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“The Nation” – a review

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First off the block for the ‘Battle of the Current Affairs Shows’ is TV3’s The Nation.

The current affairs show has been revamped with a different format and new hosts, Patrick Gower and Simon Shepherd. There is also a political panel, with familiar faces Bill Ralston, Josie Pagani, and Jordan Williams, frontperson for the latest right-winger ‘ginger’ group, The so-called Taxpayer’s Union.

So, how was the first episode?

Not the best, really. It is as if all the experience built up over the last few years have gone out the window, and there were a few irritating “clunkers”.

The main discordance – Patrick Gower. The man is talented, knowledgeable, and (should) know his craft.

But he needs to learn to Shut The F**k Up. Posing question to his guest also means waiting for an answer – not leaping in before the interviewee has even has a chance to complete his/her first sentence. Gower’s non-stop interuption of Cunliffe meant the viewer couldn’t get any idea of what the Labour Leader was trying to get at.

Message to Gower: do you want to know why David Cunliffe shouldn’t be outlining his coalition preferences on your programme?

Answer: Because he wouldn’t be able to articulate it properly without you over-talking him. We’d never get an answer because we’d be hearing your voice instead of his, and any message he’d  try to express would be lost in your strident voice continually interupting him.

Next week, Gower will be interviewing John Key. Now, as much as I’m no fan of Dear Leader, I think I’d rather hear him speak than Gower. So learn to pose the question and draw breath whilst your guest responds.

On a vastly more positive note, contrast Simon Shepherd’s interview with Jamie Whyte. This was a measured, professional, almost laid-back style of interview reminiscent of past, by-gone years where the guest’s responses were the central theme of  an interview – not the interviewer’s ego.

Simon’s strength lay in his soft-spoken, unexcited style of questioning Whyte (who, I think benefited from Simon’s style). There was definite ‘steel’ reinforcing his  laid-back approach. The ‘softly, softly’ approach – and it worked.  I was reminded of the BBC’s Hard Talk host, Stephen Sackur.

More of Simon, please.

The panel was a direct rip from TV1’s Q+A, with practically the same characters re-cycycled.

If TV3 is going to pinch another channel’s idea – can we at least have some fresh commentators? There must be more than half a dozen political pundits that TV3 can call on?

Next, the whole “Next Week’s News” seemed a bit of a farce. Not content with a TV current affairs programme being “across” a story (god, I hate that term) – now they’re going one step further and trying to predict stories? It is almost as if  The Nation is trying to set the news/current affairs agenda – an uncomfortable step for a news/current affairs programme to take.

Oh well, at least they’re not making up Tweets.

Lastly; what gives with the near all-male line-up of hosts, reporter, and panellists?!  Does TV3 have no talented women journalists? And what happened to Rachel Smalley, who really grew into the role?

All up, I rate this 6/10.

Can do – should do – much better.

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Other blogposts

The Daily Blog:  The Patrick Gower Hour of Power

Polity: Heads, talking

The Standard: A tale of two journalists

Whoar: review:..the nation:..the far-right come out to play..

 

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

17 January 2013 13 comments

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could anything be more exciting than television

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Radio Network apologises for 'dyke' slur against Alison Mau

Full story

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Charming.

But hardly surprising.

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

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

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

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

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

And National is gunning for it,

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Radio NZ on the hunt for next chief executive

Full story

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

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

The stage is set…

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

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We need public service TV

See: TVNZ7 supporters rally at Parliament

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

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

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

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Call for McElrea to resign from NZ On Air

Full story

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… to fund brain-deadening crap like this,

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The GC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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idiocracyposter0eo4

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

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

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

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

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

See: Response to the Resignation of RNZ CEO Peter Cavanagh

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See: Radio New Zealand ‘forced to register as charity

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

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

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

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

This blogger encourages the reader to;

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As Dave Armstrong wrote in August 2011,

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

See: Govt consigns RNZ to an undeserved chilly place

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

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

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

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

Spread the word, people.

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FB save radio nz page

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Previous related blogposts

The Ridges are on tonight!!!

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

Public Broadcasting – down, but not out

From July 1 onwards

TVNZ7 – value for money!

