A government of spin

Written By: - Date published: 8:00 am, November 14th, 2015 - 51 comments
Categories: Hekia parata, making shit up, Media, national, same old national, spin, the praiseworthy and the pitiful, you couldn't make this shit up - Tags:

It is interesting that as this regime gets older the criticisms of the left, as has been painstakingly recorded in the Standard, are becoming more self evident.

This is a government of spin with the goal of privatising state assets, further attacking already marginalised workers rights and lessening environmental protection and enhancement all for the sake of corporate profit.

To achieve these goals it is willing to sacrifice other core tenets of the conservative world view.  It is now much more multi cultural and until this week more respectful of women than it used to be.  Although it appears that old habits die hard and Key’s display this week must have Crosby Textor scratching its collective head talk of dead cats notwithstanding.

And two recent examples show how it is completely obsessed with the handling of the PR related to issues rather than the issues themselves.

The first one relates to the flag process.  The handling of the feedback from the consultation was done in a way that hid negative comments.  From Matt Nippert at the Herald:

Nearly a third of public submissions to the Government’s flag consideration panel, all of them critical of the process and supporting the current ensign, were ignored in official reports and advertisements purporting to show public opinion.

Labour Party MP Trevor Mallard said the revelation showed the process was suffering from “total spin” and the panel was pushing to change the flag in breach of its mandate to be neutral.

The Herald Insights data website analysed the word cloud of submissions on standfor.co.nz and came to the conclusion that the word cloud had been manually filtered to remove negative terms.  Again from the Herald:

While the official wordcloud put out by the panel claimed “equality” was the most prominent reply in submissions seeking to determine what New Zealand “stands for”, the analysis showed this was mentioned only 1272 times.

In comparison, 8315 submissions called for the current flag to be kept, and 5026 claimed the $26 million process was a waste of money. Neither of these opinions were recorded in the flag panel wordcloud.

Manipulation of data to remove opposing views by a Government entity charged with managing a referendum should not happen.

The second example involves the rewriting of a report by the Education Review Office to minimise political damage for the Minister.  It was on the Herald website but has since mysteriously disappeared.  Bomber posted this from the original article:

A damning report by an education watchdog about babies and toddlers was partially rewritten after high-level meetings about its “risk” to the Government.

Documents show Ministry of Education advisers also tried to mitigate the impact of the Education Review Office report by planting good-news stories to balance negative media coverage, and carefully crafting a communications “narrative” during “war-room” meetings before its release.

Politicians and sector experts say the behaviour is concerning, and have raised queries about potential political interference in an independent body, plus a lack of transparency at the agencies.

Idiot Savant posted this further passage from the article.

Its imminent release sparked a flurry of activity at the ministry, including meetings with ERO and internal “war rooms” about risks, after which a message was sent by a communications manager saying the report was being rewritten – one day before its intended release – to “put the onus of responsibility more firmly on providers”.

Sources say the ministry wanted the report “reframed” as it was seen as a threat to the Government and could have potentially embarrassed the minister, Hekia Parata.

Why has the article been removed?  Was pressure bought to bear?  Surely the conduct of the Ministry of Education is a valid matter to be reported on.


Both examples confirm what should be already apparent.  This Government is more interested in PR and spin than in achieving good.


51 comments on “A government of spin”

  1. Richard Christie 2

    Suggest you use the term public assets rather than state assets when talking about the sales.
    The later is neoliberal term designed to distance the owners, i.e. citizens, from their own property by inserting a faceless entity, i.e. the state.

  2. veutoviper 3

    The Kirsty Johnston article seems to have disappeared off The Herald website, but Google Cache is our friend. Full article is here:


    EDIT – Now see that it is quoted in full on the other post on TS, but will leave the link here anyway.

  3. Petrus 4

    In para 3: to “sacrifice other core tenants” is surely the function of Paula Benefit? I believe you mean “sacrifice other core tenets.” 🙂

    [ heh – cheers. Fixed.] – Bill

  4. Kevin 5

    If ‘equality’ was the most prominent word in the word cloud, then there are more hypocrites in New Zealand than I thought.

  5. tracey 6

    The article about Double Loop Politics outlines all the Plays in the Political Game. We are being governed by the playbook not the people we elected. Some of the applies to Labour but the article also address the part money plays and the Right historically has greater access to this resource. He suggests a solution too

    Making the Opposition the Enemy –

  6. Bill 7

    All governments are involved in spin. So are all opposition parties.

