Ill-informed du Fresne attack on Drug Foundation’s Bell over cannabis referendum

Karl du Fresne (Stuff) has taken a swipe at Ross bell of the NZ Drug Foundation, claiming “Ross Bell is not worried about decriminalisation of cannabis but by the thought of the drugs trade being contaminated by the profit motive”: If corporates are best-placed to deliver a safe cannabis market, is that so wrong?

Oh, dear. Ross Bell of the New Zealand Drug Foundation, after years of agitating for relaxation of the drug laws, is fretting that liberalisation might open the way to corporate domination of the cannabis trade.

Hmmm. Perhaps he should heed the old saying about being careful what you wish for.

Bell has long advocated a permissive approach to so-called recreational drugs.

His argument is that drug use should be treated as a health issue rather than criminalised. So you’d expect him to be thrilled that the Government has promised a binding referendum on decriminalisation of cannabis.

You can take it as read that the activists’ ultimate goal is decriminalisation of the drug altogether, and perhaps other drugs too. That’s how advocates of “progressive” social change advance their agenda: incrementally.

That’s a big step from the cannabis referendum, and a major ‘assumption’ based on nothing.

It’s a strategy that relies on a gradual softening-up process. No single step along the way, taken in isolation, is radical enough to alarm the public. Change is often justified on grounds of common sense or compassion, as the legalisation of medicinal cannabis for terminally ill people can be.

But each victory serves as a platform for the next. Once change has bedded in and the public has accepted it as the new normal, the activists advance to the next stage. The full agenda is never laid out, because that might frighten the horses.

That sounds like nothing more than general scare mongering based on nothing.

Now, back to Bell’s misgivings about where the cannabis referendum might lead.

It’s not decriminalisation that worries him. Why would it, when for years he’s been using his taxpayer-subsidised job to lobby for exactly that outcome?

No, what upsets him is the thought of the drugs trade being contaminated by the profit motive. A liberal drugs regime is all very well, just as long as the trade doesn’t fall into the hands of wicked corporate capitalists.

A stupid way to put things. there are legitimate and I think fairly widely held concerns over the commercialisation of cannabis. Alcohol is a good example of how an intoxicating substance can be legally pushed for profit.

Bell’s vision, obviously, is of something much purer and more noble, although it’s not entirely clear what model he has in mind. A People’s Collective, perhaps.

Another baseless assertion.

The parallels with alcohol are obvious. Both can cause great harm to a minority of users, although activists like to play down the adverse consequences of drugs other than alcohol. We don’t hear much, for example, about the devastating effects cannabis can have on the young or the mentally unstable.

I’ve seen and heard quite a lot about that. It’s a primary reason for suggestions that there be an R18 on cannabis – similar to alcohol age restrictions, where even 18 has been controversial.

But if we’re going to have an honest national debate about cannabis, the important thing, surely, is that it should focus on social wellbeing rather than being distorted by covert ideological agendas.

No evidence of ‘covert ideological agendas’, just an assertion targeting someone who has been quite responsible in promoting drug law reform.

Stephen Franks responds:

Russell Brown, one of the best informed advocates of drug law reform in the media joins in.

Going by this (and other ill informed people with their own agendas like Bob McCoskrie (Families First), I think we can expect a fairly knarly debate on the cannabis referendum.

We should welcome robust arguments against too much liberalisation of drug laws, but I hope we get a lot better attempts than this by du Fresne.

A weakness of parties, not of MMP

Karl du Fresne claims that the way coalition negotiations were conducted (with Winston Peters in charge) is a problem with MMP, but I think he has the wrong target. Peters was allowed to run the post election process because National, Labour and the Greens let him.

All political systems have weaknesses. It largely comes down to how much politicians try to exploit them or allow them to be exploited.

