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Written By: - Date published: 4:24 pm, August 31st, 2008 - 18 comments
Categories: Media - Tags:

Sometimes, the throw-away comments a person makes are the most revealing – for example, Bill English’s attitude towards the “punters” and towards John Key, both made as side comments in the secret agenda tapes, are in some ways more revealing than his substantive comments on Working for Families and Kiwibank. And it was a throw-away comment by Rawdon Christie on today’s Agenda that gave an insight into the way the media views politics.

Having just interviewed Commerce Minister Lianne Daziel on the finance company collapses (which he said affected $5.6 billion in investments and 175,000 investors), Christie then turned to the panellists and said ‘now, back to the more serious issue of Winston Peters’. Says it all really. On one hand, we’ve got a commercial sector suffering a major confidence crisis that is dragging under good companies with the bad, we’ve got about 5% of Kiwis who have lost or stand to lose substantial amounts of money, and we’ve got three bills before Parliament designed to fix an important part of our financial markets. On the other, we’ve got a Minister suspended from his portfolios, and he and his party under investigation, and could see them face charges for fraud but, more likely, for failing to properly declare donations. This event in no way affects the actual lives of ordinary people. The Government is stable, legislation like the ETS will still pass, the ministries will continue functioning and delivering their services to New Zealand as if nothing has happened. It may all lead to NZF not returning to Parliament after the election but, unless it changes which party lead the Government, even that will have a negiligible effect on people’s lives.

It’s a bizarre world view that finds the suspension of a minister more important than the state of the financial sector and related government policy. It’s a world view that sees politics as about personalities, not how government should be used to improve the lives of people. It’s a ‘big-man’, as opposed to ‘materialist’, view of society. A view that comes from having a press gallery that is detached from the concerns of everyday people. Unfortunately, it seems to be the worldview through which the mainstream media analyses politics most of the time.

18 comments on “Throw-away ”

  1. Crank 1

    So the collapse of finance companies is going to be used as the issue to try and divert attention from the Winston saga and the Prime ministers dodginess?

    If this is the case then the question has to be why did the Government not move sooner to regulate this industry considering it had been emmiting a nasty stink for a long time.

    What they are doing now seems to be too little too late.

  2. randal 2

    hey…the greedies wanted to take a “RISK” for an extra 2% above the bank rate and it didnt work out. tuff titty. you and I know how it works. getting the line from some suited up jerk who is willing to kiss your bum for half an hour to get their commission and then poof, bye bye sucker. thats life.

  3. Tane 3

    So the collapse of finance companies is going to be used as the issue to try and divert attention from the Winston saga and the Prime ministers dodginess?

    Yes Crank. SP sits around all day thinking about what issue he can think up to distract from things you think might be embarrassing to the government. I know I should expect far-fetched conspiracy theories from a commenter called Crank, but you’re sounding more like Travellerev every day.

  4. Anita 4

    Tane writes,

    SP sits around all day thinking about what issue he can think up to distract from things you think might be embarrassing to the government.

    I knew it! As soon as the subprime crisis hit it smelt like a devious plot by the well known Labour Party activist Steve Pierson aka Rob Salmond.

  5. Crank. I’m talking about an incident that happened to include a juxtaposition between the importance of the Peters thng and the finance company collapses, and what that says about media priorities. If Christie had been contrasting the ETS to the Peters thing, I would have made the same post.

    I don’t know how the finance companies could even be used to distract the media’s attention from Peters, given that they prefer Peters-type stories to serious issues, and even if there was a way to do so, I certainly have no way of doing any such distraction.

    did the govt move too slowly? well, the legislative process started before 2005, so they weren’t late getting going, and it is actually a very complicated area that requires careful work.. but it would obviously be better if they had got protections for naive and greedy investors from sharks earilier.

    randal. i don’t have a huge amount of sympathy for people who put all their money in finance companies but their ignorance of the risks they were taking was exploited by others – who kept them ignorant of those risks and underpriced their returns for the risks they were facing, and it seems to me that the law should stop people exploting others’ greed and ignorance if it can.

  6. gobsmacked 6

    Speaking of revealing throw-away lines, here’s John “state house” Key, on Steve Maharey’s new job:

    “… chancellor or whatever he is going to be at Massey University —chancellor or cleaner; one of the two.” (Hansard).

    He looked for a jibe and settled on: cleaner. Says a lot.

  7. the sprout 7

    Yeah and I heard 9/11 was a plot to take the heat off the phasing out of sausage rolls at Labour Party functions.

    But really, a good observation SP – it does highlight how the media agenda and the public interst agenda only rarely and serendipitously coincide.

    Of course as with tax cuts, if they bang on long enough the media’s agenda eventually becomes mainstream.

    May favourite telling throw-away line is Jenny Shipley’s
    “I just made it up”.

  8. gobsmacked – do you have a link or date?

  9. Janet 9

    I go and watch parliament quite often and the press gallery can look like a bunch of vultures. They certainly were in the last week. But after the Winston/Rodney bull-elephant stoush at question time they all rushed off to file their copy and I don’t think anyone was left to cover some serious stuff about the Nat’s plans for privatisation of education that came up later, that has the potential to affect a lot more people.

  10. Stephen 11

    Good post. If there were more like this i’d come more often. Ciao!