TVNZ7 – Picking at the body before it’s cold

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

The radio station, the newspaper columnist, and Dear Leader

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

References

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

Fairfax: Call for McElrea to resign from NZ On Air

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

NZ Herald: TVNZ reveals Seven Sharp presenting team

NZ Herald: Radio NZ on the hunt for next chief executive

Scoop.co.nz: Response to the Resignation of RNZ CEO Peter Cavanagh

Other blogs

Tom Frewen: GC In Breach Of Funding Agreement?

Pundit:  TVNZ kills ad-free channels to grow profits

Tumeke: Seven Sharp already looks blunt

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

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

Tumeke: The future of RNZ

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

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W.o.F “reforms” – coming to a crash in your suburb

29 October 2012 24 comments

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Continued from Liberalising WoF rules – where have we heard this before?

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A Bad Joke?

Stop me if you’ve heard this before; a National minister walks into  Parliamentary  and sez, “Mate, do I have a de-regulation for you!”

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Source

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Transport Minister, Simon Bridges, is proceeding full steam ahead with privatisation of the country’s Warrant of Fitness system.  Strangely, this policy was never ‘flagged’ at last year’s election – but that has never stopped National from implementing potentially problematic policies by rat-cunning stealth.

In fact, National’s Road Safety policy could be labelled “nanny statish” when it comes to issues such as banning cellphone use whilst driving; cracking down on the  anti-social “boy racing” culture; introducing zero blood levels for young drivers (but not older drivers);  tightening driving license procedures, etc.

See: National 2011 Transport Policy

See: National 2011 Road Safety Policy

National’s proposed WoF “reforms” do not appear anywhere in their Transport or Road Safety policies.

As outlined in my previous blogpost – Liberalising WoF rules – where have we heard this before? – this is another of National’s rush-of-blood-to-the-head type of policy which is based more on right wing, user-pays ideology than any measure of common sense.

Those Who Forget The Past…

Going by past examples of de-regulation and passing-the-buck on  safety issues, this will prove a costly exercise for the taxpayer. Costly in terms of damage caused by more accidents due to unchecked, unsafe, unroadworthy cars – and costly in terms of lives.

It is precisely this ideological  de-regulation and “reforms” in the 1990s that later created a crisis with our building industry and mines safety.

The loosening of building standards within the  1991 Building Act resulted in a leaking-rotting homes crisis that will ultimately cost home owners, local bodies, and the taxpayer billions in repairs.  Passed by Jim Bolger’s National Government, and which came into effect about 1994, light-handed controls and minimal standards (such as allowing the use of untreated timber and monolithic claddings) in the belief that building quality would be mostly assured by market-driven forces

See: Leaky homes prompt repeal of Building Act

The gutting of the mines inspectorate, allowing self-regulation by mining companies,  had it’s genesis in the early 1990s – again the Bolger-led National government –  where Bill Birch introduced the so-called “Health and Safety in Employment Act, in 1992.

Under the guise of  “eliminating red tape”, this dangerous piece of legislation allowed mining companies to self-monitor their own activities,

“39. Prior to the enactment of the HSE Act, New Zealand had a ‘mishmash of legislation’[5], in which the duties of employers and others tended to be set out prescriptively and in considerable detail. Under this regime, specification standards directed duty holders as to precisely what preventive measures they must take in particular circumstances. Such standards identified inputs, telling duty holders how to meet a goal, rather than health and safety outcomes to be achieved

42. In undertaking reform, New Zealand, like the UK and Australia before it, was strongly influenced by the British Robens Report of 1972. This report resulted in widespread legislative change, from the traditional, ‘command and control’ model, imposing detailed obligations on firms enforced by a state inspectorate, to a more ‘self-regulatory’ regime, using less direct means to achieve broad social goals

46. New Zealand embraced the Robens philosophy of self-regulation somewhat belatedly, but with particular enthusiasm and in the context of a political environment that was strongly supportive of deregulation. Indeed, in various forms, deregulation (and reducing the regulatory burden on industry more broadly) was strongly endorsed by the Labour Government that came into power in 1984 and by the National Government that succeeded it in 1990. The HSE Act was a product of this deregulatory environment and in its initial version was stripped of some of the key measures recommended by Robens, not least tripartism, worker participation and an independent executive. It was regarded, so we were told, as a ‘necessary evil’ at a time when the predominant public policy goal was to enhance business competitiveness…”

See: Review of the Department of Labour’s interactions with Pike River Coal Limited

The conclusion of this experiment in free market de-regulation lies deep within the Pike River Mine, with the entombed bodies of 29 dead miners.

