The pre-budget political circus symptom of a bigger problem

The politically created and media stoked pre-budget circus over insecure Treasury data was a symptom of a growing problem.

Treasury, the Government (in particular Grant Robertson), and the National opposition all came out looking worse to the public.

The circus demonstrated how out of touch with ordinary New Zealand politicians and the media are getting.

Bernard Hickey suggests: Our political metabolic rate is way, way too fast

No one comes out the Budget 2019 ‘hack’ with any credit, Bernard Hickey argues. The ‘scandal’ is symptomatic of an accelerating and more extremist form of politics in a social media-driven age of snap judgments and tribal barracking.

I turned on Radio New Zealand’s First at 5 programme, expecting and wanting to hear the latest burp and fart in the saga.

Instead, I heard presenter Indira Stewart asking some year 13 students at Tamaki College in South Auckland about what they wanted from the Budget, and comments from the tuck shop lady Nanny Barb about the kids at the school arriving hungry and needing breakfast. Listen to it here.

It stopped me in my tracks.

Year 13 students Lu Faaui, Uili Tumanuvao, Sela Tukia, Francis Nimo and Efi Gaono thanked Nanny Barb for their meal. They talked about what they wanted from the Budget. They had been forced to move out of state houses in Glen Innes (Tamaki Regeneration Company) to South Auckland and their parents were working multiple jobs to pay for private rentals.

They were paying $40 a week to travel across Auckland each day to Tamaki College.

“Just like Sela said, it’s forced us to move out of GI (Glen Innes) and yeah my family just decides to cope with it. It’s made my Dad work even more hours. My mum gets two jobs, my sister gets two jobs. I mean, money is money you know,” said Lu.

What they didn’t care about

They didn’t care about how an Opposition researcher had done 2,000 searches on a Treasury website to try to find Budget 2019 information four days ahead of its release.

Or that Simon Bridges had then recreated 22 pages of Budget information and released it to the public to highlight Treasury’s IT system flaws and embarrass the Government. They didn’t care or even know that the Treasury Secretary had jumped to the conclusion the information was ‘hacked’ and needed to be referred to the police.

Or that Grant Robertson had made the mistake of trusting Makhlouf and leapt to lash back at Bridges by suggesting illegal activity. Or that Bridges had then accused Robertson of lying and the Treasury of being incompetent, and that it was a deliberate smear and a threat to democracy.

They did not hear the Opposition Leader jump the shark by saying: “This is the most contemptible moment in New Zealand politics.”

Really? Worse than Muldoon outing Colin Moyle? Or the Dirty Politics revelations? Or Jami-Lee Ross’ allegations?

All those teenagers wanted was affordable and convenient housing and transport so they could easily go to school and their parents didn’t have to work so hard.

That sort of thing is reality for many people who don’t care for posturing and point scoring, which turns most people off politics.

This is how politics works now

If I had time and they were still interested in talking to me, I’d explain how politicians and the media operate now.

I’d show them my twitter feed and how news and commentary have ramped up into a blur of headlines, memes, click-bait, extreme views, abuse and a desperate game of trying to grab the attention of a distracted media and whip their own social media bubbles into a frenzy.

The best example of how this increased metabolic rate of politics has warped the public debate is to point to what has happened in America and Europe, where increasingly polarised politicians shout at each other from their own bubbles of supporters and nothing changes. Meanwhile, other forces keep screwing the scrum of democracy to further their own interests.

The end result is a disengaged public, policy paralysis, a lot of noise and not much light.

It isn’t unusual for politicians to be out of touch with ordinary people living ordinary lives.

But the media a real concern – they are supposed to shine a light on politicians and Parliament, hold them to account and inform the public.

too often they seem too intent on lighting the fires, or at least providing the petrol and inflaming things way out of proportion to their importance.

I understand how it happened and I’ve been living in it now for a decade. A political firmament driven by social media, sound bites, cheap shots and one-day-wonder stories is not going to solve the problems of South Auckland or Tamaki.

Everyone should take a chill pill, stop jumping to conclusions for a quick political hit and instead think beyond the beltway to the real world and long term concerns of citizens.

