The biggest and most serious threat to journalism?

What is the most serious threat to journalism? Big company ownership? The blurring of journalist lines? Woke journalism?

Or us, the consumers?

There have been criticisms and arguments about the ‘right wing’ ownership of media, and also left leaning journalists. Here is a new slant to it.

New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is getting attention fresh new force in US politics, or as a naive left leaning numpty.

If you want to read more on the issue of monopolies, anti-trust, corruption, and ways to address it, I recommend checking out . She literally wrote the book on it.

Another opinion on it in response:

But Assange/Wikileaks have a lot to answer for their interference in democracy with leaks targeting one presidential candidate. They have denied being deliberate or at lest effectgively agents of Russian in their attempts to disrupt  democracies. And they also got involved in Kim Dotcom’s fizzer of a ‘big reveal’, in an attempt to change the political landscape in New Zealand.

Wikileaks seemed to morph from whistleblowers into revolutionary activists.

There is also an issue with the blurring and crossing of lines between journalism and selective promotion of politicians and parties. Sometimes this may be a deliberate lack of balance, but in other cases it may closer to emotion and celebrity type infatuation – Jacinda Ardern has been ‘absolutely phenomenal’ in Europe, generating ‘huge’ media interest see from1 News (not just the effort of Joy Reid, her over the top praise was allowed and prmnoted by her editors).

What is also effectively activism via media is a problem.

There are real risks when journalism comes of second best to the unbalanced and emotive promotion of politicians or causes.

What can be done about it? We have a lot of choice now with media.

All of those media have serious flaws, but they also still do some serious journalism, without which democracies would suffer badly.

I think that one of the biggest problems is when people select which media suits their leaning and opinions, and they shun media that differs, or that challenges their beliefs.

I try to remain sceptical, especially of single sources, and I deliberately look for news and opinions from across the spectrum (generally avoiding the extremes). This is why I have delved into New Zealand political blogs across the spectrum – you can learn more from those who challenge your way of thinking.

But I think it is far more common for people to gravitate to towards what they want to hear.

There are problems with large media ownership, and activist journalism (including woke journalists), and the trivialising of news, the infatuation with ‘celebrity’, and the wolf crying (yesterday I saw weather predictions promoted as ‘breaking news’).

But consumers of news and opinion are a big part of this, especially with the growing use of click bait headlines and selection of trivia that displaces or overwhelms serious news.

Perhaps we the people are the problem here. We have far more news choices than ever, but we dictate more than we understand with the immediate counting of clicks, and our influence on algorithms.

The direction of journalism and news media may be a force of natural selection by the masses.

There is little we can do it but make our own selections, whether that moves with or against the tide of change or not.

‘Green’ carbon-neutral transition investment fund launched

A $100 million fund has been launched to promote growth in low-carbon business to help “transition to a clean, green, carbon-neutral New Zealand”.  It is called New Zealand Green Investment Finance Ltd so the Greens get to promote their name along with the business orientated fund.

This has come from the Labour-Green Confidence & Supply Agreement, which included:

4. Stimulate up to $1 billion of new investment in low carbon industries by 2020, kick-started by a Government-backed Green Investment Fund of $100 million.

It is a one-off sum that is intended to “operate independently from Government and work in a market responsive and commercially focused way” in contrast to NZ First’s much larger $1 billion per year Provincial Growth Fund that Shane Jones keeps dishing out as he promotes himself as a champion of the provinces.

It is a sizeable amount of money, but is probably a worthwhile trial to see if James Shaw’s aim of a establishing a ‘green’ economy.

Jacinda Ardern, James Shaw: $100 million investment fund launched to invest in reducing emissions

Business and the Government will jointly tackle climate change with the launch of New Zealand Green Investment Finance Ltd; a $100 million fund to reduce New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions, Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, and Climate Change Minister, James Shaw, announced today.

The fund is a central plank in the Government’s plan to transition to a clean, green, carbon-neutral New Zealand and it delivers on a Green Party Confidence and Supply Agreement commitment.

“Tackling climate change is a priority for this Government and business involvement is crucial to our success. No one can opt out of the impacts of climate change. This fund helps business to opt in to the solution,” Jacinda Arden said.