Stuff: Winston Peters top of the political pops with willingness to exploit wonky system

For the first time since New Zealand adopted the MMP system in 1993, the party that won the biggest share of the vote didn’t form the government. How we arrived at this outcome was down to one man: Winston Raymond Peters.

Nope. There were four parties and four party leaders responsible for the procedure and the outcome.

The Peters party, aka New Zealand First, won 7 per cent of the vote. It lost three of its electorate seats in Parliament, including Peters’ own.

That’s incorrect. NZ First only had one electorate seat, won by Peters in a by-election in Northland early last term. They lost that plus reduced their list seat allocation.

Despite this less than resounding endorsement by the people of New Zealand, Peters ended up determining the makeup of the new government.

Many insist, bizarrely, that this is an example of MMP working exactly as intended, but I would argue that it points to a gaping void in our constitutional arrangements – one that allows a politician whose party commanded an almost negligible share of the vote to decide who will govern us.

7% is not ‘almost negligible’ in this situation.

The MMP system allowed for a wide variety of ways for negotiations to be conducted and for a Government to be formed.

The National, Labour and Green parties al played a part along with NZ First, as did three party leaders as well as Peters.

Nonetheless, for his willingness to exploit this wonky system to his advantage, and for the sheer audacity of the way he went about it, Peters is a hands-down winner of my award for Politician of the Year in 2017.

It isn’t ‘a wonky system’.

It’s in the nature of politics for leaders and parties to work a political system to their advantage as best they can, it would be ludicrous if they didn’t.

Peters was allowed to run the negotiation process simply because the other parties and leaders allowed him to. That isn’t a fault in the MMP system. It was how all parties and leaders and MPs allowed it to happen.

And, so far at least, the end result has worked ok, with a secure majority in Parliament.

RNZ, te reo Māori and Brash

Ki te tangata?

An increased use of te reo Māori on Radio NZ has been a talking point for some time.

It doesn’t bother me, but I think it is overdone at times.

But it has bothered Don Brash. Late last month:

There was a response by Emma Espiner at Newsroom: The threat of Te Reo

It’s become a running joke among friends and family that my husband, vampire-like, feeds on and grows stronger with each criticism of his use of Te Reo in his role as co-presenter of RNZ’s Morning Report. What’s less of a joke is the sustained attempts by some, who agree with Brash, who are fighting against the use of Te Reo and against Guyon and RNZ in the form of BSA complaints and letters to RNZ’s managers, CEO and Board.

I dislike the ‘old white men’ argument where one simply says those three words and the offending viewpoint is rejected because of its provenance without any further need for debate.

It’s good to see her saying this.

What’s interesting to me as a Māori woman, is the way that my Pākēhā husband has been able to champion Te Reo into the mainstream in a way that it would be impossible for me to do, were I in his position. As a Pākēhā man with a powerful role in the New Zealand media he has a position of extraordinary privilege from which to challenge the status quo. He has strong support in this endeavour among the leadership of RNZ, most importantly from other noted Pākeha man, CEO Paul Thompson.

Over at TVNZ Jack Tame is cutting a similarly admirable path on the flagship Breakfast show.

The complaints about Te Reo being used in mainstream media give me great heart looking to the future. This positive response might surprise some, but I believe we can view these people (and they’re always the same people) as the rearguard of progress.

As society shifts, they will continue to yap at our heels and protest, but the trend for Aotearoa is against bland mono-culturalism and fearful mono-lingualism.

A decade ago it was Māori Television. Today, it’s using Te Reo on Morning Report and Breakfast TV and putting macrons in newspapers.

In ten years time these things will be completely normal and there will be another battle, which the rearguard will again resist and lose.

There is definitely a trend. In the main I am fine with this. But not so Brash – and Kim Hill wasn’t fine with Brash over it.

She interviewed him on 2 December, if ‘it can be called an ‘interview’: Don Brash – Ragging on Te Reo

He has weighed into the debate about the use of Te Reo in the past few weeks, saying he’s “utterly sick” of the use of the language by RNZ reporters and presenters.

