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The Fletcher Affair – a warning for Labour

6 April 2013 8 comments

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spy vs politician

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The current mess surrounding the appointment of Ian Fletcher as the Government Communications Security Bureau’s (GCSB) Director should serve as a clear warning to any future Labour-Green government: Don’t Do It.

To be precise; don’t do what Key (and his ministerial cronies) has done. Circumventing the State Services Commission to “facilitate” appointments – even if done for decent motives – is simply;

(A) Not a good look

(B) Not worth the hassle when the media, bloggers, and Opposition get hold of it

(C) A slippery-slope toward cronyism and inevitable corruption.

The appointment of John Key’s Electorate Chairperson,  Stephen McElrea (who is also the National Party’s Regional Deputy Chair, National Party Northern Region) to the Board of NZ On Air raised numerous charges of cronyism and an agenda of political interference in public funding for television programming. (See:  Call for McElrea to resign from NZ On Air; See: PM has questions to answer over NZ on Air link )

Concerns over political appointees to highly sensitive positions, vulnerable to political interference, was quickly borne out when McElrea began to flex his “political muscles” even before being appointed to  NZ on Air’s Board,

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National man eyes NZ On Air chair

Acknowledgement: NZ Herald – National man eyes NZ On Air chair

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Key’s background in deal-making; cutting corners to achieve set goals; and getting results fatally blinds him to the realities that politics and government is a whole different kettle of fish to ‘high finance’. (Which would be a good thing, considering the almighty crash of  ‘high finance’ four years ago.)

The State Services Commission was set up precisely to keep politician’s greasy hands of appointments.  At the beginning of out nascent civil service, ministerial cronyism was rampant,

The departments that grew up over the next few decades operated under the direct control of their Ministers, in arrangements that were practical in pioneering times.  Ministers approved appointments, determined pay and conditions, and oversaw administration and financial management, with varying degrees of diligence.

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Understandably, Ministers were inclined to see that the people appointed were sympathetic to their own political outlook and priorities – and inevitably, in a small population, these were sometimes friends or acquaintances.  The Public Service was run on somewhat ad hoc ‘frontier’ lines, and seems not to have been much different from its parent institution, the British civil service.  In their report on the British civil service Sir Stafford North and Sir Charles Trevelyan described a bureaucracy that was, in the 1850s, rife with patronage, fragmented and inefficient.

Acknowledgement: State Services Commission –  Origins of the Public Service and Office of State Services Commissioner

Accordingly, after 1912, reforms were enacted to clean up this unholy mess,

The Hunt Commission in due course recommended, as ‘the most important matter of all’, establishment of a Board of Management under Cabinet, to have ‘absolute and undisputed power’ in ‘all matters relating to the control and management of the Service – … appointments, salaries, promotion, suspensions, dismissals, and indeed everything affecting officers – ‘  It suggested the Board’s first duties should include blocking all ‘back doors’ of entrance to the Public Service, and arranging for all promotions be made from within the Service.

The outcome was the Public Service Act 1912 – based on Herdman’s Bill already before the house – which set up a non-political and unified career Public Service; non-political through powers of appointment, promotion and dismissal being entrusted to an independent body – the Public Service Commissioner.

Acknowledgement: IBID

It is abundantly clear that John Key doesn’t ‘get’ any of this, when he said,

I didn’t do anything wrong whatsoever. Labour have done very similar things.”

Again, blaming Labour.

Is everything he says or does predicated on what the previous government did?

Does Key not have standards of his own? (Rhetorical question. Don’t answer.)

Because Key’s memory lapses cannot be blamed on anyone but himself. Especially when, on 3 April he openly contradicted himself as to who-phoned-who, as Andrea Vance reported,

…he appears to be confused about who first suggested Fletcher for the job.

Asked why he didn’t tell the full story last week, Key said: “I’d forgotten that at that particular time.”

In Porirua this afternoon, Key was grilled about the sequence of events that saw Fletcher appointed as director of the GCSB in September 2011.

At first Key said: “Iain Rennie, state services commissioner recommended him to me… I rang [Fletcher] and said ‘look, you know, you might be interested.”

Asked again who first brought up Fletcher’s name, Key replied: “Iain Rennie put it to me.”

Later on, he was asked again who first mentioned Fletcher. “I would have mentioned it to him, I’m sure.”

When pressed to clarify if he first suggested the name to Rennie, he said: “I’m sure I probably would have.”

Acknowledgement: Fairfax Media – Fletcher’s appointment defended by SSC boss

Key lied. He was caught out lying.

On 4 April, Scoop Media wrote about the rationale behind Ian Fletcher’s appointment as GCSB director. Fletcher had no prior military of Intelligence experience. But he did have an extensive  background in intellectual property, commerce and “free” trade (see: The CV of a Spy Boss ) .

Fletcher’s appointment was announced  in September 2011, and was due to take up his new job in early 2012.

At the same time, police were planning their raid on Kim Dotcom’s mansion, scheduled to take place  on January 20 2012.

Scoop wrote,

Suppose Dotcom’s arrest and extradition was the clincher in the deal that secured Warner Bros’ agreement to produce The Hobbit in New Zealand. But any link to John Key, who led the negotiations with Warner Bros, would tend to confirm Dotcom’s claim, supported by the strong connection between Hollywood and US vice-president Joe Biden, of political persecution. So the prime minister had to be protected by having total deniability, leading to the completely implausible claim of not knowing about the most prominent resident in his own electorate until the day before the raid.

Acknowledgement: Kim Dotcom Part Two

Conspiracy fantasy?

Remember that Key has had several top level meetings with Warner Bros executives,

October 2010

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No decision yet in Hobbit talks - Key

Acknowledgement: NZ Herald – No decision yet in Hobbit talks – Key

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July 2011

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PM's 'special' movie studio meeting

Acknowledgement: Fairfax – PM’s ‘special’ movie studio meeting

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October 2012

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Key - Dotcom won't be discussed during Hollywood visit

Acknowledgement: TV3 – Key: Dotcom won’t be discussed during Hollywood visit

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Four days later,
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Dotcom raised at PM's Hollywood dinner

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And those are only the meetings which we, The Masses, are aware of.

It’s interesting to note Chris Dodd, the CEO of  the Motion Picture Assiciation of America (MPAA) referred to the Trans Pacific Partnership Aggreement (TPPA) in the 5 October NZ Herald article above.

The TPPA has more to do with intellectual property rights than with “free” trade. (See: “Global Research –  The “Trans-Pacific Partnership”: Obama’s Secret Trade Deal; See: MFAT -Trans-Pacific Partnership Negotiations – Intellectual Property Stakeholder Update)

It’s also worthwhile noting that Ian Fletcher’s appointment coincided to the month with the raid on Kim Dotcom’s mansion.

  • Raid on Kim Dotcom’s mansion:  20 January 2012.

And both men were involved in intellectual property rights – though from different angles,

  • Kim Dotcom – the man who Hollywood executives wanted brought down because of alleged copyright violations on his ‘megaupload’ website. (see: The MPAA on Dotcom)
  • Ian Fletcher – the man who had worked in the UK to protect oroporate interests in intellectual property rights. (see below)

When Ian Fletcher’s appointment was announced on 8 September 2011, Key himself proudly boasted of the new Director’s  career,

Announcing the appointment Prime Minister John Key said he has ” policy and operational experience particularly in relation to international economic and trade matters.”

Acknowledgement: New Zealand’s new top spy boss revealed

Fletcher’s ” policy and operational experience particularly in relation to international economic and trade matters” seemed to matter for John Key for some reason?

Kim Dotcom was very high on the list of issues relating to “international economic and trade matters“; namely intellectual property rights.  Indeed, in March 2007, Fletcher was appointed as Chief Executive of the UK Office of Intellectual Property.

On 20 March 2007, Ian Fletcher said,

“I am delighted to be joining the Patent Office. It already plays a vital role in the UK’s economic prosperity, its scientific excellence and its innovation system. As the Office moves on to tackle to challenges set out in Andrew Gowers’ review, the Office’s role will become even more central to the UK’s response to the challenges of globalisation.”

