NZH ‘breaking news’ broken

There has been a growing tendency for news sites to overplay the use of ‘breaking news’ and there’s been a growing number of criticisms of it.

I usually largely ignore them, but noticed on today which was hopelessly inappropriate.


Eyes rolled on Twitter:

That’s right, a pundit column by Bryce Edwards can hardly be called breaking news.  Edwards had already announced it would be coming the day before:

Not only was the counterpart published bannered by the Herald today not breaking news, it wasn’t news at all. It was a compilation of political conjecture and lobbying.

1) A link to Newshub’s Lloyd Burr article “On the most important policy issues, Labour can give NZ First what it wants”  – dated 5 October listing old bottom lines

2) One of Chris Trotters frequent wishful thinking spiels “Winston Peters wants a legacy of change” dated 9 October.

3) ‘Dear Winston’ – an open letter to the leader of NZ First’ – more lobbying by Trotter dated 10 October.

4) Finlay Macdonald argues “more than half the country” voted for change, and Peters could “play the role of elder statesman in a young, progressive government at a time when the need for economic, environmental and social reform has never been greater” – marked Opinion, dated 7 October.

And another 9 summaries of dated opinions and conjecture. None of it was news, and none of it was breaking.

Breaking news banners have become part of the clutter on news sites that, like advertising and the proliferation of click bait is usually avoided or ignored.

The Herald ‘breaking news’ banner is broken

Herald: Turei and Shaw compromised

The media helped launch Metiria Turei’s beneficiary campaign, but they have turned against Turei and the Greens due to revelations that paint a different picture to a poor young solo mother fibbing to feed her baby.

Questions still remain unanswered about how much support Turei had and what involvement the father had – she says used his address to register to vote, but claims to have not lived with him since before she got pregnant, and there are claims she rented a house from him. How much did he support his daughter?

There is the potential for more to come, and Turei has put herself in leadership limbo. Co-leader James Shaw has backed her position which puts him in an awkward spot too.

Weekend Herald editorial: Second dishonest act makes Turei a liability

One act of dishonesty may be forgiven, two becomes harder to overlook. On top of her admission that she withheld information from Social Welfare about her living arrangements on the domestic purposes benefit, Metiria Turei has been found to have enrolled for an election at a false address. It begins to look like a pattern of behaviour of a person with too little regard for the obligations of honest citizenship, and we can only wonder, what more might emerge?

The Green Party has reason to be worried, so much so it is remarkable that it stood by her yesterday when she did no more than renounce any claim to a ministerial position in a coalition with Labour. That was obviously for Labour’s sake, relieving its new leader, Jacinda Ardern, from having to answer the question, would she have the Greens’ co-leader in her cabinet?

An emphatic no from Ardern on that.

Yesterday Ardern ruled out any post-election agreement that would let Peters be Prime Minister. Despite Turei’s presence, she would no doubt prefer to deal with the Greens. But it would be much better for both parties if Turei did the decent thing and resigned, certainly from her Greens leadership and ideally from its candidate list for the next Parliament.

That is what National’s Todd Barclay has done, though Turei and her co-leader James Shaw have been calling on him to go sooner.

But the Greens seem to think they can justify different standards for themselves because their cause deserves it.

Having mounted a high horse against Barclay, Shaw is now in the embarrassing position of defending Turei’s effort to stay.

This compromises both Turei and Shaw going into the business end of the campaign.

Both of them are at risk of much more emerging from the past she has opened for examination. Newshub’s discovery that she was listed at the same address as the father of her child while she was on the benefit, plainly caught her by surprise. She had forgotten she gave that address for electoral enrolment so that she could vote for a friend. What else has she forgotten?

When she decided to reveal that she had not told Social Welfare she had flatmates helping pay her rent, she ought to have made sure she was telling the country everything that might emerge from media inquiries or the Ministry of Social Development’s fraud investigation.

That investigation is also hanging over Turei and by association and support, the Greens.

She has exposed herself, her party and its election partner to continuing risk. She could put an end to it by resigning now.

A brutal call, but that’s how it looks.

What matters most, changing the government, or continuing a personal crusade that incidentally has nothing to do with green issues.

Turei and the Greens gambled the election, and are now gambling their future, on a non-environmental issue. One could question their priorities on several counts.

Most capable of running the Government?

In the first Herald-ZB Kantar TNS online survey: Poll puts Bill English out in front but it’s ‘early days’

National campaign manager and Finance Minister Steven Joyce…

…said it was still early days. “We’ve got a reasonable starting position but we know you’ve got to keep working hard to earn the right and the confidence of New Zealanders. I know that’s where Bill’s head will be at.”

