Saturday, April 25, 2015

"Just Horsing Around"? More Like Victim Blaming!

So Key's managed to make it to ANZAC Day and get out of the country without doing anything else that comes across to the New Zealand public as "weird".

His handlers (and the collective National Party Caucus) must be breathing one hell of a collective sigh of relief.

Unfortunately, while the Prime Minister might be out of the immediate scandal-ridden frying-pan ... he's stepped straight into an international laughing-stock fuelled fire.

He's presently in Turkey, inadvertently tarnishing the hell out of one of our most sacred days simply by being there.

And regrettably, his - and therefore, by extension, our - problems don't end there.

For you see, while the world was watching our buffoon of a PM, he decided to issue a clarification of his conduct and a sort-of apology.

From the highly appropriate venue of an International Peace Summit in Istanbul.

Truly, his sense of comic timing is impeccable.

In it, Key sets out his belief that instead of his conduct being deplorable, creepy, and a flagrant abuse of his position and power against an ordinary Kiwi worker ...  it was just "silly" and "having too much fun".

Why did he do it? What on earth lead him to think this was an OK way to behave in public? Well, he "misread the tea-leaves", you see. It's all part of his "pretty casual and laid back" public persona. The one we all like (and voted for) because it's "good for a laugh".

But check the next bit.

Instead of acknowledging his own agency in this situation, Key describes his role here as "playing along a bit". Or, in other words, he didn't create the situation - he was just going along with the actions of others and got a bit carried away. The implication is: she might very well have been asking for it. He just went where she lead him.

Who could blame a man for "[misreading] the tea-leaves" of a woman's intentions and accidentally taking things too far? Never mind the fact this woman had previously laid out in coffee-grounds her overt intention to assault the Prime Minister if he persisted in his conduct. That's apparently a declaration of limits that's open to being "misread".

Rather than treat this with the seriousness this episode demands, Key (perhaps unintentionally - he may very well be that situationally unaware) attempts to make light of proceedings by describing his pulling of a pony-tail as "a bit of horsing around".

Ha-bloody-ha, Prime Minister.

The message from John Key to the ordinary Middle New Zealander is as clear as it is reprehensible.

"You like my 'fun' persona. The one I whip out in press conferences to make you want to invite me round for a beer over a barbie. Aren't I a great guy. Like you! A bit high-spirited, perhaps ... but this one isn't my fault. I was just "playing along" with the waiter and having "too much fun" to realize I'd gone a bit far. I was mislead. I didn't do this on purpose. We all make mistakes. This one isn't serious or creepy - it's just "silly"."

There's a second, unspoken bit to match it, which goes something along the lines of:

"But some people don't like having a Prime Minister who's "casual and laid back and good for a laugh". Those bullies in the media, and leftists and feminists who kicked up this whole fuss want me to be dour and serious all the time. They're anti-hijinks. So now Mr Fun PM's going to have to go back in his box for awhile. :( You won't like that, will you. Let's forget about all of this and move on so Mr Fun PM can come back. :) "

Regrettably, as the mainstream media continues to build this scandal into a crescendo, they'll be playing right into the Prime Minister's hands. We saw the same sad phenomenon during #DirtyPolitics at the last Election. Ordinary Kiwis sympathize with an underdog; and by presenting himself as the victim of an ongoing media beat-up, Key may very well salvage enough credibility and good will with the electorate to avoid having to resign or other serious political fallout.

But to the legion of female voters who've previously helped to sweep him into office, it's likely he now comes across as an altogether less wholesome and less salubrious figure than he did before.

More pointedly, the abominable spectacle of Key's Minister of Women's Affairs point-blank refusing to take a stand on the ongoing workplace harassment of a female worker ought to cast in stark relief just how little regard this government evidently has for women.

In Kiwi culture, there's a tradition of looking out for your mate who goes out to socialize, but inevitably winds up doing something dumb and embarrassing.

Usually, when we think of this, we're picturing some obnoxiously intoxicated 20something in a dress shirt down the Viaduct being kept out of fights with bouncers and other patrons by his long-suffering mates.

Not since the days of Sir Robert Muldoon has the Diplomatic Protection Squad been effectively charged not so much with keeping the Prime Minister safe from the Public ... but rather, with protecting the Public from the ravages of a "hijinks"-prone Prime Minister.

