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Posts Tagged ‘John Armstrong’

Have the media finally learned to ask the right questions?

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planet key

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When right-wing, normally pro-National,  columnists like the NZ Herald’s John Armstrong question the veracity of this government’s assertions, then it is another indication that things are not going well for John Key’s six-year old administration.

Specifically, Armstrong’s questioning  Steven Joyce’s claim on 12 March that thousands of new jobs have been created in Northland;

When you add that to the 7,500 extra new jobs created in Northland in the last year, it is clear that the region is turning the corner and beginning to grow well.”

Armstrong replied two days later, lambasting the National Minister;

Deserving of special scrutiny is the repeated claim by Steven Joyce that 7500 new jobs were created in Northland last year. It certainly sounds impressive. The Economic Development Minister’s assertion is based on Statistics New Zealand’s household labour force survey. That indeed showed an increase of 7500 more people in employment in Northland at the end of last year as against the previous December.

The survey, however, stipulates that anyone who does paid work for as little as one hour a week is classed as being in employment. When people talk about “new” jobs, they usually mean full-time or part-time with a reasonable number of hours. We simply do not know what types of jobs were actually created.

Note Armstrong’s comment; “The survey, however, stipulates that anyone who does paid work for as little as one hour a week is classed as being in employment”.

He is indeed correct. Statistics NZ considers a person to be employed if they;

  • worked for one hour or more for pay or profit in the context of an employee/employer relationship or self-employment 
  • worked without pay for one hour or more in work which contributed directly to the operation of a farm, business, or professional practice owned or operated by a relative 

Note that a worker does not even have to be paid for Statistics NZ to consider you officially “employed”.

Which Armstrong duly noted;

The risk of making bald assertions without qualification is underlined by the survey’s other finding that despite the apparent strong lift in employment, the number of unemployed in Northland fell by only about 100 during the same 12 months.

It is refreshing that some in the media are finally starting to pick up the mendacities of this government. Key and his cronies are simply not be be trusted and every utterance they make should be fact-checked.

If an openly pro-National columnist understands that the governments claims are bogus, it should not be beyond the abilities of other journalists to undertake basic research as well. There is simply no excuse; the information is readily available through search engines.

Even Cameron Slater has picked up on National’s blatant  propagandising and seems less than impressed.

As I blogged in early February;

If the last six years have shown us one thing, it is that the next scandal and revelations of dodgy ministerial practices and inept Prime Ministerial behaviour is not too far away.

The media are alerted. The public now have some awareness of dirty politics behind the scenes. And journalists are starting to exercise a form of collective memory.

It is said that the public no longer care about politics, and that Key has “de-politicised” it. But, like the continuing bad stories that finally destroyed Jenny Shipley’s government, continuing negatives stories can have a corrosive effect on this government.

The more times Key is caught out lying or being tricky with the truth or breaking promises – the more that the public will slowly but surely distrust his “brand”.

The loss of Northland will not only be damaging to the National government, it will be the clearest indication yet that the value of “Brand Key” has been  irrevocably tarnished and diminished.

This will be Key’s final term in office.

Hat-tip: Maria Sherwood – ‎John Key has Let Down New Zealand

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References

National Party: Strong economic performance in Northland

NZ Herald: John Armstrong – Questionable tactics in race for Northland votes

Statistics NZ: […] Definitions

Whaleoil: Wheels come off Steve Joyce’s Northland campaign

Previous related blogposts

Un-employment; under-employment; and the plain unvarnished truth

Un-employment; under-employment; and the plain unvarnished truth*** UP DATE ***

Roy Morgan Poll: Unemployment and Under-employment up in New Zealand!

Witnessing the slow decay of a government past it’s Use-By date

When the teflon is stripped away


 

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3000 more jobs - fantasy by J Key

 

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 16 March 2015.

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The Mendacities of Mr Key #9: The Sky’s the limit with taxpayer subsidies!

20 February 2015 3 comments

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key and skycity

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We all know the story by now; how Key admitted to discussing a convention-centre deal over  dinner with Skycity executives on 4 November 2009,

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

The lack of transparency in the deal-making process was subsequently criticised by the Auditor-General in February 2013. Toby Manhire from The Listener listed ten quotes outlining the AG’s dissatisfaction with Key and his officials’  behaviour;

1. “We found a range of deficiencies in the advice provided and steps taken leading up to [the] decision.”

2. “Although decisions were made on the merits of the different proposals, we do not consider that the evaluation process was transparent or even handed.”

3. “By the time it was expected that SkyCity would put a firm proposal to the Government for support, officials should have been working to understand and advise on the procedural obligations and principles that would need to govern the next steps. We found no evidence that officials were doing so at this stage.”

4. “The meetings and discussion between the Government representatives and SkyCity were materially different in quantity and kind from those between the Government and the other parties that responded.”

5. “SkyCity was treated very differently from the other parties that responded and the evaluation process effectively moved into a different phase with one party. In our view, the steps that were taken were not consistent with good practice principles of transparency and fairness.”

6. “Overall, we regard the EOI [expressions of interest] process in stage two as having been poorly planned and executed. Insufficient attention was given to planning and management of the process as a whole, so that risks were not adequately addressed and managed.”

7. “We did not see any evidence of formal discussions or decisions on the evaluation process and criteria, or mapping out of the basic options for what might happen next, or advice to Ministers on how the process would be managed and their involvement in it. We do not regard this as adequate for a project of this potential scale, complexity, and risk.”

8. “We have concluded that the preparation for the EOI process and the EOI document, fell short of good practice in a number of respects.”

9. “In our view, the result was that one potential submitter had a clearer understanding of the actual position on a critical issue – that the Government did not want to fund any capital costs – than any other potential submitters … We accept that it is unlikely that this flaw made a material difference to the outcome. However, we have spent some time discussing it because we regard it as symptomatic of the lack of attention to procedural risks, and therefore to the fairness and credibility of the process.”

10. “We are unable to comment on the value of any contribution the Government might make as part of any eventual agreement with SkyCity, because negotiations have not yet been concluded.”

Key’s response, in Parliament was an outright denial;

“Absolutely, and the reason for that, as the member will be aware, is that the Auditor-General’s report was divided into three parts. The first part of it was focused on my involvement, and I was totally and utterly cleared and vindicated in that. That was my only involvement.”

The Auditor General, Phillipa Smith, was less than impressed by Key’s attempts at mis-representing her Office’s report as a ‘vindication’;

”That fact that [the report] took 50 or 60 pages suggests that nothing was entirely clear cut. We have said that we found problems with the process that was adopted and so I think the report speaks for itself.”

Right-wing NZ Herald columnist and National sympathiser, John Armstrong, was trenchant in his condemnation of Key’s comments. On 20 February, 2013, he wrote;

Verging on banana republic kind of stuff without the bananas – that is the only conclusion to draw from the deeply disturbing report into the shonkiness surrounding the Government’s selection of SkyCity as the preferred builder and operator of a national convention centre.

The Prime Minister’s attempt to downplay Deputy Auditor-General Phillippa Smith’s findings in advance of their release yesterday by saying he had not lost any sleep from reading draft copies may turn out to be a costly political miscalculation.

John Key may have escaped personal blame for the serious flaws in the old Ministry of Economic Development’s handling of the convention centre project but the report is far worse than he had been leading people to believe.