Unfortunately, the architects of this de-regulation, Bill Birch Birch, Ruth Richardson, and Jim Bolger were never prosecuted for their malfeasance in this tragedy.

They should have been.

Fastforward to 2012…

Never let it be said that National learns from history, mistakes, or uses simple common sense. That would be far too much to expect from right wing, market-faith-based ideologues.

Under proposals announced on 18 September, the Government is considering reducing warrant of fitness checks to once a year for cars under 12 years old. (Currently, they are checked in six monthly intervals,  six years after their first registration.)

Bridges says millions could be “saved” in “unnecessary inspections”.

Bullshit.

At most, a car-owner with a vehicle older than six years would save about $60 in a potentially “unnecessary inspection”.

$60.

About $1.15 a week.

16 cents a day.

For that money, we ensure that a vehicle is up to standard, and is not a rolling death-trap on our roads, waiting to maim, kill, and/or destroy property. It means tyres have tread on them; brakes actually brake the vehicle; and the indicator is more than just mere decoration on the steering column.

As a car owner, it’s tempting to save $60 a year.

Until I realise that, for 16 cents a day, I have peace-of-mind that the other car behind me will stop in time because it has working brakes. Or the car-driver approaching on my right will see me through heavy rain because his  car window-wipers work.

There is damned good reason why the Motor Trade Association is campaigning heavily against National’s lunatic proposals. The MTA understands the full implications of increasing WoF checks to yearly intervals; a lot can happen to an older model car in twelve months.

This blogger can foresee a scenario where older vehicles  go for longer periods without WoF checks; family incomes dropping whilst living expenses continue to rise;  coupled to no mandatory Third Party insurance  – and this will end in tears.

As it is, on TV3’s ‘The Nation‘, AA spokesperson Mark Stockdale himself conceded that 9% of cars  on the roads   already lack a current WoF. How many more will we see  if the interval between WoF checks is increased? It doesn’t take supernatural powers of prescience to see where this is heading.

See: TV3’s The Nation 28 October 2012

As mechanic, Don Sweet,  told Radio New Zealand’s Nine to Noon programme on 27 September,

“When you talk about the repairs, I’ve found steering joints falling off, brakes worn right out, brake hoses cracked to bursting, rusted brake pipes, tyres with steel cords coming out.

And that’s not just on six-month checks, that’s on one-year cars as well. I just think the six months is going to save lives.”

See: Warning warrant of fitness changes could cost lives

National has a habit of not listening to those at the coalface when they stuff around with our laws. Whether it’s Hekia Parata undermining our teachers, or Primary Industries Minister, David Carter, not listening to the agricultural sector when bio-security regulations are watered-down – the Nats are spectacularly inept at consultation.

With National, “nanny state”  becomes Daddy State, and “Father Knows Best” according to these misguided, Ministerial muppets.

The tragedy here is that if this craziness becomes reality, it will be innocent New Zealanders who suffer the consequences as cars become increasingly unsafe and our roads turn into potential killing zones.

Daft Idea #2

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Full story

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In the same episode of TV3’s ‘The Nation‘, Bridges voiced the bizarre proposition that WoF checks could be contracted out to private companies who would be authorised by the government to carry out “randomised roadside checks” for WoFs,

It could be a private organisation who’s contracted by the government. As I understand it, that’s what they do in Queensland with a very good success.”

Only a male could come up with such a short-sighted, ill-conceived idea.

A female friend of mine listened to Bridges’ suggestion with wide-eyed horror on her face. She turned and said to me,

There is no way on god’s earth I’d stop for a strange car trying to flag me down. I’d have my foot on the gas pedal and head for the nearest police station. ”

She has a point.

When a police vehicle pulls over another vehicle, the former is clearly marked – with flashing lights – and it is safe to do so.

Expecting lone women drivers to pull over for unmarked private vehicles, with god-knows-who at the wheel, is a recipe for disaster. It puts women at risk and cannot be justified by any rational, clear-thinking individual.

Simon Bridges has more than a ‘brain fade’ here – we’re talking full-on ‘brain-wipe‘.

