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To ask the real questions, you have to know the details

Written By: - Date published: 6:02 pm, September 14th, 2008 - 31 comments
Categories: election 2008 - Tags:

Agenda this morning showed, in several ways, that if you want to ask difficult questions, you have to know your topic. Guyon Espiner gave a comprehensive lesson in the dangers of only knowing the media hype on a topic, not the actual detail. Defence Minister Phil Goff, frankly, made mince meat of Guyon’s attempts to attack the state of the military simply because Guyon’s line was limited to the ‘can’t fly, can’t float, can’t fight’ sensationalism, whereas Goff’s responses drew on a deep knowledge of the topic.

Also interesting was the introduction of the fact-checking segment. I whole-heartedly welcome this. A large part of what The Standard does is bust myths by providing the facts behind the hype. We have been saying for ages that National’s opportunistic attacks on the Government over emigration are dishonest because they misrepresent the Stats. As the fact-checking post-grads at Auckland Uni said, current emigration levels are within the norm for the last thirty years.*

As one of the Agenda panelists said, this basic fact-checking is something that journalists should have been doing all along. Indeed, it is something that The Standard and other blogs have been doing all along and I think that’s a big part of their popularity. Now, it would be interesting to see Agenda and the rest take it forward to the next obvious questions: ‘why would National choose to make this particular dishonest attack of all possible ones?’ and ‘do they actually have any solution to the supposed problem?’

The first answer is they choose migration because they are dog-whistling ( ‘all ‘us’ white Kiwis are leaving and being replaced by ‘them’ Asians). If asked the second question, Key would say ‘well, we’re going to offer tax cuts’ but is that an answer? Even if National can offer another 20 a week to workers, that’s only a 2.5% increase in after-tax income on the average wage. Does Key really think he can afford $20 a week more for the average worker? And does he really think people emigrate because of $20 a week?

Now they know the questions to ask, will anyone ask him?

*[the uni students also concluded that the Nat line ‘Labour has no policies’ is correct, which is stupid. First, we know what Labour stands for, it will be going into this election arguing for the same policy direction that it has pursued for 9 years. Secondly, the Government has just passed a dozen laws and has another dozen in the pipeline. Thirdly, Labour has equivalents to core National election policies – Schools Plus vs Youth Guarantee, legislated tax cuts vs National’s. Fourthly, we know Labour will release an actual election manifesto, whereas National has some bullet points]

31 comments on “To ask the real questions, you have to know the details”

  1. Nick 1

    Re. Labour’s lack of policy:
    All the things you mentioned may be true, but does that change the fact that Labour have not actually released any policy?

    Your argument appears to be that it doesn’t matter that Labour have failed to release policy, since they can run on their record from the past three terms. To a large extent I agree that this is true, but don’t be hating on the poor uni students who are correct in supporting National’s claim.

  2. mike 2

    Of course Goff is going to have the inside running in a defence interview he’s the frigg’n Defence Minister.

    But in breaking news National storms to an 18 point lead in the latest TVNZ CB poll.

    This is terrible news for the labour/NZ1st dream team with the latter under 2% and more on the continuing saga coming tuesday… an election built on trusts – love it

  3. My my all this talk about trusts. Maybe The Standards resident graph wizard could put up a graph of how many anonymous each party benefited from last election?

  4. the sprout 4

    Goff definitely minced Espiner. It looked like Guyon had been spending too much time with Key and had forgotten how to give a tough interview.

    I thought the student fact checking was good, but also remarkable in a way, that ‘our’ transnational media mega-corporations can’t quite spare the cost from their significant profit margins to do it themselves. Fairfax and APN continue to defy belief with their willingness to continue chopping the last remaining vestiges of investigative capacity in the name of increasing profit. it’s a disgrace really. but then, i guess they’re not particularly interested in informing the electorate this election.

    Gustafson’s interview on Peters, the media and populism was good too. he raised one of the many questions the msm haven’t bothered to ask throughout its blood-lusting for Winston – that is ‘where have the many millions of business donations to ACt come from and what were the conditions of their ‘gifting’ to the Yellow Man?

  5. Bill 5

    mike.
    “Of course Goff is going to have the inside running in a defence interview he’s the frigg’n Defence Minister”

    That’s an utterly bullshit assertion mike. If a journalist does the required homework, then any minister should be able to be severely backfooted if they try to peddle b/s.

    Whether Goff was spinning b/s or not is beside the point. The point is that if he was, Espinar (along with the rest of the msm in NZ) would have been unable to counter the spin with either pertinent questions or corrective facts.

    This lack of journalistic ability leaves us all uninformed and does nothing for holding politicians to account.