  11. rave 12

    The collapses are downplayed by the media because they expose the downside of the casino capitalism they and Key represent.

    Winston is upplayed because he represents elements of that sector of NZ productive capital (e.g. horseracing, fishing) that is being marginalised by global casino capitalism.

    Winston has to go because he can stop National from winning again and nailing down their New Right Agenda.

    The media are owned by international corporations with no loyalty to NZ which is why Peters hates them and they hate Peters, the journalists know on which side their bread is buttered, and the threat of sacking keeps them in line.

    Bet Peters will now leave his troubles to his lawyers and lay into the shonky financiers and media barons.

  12. toad 13

    Steve Pierson said: It’s a bizarre world view that finds the suspension of a minister more important than the state of the financial sector and related government policy.

    Back onto policy issues then, rather than “The Game”.

    So what is Labour proposing to do about this problem: deadbeat dads who orchestrate their financial affairs to avoid child support payments.

    The Greens have some ideas. So do the Family Party, as the thread I’ve linked to reveals, although I don’t think they address the real issue. It is a bizarre situation when we pay benefits to the caregiving parent of a child, while the other often wealthy parent provides no practical support and can orchestrate his (and it is almost inevitably a male) affairs to avoid child support payments.

    I think we need to get behind the facade of “taxable income” as the child support assessment basis for non-cusodial parents, and look at their real ability to financially support their children.


  13. toad. agreed. i think the whole area of trusts needs looking at – seem to mostly be a way for the well-off to avoid tax and other liabilities

  14. Draco TB 15

    The collapses are downplayed by the media because they expose the downside of the casino capitalism they and Key represent.

    Of course they wouldn’t broadcast the failure of capitalism. Capitalism won and so pointing out the fact that it’s still a failed system would lead people to question of continuing to follow the Owners. They will blame the government though.

    i think the whole area of trusts needs looking at – seem to mostly be a way for the well-off to avoid tax and other liabilities

    Trusts need to be made illegal. There’s far too much that can be hidden behind them so that people can avoid their responsibilities.

  15. Macro 16

    I couldn’t agree more! I believe the so called “investigative” journalists in NZ are almost without exception only interested in finding (or creating if they can’t find any) controversy. They are not satisfied unless they can put some negative spin on anything they report. In my view their actions display a complete lack of ethical judgment and social responsibility. I suppose one could blame their superiors who obviously demand this sort of thing. I no longer buy or read papers the headlines are enough! I never watch one news or agenda they just sicken me! I listen to as many interviews on National radio (with lots of salt) as I can, and parliament during important debates, and find out most of what is going on in the world from the internet. Most of what passes for informed reporting in NZ is simply rubbish, and more often than not, merely the regurgitation of press releases from interested parties.

  16. Rex Widerstrom 17

    I don’t deny there’s a lot of truth in your central argument – that the Press Gallery are too cosseted from the rest of NZ and thus has a distorted set of priorities. To which I’d add that too many have known nothing – in terms of their professional lives – than a Clark-led Labour government. That’s not conducive to perspective.

    But using a cross by Rawdon Christie to support that argument is stretching it a bit, though. I’ve conservatively done around 10,000 hours of live broadcasting and probably about 1,000 hours worth of recorded stuff. The number of times you inadvertently substitute one word for another (yes, even if it’s written on an autocue or script in front of you) are countless. And you don’t realise it at the time because if you’re any good, your mind is ahead of your mouth.

    He might have meant “…the more immediate issue of Winston Peters…” or “the more pressing issue of Winston Peters…” (since there seems to be bugger all anyone can do about the finance companies) or even (if he was completely ad-libbing) something along the lines of “…an issue that affects even more people…” (i.e. everyone who votes). Who knows, but don’t hang him on a single sentence.

    Personally, I’m more concerned how Dick Griffin can be RNZ’s “independent” Political Editor one minute, and be spruiking Jim Bolger to the gallery the next. Or how Brendon Burns can be an “independent” Gallery journo and newspaper editor one minute, and catapualted to a winnable Labour list position the next.

    It beggars belief that these journos, and others like them, weren’t running material highly favourable to their next employer. Maybe not with the specific intention of being rewarded, but certainly enough to find favour at the highest levels of the respective political parties.

    I’m not sure how to deal with this. The US has a law that prevents former elected officials from lobbying for a period of, I think, a year after they’re defeated or retired. Perhaps we need something similar around journalists, imposing a cooling-off period between swapping back and forth between politics and reporting?!

    This event in no way affects the actual lives of ordinary people.

    So you don’t agree that democracy is predicated on its participants having a level of trust in those for whom they’re asked to vote?

    Actions like Peters’ make it easier for people to believe all politicians are crooks – including those whom you support.

  17. Daveski 18

    I’d like to be more positive about the post – there’s some valid issues here.

    But SP shoots himself in the foot with stunning accuracy:

    It’s a world view that sees politics as about personalities, not how government should be used to improve the lives of people.

    SP has almost single handedly run a personality driven campaign against Key – slippery et al.

    It’s more than a tad ironic that he now damns the media for the same tactic.

    [I don’t give a damn about Key, I care about his policies, his competence, and whether he can be trusted… people say Key is slippery because they want to know about his policies and he keeps changing them. SP]

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