Justice Minister says hate speech laws ‘very narrow’ with gaps

Minister of Justice Andrew Little has said that New Zealand hate speech laws are too narrow and there were gaps in the law, but also said that any changes needed to be robustly debated.

RNZ:  Current hate speech law ‘very narrow’ – Justice Minister Andrew Little

Justice Minister Andrew Little says gaps exist in current laws around hate speech and what should be considered an offence.

Mr Little announced on Saturday that he was fast-tracking the review, which could see hate crimes made a new legal offence.

Mr Little told Morning Report today the current law specific to hate speech offences was “very narrow”.

“It applies to inciting racial disharmony, it doesn’t relate to expressions that incite discrimination on religious grounds or identity or a range of other grounds.”

“If you look at the Harmful Digital Communications Act, which is the other law we have dealing with what we might describe as hate speech, it’s very thorough but the question is whether the processes that are available under that legislation are as accessible and as good as they might be, so there’s grounds to review both those areas,” he said.

On who is covered under current law, Mr Little said: “If your hateful expressions and hateful actions are directed at somebody’s religion, or other prohibited grounds of discrimination other than race then actually it doesn’t cover that, there’s no offence at that point.”

He said you could potentially lay a complaint for mediation with the Human Rights Commission, but that the most gross type of expression seen around the Christchurch terror attacks wouldn’t be covered by it and that looked like there was a gap in the law.

He said the review would make clear whether the law does fit. He’s not convinced it does, but said he’ll leave it up to the experts doing the review.

Mr Little said the issue about where the line was drawn was the most difficult part of any law that constrains expression and speech.

“The reality is we know that there are forms of expression on social media and elsewhere that you can see at face value are totally unacceptable and not worthy of defence but then there are opinions and views that we might disagree with or might even find offensive but are legitimate contributions to debate.”

Mr Little said any change to the law would need to be robustly debated.

I’m sure any suggested changes will be robustly debated.

Gordon Campbell (Werewolf) on the legal crackdown on hate crimes

Obviously, deterring hate speech and outlawing hate crime has the aim of providing better protections to vulnerable persons and communities, but without unduly restricting the public’s rights to free expression. It isn’t an easy balance to strike.

Hate crimes have a broader effect than most other kinds of violent crime. A hate crime victimizes not only the immediate target but also impacts every member of the group that the direct victim represents. Hate crimes affect families, communities, and sometimes the entire nation.

With hate speech, it is maybe worth keeping in mind that this is not purely a hate crime vs free speech issue. Speech has never been entirely free, under the law. Some language (obscenity) some speech in some contexts (eg yelling “fire” in a crowded theatre) and some types of threat have always been illegal.

Theoretically, the online expression of hate speech should fall under the Harmful Digital Communications Act, but given (a) the superheated and extravagant nature of much “normal” online debate and (b) the extent to which hate content online originates from offshore, the New Zealand law doesn’t currently offer much in the way of a defensive shield.

Moreover, regulating speech online to the point where hate speech and/or the perception of it was entirely eliminated would require a surveillance apparatus and enforcement powers like those more commonly found in totalitarian states than in social democracies. Online, the cure may be almost as mad as the disease.

It could easily be worse if allowed to go too far in restricting speech.

To me hate is a very strong term, but many people say they ‘hate’ many trivial things.

With hate crime, and hate speech then, there may well be some scope for adjusting the boundaries of what counts as “intimidation” – where co-ercion is involved or implied – and “menacing”, where the intention is to engender fear and subservience in the victim. Unfortunately though, when Parliament has tried to deal with this sort of thing in the recent past, ordinary civil liberties have gone out the window in favour of rank political posturing.

Political posturing is a problem in any serious debate.

As Andrew Little has said, we have until December to find viable ways to criminalise expressions that (currently) do not meet the traditional tests of criminality – but which nevertheless have left vulnerable communities or persons feeling less safe. (Arguably, the repeated expression of hostile sentiments can serve to make an actual attack more likely.)

Any pre-emptive law however, which tries to restrict expression in areas where strong social disagreement exists will still need to be even-handed.

Putting that in context of recent discussions, that means restrictions on derogatory expressions related to religion would have to be ‘even handed’ – so should apply equally to ‘hate speech’ against Muslims and Islam, Christians and Christianity, and also agnostics and atheists.

This requirement may not suit groups that feel they have historical grievances, or socio-economic inequality etc on their side.

As the late US justice Antonin Scalia once famously wrote, the state has no authority to license one side of a debate to fight freestyle, while requiring the other to follow Marquis of Queensbury Rules. That’s one of the ironies.

