Government control over us versus our right to free choice

Governments have to have some control over it’s citizens. Laws are generally for our protection and benefit, and taxing us is essential for providing public services and essentials like adequate health care and education for everyone.

But most of us don’t want to much control over our lives, and want to retain as much freedom of choice as possible.

Governments continually deal with trying to find the right balance between things that will put some controls and restrictions and responsibilities on us, and allowing us freedom of choice and to take responsibility for our own lives as much as possible.

Lana Hart (The Press) has a fairly scathing political lean, but also asks some reasonable questions in The sweet spot of government power (government power will never be sweet for al of the people all of the time).

No matter where the Sixth Labour Government and its coalition partners looked, there were things to fix up. Efforts to rid the halls of power of the stink of neglect permeated their work in the first year of their political residence, bringing more resources, stronger interventions, more oversight, and better support for the defenceless in our society.

‘Stink of neglect’ is an unfair appraisal, but there are always things to ‘fix up’ for any incoming government (and any returning government).

But we don’t want our governments to go too far in their control over our lives. We don’t want them needling into our private lives and making decisions that we should make for ourselves.

We want the right balance of government in our lives.

I’m sure it is a constant juggle to get the equilibrium right between enabling the government to create safe and fair living conditions for all their residents while allowing people the autonomy to make their own choices.

How far should government go at gathering information that, at some stage, may be helpful to a family in need?

This is a tricky question. Many of us probably don’;t want the government gathering our personal information – except when it may help us. Having our health records on hand if we need emergency care in any part of the country could be quite beneficial to us, even life saving.

At what stage does the government use the force of its many resources to intervene in a sector – such as water safety, housing, and tourism – that might better be left alone? When does a government that needs the support of New Zealand businesses have to step up its mandate to regulate it more tightly?

In the vast house of government, these questions must keep the occupants up at night.

Every Cabinet, and each Minister should be considering these things continually as a standard part of their demanding jobs.

As well every party and each Member of Parliament should be looking at a decent balance between freedom and intervention. Opposition MPs need to weigh up holding to account versus using the public to score political points. Parties need to develop good policy that doesn’t use our lives as political footballs – and in particular they should not bribe some voters at the cost of others.

Surely this – enabling people to live good lives –  is the role of all governments, whether local or national. They should exert some influence over us with legitimate rules without getting in the way of our individual rights to autonomy and free choice. Since some of us need more help than others, governments also need to step in to even out the inequalities that life throws at us.

Enabling people to live good lives? Or allowing us to live the lives we choose as much as is possible in a fair society, taking into account the rights and needs of others living in our community?

The reality is that some of both is required.

What’s more important, balance or truth?

There’s been chatter in media lately about the importance of balance in news and opinion, and whether balance should be given on unbalanced topics.

Should should extremists from both sides be given an equal forum? Or should views generally be sought from people in the centre-ish?Would that get too boring? And is excluding more leanings or more extremes a bad thing?

Or does this matter?

Is truth more important than balance?

Whale shit

Bigger than bull at Whale Oil.

The campaign against Golriz Ghahraman is still rambling on at WO. Yesterday was quieter, with ‘just’ a lame cartoon plus another dirty Photoshop posted by Juana Atkins.

But they are back at it with two posts already today, with some Whale sized shit from Slater.

With all of the revelations we’ve seen about Golriz Ghahraman over the last week, I had expected the story to be picked up by the mainstream media.  That’s their job right? To report on facts and raise issues of concern about the current government, particularly when it comes to lies and deception peddled by our Members of Parliament.  Yet it’s been strangely quiet.

Media were all over it when the story broke, and for a day or two afterwards, and then it subsided, as is the norm for stories. What I think Slater means is that the media are quiet now while he is trying to beat a dead horse story.

So far, the mainstream media have stayed away from this story in droves.  They seem unwilling to publish anything that might make this Government look bad.  Stories the previous Government would have been castigated about for weeks seem to slip quietly under the rug.

From the 26th November (Tuesday) all the main media outlets covered the story. Therre is even a new opinion piece on Stuff today by Damien Grant: ‘Why I admire Golriz Ghahraman’:

We like to hold our elected representatives to an impossible moral standard. The few who can achieve such purity are so devoid of drive and ambition that they are ineffective in the blood-spattered arena that is modern politics.

Fudging your CV, embellishing the past and periodic acts of bastardy while appearing angelic – even as the viscera of your opponents taint the edges of your apparel –  are prerequisites for a successful life in politics.

John Key was called the smiling assassin. Jacinda Ardern’s first act as leader was to nudge Metiria Turei under a recycling truck while empathetically embracing the nation’s  impoverished children in a Kate Sylvester dress.