Acknowledgement: Intellectual Property Office – New Chief Executive for the Patent Office

(Hat-tip; Karol, on The Standard)

It has been widely commented that Ian Fletcher has no background in the military, nor Intelligence – yet was considered the one candidate who was eminently suitable for the role of Director of the GCSB.  Perhaps now we are starting to understand why Ian Fletcher’s appointment seemingly related to,

  • the Crown’s case against Kim Dotcom
  • Illegal downloads/Intellectual Property rights
  • MPAA concerns
  • Hollywood big business
  • Trans Pacific Partnership

And as Key himself admitted, the issue of Kim Dotcom had been raised by Hollywood executive. Just what does our Prime Minister have to discuss with said executives? Who knows – it’s all done in secret, behind closed doors. We’re just expected to pay our taxes and shut up.

Conspiracy theory?

Conspiracy theories remain the subjects of idle parlour chit-chat and somewhat kooky websites… well, until charges are laid. Then a conspiracy theory becomes a conspiracy case in a Court of Law.

This affair should serve as a warning for the next in-coming Labour-Green government. National’s administration is a text-book case of how not to do things.

Every minister in the next Labour-Green government should be appointed a “minder” to ensure that they do things By The Book, and not to cut one single corner. Or at the very least, periodically re-read press reports and blogposts detailing every f**k-up by National over the last four years.

New Zealand is a small country. Secrets are notoriously difficult to keep. And even if the whole story behind the Fletcher-Dotcom-GCSB-TPPA thing has not been fully revealed – I think we’ve had a glimpse into the murky shadows of political perfidity to smell something rotten.

The issue has not only further dented Key’s credibility, but is starting to wear down his public persona of  good natured, ‘blokeyness’,

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John Key calls media 'Knuckleheads'

Acknowledgement:  NZ Herald – John Key calls media ‘Knuckleheads’

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Abusing the media? Not a good look for Dear Leader. It appears that the stress of the job is getting to him. And he can’t handle it very well.

Key’s “blokeyness” morphes into bratty petulance when he further dictates the terms under which he will talk to the media and in Parliament,

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PM John Key

‘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.”

Acknowledgement: Fairfax Media – John Key changes tack over questioning

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This is “seige mentality” stuff.

Key’s teflon coating wore away over a year ago. With no defensive cloak, the media recognise a government and it’s leader who are in dire trouble and  on the defensive.

As Martyn ‘Bomber’ Bradbury wrote on “The Daily Blog”,

“John Key’s extraordinary appointment of his school-hood chum to be the new Director of our spy network could well be his ‘speeding in the Prime Ministerial Limo’ moment.”

Acknowledgement: The Daily Blog – John Key’s ‘speeding in the Prime Ministerial Limo’ moment

And as Bryce Edwards noted in the NZ Herald on 4 April,

“As a barometer of the political media, John Armstrong is always useful, and it appears that he too ‘smells blood’.”

Acknowledgement: NZ Herald – Political round-up: John Key’s precarious credibility

There are more headlines to come out of Key and National. It’s only a matter of time.

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Related blogposts

Crony Watch!

References

Fairfax Media: New Zealand’s new top spy boss revealed (8 Sept 2011)

The Listener: Kim Dotcom and Megaupload: a timeline (20 March 2013)

Scoop: Kim Dotcom Illegal Surveillance And Response: Timeline (28 March 2013)

Fairfax Media:  Fletcher’s appointment defended by SSC boss (3 April 2013)

Radio NZ: State Services boss ‘surprised’ at PM’s phone call (4 April 2013)

NZ Herald: PM paints himself into another corner  (4 April 2013)

NBR: Honesty bigger issue than cronyism (4 April 2013)

NZ Herald: PM put mate’s case for job in 2009 (5 April 2013)

Radio NZ:  PM has no regrets about calling Fletcher (5 April 2013)

Fairfax Media: John Key changes tack over questioning (5 April 2013)

Scoop: Kim Dotcom Part Two (4 April 2013)

NZ Herald: PM put mate’s case for job in 2009 (5 April 2013)

Radiolive: Former GCSB boss intrigued by Ian Fletcher appointment – Audio  (5 April 2013)

NZ Herald: Ian Fletcher appointment a ‘totally ethical process’ (5 April 2013)

NZ Herald: John Key calls media ‘Knuckleheads’ (6 April 2013)

Other blogs

The Standard: The CV of a spy-boss

The Standard: Fletcher GCSB Change manager – and QLD

The Daily Blog: John Key’s ‘speeding in the Prime Ministerial Limo’ moment

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Crony Watch!

18 November 2012 22 comments

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Cronywatch*…

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…Keeping an eye on dodgy government appointees, crony-by-crony!

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In this on-going Thread, I will be reporting on blatant political cronyism from this current government. Considering that the NBR ceased their version of  “Cronywatch” in late 2008, I thought it would be helpful if folks knew what John Key and his government were up to.

Cronyism is when appointments to various quangos, Boards, organisations, departments, and even unofficial positions, are made for no other apparent reason than their membership, or close affialiation to, the National government. Governments do this for various reasons; to keep on eye on things; to try to influence decision-making; to ensure that their policies are carried out according to their agenda; and perhaps even a bit of  ‘pay back‘.

This sort of thing was/is verey commonplace under authoritarian regimes where democracy and an independent civil service are alien concepts. So it is more than a little disturbing when we find such occurrences here, in little old Godzone.

So every time I find a political appointee, I’ll report it here. With each up-date added to this Thread, I’ll ‘bump‘ it back up to the top of Recent Posts.

And now for some cronies…

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Catherine Isaac

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Catherine Isaac

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Catherine Isaac,

Party positions held:

Government appointments:

Despite having zero experience in the education sector, Ms Isaac was appointed by ACT MP, John “I-Don’t-Know-I-Can’t-Recall”  Banks to chair the Charter School Working Group. Ms Isaac’s only tenuous links to educatuion is that she has served on a School Board. (In which case, I look forward to serving on a DHB and thereafter beginning  a practice in brain surgery…)

As most folk know, Charter Schools is an ACT policy. Ms Isaac was appointed by ACT MP, John “What-helicopter-flights?” Banks.  And Ms Isaac is an ACT Party member, ex-candidate, and President.

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Belinda Milnes

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Social Development Minister Paula Bennett has appointed a former official from her own office to the board of the Families Commission.

Belinda Milnes, a former senior policy adviser for Mrs Bennett, has been appointed to the commission for three years.

The minister has been unavailable to discuss the appointment, but in a statement says Ms Milnes understands social policy and is the best person for the job.”

Source: Radio NZ – Bennett appoints former official to commission board

Interestingly, Paula Bennett made no mention of Ms Milnes’ connection with her office when she released this media statement,

” Social Development Minister Paula Bennett today announced two new appointments to the Families Commission.

Sir Peter Gluckman and Belinda Milnes have been appointed to the Board of the Families Commission for a period of three years.

The Families Commission is currently undergoing a restructure to assume its new role providing independent monitoring, evaluation and research.

“We’ve appointed the best people for the job to oversee a major change programme within the Families Commission,” says Mrs Bennett.

The Government is reprioritising a minimum of $14.2 million of the $32.48 million funding the Families Commission receives over four years to set up a new Social Policy Evaluation and Research Unit (SuPERU).

“This unit will provide research and best practise advice to government and non-government organisations,” says Mrs Bennett.

This unit will independently monitor and evaluate programmes and initiatives in the social sector, a job currently done largely by Government Departments.

“I believe giving this role to an independent body will see more community organisations entering into robust evaluation and monitoring”. “

Source: Appointments to Families Commission

I wonder how much ” independent monitoring, evaluation and research” will be produced by the new “Social Policy Evaluation and Research Unit ” when it is staffed by National Party appointees who have been functionaries within a Minister’s office?

At least the Minister will hear only what she wants to hear, with no pesky dissenting opinions upsetting her day…

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Richard Long

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Former National Party chief of staff Richard Long has been appointed to the board of TVNZ.

[…] He spent two years as chief of staff for National leaders Bill English and Don Brash after leaving the Dominion in 2002.”

Source: Former National Party chief of staff appointed to TVNZ board

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Katherine Rich (#2)

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Frank Macskasy Blog Frankly Speaking

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Frank  Macskasy Blog  Frankly Speaking

(L-R) National MPs Simon Powell, Katherine Rich, former National leader Don Brash, National MPs Nathan Guy and Gerry Brownlee applaud John Key as he delivers his speech as the New Zealand National Party launch their election campaign at Sky City on October 12, 2008 in Auckland, New Zealand.

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The latest cronyist-appointment is (again)  former National MP and CEO  of the Food and Grocery Council,  Katherine Rich, to the newly formed  Health Promotion Agency.

The Council  represents a $15 billion food and beverage industry and exerts considerable influence on food legislation and trade practices.