    You happy with that state of affairs?

  6. mike 6

    “where have the many millions of business donations to ACt come from and what were the conditions of their ‘gifting’ to the Yellow Man?”

    Act declare their donations and Rodney doesn’t round resthomes collecting $5ers telling them he hasn’t got big backers like the other parties.

  7. “A large part of what The Standard does is bust myths by providing the facts behind the hype.”

    Sheesh Steve – you certainly don’t suffer from an excess of modesty do you! You don’t bust myths – all you do is spread smears. But to your credit, you’re not as bad as the guys at Prog Blog – they are right out of the gutter!

    IrishBill: here’s a tip for you IV2: when you are about to write something attacking one of our authors don’t try to linkwhore in the same comment

  8. Bill 8

    Actually, it’s worse than that. As a consequence of the msm failing to ‘cut the mustard’, they fall back on soap journalism. ie personalities not policies, rumour, counter-rumour and general codswallop.

    And that often leaves us misinformed as they draw conclusions from thin air, as well as uninformed for the reasons outlined in my previous comment.

  9. the sprout 9

    oh right Mike. that answers everything about ACT’s bankrollers.
    clearly there are no stories to be found investigating ACT’s finances.

  10. Pascal's bookie 10

    sprout, I’ve been kinda waiting for the MSM to ask a few questions, (or even tell us a bit about what they know) about what Chris Trotter was talking about when he said

    I was sitting in the departure lounge at Auckland International Airport, waiting to board Air NZ’s inaugural flight to Beijing, and I was chatting away with one of New Zealand’s leading journalists. We were talking about the accusations swirling around Winston and Owen Glenn, and this journalist leans in a little closer to me and says, sotto voce, “There’s a big pot of money out there to get Peters this time – big money.’

    http://www.policy.net.nz/blog/?p=112

  11. the sprout 11

    interesting PB. you’d think there’d be a story in that wouldn’t you?

    and like, maybe our intrepid defenders of the public record would be interested in applying the same standards to ACT as they have to NZ First?

    or perhaps Nicole/ACT’s involvement in the Shaun Tan mole affair?

  12. Pascal's bookie 12

    Yeah.

    I’d imagine that someone who knew details about things like that, and had access to having things they write published in ‘newspapers’ might like to try a thing called ‘journalsim’. Then maybe NZers might get to ‘read’ about it.

    But apparently the done thing is just to gossip about it with your beltway mates, who may give detail-less, unsourced asides to the rest of us. Just to show how cool they are. Or something.

  13. Pascal's bookie 13

    Or ‘journalism’ even.

    That would be even better.

  14. the sprout 14

    yeah PB. i’ve heard of this ‘journalism’ you speak of. apparently it’s a valiant crusade for like truth and protecting the people’s common interests against powerful selfish interests.

    and i guess it’s just a total coincidence that Glenn’s pro bono lawyer was also counsel for Fay, Richwhite. probably just a genuine passion for promoting democracy.

  15. DeeDub 15

    Well I for one am getting pretty tired of Mr. Espiner’s nightly reports on ONE News which are usually short on verifiable facts and big on his own opinions. We get an awful lot of ‘I thinks’ from a man who doesn’t come across like he really ever does much of the sort.

    So yes, it really was a pleasure for us all to see Mr. Goff treat Guyon like the sensationalist hack that he has become.

    Balance and even research are obviously an anathema to him. He’s on a crusade to bury Peters and it’s so obviously personal it’s actually disturbing. Don’t worry Captain Espiner sir … you’ll get that white whale one day!

  16. r0b 16

    Act declare their donations

    Actually Mike – ACT are not as squeaky clean as they should be on matters of funding and spending:

    Break open the trusts

  17. Craig Ranapia 17

    Hum… so fact-checking grad students are A-OK when their conclusions are politically useful, but “stupid” when they’re not.

    Which is why they’re so useful, I guess.

  18. r0b 18

    CR, calling a conclusion stupid (original post) is not the same as calling the people that reached the conclusion stupid (your spin above).

  19. monkey boy 19

    I think we’ll be hearing a lot more about ‘Defence Minister Phil Goff’ in the coming months.
    He might have been the difference between an election win or loss for Labour, if he’d been leader of the party. Because in my opinion ‘cancerous and corrosive’ won’t cut it this time, and Goff has a much more positive style.
    Still it’s never too late to start planning for after the election. Some may have to clear out your desks when they send mass-notices to the staff at ‘Standard Towers’.
    I can hear the cries now: ‘It wasn’t me! Take Anita! Take Anitaaaaa!”

  20. Pascal's bookie 20

    More smears Monkey child?

