NZ academics argue over Covid-19

There are a number of contentious aspects of the Covid-19 pandemic, in particular how stringent restrictions should be on travel and on home isolation, and the economic management and effects. There is a lot to debate.

Some New Zealand academics have been doing their debating in public, which is generally a good thing, these are important issues that need to be openly discussed.

Newsroom: Navigating a public spat between scientists

A scientific spat over Covid-19 reached peak contrarian yesterday thanks to the country’s contrarian-in-chief, Mike Hosking.

Following a Stuff opinion piece that said “We don’t want to squash a flea with a sledgehammer and bring the house down”, University of Auckland senior lecturer and epidemiologist Simon Thornley explained his views on Newstalk ZB.

He told broadcaster Hosking overall mortality figures in heavily affected countries haven’t gone up, concluding: “These deaths are occurring in people who are running out of time.”

“Exactly,” one-man-reckon-machine Hosking responded. “They were going to die anyway and something was going to get them. It just happens, now, to have been this. Or maybe it wasn’t. Or maybe this exacerbated it. Or maybe this complicated it.”

(Or maybe the fact these people were going to die “anyway”, of something, sometime, is a statistical irrelevance in a society that cares about preserving life and protecting the public from preventable causes of death.)

Thornley’s column angered arguably our country’s most prominent scientist, Siouxsie Wiles, who tweeted on Tuesday: “For anyone who comes across the opinion piece of an epidemiologist suggesting lockdown is like using a sledgehammer to hit a flea: he studies diet not infectious diseases. Don’t listen to his reckons.”

She later apologised for making it personal, albeit without naming Thornley. Not before Auckland University of Technology Professor of Public Health Grant Schofield jumped in to back Thornley. Schofield, too, made it personal.

Accusing someone of being out of their scientific “lane” without discussing data wasn’t acceptable, he said on Twitter, adding: “Some would criticise you a microbiologist in public health.”

Wiles tells Newsroom it’s fair to question her credentials. “But I am doing my best to stay on top of the literature, which it would appear others are not. And have also changed my position as the evidence has changed and explained why.”

She says her frustration was sparked by “a piece that used old data disingenuously to strongly push a message that has the potential to lead to people’s deaths by undermining the lockdown”.

Thornley, meanwhile, says science, at its heart, is about open and honest debate. “That is what I intended to bring to this discussion, which, I believe, has been very one-sided.”

Schofield maintains he’s all for the lockdown but he’s also for robust, and civil, scientific debate. He was disappointed that Wiles used her authority not for scientific argument but to dismiss science she didn’t agree with.

“There is considerable uncertainty,” Schofield says. “[Thornley] is the single smartest guy I know, and he does have some challenging and possibly inconvenient truths about the uncertainty.”

The article then goes on to ‘weigh the evidence’ in some detail.

One aspect of Thornley’s article was quite questionable due to being too soon to call about the far more relaxed approach that Sweden had taken – see Sweden’s different Covid strategy looks shaky.

After making his “squash a flea with a sledgehammer” comment, he wrote in his Stuff story that he believed other countries, such as Sweden, are steering a more “sensible course”. He linked to a Guardian article, which mentions schools, kindergartens, bars, restaurants, ski resorts, sports clubs, and hairdressers remain open, unlike in neighbouring Denmark and Norway.

The Swedish Prime Minister, Stefan Löfven, has said coping with Covid-19 is about commonsense behaviour. “We all, as individuals, have to take responsibility. We can’t legislate and ban everything,” That country’s Public Health Agency’s position has been criticised in a joint letter from 2000 Swedish university researchers.

On Monday, in another Guardian article, Professor Cecilia Söderberg-Nauclér, a virus immunology researcher at Sweden’s Karolinska Institute, said: “We’re not testing enough, we’re not tracking, we’re not isolating enough – we have let the virus loose.” She concluded: “They are leading us to catastrophe.”

Comparing Sweden, Denmark, and Norway on coronavirus counter shows a concerning trend. Norway (4651) has more confirmed cases than Sweden (4435), but fewer deaths – 39 versus 180. Seventy of those Swedish deaths were reported on March 30 and 31. Denmark, meanwhile, has 90 deaths but far fewer cases than Sweden, at 2860.

Current numbers on those countries:

  • Sweden 282 deaths, 28 per million (population)
  • Denmark 123 deaths, 21 per million
  • Norway 50 deaths, 9 per million

Note that these are just snapshots and can be misleading as different countries are at different stages on Covid spread and effect.

Sweden was recently looking relatively good but over the last few days has surged as the curves (cases and deaths) swing upwards – see

It will actually be months before we can really compare countries and try to see what approaches were most successful at minimising health issues and deaths as well as minimising the economic effects.