The pressure for change may have to do with expressions of hostile content, but the solutions – if they are to be enforceable – will probably need to be formulated in ways that are content neutral. There will be few easy political points to be scored from such formulations.

The free speech versus hate speech debate is more than political – it is about the fundamentals of democracy as well as the fundamentals of a (relatively) free and open society.

Bridges leadership slammed over ‘meth crooks’ attacks

I’m not sure what’s worse for Simon Bridges, his off-putting speech, or his attempt to be tough and controversial over meth house compensation, described as a “massive backflip”. The offending tweet:

Gordon Campbell on Bridges’ ‘meth crooks’ leadership failure

Given that National Party leader Simon Bridges has made consistency and strong leadership the cornerstones of his attacks upon the coalition government, his own massive backflip on the meth compensation issue has been unfortunate, to say the least. Once again, it raises doubts as to whether he – or Judith Collins – is really in control of the National caucus.

To recap. Earlier this year the government’s long time science advisor Sir Peter Gluckman issued a damning report on how Housing NZ had used dodgy, inappropriately low thresholds for meth contamination as a basis for evicting tenants from its properties. Back in June, Bridges publicly accepted that Housing NZ had got it wrong, and that the National government had acted upon bad advice.

At the same time in June that Bridges was apologising for the wrongful basis of the HNZ/National government meth policy, National’s housing spokesperson Judith Collins had been criticising the turnaround in Housing NZ’s approach as a “step too far” that was sending the wrong approach to drug users.

Collins, at least, has remained consistent in her commitment to injustice. On September 20, she attacked the coalition government for paying any compensation to the people affected, regardless of the inaccuracy of the ‘expert’ advice on which HNZ had based its actions.

In going down this track, Collins has been wilfully blurring the lines between meth labs, meth smokers and those unfortunate enough to rent houses where residues – sometimes minute – from drug use by prior inhabitants had been blamed on existing tenants, willy nilly. Some of the tenants affected were elderly. Many were not only entirely innocent of such behaviours, but had been saddled with testing-related costs and furniture disposal and/or had been evicted from houses where the contaminants had been at such low levels as to pose no genuine risk to anyone.

By late on September 20 though, Bridges had changed tack on Twitter, so that he and Collins were singing from the same songbook – and crucially, he was now singing from her songbook. Like Collins, Bridges had begun to decry compensation being paid to quote ‘meth crooks’ unquote.

In fact, the claim by Bridges and Collins of compensation being paid out to proven drug users was quite false. It had already been made clear that people evicted from properties where the contamination level exceeded the new threshold advised by Gluckman would not be liable for compensation.

Collins has a record of being deliberately controversial and ‘tough’, but it’s hard to understand what Bridges was trying to achieve here.

Danyl Mclauchlan is more scathing: The dumbfounding nastiness of Simon Bridges’ ‘meth crooks’ remarks

Let’s take a stroll over to the National Party website and cast our eyes over their core values. They’re the kind of thing you’d expect a conservative, centre-right party to stand for. Equal Opportunity. Personal Responsibility. Strong Families. Limited Government. All good stuff, if you’re into that sort of thing.

I think that’s why I find National’s current position on the meth contamination issue to be so dumbfoundingly nasty.

National leader Simon Bridges’ response to all this is to attack the government for paying compensation to people like Rosemary Rudolf, an 87-year-old grandmother who’d lived in her property for sixty years, or Dianne Revill, a solo mother who has been homeless for two years after being wrongly evicted, separating her from her daughter who went to live with another relative, because they are, in Bridges’ words, ‘meth crooks’ who deserved to be evicted.

There’s been a lot of talk about strength and weakness, recently, with sacking MPs or ministers defined as the criteria for strong political leadership. But selling out your own party’s core values to win a slot in the media cycle, and because you’re afraid of a creature like Judith Collins feels to me like a total failure of leadership; the act of a weak and desperate leader who is playing the fear card because he himself is obviously afraid.

I don’t know if bridges is afraid of the threat of Collins or not, but he seems to have no control over her attacks.

Joining her in an attack looks like a massive blunder.

When speaking Bridges often sounds weak. He has backed this up with weak leadership.

Labour had a succession of failed gambles with post-Clark leaders. It looks like National has continued this trend post-Key & English.

Jacinda Ardern may have a secure career her for another term or two before she moves on the lead the world from the UN, but Neve may be a bit old to wow the media then.

Labour’s candidacy troubles

When someone like Gordon Campbell slams both Labour and the Greens on candidacy issues then one could suspect that the Labour-Green left may not be in great shape.

