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Granny’s wail

Written By: - Date published: 1:53 pm, November 15th, 2007 - 27 comments
Categories: election funding, Media - Tags: ,

Today the New Zealand Herald’s waning tantrum over the Electoral Finance Bill has been relegated to Page 5. Perhaps Granny has paused, had a cuppa, and is coming to her senses. The Herald reports today, a tad ingenuously, that the government might be about to “change tack”. Anyone paying attention to the noises coming out of the Beehive would have been aware of that for some time. Helen Clark and Michael Cullen (and now Pete Hodgson) have been signalling for weeks that there will be changes to the legislation. The Herald’s caterwauling on Monday about the imminent death of freedom and democracy will make a strong claim for the silliest media outburst of 2007. Last year the Herald brought itself much credit in providing a platform for the Auckland stadium debate, as it embraced the concept of “distributed journalism”, and provided an outlet for the opinions and energy of citizens who were interested in the stadium issue. But this week the Herald simply launched into an editorial rant, and set out to manipulate its readers, rather than serve them. The Herald’s treatment of the stadium debate was about grassroots journalism. On the EFB this week, it resorted to propaganda techniques. Many New Zealanders despair at the way big anonymous donors try to pervert the course of elections in this country, and at the way elections are threatening to become the preserve of the rich and well-connected. The New Zealand Herald is obviously happy for it to stay that way.

27 comments on “Granny’s wail”

  1. Billy 1

    I for one am heaving a huge sigh of relief that the EFB will finally put and end to those anonymous donations. Oh, hang on…

  2. So let’s get this straight. The Government introduces the worst piece of legislation in 100 years, making the biggest constitutional change in a generation.

    It then refers that bill to a select committee, which gets howled down by everybody from every side of the political spectrum, including the Human Rights Commission, the Law Commission, and numerous unions and NGOs.

    The Government does a hash-job of secretly stitching up deals between its friends to get the best possible outcome to skew the bill in its own favour. Meanwhile, the media holds the Government to account for its unprecedented constitutional duplicity and desperation, and the most the Left can do is scream that the media is biased.

    Why is it that the Government refuses to release advice given to it on the Electoral Finance Bill from its own officials? Why is it that the Ombudsman is demanding that the Government release those reports on the Bill? What is in that advice, that the Government doesn’t want us to see?

    Is that the example the Government is setting in its stated aims to encourage participation in our democracy, by suppressing every view that doesn’t concur with its own, even when that advice is coming from its own expert officials?

  3. r0b 3

    I hate responding to you Impotent Prick, because you’re not here to engage in constructive debate. But…

    “The Government introduces the worst piece of legislation in 100 years”

    No, that would be the ECA.

    “making the biggest constitutional change in a generation.”

    No, that would be MMP.

    “It then refers that bill to a select committee, which gets howled down by everybody from every side of the political spectrum”

    Yes, there was critical feedback from several groups, which it is the job of the select committee to take into account.

    “the most the Left can do is scream that the media is biased.”

    Claims of media bias (the “liberal media”) are much more common from the Right than the Left.

    “Is that the example the Government is setting in its stated aims to encourage participation in our democracy, by suppressing every view that doesn’t concur with its own, even when that advice is coming from its own expert officials?”

    The bill was clearly drafted in a hurry and had problems. The normal mechanisms of democracy (select committees, public input) are now working to fix the problems. During this process some people want to whip up hysteria because it suits their anti-Labour agenda. The rest of us would rather wait and see what comes out of the select committee before we start all hands to the barricades.

    As usual, the real world is more boring than the blogs.

  4. unaha-closp 4

    Congratulations to the Herald for bringing about some welcome changes to government policy.

  5. Robinsod 5

    Hey Insolent Punter – shouldn’t you get back to updating your blog? It’s looking a little hollow bro.

  6. Robinsod 6

    closp- you’ve got to be joking? Do you really think the SC went “oh no the herald seems to have got hold of National’s minority report (thereby breaching parliamentary privilege) – now we better spend the next 24 hour frantically re-writing it!”

    I mean really, straws. Grasping. You’re.

  7. Billy 7

    I agree wholeheartedly with Robinsod. Hurry up and update your blog. If this blog were half as amusing as this:
    http://insolentprick.blogspot.com/2006/04/truth-about-cats-and-dogs-and-hr.html
    it would be much more fun coming here.

  8. r0b 8

    “Congratulations to the Herald for bringing about some welcome changes to government policy.”

    Government policy doesn’t work that quickly. The Herald’s excitable little outburst was timed all wrong to affect the workings of the select committee.

    If they’d waited a just a bit longer they could have commented on the revised legislation instead of the draft.

  9. r0b:

    You said:

    No, that would be the ECA.