He must be barking mad to believe that,

If all we did as a country was decrease the frequency of vehicle inspections, that in itself may lead to slightly less, or not as good safety outcomes, but if we then target it, have a better targeting of regulation to where the risk is, I think that’s a smart thing.”

On every level, extending the period between WoF check and allowing “randomised roadside checks” by private companies, is the same craziness that National foisted on us in the 1990s.

All in the name of de-regulation and saving $60 a year.

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Related

Hands Off The WoF Campaign

Make A Submission Against the “Reforms”

Additional

TV3: Private companies may do random WoF checks

Previous related blogpost

This will end in tears

Other blogs

Deregulating for Disaster

Another deregulation fiasco

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What’s up with the Nats? (Part tahi)

19 August 2012 3 comments

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If there’s somethin’ strange in your neighborhood

Who ya gonna call?

Natbusters!

If it’s somethin’ weird an it won’t look good

Who ya gonna call?

Natbusters!

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Intro

Ever since the National Party conference at the end of July, the National Party has been strutting the political stage like a bunch of patched gang-members, strutting about the main street of some small town in the back-blocks.

Key, Bennett, Joyce, Collins, Parata, Banks – even lowly backbenchers like Maggie Barry – have been obnoxiously aggressive in policy announcements and dealing with the media and critics.

The Nats have been unrelentingly in our faces ever since John Key uttered the threat,

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Full story

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This is not just about confidence.

This is something new. This is about a new, hyped-up, aggressive style of taking criticisms and failings, and turning it back on the critic.

Steven Joyce was on-style on TV3’s “The Nation” (19 August), when he belittled and badgered two journalists (John Hartevelt and Alex Tarrant)  who asked him pointedly about National’s short-comings. Joyce’s response was typical Muldoon-style pugnacity.

This interview with Joyce is charachteristic of how National Ministers have been belligerent in their responses.  It is singularly  instructive,

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Full story

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Interestingly, Joyce has a “go” at Labour; then the Greens; and even Hone Harawira throughout the course of the interview.  He even blames the global financial crisis and throws that in the face of Alex Tarrant, as he responds to a point.

Everyone gets a dose of blame – except the one party that is currently in power. So much for National’s creed that we should all take personal responsibility for our actions.

It appears that  National’s back-room Party strategists have been analysing the first few months of this year and have realised that when things go horribly wrong, or the latest string of economic indicators reveal more bad news, the relevant Minister(s) responds  with  aggression and with defiance.

If the old say “explaining-is-losing” is a truism, then any explanation offered automatically puts a Minister on the back-foot.

The best way out of such a sticky moment; take a page out of Rob Muldoon’s book, ‘How To Win Friends/Enemies and Influence the Media‘.

And National’s Ministers have been playing this ‘new’ game perfectly…

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John Key

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Key has always played the part of the arrogant, born-to-rule Tory well.

Despite trying to put across the meme that he has never forgotten his “working class/beneficiary” roots (See:  Reflections from New Zealand: Address to the Menzies Research Centre John Howard Lecture), his obvious disdain for those who are the  most deprived and powerless in our community occassionally slips out, as when he derided the poor for being… well, poor,

But it is also true that anyone on a benefit actually has a lifestyle choice. If one budgets properly, one can pay one’s bills.

And that is true because the bulk of New Zealanders on a benefit do actually pay for food, their rent and other things. Now some make poor choices and they don’t have money left.”

See: Food parcel families made poor choices, says Key

That attitude came to the fore recently when Key decided that attending his son’s baseball game in the United States was a more pressing engagement than attending the funerals of two Kiwi servicemen killed in Afghanistan,

See: Key to miss soldiers’ military service

Key gave an explanation that, well, frankly astounded most New Zealanders,

In the end it’s a very, very difficult decision. I’ve got to let somebody down, but my son makes huge sacrifices for me and my job and, in the final analysis, I’ve just decided it’s probably the right thing to do – to go and support him.”

See:  Commitment to son will keep PM from funerals

“Sacrifice”?!

It’s hard to see how Key’s son has made a “sacrifice” that is more “huge” than two soldiers who gave their lives in the service of their country.

For good measure, Key then had a ‘go’ at our Hungarian allies – also serving in Afghanistan – and who have lost seven of their own troops in the neighbouring Baghlan province,

As far as I’m aware, the Hungarians don’t go out at night. Not in Afghanistan anyway – they might in Budapest.”