What’s the chances of this happening? I see no sign of it.

 

Leave a comment

37 Comments

  1. Alan Wilkinson

     /  1st June 2019

    Is Hickey still predicting property prices to crash? Been waiting 15 years for that now. Not that I’ve ever seen him criticise the real cause: Lefty law and regulations.

    Reply
    • Yes. He was desperate for the world to end back in 2007, yammering on like a great high priest denouncing the plebs for all their sins. Still at it today.

      Reply
      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  1st June 2019

        He and Rod Oram are twin peas in the Lefty pulpit

        Reply
    • Blazer

       /  1st June 2019

      you still have not acknowledged the real cause.

      You are in denial.

      Reply
    • Blazer

       /  1st June 2019

      Hickey made the mistake of thinking the RE market was a natural occurring free market.

      Because of the failure of Capitalism as highlighted by the GFC,RE became the only game in town…aided and abetted by low interest rates and manipulations of gutless Govts.

      Reply
      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  1st June 2019

        For failure read destruction in the above and you would have it right, B.

        Reply
  2. David

     /  1st June 2019

    The media are more out of touch than the politicians, some of their opinion pieces border on the utterly bizarre have a look at Cecile Meier’s latest or anything from Verity Johnson both at Stuff where they make Lizzie Marvelley look like a rampant misogynist .
    https://www.stuff.co.nz/life-style/113123348/men-stop-talking-over-women-and-listen

    All the opinion pieces this morning are on the budget leak and who won that game but no mention of the debt trajectory Robertson has put us on, how he is going to spend our money effectively, where he is going to find a couple of thousand mental health care workers etc. etc.
    There is more analysis of Bridges than the budget which I guess prove the media are still in awe of Ardern.

    Reply
    • Blazer

       /  1st June 2019

      ‘ the debt trajectory Robertson has put us on’…Key/English put us on that as you know….and ‘everyone’s doing it’.

      Worldwide debt is unpayable ,so ride the beast until it implodes.

      Reply
      • David

         /  1st June 2019

        Sure English raised the debt rather than make the same mistakes during previous crash,s and exasperate the downturn by slashing but then moved sensibly back to surplus while encouraging growth in the economy.
        Post GFC and an epic natural disaster in Christchurch then Kaiakora we were back in surplus and reducing debt then Robertson and Labours splurge will have us back in deficit and rising debt but heh middle class university graduates will have lower debt, teachers will have a little less work to do for higher pay and non performing NGOs will see their coffers overflowing for zero measurable improvements in society.

        Reply
        • Blazer

           /  1st June 2019

          good to see you can admit you’;re..wrong.

          Reply
        • Duker

           /  1st June 2019

          “we were back in surplus and reducing debt ”
          Thats a lie , English never reduced debt by even a dollar, borrowing happened every year of national including since 2014. ( roughly $20 bill more)
          You dont understand ‘surplus’ in the context of Government spending ( Robertson has surpluses now!.
          On a cash basis there has been deficits every year , which are funded by borrowing.

          In 2019, Treasury forecasts a surplus of $3.5b, more than double what it expected in December.
          https://www.stuff.co.nz/business/budget/113094163/budget-nz-2019-grant-robertsons-debt-target-squeezed-by-higher-spending
          Do you see your basic error now ?

          Reply
          • David

             /  1st June 2019

            I said we had a surplus and you are correcting me by saying we have a surplus. As to the timing not sure if English was still there or it happened shortly after but no doubt a pedant with little else to occupy their lives will find out.

            I think you will find debt as a percentage of GDP is down from 25 odd percent to under 20 now. Little point in an absolute number as it doesn’t have context does it.

            Reply
            • Duker

               /  1st June 2019

              Again you are WRONG..you talk of next debt not gross debt, gross debt which is the amount to borrowed and to be repaid.
              The reason why the nett debt as a % has fallen is that sovereign wealth funds , which are ACC reserves ($30 bill?) , EQC reserves( nil) and the Cullen Fund ($40 bill) have grown with the stock market.
              Notice that you deflect away from your claim that English ‘paid back debt’…it’s as false as his claim to be a farmer…even Helen Clark would qualify as she too grew up on a farm before going to university like English

    • Kitty Catkin

       /  1st June 2019

      What a lot of drivel that first article was; badly written, ungrammatical, straw men arguments…and someone was paid for that.