Andrew Little told ZB that…

…the survey result should not please the Government, especially the ones on right direction, with 59 per cent believing the country was not going in the right direction or did not know and only 41 per cent thinking it was.

“I don’t think the Government can take any comfort at all from those sorts of numbers.”

Neither can Little.

The survey was conducted between July 5-11 and the sample size was 1000. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.1 per cent.

• It is an online survey by ConsumerLink which runs on the Fly Buys panel of 120,000 active members, one of the largest in New Zealand.

• Sampling is nationally representative and is then post-weighted by age, gender and region to match the population.

Within an inch of their credibility?

Grant Robertson responded to:

nzherald @nzherald
A man with a one-inch-long micropenis has opened up about his one sexual encounter


I mean seriously, do I now have to stop following one of our major news organisations because this is what they tweet out?

Robertson makes a fair point, the Herald seems to have been lowering it’s standards somewhat recently. Why? From Facebook:


Someone recently said that the Herald got a lot of clicks from Facebook, and this supports that. It may ell be good for advertising revenue.

But I don’t think it’s good the the herald’s credibility.

As someone recommended, I have stopped following but have stayed with and for now.

I can understand if politicians despair about competing for attention with click bait like this.

Name the merged media company

It was confirmed today that talks are under way of a possible merger between Fairfax and NZME, two of New Zealand’s largest media companies and in control of many of the country’s newspapers.

I have concerns about this if it goes ahead. Monopoly media is not good for news, analysis or democracy.

And there’s talk that the pay wall stand off between the two will disappear so news will be by subscription. That’s the choice of companies but it will reduce access to a major chunk of news.

But on the lighter side:

Best Fairfax [Stuff] and NZME media merger names via @caffeine_addict

  • FaxMe
  • F-Me
  • StuffMe

Some more:

  • Heruff
  • Stuffald

Any more?

UPDATE: Emmerson with a similar idea, put more graphically:

The one that didn’t pass the taste test – now ok’d by Ed for use here

Political polling in New Zealand

Last week Andrew at Grumpollie posted his thoughts on The future of polling in New Zealand.

His latest post suggests that the future is not looking bright: Are we down to three polls in NZ?

So, DigiPoll has shut up shop, and I haven’t seen a poll out of Fairfax in a long time.

Digipoll’s website is still up but I can’t find them in the news since early January. The last Herald-Digipoll was  4-14 December 2015.

The last Fairfax-IPSOS poll that I can find is just prior to the last election, 13-17 September 2014. IPSOS is still operating in Australia but seem to have given up with New Zealand polling.

Are we down to just three polls now? (Newshub, ONE News, and Roy Morgan.)

That’s how it looks – see Opinion polling for the next New Zealand general election.

This is not good at all, if true. With less data, it’s harder to develop new methodological and analytical approaches to polling.

It’s not good for pollsters and for political junkies but I’m not sure if most people would care.

There are two other polling companies I’m aware of, Curia and UMR. The problem with them is they do ‘internal polling’ for National and Labour respectively so their polls aren’t made public.

That leads to an issue that is worth a separate post – see Polling and better democracy.

Multinational tax avoidance

Tax avoidance by multinational companies is matched by interview avoidance by New Zealand’s finance minister.

Multinational companies have devised ways of avoiding paying tax around the world. It is a widespread problem, but with no easy solutions.

The herald has done a ‘major investigation into large scale tax avoidance.

Top multinationals pay almost no tax in New Zealand

A major Herald investigation has found the 20 multinational companies most aggressive in shifting profits out of New Zealand overall paid virtually no income tax, despite recording nearly $10 billion in annual sales to Kiwi consumers.

The analysis of financial information of more than 100 multinational corporations and their New Zealand subsidiaries showed that, had the New Zealand branches of these 20 firms reported profits at the same healthy rate as their parents, their combined income tax bill would have been nearly $490 million.

But according to their most-recent accounts filed with the Companies Office, most covering the 2014 calender year, these 20 companies overall paid just $1.8m in income taxes after several claimed tens of millions of dollars in tax deferments and losses.

The companies in question, including Facebook, Google, Pfizer and Pernod Ricard, said they followed New Zealand laws and differences in profitability between its New Zealand operations and elsewhere were the results of different business models.

Minister for Revenue Michael Woodhouse declined repeated interview requests over the past fortnight.

Of those companies who responded to questions, all insisted they were meeting their legal obligations. Several pointed to their New Zealand operations being almost solely as distributors, with the vast majority of their employment, research and manufacturing taking place offshore.