    But the examples given point to political interference in what are meant to be apolitical bodies. That’s something different but, I dare say, also something governments of all stripes indulge in to some degree or other.

    The question as to the extent of that interference and identifying the point at where it can be said to have fallen over into the sphere of (how to say?) ‘diktat’ is something else again. I’d suggest that if the ‘The Herald’ is being persuaded to pull stories, and if there is nothing wrong with the sources or basic info of those stories, then that’s government censorship and something different again.

    If that censorship dovetails with the politicisation of government departments (as it appears to do in the second example) then we’d be wasting our time looking for ‘any lines’ as they have all been well and truly crossed.

    Social democracy always tends towards authoritarianism. It’s ordinary people who halt and reverse that tendency at any given point in time, and it is ordinary people who, by silence, endorse it at any given moment in time.

    If my basic take is right, then we have to take into account that academics and public servants in NZ are already muzzled to some extent. So maybe that’s where the discussion and push back has to start – with them ‘simply’ speaking out about their fear of speaking out.

    • Lanthanide 7.1

      You’ve written my thoughts in a far better way than I could have.

    • weka 7.2

      Very good comment.

      Academics have been pressured and muzzled since the 80s and it wouldn’t surprise me if it’s worse now but also applied more nastily. I don’t know about the pubic service but it’s hard to imagine that it’s not worse there. What’s also changed is that as you point out there are lines that have been well and truly stepped over. That, and the fact that the culture has been quite specifically changed so our tolerance is higher. The Overton window of ethics has been moved, not so much left or right as into a hall of distorting mirrors. Plus, pandas.

      • tracey 7.2.1

        If you are on the TEU collective contract your right to criticise and be conscience of society is protected. If you opt for the individual contract it is not.

    • tracey 7.3

      Like the new Code of conduct the Government wants to impose on Scientists and how they responded by speaking out and Joyce denying he had evidence of them being suppressed…

  7. Smilin 8

    Most advertising has a 90% rating of BS ,its designed to take your money, in this case the emotive vote nothing of value while the real crime goes unpunished because it is controlled by those whose who have the money hence the power to dish out favour, about the length of time of human civilization, hasnt changed much eh?

  8. Chooky 9

    +100 good Post !…so does this mean the ‘Government’s flag consideration panel’ is corrupt?

    …how much was each member paid ?…and who are they again?…they should be held to account for their actions in suppressing what many NZers want …their existing flag

    And why is the existing New Zealand flag option not in the first referendum ?!

    ( James Shaw and the Greens did a deal with John Key to ensure the existing NZ flag was kept out , snubbing both Labour and NZF…why?)

    The Greens and James Shaw want the Red Peak design…(so does John Key)




    and one of those involved in Red Peak design has been offered a free trip to Israel?!


    “I was recently invited to travel to Israel as part of a delegation organised by Square Peg Capital and the Australian Israel Chamber of Commerce”.

  9. TTD 10

    “The Greens and James Shaw want the red peak design”
    No they don’t , some may, some may not, How would we know ?
    I am a Green and I would rather the flag was changed as part of a discussion about the country moving towards a Republic.
    and as to snubbing Labour is an independent party who have in the past, done their “snubbing” as they are perfectly entitled to.
    But Labours position re the flag was a poor and hypocritical one.
    The Greens position was sensible as per normal.

    • weka 10.1

      Chooky is making shit up about the GP. I’ve not seen any decision by the GP to back the Red Peak design as first choice. I’ve not seen any statement from Shaw saying he wants the RP design. I’m open to being wrong about that, Chooky can give a direct citation but I doubt she will find one.

      • Chooky 10.1.1

        @ weka…”Green co-leader James Shaw said he would vote for Andrew Fyfe’s black and white Koru only if his first choice, Red Peak, wasn’t available.”


        ACT’s David Seymour is lobbying the Prime Minister to delay the first referendum until early next year so New Zealanders can fly their favourite flag over the Christmas break. He’s already flying his favourite, Red Peak, in his parliamentary office. But just seven other MPs who responded agree with him.

        Despite a black and white silver fern being an early favourite, no MPs voted for Alofi Kanter’s black and white silver fern design.