Let's just all collectively hope he doesn't pull the tassel on some poor Turkish man's Fez while he's over there in Turkey this weekend.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

#Waitergate - Joined-At-The-Hip-Group

They say in politics, it's not the crime that gets you ... it's the cover-up.

That looks set to be what happens here with #Waitergate.

Key initially tried to front-foot allegations of some seriously creepy weirdness meted out to a waitress at Parnell's Rosie's Cafe on Wednesday; but when the sad spectacle of our Prime Minister appearing on the nightly news attempting to defend his inappropriate touching of hospo staff as "a bit of fun" evidently failed to wash with the electorate, his Black Ops team went into action.

The first sign that this was being taken deadly seriously by the Nats came when they deployed Rachel Glucina acting in the guise of a "PR Advisor" to go have a chat with the waitress in question. Now, most people know instantly who Glucina is - and while she definitely specializes in PR and spin, she's mostly done that in a reasonably covert capacity as the mistress of the Herald's Gossip pages, rather than as a professional.

Although having said that, experienced political warriors have long speculated that her lines of communication run right the way into the Beehive - allegations which were later proven during #DirtyPolitics, when it turned out she was being deployed by the Nats to run scandalous "exposes" about alleged links between Russel Norman, Winston Peters, and Kim DotCom. At the time, Winston alleged her information source must have been the Office of the Prime Minister misusing the state's security intelligence services to track his movements.

So we can already see that Glucina's regularly up to her gills in Nat-party covert ops.

But how did she know so instantly precisely *which* Parnell cafe the incident had occurred at?

Or, for that matter ... which waitress to call up and talk to.

New Zealand's a small place - the well-healed east side of Auckland's central suburbs even more so ... but this was just uncanny.

Fortunately, Glucina has a brother in the know. For, you see, Rosie's is run by Hip Group.

And guess who manages Hip Group? Why, it's Glucina's brother, Henry.

Well how about that.

So what I'm speculating happened here, is when Key's team knew the hair was about to fly on this story; his shadow comms and PR team called in a previously utilized and demonstrably successful political weapon (Glucina), and told her to make the victim's moral high ground go away.

Glucina then took advantage of her familial connection to Rosie's afforded by her brother; and set up the interview with the victim and her immediate employers in the guise of running PR for them.

Now obviously, I can't prove that Henry Glucina personally leveraged or convinced Rosie's owners Grant and Brown to let his sister into their home for the purposes of running damage control ... but it's certainly not implausible.

In fact, the idea of Henry Glucina hitting up the people he works with on a day-to-day basis and saying something like "I know this looks *really bad*, and I've heard The Herald's about to go public with identifiable details. Here, let me introduce you to this PR person I've got sitting around on retainer" and then wheeling in his sister to do an interview and photo-shoot - well, if anything, that seems scarily plausible. And would definitely explain why the Herald's amended its own version of events to acknowledge considerable "confusion over the initial approach" while deleting Glucina's earlier claim that "at no stage did she misrepresent herself or mislead anybody".

This is how the Nats work. Words-in-your-ear, taps on the shoulder, going straight to your employers, and firing off falsehoods safe in the knowledge that somebody else comes along to clean up the mess afterwards.

I'm disgusted with the way Glucina and The Herald have acted here.

But if anything, I'm even MORE outraged that the only thing the Prime Minister appears to have learned from #DirtyPolitics ... is that the Cameron Slater modus operandi works *really well* at skewering the innocent.

Fortunately, just like with #Watergate ... this time, the crooks have been caught red handed.

One Flew Over The Russel's Nest: Initial Reflections from the Green Party's Male Co-Leadership Forum

The Greens have always struck me as a surprisingly homogeneous bunch. With some notable and highly publicized exceptions, their Caucus and leadership team have tended to come across as that rarest of beasts in politics - a group of people who know what they're doing, and seem to be genuinely united in how (and for that matter, why) they're going to do it.

I therefore went along to Sunday's co-leadership candidates forum determined to find out two things: first, what do the Greens actually seem to want out of their new male co-leader ... and second, what meaningful differences there actually were between the various options.

I came away with one very simple, very strong impression.

The Shadow of Winston Peters hangs long over the Green Party - and I don't just mean because I was sitting there in the room.