Scoop: Gordon Campbell on Labour’s candidacy troubles

So its official. Greg O’Connor will indeed be Labour’s candidate in Ohariu and – as also signaled well in advance – the Greens will not be standing a candidate in the electorate. At this point, you have to question the validity of the Greens’ excuse – “we need to change the government” – for tagging along.

Arguably, by bringing the likes of Greg O’Connor and Willie Jackson on board, Labour is choosing to “broaden its electoral chances” by pandering to the oldest, whitest and angriest part of the electorate.

Ouch.

Meaning: if they roll over this readily now, what treatment can the Greens expect to receive from Labour if and when Labour finally gets its hands on the levers of power? Is it possible now to conceive of anyone that Labour could put up as a candidate in a marginal electorate that the Greens could reject, on principle? Evidently not.

It is obvious that the Greens are so focussed on getting into government that holding their nose on a few things is a necessary compromise. It was always obvious that they would be comprosed by their Memorandum of Understanding with Labour.

Yes, Labour certainly does need to improve its party list vote. Willie Jackson wants a high position on the party list. At this point, its hard to see how his candidacy is going to motivate many of Labour’s activists to go out and work their butts off door to door, in order to bring the likes of Jackson onto Labour’s front bench.

Campbell is also scathing on Labour in Ohariu:

At this point, any social liberals left in Ohariu face something of a dilemma. Do they vote against Dunne in order to change this government’s dismal policies on health, education, the environment, welfare and the economy – or do they vote tactically for Dunne, to try and prevent O’Connor from becoming this country’s next Minister of Police?

Ultimately, they’ll probably vote for O’Connor, but with gritted teeth.

Somehow, Labour’s head office has managed to make Peter Dunne look like a principled underdog. That’s quite some feat.

But Anthony Robins applauds Greens rolling over for Labour in Greens stand aside in Ōhāriu:

Bravo to The Greens.

Putting aside misgivings for the sake of the greater good is a mark of political maturity which many politicians and commentators could learn from.

Of course Robins is all for the greater good of Labour. They will learn in due course what lessons can be learned from this ‘political maturity’.

And in the interests of reciprocity, hey Labour – ball’s in your court.

Bounce, bounce, bounce.

There’s a variety of comments on this at The Standard.

Infused:

Dirty deals are ok when the left do it then? That’s pretty funny.

 Anthony:

And once again Infused pretends not to understand the difference between gifting a seat to a loser to create a pretend support party, and standing aside in a seat you can’t win to strengthen a formal coalition. That’s pretty funny.

It would be funny if Labour started standing aside in seats they can’t win to strengthen a formal MoU (it’s not a coalition as it ends on election day, before coalitions are haggled over).

Filling the Fairfax/NZME gap

Talk of a merger between Fairfax and NZME has prompted discussion about opportunities to fill the gap left by an expected further contraction of MSM news and analysis.

The Daily Blog was launched as a left leaning alternative several years ago, and Waatea news (also driven by Martyn Bradbury) is trying to provide a new way towards a so-called 5th estate. While Waatea is useful it is not providing much new nor balanced.

Regan Cunliffe is still hoping to launch Freed. With a close association with Cameron Slater that will be seen as right wing whether it is or not.

Scoop continues to fund raise for it’s crowd funded model.

In a Scoop post Gordon Campbell on the proposed media merger:

To state the bleedingly obvious: the blogosphere does not have the resources to compensate for the reduction in competition (and the loss of journalistic resources) that will be the inevitable outcome of this merger.

Why not? Sure, online startups are lively, thriving and multiplying : there’sScoop, The Spinoff, the Daily Blog, , the Hard News stable, No Right Turn, The Standard, Pundit, the Dim-Post, Eric Crampton’s Offsetting Behaviour,Paul Buchanan’s 36th Parallel….to name just a few. Theoretically, the merger opens up a market opportunity for them. In reality, all of them will be damaged by the merger.

How come? Well for starters – and as this RNZ report explains here – and also here the blogosphere is poorly positioned to pick up the slack. It is run on a shoestring. It has few resources – or no resources at all, in most cases – to do news gathering. Its strength lies in its analysis and commentary; an essential role that the mainstream has carried out timidly, or not at all. In other words, a genuine symbiotic relationship currently exists between the blogosphere and the traditional . We rely on their news gathering and increasingly, they rely on our analysis and commentary. So… if there’s a decline in news gathering capacity, this will damage the ability of the blogosphere to carry out its valuable contribution to the public discourse.

David Farrar responded to that suggesting he was considering expanding Kiwiblog and has followed that up with Can blogs pick up the slack?

…I have been thinking about what I would do if Stuff and NZ Herald combine and go behind a paywall. The initial impact would be a hassle. Rather than quote stories from their sites, and comment on them, I’d might have to use other sites such as Radio NZ or Newshub. But they have far fewer stories.