“Lowering emissions will require innovation and action from all sectors.

“This fund means the Government is bringing cash and know-how to the table to partner with business to deliver a clean, green future for everyone.

“This new investment fund is an important component of New Zealand’s plan to build a clean, sustainable, low-carbon economy that has both lower emissions and profitable enterprises,” Jacinda Ardern said.

“New Zealand Green Investment Finance will be a commercially focused investment company which will work to invest with business to reduce emissions while making a profit,” said James Shaw.

“The Government’s $100 million start-up capital injection is intended to stimulate new private sector investment in low-emissions industries; with returns over subsequent years expected to pay back the Government’s investment and see  NZ Green Investment Finance stand on its own commercial footing.

“More and more investment dollars are looking for clean, sustainable ventures to invest in. Establishing this fund positions New Zealand to attract its share of that investment capital.

“New Zealand faces a big job in upgrading our economy and infrastructure. New Zealand Green Investment Finance will help deliver financial backing to help ensure that the upgrade is fit for purpose,” Mr Shaw says.


What will NZ Green Investment Finance Ltd do?

NZGIF will bring financial and technical emission reduction expertise together into one organisation with the sole aim of increasing investment into low-emissions projects.

It will act as a bridge between investors and key industries and sectors, and identify low emissions projects ready for upscaling, commercialisation and use.

Why is NZ Green Investment Finance Ltd being established as an independent entity?

NZ Green Investment Finance Ltd is being established as a company under Schedule 4A of the Public Finance Act 1989 so that it can operate independently from Government and work in a market responsive and commercially focused way.

What will NZGIF finance?

NZGreen Investment Finance Ltd will have the flexibility and mandate to focus on sectors and industries where the greatest impact on emissions reductions can be made.

Potential opportunities include things like electric vehicles, manufacturing processes, energy efficient commercial buildings and low-emissions farming practices.

With New Zealand’s electricity supply already using around 85 per cent renewable sources, NZGIF will focus on tackling other sectors.  However, there may be opportunities to back smaller scale renewable energy projects; where they are smart and can contribute to making our electricity supply more sustainable as demand for electricity rises.

As a commercial entity, NZGIFwill likely focus on solutions that already exist; for example, knowledge and technology being used internationally where there is scope for use in New Zealand.

The Budget 2018 announcement referred to the NZ Green Investment Fund. Why has it changed to Green Investment Finance Ltd?

Use of the word ‘Finance’ is a more accurate reflection of the purpose and market-leading role NZGIF will play.

Why isn’t the private sector financing these sorts of investments?

New investment markets take time to develop and investors rely on good information to assess viability and risk.

They also need financial products which are structured in a way that fits the market.

As a result, there is limited activity initiating and funding low emissions or ‘green’ investment deals here.

The establishment of NZ Green Investment Finance Limited, which will focus on accelerating private sector investment into emissions lowering projects, will fill this gap.

More details about NZ Green Investment Finance Ltd are available here.

The government funded company may take a few years to prove if there is good business in low-carbon initiatives.



Back to Parliament, back to business for Ardern

Jacinda Ardern took back control as Prime Minister last week after six weeks maternity leave, and returned to Parliament yesterday. After a few days of media fawning and puff pieces it was finally back to business.

Tracey Watkins: It’s a business as usual return for Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern

It hasn’t exactly been business as usual with all the baby distractions, but Ardern needs to get back to business quickly.

If plummeting business confidence was the thorn in Labour’s side before Ardern went on leave, it’s now a knife that keeps being twisted a little deeper each day.

Treasury is the latest to feel the knife’s edge. Its latest report on the economy admits rosy growth forecasts in the May budget might have to be revised downward due to the drop in business confidence and a cooling housing market. But Treasury is arriving at this party late. Nearly every bank economist has already come to the same conclusion that falling business confidence may have some very concrete effects.

Ardern’s return offered an opportunity for a reset – a gesture to business that the the Government has been listening and is willing to try and meet them, if not halfway, then some of the way.