Ghahraman can have no complaint that Quin has brought these issues into the light. When you stand for office such scrutiny is expected but I do not care if Ghahraman fudged her CV or had photos taken with war criminals.

We vote for people because we want them to get things done. There isn’t any point in marrying a eunuch or voting for a saint.

Slater does not seem to favour the saintly style of blogging, but seems to expect unblemished politicians (except ones he is shilling for) and media.

He closes his post wanly:

We are long overdue some real balance by the mainstream media.

Unwittingly witty. He wants ‘real balance’ from other media. That’s kinda cute given his own degrees of imbalance.

Like this:

Photoshop of the day

by SB on December 2, 2017 at 1:00pm

Slater seems to have approved of this, he has commented in the thread.

This is whale sized shit.

And he wonders why media don’t continue his political attack campaigns any more.

Media has a responsibility to be balanced

This shouldn’t need to be said, and if it is seen it is likely to be ignored, but the media have a responsibility to be balanced in their coverage of politics, especially in an election campaign.

A month or so ago we had media overkill of Todd Barclay’s political career. It was a story that deserved some coverage, but it became more of a hounding than reporting, and still pops up occasionally.

Last week has been extraordinary. The media obsession with promoting Jacinda Ardern was possibly without precedent. It’s hard to imagine a greater concentration of coverage if they had discovered that Princess Diana’s death had been faked and she had been living anonymously in Morrinsville.

The change of Labour leadership was a very big story. The rise of Jacinda Ardern was a phenomenon, but the glittering saturation coverage was excessive, and democratically unbalanced and unfair

The media plays an important role in a democracy, an essential role. A problem with modern media is that it has become a means of exerting and influencing power.

Politicians and parties have recruited a lot of journalists, and they obviously know how to play the game. They also have good contacts in media.

Switching from journalism to political PR seems to have significant financial benefits for the best of them, with probably only the TV and radio ‘personality’ journalists on more lucrative salaries.

Politicians cultivate their own relationships with journalists. It is something Ardern has been adept at, she has milked a lot of coverage in the past, but has been careful not to upstage her leader.

And that paid off last week with journalists flocking to Ardern. She was smattered all through newspapers. She appeared on just about every TV program that wasn’t ‘reality TV’ or Coronation Street – she would probably have been on Shortland Street if there wasn’t a lead time to their content.

The coverage of all other politicians and parties combined would have been less than the attention Ardern got. We have had an outpouring of overkill.

But we have had what we have had, and now Ardern is an obvious media favourite to at least feature prominently in the election campaign.

I think it’s too much to ask but the media have a responsibility to be objective and to provide balanced coverage.

They have already shown their bias against Bill English, with it being common to report on his lack of ‘charisma’ – he is too boring for their headlines and click baiting.

He is so old hat that journalists have almost lusted over a younger fresher alternative.

Winston Peters has long been given favourable coverage and inadequate scrutiny from media, but even he was virtually ignored. Who knows what a shunned Winston will do now to try to attract attention.

The media have switched from their obsession with ‘king maker’ to building a throne for their anointed queen.

It hasn’t been all adulation, there has been some reasonable coverage, but the overwhelming impression has been that media has had a clear favourite, and balance went out the window with Andrew Little.

The media euphoria over the rise of Ardern will subside a bit, but there is a real risk of ongoing lack of balance.

The future of the country is at stake and voters should be given fair and balanced coverage. I’m not confident we will get that.

Balance in the Newsroom?

Newsroom have been praised for their investigative journalism after a series of revelations and articles on the Todd Barclay issue.

Questions have also been raised over their possible collusion with a dirty politics campaign, seemingly not just designed on damaging Todd Barclay.

After he has lost his political career over it the attention turned to Bill English, who was placed a very difficult position by drip fed Newsroom revelations. English was strongly criticised for not being open about things, but there was a confidential employment agreement involved, and also a secret recording that it would have been illegal to reveal existed let alone the contents.

There was the potential to bring down English, bring down the Government, and swing the election (that could still be a consequence).

It is very important that media holds power to account, and holds elected people and Governments to account. But media have power of their own, and that also needs to be held to account.

Newsroom are an Auckland based media organisation. They must have put considerable resources into a story about as far from Auckland as you can get, in Clutha-Southland.

There is a big contrast between their handling of the southern story and the other big political story of the past couple of weeks where it was important to hold another bunch of politicians to account – the Labour Party Fellowship/intern story. This is very much an Auckland story.

Newsroom is new and relatively small, so can’t be expected to cover every story in depth, but some balance should be expected.

Integrity and truthfulness of leading politicians were involved in both the Barclay and intern stories.

How did their coverage of the two stories compare?