See: Hungarians condemn Key’s jibe about troops in Afghanistan

A nice bit of deflection there, from Dear Leader. What better way to evade his responsibilities in an apalling decision not to attend the two funerals, than to point the finger at somone else.

It’s not often that one of our Prime Ministers has successfully disrespected the fallen soldiers of not one – but two nations. Quite a feat – even by arrogant right wing stands.

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Postscript 1:

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SIDELINE SUPPORT: Bronagh and John Key on the first day of the Senior Little League World Series at Mansfield Stadium in Bangor, Maine.

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It seems that Dear Leader is not above a bit of “embroidery” when it comes to singing the praises of his son’s involvement in the game of baseball,

Prime Minister John Key has told United States media his son’s baseball team’s appearance at an international little league  tournament is “big news back home”…

[abridged]

His support for his son caught the attention of the local Bangor Daily News. He told the paper his son’s team making the tournament was big news back home, and might spur growth in a sport that was already “growing reasonably rapidly”.

“I think over time there’s a chance baseball might be a much bigger sport relative to softball in New Zealand,” he said.

“But competing with big sports like rugby I think is a long way down the road.” About 4000 people are involved in the sport in New Zealand and Baseball New Zealand said it was the “fastest growing summer team sport” in the country. “

See: Little leaguers ‘big news’, says proud Key

Postscript 2:

The deaths of three more New Zealand soldiers was announced on the morning of  Monday, 20 August.

On Radio NZ, John Key stated that he would be attending their funerals. Apparently he has no other pressing engagements coming up.

Listen: Radio NZ Prime Minister John Key on Morning Report (@  8.10 )

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Continued at: What’s up with the Nats? (Part rua: Paula Bennett)

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= fs =

A John, a Tony, and a Winston

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This morning’s  ‘Q+A’ (TV1), and ‘The Nation’  (TV3),  featured interviews with John Key, Tony Ryall, and Winston Peters. Peters  also appeared on John Tamihere’s panel on ‘Think Tank‘ – but more on that in a moment.

The three interviews and panel yielded some interesting points…

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Tony Ryall, Minister for State Own Enterprises

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One of National’s constant cop-outs on why the economy is stagnating and unemployment is so high, is a constant finger-pointing at the previous Labour government. According to Key, English, et al in National, the previous Labour government left the economy in a “parlous state”,

In 2008 the Government inherited an economy that had been in recession for nearly a year and that was up against a world economy in crisis….

… Under the last Labour Government the economy got way out of balance.

… We inherited from Labour a set of government books showing never-ending budget deficits and government debt spiralling out of control. This would have ruined the economy and created an onerous debt burden destructive to jobs and income growth.

See:  John Key, Statement to Parliament 2011,  8 February, 2011

I do agree with the view that for New Zealand to have a sustained recovery based on a stronger export sector will be a challenge with the dollar at the current levels. But I imagine that that member will not try to make a political point about that, because it is precisely record-high interest rates and a record-high dollar, driven by the previous Government’s reckless economic management, that have put the export sector into such a difficult position. “

See: Bill English, Parliamentary Questions And Answers – 30 July 2009

None of it is true, of course, and National’s attempt to re-write history is simply a dishonest strategy to excuse their own shocking performance at growing the economy.  In fact, this blogger pointed this out in a carefully researched analysis of Labour’s track record from 2000 to 2008.

See:  Labour: the Economic Record 2000 – 2008

Today (17 June), SOE Minister Tony Ryall let slip on ‘Q+A’  an admission that Labour’s record on fiscal management was not what National Party strategists had been alleging,

TONY RYALL  Uh, its certainly about debt. You know, New Zealands debt is currently $52 billion, $53 billion. Expected to go to $72 billion in the next three years. Thats getting to a level that were uncomfortable with. Thats the reason why we want to sell a minority stake in these assets, free up some cash that can then be invested in the other priority assets that New Zealanders want in the future

[abridged]

TONY  RYALL Thats right. Because at the moment, were going from $8 billion when we started in 2008. The debts now around $52 billion. Were expecting to be at $72 billion in another three years time…

See: TVNZ  Q+A  Transcript interview with Tony Ryall

So much for National; their party apparatchiks; and supporters who constantly warn us that Labour was, and is, a “borrow and spend” Party. National seems to be quite adept at racking up massive overseas debt – whilst cutting taxes locally.