I haven’t listened to that, but I saw a lot of comment about it. It is still being talked about.

Karl du Fresne: Don Brash didn’t stand a chance against Kim Hill

The first was to think he could criticise a high-profile Radio New Zealand presenter on Facebook and get away with it. The second and much bigger mistake was to accept an invitation to explain himself on Kim Hill’s Saturday morning radio show.

Inevitably, Brash was savaged. It was as close as RNZ will ever get to blood sport as entertainment.

Brash described Espiner’s flaunting of his fluency in te reo as “virtue signalling” – in other words, displaying one’s superior moral values.

For this offence against the spirit of biculturalism, the former National and ACT leader was summoned for a discipline session with Radio NZ’s resident dominatrix.

The result was entirely predictable. Hill was acerbic and sneering from the outset.

She didn’t bother to conceal her contempt for Brash and neither did she bother to maintain any pretence that this was a routine interview, conducted for the purpose of eliciting information or expanding public understanding of the issue.

It was a demolition job, pure and simple – utu, if you prefer – and I doubt that it was ever intended to be anything else. Its purpose was to expose Brash as a political and cultural dinosaur and to punish him for criticising Hill’s colleague.

Perhaps, but it could have been more than that. Hill may have also thought that Brash was a political and cultural dinosaur.

Then du Fresne gets to the crux of his complaint.

Here’s where we get down to the real issue. RNZ is a public institution.  It belongs to us.

The public who fund the organisation are entitled to criticise it. But can we now expect that anyone who has the temerity to do so will be subjected to a mauling by RNZ’s in-house attack dog? Or is this treatment reserved for despised white conservative males such as Brash, to make an example of them and deter others from similar foolishness?

Either way, Hill’s dismemberment of Brash was a brazen abuse of the state broadcaster’s power and showed contemptuous disregard for RNZ’s charter obligation to be impartial and balanced.

I presume Brash was given some sort of right of reply in the interview. I don’t know if he was given a decent chance to defend himself.

This is nothing new, of course. The quaint notion that RNZ exists for all New Zealanders was quietly jettisoned years ago. Without any mandate, the state broadcaster has refashioned itself as a platform for the promotion of favoured causes.

I often listen to Morning Report, it looks at a wide range of topical issues in far more depth than most other media, and generally seems reasonably fair and balanced.

Interviewers do sometimes push their guests hard – but this is essential, in politics in particular. It is a sign of a healthy democracy.

But Brash has a perfectly valid point. Whatever the benefits of learning te reo, it is not the function of the state broadcaster to engage in social engineering projects for our collective betterment – for example, by implying we should all emulate RNZ reporters and start referring to Auckland as Tāmaki Makaurau and Christchurch as Ōtautahi.

Social engineering? That seems over the top. RNZ is not making me use te reo Māori, and I generally don’t. Also, I learn something from their use if it. That’s a good thing.

There’s quite a bit on RNZ I don’t want to listen to. If so I turn it off (increasingly frequently when John Campbell gushes over the top in another crusade).

RNZ does many things very well and my quality of life would be greatly diminished without it, but no one will ever die wondering about the political leanings of many of its presenters and producers.

RNZ is often referred to as ‘Red Radio’.

Some of the RNZ presenters have fairly obvious political leanings, to varying degrees. That’s normal in any media. I can make no judgement of their producers, I don’t listen to them.

But te reo Māori is cultural, not political, so du Fresne seems to be confused.

Brash criticised Guyon Espiner in particular, someone who seems more balanced and non-politically leaning than most journalists in politics.

Du Fresne’s article has morphed from a grizzle about the use of te reo Māori, to a grizzle about Kim Hill doing a tough interview on the poor Don Brash, to a grizzle about some radio presenters appearing to favour one side of the political spectrum.