James Shaw put it best in his intro speech when he suggested that unless the Greens grew their vote (by "[reaching] out to the broadest possible *coalition* of voters - you can see where I'm going with this, right?") then "the next government will be decided by Winston Peters - and that's no good for the environment or the country."

Now obviously, I reject in the strongest possible terms Shaw's assertion (although possessed enough willpower to save the vituperative interrogation as to what he meant by this for a one-on-one question-and-answer session after the event) ... but time and time again on Sunday, the dominant theme of the leadership contest got put across as "how do we make ourselves so large and so vital that we're impossible to marginalize or ignore".

With that in mind, then, the four contenders for the male co-leadership are all attempting to present themselves as the most effective, most marketable vehicle for doing exactly that.

There are some differences in approach - most notably Vernon Tava's clarion call for the Greens to de-couple themselves from Labour - and along with them come important distinctions in personal branding and record.

Shaw, for instance, presents himself as both a former businessman; and a seasoned political operator who's literally lived the Green Party's future ambitions by delivering an absolutely incredible 30% of the vote during his previous run in the Wellington Central electorate. This not only casts Shaw as an ideal man to build upon the push started under Russel Norman for economic credibility with the electorate; but in conjunction with his cited record of campaign experience and involvement, helps to undermine the perception that as a man who's only been an MP for less than six months, he's too "green" to lead.

And while there's certainly something intriguing about a candidate who's able to effortlessly segue from "D&D stories" through to detailing his working with some "kinda dodgy types in Moscow" ... the most interesting thing about Shaw's presentation was not what he said, but rather the demonstrable charisma and showmanship with which he said it. I know I'll cop some flakk from die-hard Greenies for suggesting this - but despite his earnest attempts at portraying himself as a steady pair of hands on economic affairs, you could hardly accuse Russel Norman of having charisma. Nor is this the first word that springs to mind when one considers the persona of incumbent female co-leader Metiria Turei - or, for that matter, much of the Greens' extant Caucus and front bench.

Shaw therefore eloquently embodies not only the Greens' hoped-for new constituency of business-friendly (if not literally "bourgeois") comfortably well-off middle class types; but also represents the potential strategic gamble of reaching out to those voters through charisma and showmanship rather than sticking with their more traditional emphasis upon policy-wonk competency and serious-faced anxiety-tapping concerns about what sort of world we're going to leave for Keith Richards.

Hague, by contrast, is at completely the opposite end of the spectrum. He's been an MP for most of the last 7 years and doesn't need to set out his political experience and credentials in anything like the same way a relative newcomer like Shaw does. He also has a legislative and advocacy record which strongly ties him to the social justice and liberal-identity-politik spheres of the Green Party's identity. While this provides demonstrable proof of his competency and leadership abilities, it also paints him as effectively offering "more of the same" and appealing to the Greens' traditional support-base rather than providing an obvious flashy vector with which to "grow the pie".

His speech itself did little to dissuade this impression, starting out with a river-kayaking metaphor that sought to cast him as an experienced helmsman in challenging circumstances; while also situating the Greens as a bulwark against a threatening 3rd term National government. In contrast to the other candidates, there appeared to be little in the way of olive-branches to potential new voters, or emphasis upon the newfound importance of demonstrating economic competency. Although to be fair, this is perhaps more due to the in-house nature of the audience being addressed (all of whom would presumably be cheerful enthusiasts of anti-apartheid and pro-LGBT campaigning) rather than any genuine gulf in Hague's strategic vision. Additionally, it does occur that environmental and social justice causes are now increasingly mainstream politics with broad, mainstream appeal. So perhaps his extant strong record will prove more decisively important than one might otherwise presume.

The other seasoned MP going for the co-leadership is, of course, Gareth Hughes - and the contrasts between him and his Caucus-mates are marked. Where Shaw combines a demonstrable aptitude for broadening the Greens' appeal with an as-yet largely untested Parliamentary political credibility, and Hague meshes inarguable experience and gravitas with a strong "core values focus"; Hughes is fighting to overcome the arguable disadvantage of youth by providing a genuine (and somewhat surprising) strategic depth of vision.