But the other thing I can do is start reporting the news more directly. 80% of stories seem to originate for PRs. I know this as I now get all the PRs. They tend to go into a folder I check once a day or so (if I have time). It is rare I’ll do a story based on a PR, as easier to quote a media story already summarising it.

But if two million NZers get blocked from most content on the Herald and Stuff sites, they’ll look elsewhere for it. I doubt many will pay for it.

I could hire someone to write a few news stories a day on interesting NZ issues. I already have good sources for overseas news.

I could also hire someone to cover parliamentary news and try and get them accredited to the press gallery.

Hiring people costs money, so the business aspects of that would be a risk.

If DPF has a crack at it I’m sure who would do something worthwhile and aAny addition to news and analysis is a good thing, even if I can hear the spluttering from TS and TDB from down here.

How ever well DPF does it Kiwiblog News will be deemed by some to be a National/right wing/Crosby Textor mouthpiece with a Dirty Politics smear.

What’s missing from these options is a relatively neutral (politically) approach.

I’ve considered what else I could do to expand on what we’ve established here but I’m not in a position to put in much more timer or resources. It’s already equivalent to probably a half time job, albeit unpaid. It will be quite a few years before I can retire and put full time into it.

Trying crowd funding or attracting and managing volunteers also diverts time and attention.

I could only manage it if I could give someone a specific task, like reporting on Parliament, or reporting on political media releases, or reporting on political social media, or aggregating blog posts and Facebook posts, and leaving them too it.

Farrar has already tried some of that and it hasn’t really taken off. There are not many people around with the political interest, time and passion to give it heaps.

Perhaps we just have to accept that media will continue to both consolidate and fragment, and international players like Google and Facebook will increase their growing domination.

“It was a darky and stormy night…”

Eleanor Catton’s political statement was about as original as “It was a dark and stormy night…” if she had published the now  infamous paragraph in a novel she could have been accused of plagiarism of the Green party manifesto.

Having had a chance to ponder it all Gordon Campbell wrote yesterday, looking more at the sour grapes Catton seems to still chew on when she ‘only’ won the best fiction prize in New Zealand and not the overall prize. She seemed to think that winning an overseas prize qualified her for top honours here – in a much different competition.

Catton Footnote
Now that the high drama of the Eleanor Catton incident has receded, maybe we should be asking ourselves what form our support for the arts should take. Somehow, dishing our prizes for any form of art – or for journalism – has always seemed a very odd thing to do. It rarely brings out the best in people, much less reward the best in art.

Prizes for film, music, painting and writing serve to force what is literally incomparable, onto a competitive grid. They are mainly about marketing, and serve as means of directing art consumers towards the cash register. For that reason though, credibility suffers from the endless process doling out of prizes. If artists (and journalists) want to critique the dire effects of profit-driven markets on society, they can hardly do so credibly when they’re operating a winner-take-all reward system of their own, to determine who is the certified top dog in their line of work.

Vanity and an endless need for self-assurance feed the whole process of prize giving in the arts and journalism, and it is not pretty to watch. So, by all means, give grants to artists, but let’s leave the prizes and the gold medals to the athletes. Years ago, Monty Python conveyed the absurdity of confusing the two realms.G

Catton’s annoyance at not being bestowed the top honour was certainly not very pretty.

I’m not sure which Monty Python Campbell is referring to but here’s a literary sktech anyway.

– nothing like a Green Party meeting.

Here’s the referenced sketch:

Dotcom with dollops of crazy crazy

Further to Labour try diversion and counterattack there has been an avalanche of accusations directed at John Key about whether the GSCB told him about the Winston Peters visits to Dotcom’s house. Dotcom has now confirmed the visits, saying Peters didn’t admit them due to a confidentiality agreement.

Winston Peters didn’t answer questions about his visit because we agreed on confidence. I released him from this confidence now. #manOFhonor

Dotcom then followed up with his own accusations.

Ask John Key how he knew about Winston Peters visiting the mansion 3 times. Only 4 people knew about it & probably Ian Fletcher at the GCSB.

Ask John Key if he is aware of a warrant currently allowing the #GCSB or any other NZ agency surveillance of my communications.

Gordon Campbell, recently appointed editor of Scoop after Alistair Thompson resigned due to his association with Dotcom and his Internet Party, has also posted a strongly pro-Dotcom pro-Norman anti-Key column – Gordon Campbell on smear tactics in politics.

Key has been interestingly specific about how often Peters is supposed to have visited Dotcom, on three separate occasions. How could Key know this? Surely, one would hope, not through using SIS/GCSB surveillance for his own political purposes?