Eventually though, that debt has to be re-paid. Hence why National is selling state assets and cutting back on state/social services.

Thank you, Tony Ryall, for the admission that the previous government, in fact, was not as fiscally inept as you and your colleagues have made out. Nor as inept as your handling of the country’s economy.

Feel free to call an early election any time soon?

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John Key, Prime Minister (Temporary)

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John Key’s appearance on today’s ‘The Nation‘ as the front man for an ideologically-driven National Party was on-par with past performances as the ever-smiling, smooth-talking politician, whose role it is to put a “human face” on the neo-liberal agenda.

There were several issues touched upon in the interview – though none as deeply as perhaps the viewer might have desired. On the issue of National’s deal-making with Sky City, Key was let off the hook lightly – with Fairfax interviewer, John Hartevelt looking slightly bemused when a particularly promising line of questioning was cut short.

Perhaps the interview tried cramming in too many issues, for the alloted time?

On the issue of the Auditor General’s investigation on National’s involvement in deal-making with Sky City on the possible awarding of a contract to build a new Convention centre, one comment from Key, in particular, should have raised a few eyebrows and generated further questioning.

At 6.37 into the interview;

KEY: The involvement I had, as Minister of Tourism was to go and talk to a number of critical players, and as part of a general conversation say to them, “Hey, look, New Zealand’s interested in building a convention centre. Did that with Sky City. I did that with people out at ASB Centre The Edge. I did that with Ngati Whatua. That’s not unusual.  I mean, and to argue that that would be unusual would be to say, well, look I have discussions with people in Whangarei about building a museum there. And I have discussions  with people in Auckland about building  a cycleway.

So now what we’re  talking about about is, ok, was there undue influence or was the process correctly handled, that’s what the auditor general  will say.

So let me tell you this, for a start of, ok, in terms of the expression of interest process, my office had absolutely no involvement, no correspondence, [ interuption by Rachel Smalley] no phone calls, absolutely nothing. So when the auditor general  comes in there will be no correspondence, no phone calls, no discussions, zero.

In a very casual, matter-of-fact manner, Key has stated that whilst he had “talks to a number of critical players, and as part of a general conversation say to them, “Hey, look, New Zealand’s interested in building a convention centre” – that there is no record whatsoever of any such talks or interaction with any of the parties involved.

What we do know is this,

Prime Minister John Key has confirmed he offered a deal to Sky City allowing the casino to have more pokie machines in return for building a multimillion-dollar convention centre. Mr Key, speaking from Indonesia, confirmed he made the offer to Sky City in his capacity as Minister of Tourism, Newstalk ZB reported…

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

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

See: NZ Herald SkyCity deal was PM’s own offer

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

The problem here, is that with Key’s “office having absolutely no involvement, no correspondence, no phone calls” we, the public have no way of knowing what has transpired. There is simply no telling what has gone on between Key and “critical players”.

I don’t know about you, the reader, but I am not in the slightest reassured by Key’s explanation.  It is an extremely worrying development in our system when important matters between government of commercial intrerests can be discussed in secret; off the record; and with no paper trail or other indication as to how arrangements were agreed upon.

The potential for corruption is plain for all to see.

If Key does not comprehend this, then his political advisors are not doing their jobs properly. This is not the transparent government that we have come to expect in a modern society – nor what John Key promised us.

See:  Open and Transparent Government – Declaration

John Key then went on to mount an extraordinary and peculiar attack on Winston Peters.

At 27.35 into the interview;

KEY: I dare him to go out there and say he will not under any conditions form a government with Labour, even if Labour’s policy is to raise the super age from 2020, not in the three-year period from 2014 to 2017.

“I dare him to say he will not, because he’s tricky and he’ll find a way all around all of that stuff. “

See: TV1 News -National in trouble – Peters

See:  TV1 VIDEO: Prime Minister John Key on ACC, super and the future

Curiously, when pushed by John Hartevelt, Key did not categorically rule out  a coalition deal with Peters as he did in 2008.

This blogger believes that  Key and National understand   Rule #1 in politics: learn to count.

If National’s support drops in 2014 (or earlier election) they will require a coalition partner with more numbers than the one-man parties of ACT and United Future. Only NZ First comes anywhere near offering the Nats a  potential coalition partner.