On the National/Barclay Story:

  • Politicians, police, and the payout
  • Todd Barclay’s file of denial 19 June
  • Barclay payout raises questions over leader’s fund 19 June
  • Setbacks derail National’s election plan 23 June
  • Todd Barclay responds: ‘I did nothing wrong’
  • Barclay sorry for ‘misleading’ comments
  • Police to review Todd Barclay case
  • Privacy Commissioner may probe Barclay claims
  • Allegations Barclay invented complaints
  • Fall from grace for Baby of the House
  • How Barclay’s career went up in smoke
  • PM accused of cover-up
  • Hughes stonewalls Dickson questions
  • Barclay affair: What the board knew
  • English: Barclay offered to play rec
  • Officials knew details of Barclay tapes

On the Labour/intern story

  • Labour under fire over volunteer ‘hypocrisy’

No investigations on their own turf, no investigation about funding of the scheme, no questions about Andrew Little’s  integrity and truthfulness. Little slammed English’s morals while claiming the high ground over the interns, but media has barely touched on his lack of openness and on his varying and vague explanations.

Perhaps Newsroom are doing an in depth investigation and will publish soon.

Perhaps the Auckland Labour Party and the New Zealand Labour Party will still be held to account.

Greens on gender balance in Cabinet

The Greens have launched a campaign for gender balance in Parliament and in any future Cabinet that they will be a part of.

Co-leader James Shaw put out this media release this morning:

Greens will ensure gender balance in Cabinet

James Shaw MP on Thursday, October 15, 2015

The Green Party is today announcing that, in Government, it will ensure half of all Green Cabinet Ministers are women, and will call on other members of any coalition Government it is involved in to do the same.

Green Party Co-leader James Shaw announced to the CTU conference in Wellington today that the Green Party would put gender equality at the heart of any Government it is involved in, starting with equal representation in Cabinet.

“Our hope is that by leading by example, and ensuring gender equality at the Cabinet table, the Green Party can stimulate and support a wave of gender equity reforms for women who work,” Mr Shaw said.

“Just 30 percent of Cabinet positions are currently held by women, and only 32 per cent of MPs in Parliament are women. If political parties are serious about ensuring women across all workplaces are paid more and given the opportunity to take on senior roles, then political parties should start by getting their own houses in order.

“A Government with 70 percent of its Ministers men isn’t good for women and it isn’t good for New Zealand.

Ideally it would be good to generally see an approximate balance, but it’s more complicated than just insisting on equal numbers. Putting people onto party lists and putting MPs into Cabinet because of their gender alone is a bad approach.

Sure about 30% female MPs and female Ministers looks lower than it should be.

But I’d be interested in knowing what women overall think about this? Many women may be happy that men take more than 50% of the roles in Parliament and Cabinet. If not then more women should make sure that a better quality of female candidate and female MP is promoted.

“The idea that people are paid on merit, or appointed to senior roles like Government Ministers based on their abilities, doesn’t stack up. Women are paid less largely because they’re working in professions that are dominated by women, and they’re often not appointed to senior positions because of barriers that have nothing to do with ability.  It’s time to drop the idea that women are worth less once and for all.“Around the world countries are realising that gender inequality is holding them back and they’re committing to greater representation by women in many positions of power in business and politics.

“There are at least 28 countries which have a greater proportion of women in cabinet than New Zealand, including France, Canada, Germany, Israel and South Africa.

“By committing to a gender balance in Cabinet, the Green Party won’t immediately fix the inequalities women are forced to deal with at work every day, but it will show that we are committed to gender equality everywhere, starting with where we work ourselves,” Mr Shaw said.

Gender balance is a good ideal to aspire to but it isn’t a good rule to try and enforce.

And a Radio NZ report shows that not all women agree with the Green quota approach  – ‘You can’t enforce equality’ – executives

…head of Chartered Accountants New Zealand, Kirsten Patterson, said forcing the hand of employers would not fix anything.

“You can’t say you’ve reached equality if you’ve had to enforce a system for equality to occur,” she said.

“We’ll only truly get to equality if the systems are changed to the extent that people are appointed on merit across a wide range of characteristics.”

Ms Patterson said the problem went beyond the cliche of the old, sexist white man.

“All of us have unconscious bias and in some circumstances, female senior executives show a stronger predetermination towards male candidates,” she said. “Areas where organisations make a hard approach and commit to doing work in this space and backing it up with actions are where we think we can make the difference.”

And even Jacinda Ardern is cautious:

“Our starting point has always been making sure we’ve got the women who are in the position to move up the ranks. That goes right down to the women who are office holders, and then coming through the ranks into Parliament,” she said.

“Once you’re in Parliament, then obviously you’re reliant on your caucus and your leader enforcing a meritocracy.”

This is another case of a Green ideal that has some merit but not necessarily being practical, especially immediately.

I haven’t seen evidence that women in general want this.

