign ownership, then it has only one other option: the NZ Superannuation Fund.

Selling half of five state assets to the NZ Super Fund would achieve several desired goals,

  1. Keep state assets in New Zealand ownership
  2. Prevent an outflow of profits to offshore investors, which would worsen our current account deficit
  3. Satisfy Maori that water resources were not about to be privatised, and therefore any claims before the Waitangi Tribunal could be set aside
  4. Fulfill a government-ordered directive that the NZ Super Fund invest more heavily in New Zealand

In May 2009, Finance Minister Bill English wrote to the NZ Super Fund, instructing that,

The Government believes that is is in the national interest for the Fund to have significant interests in New Zealand. Consequently, persuant to section 64 of the New Zealand Superannuation and Retirement Income Act 2004 (the Act), I direct the Guardians to note that it is  the Government’s expectation, in relation to the Fund’s performance, that opportunities  that would enable the Guardians to increase  the allocation of New Zealand assets in the Fund should be appropriately identified and considered by the Guardians. “

See: Letter from Minister of Finance Regarding NZ Directive and Funding May 14 2009

How much does the NZ Super Fund have invested in overseas businesses?

Answer: NZ$6,459,938,145 – Nearly $6.5 billion. Possibly more  by now.

See: NZ Superannuation Fund: Full Final Equity List – 30 June 2011

How much was National expecting to gain from it’s privatisation programme? Between $6 and $7 billion dollars.

$6.5 billion happens to lie smack in-between $6 and $7 billion!

Considering that the NZ Super Fund is actually a state owned entity, selling five SOEs, whether partially or the whole damned lot, would not matter one iota. They would still be state-owned.

National has an opportunity here; they literally can have their SOE Cake, and eat it.

  • The state assets would remain state assets.
  • National would gain a guaranteed NZ$6.5 billion – no mucking around with messy share floats.
  • The revenue from the state assets would remain in New Zealand.
  • The Super Fund would have even more profitable investments in their portfolio.
  • The Super Fund will be investing in our future – not someone elses’, in another country.
  • Maori may well be satisfied that their taonga, water, was not being privatised.
  • Our current account would not be blown further into the red.
  • New Zealanders would be happy chappies, as the great majority oppose losing ownership of state assets.
  • Opposition from the Left would most likely evaporate – heck, we might even vote for you in 2014, Mr Key!!

Where is the down-side in this compromise?! Damned if I can see any.

And the strangest part in all this proposal? I may just  have saved John Key’s arse from being thrown out at the next election.



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Nat’s support plummets in yet another poll

Neil Watts, Blogger, Fearfactsexposed



But Fairfax subscribers denied the leading news, again. 

Little wonder Fairfax Media are struggling financially and virtually giving their publications away to attract subscribers.

Consistently failing to provide their readers with the news – if the news is damaging to their friends in the National Party – means that Fairfax Media’s credibility as a news provider is poor, and declining.

While less partisan news media jumped immediately on the third poll in a month showing National’s support crumbling, Fairfax avoided the story, as they have done with other polls that are unfavourable to their mates on the Right.

While this highly newsworthy story led the political news on TV last night, as well as on the New Zealand Herald website and Radio New Zealand, Fairfax once again applied the eerie Orwellian denial they have used in the past when a news item doesn’t suit their political agenda.

Predictably, when  finally got around to mentioning the poll just before 9am today – some 15 hours after their rivals – it was only to provide readers with the National Party’s spin on the results, with a piece heavily dominated by John Key’s response.

As usual, the Opposition were completely sidelined from Fairfax’s story, and more importantly, the major implications of the latest poll – that Labour and the Greens could form a centre-Left government with a combination of support partners – were completely avoided.  This angle is so obvious to any real journalist, that Fairfax again show their desire to provide propaganda over news, by avoiding it all together.  As I noted here three weeks ago, after they avoided reporting on another negative poll for National, this illustrates exactly why such powerful, biased media corporations are a very real danger to our democracy.  By stifling the debate, controlling the message, and starving the Opposition of comment, media organisations like Fairfax can and do have a frightening influence on our freedom.

Remember how their brainfart polls told readers over and over how the National Party were going to romp back into the Beehive last year?  In detailed analysis of the reasons why New Zealanders didn’t vote, it was found that “a large proportion of non-voters cited the polls predicting the National Party’s victory, and decided the election was a foregone conclusion. The percentage of non-voters who said this was a factor was far higher in 2011 than in 2008″, according to The New Zealand Herald.

Critics at the time – myself included – noted the flawed methodology of these polls, and suggested that they were designed more to influence rather than inform voters.  The resulting election turnout was the lowest in 120 years, with the supposably invincible National Party pushed much closer than the polls had suggested.   Funny that, when their chums in the National Party are riding high in the polls, and the Dom Post can’t find a font big enough, but when the news is bad…well, it just ain’t news.  Orwellian, Fairfaxian, call that what you will

Following a week where their political editor was heavily criticised for providing the Prime Minister with a series of glowing PR pieces as she escorted him around Europe,  and where the most damaging elements of a number of issues were avoided, this is not a good look for Fairfax.  Last week, they effectively ran the spin for John Key on the class size backdown, painting Key as “a leader who listens”, complete with a leading survey.  They neglected to mention that the “listening leader” is ignoring New Zealanders over asset sales, and dodged figures picked up by other media showing that power prices would rise significantly once the assets were privatised.  As if all of this isn’t damning enough for Fairfax’s credibility, another survey showed that 50% of stuff respondents favoured the Nazi solution of eugenics to tackle the problem of breeding “ferals”; is this a clear sign of Rightwing propaganda in action?