It's easy to forget that he's only been in Parliament for two years less than Hague has; yet of the four candidates on show, only Hughes presented anything approaching a detailed plan for broadening the Greens' electoral support. His specific emphasis upon winning over the middle class through campaigning on housing affordability and educational opportunity demonstrates he's actually done some serious thinking about how to do this; while his promise to move to Auckland if chosen - while it initially struck me as potentially being grandiloquent show-boatery - shows he's actually dead serious about doubling down on the Greens' strong support in more liberal urban electorates.

For everybody who mistakenly thought that Hughes' candidacy was merely a gimmicky exercise in profile-building that would look no further than the youth-slash-Armageddon-attendee vote (and Hughes' demonstrable popularity with same) as its linchpin ... I'm sure I'm not the only one to be pleasantly surprised at finding his fresh-faced enthusiasm matched with a sharp strategic mind.

And then, there was Vernon. Now, full disclosure: I know (and very much like) Vernon on a personal basis. I've watched him grow and transition from a don of the UoA Quad aggrieved about vegan lawyers having to wear horsehair wigs; through to a credible local body politician, and on to his present positioning as what first appeared to be arguably this race's most inexplicable candidate.

My pre-existing respect for his intelligence and integrity as a person thus seems to have rendered me far more inclined to actually hear him out on what he stands for than many of the other pundits and commentators who've been excoriating his views from alongside him in the Greens and out on the broader Left generally.

Instead of the way he's been portrayed as an apologist for a hypothetical Greens-National Coalition of Death (in which the "Blue" represents various kinds of oxygen deprivation), what Vernon actually seems to be advocating is the idea that the Greens' core concerns of environmentalism and ecological sustainability are too important to be neglected in pursuit of partisan political power-gaming. And he's right. This is already acknowledged through such things as the 2011 Memorandum of Understanding which the Greens signed up to with National. And, indeed, implicitly agreed to as a hypothetical concept by every Green leadership candidate who hasn't absolutely 100% ruled out any form of post-election or future co-operation with the National Party (i.e. all of them).

If you're in politics, then you're in it to effect policy and bring about change. Vernon's call for the Greens to become "the sustainable axis around which governments turn" is merely a recognition of this. And while I remain to be convinced that it's possible to work closely with the National Party without running the severe risk of winding up a tarnished creature of vestigial accomplishment like the Maori Party ... it does also occur that in many ways what Vernon's advocating is merely the apex expression of exactly the same "broaden our vote into the center" principle that the Greens have been embracing for quite some time - and thus not nearly as earth-shatteringly controversial as it might have first appeared.

So there you have it.

Four bold ways the Greens are contemplating putting an end to what James Shaw described as one of the greatest examples of waste in NZ history - 19 years in Parliament for the Greens, and Zero in government.

I'm sure that to an internal audience (such as the ones addressed behind closed doors after us Media are ushered out), they come across even more distinctly than I've given them credit for.

But I went into Sunday's forum expecting Kevin Hague to romp home, and the chief point of differentiation for everybody else to be "how much are we prepared to spook Labour into action and win new voters by opening ourselves up to National".

I came away with the distinct perception that the Greens are not only uniquely blessed with a thriving, consensus-based internal democracy ... but also with genuine choices and options as to their party's future direction.

I'm not going to directly divulge which candidate impressed me the most - although I would like to acknowledge all four of them for being exceptionally good sports when approached for comment and clarification by an aspiring journalist otherwise better known to each of them as New Zealand First's Enfant Terrible.

Instead, I'll just simply say that, from this outsider's perspective ... whomever the Greens choose at their AGM later this year, their party's future is in *excellent* hands.



Thursday, April 16, 2015

Remember That Time National Tried Forcing Mentally Ill People Into The Workforce?

There was an article doing the rounds on social media last night about how National secretly plotted to force mentally ill beneficiaries into work. While it dates from mid-2013, given Budget Season invariably brings out exactly the same pernicious and destructive prioritization of fiscal impacts over the lives of ordinary kiwis ... I think it's totally worth raising it again as an emblematic example of what this government's about.

The idea itself was simple enough:

Pay private sector companies up to $12,000 per beneficiary to get some of the most vulnerable people in our welfare system off benefits and out into the workforce. Insist they do it inside six months; and have WINZ-run referrals to private make-work schemes for those whom even WINZ has to concede are too unwell to actually engage in full-time work.

Or, in slightly more realistic terms ... National came up with a scheme to do two of its favourite things at once: heartlessly reduce beneficiary numbers while funneling public money into private (corporate) hands.