He then goes on to attack Key on a number of issues. This is very risky for Campbell, it won’t make repairing the perceptions of Scoop bias easy.

Then there’s some bizarre tweets from what looks like either a new account for NZ First MP Asenati Lole-Taylor:

New account as I was sick of the twittering of trolls they have all been banned good riddance I do not need this in my busy life.

Good night enough twittering time for cup of tea and then sleep big day tomorrow for me and our statesman leader Rt Hon Winston Peters.

Our statesman leader Rt. Hon. Winston Peters will ask an important question during question time today i look forward to it.

There’s no question from Peters today, it’s possible he backed out once Dotcom confirmed their meetings.

Media wanting to know who Rt Hon Winston Peters meets with are being nosey. Who do they meet with?

I am elected official u should be grateful your taxes pay me to fight this corrupt gvt

Why won’t the media say how many times they met Kim Dotcom? Why ask MPs private details if they won’t do it too. Bad media.

@matthewjpb I am real, your Nat mates hacked my other account. They are dodgy and unacceptable

Was it the GSCB that hacked my other twitter? Need the truth …

Smeone asked what I wondered:

@matthewjpb
Is the new @asenatitaylormp really her? or is it a piss take? so hard to tell!

It appears to be authentic but hard to be certain. If it’s legitimate the question is if she is flying alone or acting on advice from Peters.

It get’s crazier, but these people actually sound serious – lprent at The Standard:

So much squealing from our favourite RWNJ’s.

Looks like Mike has struck a nerve…

Perhaps we should get the police to look at Cameron’s email to find out if the GCSB staff have been leaking to him? We have no idea if the GCSB is still monitoring KDC because the warrants are sealed.

After all the security acts operate on a presumption of guilt until proven innocent

One comment “I genuinely, quite literally, facepalmed” but others support the conspiracies. lprent again:

If it is what we suspect, then John Key could get a visit from the police to drag him into court.

It is illegal to use the state security apparatus to advance a politician’s agenda.

Note the ‘we’. Both the post author Mike Smith and he are in Labour.

Fekix Marwick:

PM says spy agencies not used re Peters-Dotcom meetings “from time to time pple see things, and from time to time they tell me”

PM says Dotcom-Peters info passed onto him by an individual “I was pretty sure they were right because they often are Guess what, they were”

And Stuff:

“I can absolutely categorically tell you it’s got nothing to do with an official agency. From time to time people see things and from time to time people tell me.”

In reply to the last tweet Greg Presland (another Labourite, involved with David Cunliffe’s electorate):

An individual who works for the GCSB?

He’s a lawyer.

And now Winston Peters has publicly acknowledged his meetings and has tweeted

I met Kim Dotcom three times in the last two years. I’ve asked the PM to explain how he knew about the meetings.

This will no doubt continue.

Dunne done over while parties piss and pose

Peter Dunne alone appears to have done more to tidy up the GCSB Amendment Bill than all other MPs combined yet he is copping most of the flak, criticism and abuse for not doing enough, or for doing anything.

Dunne has done what any MP (or party) should do, he has worked with Government on improving a bill that many claim is of utmost importance for the security of the country and the privacy of the people. He has initiated significant improvements.

But because he hasn’t re-written the entire bill on his own, or because he hasn’t halted the bill, or because he hasn’t done nothing, Dunne is heaped with scorn, abuse and ridicule.

Dunne has compromised on his ideals (he prefers the GCSB did not spy at all on New Zealanders) to achieve significant gains, and he is vilified and accused of flip flopping and u-turning.

While the other parties do nothing because they can’t get their own way, or because they can’t be bothered actually contributing positively to the parliamentary process.

Such is the pissiness of politics and the press in New Zealand.

In return for Dunne’s GCSB vote

Campbell Live wanted to ask him today, but he was too busy doing whatever he does to be interviewed.

So reporter Rebecca Wright looked at the press conference he gave yesterday in search of an explanation.

And then she pissed on Dunne with what looked like petulant punishment for not playing along with her story.

Andrea Vance, who often wears an excellent journalist hat, replaced that with her ‘opinion’ political activist hat and expressed her displeasure at Dunne not delivering everything she wanted. In Dunne turnaround on spy bill Vance sounds pissed off and pissy. She should remember that she has not been elected, and I’d be surprised if she’s a member of any party. A personal crusade seems to have usurped her professionalism.

And there’s Gordon Campbell on Peter Dunne’s illusory gains on GCSB Bill:

The changes that Dunne has won as a pre-condition of his support could hardly be more token…

Campbell’s impartiality, accuracy and balance wasn’t even token. But he does also take aim at Winston Peters.