He is taking refuge in the report’s assurances that no evidence could be found to suggest “inappropriate considerations”, such as connections between political and business leaders, were behind the final decision for the Government to negotiate with SkyCity as the preferred bidder.

In other words, no corruption. Or at least none that could be found.

Right-wing commentator, Matthew Hooton, was more scathing and pulled no punches;

The procurement process for the Auckland centre was a farce and as close to corruption as we ever see in New Zealand.

As reported by the Deputy Auditor-General, Mr Eagleson – whose best friend and Las Vegas gambling buddy is Mark Unsworth, SkyCity’s Wellington lobbyist – had been conducting private talks with SkyCity through 2009 and early 2010, including about what regulatory relief SkyCity wanted.

Mr Eagleson argued a procurement process was unnecessary and that the government should just go with SkyCity on the grounds no one else could realistically compete.

(Hat-tip: No Right Turn.)

Read Hooton’s full column. It is far more critical and insightful than any left-wing commentator (including myself) has been on this issue.

Even before the AG’s investigation and damning report, Key’s figures of extra jobs resulting from the proposed convention centre were in doubt.

On 3 April 2012, Key stated in Parliament;

“I might add, when we were out announcing that we were doing a deal with Len Brown in Auckland, he was quite a little lamb chops before the election, because Len Brown knew as well that it will create 1,000 jobs in its construction, 900 jobs ongoing, hundreds of thousands of visitor nights for a convention centre, and tourists who will be spending twice as much in New Zealand.”

By June, Key’s claims for “1,000 jobs in its construction, 900 jobs ongoing” were questioned by hospitality and travel specialist analyst, Horwath Ltd. Horwath director, Stephen Hamilton, was blunt;

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.

“That’s not the number of employees at the convention centre. That’s the number in the whole economy. Some will be at the convention centre, some will be in the hotels and some will be additional taxi drivers.”

[…]

He also questioned the construction job figures, saying: “I’m not quite sure what the source of that 1000 was.”

The original Horwath report said 150 jobs could be created over a five-year construction period for a total of 750.

But the most well-known promise from Key was that the convention centre would not cost tax-payers a cent. In May 2013, Key justified his deal-making with SkyCity by stating;

“The construction of the new convention centre will not cost taxpayers or ratepayers a cent, with SkyCity meeting the full project costs in return for some concessions from the Government.”

Nearly two years later, inflation appears to have  turned “not a cent” into an estimated “$70m to $130m shortfall”, with SkyCity hustling National for a tax-payer bail-out.

On 10 February, Key appeared to have caved to SkyCity pressure to pay a massive taxpayer-funded subsidy to the casino operator;

“I’m keen to see the best convention centre I can for Auckland, because this is a very long-term asset, so I would hate to see some sort of eyesore constructed down town.

There are issues around the construction of it. Obviously you can spend more and get something that looks a lot better, or spend a bit less and get something that looks worse.

In a nutshell, the Government has an agreement with them [SkyCity]. It could make them meet that agreement but the escalation in prices to build the convention centre, which is bigger than was proposed and flasher than was proposed, means there is a hole.

So there are a couple of options. Option one would be to say to Sky City, ‘Build the convention centre exactly at the price that we all agreed, on the conditions of the deal that we agreed’, but it would be smaller I think than we had hoped and less attractive.

Or the second option is to see if there’s any way of filling that hole and to identify how big that hole is, and that’s the process we’re going through.”

By the following day, as a public and media furore exploded in Key’s face, and even his own Finance Minister was cool on the proposed bail-out,  he was forced to do a sudden 180-degree u-turn;

“We agreed a deal at $402 million…our strong preference is that the SkyCity convention centre is built and paid for by SkyCity.”

It seems that the public and media have become weary of Key’s continual back-tracking; broken promises; and often outright lies.

This was not the first time that Key had promised the public one thing – and then delivered something else. In October 2010, as an industrial dispute erupted between SPADA and Actor’s Equity, there were threats that Peter Jackson’s “Hobbit”  movie project would be moved off-shore (an empty threat as Jackson later revealed).

On 26 October, Key was telling the public that his government would not be paying extra incentives to Warner Bros and that there would be no “bidding war” with other countries to provide greater incentives to the U.S. movie industry;

“If we could make the deal sweeter for them that would help; that’s something we would consider… but we can’t bridge the gap that is potentially on offer from other locations around the world. We’re not prepared to do that and… I don’t think the New Zealand taxpayer would want us to do that.”

When asked about any possible taxpayer subsidies, to match other countries incentives, he added;

“It’s not in the tens of millions, put it that way. There’s a lot of noughts.”

Key was  adamant; Warner Bros would not screw another cent out of the New Zealand tax-payer. There were already generous tax breaks in place. So said Dear Leader at 11.45am, on the morning of 27 October;

“They’ve got movies to make and in the end, money talks in Hollywood. That’s just the way it works. We can’t stop other countries around the world putting up much better and more financially-lucrative deals. If it’s just simply a matter of dollars and cents, I’m just not going to write out cheques that New Zealand can’t afford.”

By 7.38pm – barely eight hours later – Key had pulled out the taxpayer chequebook,

Tax rebates will also be changed for Warner Bros, which will mean up to an extra $NZ20.4 million per movie for Warner Bros, subject to the success of the movies…

… The Government will offset $NZ13.6 million of Warner Bros’ marketing costs as part of the strategic partnership.”

As Key lamely explained,

 “It was commercial reality. We did the business.”

The subsidy that was supposedly “ not in the tens of millionsbecame a $34 million tax-payer funded gift to Warner Bros  – on top of a 15% tax-break given to the movie industry – a tax-break not available to any other industry in this country.

Key had caved to the movie moguls from Hollywood, and the tax-payer would foot the bill.

Three years later, the next corporation to hold a “gun” to Key’s head and extort millions in tax-dollars was Rio Tinto.

As State Owned powerco’s were being partially privatised, the multi-national corporation demanded their electricity-supply contract be “re-negotiated” and tax-payer “assistance” to keep the smelter at Tiwai Point  afloat during low aluminium prices – or else the facility would be closed. The threat was the loss of 800 jobs (some claimed indirect jobs up to 3,000) and economic activity that was claimed to be 10% of Southland’s GDP.

With the possible closure of the smelter – which uses 15% of the country’s electricity – the price of power would collapse, making shares in Meridian, Genesis, and Mighty River Power worth only a fraction of their float price.

Key bravely asserted  on 3 April 2013  that government and the New Zealand tax-payer would not  be “held hostage” to Rio Tinto’s threats of closure;

“It’s quite possible that that power could be used either by new ventures that come to New Zealand or, alternatively, it would allow some less productive assets to be closed down or it would allow New Zealand not to build as much generation as might be required.”

Five months later, on 8 August 2013, Key had surrendered to Rio Tinto’s demands and as well as a deal for increased  electricity subsidies, National handed over a cheque for $30 million to the corporation.

Key justified the tax-payer bail-out and increased subsidies by pointing to saving jobs;

“If Tiwai Point had closed straight away then hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of jobs would have disappeared and the Greens would have said the Government doesn’t care about those workers and is turning their back on them so they really can’t have it both ways.”

However, the loss of thousands of jobs from the economy seems not to have taxed Key’s concerns when it came to thousands of State sector workers being made redundant;

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State-sector job cuts 'will make life tough'

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By February the following year, Rio Tinto  posted a US$3.7 billion profit, and issued a 15% increase in dividends to it’s shareholders. Part of the dividends pocketed by shareholders was no doubt made up of $30 million gifted  from the pockets of hard working New Zealand tax-payers.