At the very least, National’s strategists want to drive Peters away from any potential coalition-partnership or Supply & Confidence support deal for a Labour-led government.

As for Peters – this blogger doubts that he will repeat his fatal mistake of entering into coalition with National, as he did in  on 11 December 1996. Peters understands that his constituency vote for him because it is a protest vote against the incumbent government – in this case, National.

Just as in 1996, people voted for him as part of a wide-spectrum political bloc of anti-National sentiment that was sweeping the country. By coalescing with the Nats in 1996, Peters ignored that sentiment and suffered the wrath of the electorate – first at the superannuation referendum in 1998, which was soundly defeated 92% to 8%. A year later, at the general election, Peters barely scrapped back into Parliament by winning his seat with a 63 vote majority. His Party polled under the 5% threshold.

No doubt National will continue to play their silly-bugger games to de-stabilise the  Labour-led governmen-in-waiting. They have no option, as their own internal polling must be reflecting what mainstream polling is showing; the public have had enough of National; it’s “Bright Future” never-never promises;  and want change. Come 2014 (if not earlier), the Nats will be dog-tucker and will be gone by dinner-time on election night.

Again, feel free to call an early election any time soon, Dear Leader?

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Winston Peters appeared on TVNZ’s ‘Q+A‘, and afterward on TV3’s ‘Think Tank‘, hosted by John Tamihere. Neither appearances could have been more starkly contrasting.

On ‘Q+A‘, interviewed by the personable Greg Boyd, Peters resorted ‘to form’, and displayed  his typical media-combativeness and mis-mash  of slogans and faux-outrage, that is his public persona.

It was painful to watch.

See: TVNZ Q+A Winston Peters on Coalition and Superannuation

‘Nuff said.

Contrast Peter’s cringeworthy performance on ‘Q+A‘, with his appearance on  ‘Think Tank‘, today, as one of three guests; Labour Leader David Shearer and Auckland University professor, Jane Kelsey.  This was a Winston Peters from a Parallel Universe where he appeared thoughful; measured; insightful; and practically led the panel. This is a Winston Peters who commands respect and attention – not the Jeykill & Hyde version on ‘Q+A’ who alienates the viewer with his  antics.

See: TV3 Think Tank 17 June

As a critic of Winston Peters, my suggestion to him is this; lose the attitude. Or at least tone it down. The media can be a pain in the arse, for sure, but why wind them up needlessly?

Save the aggro for the debating chamber in the House. That is where Peters can best utilise that righteous anger he is so famous for. And where he can best show the public that he is on our side as the champion of the Ordinary Kiwi Battler.

The Winston Peters that this blogger saw on ‘Think Tank‘ is the one that will help re-build NZ first.

Not the grumpy old bugger who got into a shouting-match with Greg Boyd.

If Peters reads this, take my criticisms as constructive. Or not. As a Labour-Green supporter, I’m not terribly fussed if he makes it back to Parliament at the next election, or fades away into the Twilight Zone.

But perhaps his supporters and Party activists deserve that opportunity?

Just my 5 cents + 15% gst worth.

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Acknowledgement

Cartoons by Murray Webb

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= fs =

TV3′s “The Nation”…

TV3′s “The Nation” is that network’s counter to TV1′s “Q+A”. It is hosted by Duncan Garner and former Radio New Zealand “Morning Report” presenter, Sean Plunket.

One aspect of “The Nation” that is glaring is that it seems to comprise of predominantly white males. Maori and women are rarely – if at all – interviewed or invited as guest commentators.

Case in point, “The Nation” for the weekend 16/17 July featured;

Dunan Garner (presenter)
Colin James (commentator)
David Parker (guest interviewee)
Bill English (guest interviewee)
Gareth Morgan (commentator)
Joanna Doolan (commentator)
Grant Dalton (guest interviewee)
John Pagani (commentator)
Cameron Slater (commentator)

All were pakeha.

Only one, out of nine, was female.

Does TV3 realise that 51% of the population is female? And is TV3 aware that New Zealand actually has an indiginous people called Maori? Or that other cultures also reside in this marvelous little country of ours?

As it stands presently, “The Nation” seems more like a relic from the 1960s, when society was viewed as a homogenous, primarily-pakeha, construct.

I look forward to TV3 lifting it’s ‘game’ on this matter.

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