More from Newsroom: Lockdowns spark bad faith backlash

No one was more surprised to see that Neil Ferguson, the author of a groundbreaking paper on how to stop Covid-19, had walked back his dire projections on the anticipated death toll of the virus than Ferguson himself.

The Imperial College London academic, whose paper changed government policy towards Covid-19 in nations worldwide – including New Zealand – told a British parliamentary committee that, with the advent of the United Kingdom’s lockdown, he expected the death toll to be in the range of 20,000.

Critics then leapt on this statement, arguing that because Ferguson had previously predicted a death toll of 250,000 for the UK, he had now substantially walked back his estimates. Former New York Times journalist Alex Berenson, recently famous for publishing a book on cannabis and violence that was widely-panned as inaccurate, took to Twitter to make this argument.

It then went viral on right-wing websites like the Daily Wire and the Washington Times, the first of which has substantially edited its article in the face of fact-checking from more authoritative sources.

As the Financial Times explains, Ferguson didn’t revise his prediction at all – in fact, the 20,000 deaths figure was directly taken from his original report. This was the estimated toll if the United Kingdom engaged in the strict suppression measures – closing schools and most workplaces – that it ultimately has, whereas 250,000 deaths were anticipated if the UK took no action whatsoever.

Misinformation circulated online is a major problem generally, especially when it influences presidents.

In the United States, an article by highly-cited libertarian legal scholar and climate change denier Richard Epstein has buoyed an anti-lockdown faction within the White House. The March 16 article, titled “Coronavirus Perspective”, sought to contextualise what Epstein saw as a massive overreaction to Covid-19, which he thought would only kill 500 Americans.

Epstein now says he made a minor error while calculating this figure and has offered 5,000 as the final death toll. As of Thursday morning in New Zealand, more than 4,700 Americans have been killed by the virus and there are no signs of this slowing. Even Donald Trump now admits a far higher toll is likely – his goal is to limit deaths to 100,000, although they could rise as high as 240,000.

“Coronavirus Perspective” emboldened the anti-lockdown faction in Trump’s inner circle and lead to musings from Trump of lifting mitigation and lockdown measures by Easter. “We’re opening up this incredible country, because we have to do that. I would love to have it open by Easter,” Trump said on March 24, as the US death toll hit 706.

Evidently, more rational heads within the administration have managed to steer Trump back towards a strategy that avoided opening up the President to accusations of leading a death cult, but Epstein still took the time to defend his work in a March 30 interview with The New Yorker‘s Isaac Chotiner.

In defending his sloppy math, Epstein turned to bunk science, saying there are multiple strains of the virus – a stronger one that kills more people and a weaker one that is less lethal. Epstein believes, astoundingly, that the virus will also evolve to become weaker over time and falsely claimed the same occurred with AIDS, SARS and Ebola. Chotiner ended up having to turn to experts to fact-check Epstein in the text of the interview, lest he accidentally distribute fake news to all his readers.

Trump seems to have swung in behind the conventional concerns and actions over Covid.

I’m still very dubious about even best case projections because they still mention some very big numbers – Trump has accepted ‘successful’ death limitation in the US to a 100,000-220,000 range.

Even the worst hit countries (based on published data , China numbers in particular have to be questioned) are well below projections, Italy currently 13,155 deaths (yesterday +727 but already 760 today) and Spain 9,312 (yesterday +923, 709 so far today).

The UK curve is starting to look bad. The currently have ‘just’ 2,921 deaths, but were up 563 yesterday and have already reached that today (GMT so six hours to go).

Currently there are ‘just’ 5,600 deaths in the US. But deaths have recently surged, currently to about 1,000 a day.

But, if there is a widespread staggered hit from Covid around the US, that death rate over 100 days comes to 100,000 so that number doesn’t look out of reasonable expectations. And the daily death rate could easily climb quite a bit higher before it peaks and comes back down.

And it should be remember if lockdowns are relaxed there’s a high chance (it’s expected) that there will be ongoing surges in infections and deaths for many months, until vaccines become available – if effective vaccines are developed.

There’s a lot for academics and the rest of us to discuss and debate for some time on this.

Addressing the Hosking anti-cannabis reform activism

Mike Hosking haas caused a stir in the cannabis debate with Mike’s Minute: Cannabis reform goes up in smoke

Russell Brown responds: Experts want an end to legal sanctions on cannabis use and possession

In a Mike’s Minute commentary this week, Mike Hosking told his listeners and readers that the government’s Wellbeing Budget “subscribed $1.9 billion to mental health, and yet the next move is to decriminalise a substance directly linked to psychosis.

“How mad is that?” he demanded. “How many health professionals do you need to hear from to make up your mind about the madness?”

The answer to these questions can best be found in He Ara Oranga: the Report of the Government Inquiry into Mental Health and Addiction, which, as the NZ Herald observedon its release in December, is the most comprehensive report of its kind in a generation.

