Broken English

Written By: - Date published: 11:13 am, November 20th, 2009 - 24 comments
Categories: bill english, economy, Media - Tags:

plain english

It looked like a duck. It walked like a duck. It quacked like a duck. Turns out it was a duck.

The “Plain English” advertisements were effectively party political broadcasts on behalf of the National Party. (Hardly surprising, as they were coauthored by English and his people). Even TVNZ now admits they should never have screened. Quite apart from the illegal free advertising (shades of the Exclusive Brethren campaign in 2005), English had a conflict of interest as shareholding minister.

So now that TVNZ has admitted the obvious, it is reasonable to ask who was responsible for the decision to make and screen these advertisements. The correspondents in the email discussion with Bill over the script are an obvious place to start. Personally I find it hard to believe that a bunch of media professionals can make a party political broadcast for National by accident. My guess is that it was a perfectly deliberate strategy by individuals within TVNZ. They had plenty of chances to pull the ads had it all been a big mistake. Further OIA requests might be interesting to pursue, or perhaps someone within TVNZ might be interested in anonymously shedding light on this matter. Sunlight is the best disinfectant, and we need to make sure that this sort of nonsense doesn’t happen again.

In the mean time, I propose in the interests of journalistic balance and integrity, that equal free broadcasting time be given to the finance ministers of the other political parties (perhaps in the ratios that would be calculated under the rules for advertising during the campaign period). Phil Goff has just dropped the biggest economic bombshell of the last 20 years, Labour could use some free air time to explain the implications to the people don’t you think? So how about it TVNZ? Huh. I won’t hold my breath…

24 comments on “Broken English”

  1. Lew 1

    C’mon, r0b, be serious — next you’ll be asking FIFA to give Ireland another chance …


  2. burt 2

    It’s OK rOb, National will just validate their misuse of tax payers money for party political advertising because the rules were confusing and precedent has been set that when you break the rules you just validate it and move on.

    Shall we debate it at length, I’ll say its bad and you can defend it because it was convenient for parliament to do this and it was in the best interest of the standing govt.

    Or you could shock us all and agree with me that the govt de-jour should be accountable at more than a political level for flouting the rules because they can.

  3. Scribe 3

    Did Bill English, in any of the ads, actually espouse certain policies that are specific to the National Party? Wasn’t it all “we can make it” and “let’s catch the Aussies” and “we’re coming out of the recession” etc?

    It was a bad call from TVNZ, but I don’t think the ads gave National a chance to push its barrow on the economy. It did give Bill some additional airtime, but I suspect he gets more face time on TV than the others anyway by virtue of his position.

    • Lew 3.1

      Scribe, those things are National’s economic policies.


      • Scribe 3.1.1

        I suspected someone might respond that way 🙂

        • Tigger

          National has no economic ‘policies’…policies implies they’re actually thinking stuff up beforehand rather than just making it up as they go.

          It gave English free air-time to push himself with the electorate…unfettered by the interview process and scripted at his leisure. It’s his credibility that was being sold here.

  4. toad 4

    Anyone know where a formal complaint re this should be directed. Chief Electoral Office? Auditor-General? Both?

    • burt 4.1


      Excellent idea, but why bother? Precedent has been set, parliament know what the intent of the rules are better than anyone and any interpretation that they broke the rules will just result in validations passed under urgency supported by partisan hacks who are too short sighted to think about the implications of defending such low standards of integrity because their team is always right.

      • r0b 4.1.1

        Burt, 90% of the time you make the same comment, a lame “labour did it too” excuse (though of course you are almost always spectacularly wrong about that). Don’t you have anything else to contribute? Is that really the limits of your political consciousness?

      • burt 4.1.2

        If you don’t like being shown up as a partisan hack – don’t blog.

        • r0b

          Well yeah one of us is being shown up as a partisan hack Burt, that’s for sure.

        • Draco T Bastard

          You’re the partisan hack burt and you’re a lame duck as well – you’re arguments always go in circles and you fail to learn from any of them.

          • burt


            The only lame duck is the one hoist on his own petard. Defend corruption when the flag is red scream about it when the flag is blue.

            rOb is such an old school activist who although he blogs has failed to notice that what you say in defence of your team can be quoted back at you when you attack the other team. See before blogs the likes of rOb’s idols were massively two faced relying on short public memory to get away with their double standards. rOb may have managed to mirror the partisan nature of his masters but he has failed to notice the spectators don’t need to sit in the library pouring through thousands of pages of hard copy to find his previous positions on issues like this one.

        • burt


          It appears we both think National spending unauthorised tax payers money on party advertising is wrong. Only one of us thinks it was wrong when Labour did it – Therefore one of us is partisan hack.

          I’m comfortable that in my position the party involved is irrelevant to the principles and ethics involved.

          • r0b

            Only one of us thinks it was wrong when Labour did it

            As usual Burt your are wrong about that. I said (during our long discussion of these issues) that Labour, and all other parties (except the Progressives) were morally culpable for pushing the boundaries on election advertising. I also said that they didn’t break the law (which they didn’t), and that there were some some mitigating factors (the AGs rulings being a trifle arbitrary).