I could go to The Daily Blog or The Standard and find plenty of claims that media is far too right wing. This is just lame ad hominum from them, and that is what du Fresne resorted to in trying to conclude his argument against the use of te reo Māori on RNZ.

Perhaps that should be ad hominum/ad feminum (Latin seems to be a sexist language).

Or should it be ki te tangata? What about ki te wahine? (Māori seems to be a sexist language)

But at least du Fresne is talking about it. RNZ successfully getting a point across. You will inevitably annoy some people when you try and make cultural progress.

Is MMP too badly flawed?

Inevitably after an election, especially an election with an uncertain outcome, those who probably never wanted MMP say how flawed it is.

Any democratic system involving more than one person has flaws.

It’s fair to keep questioning whether New Zealand’s system of MMP is too badly flawed, or whether a few tweaks will make it a bit less flawed than it is now and less flawed than most if not all alternatives.

But now, while we wait for the formation of our next government, is not an ideal time to jump to any conclusions.

Karl du Fresne writes: Voters lose control when the coalition negotiations begin

Voters hardly ever have much if any control over our politicians.

Anyone having second thoughts about MMP?

I’ve argued for years that we swapped one set of flaws for another when we voted in 1993 to change the electoral system. The events of the past 10 days have done nothing to reverse that perception.

So he seems to have never wanted MMP. Why should the events of the past 10 days change anyone’s mind about MMP? There may be a bit of limbo but there is no crisis, there is no urgency, there is nothing particularly abnormal or alarming about waiting for the final results in a close election.

The theory was that by denying absolute power to any one party – in effect, requiring parties to negotiate and compromise on key policies – the MMP system would force governments to become more accountable and consensus-driven.

A bonus was that by giving greater power to minor parties, MMP would deliver more diverse representation in Parliament.

At least that was the theory, and to some extent it has been proved right.

Under MMP, we have certainly had far more diverse parliaments.  The two-party duopoly has been broken, opening the way for a much wider range of ideological positions and agendas to be represented in Parliament, from the old-style populist Muldoonism of NZ First through to the environmentally-driven Greens and the race-based sectional interests of the Maori Party.

There have been definite improvements.

But has MMP delivered greater accountability, as its idealistic (and mostly Left-wing) promoters promised? Hmmm. That’s another matter entirely.

Here we encounter two problems. The first is that under MMP, 49 of the 120 MPs in Parliament are not directly accountable to voters. They are elected on the all-important party lists and have no constituents to answer to.

Rather, they owe their loyalty to the party organisation, on which they depend for their ranking on the lists and therefore for their career prospects.

In other words, it’s a system that prioritises loyalty to the party over any obligations to voters.

That’s a potential weakness, but the old FPP system also prioritised loyalty to the party, as does the electorate part of MMP. Sure things go to the public for a vote every now and again but the influence of parties dominates.

But arguably an even bigger flaw is the one that we again see in play following the recent election.

Not for the first time, New Zealand finds itself at the mercy of NZ First and its vain and fractious leader, Winston Peters. A man whose party won only 7.5 per cent of the vote on election day will determine who governs us for the next three years.

Whatever this is, it’s not democracy. It’s a travesty, and it’s made worse by Peters’ egotistical posturing.

Peters is posturing, but is it a real problem? If the media just left him alone until the final results are announced we would see no posturing.

New Zealand is not at the mercy of anyone. We are waiting for an election result, and Peters is sensible to wait for the result too.

But even without a rogue politician like Peters in the mix…

There is no evidence of peters being a rogue politician, yet at least. Grump and secretive, but he has not done anything undemocratic. Claims if using disproportionate power are unproven – power is currently on hold, it is not being abused or overused. We may or may not have reason to complain in a week or two, but for now things are very benign.

… the system is deeply – perhaps fatally – flawed. Because regardless of the result on election day, all bets are off once the votes are in.