Had enough of this international corporation providing propaganda disguised as news?  Please share this blog [Fearfactsexposed], join us on Facebook , and tell your friends to boycott everything that this National Party spin corporation publish.  Only a strong public backlash will make Fairfax Media take notice, so let’s bloody have one!


Fearfactsexposed:  Jet-setting Key accompanied by Fairfax political editor, again

NZ Herald:  Poll: Labour could form Government

Fairfax:  Key not fazed by poll results

Radio NZ: The National Party’s support is faltering in the wake of a series of political difficulties this year



Reprinted from the blog, Fearfactsexposed, with kind permission.



= fs =

Fairfax; An hour with Dear Leader


“Ask me a question. Anything. Go on, ask me. I’ll answer it all.”


Social media was abuzz; Dear Leader (we assume it was JK, and not one of his Party apparatchiks) was to “appear” on LiveChat on – Fairfax’s website. The previous day, the public were encourage to send through questions, that would be put to Key.

See:  Live chat with Prime Minister John Key

See:  Live chat  Prime Minister John Key

As promised, the LiveChat with someone purporting to be the Prime Minister went ahead,

11:28 Moderator:
Good morning. Our live chat with Prime Minister John Key gets underway at midday. Tune in then!
Tuesday June 12, 2012

12:00 Moderator:
We’re here live at the prime minister’s office. Thank you for joining us

12:01 John Key:
thanks, great to be here. Looking forward to your questions.

12:01 Moderator:
Sam asks: If you are elected for a third term as Prime Minister, assuming your colleagues continue to have confidence in you, will you stay the full term? Who do you see as your successor?

12:02  John Key:
In terms of the latter, that would be a matter for the Caucus and it would be far too early to predict that.  On the former, that would be my likely expectation.

The next question sounded like one of those patsy questions that backbencher MPs and Coalition partners ask Ministers,

12:02 Moderator:
Newton asks:
Given your big picture view of the NZ economy. Which three industry sectors do you think have the strongest growth potential for NZ over the next 15-20 years?

12:03 John Key:
Anything related to food, particularly as we move up the value curve. What is quite clear is that Asia is likely to be a very significant buyer of food related products from NZ as they become wealthier over the next few years…

Commentary: A suitable follow-up question to Key’s comment would have been, if  “Asia is likely to be a very significant buyer of food related products from NZ as they become wealthier over the next few years” – why are we permitting foreign investors from China, Australia, US, Germany, etc, to buy up farmland – thereby losing profits from food exports to overseas investors? How does that help us  earn revenue?

But that question was never asked, and “more important issues” were canvassed instead.

Prepare to laugh (or weep).

12:04  John Key:
I’m very optimistic that we can continue to develop niche sectors of high-tech manufacturing, services, the film industry, and tourism.

Commentary: Well, that would make a welcome change from growing the gambling industry; cigarette manufacturing; and 15-story brothels. Though this character – from the tobacco industry? – seemed somewhat oblivious to the annual death rate of 5,000 New Zealanders each year,

12:05  Moderator:
Sonny Gough asks:
Hello PM, As Minister for tourism, how do you feel the”Tobacco free NZ” by a certain date will affect tourist numbers to New Zealand. I note that many tourists that visit our shores are quite heavy smokers. Surely we are shooting ourselves in the foot on this. Kind Regards Sonny Gough

12:05  John Key:
Its an aspiration to see NZ smoke-free because of the health benefits that that policy bestows on the ountry. That said, it is highly unlikely that a day would come where we would stop people visiting NZ on the basis that they smoke.

Commentary: Now this, was probably the best question of the day,

12:06  Comment From gary  
If you are prepared to listen to public opinion on the Teacher cutbacks, will you do the same with your Asset sales policy?

12:07 John Key:
We have no intention of changing the direction we have set in relation to the Mixed Ownership Model. The reason for that is that it was an integral part of the election campaign, and was very well canvassed.  Given National polled a record result under MMP, I would argue we have listened to the people.

Commentary: So much for Dear Leader’s comment only yesterday, where he said,   “But, you know, governments from time to time adjust policies . . . if we never listen to people and never take on board what they’re saying then there is an argument for that as well – and that’s called arrogance.  And I think we’re a lot of things as a government, but we’re not arrogant.”

See:  Key: We were right, despite U-turn

12:07 Moderator:
Amy asks:
What do you have to say about the fact that starting from January, postgraduate students will not be able to borrow enough to live off? And what implications do you think that will have for professions that require an unpaid full-time internship year?

12:08 John Key:
The advice I have received is that on average the switch between student allowances and access to the student loan scheme will still enable students to complete post-graduate studies, albeit it will require them to repay this loan without interest. The research shows these students are likely to earn considerably higher wages over time.

Commentary: How much of his student debt did John Key repay from his tertiary education? Answer: none. He recieved a free university education, courtesy of the taxpayer.

12:08  Moderator:
Grace asks: What is your biggest regret over the past year?

12:09  John Key:
Not adequately spelling out the full aspects of the class size changes, because in the end a move to better quality teaching is an integral part of assisting those students who are falling between the cracks.

12:10  Comment From Simone  
What are your plans to help curb the brain drain in New Zealand? To be honest overseas opportunities are so much more appealing.