But there was no olive branch from Ardern – just push back on the disconnect between business confidence and New Zealand’s economic performance.

So a challenging time for Ardern.

And she is being challenged. Barry Soper: ‘Trade for All’ agenda another announcement without substance

It’s a bit like putting the produce-laden cart before the lumbering Clydesdale as the Government tries to bring the public on board with free trade deals and what they’re calling a ‘Trade for All’ agenda.

This soft sell to the public was Jacinda Ardern’s first big announcement after putting her feet under the Beehive’s Cabinet table yesterday.

And just like all Government announcements without substance they’re setting up a board to advise on how to woo the great unwashed when it comes to trade. And as usual they’ve appointed the chair with the boardroom chairs to be filled later, or as the blurb said “in due course”.

Their blurb was stating the bleedingly obvious, they want trade benefits to flow to all New Zealanders, they want them to be felt throughout the country, not just in the major cities. Like the last Government did, trying unsuccessfully to sell the Trans-Pacific Partnership, they’ll be holding meetings and hui around the country over the next couple of months.

It’s a government’s job to govern and those who run this trading nation from the Beehive should get on with the business rather than engaging focus groups and crowd sourcing to make everyone happy about what is after all New Zealand’s bread and butter and always has been.

It seems to be a kick the can down the advisory board government.

Ardern has had a break. She now needs to step up and show that she can lead the Government and lead the country, more so than she has done so far.

And business is a big issue for her to deal with – as soon as possible, not waiting for the results of an inquiry.


Q+A today – business and trade

On Q+A this morning:

Why is business feeling so gloomy? Surveys show business confidence has been persistently low since the Labour led Government took office. Corin Dann talks to Finance Minister Grant Robertson.

Plus, what could an NZ-EU Free Trade Agreement mean for you? And will European farmers give up some of the subsidies that make trade harder for our food producers? European Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom joins us.

The Nippert tax investigations

Media is widely criticised for it’s shallowness, it’s obsession with trivia, and it’s lack of investigative reporting.

Last year Matt Nippert showed that there is still some old school investigation going on. He has detailed his series on articles on tax last year – 19 articles at NZ Herald on the topic were published through the year, in what he calls “a deliberate effort to dig into the opaque world of corporate tax avoidance and the growing Tax Gap.”

Not the most popular of topics, but far more important than much of the news we are now dished up.

The series started with package on the front page of the Herald on March 18. This included:

A pre-planned series of stories followed, including

Nippert then looked at government policy on the issue, including

Some further drilling down:

Nippert: “Throughout all this, the opinions of the public and policy-maker and even the business community appeared to shift.”

And finally “late in the year, the government finally reacted”:

In a year that the Herald was heavily criticised for it’s click-bait headlines and increasing reliance trivia we should acknowledge that they retain a commitment to some in depth investigative reporting, albeit with reducing resources.


NZH bio on Nippert:

A Fulbright scholar with a masters from the Columbia School of Journalism in New York, Matt has spent the past decade in newsbreaking roles at the New Zealand Listener, National Business Review, Herald on Sunday and the Sunday Star-Times before joining the Herald in 2014. His work has won numerous awards and he is the reigning Canon reporter of the year.

His stories include horrific abuse at a state-run boys home on Great Barrier Island, malfeasance at South Canterbury Finance, systematic tax avoidance by multinational companies, and the sudden resignation of justice minister Judith Collins.

Nippert has a regular sideline as a broadcast commentator and is one of only a few journalists who honestly enjoys numbers and spreadsheets.

Last year Nippert won Canon media awards for his efforts:

  • Reporter – Business Matt Nippert – The New Zealand Herald
  • Reporter of the Year Matt Nippert – The New Zealand Herald

Derek Handley on doing business better

‘Tech entrepreneur’ Derek Handley was interviewed on The Nation on Saturday.

He talked about significant changes in approaches to doing business over the past twenty years, with a focus on doing good for society and the environment rather than just making money.

You’re involved in a project with Richard Branson called the B Team, now it’s aimed at getting companies to tackle social problems, isn’t it, through business. But I’m wondering why should companies focus on doing good in the world as well as doing well financially? Why is that beneficial?