    Funny that. I distinctly recall the unions being very upset with the ECA, but the business community supported it, and the legislation itself was robust and achieved its stated aims. Nobody, and I mean NOBODY, claims that the EFB was ever a viable Bill when it was introduced. There hasn’t been a time in the last hundred years when a piece of legislation has been so overwhelmingly panned by so many parts of the community. When the Law Society takes the exceedingly rare step of saying the Bill cannot be redeemed, and must be scrapped, then you’ve got big problems. When the HRC says the Bill is seriously flawed, you’ve got even bigger problems. When unions are saying the Bill is totally bad, then you’re pretty much in a catastrophic state defending it.

    No, that would be MMP.

    I did think of MMP as a constitutional change as I wrote that, but qualified it as “this generation”. MMP legislation was introduced and passed thirteen years ago. That’s about a generation ago. But I’m not going to quibble about that.

    Yes, there was critical feedback from several groups, which it is the job of the select committee to take into account.

    That’s the understatement of the century, Rob, and you know it. It isn’t actually the role of the select committee to fundamentally change a piece of legislation referred to it. It is the role of the select Committee to hear submissions and make recommendations on how it can better fit the purposes of the Bill, but Standing Orders prohibit a fundamental re-write of the Bill in select committee.

    The bill was clearly drafted in a hurry and had problems. The normal mechanisms of democracy (select committees, public input) are now working to fix the problems. During this process some people want to whip up hysteria because it suits their anti-Labour agenda. The rest of us would rather wait and see what comes out of the select committee before we start all hands to the barricades.

    No, that is not the normal mechanism of a major constitutional change, r0b. Normally, major constitutional change involves at the very minimum a white paper on an issue, the Law Commission commissioning a review, often a commission of inquiry, and officials seeking public input into the issue long before it ever reaches Parliament in the form of a draft Bill. None of this took place. The Law Commission even stated that it would not make a submission on the EFB because it had not been through the normal policy and legislative drafting processes. It is unparalleled in the last 21 years for the Law Commission to refuse to make a submission on any piece of public law.

    This process has been rushed, but that is entirely due to the Government choosing to rush things through. If the issue had been critical to the Government after the 2005 election, they could have called a commission of inquiry to report back within a year, or at least commission the Law Commission to write a report on electoral funding and expenditure. The Government chose to do neither.

    The only reason the Bill is being rushed through is that for its first year of office following the 2005 election, the Labour Party never expected to repay the money it misappropriated during the 2005 election. Forced to do so by the swell of public opinion following the Auditor-General’s damning report, the Labour Party committed to repaying the money it misappropriated on the 2005 election.

    This Bill was only drafted as a response to Labour running out of money last year. Labour was caught with its hand in the till. This is not about creating a level playing field for all political players. This is about skewing the advantage in Labour’s favour, to make up for the disadvantage of getting caught cheating last time.

  10. Robinsod 10

    IP – that’s much better! At this rate people will start taking you seriously. Well done.

  11. r0b 11

    I’d just like to second Robinsod there – well done IP. Rational argument and no personal abuse. Very refreshing.

    “[the ECA] was robust and achieved its stated aims.”

    Rather more important were its un-stated aims.

    “Law Society takes the exceedingly rare step of saying the Bill cannot be redeemed, and must be scrapped, then you’ve got big problems”

    I do agree with that, and with the significance of the other criticisms.

    “That’s the understatement of the century, Rob, and you know it.”

    I’m an understated kinda person.

    “Standing Orders prohibit a fundamental re-write of the Bill in select committee.”

    As far as I know the majority of the submissions recommended changes that fell short of fundamental re-write. The Law Society submission may be an exception – I confess that I haven’t read it.

    “No, that is not the normal mechanism of a major constitutional change”

    It’s not clear that tightening up the laws governing election spending constitutes major constitutional change. Such things have been done in the past (badly – which is why we are in the mess we’re in now).

    “This Bill was only drafted as a response to Labour running out of money last year.”

    Completely disagree with you there, but that may have to wait for another time. Got to go do stuff in the Real World for many hours…

  12. unaha-closp 12

    “Government policy doesn’t work that quickly. The Herald’s excitable little outburst was timed all wrong to affect the workings of the select committee.”

    Week 1 – people find out democracy is under attack by the Labour government, they read how the EFB will clamp down on wide ranging freedoms – Herald calls for changes to government bill. Week 2 – bill is changed and the restrictions made less – Herald congratulates self. Very nice & simple, so easy to understand.

    The government may blather on about how it really meant to make changes all along and that it always agreed with all of the electorate, but the electorate will be able to see from the governments own words (as written in the EFB) that they are lying. The original EFB is proof of the governments real intent, before it was stopped by the diligent work of the Herald (& others) and if it becomes possible that the electorate forgets this the Herald will definitely remind them. What chance a Qantas award for the Herald’s service to democracy?