It does, of course, also occur that if National was serious about helping beneficiaries with "entrenched" mental health issues - and wasn't adverse to throwing twelve grand a head at the issue - then they'd presumably get *much* better results out of *actually increasing the funding available to said beneficiaries for counselling, therapies and other support services* instead of trying to force them into work and hoping the private sector can provide adequate support to them once they're in there.

But then, how would National enrich its mates in the corporate sector?

We found out about this scheme, because some hella-courageous Ministry of Social Development employee dared to leak the documents proving its existence to the media. They must have been seriously concerned about the potential human cost of treating seriously unwell people as problems and labour units rather than fellow Kiwis in need of support and assistance.

As we careen towards yet another round of heartless bene-bashing as part of #Budget2015, I'm left lamenting the fact that the Ministers responsible for rolling out such policies don't possess similar scruples.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Solution to Auckland's Housing Crisis Starts IN The House, From ACROSS The House

Yesterday morning on TV3's The Nation, Auckland Deputy Mayor Penny Hulse (who's rapidly becoming one of my favourite local body figures) made the case for a cross-party effort to solve Auckland's escalating housing crisis.

This is a no-brainer. National's clearly not up to the challenge of going it alone (not that they're really trying very hard), and I commend Hulse for being unafraid to point out the areas in which we need to go further than what the existing Housing Accord provides for.

Where others might have contentedly rested on the not inconsiderable laurel of helping to produce a workable Accord with Central Government in the first place - or even attempted to play politics with the issue by simply labeling the entire thing a manifest Government failure unsolvable till after the next Election ... Hulse has instead taken the more mature approach of actually sitting down and thinking about the problem, working out where the rest of the political system slots in to providing solutions, and then extending a veritable box-garden of olive branches out to other political actors from across the spectrum with a view to actually, as she puts it, getting the whole political system working towards "[getting] the diggers in the ground and the wheelbarrows wheeling concrete".

This stands in marked contrast to Labour Housing spokesperson Phil Twyford, whose attitude toward the cross-party collaboration in tackling this issue called for by Hulse can broadly be summed up as "blame National for lacking ideas, then refuse to actually stump up and try to help them out with some."

Needless to say, that's exactly the inverse of Hulse's sensible, solutions-driven approach; and tantamount to an effective admission from Labour that they don't see themselves as having a meaningful role to play in sorting Auckland's Housing Crisis until some hypothetical point in the far-off future when they may, possibly, find themselves an important player in the next Government.

That's not good enough; and I can only look in askance at any national-level politician so evidently keen to abdicate responsibility when it comes to helping to sort the biggest issue in their portfolio. It almost makes one wonder why they're wasting the nation's time as an MP, given they could make pretty much exactly the same level of contribution from the relative political sidelines of the commentariat.

And while I'm not entirely surprised that Labour's enthusiasm for bipartisanship apparently has difficulty extending all the way from voting in favour of National's GCSB bill to co-operating with the Government on a little issue like housing; I'm nevertheless highly incensed that Twyford appears to have reconstrued Hulse's call for "cross-party collaboration" as being restricted in ambit to members of the - and I quote - "two party system".

Despite the dearest wishes of many of the apparatchiks and faithful of the Big Two, we are no longer living in the era of black-and-white televisions and electoral choices known as "FPP".

Rising parties like New Zealand First and The Greens have hugely meaningful contributions to make on just about every issue; and it seems exceptionally churlish (particularly given Winston's status as the most effective electoral candidate fielded by Labour in the last 30 years) for Twyford to blithely pretend that we don't exist or aren't relevant to the discussion just because he doesn't wish to acknowledge that other parties might be more willing to step up where he's stepped back and do their bit to help Auckland.

It's exactly that sort of political chauvanism and casual "we know best" disregard for the legitimacy of external perspectives by first Labour and then National which necessitated our adoption of MMP in the first place.

Twyford's sin of omission is particularly egregious given the litany of strong resonances between Hulse's check-list of Things Central Government Can Do To Help The Auckland Housing Situation and extant New Zealand First policy. This substantive overlap renders New Zealand First something of a natural ally for Hulse on this issue - and given Labour's apparent intransigence when it comes to advocating on behalf of Auckland at the Parliamentary level, potentially affords our city a vitally needed political ally able not only to assist on the national stage (or, more properly, National's stage); but also able to bring to bear the best elements of its own highly relevant policy agenda (look out for a future blog post on this) in collaborative pursuit of a solution.