Well, first of all it’s not just social it’s also environmental. I think the overall vision is that business is a stakeholder in the whole of the community and the whole society, and if you just silo making money and not worry about how you make it and how it impacts society and how it impacts the environment, that’s a very last century view on the world.

The view that we have with the B Team is that the way you make money, the way you create wealth, must have positive impacts for society and at the same time, given the challenges we have with the environment, help innovate and solve those issues.

And that in fact will become the new way of competing, the new way of differentiating yourself.

So we think that it’s not like an either/or, it’s like an and/and, and actually that that’s the way that people want to lead and the way that young people want to work.

While capitalism has never solely been about making money regardless of any social or environmental cost it is evolving towards promoting a greater good for society.

There will always be some who see wealth-seeking as all important. There will always be some who like to display their wealth via  trinket status symbols like large houses and expensive cars.

But there is more personal satisfaction or prestige for some in demonstrating social and environmental responsibilities.

But is it a problem convincing other people that that’s a good idea?

I think in the last 20 years it’s been building, right. But if you look at the last year we’ve already had an enormous amounts of traction.

So if you look at Apple for example, Steve Jobs never really worried about these things, but Tim Cook has come out very strong, he came out a few months ago asking any investors, any hedge funds who didn’t believe in their environmental policies to sell their stock. That’s really bold leadership.

We have more and more CEOs and global leaders who are doing that in business because they understand you can’t just leave your values at the door, go to work, screw up the planet, not worry about the impacts on society or the workers you have in China, make money and be happy.

So I think the more Tim Cooks that come out of the woodwork, the more this movement will start to pick up.

Peer pressure to be more than selfishly rich can work amongst rich and successful business people.

In saying that, you have described capitalism as a teenager that’s just figuring itself out, so I’m wondering, how do you think that will look when it’s all grown up?How will it look and behave when capitalism’s grown up?

I think it looks like a merger of the things that we currently silo. So we currently silo politics, civil society, non-profits, business and we think of them as discrete things.

And I think the future looks like a hybrid – if you’re going to be an entity in the world you need to do it sustainably, you need to create revenue that will keep you alive, you need to address social issues and make money.

So what’s happening is these sectors are starting to merge and they’re starting to play together. So business will look more and more like different sectors that we traditionally think are not business. And that’s what I think, you know, is currently happening.

It’s not new but there seems to be good growth in doing business better.

Market regulations and state imposed socialism are necessary parts of the modern capitalism-socialism mix but common sense promoting common good on a voluntary basis could become a powerful factor in getting a better balance.

A better society and a healthier environment are good for business.


Dunedin needs growth and positive change – vote for it!

It is critical that Dunedin votes for a mayor and council best able to promote business and job growth – if you haven’t voted yet you can help lift the city out of the economic doldrums by voting for positive change.

We’re stuck with high debt so fiscal prudence and keeping discretionary spending to a minimum are critical for the council finances, but it’s still critical that economic growth and jobs are high priorities.

The current mayor seems to be conflicted with his Green leaning ideology at odds with what the city requires. Cull’s lukewarm and vague comments on seeking jobs and business is damning of his actual priorities.

Voting for a mayor and councillors who believe business performance is crucial and who know how to lobby Government effectively is of critical importance. There is still time to select a council that wants to grow Dunedin, and a business savvy dedicated mayor is essential.

Vote Pete George 1 for mayor and 1 for council, and look for other business savvy candidates.

See (and ‘Like’) my Facebook page.

Supporting Darien Fenton supporting business

Darien Fenton posted in Red Alert on The migrant worker exploitation morass. I was a bit half cocked and snarky in a comment and she called me on it – fair enough. I didn’t think things through, assumed too much, and as Darien said it was”an irrelevant political shot “.

I need to look more into the migrant worker issue and may comment on that later.

In response to one of my assumptions Darien explained her support for businesses:

Just so you know, I always defend good employers and businesses. We need them. That was one point in my post – much of the contact I’ve had has been from small business who are concerned that they can’t compete with employers who break the law. They were supporting the comments I have made in the media and asking me to keep at it.