        And Green co-leader James Shaw said he would vote for Andrew Fyfe’s black and white Koru only if his first choice, Red Peak, wasn’t available.

        • weka

          Thanks. So Shaw has stated his personal preference, but the GP hasn’t decided on one flag to back.

          • Chooky

            re “GP hasn’t decided on one flag to back”..perhaps not Green voters…however

            1.) …the Green Party backed Red Peak being on the first referendum ( joining forces with John key and Act)

            2.) …the Green Party stopped the existing New Zealand flag ( which polls say most New Zealanders want ) being on the first referendum

            3.) … and snubbed Labour ( which wanted the existing flag on the first referendum) and NZF which does not believe in the referendum ….and many New Zealanders who want the existing flag and think the referendum is a waste of money

            • weka

              that’s not what you said upthread,

              “The Greens and James Shaw want the Red Peak design”

              • Chooky

                “The Greens and James Shaw want the Red Peak design”

                ….that is the perception many voters have …yes!

                ( see the links below)

                • weka

                  that’s the spin that you in your disgruntlement are posting.

                  • Chooky

                    who is the spinner?….see links below…

                    • weka

                      you believe the GP want the NZ flag changed to the Red Peak design. Problem is, the GP isn’t a person and you’ve not demonstrated how the party came to the decision collectively or where they release that decision. It’s a stupid assertion but it fits with your recentish antipathy towards the Greens. Bloody weird strategy given that the only way that we will get a left wing government is with the Greens. But then you appear to now be a NZF voter, so I guess you don’t care.

                    • Chooky

                      @ weka…the Greens are not immune from criticism or questioning…( that is authoritarianism to think they should not be criticised or questioned)

                      James Shaw, who was supported by the Green Party, wanted and succeeded in getting Red Peak flag as an option in the first referendum thereby supporting John Key and Act ( see links below)

                      …and James Shaw , supported by the Green Party , did a deal with John Key and Act which meant that the existing New Zealand flag was excluded as an option in the first referendum ( thereby snubbing Labour and NZF who refused to do deals with John Key over this issue and argued whether the two referendums were a waste of taxpayers money($26 million dollars)…especially as most New Zealanders want to keep their existing flag)

                      I also know that you have said you support the Red Peak flag option

                    • weka

                      Sure, but what I responded to originally was you statement that the GP want the RP design as the flag. You made that up.

                      “I also know that you have said you support the Red Peak flag option”

                      That’s not the only thing I said about it so please don’t apply your reductionist and skewed views to my comments.

                      “the Greens are not immune from criticism or questioning”

                      I quite agree. I just like criticism to be more substantial and less spun.

                  • Chooky

                    people can make up their own minds on the facts (see the links)…and they have been making up their own minds on the Greens and their actions in support of John Key and Act on the Red Peak flag and $26 million referendums…when most New Zealanders want to keep the existing flag and every attempt is being made to deny them this option

                    • weka

                      Sure, but you’re shifting the goal posts now. The GP supported RP being in the referendum. That’s not the same thing as the GP wanting RP as the national flag.

                      As for facts, I see that one of the links you’ve dropped is Bomber’s anti-Green Party post on how they’re likely to form govt with National. That’s not facts, that’s rhetoric and supposition, and pretty weird ones at that (no idea what his strategy is there).

                    • It is true that the Greens could form a govt. with National.

                      All it would take is National clearing out the corrupt individuals within their caucus, the reversal of most of their policies and rejection of neo-liberalism.

                      … and once that is done, they must convince a majority of Green party members that they have done so, can be trusted and that it is in New Zealands best interests that they form a govt with National.

                      So while it is theoretically possible for the Greens to form a govt with National, it’s not happening anytime this generation.

                    • Chooky

                      @naturesong…I am talking about the Greens and the flag issue…and how it has put off Green voters/ supporters and potential Green voters

                      weka is trying to make it about whether the Greens would join with John Key Nactional …a red herring

                      …so I suggest you address your comments to weka not me

    • Chooky 10.2

      @ TTD…”A groundswell of support and an unlikely political alliance won a remarkable victory for Red Peak supporters with Prime Minister John Key backing down to allow its inclusion on the flag referendum ballot.

      A law change to include Red Peak was debated under urgency last night after Mr Key agreed to pick up a Green Party bill.