12:11  John Key:
I wouldn’t undersell New Zealand. Having just returned from Europe, this country is in far better shape than almost any other in Europe. It is also likely that over the next three years, NZ will have a faster growth rate than Europe, the US and Japan …

12:11  John Key:
While its true we lose people to Australia, that is neither new, nor should we misunderstand that a sizable portion of those leaving are going for opportunities in the mining sector.

Commentary: Say whut?!?! Hang on a mo’, Dear Leader – didn’t you and your party make a f*****g big deal, in the 2008 election campaign,  out of stemming the flow of emigrants to Australia, and to motivate New Zealanders to stay in this country?

Yes, I believe you did!


Frank Macskasy Blog Frankly Speaking


12:12 Moderator:
Liam asks: What are you going to do about the high attrition rate in our defence force? How do you expect to attract people to our military when everyone is leaving in droves?

12:13 John Key:
Attrition has been extremely low in the defence forces over the last three years, particularly as the labour
markets have been really tight. In recent times attrition has been a little higher as the military has been undertaking their change programme, but its my view that that programme is necessary for the long-term
benefit of the NZDF.

Commentary: Warning, Will Robinson! BS Alert! BS Alert!

See:  Job losses to hit military next week

See:  Defence staff eye leaving as morale falls

12:13 Moderator:
Elliot asks:
Why do you continue to reject the idea of a capital gains tax when almost every other country in the OECD has one?

12:14 John Key:
It’s important to understand that countries have quite significant variations when it comes to the type of taxes that they have, and the mix of taxes. NZ already has a capital gains tax; its simply not the  comprehensive CGT that some people talk of…

Commentary: “NZ already has a capital gains tax“?!?! Well, that’ll be news to everyone. This is an example of Key’s propensity to mis-represent the truth; where he only tells part of the truth, and leaves out remaining facts. It’s as good as lying.

No wonder that, in a poll last year, more respondents believed that John Key would be likely to “bend the truth” (34.9%) than his rival, Phil Goff (26%).

See:  John Key Safe hands, forked tongue?

12:15 John Key:
A CGT as proposed by Labour would be on the entire productive sector, but ignore three quarters of all ousing in NZ. Put bluntly, its bad for growth, and in the short term would raise very small amounts of revenue.

Commentary: John Key’s response is pure BS. A CGT would not be “bad for growth” – it would be a positive measure, as “mum and dad” investors would not be plowing their investments into speculative rental properties – but would instead invest in more productive sectors of the economy. At present,  NZers “love affair” with property is a serious distortion on our economy.

It is one reason why  private sector debt is ballooning out of control.

See:  NZ dangerously in debt: top businessman

See:  House prices a cancer for the economy

When the CGT was debated last year, almost every sector of the economy came out in favour of a capital gains tax.  For John Key to dismiss this reality shows that his sense of fiscal realities is badly out of touch.

12:15 Comment From Chris  
Why are you against raising the retirement age when statistics indicate that we’re going to have significant problems in the future if we don’t raise it soon?

12:17 John Key:
There’s very limited support for raising the retirement age prior to 2020 and on that basis I have much bigger issues to confront than that one. Secondly, the most important thing we can do to insulate NZ from all of the costs related to the demographic aging of the population is to focus on improving NZ’s overall competitiveness and growth.

Commentary: “Limited support” for raising the retirement age?!?! WTF?!!! Yet again, Key is lying his head off with that rubbish.

See:  Key rules out pension age referendum

There has been a growing realisation in this country that the current retirement age of 65 is simply not sustainable. For Key to dismiss these concerns is symptomatic of a government unwilling to address pressing problems that – left unresolved – will impact massively on our economy in coming decades.

This is a repeat of National’s mishandling of superannuation in 1975, where the then-Prime Minister, Robert Muldoon, canned Labour’s compulsory super-savings scheme. Had that scheme been kept intact, New Zealand would have  considerable savings and we would not be so reliant on overseas funds.

By contrast, Australia’s compulsory savings scheme has amassed A$1.3 trillion dollars. Little wonder they have greater wealth and higher living standards than we do.

See:  Higher pension age key – OECD

Key’s intransigence is irresponsible and ultimately damaging to our economy and society.

12:17 Moderator:
Rhiannon asks:
What are some of your favourite bands?

Commentary: Ah, the hard questioning begins…

12:18 John Key:
I like Katy Perry, the Eagles, and Hayley Westenra.

Commentary: Tough call, Prime Minister.

12:18 Comment From Gabby  
How do you feel about the Christchurch Cathedral being demolished? Would you want to save it?

12:19 John Key:
I am saddened because its an iconic building. The Government’s released all the advice its had from engineers, who sadly are of the view that for safety reasons the Cathedral needs to be demolished. My focus now is on a replacement Cathedral.

12:19 Moderator:
Josiah asks:
I’m curious to know if there was one thing about New Zealand culture that the PM could change, what would it be?

12:20  John Key:
To be more confident as a nation.

Commentary: You hear that, poor people? Get confident!!

12:20  Moderator:
A follow up question: what is one thing you celebrate most about NZ culture?

Commentary: Prepare yourself for the answer,

12:20  John Key:
That we are an egalitarian society.

Commentary: *cough*splutter* cough, cough*

Is he taking the piss? Worse – is he being serious?!

12:21  Moderator:
Peter asks:
Where do you see NZ aquaculture in the near future(~5 years)? and what is the govt doing to make it easier for small fish-farms to get up and running?