I’ve been hearing quite a bit of “workers good, employers bad” in other places, I let that influence my comments too much.

It’s good so see that people like Darien who actually get involved in problems have a better understanding of the good and the bad of any group. That often doesn’t come across well in the media.

David Clark: more (or less) on the minimum wage

David Clark (Labour MP for Dunedin North) has come up with a number for the likely cost of increasing the minimum wage, and also makes some more statements in Views split on minimum wage in the ODT.

The Clark points:

  • $427 million as the most likely cost

I’m seeking clarification on whether that just covers wages increasing to $15, or if it also takes into account wages currently on $15 that would get pushed up.

  • Increasing the minimum wage to $15 per hour would ensure hard-working families could put healthy food on the table.

There’s no doubt increasing the minimum wage would help some families (and some single people and childless couples) but “hard-working” and “healthy food on the table” is waffle.

  • Making the minimum wage $15 an hour will be a big help to about 264,000 workers and their families.

The amount of help will vary as those already earning close to $15 will only get a small increase. There is no indication of the average increase.

  • The $13.50 an hour was well below Australia’s minimum of an equivalent $NZ19.92.

That’s an issue and one of the reasons for a Kiwi exodus to Australia. But increased costs may lead to job losses, so Australian wages may be even more enticing.

  • A higher minimum wage encourages employers to engage in industries with high productivity.

Does that mean employers pull out of industries with lower productivity? And less productive workers become unemployed non-workers?

  • It means employers can’t get wealthy off the back of cheap labour.


  • An economist could be eligible for a Nobel prize if he or she could establish a direct link between putting up the minimum wage and increasing unemployment.

You don’t need to be an economist nor a Nobel prize winner to see the distinct possibility that forcing business costs up in very difficult economic times is likely to lead to job losses.

  • The proposed change will not affect most employers and smart employers who already pay a living wage will be better off as it will stop less scrupulous firms undercutting them.

More union-speak.

Clark’s response to business group concerns:

He dismissed the arguments put forward by John Scandrett (Otago-Southland Employers Association chief executive) and John Christie (Otago Chamber of Commerce chief executive), saying BusinessNZ was running the “same line” throughout New Zealand.

Clark is running a few lines too, some of which seem to be well rehearsed union lines. He doesn’t seem to have a good understanding of business realities.

It seems very unlikely the minimum wage bill will get past it’s first reading in parliament.

But  Clark’s dissing of Dunedin business leaders and his anti business rhetoric does not look good for MP-business relationships in Dunedin. Nor New Zealand.

Government spoon-fed, or the spoon business?

Bill English spoke via Skype to an Otago Chamber of Commerce post-budget lunch yesterday.

Most of what he said was fairly routine and unsurprising, describing the financial situation and National’s approach to dealing with it.

The Global Financial Crisis was inflicted on New Zealand (although we were headed towards financial problems of our own in 2008 when that hit). We are still at the mercy of a international events. But ultimately we need to make our own good fortunes.

Zero budget or Stimulus?

Much has been said about the budget being a zero. English pointed out that the Christchurch earthquake was a major stimulus for the South Island (and the whole country which will supply many goods, services and people).

It is a significant cost to Government (us), but these costs were committed to before this budget.

It also involves a large injection of capital from overseas as insurance payouts.

Due to continued quakes the Christchurch recovery has been slow to get going, but it does offer many business opportunities.

Business needs to drive recovery

The emphasis on National’s approach is to create a sound economic framework to enable business to thrive. Government can reduce red tape and cost of business impediments, and it can offer some incentives by structuring tax and encouraging research and development.

But that’s only footwear. The recovery will only get legs when businesses recover confidence and invest in more jobs and more production.

Business generates business. Government can help a bit, but they will never be a fix-all solution. It’s up to us.

New Zealand  business will grow and thrive when New Zealand businesses decide that’s what they want to do. That’s us, out here in the cities and provinces.

We shouldn’t sit back expecting to be spoon-fed by government. It’s up to us to design spoons, manufacture spoons, sell spoons, and use spoons in our businesses as tools to generate more business.