Green gender imbalance

When Russel Norman leaves Parliament at the end of October he will be replaced by next on the Green list, Marama Davidson. This means that the current 7/7 gender split will change to 8 female MPs versus 6 male MPs .

This shouldn’t be an issue but the Greens usually try hard to maintain gender balance.

To an extent it’s a quirk of a male MP resignig when the next on the list is female. But it could have been avoided by getting Davidson to stand aside to let a male replace Norman. There’s a precedent for this sort of list manipulation as two people on the Green list stood aside to enable Norman to replace Nandor Tanczos in 2008.

But Davidson is ambitious and is very keen to become an MP. She is rated highly in Green circles and they would have been expecting her to get into Parliament last year from number fifteen on their list, except that the Greens failed to improve their vote enough.

Davidson was understandable excikted by yesterday’s news.

was just stand up mighty for my ! I’m honoured up the wahzoo to be the 14th MP. Hugely thankful to so many of you ❤

There has been a lot of excitement and congratulations.

Formidable wahine toa female MPs

Embedded image permalink

ae 🙂 we 3 are the wahine Maori MP’s xx

So Davdson is highlighting her and their wahineness and Maoriness – I’m not sure that Delahunty would be thrilled with being separated like that.

And Marama Fox of the Maori Party might like to point out that Greens don’t have the only wahine Maori MPs.

Same for Nanaia Mahuta, Louisa Wall, Poto Williams and Meka Whatiri (Labour). And Paula Bennett, Hekia Parata and Jo Hayes (National). And Ria Bond (NZ First).

I don’t have a problem with this. Any party can have any mix of MPs they like. But for a party that makes an issue of promoting gender and race balance this seems to be a lapse of discipline.

Three wahine Maori MPs out of fourteen is 21.4% is about three times the population proportion.

There’s a total of twelve wahine Maori MPs (that are obvious to me) which is about 10% – about 15% of the New Zealand population is Maori so about 7.5% will be female.

Metiria Turei added her take on it:

Metiria Turei retweeted Alan

Or or or There will be 8 women in our caucus of 14 soon. All wahine toa.

So Turei is promoting them as representing strong, female, Maori, and seems to be applauding the female imbalance. This seems contrary to the Green ideal of equal female/male representation.

There are valid arguments for increased female and Maori representation to make up for past under-representation and to overcome entrenched non-Maori male domination.

But a party can’t be both gender and ethnically balanced and also promote and applaud imbalance without looking like their ideals can be bent when it suits some of them.

Green’s gender and ethnic imbalance is not a problem – unless balance is an ideal that mustn’t be compromised.

Balancing gender versus balancing the budget

Do voters (including women voters) care much abour gender balance?

Quite possibly perceived competence of parties, leaders and candidates are more important to many voters.

Here’s some percentages.

  • National got 47% party vote and have 27% female MPs.
  • Labour got 28% party vote and have 40% female MPs.
  • Greens got 11% party vote and have 50% female MPs.

The voter turnout at the last election was 74.21% – at least 25% of those voters (and probably around 50%) were women.

The voter gender balance will vary across parties but presumably there’s a lot of female voters who choose to vote for parties with proportionally less women candidates.

Perhaps voters, including female voters, put more priority on balancing the budget than balancing the genders.

Chauvel accuses Whale and Kiwiblog

In his valedictory statement in Parliament Charles Chauvel took a nasty swipe at “two better known right wing blogs” – obviously Whale Oil and Kiwiblog – with wild accusations. This indicates some paranoia in Labour circles about supposed unfairness in media.

But it’s not only Government institutions that need strengthening. Democracy requires a free, well resourced, unbiased fourth estate.

Journalists working in much of our under capitalised, foreign owned media are under constant pressure.

This comes from many quarters, including the constant need to sell newspapers and airtime, and also the need to compete with instantly available online sources.

In the case of the two better known right wing blogs those online sources are proxies for the present Government, and much copy is supplied to them directly out of ministers offices at taxpayers expense.

A general dumbing down, but more importantly a loss of independence have been the inevitable results.

To those of uas who want to read and listen to unbiased domestic news and analysis, or even for those of us who don’t really care whether John and Jacinda are still New Zealand’s sexiest politicians, there remains a diminishing number of options.

The quality of reporting and analysis now offered by PBS, ABC, the BBC, as well as the effect they have on the standard of other media, are simply not available here.

It’s high time for the re-establishment of a strong, independent, well resourced multi media broadcaster in New Zealand.

It’s more than a little hypocritical talking about unbiased balance while making major unsubstantiated accusations at two “right wing” blogs under parliamentary privilege, and making no mention of left wing blogs with obvious connections to Labour.

Video report here: Chauvel Leaves With A Parting Shot

Update: See also The Chauvel valedictory at Kiwiblog and on Charles’ valedictory at The Standard