      She appears not to have heard that the ‘teary-eyed’ man whom she sneers at never did anything that anyone could call sexual assault, let alone rape. Who’s not listening now ?

      Reply
      • Duker

         /  1st June 2019

        His version , is that it was a hug. The version from her in the Francis report is more like a sexual assault and if there is penetration its rape.
        and
        “Parliamentary Service looked into her allegations last year. Stuff was told this was rape – but Parliamentary Service says that wasn’t the focus of the original investigation.”

        See how they minimised the assault , by NOT focusing on it. His side of the story is believed and tells it again , all teary eyed, to Soper…and you believe Soper, who has likely known this guy for years!

        Reply
        • Kitty Catkin

           /  1st June 2019

          The highlighting is yours.

          Reply
        • Kitty Catkin

           /  1st June 2019

          Where were the details of it being a sexual assault ? I do know what rape is, thank you, and know what it isn’t.

          Who told Stuff that it was rape ? Or was this a quantum leap ?

          I see no reason why PS would minimise a rape and every reason why they would not. If it wasn’t the focus, it was probably because there wasn’t a rape. If there had been, the man wouldn’t be working with his victim years later.

          Reply
          • Duker

             /  1st June 2019

            Your source is Super…only talking to the man. He hasn’t done an investigation and talked to both sides….no sireee…but he’s got some believing it’s true because they hear one side…
            I’m sure there is more to come

            Reply
            • Kitty Catkin

               /  1st June 2019

              Super what ?

              Debbie Francis didn’t talk to both sides, either.

        • Kitty Catkin

           /  1st June 2019

          It was allegedly a hug from behind, if it’s the same one, and the man was investigated and exonerated..

          One staff member was sacked, another formally apologised for his actions and one (the man in the Soper article ?) was exonerated and the charges dismissed.

          One woman made a complaint and then wihdrew it so that the accused would be unable to defend himself; a cowardly trick which has been done before. Name and shame someone then say oops, my mistake.

          Reply
          • Duker

             /  1st June 2019

            Exonerated because they didn’t investigate the assault claims…those were made to go away, because they were a women’s word against a man with powerful friends

            Reply
            • Kitty Catkin

               /  1st June 2019

              Where did you see that ?

              They were colleagues from what I gathered; not boss and employee.

              Your idea is an insult to everyone, even the woman who would hardly be such a fool as to walk meekly away from a rape or near rape and say nothing. Why did she not go to the police ?

              It’s sexist (the people with power must be men).

              Men have been sent to prison on some woman’s say-so plenty of times.

  3. Tom Hunter

     /  1st June 2019

    What’s missing in this analysis is what Henry Kissinger once said:

    Academic politics are so vicious precisely because the stakes are so small.

    What he meant by that was that the outcomes of the fighting meant very little and because the differences between the groups were actually so small.

    This syndrome has moved into the larger world of real politics for the same two reasons.

    First, because the giant systems set up by previous governments are demonstrably not working to deliver a better world for voters. At best, when they’re actually working, they deliver a strained status quo that people struggle to escape. In the case of the GI folk, trying to escape multiple jobs for one job that pays well, hoping to get back into a state house because their chances of buying a home are so small. Not to mention the cost of the transport in getting from the home they rent to school and work.

    The second reason is that the major political parties don’t actually have much of any ideas as to how these systems can be improved, beyond endless tinkering at the margins. Oh sure, in an election there are great ideas and dramatic stuff shouted from the rooftops – but in practice…?

    Thus the major parties and our politics in general have increasingly bigger, nastier fights over increasingly smaller crap. Meanwhile the problems slowly expand, the gaps slowly widen (seen our lousy productivity over the last five years?), the vaccum grows – and the extremes expand into it.