The Council was a vocal opponant, and campaigned against,   mandatory inclusion of vitamin B9 (folic acid) in bread (to prevent crippling  birth defects such as spina bifida) and  anti-obesity proposals such as taxing  sugar. It supports liberal trading policies for alcohol.

Party positions held:

Government appointments:

The Health Promotion Agency incorporates  the Alcohol Advisory Council of New Zealand (ALAC), the Health Sponsorship Council and other  promotion work by the Ministry of Health.

ALAC was an organisation tasked with addressing the growing incidence of alcohol abuse in this country. This increasingly destructive social  problem  has been calculated to be a $4 billion-plus crisis in our society, wasting valuable health, police, judicial, and ACC  resources, and impacting on employment and family life.

It therefore seems somewhat incongruous to appoint a person who  in deeply involved in the alcohol industry in a government body that has a role in identifying and addressing alcohol problems in our society.

In fact, one could see this as a conflict of interest. John Key’s bland assurances therefore sound rather hollow,

I’m comfortable that she’ll be able to manage any conflict….It’s important that a board has a range of different views.” – Source

Key’s views on the Food and Grocery Council’s emotion-laden campaign against folic acid was no less derisable,

The debate wasn’t around whether folic acid might or might not work. It was about people’s rights to have that put in every piece of bread. There’s quite a difference there.”

Unfortunately,  Mr Key fails to realise that foetuses deprived of this critical vitamin B9; are born with spina bifida; and spend their entire (shortened) lives in a wheelchair, have no such “rights” to choose. Foetuses rely on adults to consume appropriate foods and beverages.

Way to go, Mr Key. The manipulation of public opinion on this issue  by the Food and Grocery Council was predicated on saving money for the food industry.

But it’s taxpayers who have to pick up the medical and welfare tab for people with neural tube defects (spina bifida).

That, plus the Food and Grocery Council’s staunch advocacy for the proliferation of alcohol retailing, makes Ms Rich wholly inappropriate for this new government body.

Ms Rich has neo-liberal views on the production and retailing of alcohol,

The New Zealand Medical Association (NZMA) and Alcohol Advisory Council (Alac) strongly backed the recommendations.

Alac chief executive Gerard Vaughan said it set out a clear objective of reducing alcohol-related harm which stretched to structure and role changes for the district licensing agencies responsible for managing liquor licensing in their own communities.

Communities up and down the country were sick of the violence and vandalism that came with drinking and that proposed changes to licencing regimes would help address the problem, Mr Vaughan said.

Nearly 3000 submissions were received by the commission, many of which supported the tightening of laws around alcohol sales, purchasing and consumption.

But NZ Food and Grocery Council chief executive Katherine Rich said the report reflected “classic nanny state thinking.”

It failed to target those causing the problems and punished everyone, she said. The industry was already one of the most regulated, and more sensible ways to approach existing problems included better enforcement of current rules and better use of legal powers, along with industry-led initiatives.”   Source

Final word to someone more concerned with social issues (rather than profits),

Professor Sellman says supermarkets normalise alcohol as an ordinary commodity and sell it by the tonne at ultra-cheap prices up to 24 hours a day.

He believes Ms Rich’s appointment is a major conflict of interest and indicates the Government wants to have the alcohol industry strongly represented in its preparations for the new agency.

“Seventy percent of the alcohol that’s sold in New Zealand comes through supermarkets and here we have a person in Katherine Rich who’s a staunch defender of the excessive commercialisation of alcohol, particularly though supermarkets, and she’s on a board that is presumably about decreasing the heavy drinking culture”. Source, Radio NZ

See:   Lobbyist appointment no conflict: Key

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

See:   Journal of the New Zealand Medical Association: Folic acid and neural tube defects in New Zealand: a cautionary tale?

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Other blogs

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

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Roger Sowry

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Roger Sowry has been a National Party MP from 1990 to 2005 – five consecutive terms.  The first two terms were as MP for Kapiti, the latter three as a Party List MP.  He became Chief Executive of Arthritis New Zealand, and then worked at Saunders Unsworth,as a “consultant on Government matters” (ie; lobbyist).

Party positions held:

  • National MP 1990 – 2005
  • 1993, appointed Junior Party Whip
  • 1995, appointed Senior Party Whip
  • 1996, appointed Minister for Social Welfare
  • 1998, appointed Minister of Social Services, Work and Income; Minister in charge of War Pensions;  Minister responsible for the Housing Corporation; and Associate Minister of Health
  • Appointed Deputy Leader of  National Government from October 2001 to October 2003

Government appointments:

Prime Minister John Key said he would not describe Mr Sowry as a party hack and he was qualified for the job.   “We are not going to preclude people solely because they’ve been involved with the National Party. If we were to do that then the talent pool is going to be substantially reduced,” Mr Key said. – Source

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Wyatt Creech

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Party positions held:

Government appointments:

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Judy Kirk

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Party positions held:

Government appointments:

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Jim McLay

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Party positions held:

Government appointments:

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Penny Webster

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Party Positions held:

Government appointments:

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Brian Neeson

Ravi Musuku

Ken Shirley

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(L-R) Brian Neeson – Ken Shirley – Ravi Musuku

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All three men were appointed to the Human Rights Review Tribunal.  All three have connectionas to National, or in Ken Shirley’s case, to ACT, one of National’s coalition partners.

Brian Neeson

Party positions held:

Government appointments:

The appoint was made by the Minister –  without being interviewed, as is the usual process,

“It is the chair’s view that without interviews by an appropriately selected interview panel, the process will not provide an opportunity to properly assess the candidates suitability,” advice to Power in July last year said.

“The required skills cannot be evaluated without interview. He [Mr Hindle] has also expressed concern that the suggested appointment of member without interview would be at odds with the practice of past years“.” – Source

Which was unfortunate, as Neeson has a shocking record for anti-gay/lesbian beliefs that can only be described as homophobic.  He consistently voted against including gays/lesbians in protective Human Rights legislation and voted against legislation to outlaw employment discrimination based on gender. (See ” National’s version of ‘human rights’ ” at Tumeke, for full details.)

It is difficult to understand how someone of Mr Neeson’s beliefs can contribute to human rights issues in NZ, unless his appointment is specifically designed to curtail human rights for women and minority groups?

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Ravi Musuku

Party positions held:

Government appointments:

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Ken Shirley

Party positions held:

Government appointments:

Statement on Maori:

Graduation day at Te Wananga. Soon after the Labour Government came to office it started showering money on all things Maori. ” – NZ Herald

Soon after the Labour Government came to office, ushering in its flagship ‘Closing the Gaps’ programmes. It started showering money on all things Maori. ” – Ibid

Out of this Te Wananga o Aotearoa pocketed $5.8 million and said that would go a long way towards providing for its growth. ” – Ibid

But the Government went further. Closing the Gaps demanded even more taxpayer money be thrown at Maori. ” – Ibid

Despite its apparent concern, it has continued to shovel huge sums of taxpayer money to this institution – all in the name of the treaty. ” – Ibid

The Treaty of Waitangi Fisheries Commissioners have foreshadowed that the decision to allow the Maori Land Court to hear iwi claims to the foreshore and seabed of the Marlborough Sounds opens the way for similar claims around the country” ACT New Zealand Deputy Leader Ken Shirley said today.

I now call upon Prime Minister Helen Clark to act consistently, and to declare such claims off limits -as she recently did in the case of the claim for oil and gas reserves. In this instance, it was made quite clear that oil, gas and mineral reserves were vested in the Crown by legislation in 1937.”Press releases on Court of Appeal decision on foreshores and seabed, Recreation Access

I am again calling on the Labour Government to act decisively. It must spell out the bounds to claims – in order to prevent undue anxiety for tens of thousands of New Zealanders, and to ensure that iwi don’t waste any more time and money pursuing claims that should be off limits.” – Ibid

Hopefully Mr Shirley’s anti-Treaty and knee-jerk anti-Maori  beliefs will not be carried over to the Human Rights Review Tribunal.

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.(Acknowledgement: David M. and Tumeke)

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Wayne Mapp

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Wayne Mapp (L) and John Key (R)

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Announced on 28 February 2012 by Judith Collins, the Minister Responsible for the Law Commission;  the appointment of  National’s  former Defence Minister, Wayne Mapp to the Commission.