  13. Tane 13

    Unaha – what planet are you on? That’s not how Government works, it’s a slow-moving beast that’s not going to redraft an entire piece of legislation within a couple of days to suit a newspaper campaign. Of course the Herald will claim victory when the revised bill is released, but they’ll only do so because any other course of action will expose them to ridicule for their silly little fear campaign.

  14. Sam Dixon 14

    Now, watch for the Herald to claim a government backdown and shower itself in glory when the amended EFB is presented.. despite the fact the amendments have been signalled for months,

  15. the sprout 15

    i think they learnt that one from John Banks, or Sensing Murder

  16. unaha-closp 16

    r0b & Robinsod,

    You might even be right, but you are asking people to believe in subtle, complex, secretive actions with the government making a mistake, correcting the mistake and claiming never to have made the mistake – not simplicity. The Herald can prove its actions convinced the government to make substantial changes to its own bill, because changes were made – very simple. This goes to the nature of reality in politics.

  17. Tane 17

    Unaha – the Herald shouldn’t be playing politics. They should be reporting the news.

  18. r0b 18

    unaha – “the government making a mistake, correcting the mistake and claiming never to have made the mistake”

    Governments make and fix mistakes all the time. I’m not sure that the government is claiming not to have made a mistake this time?

    “The Herald can prove its actions convinced the government to make substantial changes to its own bill, because changes were made – very simple. This goes to the nature of reality in politics.”

    There are more logical fallacies in that statement than I can shake a stick at. Here’s why it’s wrong by analogy. Yesterday The Herald weather section predicted sun today. Today it is sunny. Hence The Herald can prove that it made the sun shine.

    In haste, and really gone this time…

  19. Spam 19

    Unaha – the Herald shouldn’t be playing politics. They should be reporting the news.

    So newspapers should never have any opinion pieces whatsoever? The sheeple must only be told the facts, with no analysis of how it might affect them? Gosh…. You guys should lead by example, and not post any opinion either.

  20. Robinsod 20

    Spam – there’s a line between opinion piece and what the herald did. If you can’t see that you need to take a reality check.

  21. Lee C 21

    Man you guys are soooo spoiled by your media. The media in New Zealand is a tame little puppy dog, when it yaps once in a while you get all excited about ‘bias’ and start saying ‘It’s their job to report the news!!’

    Yeah right.

    The state of the media here might explain why New Zealand society is so apololitical too. It certainly is why something like the EFB was nearly sailed through onto the statute books, with barely a whimper.

    Compare it to the media in the UK – they would have been savaging the EFB from day one, not waiting till about a week or so before the amended version was due, to start making a song and dance about it.

  22. r0b 22

    “Compare it to the media in the UK – they would have been savaging the EFB from day one”

    Is this the same UK media that so boldly stood up to England’s involvement in that war (based on nothing but lies) in Iraq?

    I do have a certain fondness for The Guardian (surprise!), but really, let’s not idealise that which is not ideal.

  23. unaha-closp 23

    The weather is uncaring, non-involved and quite illiterate. To suggest this a good analogy with the government is novel.

  24. r0b 24

    “The weather is uncaring, non-involved and quite illiterate. To suggest this a good analogy with the government is novel.”

    It’s an analogy about the logical structure of your argument unaha. You have a confused notion of causality.

  25. Lee C 25

    r0b I think you will find the media radio, tv press were pretty much not taken in by the WoMd and if I recollect, people marched on Parliament before the invasion and pubic opinion was listed as overwhelmingly in support of the UN Charter and against the war.

    It was a Labour Government in the UK which rode roughshod over public opinion, and the media ignoring the UN mandate and the advice of the European community and enacted an illegal act of genocide.

    Not coincidentally was a Labour Prime Minister who went deaf to the very place he’s come from, adopted a theoretically questionable ‘Third Way’ mantra for his philosophy and adopted the mantle of an increasingly ‘presidential’ type leader.

    Actually it was the model and theoretical basis upon which Helen Clark has modelled the modern ‘Labour’ Party of New Zealand upon isn’t it?

  26. Tane 26

    There’s a difference between running a range of op-ed pieces expressing a variety of opinions, and running a misleading propaganda campaign on your front page to make a political point. Your comment was in regard to the Herald acting like a political operative. I don’t think that’s its role.

  27. r0b 27

    “r0b I think you will find the media radio, tv press were pretty much not taken in by the WoMd and if I recollect, people marched on Parliament before the invasion and pubic opinion was listed as overwhelmingly in support of the UN Charter and against the war.”

    All true, and all too little and too late (as history proved).

    “It was a Labour Government in the UK which rode roughshod over public opinion, and the media”

    It was, to their eternal shame.

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