            The Plain English case is far simpler. The state funded advertisements are in effect party political broadcasts. That does break the law, and there are no mitigating factors, I think (as per links in the original post) that they knew exactly what they were doing.

            You exist in an imaginary world Burt, constructed out of your false memories and your unreasoning hatred. And you make the same boring comment almost every time – Labour did it too! – r0b is a partisan hack! I ask again – don’t you have anything better to contribute than that?

          • burt

            You also said they did nothing wrong – National validated $50m once, this stuff is completely normal… remember ?

            You are not helping yourself inviting a link back to that discussion.

            Were Labour corrupt for deliberately spending unauthoruised money on advertising and validating it? (remember the chief electoral office warned them not to include the pledge card in the election spending total)

            The same answer we can apply to National over this advertising – particularly if they validate it killing a court case for misuse of public money.

            • r0b

              You also said they did nothing wrong National validated $50m once, this stuff is completely normal remember ?

              I NEVER said that Labour did nothing wrong. It’s issue by issue. I know it’s all squashed together in your head Burt into one big single Labour Bad issue – but we’ve actually discussed many things over the years. Many different accusations against Labour.

              You think Labour are always guilty (Labour Bad! Labour Bad!). I think they are usually not guilty (then I defend them), but sometimes they are guilty (then I admit it).

              So yes, Labour (and National and ACT etc) were wrong to push the boundaries on election advertising. But no they were not wrong to (as usual) validate spending. Separate issues Burt. One wrong. One right. Try and get your head around it.

          • burt


            You also joined NRT pretending that the normal budget validations passed by national this year showed that what Labour did was normal.

            You can just say you were wrong to defend the Labour party over the validations of their advertising. I might leave you alone over this issue if you show some remorse for defending corruption.

            • r0b

              I might leave you alone over this issue if you show some remorse for defending corruption.

              I regard that as a threat Burt, and I’m sick of your wilful lies. Take the rest of the month off. Try to come up with something better to say than “Labour did it too!”.

              [lprent: I was just considering much the same thing. Sounds like a scratched CD with a jump back error. My tolerance level was diminishing real fast. ]

            • Armchair Critic

              Bye burt.

  5. tc 5

    The phrase ‘better to seek forgiveness than attain permission…’ applies much like removing a native tree to develop a site, going woopps sorry, pay the fine say sorry move on…..but that tree is gone for good.

    Did TVNZ know they were on dodgy ground…..YES.
    Did they have opportunity to pull it but did not…..YES
    Is this all more classic PR spin from TVNZ seeking forgiveness when they knew all along they were wrong……YES
    Those responsible in TVNZ are far away from ever being attributed to it and some sacrificial bunny appears in emails…..YES smells like the Veitch saga to me.

    TVNZ aren’t fit to carry a public broadcaster’s bag let alone pretend to be one so any attempts to make them behave as such are wasted.

    IMHO Rick Ellis and his mates have a predesigned spin campaign, hatched in tandem with the events……worse case scenario for recycling Rick would be bunny onto the BBQ, look at us cleaning house aren’t we good……status quo remains.

  6. fizzleplug 6

    A good start by Phil Goff, but until he actually proposes something else, his “bombshell” is just a shell, with no chance of explosiveness.

    Feel free to direct me to his outlined alternatives if I have missed them, I’m interested to see them.

  7. randal 7

    hey r0b.
    you are giving them too much credit by calling teeveewin staff professionals.
    most of them are just hair and teeth manques that got lucky and got the JOB.
    just because they may or may not have learnt shorthand at j-school does not make them professionals.
    how manyof the staff at teeveewun have a degree or any higher study?
    in the low pressure millieu of greasing around politicians in new zealand they excel but take them out into the wider world and they would perish like all hothouse flowers.
    it is time to attack them at the base and not just on their overblown fantasy productions.
    I mean who are they?

Recent Comments

Recent Posts

  • Compliance strengthened for property speculation
    Inland Revenue is to gain greater oversight of land transfer information to ensure those buying and selling properties are complying with tax rules on property speculation. Cabinet has agreed to implement recommendation 99 of the Tax Working Group’s (TWG) final ...
    2 days ago
  • Plan to expand protection for Maui and Hector’s dolphins
    The Government is taking action to expand and strengthen the protection for Māui and Hector’s dolphins with an updated plan to deal with threats to these native marine mammals. Minister of Conservation Eugenie Sage and Minister of Fisheries Stuart Nash ...
    2 days ago
  • Cameras on vessels to ensure sustainable fisheries
    Commercial fishing vessels at greatest risk of encountering the rare Māui dolphin will be required to operate with on-board cameras from 1 November, as the next step to strengthen our fisheries management system. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Fisheries Minister ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Greatest number of new Police in a single year
    A new record for the number of Police officers deployed to the regions in a single year has been created with the graduation today of Recruit Wing 326. Police Minister Stuart Nash says the graduation of 78 new constables means ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Ensuring multinationals pay their fair share of tax
    New Zealand is pushing on with efforts to ensure multinational companies pay their fair share of tax, with the release of proposed options for a digital services tax (DST). In February Cabinet agreed to consult the public on the problem ...
    2 weeks ago