The problem is it is tax avoidance using international sleight of hand and loopholes. There needs to be international solutions.

Inland Revenue’s manager for international audits John Nash said he was aware of the difference in profitability rates that underpinned the Herald analysis and that as a result certain industries – which he would not name directly – were more prominent on his radar.

“Certain industries are more susceptible to profit shifting and playing games with us. Logically that’s where we put more resources in terms of monitoring,” he said.

Nash disagreed with suggestions Australia or the United Kingdom were more active in clamping down on profits illegitimately leaving the country and said the difference was mostly down to volume. “We’re just a little more low-key, while they tend to perhaps be a bit more vocal,” he said.

There’s more that could and should be done, but it will be a battle.

See also The tax gap: Playing the game of profit-shifting

How do companies move their profits overseas? Matt Nippert investigates

The problems are well known. The solutions are tricky.

Editorials question education policy

Labour’s free tertiary education policy has received some favourable coverage – see Anthony Robins’ Praise for Labour’s tertiary bombshell:

Although there have been predictable howls of outrage from the usual suspects, the media reaction to Labour’s bold tertiary education policy has been generally great.

But it has also been scrutinised and questioned in editorials at the Herald and Otago Daily Times.

NZ Herald: An expensive fix which has little purpose

The Labour Party has made the first delivery on its promise to produce bold new policy in 2016. Free tertiary education is a daring reversal of the thrust of educational and economic policy of the past 30 years.

The proposal is simple, radical and will be popular with tertiary students and their parents, and the parents of intending students, not to mention those who teach in universities, polytechnics and training institutes. It may be enough to give Labour the lift in the polls it sorely needs after so long in Opposition.

It’s purpose is to regain support for Labour. Beyond that?

A universal entitlement to three years’ free tertiary education has overwhelming public appeal. Whether it is in the public interest is another question. The policy is expensive: $2.5 billion when fully implemented.

That is a considerable lump of public spending. As always when something of this magnitude is proposed, we should not look at its merits in isolation. Governments do not have infinite budgets and there is a limit to the taxation an economy can provide and remain healthy.

Labour needs to be asked, is this the most worthwhile use of $2.5 billion? Is it even the most worthy use of funds allocated to education?

More broadly, extensions of paid parental leave, more generous welfare benefits and wage subsidies would have been expected to rank higher in Labour’s priorities.

Doubtless it will say it plans to boost all of these things, and more, but that only underlines questions about free tertiary education. With so many worthy calls on Labour’s compassion, why has it chosen to answer this one?

Another Standard author Tat Loo asked similar questions in So, how would you spend $1.2B per year?

The Herald continues:

Tertiary education has seen spectacular growth over that period, attracting foreign fee-paying students as well as meeting New Zealanders’ needs. Why change the funding system now?

Or to put it another way, what problem is this policy designed to fix? Labour’s leader presents it as an answer to the frequent and unpredictable career changes people will need in the workforce of the future. But this “future” has been present for many years now and there has been no sign the costs of retraining have become a problem.

The economy is strong in large part because public spending is under control. Expensive proposals that waste money purely for political gain could put the country’s prosperity in peril.

Obviously Labour will want some political gain from their policy but will the country gain from the money spent?

The ODT also looks at Free tertiary education.

Labour’s policy of three years’ free tertiary education for all has spiced up politics and created a clear point of difference from National.

It has, in these early days since leader Andrew Little’s announcement last Sunday, received a fair amount of support.

It is being seen as a definite move towards the left in a world where Jeremy Corbyn (Britain) and Bernie Sanders (United States) have gained traction.

It will, nonetheless, appeal to many across the centre of the political spectrum where Labour has lost to Prime Minister John Key’s pragmatism.

It is, in the end, the middle classes who are most likely to take up tertiary education in its various forms, just as they have gained from the costly interest-free student loans.

A middle class, centre voter target.

While the policy is to cover post-school education, including apprenticeships, it is not the poor and disadvantaged who will be the primary beneficiaries.

And that is receiving some critical attention from the left.

Whatever the politics of the matter, is it a good idea?

Overall, will it assist the country and its citizens sufficiently given the cost?

Will it really help New Zealand cope with the challenges of a world where change is accelerating?

Is it the best way to spend $1.2 billion a year, or whatever the final cost will be.

The Herald put the cost at $2.5 billion.

There must also be doubts about the price tag being limited to $1.2billion.

For a start, it is clear extra spending on free fees will have to be matched by extra institutional funding for increased demand.

And also more uptake of education because it is free. It could become a hobby option for retired baby boomers.

It is also true the current system of part-payment – the Government still pays the majority share of most courses – focuses the mind.