12:22 John Key:
Hopefully significantly larger, which is why the Government has undertaken substantial reform in the aquaculture sector. Clearly an expansion into fin fish farming, both in terms of species and allocated space is critical, and maybe one day, a move into more exotic species, like crayfish.

12:22  Moderator:
Hayden asks:
Your wife says that it’s important to her that she’s able to be there for your son when he comes home from school, and to be around for him while he’s studying. What are you doing to help more New Zealand parents have that ability?

Commentary: Good question.

12:23  John Key:
The most important thing we can do for NZ families is to give them a stronger economy and give them more choices. Over the last three and a half years, under very difficult conditions, we have managed to grow the economy consistently. We continue to support family-friendly policies like ECE and Working for Families.

Commentary: Crap answer.

12:24  Moderator:
Kirsten Windelov asks:
You are currently proposing to close down all of the schools that students with physical and intellectual disabilities attend. If you go ahead and do this, can you guarantee that all of those kids will be better off with the mainstream schooling and foster care you’re proposing for them?

12:24  John Key:
I’m not sure that accurately reflects the position, although a move to mainstreaming more children is generally widely supported by the education sector

Translation: You’re on your own, Kirsten.

12:25 Comment From John  
Will you make lego in nz free for all kids in the near future.

Commentary: These questions just keep getting tougher.

12:25  John Key:
That’s not part of the current Government’s agenda, but a lot better than some of the other suggestions I get.

Commentary: *facepalm*

Is this going to get any better?

12:26  Moderator:
Joseph Whyle asks:
My question for the prime minister, what is your vision for New Zealand in the next 10 years?

12:27  John Key:
A more prosperous, confident and ambitious New Zealand, one that delivers both higher incomes and a higher quality of life. A country that maintains the very best of New Zealand in terms of spirit and commitment to each other, as was clearly on display during the response to the Christchurch earthquakes.

Commentary: Haven’t we heard all this before… ? Oh, yeah…

See: 2008: A Fresh Start for New Zealand – John Key

12:27  Moderator:
Tim asks:
Do you believe in god?

12:28  John Key:
I don’t believe in life after death, so in the traditional sense of the world no, but I have no conclusive proof either way.

12:28  Moderator:
Anna asks:
What is the govt doing to prevent the extinction of the Maui dolphins? DETAILS! Not just “we’re working on it” NZ wants answers. We want a moratorium on set net fishing.

12:28  John Key:
We are very close to making an announcement in relation to that issue. Stay posted.

12:28  Moderator:
Dominique asks: What do you plan on doing after being Prime Minister? Retire? Continue in politics?

12:29  John Key:
I have no intention of continuing in politics. I haven’t given any thought to what might happen later, but it will involve golf clubs.

Commentary: “No intention of continuing in politics“? There is a god!

12:29  Moderator:
Arn asks: If you had to choose an opposition MP to take a job in your cabinet, who would it be and what portfolio would you give them?

12:29  John Key:
Shane Jones for Broadcasting.

Commentary: Was that supposed to be funny?

12:30  Moderator:
Sue asks: When did you last take public transport? What was it?

12:30 John Key:
Last week, and it was a bus, in London.

12:30 Moderator:
Chris asks: What changes do you believe are necessary (if any) for our Civil Defence capability in both the Canterbury Region, and Nationally, to improve what I believe is a very clearly defined weakness in our ability to respond to major natural disasters? Thank you.

12:31 John Key:
I’m not sure I would agree with the question…

12:32 John Key:
The Christchurch Earthquakes clearly tested the Civil Defence capability, and while there were always thing we could improve upon, it demonstrated there was a lot that we got right. After any major civil defence response, the Government undertakes a review and there will be some things from that process that will feed into our overall future responses.

Commentary: The next message was from the feeble-minded faction  of the political Right,

12:32 Comment From Guest  
With regards to the welfare system, Have you ever considered a life time entitlement for welfare assistance, Eg: every person has a 5 yr entitlement to welfare, once its used you support yourself or get a job.

12:33  John Key:
The difficulty with that suggestion is that for some people, they will never be able to support themselves. Overall the Government is focused on reform of the welfare system to ensure its ongoing viability.

Commentary: Plus, Dear Leader, it’s not the fault of workers who lose their jobs because your mates on Wall Street have shafted the global economy.  But you knew that already, huh?

The following question was another all-to-rare beauty,

12:33  Moderator:
Jan asks:
When prioritising, can you please explain how 15 million dollars is preferably spent on entertaining foreign dignitaries at the world cup, when it would cost only 16 million to keep TVNZ7 on, the nations only fully government funded TV channel (Australia, the UK and most other developed countries have several of these)? Thanks, Jan.

12:34  John Key:
The Rugby World Cup was the largest single sporting event NZ has ever hosted, and it made sense to leverage that event for New Zealand’s benefit. In relation to TVNZ7, the Government transferred that funding to the Platinum Fund administered by NZ on Air because it saw better value for money from that spend.

Commentary: Only thing is – New Zealand didn’t get that  much benefit from the RWC, according to reports,

See: Weather and World Cup fail to lift GDP

Yet again, John Key is out of touch with public opinion that wants TVNZ7 retained. What part of that message does he not understand?!

Once National is thrown out of office, an incoming government will be mandated to set up a new public service TV broadcaster. This time, with built-in safe-guards to prevent political interference from feeble-minded politicians from the Right.