    Reply
  4. oldlaker

     /  1st June 2019

    I notice Meier’s comment about abortion laws being changed in the US. “Women’s rights slowly get eroded in the US with state after state legislating abortion bans (through decisions made by a majority of men in power).” Actually, I’m pretty sure the motion was introduced by women reps in Alabama and it was certainly passed into law by a female governor. Religious women are just as likely to want to outlaw abortion as men but it’s an inconvenient fact to activists like Meier so they pass the blame entirely onto men.

    Reply
    • Duker

       /  1st June 2019

      This Governor?

      Who only is only serving out the term because the male governor resigned because of a sex scandal

      Reply
      • Kitty Catkin

         /  1st June 2019

        I am pro-life and cannot imagine ever regarding abortion as being acceptable as a means of contraception, which seems to be the way many people regard this ‘right’,

        Reply
        • Alan Wilkinson

           /  1st June 2019

          Life will continue whether or not you and I are “pro” it. So will both natural and induced abortions at various stages of pregnancy. People will continue to make good and bad decisions about sex and having children and other people will continue to feel free to criticise and sometimes coerce them. I’m in favour of maximising help and minimising coercion to make good decisions.

          Reply
          • Kitty Catkin

             /  1st June 2019

            I don’t see why other people should finance someone else’s bad decisions about unprotected sex. If these people want to kill the resulting baby, let them pay for it.

            Reply
            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  1st June 2019

              The morning after pill is a lot cheaper than a lifetime on welfare for other people to pay.

            • Kitty Catkin

               /  1st June 2019

              Indeed, but abortion isn’t. I know that the morning after pill stops anything happening, unlike the abortion pill.

            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  1st June 2019

              Abortion is much cheaper than welfare support.

            • Kitty Catkin

               /  1st June 2019

              So are packets of condoms. $1 for sex seems a cheap enough price, don’t tell me that anyone can’t afford that.

  5. Blazer

     /  1st June 2019

    hat tip Francesca @TS…

    ‘In the early 6th Century BC, the people of Athens were burdened with debt, social division and inequality, with poor farmers prepared to sell themselves into slavery just to feed their families.
    Revolution was imminent, but the aristocrat Solon emerged as a just mediator between the interests of rich and poor. He abolished debt bondage, limited land ownership, and divided the citizen body into classes with different levels of wealth and corresponding financial obligations.
    His measures, although attacked on all sides, were adopted and paved the way for the eventual creation of democracy.
    Solon’s success demonstrates that great statesmen must have the courage to implement unpopular compromises for the sake of justice and stability.’

    Reply
  6. duperez

     /  1st June 2019

    I commented yesterday about the Hickey piece. Seeing it again, the last bit comes across like one of those rehabilitated old gang leaders telling the young ones to not do what he’d done. Too little too late.

    Reply
    • The trouble is, positive change has to come out of the old gang that still dominates politics.

      At least if more of them recognise the problem there may be small change within, which will lead to gradual improvement.

      Reply
      • duperez

         /  1st June 2019

        The tide’s gone out to not return.

        Every now and then I hear sports broadcasters bitching about the way ‘the media’ have commented on something or dealt with a story. Needless to say those doing the complaining are colleagues, probably mates, often with the same company as those they are grizzling about. And of course the complaints are about stuff which exhibits approaches and behaviour they perpetrate themselves.

        The handling of the emergence of ‘new’ high performers, athletes like pole vaulters Eliza McCartney and Olivia McTaggart and the crop of young alpine sport stars who’ve done is an example. They are praised for their refreshing, unrestrained perspectives and their openness and candour in interviews. Criticism and slagging off follow for rugby players (for example) for their reluctance to offer anything new, the ‘media training’ which confines and limits them and their toeing of ‘the party line.’

        Those sportspeople aren’t cynical and wary and pre-warned for nothing. Some young rugby guy says in an interview to not being selected, “I was hoping to be picked this week.” That appears in a headline, “Player slams non-selection” while another outlet would have it, “Player facing rejection.” Every hack for every newspaper tries to turn it into something different and special.

        The relationship between the media and sportspeople has some of the characteristics of that of the one between the media and politicians. The role in the latter is far more critical than that of the former. Unfortunately the purveyors of each are as limited as each other.

        Reply
  7. I just noticed I miss-spelled the heading – should be pre-budget, not prep-budget.

    Reply

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