Soon after the tax-payer funded bail-out of Rio Tinto, Green Party MP, Gareth Hughes made this remarkably prescient comment;

“Treasury told National right from the start ‘don’t give them any money’ – it just means every corporation will have its hand out for public money whenever they have any leverage over the Government.

[…]

Is that how you want your government to govern? Do you want your government playing fast and loose with public money; using your cash as a bargaining chip to cut deals over the phone with multi-nationals every time it finds itself backed into a corner?”

I can answer Gareth’s question: the next corporation with it’s hand out is SkyCity.

John Key plays fast and loose  with tax-payers’ money – not to save jobs – but to present an appearance to the public that National is “saving” jobs. It is a matter of the public’s perception he is focused on.

If that involves handing out cheques to Warner Bros, Rio Tinto, and now possibly SkyCity – he will do it.

This is the party that prides itself on being a “sound, prudent, fiscal manager” of the government’s books. Except that New Zealand governments have not engaged in this kind of  tax-payer funded largesse since Supplementary Minimum Prices were paid to farmers in the 1960s and 1970s.

That, to, was initiated by the supposedly pro-free market National Party.

Which leads on to an interesting situation regarding this government; it’s lip-service to the “free market” and supposed hands-off by the State. Committed right wing National/ACT supporters should be asking themselves three very pertinent questions:

  1. Is it ok if future Labour governments intervene and gives subsidies to various businesses as National has done?
  2. Does on-going State intervention by this National government signal the end of the neo-liberal experiment?
  3. Has National’s intervention in the “marketplace” illustrated the failure of neo-liberalism?

One thing, though, should now be clear to all; Key will say one thing, and then renege and do completely the opposite if it suits him politically.

One would think that any self-respecting journo from the media (no, not you, Mike Hosking) these days would be asking Key a very simple question;

“Mr Prime Minister, you have issued statements in the past and then flip-flopped months down the track. Why should we take anything you say at face value value, when you have back-tracked so many times previously?”

Put another way;

“Mr Prime Minister, you’ve said what you intend to do. How long before you change your mind when it becomes convenient to do so? You do have ‘form’, you realise?”

Or, even more bluntly;

“Mr Prime Minister, how long will this decision last? Days? Weeks? Six months?

I’ll leave it to esteemed members of the Fourth Estate to frame their questions in a suitable manner.

Just don’t be expecting an honest answer.

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Opening of Masu at SkyCity Grand Hotel, L to R, Nigel Morrison, Julia Smith Bronagh Key and PM John Key, October 12th 2013

Opening of Masu at SkyCity Grand Hotel, L to R, SkyCity CEO Nigel Morrison, Julia Smith Bronagh Key and PM John Key, October 12th 2013

Image acknowledgement: “The A List

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Postscript 1

As I wrote on 6 February;

In terms of past events; past scandals; and past instances where the PM has been caught out – it is by no means the worst.

This time, however, matters have reached a critical flash-point. The media has awoken to a smell of a government on the defensive and where Dear Leader has pushed the envelope once too often. Journalists and media commentators are no longer as tolerant;  no longer awed; and no longer willing to be mollified by a popular prime minister.

The Shipley Factor has kicked in.

At this point, nothing that National does will counter the  same style of growing clamour of criticism it’s predecessor faced in the late ’90s.

Nothing that has happened since then has caused me to resile from my earlier expressed belief that Key’s current administration is terminal.

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Postscript 2

‘Natwatch’ from The Standard wrote on 12 February;

“The focus group results are in and John Key is backing off from the Government injecting further money into the SkyCity convention centre.”

Which probably makes more sense than anything else this shabby government has done since 2008.

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References

NZ Herald:  SkyCity deal was PM’s own offer

Office of Auditor General: Skycity

NZ Listener: The SkyCity convention centre deal: 10 quotes from the Auditor-General report

Parliament Today: Questions and Answers – June 4 2013

Fairfax Media: Auditor-general backs Sky City report

NZ Herald: John Armstrong: Sky City report ‘deeply disturbing’

NBR: Close to corruption

Parliament: Prime Minister—Statements and Statements Made on His Behalf

NZ Herald:  Puzzle of Key’s extra casino jobs

Fairfax Media: Govt at odds over SkyCity convention centre

NZ Herald: John Key warns of SkyCity ‘eyesore’ if more money is not found

NZ Herald: John Key backtracks on taxpayer cash for SkyCity convention centre

NZ Herald: Sir Peter – Actors no threat to Hobbit

Fairfax Media: Key – No Hobbit bidding war

NZ Herald: PM – I’m not going to write cheques NZ can’t afford

NZ Herald: Hobbit to stay in NZ

NBR: Key on Hobbit deal: ‘It was commercial reality. We did the business.’

NBR: Key comes through: $34m deal sees Hobbit stay in NZ

TVNZ News: Relief in Southland over Tiwai Point deal

Radio NZ: Tiwai Point closing could have some advantages – PM

Otago Daily Times: PM defends Tiwai payout

Fairfax Media: State-sector job cuts ‘will make life tough’

RadioLive: Why John Key handed $30 million of your money to Rio Tinto

Te Ara:  Government and agriculture – Subsidies and changing markets, 1946–1983

Additional

Fairfax media: SkyCity’s ‘fair deal for all’ questioned (hat-tip Mike Smith, The Standard)

Previous related blogposts

Muppets, Hobbits, and Scab ‘Unions’

And the Oscar for Union-Smashing and Manipulating Public Opinion goes to…

Peter Jackson’s “Precious”…

National under attack – defaults to Deflection #2

Dear Leader caught telling porkies (again)?! (part rua)

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

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

The Maori Party, the I’m-Not-Racist-Pakeha Party, the Gambling-My-Money-Away Party, and John Key’s Party

ACC. Skycity. NZ Superannuation. What is the connection?

Skycity: National prostitutes New Zealand yet again

Witnessing the slow decay of a government past it’s Use-By date

The Mendacities of Mr Key #8: A roof over your head, and boots on the ground

Other blogs & blogposts

Imperator Fish: It’s about friends helping friends

Insight NZ: National splits in two over Sky City bailout

Liberation: NZ Politics Daily – 13 February 2015: SkyCity

Local Bodies: SkyCity’s Glorious Deal

No Right Turn: More money down the drain

No Right Turn: “Close to corruption”

Polity: Fleeced

Polity: Mo’ money

Polity: Small on “free” convention centre

Polity: I agree with DPF, Jordan Williams, and (mostly) with Matthew Hooton, too

Polity: Why all governments are bad at commercial deals

The Civilian: Disappointment as meteor misses Sky Tower

The Daily Blog: Key’s SkyCity Scam is a dirty deed done relatively expensively

The Daily Blog: Brenda McQuillan – A Problem Gamblers View of the Deal

The Dim Post: On Hooton on Sky City

The Dim Post: Win by not playing

The Standard: The SkyCity Deal

The Standard: Sky City’s playing us for suckers

The Standard: Key is in reverse gear about Sky City

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 15 February 2015.

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When the mainstream media go feral: A tale of two holidays

29 July 2014 4 comments

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The people will believe what the media tells them to believe

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The recent non-story on David Cunliffe’s three day holiday should be proof-positive that the mainstream media (msm) is fixated on pumping out as many “bad news” reporting as can be generated by a headline-seeking; advertising-driven; lazy corporate-media system.