12:34 Comment From James B  
how do we know this is the real john and not one of his clones

12:36  John Key:
When I was at primary school, I was sent to the “blue room” for talking. Dare you to find that on the internet. Today, Kevin is typing in my answers because he is quicker than I am, and that’s why I keep little pixies around the office.

Commentary: “Pixies”?

Nice to know  John Key is taking this communication with the voting public as a  serious matter.

Yeah, right.

12:36  Moderator:
Shanan asks: Hi John, What are your thoughts of the EU proposal for a Financial Transaction Tax (FTT)? Should New Zealand consider introducing a FTT if it goes ahead in the EU? Thanks.

12:37  John Key:
NZ has considered this before and rejected it. My understanding is that it disproportionately affects less well off people.

Commentary: Since when has Key been concerned with things that “disproportionately affects less well off people“? He wasn’t overly concerned when National raised GST in 2010 – an act that does disproportionately affect less well off people.

12:37  Comment From Bons  
Do you think marriage and adoption equality bills will be passed in this parliamentary term? If not, why not?

12:38  John Key:
No. Firstly they would need to be drawn from the ballot and that can’t be assured. Even if they were, the process would take quite some time because they can only be debated on Member’s Days.

Commentary: Never let equality and justice get in the way of the bureacracy, eh Dear Leader? After all, what’s more important here – equality for all, or maintaining The System?


12:38  Comment From Greg  
How do you think repealing the voluntary student loan repayment bonus scheme provides an incentive to pay loans back faster?

12:39  John Key:
There’s no question that for some students, the repayment scheme was an advantage. Sadly, it wasn’t widely used. It was expensive to administer and there was some gaming of the system.

Commentary: At this point I sent another message (one of many) to the moderator asking John Key if he was willing to pay for his University education, which he received free of charge; no student loans; no debt; all paid for by the New Zealand taxpayer.

Strangely, that question was never put to Dear Leader. Must’ve got “lost” in the system.

12:39  Comment From Kristen  
Thanks for backing down on the class-size thing, but I’d like to know what you’re going to cut in education to make up the savings you would have got from cutting class sizes.

12:40  John Key:
We are working on that, but worst case scenario we will have to take it out of next year’s new Budget spending provision.

Commentary: Or, Dear Leader, you could raise taxes for top income earners; introduce a Capital Gains Tax or FTT; or stop giving welfare handouts to corporations.

Just a thought. No pressure, John.

12:40  Comment From Nick  
Were you surprised that Piri Weepu got selected at half back in the current AB’s ahead of Andy Ellis?

12:41  John Key:
Yes, but I’m having a bad enough week without wading into the reasons on this.

12:41  Comment From Henry  
Mitt Romney or Barack Obama?

12:42  John Key:
Too close to call, and too inappropriate for me to name.

12:42  Comment From Scott  
What is the greatest moral challenge for kiwi society today?

12:43  John Key:
I believe it is drug addiction and alcohol abuse by young people in particular.

Commentary: So… what are you doing about easy availability of cheap booze; the spread of liquor outlets; RTDs/alco-pops geared toward young people; alcohol advertising on TV, etc, etc, etc? It’s one thing to recognise alcohol abuse as a “moral challenge” – but what is National going to do about it?

12:43  Moderator:
William asks:
John Key i’m sure you know that cannabis in its natural form is legally regarded as a medicine by 15+ American States and by Canada and some European countries. In May 2011, our own Law Commission said NZ should follow this path and Police should leave medicinal users alone. Do you agree with the Law Commission?

12:44  John Key:
I don’t support liberalisation of drug laws, because I think it sends the wrong message to young people and would prefer that those with medical conditions sought relief from other alternatives.

Commentary: Whereas advertising alcohol on TV; making it ridiculously cheap and available from outlets  in almost every suburb; and almost 24/7 trading hours – that’s not sending “the wrong message” to young people??

Mr Key – you and your Party’s hypocrisy is breath-taking.

12:44  Moderator:
Michael asks:
Hi Why did the national party pull the pin on a full national cycleway?

12:45 John Key:
We didn’t, but the advice we had was that 18 individual rides linked by a rural roading network would better fit the profile and intentions of those likely to use it.

Commentary: plus the couple of hundred jobs it created – instead of the anticipated 4,000-plus  – wasn’t a ‘good look’, Dear Leader?

See:  Cycleway jobs fall short

12:45 Comment From Richard  
What exactly is it about John Banks that you do have faith in? What makes him an excellent asset to New Zealanders?

12:46  John Key:
I accept Ministers at their word and unless they either breach my trust or break the law, it would be quite inappropriate and confusing for me to sack a Minister.

12:46  Moderator:
Don asks:
What kind of watch do you normally wear? Do you collect watches?

12:47  John Key:
I normally wear a Cartier, and I have another watch which is a Brietling that my wife Bronagh gave to me for my birthday.

Commentary: by this time, and following on, this blogger had messaged the Moderator at least half a dozen times posing the question as to why John Key was not willing to fund sufferers of Pompe’s Disease – a terminal condition – as he had agreed to fund a full-term course of Herceptin for breast cancer sufferers, in 2008. (2008 was an election year. Not that it has anything to do with anything.)

This was very silly of me. Obviously the matter of John Key’s watches takes precedence over a life-threatening disease which will kill several New Zealanders.

Sorry, Fairfax. My bad.