      In return the Green Party agreed to vote against any bid by the Labour Party to include a yes/no vote on changing the flag in the first referendum – a critical factor in persuading the Government to adopt the bill.”


      ‘The machinations of shanking Labour – Green Peak’


      ‘Green Peak – the 5.1% strategy for 2017’


      ( by snubbing Labour the Green party ensured a second costly referendum on the flag which Labour wanted to avoid )

      • Chooky 10.2.1

        ‘Flag debate: Greens reap rewards of Red Peak move’


        “OPINION: What’s cute, cuddly, vegetarian and suddenly popular with Prime Minister John Key?

        Green Party MP Gareth Hughes just overtook a pair of pandas to become this week’s most beloved political figure.

        With a deft manouevre, Hughes has delivered Red Peak to the voting public…

        So, the Greens find themselves hauling National out of a hole….

        • greywarshark

          Well Greens have helped to ensure that we don’t get stuck with one of four lacklustre flags. Two black and white, 2 with a pointy feather and the s. cross from the sky above us. The koru is down to earth but is not green, thats the whole point of it so that is out, the clever black and white fern is sport oriented.

          Thank goodness for red peak. I don’t want it but I think those who want a change will go for it, and its marginally satisfactory even if it very like a corporate flag from elsewhere.

          • Chooky

            @ greywarshark re “Thank goodness for red peak. I don’t want it but I think those who want a change will go for it, and its marginally satisfactory even if it very like a corporate flag from elsewhere.”

            A commentor said this on ‘The Standard’:

            …“the Red Peak flag was created by a Xero product design director (Dustin), has had its online campaign coordinated by another Xero associate (Simpson), and was included in the top 40 while the Xero CEO (Drury) was one of the dozen on the selection panel; perhaps we should ask how has the Greens relationship with that company changed recently?

            Two years ago:

            Norman issued a media release yesterday questioning whether Palantir, a firm co-founded by wealthy US technology investor and Xero shareholder Peter Thiel, had been hired by the Government to spy on New Zealanders…”

            ( pause for reflection?)

            • greywarshark

              Thanks for background Chooky. I admit that going for red peak was making a choice from the throwouts of the best of the worst choices of some committee who took all the designs down a dark alley and never found them again.

              I don’t want to see Key impose his symbolic victory over NZ democracy in my face high on a flagstaff but the peak is the furthest away from anything I see as really meaningful.

          • Chooky

            This is how utterly superficial the Red Peak choice is for a New Zealand flag…it is Farcical …it makes a MOCKERY of New Zealand ….and IRONICALLY Red Peak is a copy of a security firm logo

            …Red Peak was designed and PROMOTED and judged by a company that has as a shareholder Peter Thiel ! ( see above) With red Peak we are being played …and the Greens are either stupid or part of this trickster collusion

            RED PEAK the logo for Active Security Group



  10. Peter 11

    :privatising state assets” or more to the point “privatising state and local body assets” given half a chance.

  11. Draco T Bastard 12

    PR: The dark history of spin and its threat to genuine news

    One of those present at the first meeting had spelled this out back in 1911, when he had sponsored the creation of “business leagues” to defend big business. “If our league succeeds,” he wrote, “politics would be done for. That is my object.”

    Dudley Docker, the author of those words, was a Midlands industrialist and founding president of the Federation of British Industries in 1916 (forerunner of today’s CBI). Also present was Rear-Admiral Reginald “Blinker” Hall, a former Director of Naval Intelligence and recently elected MP. Hall was responsible for leaking the infamous “Black Diaries” of the Irish Nationalist hero Roger Casement, thus ensuring his death by hanging. The organisation they formed in 1919 was unblushingly called National Propaganda.

    The word propaganda has been dropped after it got a bad name from the NAZI use of it but that is what we’re dealing with here and the cause hasn’t changed in over 100 years – it’s to protect the rich and remove the governance of the people from the people. They’ve been quite successful.

  12. DH 13

    IMO this is the inevitable result of losing public broadcasting. Only the news media can really keep a government honest and National has cleverly targeted and neutered those members of the media with the ability to take them on.

    News sources such as The Herald are neutered by their own self interest. They need to make a profit, profits come from advertising, the big advertisers are the same corporates who try to influence governments. The Herald was never going to oppose the SkyCity deal for example, no matter how corrupt it was. SkyCity spends too much money on Herald advertising.