So what? That’s what happened after every election in the past. We have a system of representative democracy, that’s how it was under FPP and that’s how it is under MMP. We vote, then we largely leave it to the politicians for three years. Changing back to FPP won’t change that markedly if at all.

At that stage the public cedes total control to the politicians, who disappear behind closed doors to decide which of the policies they campaigned on can be jettisoned and which bottom lines no longer matter. We, the voters, have no power to influence what concessions will be made in coalition negotiations.

We have no power to influence policies developed by parties either, unless we belong to one party, and even then an individual’s power is minute.

Whatever this is, it’s not democracy.

It is democracy as we have it.

What would be more democratic – allowing us all to vote on what parties should form a government? Allowing us to vote on what policies are decided on? Allowing us to vote on who will be Prime Minister and who will be deputy? Vote for every minister?

That may take two years to work things out rather than two weeks or two months.

Should all of us be able to vole for every bit of legislation?

A good case can be made for more public say in what legislation passes through Parliament, but most people don’t care most of the time what our politicians do. We vote, then we largely leave it to them, apart from having the occasional grizzle.

The almost comical paradox is that the MMP system, which supposedly returned power to the people, is virtually guaranteed to produce a result where one or more minor parties end up wielding influence grossly disproportionate to their public support.

This is often claimed. We have had seven governments formed under MMP and there is little or no evidence it is true. I don’t think we have ever came anywhere close to grossly disproportionate influence.

The politicians have become thoroughly acclimatised to it too and either fail to see, or don’t want to see, its fatal flaws. But I reckon we were sold a crock in 1993, and I want my money back.

If du Fresne wanted to take things back to ‘the good old days’ he should have voted for NZ First.

MMP has obvious flaws, but not as du Fresne claims.

Large parties have disproportionate power by hobbling MMP with a high threshold. MMP is flawed by design.

If small parties, especially new parties, weren’t kept out of Parliament by a ridiculous barrier then MMP would be less flawed.

It would still have it’s flaws, because flawed humans use it, often to their own advantage more than for the good of all people. But there is no democratic system that does any better for the people.

The biggest problem with post-election limbo is not MMP, it’s the impatience of journalists and opinion writers, who concoct unsubstantiated gripes to fill their columns and attract a few clicks.

Hager response to Soper article

There has been a lot of discussion today about the Barry Soper article in the Herald – Another shadow over Nicky Hager and Jon Stephenson’s book (some things in the article may have changed through the day) – especially over the the photo from Hager’s book


Originally that was shown with the bottles mostly cropped, as i had taken a copy of the original picture here Cartridge challenge to ‘Hit & Run’ claims.

Update: See letter from Hager to the Herald below.

The article also now has a response from Hager:

Nicky Hager responds:

“The book does not claim that those weapon cartridges came from the SAS and indeed in another illustration (on page 49) the authors explain that they are Apache helicopter weapons.

The illustration in the book shows objects collected by the villagers after the raid and the caption refers only to two drink bottles pictured, which the villagers thought were left by snipers. There was no suggestion that the weapon cartridges were from the SAS.

But the photo caption implies by association that if the bottles were left by snipers the cartridges would also have been left by the same sniper/s. I think it is reasonable to assume the two went together.

Hager clarifies that the objects were gathered (are claimed to have been gathered) after the raid with no proof of them being associated with the raid, or any or all of them having been left by the attacking forces – “which the villagers thought were left” is all that is claimed.

I wonder why snipers would leave rubbish like that behind.

If we had been asked before the story was printed, we could have cleared up this misunderstanding.”

This is somewhat ironic given that Hager is renowned for publishing books having made no attempt to seek input from those he makes serious accusations about.

This is pointed out by journalist Martin van Beyen in Can we trust claims by Hager and Stephenson about SAS raid?

Another issue is that Hager’s method is not to seek comment or reaction from the people he is accusing before publishing. There are sometimes good reasons for that but if he worked for a newspaper his stories would not run without the allegations being put to the authorities.