However, a serious question did manage to slip in. Perhaps the Fairfax moderator was having a cuppa with Dear Leader at the time,

12:48  Moderator:
Julie asks: (in terms of asset sales)
How can you justify rushing the legislation through urgency? How can the average “mum and dad investors” afford to buy shares?

12:48  John Key:
In terms of the first point we are not doing that. Its the Government’s intention to pass the MOM legislation using the normal House procedures…

12:49  John Key:
The Government is working on ensuring the minimum parcel size of shares can be within the reach of as many NZers as possible.

Commentary: Especially New Zealanders like these,

See:  Rich Listers enjoy 20pc increase in wealth

12:49  Comment From Geoff  
Given the recent dirty dairying news do you still stand by your claim that NZ is 100% clean and green?

12:50  John Key:
I’ve never said that statement. What I have supported is the marketing slogan used by Tourism NZ of 100% Pure.

Commentary: Actually, Dear Leader, you did . John Key;  “if anybody goes down to New Zealand and looks at our environmental credentials and looks at New Zealand, then for the most part, I think in comparison with the rest of the world, we are 100 per cent pure.”

See:  Key rejects BBC criticism of NZ ‘pure’ claim

Another “hard” question followed and was well answered by Dear Leader. He was ‘sharp’ today,

12:50  Comment From Sean Kusel  
What is your main hobby?

12:51 John Key:
Work commitments mean I have a limited time for other activities, but I enjoy cooking, golf, and watching rugby.

Commentary: But how did this one slip through the vetting system,

12:51   Comment From Year 12 Sos Hghs class  
How would you feel about class sizes going up in your sons school?

12:51  John Key:
Totally fine, if they were of the magnitude being previously proposed. I care much more about the quality of the teacher standing before my son.

Commentary: And the reason for not sending his children to State schools is—?

12:52   Comment From Cameron  
Hi, Please don’t take this as being rude but, do you think we will actually hit our budget targets for near future?

12:52  John Key:
If you mean the forecasts that were in the Budget, I hope so. They are based on the best advice available to the Treasury at the time the Budget was put together.

Commentary: Advice from… Treasury?! That’s us stuffed!

12:53  Comment From mike  
When will people with complaints about ACC be herd by an independent group, that doesn’t involve ACC supposedly not interferring with the process.

Commentary: Followed immediatly by this little ‘gem’ from Brendan. Brendan is ‘special’.

12:53  Comment From Brendan  
What’s on the lunch menu today?

12:53  John Key:
I need to check for you, but I think there are avenues that are totally independent that complainants can explore if they believe they are being unfairly treated by ACC.

12:54  John Key:
Sadly, there is nothing in the fridge and unlike Barack Obama I don’t have a chef hanging around to make me a Tuna fish sandwich.

Commentary: It’s tough when you have to slum it with the poor folk, Dear Leader. By the way, Mr Key, how far did National go with it’s promise of free meals in schools, as promised by National when it was in Opposition,

See: National launches its Food in Schools programme

Still on the subject of food,

12:54  Comment From Kayla  
What type of cheese did you give the queen

12:55  John Key:
A range of Kapiti cheeses including blue cheese and aged cheddar. The Queen personally thanked me and told me she’d already tried one of them.

12:55 Comment From Megan  
What was it like meeting with the Queen? Was it just awkward small talk? Or is she quite personable?

12:56  John Key:
She’s very personable, and this is the fourth private audience I’ve had with her. She is very passionate about New Zealand and genuine in her concerns, particularly over the impact of the Christchurch earthquakes.

12:56  Comment From Guest  
Mr Key, I believe the taxes being handed off onto smokers are unfair. How do you justify these smoking taxes? The obese population put far more burden on our health system each year, and don’t have to pay any extra tax!

Commentary: Yeah, mate, ‘cos  5,000 New Zealanders dying each year through smoking-related disease just isn’t enough for you, is it?


Key’s only sensible reply for the whole afternoon,

12:57  John Key:
The Government is unashamedly trying to deter people from smoking through price, particularly young people who are very sensitive to rising tobacco prices. I know this is difficult for those that have smoked for quite some time, but for your long term health I can only encourage you to try and give up.

12:57  Moderator:
Have you ever smoked, prime minister?

12:58 John Key:
I have never smoked anything in my life, but my mother smoked and I spent years convincing her to give up. When I turned 15, she did.

Commentary: Followed by another decent question,

12:59   Moderator:
Jane asks: When will people who care for the elderly receive a fair wage. Elderly helped build the country

Commentary: A shame that Key’s response was so much twaddle,

1:00  John Key:
I acknowledge that many of the caregivers for the elderly are some of the lowest paid workers. When the Government’s finances are in better shape, this will be one area we will take a closer look at.

Commentary: Which sounds suspiciously similar to Key’s previous promises to raise wages – which have also come to nought.

1:00  Comment From Nick  
Whats you’re favourite kiwi custom?

1:00  John Key:
The haka is not a custom, but I love it when our sporting teams and cultural groups and schools perform it.

Commentary:  *shakes head*

1:00  Moderator:
Time for one last question….

Commentary: Oh, I can hardly wait. What’s it to be;  Dear Leader’s favourite colour? When he last patted ‘Moonbeam‘?

1:01   Comment From Pam  
Mr Key, on the Super debate, is there any appetite to means test Super? I think raising the age is harsh – especially for those in very manual work, e.g. building, labouring.

1:02  John Key:
No, but you raise a fair point that an ad hoc simple moving of the age is a very simplistic way of looking at a very complex issue.