Party positions held:

  • National MP from 1996 to 2011
  • Appointed as “Political Correctness Eradicator” in October 2005, by former National Party leader, Don Brash
  • Chair of National Caucus Policy Committee
  • Minister of Defence
  • Minister of Science and Innovation

Government appointments:

  • New Zealand  Law Commission

The Law Commission is an independent Crown entity under the Crown Entities Act 2004. It is funded by government and reviews areas of the law that need updating, reforming or developing. It makes recommendations to Parliament, and these recommendations are published in our report series.  The Law Commission helps to maintain the quality of New Zealand law to meet the current and future needs of our rapidly changing society. The Commission’s objective is to improve the quality, relevance and effectiveness of New Zealand law, by informing and supporting discussion on and making recommendations to Parliament for law reform.” – Source

I suspect that the Law Commission may have just become a somewhat less “independent Crown entity “.

(Acknowledgement: David M.)

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Kerry Prendergast

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L-R: John Banks (obscured), John Key, Maurice Williamson, Kerry Prendergast

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Best known as Wellington’s mayor from 2001 – 2010, Prendergast is also a member of the National Party.

Party positions held:

Government appointments:

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Sir Wira Gardiner

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Full Story

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Party Positions held:

Government appointments:

1. Background

2. Background

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Stephen McElrea

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Party Positions held:

Government Appointments:

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Some weeks ago, a furore erupted when NZ on Air boardmember, Stephen McElrea, complained about the broadscasting of a document on TV3, just four days before the Elections last year.

The documentary was a highly critical look at growing child poverty in this country.

The timing of the documentary’s broadcasting  was criticised by Stephen McElrea, who complained that it was highly politicised and could impact of NZ on Air’s “impartiality”. There were suggestion made that NZ on Air should have authority over when programme  should be broadcast.

Some weeks ago, a furore erupted when NZ on Air boardmember, Stephen McElrea, complained about the broadscasting of a document on TV3, just four days before the Elections last year.

The documentary was a highly critical look at growing child poverty in this country.

The timing of the documentary’s broadcasting  was criticised by Stephen McElrea, who complained that it was highly politicised and could impact of NZ on Air’s “impartiality”. There were suggestion made that NZ on Air should have authority over when programme  should be broadcast.

***Update***

It appears that Stephen McElrea was part of a working group that has committed NZ on Air funding to a “documentary” on Whanau Ora.

Whanau Ora is a government department created under the National-Maori Party Coalition arrangement after the 2008 General Election.

NZ On Air states that the “documentary” will  look  at “how successful this new initiative will be in assisting NZ’s most deprived families” and that it would be  “a behind the scenes look at the roll out of this new initiative that seeks to deliver positive social outcomes for Maori“.

It is somewhat difficult to see how a documentary could determine that Whanau Ora  can be a “successful… new initiative … in assisting NZ’s most deprived families” when it is still barely operating. There have been no assessments or measured outcomes yet (to my knowledge) that would merit a “documentary” on Whanau Ora’s “success” or otherwise.

The fact that Stephen McElrea was a participant in the decision-making process to fund this “documentary/propaganda” is clear evidence that NZ On Airs  independence has been compromised.

This is the result of  government cronyism.

Source:  Call for McElrea to resign from NZ On Air

Additional

Scoop.co.nz:  PM has questions to answer over NZ on Air link

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Catherine Isaac

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An announcement was made on 1 February that ACT  member;  former ACT Party List candidate, and former ACT Party President, Catherine Isaac,  had been appointed to oversee the introduction of the government’s Charter  Schools programme in South Auckland and Christchurch. Ms Isaacs has no formal experience in the education field.

John Banks defended Isaac’s appointment was stating that she has sat of a School Board of Trustees for six years.

In which case, if I sat on a District Health board for a similar period of  time, would that qualify me to carry out  thoracic open-heart surgery? Well, I guess that would be one way to “train” our doctors on the cheap and get rid of that pesky, expensive Med School in Dunedin.

Party Positions held:

Government Appointments:

It seems abundantly obvious that Isaac’s appointment is to ensure that ACT’s Charter School policy is implemented without usual critical oversight, and to further ensure that results are presented in a “positive light” to the public.

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Katherine Rich (#1)

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(L-R) National MPs Simon Powell, Katherine Rich, former National leader Don Brash, National MPs Nathan Guy and Gerry Brownlee applaud John Key as he delivers his speech as the New Zealand National Party launch their election campaign at Sky City on October 12, 2008 in Auckland, New Zealand.

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The National-led Government is defending its appointment of the Food and Grocery Council chief executive to a board which will set up a new health promotion agency.

Katherine Rich has been appointed to the Health Promotion Agency Establishment Board, which replaces the Alcohol Advisory Council.

The move has outraged advocacy group Alcohol Action. Spokesperson Doug Sellman says Ms Rich has been one of the most vociferous defenders of the alcohol industry.

Professor Sellman says supermarkets normalise alcohol as an ordinary commodity and sell it by the tonne at ultra-cheap prices up to 24 hours a day.

He believes Ms Rich’s appointment is a major conflict of interest and indicates the Government wants to have the alcohol industry strongly represented in its preparations for the new agency.

“Seventy percent of the alcohol that’s sold in New Zealand comes through supermarkets and here we have a person in Katherine Rich who’s a staunch defender of the excessive commercialisation of alcohol, particularly though supermarkets, and she’s on a board that is presumably about decreasing the heavy drinking culture.”

The Labour Party agrees the appointment of Katherine Rich is too much a conflict of interest.” – Source, Radio NZ

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The Radio NZ report does raise an important question regarding her appointment to  the Health Promotion Agency Establishment Board, which replaces the Alcohol Advisory Council.

ALAC was an organisation dedicated to raising awareness of New Zealand’s considerable alcohol related (some say fueled) problems.

2009 BERL report estimated that “$4.437 million of diverted resources and lost welfare” could be directly attributed to alcohol abuse. That $4.4 billion  is reflected in  ACC, hospital admissions, crime, family violence, lost productivity, etc, and places a firm dollar cost on the harm that alcohol abuse is causing NZ society. These are costs we all pay for through ACC levies and taxes spent on medical intervention; policing; and the justice system.

Whilst working for the Food and Grocery Council, Ms Rich was a firm advocate of liberal laws surrounding marketting and retailing of alcohol,

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The New Zealand Medical Association (NZMA) and Alcohol Advisory Council (Alac) strongly backed the recommendations.

Alac chief executive Gerard Vaughan said it set out a clear objective of reducing alcohol-related harm which stretched to structure and role changes for the district licensing agencies responsible for managing liquor licensing in their own communities.

Communities up and down the country were sick of the violence and vandalism that came with drinking and that proposed changes to licencing regimes would help address the problem, Mr Vaughan said.

Nearly 3000 submissions were received by the commission, many of which supported the tightening of laws around alcohol sales, purchasing and consumption.

But NZ Food and Grocery Council chief executive Katherine Rich said the report reflected “classic nanny state thinking.”

It failed to target those causing the problems and punished everyone, she said. The industry was already one of the most regulated, and more sensible ways to approach existing problems included better enforcement of current rules and better use of legal powers, along with industry-led initiatives.”   Source

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New Zealand has a $4 billion-plus problem with alcohol abuse (BERL report) and Katherine Rich dismissed attempts to address this crisis as “classic nanny state thinking“?

It is worthwhile reflecting that since liquor laws were de-regulated in the mid 1980s (as part of the wave of Rogernomics “reforms”), that 25 years later things have gotten steadily worse.

Party positions held:

Government appointments:

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Mervyn English

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Full Story

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Though the State Services Commissioner  did find that they were satisfied with English’s appointment, one has to question why  the position was not publicly advertised, as is common practice?

Even if the SSC is satisfied of no inappropriateness, this brings up a valid point; how can we differentiate between blatant political appointees and those made on merit, if the entire system is brought into disrepute? Public perception is growing that this government is stacking various organisation Boards with party apparatchiks – and judging by recent events, that perception is not misplaced.

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Jenny Shipley

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Party Positions held:

  • National Party MP 1987 – 2002
  • Various ministerial portfolios
  • Prime Minister 1997 – 1999

Government appointments:

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Carried on at Frankly Speaking: Crony Watch

* Carrying on, where the National Business Review left of, in November 2008. (Which, by sheer coincidence, is when National took power.)

 

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= fs =

Inconvenient truths? No go, Fair Go!!