And let me put it this way: when Hulse says one of the two biggest roadblocks to sorting the Housing Crisis is wide-ranging (and unhelpful) fear harboured by others of appearing overtly "interventionist" ... who better to wade into the situation than the Party which enthusiastically runs the most unabashedly #Interventionist economic policy of any in Parliament :D Indeed, our Housing policy quite explicitly calls for the state to directly intervene in the housing market through a combination of #Nationalizations, state apparatuses, and central planning.

I also must confess I found myself quietly enjoying watching Hulse skilfully and professionally raise many of the same talking points I've previously heard Winston conjure; but in such an urbane fashion that hardly anyone could possibly bat an eyelid.

For instance, while the pernicious impact of property speculation on housing affordability in Auckland is so widely acknowledged that it's less Elephant in the Room than Carthaginian War-Machine Doing Circus Tricks On Dinner Table, Hulse also cleverly acknowledged the role that Central Government "population policy" (read: "Immigration", inter alia) plays in fueling Auckland's housing bubble. By pointing out that Auckland's grown by somewhere in the area of fifty thousand people over the last year, yet only built five and a half thousand houses (of which, only a shocking 9% are "affordable"), she set out with cold, hard facts the reality that our city's present rate of population growth (much of which is fueled by immigration) is patently unsustainable.

You'll often hear Winston making exactly the same argument (or, at least, witness the seemingly inevitable backlash when he does); and when it came to some of Hulse's proposed partial solutions for this part of the issue, she may as well quite literally have been reading off our policy manifesto/song-sheet. We've long advocated for the reinvigoration of our regional economies (which Hulse correctly labels "dying" in many instances) as an alternative to the present approach of allowing all the country's economic eggs to domicile in one overpriced basket; and I was enormously pleased to hear Hulse champion our suggestion of redirecting migration flows away from Auckland out into those self-same Regions.

Great minds, as they say, think alike.

I'll save the intriguing resonances between Hulse's call for greater Central Government financing for urban development and a certain NZ First Youth policy proposal we got through NZF's 2013 Convention for a future post (you'll love this one!) ... but for the moment, I don't think it's possible to overstate just how *enormously* grateful I am that Auckland's evidently in possession of a perspicacious Deputy Mayor who combines an ability to think both creatively and rationally about a problem - and whose approach to the game is to actually regard it as a problem-solving rather than point-scoring exercise.

And that's another vital overlap between Hulse's modus operandi and the way we do things here in New Zealand First.

One of our sacrosanct guiding principles is the idea that those of us in politics owe a duty to our fellow New Zealanders to place the pursuit successful outcomes over and above petty partisan tribal loyalties - and to keep an open mind as to where some of the solutions of tomorrow might come from. Winston sums this up as a directive to "support good policy and oppose bad policy - no matter where it comes from".

By attempting to bring together strands from all levels and persuasions of politics in search of solutions - and even extending a seemingly open invitation to *all* of our Parliamentary political parties to come, contribute ideas, and be part of the remedy - Hulse has acted in the highest and best traditions of both pragmatic realpolitik and principled #Multipartisan sentiment.*

It's just a pity that Labour ain't coming to the house-party.

*If you're wondering why I'm insisting on being a bit different and using "Multipartisan" rather than "Bipartisan" ... scroll your mind back up to the Phil Twyford bit of this article. "Bipartisan" implies there's only two sides. It's also what happens when Labour votes for National's spying legislation.

The diversity of views in our post-FPP politics - particularly on the left wing - obviously militates against such an outmoded concept. From now on, the only time I'm going to use #Bipartisan in a positive sense is when I'm referring to something NZ First and The Greens agree on #BlackGreen2017

#ImNotBiPartisanImBiWinning

Thursday, April 9, 2015

#JeSuisCampbell

One of the political creeds I live by is "Anything The Market Can Do, The State Can Do Better".

This was short-circuited recently by an associate, who pointed out that state broadcasting was responsible for the abomination that is Seven Sharp ... while privately owned MediaWorks gave us the absolutely awesome Campbell Live.