We’re all aware that whilst Cunliffe took a three day break (I’m surprised he bothered to come back, instead of telling this country to go get f- – – – – !), our illustrious Dear Leader was off on a ten-day holiday, sunning his pale, $55 million arse, on a Maui beach in Hawaii.

Whilst the media did indeed mention that salient fact (albeit in passing), it was taken as a given that the leader of a party polling 50%-plus in the polls is entitled to a holiday.

Meanwhile, the leader of a mid-twenties-polling (?) Party is – it was hinted – not entitled to any such break.

The subtext was blindingly obvious; success breeds reward. In this case, a warm, sunny Hawaiian beach.

And failure means you don’t deserve a single damn thing, so get-back-to-work-peasant!

When you look at the Tale of Two Holidays, it is glaringly obvious how differently the media – and certain ego-driven political commentators who shall remain nameless – reported both events. The public must have been scratching their heads, wondering, What-The-F**k?!

Even right-wing political commentator and National Party cadre, Matthew Hooton, remarked on the apparent contradiction on 21 July, on Radio NZ’s political panel;

 “The Prime Minister was away for ten days at his bach or his holiday home. As you say, it seems terribly unfair and Labour people are very angry with the media because they say ‘here’s the Prime Minister goes away for ten days and our leader get’s sick for two days and goes skiing for three days and then get’s criticised’

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… to be completely crass about about this, if the CEO of Coca Cola and there’s the CEO of Pepsi Cola, and one of them’s sale’s are increasing making great profits, and the other one’s got a whole lot of product recalls underway and sales are down and they’re in a shambles, then the first CEO get’s to go on holiday and the other one doesn’t.”

The media’s unhealthy fixation on Cunliffe left me wondering…

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old-paper-with-quill-pen-vector_34-14879

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from:      Frank Macskasy
to:          Dominion Post <letters@dompost.co.nz>
date:     Tue, Jul 22, 2014 at 11:16 PM
subject: Letter to the editor

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The editor
Dominion Post

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There has been public disquiet that the mainstream media appears to be unfairly treating the leader of the Labour party, David Cunliffe.

This disquiet appears to have been confirmed by the recent attention and disparaging remarks by political reporters and commentators on Cunliffe’s three day holiday in Queenstown.

The same disparaging remarks were not directed at Prime Minister John Key, who himself took a ten day holiday – three times as long! – in Hawaii, at the same time.

Or the recent Donghua Liu “story”, where Mr Liu claimed he paid $100,000 for a bottle of wine to Labour – and then had to retract his allegations. No apology to Cunliffe was forthcoming, I noticed.

It appears to be different rules of reporting by the media when it comes to both men.

Of course, the media will respond that Labour is low in the polls and criticism by political commentators reflects that.

The irony is that constant negative stories by the media, including focusing on trivia (Cunliffe’s red scarf!!) and smear campaigns, feeds into Labour’s low poll rating. It is a ever-descending vicious circle.

Wouldn’t it be a fine idea if the media simply reported the news, instead of making it up and generating sensationalistic headlines, just to sell advertising space?

Far be it for me to tell the media how to do their job. I’m just an ordinary citizen who has to hear this kind of garbage day after day.

-Frank Macskasy

[address and phone number supplied]

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There is another reason why it seems bizarre that the media made such a fuss over Cunliffe’s three day break.

It’s common knowledge that Key takes his holidays in Hawaii. Which is an odd way for a Minister of Tourism to show his endorsement of the local tourism industry, and is something I’ve blogged about in the past. As usual, the mainstream media never considered it worthy of consideration.

But it seems to have been a different story  when David Cunliffe dared take three days off – supporting local businesses in the process – and all hell broke loose.

The campaign against Cunliffe was no better highlighted than the Herald’s recent Doinghua Liu Affair*, when an immigrant businessman made several allegations against David Cunliffe. Of those allegations, one (about a $100,000 bottle of wine) was retracted; one (about a supposed $15,000 book) remains unproven by any evidence; and the other two appear to have been overt attempts by Mr Liu to “curry favour” with a previous Labour minister.

Yet, the allegations were given wide prominence, even though,

  • there was very little (if any) actual evidence presented – it was all hear-say based on one man’s claims,
  • the Herald has pointedly refused to make public Mr Liu’s written statements, despite making public a copy of a letter signed by Cunliffe in 2003,
  • no apology, for the mis-reporting of the now-discredited $100,000 bottle of wine, has been forthcoming.

Then again, perhaps the purpose of the Donghua Liu Affair was not to report the news – but to manufacture it,  and in the process unfairly damage a reputation and undermine a party’s  election campaign…

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old-paper-with-quill-pen-vector_34-14879.

from:      Frank Macskasy
to:           Sunday Star Times <letters@star-times.co.nz>
date:      Wed, Jul 23, 2014 at 10:31 AM
subject: Letter to the editor

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The editor
Sunday Star Times

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John Key takes a ten day holiday in Hawaii and David Cunliffe takes a three day break in Queenstown – and the media go nuts over Cunliffe. All because of one unattributed “letter” from an anonymous individual claiming to be a “senior Labour party official”.

For all we know, the letter could have originated from the National Party’s dirty tricks team and hyped by certain TV3 and Herald commentators.

The Donghua Liu Affair was another sensationalised story based on one man’s unsubstantiated allegations – one of which has been retracted through lack of evidence.

Cunliffe addressed a family violence conference in Auckland and one tiny portion of his speech was taken utterly out of context by a headline-seeking media desperate for a sensational story. His full statement – which is rarely reported – “I’m sorry for being a man right now because family and sexual violence perpetrated overwhelmingly by men”

The true meaning of Cunliffe’s speech was lost in the subsequent media-generated hysteria.

Meanwhile, John Key refuses to apologise to crime-victim, Tania Billingsley for the shocking way in which the government botched the apprehension of the alleged perpetrator. Key says, “I don’t make apologies unless there’s a serious reason for me to do that.”

Evidently sexual violence is not a “serious” matter for the PM?

Key feels he can get away with such an outrageous comment because he knows full well that the media is fixated, with pack-like mentality, on David Cunliffe.

The public are not well-served by such poor “news” manufacturing.

-Frank Macskasy

[address and phone number supplied]

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The  concerted attacks on Cunliffe do indeed reek of a “pack mentality”; the kind of schoolyard or workplace bullying that takes place when a group recognises someone who, for whatever reason, is constrained in hitting back.

In Cunliffe’s case, he can’t “hit” back at the media. Not without adding fuel to the hysterics from the likes of Garner, Gower, Henry, Armstrong, et al.

In John Armstrong’s case, the man is simply so wedded to his mates in the  National Party  that, on the same day Donghua Liu made his allegations, the Herald columnist called for David Cunliffe to step down as leader of the Labour Party;

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John Armstrong - Cunliffe's resignation may be in order

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The fact that there was little actual evidence of wrong-doing was not a matter Armstrong considered.  Indeed, if one carefully reads Armstrong’s diatribe, one curious truth becomes apparent; at no point does he mention that Cunliffe’s letter to Immigration NZ was written in 2003 – eleven years ago;

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cunliffe - 2003 dated letter - partial

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Unless one had an eidetic memory, no human being on Earth could possibly recall signing a letter written over a decade ago.