On national security issues, it is hard to see Peters standing resolutely in opposition alongside Labour and the Greens.

Resolutely in opposition. Labour and Greens. That’s obviously what Campbell wants but it’s hardly what we are getting.

Russel Norman is sort of sounding principled and is unlikely to ever have supported the bill. But his line is nothing more than if the Government won’t do it his way he will do nothing else but oppose and criticise. Nothing positive to contribute.

David Shearer is similar but doesn’t even sound principled. If there was ever a time for Shearer to show leadership, if there was ever an opportunity to step up and show he could lead the way to a decent cross-party solution, it is now. But as usual he recites a few worn out phrases and adds nothing useful. Oh, he has replaced his head of staff. If only he could replace what’s in his head.

Winston Peters has done what he usually does, harrumph and complain and try to diss Dunne some more. But nothing to contribute.

The Maori Party? I emailed Te Ururoa Flavell asking what their position was but no response. Maybe they don’t care if the GCSB spies on Maori.

Hone Harawira has complained about the GCSB in the past, but at the business end of the bill where is he?

At least John Banks has put contributed something useful:

Act leader John Banks has secured a change to get a set of principles written into the bill including the requirement for the GCSB to have regard to the Bill of Rights Act 1990, which protects New Zealanders against unreasonable search and surveillance.

He could have tried more but that’s something worth having.

But the main opposition parties won’t get their way so won’t do anything but oppose.

But Labour and New Zealand First, who wanted a more immediate review, last night remained adamant that they would oppose the bill, and it will pass with a majority of just one.

The Greens called the changes cosmetic and will also oppose it.

And piss on Peter Dunne. They criticise the one MP who has worked hard to secure useful improvements to the bill. While they contribute nothing but bitching.

One MP does more than 120 MPs combined, and cops the blame and vitriol for the failure of others to front up.

Petty party posing and point scoring seems more important to Labour, Greens and NZ First than security of the country and privacy of the people.

So Dunne is done over for doing what any decent MP should do.

Piss poor.

Labour – more than a lost leader

Last week’s Roy Morgan poll that showed Labour slipping back to 29% precipitated a lot of discussion about Labour’s lack of progress and leader David Shearer’s lack of impact. But Labour’s recovery problems go back nearly four years.

Last term Labour perservered with Phil Goff as leader despite him failing to impress. This resulted in a record low in the election, and a widely criticised party list resulted in a caucus without some of it’s more promising MPs who didn’t make the cut.

After the election Goff fell on his sword. After the resulting leadership contest where apparently David Cunliffe was the popular party choice the caucus ended up choosing David Shearer, who had only been an MP for two years and had been placed at 31 on Labour’s list.

Shearer’s selection was seen as a possibly brave and inspired choice to inject a new type of leadership that would take a fresh approach to politics. And that’s what Shearer promised.

But it’s now apparent that the promise for something different was a typical political promise. It’s impossible to know whether it was bullshit from the start, or if an inexperienced Shearer was taken over by party strategists who had been failing for three years.

The result has been the same old, done worse. Shearer has failed to impress as a leader, and Labour have failed to look like recovering from their 2008 election defeat. Labour after Helen Clark is not yet looking credible as an alternative leader of government, and rebuilding and recovering just doesn’t seem to be happening.

The past week has seen a resurgence in criticial comments – many from the left and from those who would be expected to support Labour.

From The Standard:

29%

Written By: – Date published: 10:00 am, October 27th, 2012 – 170 comments

arrow-red-pddn-lge The latest Roy Morgan poll has Labour down 4.5% to 29%. There’s no way to varnish it, this is a very bad poll for Labour, particularly for David Shearer

The job ahead

Written By: – Date published: 10:36 am, October 28th, 2012 – 179 comments

Labour logo square

The latest Roy Morgan poll bodes badly for Labour.

Unfortunately I don’t think the latest Roy Morgan is a rogue poll. But I also don’t think that it’s the result of David Shearer’s GCSB fiasco as the electorate doesn’t tend to make up its mind on single issues.

Rather, I think that the electorate has simply run out of patience with Labour.

Is anyone ABC any more?

Written By: – Date published: 11:05 am, October 30th, 2012 – 133 comments

abc fallingIt’s fine not to agree with someone’s politics. It’s fine to weigh up the attributes of one prospective leader against another and decide that one is the better choice. But the Anyone But Cunliffe clique didn’t do that. They literally wanted anyone who wasn’t Cunliffe. When Parker wasn’t going to win, they went to Shearer. It was a childish way to play with Labour’s future.