And while for some in(s)ane reason, the Seven Sharp experiment appears to have produced commercial dividends for the public sector (netting upwards of half a million viewers a night mid-way through last year) ... not only is Campbell's audience remarkably loyal (with a viewership that's remained steady at the quarter-of-a-million mark despite the Seven Sharp onslaught); but, as TV3's Mark Jennings puts it "In terms of breaking stories and creating change in this country, Campbell Live wins by a mile. Seven Sharp is not even in the same race."

That's why Campbell Live is so important. Because it's NOT just another post-6pm-news attention sucker.

Instead, it's one of our last remaining "traditional-media" examples of that dying breed: the Crusading Investigative Journalist.

Who else could have held the Prime Minister to account on the GCSB bill; shone a spotlight on Simon Bridges over deep sea oil drilling (or, for that matter, kept something approaching a straight face when Bridges referred to the endangered Maui Dolphin as a species of "fish"); dragged Peter Dunne into Naenae to personally witness the havoc his Legal Highs law was creating; and tirelessly crusaded in favour of the "Feed the Kids" bill into the bargain.

With a record of holding the politically powerful to account like that, it's perhaps little wonder that experienced pundits like Damien Christie are speculating that the decision to ditch Campbell faster than Natalia Kills might have something to do with the government's massive cash-injection to MediaWorks less than 24 hours before...

I'm by no means ill-favourably disposed toward Jono & Ben (they do, after all, give Winston frequent awesome exposure) ... but the very idea that John Campbell could be meaningfully replaced with something more "infotainmenty" - with, given Jono & Ben are the purported supplement, the emphasis placed quite firmly on the "tainmenty" - is quite frankly ludicrous.

Even Jono & Ben themselves are pouring cold water on it, posting to Facebook last night that the first they'd heard of their impending promotion was yesterday's NZ Herald article; and further clarifying for good measure that "the only thing Jono wants from John Campbell is [his] marvelous head of hair".

Still, it could be worse ... MediaWorks could have volunteered the 7pm timeslot to Paul Henry!

My own disdain for questionably thought-out hashtaggery as a form of activism in defence of journalists is already reasonably well-known ... but with Campbell's status as a public institution foremost and firmly in mind, I look forward to much of the New Zealand politisphere joining with me in saying:

#JeSuisCampbell

Because despite his epic efforts with both #FeedTheKids and feeding John Key to the lions, prime-time broadcasting is about MORE than just Bread & Circuses.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The Winston Effect

In case you didn't see it this evening on 3News ... the media appears to have a new favourite buzzword:

"The Winston Effect".

Or, more prosaically, "The headache value for National of New Zealand First acquiring an extra MP thanks to Winston Winning Northland."

Initially, this looked like it was going to be an achievement of mostly symbolic value. It's awesome that NZF has boosted its ability to hold the Government to account; and the epigrammatic value of one of the safest of safe National seats falling to the black-and-grey onslaught cannot be overstated.

But at the end of the day, Sixty votes to Sixty in the House still leads to a bill's failure - as we saw with Feed The Kids thanks to the reprehensible and churlish spinelessness of Peter Dunne.

Except fate and politics often has a strange sense of humour.

Some years ago, Labour put up for debate an excellent bill that would extend New Zealand's paid parental leave for mothers to twenty six weeks. At the time, despite an impressive cross-party confederation of support for the measure (including, to my own amazement, theoretical Government stalwarts like The Maori Party and Peter Dunne) the bill failed.

One term later, however, and the game has changed!

Assuming the National Party doesn't manage to heavily lean on its (oft-pliant) support partners in United Future and the Maori Party to successfully induce a changing of their stances, it looks like Sue Moroney's Paid Parental Leave bill might *just* have the numbers to pass First Reading!

It's not something that places the government's working majority under effect - still less reduces their "Confidence & Supply" ... but it's a start :D

And the sight of John Key looking supremely pained at having to resort to bandying about the Government's Veto power in order to retain a vague semblance of looking in control, was bloody marvelous indeed.

A few weeks ago, I predicted that Winston's impending win in Northland would not be the end - not even the beginning of the end - but rather, the end of the beginning in our Long War against National.

With the Government running scared; and the Media scenting blood in the water sufficient to turn his name into a shibboleth of power ... I'd say we foes of the gangrenous governmentality are, thanks to our newly found champion, off to a cracking start indeed!