Of course, it suited Armstrong’s purpose to omit the date. To any reader unfamiliar with the full details of the story, taking the letter out of it’s historical context gave Armstrong’s column validity that it barely deserved. It suited the Herald’s agenda to undermine the Labour leader. And it fitted like a hand-in-glove the collective media pack-attack on Cunliffe.

The entire issue became a Monty Pythonesque-style farce when,  on 22 July, when Patrick Gower reported on David Cunliffe’s exasperation with a media obsessed with finding fault with him;

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David Cunliffe owns up to getting it wrong

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Patrick Gower 3 News Political Editor

By Patrick Gower

 

Political Editor

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Labour leader David Cunliffe has done what politicians hate to do: he has admitted to getting it wrong.

And it is a long list – there is his apology for being a man and his apology for taking a holiday. There is even an apology for the scarf he has been wearing.

“I am being straight up – things I could have done better, things that I will do better.”

The Labour Party is in a crisis at just 26.7 percent in the latest 3 News-Reid Research poll.

Mr Cunliffe took three days off to go skiing in Queenstown last week and he says he got that wrong too.

 “I’m happy to say, with the information I now have about movement in the polls, when I made that decision I would have made a different decision.”

The poll shows since Mr Cunliffe took over as the Labour leader last year, voters who say he’s performing poorly have doubled, to 53 percent.

After being criticised for his red scarf, Mr Cunliffe says he won’t wear it as much.

“You know what – I reserve the right to put it back on occasionally,” he says. “But it won’t be on every day… I quite like the colour red.”

Meanwhile Prime Minister John Key takes 10 days off in Hawaii, and refuses to personally apologise to Tania Billingsley – the woman at the centre of the botched Malaysian diplomat case – but instead, it is Mr Cunliffe forced into making multiple apologies.

The scrutiny on his leadership is amplified – because Labour is so far behind.

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So there you have it, even the colour of Cunliffe’s scarf had attracted media attention and criticism.

Gower does admit one thing; “The scrutiny on his leadership is amplified – because Labour is so far behind“. So the scrutiny on Cunliffe’s leadership was not based on policies nor his  pronouncement on policy matters – it was predicated  on “Labour […] so far behind”.

 In other others; kicking someone when they’re down. Because to bullies, when someone is down, it’s easier to put the boot in. And make no mistake, this is a form of public bullying. When a person is attacked because of the style of their clothing, what else does one call it?

However, it get’s ‘better’. Listen to Gower’s commentary at the end of this TV3 report, on the same day;

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"So David Cunliffe Cunliffe voluntarily makes multiple 'mea culpas' about what can only be described as  pretty minor issues..."
“So David Cunliffe Cunliffe voluntarily makes multiple ‘mea culpas’ about what can only be described as pretty minor issues…”
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“So David Cunliffe Cunliffe voluntarily makes multiple ‘mea culpas’ about what can only be described as pretty minor issues…”

Pretty. Minor. Issues.

Those “pretty minor issues” are the “issues” which TV3, NZ Herald, and other media outlets have been fixated upon for the last few months – and now Gower is criticising Cunliffe for raising those very same issues?!

This is what I call manufactured news. Manufactured news made worse when a political figure is boxed into a corner to address them, thereby validating the synthetic nature of said “news”.

No wonder that Cunliffe said in the same video;

“I am determined that I will be extremely careful about the way I put things going forward…”

Just what the public needs; politicians fearful of  saying plainly and clearly what’s on their minds because they are wary of their remarks being taken out of context; twisted; and  hyper-sensationalised, by an increasingly tabloid-style media in this country.

We have been poorly served by the media which is more interested in ratings and selling advertising rather than reporting events. As matters stand, we may see politicians self-censoring, thereby pressuring political journalists/commentators to generate even more of their own asinine, manufactured ‘stories’, with ever-more lurid headlines.

Fifteen months ago, John Key expressed his frustration at what he perceived as media hounding. He retaliated;

“What I should have done, and what I will be doing in the future, is saying, well, the member needs to put that down to me in writing, and I’ll be doing that to the journalists as well.

‘Cos if you want perfection of everything I have done, two, three, four, five years ago, I will get you all that information for you, but I’ll get you the whole lot and give it to you.”

Perhaps the Labour leader might consider that mainstream media are no longer merely news-gathering and reporting organisations. They are selling advertising to earn revenue to return a dividend to shareholders.

As such, the mainstream media has it’s own agenda and reporting the news is no longer as profitable as it once was. “News” now has to be “packaged” and delivered to “consumers”. The “packaging” is now more important than the content.

Bear that in mind, Mr Cunliffe; you are being “packaged” for media consumers in whatever manner will sell the product (advertising).

My advice to David Cunliffe; refuse to be “packaged”. Develop a strategy for ignoring “pretty minor issues“. Treat the  next smear campaign that rises in the same way that Key treats such matters; with casual disdain.

And give the Gowers and Garners and Henrys of the media circus a simple message; “if you want to talk with me, fine. But if it’s about “holidays” or “scarves” or non-existent $100,000 bottles of wine – don’t expect any co-operation from me when you’re vying for information.  Because I’m just as likely to give it to your competitors instead.”

So stay aloof and don’t buy into being “packaged” by the media.

It seems to work for Key.

Meanwhile, lest we forget this shameful episode…

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from:      Frank Macskasy
to:           NZ Herald <letters@herald.co.nz>
date:      Wed, Jul 23, 2014 at 11:22 PM
subject: Letter to the editor

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The editor*
NZ Herald

 

It is now nearly one month since your editorial, “Cries of bias will not stop reporting”, where the NZ Herald tried – to no avail – to justify it’s campaign of lurid allegations and sensationalised headlines against Labour leader, David Cunliffe.

So where are we now with the Donghua Liu Affair?

Claims of a $100,000 bottle of wine – retracted.

Claims of a $15,000 book – still not proven.

Claims of a Yangtze River boat-trip and $2000 donation to a rowing club – shown to be one businessman’s ineffectual efforts to ‘curry favour’ with then-Minister, Rick Barker. (One doubts that a free feed and two grand donated to a rowing club would “buy” much in the way of favours from a Backbencher, much less a Crown Minister.)

Where does that leave your paper which has promised “further revelations”? Where is the “evidence” promised by the Herald?

And why have Donghua Liu’s “signed statements” still not been made public so we may judge for ourselves as to the value of his claims?

This has been a shameful, sordid episode from the Herald and will be long remembered by many as an example why journalists rank low on surveys of trusted professions – just marginally above used-car salesmen, politicians, telemarketers, and prostitutes (no offence intended to the latter two).

Indeed, the public will have every justification in treating with total scepticism any future story involving David Cunliffe (or any other senior Labour politician).

This has not been the Herald’s finest moment.

-Frank Macskasy

[address and phone number supplied]

 

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* Note: the matter of the Herald’s reporting of the Donghua Liu Affair is now a subject of a Press Council complaint, laid by this blogger, as well as OIA lodgements with the offices of the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, and Minister for Immigration.

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References

Radio NZ: Nine to Noon – Political commentators Matthew Hooton and Mike Williams

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

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

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

Radio  NZ: Ministers accused of bullying Turei

TV3: David Cunliffe owns up to getting it wrong

Fairfax media: John Key changes tack over questioning

NZ Herald: Cries of bias will not stop reporting

Previous related blogposts

John Key, Minister for Tourism, MIA

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

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

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

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

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


 

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david cunliffe stood up on the issue of domestic violence

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen/Lurch Left Memes

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 24 July 2014.