    We really only have publicly-owned broadcasting now; profit driven entities who do little public good. We badly need a return to public broadcasting.

    • Draco T Bastard 13.1


    • Colin Espiner 13.2

      DH, do you read the Herald? Can you remember the last time SKYCITY advertised in it?

      Besides a small internet-only campaign earlier this year, SKYCITY is not a major Herald advertiser.

      But having worked in journalism for 20 years myself, I can tell you that even if it was, newspaper journalists are extremely protective of their editorial independence. In my long experience, advertisers never manage to influence editorial coverage.

      You also seem to have a very selective memory of the Herald’s coverage of the NZICC project. The newspaper gave SKYCITY a very tough time indeed.


      Colin Espiner
      General Manager Communications
      SKYCITY Entertainment Group

      • Sacha 13.2.1

        I’d say the Herald’s line is more likely to be about its editor craving continued personal access to eastern suburbs dinner parties hosted by members of certain political parties than by simple exchange of dollars for influence, wouldn’t you?

  13. Another point is that increasingly actual consultations themselves are partisan in their intent. There is no real canvassing of public opinion about options but rather a driving down to an pre-determined ideological path.

    This was the case with the ‘consultation’ on local government’s so called ‘loopy rules’. House builders and developers were invited to comment on rules that they didn’t like. However there was no corresponding invitation for residents to say that they did want to live in well built, warm dry homes, nor for councils to comment on the reasons for the “loopy” rules. Presumably any comments along these lines would simply have been ruled ‘out of scope’ as they have been in the case of the flag comments. I had a go at explaining this here


    Other examples that I have noticed that have fitted with this model – where the so called “consultation” could be shown to lead to predetermined outcomes were:
    The SSC’s open government partnership “consultation” –
    The MFAT “consultation” on The TISA
    The “consultation” on the review of spying legislation

  14. whateva next? 15

    I have to give it to Crosby Textor, they have cracked how to manipulate the masses, quite masterful. I just wonder why they do it? I know they like to “win”, but “at the end of the day” what a hollow victory, what an empty vacuous life they will have when society collapses, and all their money is spent on security, and protection and baubles. Wow.

    • tracey 15.1

      They do it for the money they get today and the success they associate with getting more moeny. They are not forward thinkers and think no further than the money and the game required to get it.

  15. Lucy 16

    All the new flag options are complete dross – the panel apparently could not cope with large amounts of people telling them they were complete dross so hid the results they didn’t like. Probably won’t vote in the first shitty vote as I do not care which crappy corporate thing is going to be in run off. I want a new flag when we no longer have to bow to a queen or king!

    In response to all the spinning and war room games remember there are lies, damn lies and Crosby Textor

    • greywarshark 16.1

      When you feel that you’ll be happy not bowing to a king or queen keep in mind Bob Dylan’s words:

      “Gotta Serve Somebody”

      You may be an ambassador to England or France
      You may like to gamble, you might like to dance
      You may be the heavyweight champion of the world
      You may be a socialite with a long string of pearls.

      But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
      You’re gonna have to serve somebody,
      It may be the devil or it may be the Lord
      But you’re gonna have to serve somebody.,,,,,,,

      You may be a state trooper, you might be an young turk
      You may be the head of some big TV network
      You may be rich or poor, you may be blind or lame
      You may be living in another country under another name.

    • Smilin 16.2

      Yes that is the point. A flag represents sovereignty and after this Key prick is finished we wont have anything but a reinforced monarchist government, not a republic in waiting,or we will be a subsidiary of an international corporate system or a south seas Hawaii which we are even now
      They might as well tell it like it is A stars n stripe in one corner the union jack in the other and china in the middle with a little french flag at the bottom to remind us of the rainbow warrior and the french invasion of our nation
      That should about cover it oh i forgot Aust. just colour the background yellow cause we are all gettin gutless in dealin with National corp

      • greywarshark 16.2.1

        I think you have got something there. It’s different, it’s symbolic, it’s reality, it’s…..

  16. I’m sorry, but removing non-values from the flag values cloud is not ‘spin’. If Keep Our Flag campaigners wanted their values in the cloud they could have spammed “southern cross”, or “union jack”, or “european values”. Instead they spammed non-values that don’t belong in a word cloud, which got removed.

    Now, if they had been properly phrased as values, I would totally agree that it was spin to remove them.

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