Karl du Fresne also covers this in Let truth and falsehood grapple over the Hager-SAS stink

Hager doesn’t bother with balance. He and co-author Jon Stephenson didn’t approach the Defence Force for its side of the story before publishing Hit and Run.

This is consistent with Hager’s previous modus operandi. I don’t think he gave Cameron Slater a chance to respond to the claims made in Dirty Politics either, or Don Brash when he published The Hollow Men.

Cameron Slater has frequently complained about not being given a chance to put his side of the Dirty story.

Hager would probably argue that the reason he doesn’t approach the subjects of his books is that it would give them an opportunity to obstruct publication, possibly with legal action.

But newspapers take that risk every time they run a potentially damaging story about someone. It doesn’t stop them seeking comment from the people or organisation they’re about to take a whack at.

One thing certainly seems different to how Hager handled the aftermath of Dirty Politics – this time both he and Stephenson are getting involved with a lot of defending and trying to justify what they wrote.

Hager in particular seems sensitive to people making assumptions about debatable and less than solid evidence.

UPDATE: the letter from Hager to the Herald (not sure why Stephen price’s name is in it) that prompted the added response from Hager:

——– Forwarded Message ——–
Subject: complaint against Herald story
Date: Fri, 31 Mar 2017 10:32:42 +1300
From: Nicky Hager
To: Steven Price

Hi Shayne,
I am writing to complain about a story and associated comment by Barry Soper relating to our book Hit and Run. The story says that we were wrong about a type of weapon cartridges pictured in a
photo in the book and that this casts a shadow over the accuracy of the the book.

However the basis for the criticism is something that the story says is suggested and inferred by the book when neither of these is what we actually said in the book. It was just someone jumping to conclusions on the basis of an illustration caption. We have been advised there are grounds for a complaint to the press council, however we would much rather sort this out by you adding a comment to the story there and then a follow up story that presents our position on these claims.

Can you please add the following words near the top of the current news story and Barry Soper may like to amend his opinion piece accordingly?

“The book does not claim that those weapon cartridges came from the SAS and indeed in another illustration (on page 49) the authors explain that they are Apache helicopter weapons. The illustration in the book shows objects collected by the villagers after the raid and the caption refers only to two drink bottles pictured, which the villagers thought were left by snipers. There was no suggestion that the weapon cartridges were from the SAS. If we had been asked before the story was printed, we could have cleared up this misunderstanding.”

Then a follow up story could present the same points.

The obvious thing to do was to check the story with us, which was after all based on assumption, not anything we wrote in the book. The story says that a reporter tried unsuccessfully to contact Jon Stephenson, but they could have contacted me. Also, the point I make here is obvious and so even without contacting us should have made a reporter wonder whether the story was correct.

We have no problem with critical comment about the book, of course, but it needs to be based on accurate information and be balanced and fair.

best wishes,


I’m kind of gobsmacked by this from Hager. He is demanding a different standard regarding rights of reply than he gives people he writes about in his books – he gives them no chance of any fact checking or contesting prior to publishing, and arranges his launch PR to give him a considerable advantage over his targets.

And balance is absent – in his latest book as past books he has a fairly strong agenda against one side of the story.

Protests about TPPA protests

In his daily political roundup Bryce Edwards includes a few criticisms of  TPPA protests.

TPP protests under attack

Criticisms have been made of other protests lately – especially the anti-TPP protests in Auckland. Heather du Plessis-Allan complained that protestors were ignorant and inarticulate in her column, infuriating protest. She also suggested their tactics would backfire.

A number of media had interviews with protesters who, if they were representative samples, suggest a widespread lack of knowledge about what they were actually protesting about.

And Karl du Fresne argued “When idealism morphs into acts of violence, protesters relinquish any right to be heard” – see: The arrogance of the self-righteous. He also thought Josie Butler’s protest would be counterproductive: “No doubt she will have become an overnight hero of the Left, who are too absorbed in their own sanctimonious bubble to realise that offensive protest gestures ultimately boost support for the National government and play into the hands of the law-and-order lobby.”