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Journalists encouraging irresponsible government policy?

6 January 2014 3 comments

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John Armstrong - Cutting tax tempting for National

Source

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Sorry, John, but precisely WHO is talking about tax cuts?

Because so far, all I’m hearing is a couple of journos putting the question to Dear Leader and his faithful little side-kick, Lassie Bill English. No one else is seriously contemplating cutting taxes – not when New Zealand’s sovereign debt is now $60 billion as at 9 November this year – and  increasing by $27 million every day since Key’s hopelessly  incompetent government came to power in 2008.

According to Hamish Rutherford, writing for Fairfax Media, this equates to $13,000 for every man, woman, and child in New Zealand – and expected to increase by another $10 billion by 2017.

We need to address this problem – not fuel it by increasing consumption of imported goods, thereby worsening our balance of payments.

For god sakes, stop encouraging National to engage in any further irresponsible slashing of revenue.  National’s two previous tax cuts in 2009 and 2010 did nothing to  help stem the growth in our sovereign debt. Not when revenue fell by up to $4 billion after those tax cuts.

We have other priorities.

For example, why is the Wellington City Mission short of $2 million to carry out it’s valuable work to assist the poorest in our society? It is obscene that the Mission will have to consider reducing some services, as Chief executive Michelle Branney recently suggested.

Why are New Zealand’s poorest families unable to afford basic  medicines since this government-for-the-rich increased prescription charges in January 2013? When National cut taxes, it attempted to make up for the revenue shortfall by raising GST (despite promising in 2008 not to) and increasing government charges such as for prescriptions, Court fees, etc.

Why are New Zealanders needlessly suffering from rare diseases because PHARMAC cannot afford life-giving medication?

Why are poverty-related diseases making a come-back with such a vengeance?

Children’s Commissioner Dr Russell Wills…

… report is expected to reveal a 12 per cent rise from 2007 to 2011 in hospital admissions for poverty-related illnesses such as acute bronchiolitis, gastroenteritis, asthma, acute upper respiratory infections and skin infections.

“Most New Zealanders will find the numbers of children affected by disease shocking,” Wills told the Herald on Sunday, “but for those of us working clinically with families in poverty it is not surprising.”

Wills also works as a paediatrician in Hawke’s Bay. He said hospital wards were now full of poor, sick children every month of the year – not just in winter. There was no longer a “summer lull” in diseases.

English found himself so cash-strapped after their tax cut profligacy that, by 2012, he was even reaching into the meagre pay-packets of newspaper delivery boys and girls to grab extra tax revenue.

Instead of frittering away taxes, we need to be looking at the real problems confronting us;

  • Address child poverty problems

When children go to school hungry because families cannot afford sufficient food after paying high rents, electricity bills, etc. then there is something seriously wrong with our country.

Especially when we are now seeing children eating out of rubbish bins because there is no food at home for them. I refuse to believe that most New Zealanders want this kind of society for their children.

This is not the New Zealand I grew up in.

The next Prime Minister must make this a #1 priority, and begin with taking on the role of Minister for Children and implementing a comprehensive Food In Schools programme (not the shonkey half-measures undertaken by National earlier this year).

Next on the agenda; returning welfare payments to pre-1991-slash levels (inflation indexed); reduce prescription prices for medicine;  and implement a massive job creation programme.

  • Pay down debt

From 2000 to 2008, Clark’s administration not only paid down debt, but also posted Budget surpluses,

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Government Debt

New Zealand Government Debt To GDP

Source

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Government Budgets

New Zealand Government Budget

Source

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To be fair, Labour’s Finance Minister, Michael Cullen did not have the Global Financial Crisis to contend with. But by exercising fiscal prudence –  instead of  tax-cut lolly-scrambles demanded by the then-National opposition – he left the country in a fit state to weather the on-coming financial storm that was about to envelope the planet.

By the time National came to power in 2008, the global financial crisis was well and truly upon us, with the collapse of Lehman Bros on 15 September 2008. The GFC had started earlier, and signs were apparent to all but the most intransigent optimist that dark storm clouds were on the horizon.

As unemployment rose and economic activity slowed, National persevered stubbornly with it’s tax-cut programme – a move that would further indebt this country and put our government’s books back into the red again. At one stage, National was  borrowing $380 million  a week to make up for the shortfall.

This despite the fact that it was common knowledge that we were facing a dire crisis, as Tracy Watkin and Vernon Small reported on 23 April 2009,

The recession was expected to blow a $50b hole in the economy during the next three years, plunging the Government further into the red as costs climb and tax revenues fall.

“That’s $50 billion we will not recover as a nation, and $50 billion that cannot be taxed by the Government,” Mr English told a business audience in Auckland.

And yet, despite his own candid admission, English went ahead with tax cuts that we could ill afford, and had to make up with massive borrowings; cuts to government services; increased user-pays; mass sackings of state sector worker, and eventual partial asset sales. Even welfare was targetted for “reforms” (read; cost cutting) to claw back government spending.

Little wonder that by September 2011, credit rating agencies Fitch and Standard & Poors had downgraded us.

  • Invest in upskilling the unemployed

Why are we importing tradespeople from overseas when we have 7.1% (153,210) unemployment in this country?

National’s response to the skills shortage was this ideological fob-off from Bill English, in June 2011,

In the first place, it is the responsibility of the companies that expect to rebuild Christchurch to ensure that they have the skills.

And to ensure that everyone understood that National was maintaining it’s long-held tradition of shirking responsibility, he added,

Of course it will be tight, because they are competing with very, very large salaries, particularly those in Western Australia where something like $250 billion worth of capital projects are in the pipeline.”

IBID

That’s the problem with a government that places it’s faith in a free market solution to everything (except corporate welfare) – nothing happens.

Wouldn’t it have made more sense to offer free skills training to every unemployed person in New Zealand, along with subsidised accomodation in Christchurch for workers moving from other towns and cities to take up work offers?

There would have been a cost, to be certain. But that would have been off-set by (a) reduced welfare payments; (b) upskilled workers who would continue to use their new training for subsequent building projects; (c) more taxes paid by more employed workers;  and (d) a flow-on effect to other businesses as income-earning workers spent their wages.

The $4 billion frittered away in tax cuts would have made a considerable dent in our unemployment and given a much needed boost to our economy. And by providing work to the unemployed, the government would have saved millions in welfare.

But by sitting on it’s hands and doing nothing, National has maintained the status quo; 160,000 unemployed wasting their time, and requiring more of our taxes to be paid for the dole.

Is this crazy or what?

Hopefully an incoming Labour-Green-Mana(-NZ First?)  will have more sensible policies than what we’ve seen thus far from National. (Which won’t be hard to achieve.)

And other areas which desperately require State intervention,

  • A fairer taxation system, including reducing (or even eliminating) GST; introducing a comprehensive Capital Gains Tax;  looking at a Financial Transactions Tax (or “Robin Hood” tax, as Mana refers to it); making the first $20,000 tax free; and increasing tax for the top 1%.
  • A sensible pricing system for electricity especially for low/fixed-income earners.
  • Increase funding for early childhood education.
  • More state housing, so our fellow New Zealanders have a decent roof  over their heads.
  • Invest in public transport, especially in Auckland, before the city grinds to a stop.