3 March 2012 6 comments

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Imagine a future society where citizens have global communications, entertainment, and news-information available at the press of a button, and can be viewed on large, wall-mounted, video-screens. Imagine that almost every part of the planet is accessible  to our gaze, courtesy of a network of media agencies; citizen journalists, and an orbital spider-web of communication-satellites.

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In this futuristic society, nothing is denied to us.  We can see, hear, experience, and understand almost every aspect of human civilisation, past, present, and possible futures.

The year of this futuristic world? 2012AD.

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The future is here and now. Everything I described above is reality – none of it science fiction.

Unfortunately for us, despite the vast amount of human knowledge now available to us at our finger-tips; despite the in-depth information that can explain everything from Middle Eastern background-politics to the latest updates in all the sciences – our television is now geared toward the mental age of a 14 year old child.

And things are not getting better…

Last year, as many will recall, TV3 was lambasted by NZ On Air’s board member, and National Party apparatchik, Stephen McElrea, who attempted to interfere with the scheduling of programmes funded by NZoA, and which might be embarressing to the National Government.

The timing of the documentary’s broadcasting  was criticised by McElrea, who complained that it was highly politicised and could impact of NZ on Air’s “impartiality”. There were suggestion made that NZ on Air should have authority over when programme  should be broadcast.

“Impartiality” in this case being code for “embarressing”.

McElrea and NZoA’s board quickly backed down in the ensuing public storm. It was one thing to stack government ‘quangos’ with party hacks – but quite another to openly try to interfere in the independence of such groups. That was a step too far. (Especially for supporters of incumbent governments, who prefer such shady political dealings behind firmly closed doors.)

Sadly, the state of public broadcasting in this country has already gone to the dogs.

In August last year, the Public Charter governing New Zealand was finally dumped. Any pretence that TVNZ was a public broadcaster committed to quality, informative, intelligent programming had finally been despatched to Neverneverland. TVNZ could now get on with it’s top three aims,

  1. Make money
  2. Make money
  3. Make more money

TVNZ could now broadcast as much food “porn” (cooking shows); reality TV; American sitcoms; and guesome crime shows with their nauseating misogyny; as they could fill in the hours. All interspersed with as much advetising as they could physically cram in between their rubbish programmes. (And often during programmes.)

The last remaining bastions of intelligent broadcasting (for the moment) are,

Unfortunately, TVNZ7 is doomed to disappear in June/July, as National refuses to continue funding the station. More on TVNZ7’s impendind demise here, by David Beatson.

That leaves us with…? Bugger all.

Even documentary-making is now under constant  threat; “Fair Go” has had the Hard Word put on them by TVNZ’s “Head of TV1 and TV2”, Jeff Latch.

According to “Fair Go” staff, Latch “was invited” to attend a staff-meeting of the popular consumer-advocate/investigative show, as a “guest”, where he says he told staff,

I also made the observation that we operate in a commercial environment  and that ‘Fair Go’ like all our programmes need to exercise care in the terms of the way they handles stories.” – Source, Radio NZ

Why would a programme that deals in consumer-investigate reporting have to be mindful that TVNZ “operate[s] in a commercial environment” and “need[s] to exercise care in the terms of the way they handles stories” ?!?!

Latch went on to say,

They need to make sure that they’re always balanced, because in a commercial environment a story that is not a balance story could be something that is not really what we would want to run on this network. ” – Ibid

There’s that reference to being  “in a commercial environment ” again.

When asked if his comments were a clumsily-coded warning to “Fair Go” staff not to upset advertising clients, he replied,

It wasn’t an instruction, per se“. – Source, Fairfax News

There are two things that really annoy the heck out of me,

  1. Politicians or company bosses who try to interfere with the autonomy of an independent party,
  2. Politicians or company bosses who – when caught out –  then treat us, the public, as blithering idiots, with blatantly spurious denials which they know, and we know, are pure bovine excrement.

It is hardly surprising that Latch put the Hard Word on the “Fair Go” team, considering that,

Jeff [Latch] has full accountability for driving the performance of our core channels, TV ONE and TV2. Prior to joining TVNZ again in 2006, Jeff had been with TVNZ for thirteen years as both Head of Sales and Head of Moving Pictures. ” – Source, TVNZ

Like Stephen McElrea, who tried to bring pressure to bear on TV3 – this time for political purposes – it appears that Latch has taken his commercial “imperivative” a step further and is now attempting to influence “Fair Go” so as not to alienate TVNZ’s advertisers.

Or, as lawyer and media-legal blogger, Stephen Price, wrote,

It does make sense. So much sense, in fact, that you have to wonder why Jeff Latch had to organise a meeting with Fair Go to tell them that. Did he also mention that they should try to be accurate? Not defame people? Latch should know that Fair Go are probably the TVNZ reporters best versed in broadcasting standards and media law, since they deal with them every week. (Back in my days at Kensington Swan, I used to provide advice to them).

Asked if he was instructing Fair Go not to produce programmes that upset advertisers, he said “it wasn’t an instruction, per se.”

Not per se? This sounds weasily to me. Was it a hint, Mr Latch?

Because actually, Fair Go has a pretty good track record in its broadcasting standards complaints. It has not been listed in the BSA’s “Most complained about” shows for at least the past three years, despite the fact that it often makes serious accusations against people with the resources to sue. Likewise, there haven’t been any reported defamation cases against them in the last few years, as far as I can tell. Was there a big secret settlement recently?

If not, Mr Latch – how should I put this? – you should stay the fuck away from the Fair Go staff. It’s their job to tackle TVNZ’s advertisers when that is merited, and it’s your job to hire good journos then leave them to get on with their job.” – Media Law Journal

(That was worthwhile re-printing in it’s entirety, as Price went straight to the nub of this fiasco.)

It should be fairly evident to any reasonably perceptive person that free-to-air TV is a commercialised creature, and for the most part, quite a dumb one.

TVNZ – despite being a state owned enterprise – can no longer be called a “public broadcaster” in any meaningful sense of the term. It is nothing more than a cash cow (muchlike our state owned power companies) which the government uses to bolster it’s revenue.

As David Beatson wrote last July on Pundit,

Official papers show Television New Zealand won $79 million in government funding for its advertising-free channels TVNZ 6 and TVNZ 7, by claiming they would be self-funding by 2012. Now they are closing the new channels down to enhance profits.

Television New Zealand told the last Labour government that two advertising-free channels it was launching to lure viewers onto the Freeview digital transmission platforms would be self-funding by 2012…

…On that basis, Labour agreed five years ago to commit $79 million over six years to get TVNZ 6 and 7 up and running, and a further $25 million over five years to get the Freeview digital transmission platforms established. This funding was in addition to the $15 million a year that Labour had already committed to TVNZ to meet its public service charter responsibilities.

Somewhere between TVNZ’s committment to the previous Labour government; the dissolution of the Charter; and the decision to abandon TVNZ7 and replace it with a shopping channel (!), committments to non-commercial, public broadcasting have been abrogated.

Appeals to this government to save TVNZ7 as one of the last two remaining free-to-air broadcasters  has fallen on deaf ears. (I expected nothing less. National MPs are individuals who know the price of everything – and the value of nothing.)

After July, the only remaining public, non-commercial broadcaster will be Radio NZ. And that station is badly under-funded.

As for NZ on Air, a body supposedly responsible for bringing quality programming to our TV screens, their latest funding project is for… reality tv. I kid you not,

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Full Story

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The cunningness of NZ on Air funding a commercial reality show, is amazing. It works like this,

  1. The government funds NZ on Air,
  2. NZ on Air funds a commercial reality-show, designed to attract maximum ratings and advertising revenue for TVNZ,
  3. TVNZ makes a good return on the show, through advertising revenue,
  4. Government then recieves a higher dividend from TVNZ,
  5. More money from TVNZ makes government accounts look better,
  6. Which helps National’s re-election chance in 2014.

Even Baldrick would be hard-pressed to come up with an even more cunning plan.

None of which contributes one iota to intelligent, informative broadcasting in New Zealand.

In my opinion, public broadcasting in this country is doomed under this current government. National has no committment to a non-commercial, public service. It’s only interest is (a) earning revenue from a profit-driven TVNZ and (b) coincidentally neutering critical, investigative journalism that might uncover stories potentially embarressing to Key’s government. (Stephen McElrea’s appointment to NZ on Air’s Board facilitates the latter.)

This is an issue of critical importance to our nation; our society; and our democracy.