    The dawn chorus is bitter.

    Lame though. Try harder!

  21. ak 21

    Good poll from the notoriously pro-tory Brolmar.

    Despite an incredible all-out full-frontal attempt from NatAct and their little helpers (and I do hope Lew and his crew are taking careful note of the column-metres on this one) to kill off Winnie and tie-in Labour, bedrock remains at 35% – and Winnie’s still at 3% preferred PM!

    A couple of percent loss at this stage (from the 30% of landliners who don’t tell the pollsters to piss off) is a small price to pay for isolating the Big Money party with Douglas and the Yellow Gibbon.

    Yet another premature political ejaculation from the spotty adolescents of our political family and their co-dependant advertising-peddlers.

    What’s next I wonder? Whither the next onanistic keyboard orgy from the smiling mullet and his motley gaggle of lax hacks? Winnie’s library books are overdue and Helen has known for weeks?? Should be good for another week of frothing hysteria from our fearless defenders of democracy….

  22. higherstandard 22

    ak

    WP’s situation is of his own making – that 3% of the population have him at preferred PM is reflective a small percentage of people taking the Mickey and a small percentage who will support him regardless of his behaviour – it does however appear that he will not be back in parliament and this is a shame not for his sake but for Ron Mark who I think still has a considerable amount to offer to NZ.

  23. randal 23

    if John Keys is the preferred PM then why did he send his lapdog bill english to front for him on radionz this morning instead of fronting for himself. bowsie wowsie yip yip yip.

  24. Craig Ranapia 24

    CR, calling a conclusion stupid (original post) is not the same as calling the people that reached the conclusion stupid (your spin above).

    Rob: So was that hair spinning while you were trying to split it? 🙂 Then again, I guess those silly grad-students were defining “policy” in less metaphysical terms than Steve — who just knows what Labour stands for. (Which makes you wonder why Clark is saying that there will be policy releases “in coming weeks”.)

  25. Who’s “John Keys” randal?

  26. Anita 26

    monkey boy,

    You, me, 1984 ? again?!

  27. Anita 27

    ak,

    and Winnie’s still at 3% preferred PM!

    I’m boggled. According to the poll results Winston is on 3% for preferred PM, but NZF is only on 1.8% for party vote.

    So 1.2% of the poll wanted Winston for PM but weren’t planning to vote for him.

  28. Felix 28

    Given the demographic polled (“the 30% of landliners who don’t tell the pollsters to piss off” as ak put it) it doesn’t surprise me that Winnie’s fans are well represented.

  29. Phil 29

    Anita,

    Yeah, thats always bothered me too, but it comes from the ‘don’t know’ responses being singular – it’s perfectly legitimate in polling methodology to answer the party vote question, but not know who you really want to be PM, and vice versa.

  30. monkey-boy 30

    More smears Monkey child?

    Pascal’s Bookie can you please explain how what I wrote qualifies as a smear?
    All I suggested was that Helen’s approach will lose her the election and Goff would have done it differently. Oh and that some of the ‘negative-meme’ authors in the Standard will be in part culpable for the loss, so post- election they will get slapped wrists by the new management.

    It’s called a .. wait for it … ‘personal opinion’.

    ps Anita, I wouldn’t sell you out to BB, you’re one of the good guys. Actually you remind me a bit of Gruela before she went feral then imploded.

  31. Bill 31

    Did Phil Goff signal a sell out on NZ anti-nuclear stand right under the noses of journalists? He said on Agenda

    “There were things that were desirable about the Indian/US Civil Nuclear Cooperation Agreement, it mean that India was going to bring its civil nuclear facilities into this under the safeguards of the IAEA”

    transcript here http://www.agendatv.co.nz/Site/agenda/transcripts/2008/September-08.aspx

    But not its military facilities! A point completely missed by the reporters on Agenda.

    Given the tensions between Pakistan and India and the US eager to counter China in the region, how serious is the NZ government’s anti-nuclear stand? Are they trading on the Lange legacy when facing the public but undermining that legacy in private?

    The following two pieces really should be read by anybody who gives a hoot.

    “The deal would allow India to divert its own meagre domestic uranium supplies to its nuclear weapons industry. Although civilian factories in this industry will be open to inspections, the ones that India deems “military” would remain off-limits.”

    http://www.zcommunications.org/znet/viewArticle/18824

    “…Pakistan warned key members of the IAEA and the NSG in its letter that the safeguards agreement would impair non-proliferation efforts and “threatens to increase the chances of a nuclear arms race in the sub-continent”.”

    http://www.commondreams.org/archive/2008/07/24/10584/

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