Those are the things we need to look at. Not cutting taxes for the well off (which is usually what the Nats end up doing).

These should be the priorities of a sensible government. Anything, everything,  else is grossly irresponsible.

Otherwise, what the hell are we leaving our children?

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debt-mountain-cartoon.

May I have some food, a home, parents

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Postscript

Armstrong’s article on tax cuts features a large image of a smiling David Cunliffe. Note; Cunliffe. Not English, nor John Key.

Is there a subtle sub-text being conveyed here that I’m missing? Perhaps I’m getting the wrong ‘message’ from Armstrong’s piece, especially when he finishes with this intriguing comment,

Overall, English will not want to tie himself to future tax cuts without more solid evidence they can be sustained.”

My… that almost sounds like a veiled warning, doesn’t it?

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 30 December 2013.

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*

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References

Bill English: Dr Cullen maintains tradition of tax-cut denial

Wikipedia: Bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers

NZ Herald: Govt borrowing $380m a week

Fairfax media: $50b hole in economy

TV3 News: Double credit downgrade a double blow for NZ economy

Fairfax media: Key ‘no GST rise’ video emerges

NZ Herald: Food parcel families made poor choices, says Key

The Press: Irish rush for quake jobs

NBR: Chch rebuild companies will have to find skilled workers – English

TV1 News: Rise in prescription charges ‘not fair’ – Labour

NZ Herald: Tax cuts: High earners set to benefit most

NZ Herald: Budget 2012: ‘Paper boy tax’ on small earnings stuns Labour

Fairfax media: $4b in tax cuts coming

Dominion Post: Bennett expects welfare reform to save $1.6b

Fairfax media: Public debt climbs by $27m a day

Radio NZ: Pharmacies ‘carry cost’ of increases

NZ Herald: Child poverty ills rising

Fairfax media: Hungry kids scavenge pig slops

Fairfax media: Mum Not Prepared To Wait And Die

Radio NZ: PM defends record of helping poor families

Radio NZ: 5th year in deficit at City Mission

Radio NZ: Funding declined for housing project

NZ Herald: John Armstrong: Cutting tax tempting for National

The Atlantic: Tax Cuts Don’t Lead to Economic Growth, a New 65-Year Study Finds

Sources

Trading Economics:  New Zealand Government Debt To GDP

Trading Economics: New Zealand Government Budget

Statistics NZ: Household Labour Force Survey: September 2013 quarter (6 Nov 2013)

Roy Morgan: New Zealand real unemployment down 0.3% to 8.5% and a further 8.6% (down 1%) of workforce are under-employed (5 Dec 2013)

Statistics NZ: 2006 Census

Statistics NZ: 2013 Census

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Sparks fly with yet more shocking right wing nuttery…

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malcomx newspapers

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It’s a funny old world we live in…

On the one hand,  the likes of Karl du Fresne  denounce Radio NZ as a left-wing organisation;  journalists are branded “leftist”; and  media pundits  feel the need to defend journos from being labelled as “left wing partisans” – whilst at the same time openly partisan, right-wing columnists like John Armstrong and  Fran O’sullivan are (mostly) unchallenged as  they spread their pro-National messages.

Armstrong’s recent column was nothing more or less than an unpaid Party political broadcast (for National, in case there was any doubt),

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Get-tough Greens preparing for battle

Acknowledgment: NZ Herald -Get-tough Greens preparing for battle

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Out of 31 paragraphs, Armstrong dripped political diarrhoea from nearly every one. Even the Greens’ democratic process took a hammering,

“So much for democracy. Not that too many at the conference seemed to mind. By all accounts, the motion to streamline the party’s antiquated remit system easily obtained the required 75 per cent backing to effect a change to the party’s standing orders.”

Pardon moi?! WTF?!

The Greens “easily obtained the required 75 per cent backing to effect a change to the party’s standing orders” – and Armstrong still derides the process with a curt “So much for democracy”? He thinks that a  75% acceptance of a remit isn’t democractic?!

I think if the Nats had won 75% of the vote in 2011, Armstrong would be spinning a completely different story. He would’ve wet his incontinence-knickers at such a result.

It’s fairly self-evident that  Armstrong’s pro-National leanings have clouded his judgement to such a degree that he no longer recognises when his diatribes are  bizarre, biased – and quite frankly – bullshit. He isn’t the Herald’s “chief political commentator” – he’s National’s media-liaison/spin doctor.

It’s a wonder that his salary isn’t paid directly by National Party Head Office.

Armstrong also commented,

“National Party-aligned bloggers were not the only people asking in the wake of that attack who was being Muldoonist now.”

Well, actually, Mr Armstrong, not many people were asking that. Only you and your pals, the National Party-aligned bloggers.

Perhaps Mr Armstrong and the National Party-aligned bloggers should be a little less thin-skinned. If John Key can throw muck at Russell Norman and the Greens, I’m sure that our smile-and-wave Dear Leader John Key can take a few jibes thrown back at him. Or is the Prime Minister so weakened by constant criticism from the media, public, and Left that he desperately needs shielding from those Big Bad Bolshie Greens?!

Oh, the poor wee flower.

This next bit by Armstrong illustrates the desperation of the Right wing and their venal, lapdog journos,

Norman appeared to offer further evidence of that later in the week when he rounded on the chairman of the Electricity Authority, Brent Layton.”

“Rounded”?!

Good lord, did Russell actually bite that poor man, Brent Layton?! Russell by name, Russell by breed?!

Whatever did Layton do to deserve such a “rounding”?!

Oh yeah. This,

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Power authority head attacks Greens-Labour electricity plan

Acknowledgment: NBR -Power authority head attacks Greens-Labour electricity plan

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Aside from the curious situation of a State sector CEO making political comments which are outside his purview, it seems clear that far from being the innocent injured party in an unprovoked political attack – Russell Norman was responding to an under-handed, well-planned, partisan assault on the Greens and Labour from Mr Layton himself.

As Norman said – and with considerable truth, I might add,

“Dr Layton’s extraordinary foray into political debate is nothing more than a National Party-appointed civil servant who has failed to do his job and is now trying to protect his patch.”

Perhaps if Layton can’t stand the political heat, he should stick to his role as a civil servant running a government department. Being a well paid civil servant for the Electricity Authority, he should be over-seeing lower power prices for all New Zealanders – but instead has  done the bidding of powercos and stood by as electricity prices continue their inexorable climb.

After the 2014 election, this may not be a problem for Mr Layton. He will no doubt be “persuaded” to seek employment elsewhere.

So basically, what we have with Armstrong’s “column” is National Party propaganda spin with a bit of Green-bashing thrown in . Simon Lusk, Cameron Slater, and David Farrar  couldn’t have organised it better. (Or, maybe they did?)

The only question that remains to be answered: why is the NZ Herald paying John Armstrong’s salary?

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It’s official: Key’s mind is someone elses’ responsibilty

5 October 2012 4 comments

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And now something  from the political Twilight Zone of weirdness. Herein is reproduced, in full, a recent column-piece by NZ Herald political commentator, John Armstrong,

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Finally, some answers. What’s more, some answers about who knew what and when; some answers which should leave the Prime Minister’s face as red as his favoured pinot noir.

Despite John Key’s insistent denials, it now seems to be the case that he actually was briefed by the GCSB on its eavesdropping on Kim Dotcom at a session in February which outlined the spy agency’s wider roles and capabilities.