As Blogger and Radio NZ un-person, Martyn “Bomber” Bradbury wrote, “The dumber the media, the number the electorate. Nowhere is this more evident than in the USA, where Fox News makes our talkback radio look like high culture at a Mensa meeting.

We’re well on the way to following our American cuzzies.

Without a strong, non-commercial,  public broadcaster, committed to informing the public – we become like the programmes we watch; dumbed down; ill-informed; and easily manipulated by politicians who desire our uncritical support, and most importantly, our vote.

The reaction from certain quarters to Bryan Bruce’s documentary on child poverty, last year,  was an unequivocal example of how much fear there is of informative, critical programmes that provoke debate and public scrutiny,

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A new, incoming, Labour-led government must take bold initiatives to redress the parlous state of our public broadcasting. The dumbing down of broadcasting, with the associated apathetic dumbing down of the public is as much of a threat – if not greater –  to our democracy than any “red menace” in the past; current, global US-led/Islamic conflict; or trans-national corporate takeover of our country.

This is as important as child-poverty in New Zealand because this is about intellectual-poverty.

Umpteen cooking shows, reality shows, banal comedies, crime-police “drama-porn”, et al, do not enrich our understanding of our society; our institutions; the issues confronting our nation and the world beyond.

Accordingly, any new progressive government must seriously consider the following:

  1. A non-commercial, public broadcaster – either TV1 or resurrected TVNZ7 – devoted to quality, informative programming; local drama; community productions;  and a comprehensive news/current affairs service.
  2. Funding levels for TV1/TVNZ7 and Radio NZ to be removed from the auspices of the Minister of Broadcasting (or any other  politician or Cabinet) and placed into the hands of an independent body such as the Remuneration Authority (the independent body that sets politicians’ pay).
  3. Enshrining a non-commercial, public TV broadcaster; Radio NZ; and Remuneration Authority-style funding system,
  • either in law; requiring a 75% vote in Parliament to amend or dis-establish,
  • or using a system of seven-year-minimum contracts.

TVNZ and Radio NZ were created ostensibly in such a manner as to prevent direct interference by politicians. However, politicians being the manipulative, arrogant creatures that they are,  simply cannot help but place their sticky fingers all over state broadcasting by any means possible. This usually involves remote-interference by  starving a state broadcaster of funding – which achieves pretty much the same goal as issuing dictats from on-high.

If New Zealand is to achieve the worthy goal of re-building a public, non-commercial TV broadcaster and adequately funding Radio NZ, then it must be taken out of the hands of politicians. Our elected representatives  have demonstrated that they are too self-serving to be trusted with something as critically vital to our society as the viability of public broadcasting.

If they cannot be trusted to set their own salaries, superannuation, and perks-of-office – they sure as hell can’t be trusted with our TV and radio.

It’s time to take the remote out of their hands.

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Previous Blog Posts

Fear and loathing in the Fascist State of New Zealand

Fear and loathing in the Fascist State of New Zealand – Part Deux

Fear and loathing in the Fascist State of New Zealand – Part Trois

Other Blog Posts

Pundit: TVNZ kills ad-free channels to grow profits

Tumeke: From ‘Fair Go’ to ‘Tame Blow’

Public Address: Freakanomics (TVNZ Edition)

Media Law Journal: Doesn’t sound like a fair go to me

Additional Reading

Scoop: Tom Frewen – NZ on Air Spooked by Political Interference

NZ Herald: Taxpayers’ $1.6m for talent show

NZ Herald: No eleventh hour reprieve for TVNZ7

Radio NZ: TVNZ accused of not wanting to upset advertisers

Radio NZ: Fair Go creator on claim show could be compromised :

NZ Herald: TV boss denies instruction to protect advertisers

Fairfax: Fair Go told not to upset advertisers, Labour claims

Fairfax: Losing public TV to infomercials

Green Party Broadcasting Policy

Labour Party Broadcasting Statements

A Very National Coup?

1 February 2012 4 comments

Some weeks ago, a furore erupted when NZ on Air boardmember, Stephen McElrea, complained about the broadscasting of a document on TV3, just four days before the Elections last year.

The documentary was a highly critical look at growing child poverty in this country.

The timing of the documentary’s broadcasting  was criticised by Stephen McElrea, who complained that it was highly politicised and could impact of NZ on Air’s “impartiality”. There were suggestion made that NZ on Air should have authority over when programme  should be broadcast.

Stephen McElrea is also John Key’s Electorate Secretary and a Regional Deputy Chair for the National Party,

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The public debate quickly re-focused on Mr McElrea’s appointment to NZ on Air’s Board, and how that impacted on that organisation’s impartiality.

NZ on Air has recently announced that it will not be seeking to influence broadcasting scheduling.

It is apparent that Mr McElrea’s position on NZ on Air’s Board has given the National Party a measure of influence within that organisation.

Today (1 February) an announcement was made that ACT  member;  former Party List candidate and former Party President, Catherine Isaac,  has been appointed to oversee the introduction of the government’s Charter  Schools programme in South Auckland and Christchurch,

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Source

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Ms Isaac is a businesswoman but with no education experience.

John Banks defends her appointment by stating,

Ms Isaac is a well-respected, competent business person who was also a member of a school board of trustees for six years.” – Source

Really?!

Using that bizarre style of  “logic”, a member of a District Health Board is qualified to conduct surgery if s/he has been in that role for six years? Medical school experience is not a requirement?

I wonder if John Banks would be comfortable with an untrained District Health Board member doing a wee bit of brain surgery on him… as long as said-member has been on the Board for six years?!

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I can see an opportunity here for some cost-cutting: we obviously won’t be needing Medical Schools anymore.

Aside from Ms Isaac’s unquestioned ability to make money, and a strong ability to sit on a School Board and discuss acquisition of toilet paper and pencils – precisely what experience in education dores she have?

And do parents feel comfortable in an unqualified, inexperienced person effectively re-structuring our schools?

It beggars belief that the government has allowed Ms Isaac’s appointment to proceed.  Surely someone on the Beehive Ninth Floor must have their “spidey sense” tingling, and considering the issue more deeply,

Hang on, this is not a good idea. This could make us look bad in the public eye. And if she f**ks up, we’ll cop the flak…”

It appears that Ms Isaac’s sole attribute for this position – like Stephen McElrea’s appointment to NZ on Air’s Board – is Party affiliation.

This is yet another naked positioning of power in our bureacracy. Like One Party states throughout history, National is maximising it’s influence by appointing Party cadres throughout the system.

This is comparable to the old Soviet Bloc, where people had to be card-carrying members of the local communist party before being appointed to a good job.

It appears that National is borrowing from those now-defunct systems?

We have also had the following appointees. Make of them what you will,

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Full Story

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Katherine Rich has been appointed to the Health Promotion Agency Establishment Board, which replaces the Alcohol Advisory Council.

The move has outraged advocacy group Alcohol Action. Spokesperson Doug Sellman says Ms Rich has been one of the most vociferous defenders of the alcohol industry.

Professor Sellman says supermarkets normalise alcohol as an ordinary commodity and sell it by the tonne at ultra-cheap prices up to 24 hours a day.Ibid

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The Labour Party agrees the appointment of Katherine Rich is too much a conflict of interest.

Health spokesperson Grant Robertson told Radio New Zealand while he holds Ms Rich personally in high regard, he believes her role with the Food and Grocery Council does clash with being part of such an agency.

“I think the linkage with her role supporting and advocating for the supermarkets is unfortunate and doesn’t sit well with the health promotion role that the future agency will have.”

However, in a written statement on Saturday, Health Minister Tony Ryall says Ms Rich, a former National MP, was appointed for her experience, balance and integrity.” Ibid

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(L-R) National MPs Simon Powell, Katherine Rich, former National leader Don Brash, National MPs Nathan Guy and Gerry Brownlee applaud John Key as he delivers his speech as the New Zealand National Party launch their election campaign at Sky City on October 12, 2008 in Auckland, New Zealand.

Source

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The Radio NZ report does raise an important question regarding her appointment to  the Health Promotion Agency Establishment Board, which replaces the Alcohol Advisory Council.

ALAC was an organisation dedicated to raising awareness of New Zealand’s considerable alcohol related (some say fueled) problems.

2009 BERL report estimated that “$4.437 million of diverted resources and lost welfare” could be directly attributed to alcohol abuse. That $4.4 billion  is reflected in  ACC, hospital admissions, crime, family violence, lost productivity, etc, and places a firm dollar cost on the harm that alcohol abuse is causing NZ society. These are costs we all pay for through ACC levies and taxes spent on medical intervention; policing; and the justice system.