Gordon Campbell on Labour

Written By: – Date published: 8:57 am, November 1st, 2012 – 138 comments

Labour logo squareIt looks like Gordon Campbell has picked up on Irish’s piece on what Labour needs to do and added a few thoughts of his own. I think Campbell has a point here and it troubles me deeply. The last thing we need is for Labour’s vote to collapse in election year the same way Bill English’s did in 2002, or for the campaign to be derailed by faux pas like Brash in 2005.

The posts are scathing enough, but the comments are a litany of Labour lambasting and lament – very few are supporting Shearer or Labour’s direction.

And this is what Gordon Campbell wrote (in the Dominion):

Grim news for Labour leader

More than anything, the latest Morgan poll is bad news for Labour, and its leader.

All year, David Shearer’s strategists have been claiming that as New Zealanders gradually get to know him, they will come to like what they see.

Instead, what seems to be happening is that voters are going through periodic fits of disenchantment with the government and then looking more closely at the alternative, only to rebound in alarm.

So far, Shearer has simply failed to make the case that he could lead a credible alternative government.

Shearer has failed that for sure, not just with the voting public but also within his party.

Another blog from the left, Imperator Fish:

And On The Forty-Fourth Day

When David Shearer was chosen as Labour Party leader I told a few people that we needed to give him a year to settle into the job.

I’ve been critical of Shearer at times, but I have not called for him to be replaced. I have always said “let’s give the man 12 months as leader, and then we’ll see.”

David Shearer has 43 days to go.

From the opposite Kiwiblog and Whale Oil keep up their criticisms, but that’s to be expected.

Duncan Garner has also blogged:

Opinion: David Shearer has failed

Labour promised an exciting back story that would impress and a new front man to rival the Prime Minister.

Sadly for Labour – they’re still looking for that person. David Shearer has failed. Labour’s lucky it’s not getting done under the law for false advertising.

Let’s be honest, Labour leader David Shearer doesn’t have it. He’s a nice, mild mannered, likeable, warm but a stuttering, incoherent mess that is the opposite of what an alternative Prime Minister should look like.

And before you say ‘give him some time’, he’s had a year and I think he’s gone backwards – not forwards.

Put simply, Shearer does not look, act or sound like a man ready to take over the Treasury benches and drive New Zealand out of this recession. The voters see it.

They see a Labour Party unconvinced and confused by their own choice. Until that changes, Labour will stay in opposition.

So what now for Labour? Will they hang on and on with Shearer as leader and hope that National destroys it’s own chances of success in 2014? That might work, but it will not address the bigger problem.

It’s a Labour caucus problem

The caucus retained the Goff leadership for three years, and failed.
The caucus retained uninspiring and underperforming MPs though it’s list.
The caucus strategy led to an embarrassing 2011 election result.
The caucus installed Shearer prematurely.
The caucus is performing poorly.

The caucus is repeating the same failures. Over and over and over.

But is there anyone amongst the current MPs capable of making a real difference, grabbing an opportunity and a party by the scruff of the neck, giving it a damn good shake up, inspiring loyalty, insisting on discipline, and actually leading the bloody party into the future?

There’s no sign of that.

Hence Shearer keeps bumbling along under poor advice. It’s not his fault there’s no one better to lead the party.

David Shearer is just a symptom of much bigger problems in Labour.

Shearer has failed. But like any leader he’s replacable.

But Labour has failed more, for longer. Parties are harder to replace.

On Armstrong’s blast at Campbell and Edwards

John Armstrong has been critical of Gordon Campbell and Bryce Edwards over their coverage of APEC and the Trans Pacific Partnership. In Blogging parasites don’t let the facts get in the way he says…

Edwards’ and Campbell’s claim that there was precious little analysis of key Apec issues, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), is simply not borne out.

What did they Edwards claim? (Online including on NZ Herald) in NZ Politics Daily – 11 September 2012: 

There was a lot build-up and reporting from the APEC meeting in Vladivostok, but nothing much actually seemed to happen. There are only so many ways you can work ‘Pussy Riot’ into a story about trade negotiations. The alternatives seem to be writing about: your hotel, waiting three hours to glimpse Putin, the buffet, bridges or interviewing your laptop about why nothing is happening.

One common theme seemed to be how trade deals are being used by both the US and China to gain dominance over each other.

Gordon Campbell, who has described most of the New Zealand media reporting of APEC as ‘indistinguishable from a DPMC press handout’, had probably the best analysis of the summit’s real significance and how the Trans Pacific Partnership is where the real deals are being done – see: On APEC, and its significance for the TPP talks.