Commentary: “Ad hoc”?! Every organisation, political party, the OECD, and a majority of the public understand that keeping retirement at age 65 is unsustainable, and must be raised to 67 if we are to avoid bankrupting ourselves – and you dismiss it as “ad hocery“?!?!

Mr Key – what on Earth goes through you mind?

Mr Key – you are playing games with the economic future of this country. For you and your fellow National MPs not to act on raising the age from 65 to 67 is irresponsible.

Mr Key will be remembered in the same way that Robert Muldoon is remembered; the man who nearly wrecked our economy through short-sighted acts of incompetance.

Do what is necessary – or resign. One or the other.

1:02  Moderator:
Thank you for joining us in today’s live chat. Sorry we couldn’t ask all the questions.

1:02  John Key:
My pleasure. Thanks for the opportunity.

Conclusion: It seems fairly obvious that whoever was answering the questions was only barely taking the situation seriously. If it was John Key, then we’ve had another insight into his arrogance and his disdain for treating the public with a modicum of respect.

For a man who has spent much of his working life in finance, he appears to have little appreciation for fiscal matters such as taxation; investment imbalances; retirement strategy; etc. Any thought of Key as being “fiscally responsible” is misplaced.

As for the questions; the Moderator’s choice left much to be desired. It was like a meal at a Chinese restaurant; one was left feeling hungry for more soon after.

This blogger is left with one inescapable conclusion that has been strengthened by this “Livechat”: the sooner National is thrown out of office, the better for our economy and society.



= fs =

National – The End is Nigh

19 March 2012 6 comments



This recent Roy Morgan poll in the ‘Dominion Post‘ caught my eye,




At first glance, the Fairfax report sounds like good news for National and terribly bad news for Labour.

On closer analysis, nothing could be further from the truth. The story is mostly ‘spin’ – a somewhat disingenous attempt to paint the poll results in a good light. National’s own Party strategists will be viewing that poll with considerable dismay.

Here’s why…

A corresponding poll by Roy Morgan in March last year, had National on 52.5% and Labour on 32.5%,



Comparing March 2011 with March 2012, we see the following results:


2011 Poll Result

2012 Poll Result





– 4%




– 2.5%


Both parties have actually dropped – not risen – as the Fairfax story claims.

Then we compare the Roy Morgan results with last year’s  election results, and the figures become even more interesting,


March 2011 Poll Result

November Election

March 2012 Poll Result










Now let’s factor in the pre-election polling results from Roy Morgan, in the week prior to the November 26 general election,


March 2011 Poll Result

Pre-Election 2011 Morgan Poll

November 2011 Election

March 2012 Poll Result








23.5 %




Now a clearer picture emerges and nothing could be further from the truth with regards to the Fairfax report. As the polling – and the General Election results – amply illustrates, National is heading down, steadying currently at 47-48%. (And expect further falls.)

Conversely, Labour dipped from a March 2011 high of 32.5% to 23.5%, and is now climbing again.

More importantly – and this is the point that will be unsettling for National’s party strategists – a year ago,  National went into the 2011 general election from a high of 52.5%. (Other polls had National even higher at 55%-plus.) From that high, as campaigning by other parties offered alternatives to voters,  National shed some support, and their final end-result was 47.1% – a drop of of 5.19%.

If – as is likely – polling patterns are the same in the next couple of years,    a change of government in 2014 is inevitable.

My advice to David Shearer;

  • Get your party policy sorted, asap.
  • Get your party restructuring sorted, asap.
  • Treat other Opposition parties as your coalition partners and with respect. Form a broad Front. This will be the new reality, and if you can show that opposition parties can work together, the public will take notice.
  • Get a (new?)  speech writer – someone who has a flair with words, ideas,  and understands what is required to spark the public’s imagination. Yes, people want policy. But more than that, they want hope and a vision. JFK had it by the truckload.
  • Lastly, and most important;  act as the Prime Minister-in-Waiting that you are. Treat National as an Opposition-In-Waiting, and dismiss their policies accordingly. In fact, don’t be shy in stating boldlly that National’s policies are temporary; have a Use-By date; and Labour will review them.

This is what National has to look forward to in the next couple of years,



Labour is now a government-in-waiting.



= fs =

Key on ropes as Fairfax grope for a lifeline back to the people

Neil Watts,  Blogger, Fearfactsexposed

March 4, 2012


National’s heartland backlash echoes Fairfax’s credibility collapse.

Since becoming leader of the National Party, and then elected as Prime Minister four years ago, Wall Street banker John Key has been able to rely on Fairfax Media to offer a handkerchief and say ‘bless you’ every time he sneezed.

But, today’s Sunday Star Times suggests that this anti-democratic relationship has – in the end – served only to damage both.  The frontpage headline ‘Key’s heartland backlash’ has Fairfax’s Sunday newspaper suddenly distancing itself from a dogmatic Rightwing Government in freefall, and desperately looking for a way back to centrist credibility.

Fairfax political editor and unofficial National Party press secretary, Tracy Watkins, has been sidelined, with the more moderate John Hartevelt handling a political front page lead that, for almost the first time in five years, doesn’t look like it was written by the National Party.  As this Government’s popularity suddenly collapses, have Fairfax finally decided to abandon their unhealthy partisanship, in a last ditch attempt to save themselves from commercial disaster and media irrelevancy?

Quite possibly.