Key cannot remember. Neither can Ian Fletcher, the GCSB director. But others present confirmed there was brief mention of the Dotcom saga. Key has had to accept their word.

He knows that he consequently emerges battered from this affair; that the Opposition parties have landed their strongest hit on him since he became Prime Minister. He will roll with the punches, however. He has little choice. Opposition parties are claiming the episode demonstrates the real level of incompetence within Key’s Government.

Any incompetence in this case, however, should be sheeted home to the bureau. It has taken more than two weeks to provide Key with basic information. Its inertia has dumped Key right in it. His demands that it move with greater speed appear to have gone unheeded.

Essentially, there has been a culture clash between the slow, methodical GCSB and the frantic world of politics.

As a result, Key has called in Cabinet Secretary Rebecca Kitteridge to sort out the GCSB. He clearly no longer trusts the bureau.

Key is likely to feel obliged to apologise to Parliament for the inaccuracy of some of his statements to the House. But the worst looks to be over for National.

By John Armstrong

Source

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Any incompetence in this case, however, should be sheeted home to the bureau. It has taken more than two weeks to provide Key with basic information. Its inertia has dumped Key right in it. His demands that it move with greater speed appear to have gone unheeded.”

Mr Armstrong – you must be joking?!?! Are you for real? Do you really think that it is the responsibility of civil servants to ensure that the Prime Ministers’ memory is in good working order???

Since when has the Prime Minister’s brain-fade been the responsibility of others?!

Key should have realised that the GCSB had been  illegally involved in spying on Kim Dotcom  during the Feb 29 briefing – only 40 days after the massive, Police ninja-raid on the Coatsville mansion. Surely, when the PM saw Dotcom’s image on the GCSB report, alarm bells would’ve rung in his mind??

At the very least, one would’ve thought that Key might’ve turned to his Chief of Staff, Wayne Eagleson, and queried the matter?

Sorry, Mr Armstrong – but trying to deflect blame for what Key can/can’t remember is just a step too far. If Key’s mental stability relies on others, then he is in bad shape and not fit to be PM.

Key’s ministerial responsibility for overseeing the SIS and GCSB appears similar to his ministerial responsibility as Minister of Tourism; The Prime Minister has left the country.

Perhaps the most ludicrous of Armstrong’s comments is when he suggests,

But the worst looks to be over for National.”

On Planet Key, maybe, Mr Armstrong.

But we do things differently, here on Planet Earth.

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John Armstrong, bloggers, and the free market

19 September 2012 2 comments

NZ  Herald  “chief political commentator” seems to have taken issue with bloggers. Well, two bloggers, mostly,

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John Armstrong NZ herald bloggers

Full bizarre story

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Armstrong’s bizarre comments were… well, bizarre.

Personally, I put it down to an unholy mixture of jet-lag*; long nights; too much/too little caffeine;  mid-life crisis; with a fair whack of frustration. Something has obviously crawled up his bits.

In fact, his comments in his column (above) were not just downright unprofessional, but  suggestive of  poor health. Comments like,

Here is a blunt message for a couple of old-school Aro Valley-style socialists…”

Get off our backs.’

Stop behaving like a pair of tut-tutting old dowagers gossiping in the salons.’

In short, stop making blinkered, cheap-shot accusations of the kind you made this week…”

And those were in just the first paragraph. After that, it was all downhill.

The tirade was directed at two gentlemen, Gordon Campbell and Bryce Edwards. Both responded in their own ways, and style,

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Full story

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Full story

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All three are worth reading.

All  three  speak volumes about the state of journalism in this country.

Firstly; John Armstrong represents the Old Guard of the Fourth Estate; conservative; part of The Establishment; close to government. In fact, how close to government was exemplified by this extraordinary statement from opinion piece above,

“The rapidly growing influence of Edwards’ blog was initially down to its being an exhaustive wrap-up of all of the day’s political news. It is now starting to develop a much more political dynamic that is unlikely to please National.”

With an admission like that, you begin to realise why someone like Armstrong would be so belligerent to the likes of Campbell and Bryce, who are hardly Establishment-types.

Since when was it ever the concern of a journalist whether what s/he  wrote was ” unlikely to please National “?!

A journalist is not put on this Earth to “please National” (or Labour). They are here to tell us what’s going on – regardless of whether or not National (or Labour)  are  “displeased”.

That one remark validates every criticism every made of the NZ Herald that it is a clandestine mouthpiece for the National Party. There is no other way it can be interpreted.

Secondly; whilst Armstrong represents the Old Guard of journalism, Campbell and Bryce are part of the  New Wave of Media. In large part, this involves the latest advent of mass-media, the internet. But the internet is simply the tool – it is an attitudinal sea-change  that best encapsulates what Bryce and Campbell represent.

When Rogernomics engulfed this country, it introduced the concept of the “free market” and “choice” to our economy. Some of it benefitted our nation – much of it did not. Thousands who lost their jobs will attest to that.

But the liberalisation and de-regulation of New Zealand was not simply something applied to our economy. It reached into, and affected every part, of our society.

MMP, for example, did to the electoral/political system was the removal of tariffs did to the  importation of consumer products; it gave the Voter/consumer a greater choice in who to vote for.

That same liberalisation encouraged the de-regulation of the Media. It was no longer the province of  card-carrying journos, feature writers, and freelancers. Suddenly, anyone could get “in on the game”. The internet did for citizen journalists, bloggers, and non-establishment commentators  what the typewriter and paid salaries did for mainstream journos.

The richest irony here is that John Armstrong is a cheerleader for the de-regulated free market – the same de-regulated free market that has pissed him off by letting everyone in on his turf.

Right about now, Armstrong should understand what it felt like when our shops were flooded with cheap clothing and shoes from Fiji, China, and India – whilst New Zealand seamstresses and shoemakers were forced out of business.

Or how Labour and National politicans felt when MMP changed our political landscape and Parliament was flooded with Greens, NZ Firsters, Alliance, ACT, etc.

The de-regulated free market is such a wonderful thing – until it’s your arse that is bitten.

Painful eh, John?

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Addendum

Armstrong complains about the tough nature of his job – especially accompanying John Key and his entourage to the APEC conconference in *Vladivostok last week.

Perhaps instead of writing travelogue pieces (see: Curse of Russky Island strikes ) he might have considered writing about Key’s pursuit of a Free Trade Agreement with Russia. This might have been a worthy topic, considering that Russia appears to have an unhealthy, close relationship with the Russian Mafia. (See related blogpost: A FTA deal with Russia?! That’s a big “NYET” Comrade Key! )

Even the Guardian and Washington Post felt the situation warranted some decent investigative journalism. (See: The farce of Russian elections , Russia’s presidential election: rigging is a delicate art, Putin’s government moves to quash public dissent )

But we got none of that (unless I’ve missed it).

A story of a sovereign state that appears to have  close connections to gangsters would seem to be much more of a story than interesting scenery in Vladivostok.  That might’ve made an interesting story for Armstrong to pursue – especially if we’re going to be cosying up to our Russian cuzzies with a FTA.

Newsworthy, I would have thought.

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Sources

Bloggers don’t let the facts get in the way

Gordon Campbell on journalism, and John Armstrong

Political round-up: Blogging backlash

Curse of Russky Island strikes

Who owns what: for an answer, start here

Previous related blogpost

A FTA deal with Russia?! That’s a big “NYET” Comrade Key!

Tracey Watkins on John Key – Surprised?!

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