Whilst working for the Food and Grocery Council, Ms Rich was a firm advocate of liberal laws surrounding marketting and retailing of alcohol.,

The New Zealand Medical Association (NZMA) and Alcohol Advisory Council (Alac) strongly backed the recommendations.

Alac chief executive Gerard Vaughan said it set out a clear objective of reducing alcohol-related harm which stretched to structure and role changes for the district licensing agencies responsible for managing liquor licensing in their own communities.

Communities up and down the country were sick of the violence and vandalism that came with drinking and that proposed changes to licencing regimes would help address the problem, Mr Vaughan said.

Nearly 3000 submissions were received by the commission, many of which supported the tightening of laws around alcohol sales, purchasing and consumption.

But NZ Food and Grocery Council chief executive Katherine Rich said the report reflected “classic nanny state thinking.”

It failed to target those causing the problems and punished everyone, she said. The industry was already one of the most regulated, and more sensible ways to approach existing problems included better enforcement of current rules and better use of legal powers, along with industry-led initiatives.”   Source

New Zealand has a $4 billion-plus problem with alcohol abuse (BERL report) and Katherine Rich dismissed attempts to address this crisis as “classic nanny state thinking“.

It is worthwhile reflecting that since liquor laws were de-regulated in the mid 1980s (as part of the wave of Rogernomics “reforms”), that 25 years later things have gotten steadily worse.

And then we had this little “gem”, back in September last year,

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Full Story

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One has to question why  the position was not advertised, as is common practice? The State Services Commissioner  did find that he was satisfied with English’s appointment.

If so, this brings up a valid point; how can we differentiate between blatant political appointees and those made on merit, if the entire system is brought into disrepute? Public perception is growing that this government is stacking various organisation Boards with party apparatchiks – and judging by recent events, that perception is not misplaced.

This Blog will keep an eye out for more political Party appointees.

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Postscript

ACT’s ability to oversee the implementation of it’s radical “Charter Schools” policy is questionable, when it cannot even keep it’s own website up-to-date.

Question: How many MPs does ACT have in Parliament?

Answer: 1.

But not according to their website, which still shows their muster of five MPs from last year. Oh dear,

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(And John Banks nowhere to be seen.)

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Previous Blog stories

Has National declared class-war on New Zealand?

Privatisation of our schools?!

Additional

Scoop: Tom Frewen – NZ on Air Spooked by Political Interference

National: Northern Region

National: Helensville Electorate

ACT: Catherine Isaac

Radio NZ: ACT member appointed to oversee charter trial

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Fear and loathing in the Fascist State of New Zealand – Part Trois

20 January 2012 3 comments

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Continued from Fear and loathing in the Fascist State of New Zealand – Part Deux

The decision from the Electoral Commission  was inevitable really,

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Source

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Why was the decision from the Commission inevitable? Two reasons spring to mind,

  1. Common sense. Often a quality missing from politicians and their  fellow-travellers and groupies. Common sense tells us that broadcasting a documentary dealing with a critical social problem such as child poverty, during an election,  is as appropriate as broadcasting rugby during the recent RWC tournament. Crushing critical tv documentaries may be the  norm in places such as Putin’s Russia – but in New Zealand?!
  2. The Electoral Commission – unlike NZ on Air – is an independent body. It has no National Party apparatchiks on it’s Board, pulling strings. The Electoral Commission is made up of Chairperson,Hon Justice Sir Hugh Williams QC, Auckland. KCNZM, LLM (Hons), LLB; Deputy Chair Jane Huria, LLB, FIODNZ, FNZIOD; and Chief Electoral Officer Robert Peden, Wellington. BA/LLB (Hons). Not a Party official or hack anywhere to be seen.

By contrast, NZ On Air’s Board is heavily stacked with National-friendly businesspeople, and Stephen McElrea, who is a prominent figure in the National Party.  He is not just the  regional deputy chairman of the National Party – but is also John Key’s electorate chairperson in the National Party Helensville Electorate branch.

Bryan Bruce is correct: TV3 deserves an immediate apology from “NZ on Air“.

Furthermore, as I posted previously, Stephen McElrea must resign immediatly from the Board of “NZ on Air“. His position on “NZ on Air” is no longer tenable and his continuing presence taints that organisation with political partisanship and interference.

McElrea has no alternative.

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UPDATES

25 January

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An interesting response from NZ On Air, to a simple question posed on their Facebook page,

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Related Blog posts

Fear and loathing in the Fascist State of New Zealand

Fear and loathing in the Fascist State of New Zealand – Part Deux

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Fear and loathing in the Fascist State of New Zealand – Part Deux

18 January 2012 7 comments

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Cont’d from: Fear and loathing in the Fascist State of New Zealand

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This blogger has written to Broadcasting Minister Craig Foss on this issue,

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from:    Frank Macskasy
to:    Broadcasting Minister Craig Foss <craig.foss@parliament.govt.nz>
date:    Wed, Jan 18, 2012 at 1:44 PM
subject:    NZ on Air

Sir,

Is it simply outrageous that NZ on Air – and more specifically – Board member, Stephen McElrea, is attempting to interfere with  the broadcasting and programming of television documentaries, citing that it might contravene NZ on Air’s impartiality. Specifically, NZ on Air has criticised and condemned TV3’s broadcasting of a documentary on child poverty four days prior to last year’s election.

This is absolute rubbish. It is also dangerous.

It is not – and should not – be mandated to a state owned organisation as to what New Zealand citizens are/aren’t allowed to watch, and when. Then is North Korean or Syrian style of government.

Furthermore, it appears that Board member, Stephen McElrea, is involved in attempting to empower NZ on Air to have authority to determine when specific programmes may be broadcast by independent media,

““The minutes of the NZ On Air board’s meeting in December says it is now considering adding a clause to the broadcast covenant requiring broadcasters not to screen programmes likely to be an election issue during the election period.”” – http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/national/96173/nzoa-accused-of-political-bias-over-poverty-show

This is outrageous and unacceptable. More so because because Stephen McElrea is deeply connected to the National Party, in his role as a Regional Deputy Chairman, and as John Key’s Electorate Chairperson in the Helensville Electorate.

This is totally unacceptable. Not only is this a gross conflict of interest, but it places NZ On Air’s independence into serious question.

This entire situation demands the following;

1. A new system of appointees to state bodies be set up which may make impartial appointments based solely on merit, rather than political connectivity. Such a reform is necessary if the public are to maintain confidence in our state structure and bodies.

2. Stephen McElrea must step down immediatly from NZ On Air. His position is simply not tenable, and casts a dark shadow over the impartiality of that organisation.

I sincerely hope that the suggestions and comments I have made here are brought to your attenton, as I believe this issue demands your utmost attention.

Regards,
– Frank Macskasy
– “Frankly Speaking“”

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Any response from the Minister’s office will be published here.

A copy of the email has also bee sent to various media, as it might be of interestr to them that a call has been made for Stephen McElrea’s resignation from “NZ on Air“. I suspect I may not be the only one making that call.

Tom Frewen has also come up with an interesting little matter of the only person to have complained to “NZ on Air“;  a person by the name of  “Alastair Bell”. As Frewen has written, is this the same “Alastair Bell”  who is on the National Party’s Board?

To clarify this matter, I have written to Mr Bell, at the National Party,

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from:    Frank Macskasy
to:    Alastair Bell <alastair.bell@national.org.nz>
date:    Wed, Jan 18, 2012 at 1:53 PM
subject:    NZ on Air

Kia Ora, Alastair,

Regarding the matter of an email sent to the board of NZ on Air, regarding a complaint about the broadcasting, by TV3 of a documentary, (“Inside Child Poverty”), can you confirm that you are the same Alastair Bell referred to in NZ On Air documents, as released under the Official Information Act?

Regards,
– Frank Macskasy
“Frankly Speaking”

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Again, any responses will be published here, as I believe it is important to clarify this matter. Keep checking back, for updates.

19 January

Acknowledgement from the Minister’s office, recieved earlier today,

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from:    Kartini Havell (MIN) kartini.havell@parliament.govt.nz
to:    Frank Macskasy
date:    Thu, Jan 19, 2012 at 2:43 PM
subject:    FW: NZ on Air
mailed-by    parliament.govt.nz

Dear Mr Macskasy

Thank you for your email of 18 January 2012 to the Minister of Broadcasting.  The Minister will consider the issues you have raised and respond as soon as he is able.