I think Butler may fade away quite quickly – there were reports that other protesters were quite dismayed that her lunacy attracted most of the media attention they were seeking.

Paul Buchanan had some similar points to make in his blog post, Too Clever. On the TPP protests, he said, “Unfortunately, it has activists who seemingly are more interested in establishing and maintaining their street credentials as ‘radicals’ or ‘militants’ than using protest and civil disobedience as an effective counter-hegemonic tool.”

There are certainly indications that the TPPA is just the current in a line of excuses for protesting and trying to beat up on the Government.

Also from Buchanan’s post:

That is why things got too clever. As a tactical response to the police thwarting of the initial action, the move to rolling blockades was ingenious. But that bit of tactical ingenuity superseded the strategic objective, which was to draw attention to the extent of TPPA opposition.

In fact, it appeared that the Sky City activists were trying to outdo each other in their attempts to make a point, but in doing so lost sight of the original point they were trying to make. After all, blocking people from leaving the city after the signing ceremony was over was not going to win over hearts and minds when it comes to opposing the TPPA.

And praise and disagreement with Jane Kelsey:

On a more positive note, Jane Kelsey has to be congratulated for almost single-handedly re-defnining the terms of the debate about TPPA and keeping it in the public eye. As someone who walks the walk as well as talk the talk, she was one of the leaders of the Queen Street march and has comported herself with grace and dignity in the face of vicious smears by government officials and right wing pundits lacking half the integrity she has.

I disagree about the concerns she and others have raised about secrecy during the negotiations, in part because I know from my reading and practical experience while working for the US government that all diplomatic negotiations, especially those that are complex and multi-state in nature, are conducted privately and only revealed (if at all) to the public upon completion of negotiations (if and when they are).

Last term sustained anti-asset sales protests failed to awaken the sleeping giant missing million – most of whom are perpetually dozing politically.

Dealing with dud beneficiaries

Karl du Fresne blogs about David Shearer’s rooftop dole bludger:

Labour leader David Shearer was pilloried in the left-wing blogosphere for making a speech in which he made it clear he disapproved of people claiming a benefit when they were fit to work.

Yet his attitude is entirely in line with the views of the Labour politicians who created the social welfare system in the 1930s. They were harshly intolerant of welfare “loafers”. The colourful public works minister Bob Semple, a former union leader, is said to have once thundered in biblical tones: “He who shall not work, neither shall he eat.”

That Mr Shearer was condemned within his own party shows how the entitlement mindset has distorted attitudes to the point where dependency on the taxpayer is viewed as a valid lifestyle choice.

Dim-Post discusses this and disagrees with the government approach to reduce job avoidance in The Big Lie:

National doesn’t want to intervene in the economy and create jobs – for a variety of reasons, some ideological, some related to their own hubris: they’ve been convinced for four years now that the economy is about to experience ‘robust growth’, due to the sheer awesomeness of John Key being in power.

Bennett’s welfare reform is an interim response; a very successful propaganda campaign designed to distract the public from National’s jaw-dropping policy failures by pretending that the people most affected by the economic downturn are actually its causes.

Which brings us back to David Shearer and his roof-painting sickness beneficiary: it would be nice if the leader of the opposition didn’t help the government out when they’re waging a dishonest scaremongering campaign to try and conceal their own impotence.

If National – or Labour, or whoever – can get unemployment back down to 3% then they can crack down on benefit fraud and drug test beneficiaries and suspend payments to dole-bludgers with outstanding arrest warrants as much as they like  (although they probably won’t bother because all those measures will cost far more money than they ever save.)

Until then, the only welfare reform I want to hear about is job creation.