Fairfax’s publications have been long regarded by many thinking New Zealanders as something of a sad joke.  Their commercial demise has been documented alongside their journalistic one on this blog, and few in the capital take The Dominion Post for anything other than National Party propaganda these days.  Their,nz website increasingly attracts heavy journalistic criticism attached to the comments forum of stories, and the most damning of these are censored by Fairfax themselves.  A Facebook page and blog dedicated to holding this company to account has fueled the debate for three years, and while much of their demise is of their own making, we have clearly had a dramatic impact on how New Zealanders view their work.

Circulation is in freefall; they now quote ‘readership’ rather than ‘circulation’ to advertisers and subscribers, and recent financial figures published on this page show that, while their rivals are riding out tough economic times, Fairfax are struggling to attract advertisors as well as subscribers.  Fairfax are, it seems, in a desperation of their own editorial making.  In fact, just last week, I recieved a letter from Dominion Post editor, Bernadette Courtney, saying that: “Because we really want you back we have put together this exclusive offer, all for the low price of just $5.40 per week.”  This exclusive offer consists of six newspapers, delivered to the door, plus a subscription to a glossy monthly magazine.  At about half the price of a pint in most Wellington bars, this unsustainable initiative points to abject desperation at Fairfax Media, and genuinely makes me sad.

As I’ve always said, I love newspapers.  I’ve grown up with them.  I’ve studied, practiced and taught journalism, and literally had newspapers for breakfast for much of my life.   Like many who’ve lost faith in the industry, I don’t need some special offer that virtually gives the product away.  I want to see news media flourishing, making healthy profits, and employing fairly paid staff.  If the product is striving for fairness, accuracy and balance, and holding those in power to account, rather than misleading the people on their behalf, I will gladly renew my subscription and welcome the reporters’ analysis back into my home.  And, if Fairfax Media are genuinely signalling a return to real journalism and abandoning National Party spin, I’ll be the first to sing their praises from the capital’s rooftops.

As always, you can rely on Fearfactsexposed to keep you posted.  Thank you for helping to make a difference.





Heartland backlash over Crafar farm fallout





Someone at Fairfax can’t count?!

10 November 2011 12 comments



A recent poll conducted by Fairfax, and published in their stable of newspapers recently had the following results,


Full Story


The only thing is…

As pointed out by one of our correspondents, Mathew, the numbers above add up to… 114.3% !? When it comes to percentages, generally speaking they should add up to 100%. (Don’t ask why – it’s just the way the Universe was constructed.)

Thank you, Mathew, for pointing this out.

You’ve just succeeded in making Fairfax Media look like prime  twats.



TVNZ7, Radio New Zealand, and distracting trinkets.

A neo-liberal is one who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing. In this case, this National government are slowly strangling good, quality broadcasters like RNZ and TVNZ7 – whilst  feeding us a daily diet of brain-cell deadening, pseudo-news on TV1 and TV3 and apalling programming that consists mostly of American sitcoms, cooking programmes, and bleak crime shows.

If only New Zealanders were as passionate about the lack of governmental support for quality broadcasting as we were about stranded penguins; “Wellywood” signs; and books by Ian Wishart.

Oh, but that would mean thinking about complex issues, wouldn’t it? Jerking the knee with superficial,  emotion-tugging,  issues is much easier:  no effort required.

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

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

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

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

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

Kedgley said she first thought the charity registration was a joke.

“I am appalled to discover that it is serious proposition and that the Board of Radio New Zealand has been forced by the Government’s funding freeze on Radio New Zealand to set up a trust so that it can go out with a begging bowl to the public,” she said.

“The move suggests there is quiet desperation at Radio New Zealand. The broadcaster simply cannot make ends meet under the Government’s funding freeze.”

Curran said the move raised some “serious questions”.

“Not the least of which is why the whole of RNZ has been registered as a charity, and what the long-term intention is,” she said.

“Radio NZ’s survival should not be dependent on it having to solicit donations. It is our state radio broadcaster and holds a special place in New Zealand.”

Broadcasting Minister Jonathan Coleman couldn’t be reached for comment and neither could RNZ chairman Richard Griffin.

Griffin told Fairfax earlier this year that RNZ could only survive a funding freeze for another two years.

He said the current freeze put the public broadcaster in a “more than difficult” financial position.

“If we’re left in a position where every year costs increase and funding remains static, we’re going to wither.”

It was believed that the charity was mainly to fund its concert station.

It is an unbelievable, bizarre state-of -affairs when a public service such as Radio New Zealand , has to register itself as a charity. If this doesn’t ring alarm bells with us, then we are truly asleep.

It should also give us cause for concern that National  will be closing down TVNZ7. This free-to-air; advertising free; public network is a wealth of news, documentaries, and offers an un-commercialised look at ourselves and the world around us.

TVNZ7  treats the viewer with intelligence and respect.  It is television as it should be – and not the mindless rubbish that we are now served up every day on other channels. (Parliament TV excepted – that contains very mature, erudite debate from our Honourable Members of Parliament.)

It is a great shame that two quality public services – TVNZ7 and Radio New Zealand – can be put in jeopardy through the lack of political support from the government-of-the-day, and because of public apathy.  If New Zealanders were as passionate about their own  public broadcasting system, as they were about wayward penguins, oh what a much more mature society we would be.

But we are like children, it seems, and easily enthralled by the latest distracting trinket.

New Zealand has often been described as a “young country”.

That is truer than we realised.