Best regards

Kartini Havell
Private Secretary – Broadcasting
Office of the Hon Craig Foss
Minister of Broadcasting
Private Bag 18041
Parliament Buildings
WELLINGTON 6160
DDI  04 817 9022    Fax  04 817 6518

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Response recieved from Chris Foss, nearly a month later,

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I’m not sure if anyone would buy the Minister’s assertion that “the expectation is that all Board members put their political or other affiliations aside when they participate in Board activities“.

Stephen McElrea most certainly did not ” put [his]  political or other affiliations aside ” when he attempted to interfere in TV3’s programme-scheduling over the child poverty documentary.

 

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Additional

Email address for Broadcasting Minister Craig Foss: craig.foss@parliament.govt.nz

Related Blog post

Fear and loathing in the Fascist State of New Zealand – Part Trois

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Fear and loathing in the Fascist State of New Zealand

18 January 2012 9 comments

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Last year, in March,  is a NZ Herald’s business writer and media commentator,  John Drinnan, raised the issue of possible conflict-of-interest surrounding the appointment of  Stephen McElrea to the Board of NZ on Air,

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Neil Walter, NZ On Air’s  chairperson  denied that there was any conflict of interest,

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Full Story

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Well, there was and there is, most certainly a conflict of interest, as events are now showing.

Stephen McElrea is a prominent figure in the National Party.  He is not just the  regional deputy chairman of the National Party – but is also John Key’s electorate chairperson in the National Party Helensville Electorate branch,

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McElrea is obviously  well connected.

So it is not surprising therefore, that NZ on Air’s Board, which is already heavily stacked with National-friendly businesspeople, has issued an unprecedented condemnation of TV3’s decision to broadcast Bryan Bruce’s document, Inside Child Poverty last year, in the week leading up to the Election.

For those who have not seen Bryan Bruce’s excellent, thought-provoking documentary, it is something worth watching. It is highly critical of New Zealand’s growing poverty which is having far-reaching, dire effects on our country’s children. The documentary looks at Sweden, and how the Swedish society ensures that problems such as poverty-related diseases, hunger, damp housing, etc,are not allowed to affect children.

And it looks at how New Zealand society has arrived at a stage where children go to school hungry, bare-foot, and sick with disease caused by poor housing; poor nutrition; over-crowding…

We used to think of New Zealand as a great place to bring up kids. Not anymore.

Multi-award winning documentary maker Bryan Bruce spent 6 months investigating why the current state of child health in New Zealand is so bad and what we can do about it. This is his controversial report.

What’s gone wrong and how can we fix it?

His journey begins in East Porirua, just 15 Km from Parliament to discover what the Free Market economy has done to the health of children living in lower income families.

Skin infections and respiratory illnesses he discovers are rife. Children living in damp moldy rental houses are suffering the highest rate of Rheumatic Fever in New Zealand.

In search of an answer Bruce travels to Sweden to find out why they are Number 2 in the OECD for child health and we are third from the bottom.

“What I discovered” says Bruce “ is that they work smarter. They know that for every dollar they spend on prevention they save about $4 on cure. They have a completely free health care system for children and they feed every child a free, healthy lunch, everyday. For the Swedes child health is a moral responsibility not a political issue.”” – Source

The documentary does not (if I recall correctly) attack any parfticular political party.

That has not stopped  NZ on Air from  attacking  the timing of TV3’s broadcasting of  “Inside Child Poverty“,  stating,

“”We are barred by legislation from seeking to influence editorial content of the programmes we fund.

“We’re very conscious and very respectful of the freedom of expression provisions of the Bill of Rights, but in this case we felt that we’ve been dropped in it by the decision to put that particular programme on just days out from voting.“” – Source

When someone sez, “we’re very conscious and very respectful of the freedom of expression provisions of the Bill of Rights, but—”  – what they’re actually  saying is that the preceding part of their statement (the bit before the “but” is about to be trashed.

It was fairly obvious that the documentary had political content. It’s also fairly obvious that the issue of child poverty transcends pilitics, and is probably the most important socio-economic crisis facing this country.

Why?

It is the most pressing crisis we face, not because of it’s far reaching consequence (which are many) – but because as a nation we seem spectacularly inept at (a) recognising that the problem exists (b) creating a plan to fix this problem, and (c) doing it.

We’re more pre-occupied with penguins, tax cuts, and victim-blaming.

This is cause for deep concern,

The minutes of the NZ On Air board’s meeting in December says it is now considering adding a clause to the broadcast covenant requiring broadcasters not to screen programmes likely to be an election issue during the election period.” – Source

It is preposterous and arrogance in the extreme that a tax-payer funded, state  organisation is attempting to set  itself up to determine  when it shall be appropriate to broadcast a programme. Especially one that is extremely relevant to our society.

It is even more outrageous that this is apparently a blatant, unconcealed, attempt by a National Party functionary to make this happen.

It is obvious to all but the most staunch National Party apparatchik or supporter, that NZ on Air’s attack on TV3 and Bryan Bruce is politically motivated. The nice, pretty words of  taking  its “political impartiality very seriously and now stands accused of political bias” is bullshit.

No one has accused NZ on Air of any such thing (to my knowledge), and if complaints were laid to the Broadcasting Standards Authority and/or Electoral Commission –  relating to  the timing of the documentary – those were most likely undertaken by National Party supporters. The  Nats have a habit of  deriding and being dismissive of  criticism.

One wonders how NZ on Air reconciles it’s critricism of the timing of the documentary’s broadcast, when current affairs programmes such as “Q+A” and “The Nation” were being screened into the living rooms of our country from Kaitaia to Stewart Island, almost up to Election Day?

Will NZ on Air be reviewing the timing of those programmes as well?

Perhaps we shouldn’t have any documentaries at all – especially if it might be seen as critical of the government-of-the-day? (Not that there are very many docos left on our free-to-air TV anymore… )

Who’s up for another re-run of “FRIENDS“?

The law of the land is crystal clear on the broadcasting and transmission of political matters. Political issues can be discussed in the media, and by political parties, right up until midnight on Friday, on the day before Election Day.

NZ on Air has no mandate to determine when documentaries shall be broadcast. It cannot and should not have a say in TV or radio programming. (At best, this is a matter from the Electoral Commission to assess, not NZ on Air.)

NZ on Air is not the arbiter of the public’s right-to-know.

And NZ on Air is not an arm of the National Party.

When a government attempts to dictate to independent media what they may/may not broadcast, and when, then it is apparent that state interference in our lives has transcended any quaint notions of “nanny statism”. This is pretty darn close to fascism.

At the very least, it is blatant political interference when Stephen McElrea writes, in his capacity as a NZ on Air board member,

“Was NZOA aware that this doco was to be scheduled 4 days before the election? If not, should we have been? To me, it falls into the area of caution we show about political satire near elections.” ” – Source

It is fairly apparent that the entire system of political appointees to various state bodies must be reviewed.  A system of impartial appointees must be looked into – because it appears that National’s influence has gone too far, this time. (Plus, it seems fairly bizarre that a National Party official considers a documentary on child poverty, as “satire“?!)

This is entire disgraceful affair has been a politically-motivated attack on Bryan Bruce, and TV3. It is obviously that Stephen McElrea’s position on NZ on Airs Board is untenable. He has lost all credibility as an impartial member of NZ on Air’s board and any decision from that body is now highly suspect.

As McElrea himself said,

Other than this, the Government should butt out of television broadcasting and leave it to the industry. ” – Source

Stephen McElrea has no other option: he must resign immediatly.

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Additional

Scoop: Tom Frewen – NZ on Air Spooked by Political Interference

Link: Stephen McElrea

Radio NZ: Listen to Radio New Zealand’s political editor on Summer Report

Radio NZ: Listen to Checkpoint interview with Neil Walter

NZ on Air

NZ on Air Board

Facebook: NZ on Air

National Party: Helensville Electorate

NZ Herald: MediaWorks works overtime to woo Henry

Kiwipolitico: Hearing No Evil

Tumeke:  Key’s electorate chairman attempts to censor political docos at NZ on Air

Pundit: NZ on Air gets it back-to-front on political docos

Pundit: Because politics is the LAST thing you need to see at election time!

NZ Herald:  Poverty trap set at birth – study

NZ Herald:  Political round-up: January 18

Related blog story

Unfortunate Outrage

Continued at

Fear and loathing in the Fascist State of New Zealand – Part Deux

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