I agree that job creation is important – but not so much Government creating jobs, I agree with Natikonal’s theory of creating good economic conditions that enable businesses to create jobs.

But this ‘don’t worry about “dole-bludgers” and druggies until the unemployment rate comes down is nonsense. Danyl seems to be saying that job avoidance at 6% unemployment is ok but at 3% it isn’t is odd. What about 5%? 4%?

What if unemployment fluctuates above and below 3%? Can beneficiaries keep switching between work readiness and avoidance?

When the world economy finally regains strength the out of work force needs to be ready to step into newly created jobs.Trying to get  beneficiaries to suddenly acquire a work ethic and work readiness is stupid. Preparing them now makes far more sense.

Even if unemployment deteriorates those on the dole should be ready and willing to work. Just because the economy is in an extended slump doesn’t justify active avoidance of work.

I know for a fact that even now there would be more people employed if there was more willingness to work. And if they had realistic expectations about what sort of work they are suitable for.

Gower’s Dirty Deal

Patrick Gower seems to be obsessed by electorate “dirty deals”. He has been campaigning strongly against them in Epsom and Ohariu.

His statements have been contrary to the Electoral Act as they don’t include promoter statements – he doesn’t even reveal what party he is representing. TV3 is not a registered party.

His latest campaign strategy has been retweeting anyone who will promote his policy.

This doesn’t seem to be impartial or balanced journalism, more like targeted extended political campaigning.

There’s no denyying quite a bit of voter disatisfaction the way parties make arrangements in electorates. Some of these arrangements are open, some of them less obvious, but they happen to varying degrees all over the place. Labour are complicit in Epsom and Ohariu, and Greens are openly complicit in Ohariu – Gareth Hughes wears two faces there, one that says it’s up to the voters to decide, the other promoting Chauvel as much as he can while he smears Dunne.

And Hughes is standing for a seat he doesn’t want to win, it’s presumably for his campaigning convenience. He doesn’t even live in the electorate, so he is using the system for his own ambitions as much as anyone.

Notably in a recent item on TV3 Gower gave Hughes an extended opportunity to promote a party other than his own.

The media are complicit in the Epsom arrangements in particular, they hassled and harried until Key and Banks had their cup of tea. It’s impossible to know if the cafe rendevous would have happened at all without media pressure, but it certainly wouldn’t have happened as an election event without media attention.

Obviously the media have a right to highlight issues that may be of interest to voters, but surely it is then up to the voters to make their own judgement at the ballot box.

Why is Gower obsessed with just the one type of electorate arrangement? There are a number of practices that could be questioned, like

  • parties standing candidates in electorates with no intention of contesting the electorates (eg Greens)
  • candidates standing for electorates knowing they have much greater priorities than the electorate (eg Key, English, Goff)
  • party head offices installing their own choice of candidate overriding local candidate choices

Karl du Fresne writes on this in today’s Dominion:

Claiming political scalps for sport

Comment: Media scavenging is bad news

The election campaign has brought to the fore a new style of television journalism.

It is aggressive, confrontational, highly opinionated and designed to provoke a reaction. Its chief practitioners are Patrick Gower and Duncan Garner of 3 News.

… there’s something disconcerting about Gower’s approach. You get the feeling that its purpose is to claim political scalps for the sheer sport of it.

He is a journalistic picker of scabs, a scavenger who swoops on the wounded. He scans the political landscape looking for any story that, with judicious editing and sneering voice-over, can be manipulated for maximum effect.

The Gower approach illustrates two trends in modern political journalism. One is to strive at all costs for what former British prime minister Tony Blair called “impact”  something to excite the public’s blood lust.

The other is to put the journalist at the centre of the story.

The modern political reporter is no longer content to be a passive observer, but wants to be a player  a maker and breaker of careers.

Gower made an interesting comment on Radio Live last night – he didn’t watch the closing statements of the debate last night because he feels uncomfortable looking into politician’s eyes.

I wonder why.