You can also get an idea of Edwards’ interests from his selection of links on a topic:

Apec
John Armstrong (Herald): Putin-Key talks short on specifics
Corin Dann (TVNZ): Russian economy on the move
John Armstrong (Herald): Curse of Russky Island strikes
John Armstrong (Herald): Key to push Putin on stalled FTA talks
Vernon Small (Stuff): Vladivostok prepared for spotlight
Fran O’Sullivan (Herald): PM must make most of his opening act
Ryan Bridge (RadioLive): Russian dolls are hollow on the inside

So he linked to quite a range of APEC reports. Notably he put Gordon Campbell at the top of the list with his TPP blog.

And there are five links to John Armstrong articles, some of which are accounts of experiences in Vladivostok that aren’t exactly sizzling political exposés.

But that is probably a reflection of the fact that while bloggers can flit all over the web from their usual offices or homes political journalists on an event assignment in a foreign city have much more limited story options to deal with. I presume that often nothing much is happening while they wait for things to happen.

And if Armstrong was getting frustrated while waiting for something to happen in an uncomfortable foreign environment then it’s easy to understand he might fume at criticism from bloggers flitting around the net from the comfort of their armchairs.

At least when Armstrong wants to let off steam and make a point he has a forum with a wide audience to do it on.

John Armstrong versus parasitical bloggers

John Armstrong, NZ herald political reporter, blasts two bloggers as a pair of tut-tutting old dowagers gossiping in the salon. He is aiming at:

  • “former Listener columnist and Greens propagandist Gordon Campbell”
  • “former Alliance staffer and now Otago University politics lecturer Bryce Edwards”

In his Saturday column Blogging parasites don’t let the facts get in the way Armstrong says:

In short, stop making blinkered, cheap-shot accusations of the kind you made this week – that the media who went with John Key to Vladivostok and Tokyo concentrated on trivia, interviewed their laptops and parroted Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet press releases.

Press gallery journalists generally treat the bile and invective directed at them by portions of the blog-a-tariat as an unwelcome and unfortunate byproduct of an otherwise exciting and intellectually challenging job.

You just have to put up with it. To bother to reply is to invite another shower of criticism – plus the old chestnut that if you cannot stand the heat then get out of the kitchen.

Polemic and argument over ideas is one thing; ignorance is something else, however.

He continues with some explanations of the realities of reporting an event like APEC in Vladivostock, and keeps getting a few things off his chest.

Does it occur to them to actually pick up the phone and try to talk to those journalists about what is happening and why things are being reported in a certain way?

Of course not. That would risk the facts getting in the way of, well … interviewing their laptops and having yet another ritual poke at the parliamentary press gallery.

The rules that apply to journalists in terms of accuracy do not apply to Campbell and his echo chamber Dr Edwards – who is not be confused with Dr Brian Edwards, another blogger, but a far more original one when it comes to ideas and analysis.

And it seems that the TPP was and is the main point of contention.

Edwards’ and Campbell’s claim that there was precious little analysis of key Apec issues, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), is simply not borne out.

Everybody knew and said the TPP would not be a big deal as Barak Obama, the figure crucial to building political momentum to achieve a final deal, was absent.

TPP is sure important within the wider context of Apec. But it was not a major feature of this year’s meeting.

Or is it Campbell’s and Edwards’ agenda or strategy to make the media feel guilty about not writing more anti-TPP stories?

Campbell is let of the hook a little.

To Campbell’s credit, he does do his own digging. He is also a regular attendee at the Prime Minister’s weekly press conference. His blog is one of the more valuable. But he does have a blind spot with regards to the press gallery.

And saves his main blast for Edwards.

The rapidly growing influence of Edwards’ blog was initially down to its being an exhaustive wrap-up of all of the day’s political news. It is now starting to develop a much more political dynamic that is unlikely to please National.

Edwards’ blog is the extreme example of the fact that most blogsites rely on the mainstream media for their information and then use that information to criticise the media for not stressing something enough or deliberately hiding it.

And the real beef:

It is the ultimate parasitical relationship. And it will not change until the media start charging for use of their material.

Edwards political round can be a useful collection of political news and comment from MSM and blogs, but if it becomes a vehicle for political comment from a particular viewpoint it becomes a different beast.

There’s no doubt that online news and comment, including on blogs, is damaging MSM, who have real difficulty in adapting to the proliferation of media and getting enough income. If they charge for online content they risk their audience simply ignoring them and going somewhere else that’s still free.

And yes, there is a degree of the parasitical. But it’s more complicated than that – blogs can also direct readers to MSM websites with their links, so to an extent they can be mutual parasites.

If blogs use MSM content what could they be charged?
And would MSM pay for traffic generated by blogs in return?

I understand the frustrations but I don’t think there’s easy answers.

We are all learning how new media works as we go, in a rapidly evolving environment.