Not only are students likely to give more consideration to the value of their courses to them, but it also means more accountability from teachers.

Students paying for studies have proved much less likely to put up with second-rate teaching or second-rate programmes.

Labour have introduced this policy well out from next year’s election. This will give them plenty of time to explain and refine the policy, and to respond to criticisms.

But having committed to an expensive policy already they will have to be careful about what else they offer the voters. Their fiscal credibility can’t afford too many expensive promises.


Should Key treat office of PM with more respect?

A Herald editorial says that Prime Minister John key should treat his office with more respect. They say that things like candid admissions in a recent radio interview robs the office of dignity.

Editorial: Too much information robs office of dignity

How does John Key get away with these things? To expose himself on radio to personal questions to which he can answer only yes or no is bound to endanger the dignity of his office. Thanks to an appearance on Hauraki’s breakfast programme, we now know our Prime Minister has, among other things, stolen something and peed in a shower.

Though that is more than we want to know, it is less than we might learn.

Certainly Key’s answers were more than we need to know, and more than some want to know.

Should Key be candid about personal things? Or should he shut himself off on a Prime Ministerial pedestal? Would that gibe the media more chance of knocking him off it?

To me some of what Key has said and done is not a good look for anyone let alone Prime Minister, especially the pony tail pulling.

But should be have to hide away his personal; character while he’s Prime Minister?

He did not seem at all embarrassed this week when the radio segment was screened on American television’s popular satirical programme Last Week Tonight.

So what’s the problem? Does it diminish his ability to be a respectable Prime Minister?

Those who like him and vote for him will like him all the more for the enjoyment he clearly derives from the lighter side of his job.

It’s a key part of his image, cultivated for political purposes but also obviously revealing a bit of how he is as a person.

Those with no time for him will be disgusted at what he has admitted and think it no part of his job to be answering questions such as these.

But I’ve seen those who have no time for him disgusted at things he does as Prime Minister as a part of his job, like promote policies that he believes in. Like flag referendums.

He is candid to a fault. He holds our highest elected office and he should treat it with more respect.

Or should media respect his right to be himself sometimes, even in front of the media?

70% + 13% support medical cannabis

NZ Herald reports on a Herald-DigiPoll on cannabis that found 70% want medical pot legal.

An overwhelming number of New Zealanders support the legalisation of cannabis for medicinal use, the latest Herald-DigiPoll survey shows.

Poll voters were asked which statement best fitted their view on the legalisation of cannabis.

  • Wanted the drug legalised only for medicinal use under strict conditions – 70%
  • Wanted it kept illegal for all uses – 15%
  • Wanted it legalised for all uses – 13%

The poll of 750 eligible voters was taken on August 14-24 and has a margin of error of 3.6 per cent.

That’s a total of 83% who would support medical cannabis. That doesn’t surprise me, but the low number wanting it legalised does. The medical cannabis option may have distorted that.

Mr Dunne said the results were not surprising. “The reason I’ve been interested in exploring the medicinal cannabis aspect is reflective of that type of feeling.”

In March, Mr Dunne told the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs meeting in Vienna that evidence of the benefits of medicinal cannabis was underwhelming, and he stuck by that statement.

“There’s not a great deal of evidence around, there are trials being undertaken … but hard evidence as to beneficial impact is difficult to come by.

“But if it is beneficial and passes muster, then there’s no reason why [certain products] shouldn’t be made available.”

There’s support from Labour and the Greens.

Labour MP Damien O’Connor, who began drafting a private member’s bill to allow better access to medicinal cannabis after Mr Renton’s case, said he still hoped to put a bill forward, but was encouraged by Mr Dunne’s approach. “Ensuring we get the legislation right, that it does just open the door for medicinal purposes, is absolutely crucial.”

Green Party health spokesman Kevin Hague said the party supported the use of medicinal cannabis.

Getting National to agree to any changes will be more difficult, but if sufficient favourable research is done the availability of medical cannabis products could be done under current law.

Despite signing off Mr Renton’s medication, Mr Dunne said it did not create a precedent – rather, a long-available procedure to get approval for a restricted product had been used for the first time.

Any impression the floodgates have been opened were “wrong and naive”, Mr Dunne said, but he has asked officials to watch medicinal cannabis product trials overseas, including in Australia and the United States.

If new medicinal cannabis products – likely to be sprays or oils – were introduced to the market they would go through the same assessment process led by Medsafe.

Some will be disappointed that relaxing the law on recreational use of cannabis isn’t on the agenda but that reality is that under a National Government that is unlikely to change, especially when Labour and the Greens don’t put any pressure on.