The expert panel that delivered the report did not rail against decriminalisation of drugs. It did the opposite. Its list of recommendations called for the replacement of criminal sanctions for use and possession of drugs with civil and health responses.

There has been a lot of disinformation and ignorance in this debate.

And some more informed and reasoned discussion.

What has been proposed in the Cabinet paper foreshadowing the referendum question is closer to Canada than Colorado and more conservative than either. The Ministry of Justice team working on the details is seeking to learn from what has worked best in other jurisdictions, not only in banning advertising and imposing age restrictions and product safety rules, but in the best ways to take the market away from organised crime.

It may also regulate potency, which is another key area for reducing harm. Under prohibition, since the 1970s, THC levels in cannabis have risen sharply – and the ratio of THC to CBD, the cannabinoid with anti-psychotic properties, has fallen far out of balance. A good deal of the harm attributed to cannabis is related to that trend. It’s a trend the black market will never reverse – supply will be dominated by what medicinal cannabis campaigner Rose Renton calls “rocket fuel” weed. It is, however, a trend that regulation – and canny tax treatment of higher-CBD strains – could change.

Drug policy is already changing in New Zealand. In response to the recommendations of the Mental Health and Addictions Inquiry, a new amendment to the Misuse of Drugs Act will direct police discretion towards health-based, rather than criminal, responses. Next year, New Zealanders will get to choose whether to do more, and seek to exercise some control of the way cannabis is sold.

That decision should be informed by an attention to evidence, rather whatever we fancy “common sense” to be. And it would be better made without commentators purporting to speak for medical professionals but saying the polar opposite of what those professionals actually believe.


A weak of headlines for the real leader of the Opposition

James Elliot at Newsroom – Yesterdaze: And the gong goes to …

And with Simon Bridges resolutely fixated on trying to wring as much political capital as possible out of Budget-hack, it fell to the leader of the opposition, Mike Hosking, to take the Government to task on the more substantive issues of the day. If you synthesised his editorial headlines this week you’d be forgiven for thinking we have a car-hating, out of touch Government of bullies led by a weak Prime Minister that is butchering both motorists and the economy.

I don’t usually take much notice of Mike Hosking, but decided to have a look at his weak in headlines.

Mike Hosking: Labour Government in danger of plunging into deficit

Already the doubts over what Grant Robertson was telling us last Friday are spreading.

If you missed it last week, what I was trying to explain to him (and he wasn’t accepting) is that he is running his books dangerously close to the margin, that the forecasts are optimistic, and that it would take next to nothing for them to be out – and his $1.3 billion surplus would be gone.

Do most New Zealanders or voters care about deficits or surpluses? Do they care about being in the red? Do they join the dots between a government’s books, economic growth, the tax take, jobs, and their stability? If they don’t, then Labour might get away with this.

But if they do, which is my bet, and they do because since Roger Douglas in 1984, we have woken up to simple economics, the value of efficiency, common sense, not to mention success, and we like it.

Roger Douglas is a real hero of the people, second only to Hosking.

So if that’s the case and Robertson and Co are leading us into an election in the red for the first time in years then they’re getting rightfully punished.

The election is next year.

Mike Hosking: AT is dangerous, inept and out of control

Auckland Transport must be the most hated of all organisations in the region.

They have earned their reputation by basically running roughshod over communities, councils, councillors, mayors – and anyone else who dared ask questions about just what it is they’re up to in their seemingly systematic plan to wreck the country’s biggest city.

From parking, or a lack of it, to pedestrian crossings by the thousands enraging locals, to closures of endless streets for months on end for seemingly pointless reshaping and realigning, to their obsession with buses and bike lanes – in my opinion they are dangerous, inept and out of control.

Here’s my top tip: find the councillor or mayoral candidate that’s going to stop this, and vote for them.

Mike’s Minute: Car-hating Govt is out of touch with the public

Most people are reasonable, most people see logic, most people want to help, but in the war on cars and speed, this is ideology, this is car hate, fossil fuel hate, and it’s driven by a tiny minority that think bikes are a multipurpose means of transport, if you can’t get a train.

Meantime, in the real world, we are behind the wheel in record numbers.

Hosking is the spokesperson for the real world. His world, anyway.

Mike’s Minute: Cabinet reshuffle will expose Ardern’s weakness

Turns out we can expect, in the reshuffle, basically nothing.

Turns out, yet again, the Cabinet reshuffle is a classic example of the Labour Party – or in this specific case, yet again, the Prime Minister – saying something will happen, then it doesn’t.

How do you reshuffle when your greatest fear is actually making a decision, and you can’t send it off to a working party?

Turns out, the reshuffle announcement isn’t until next week. Mike can have another minute acting like leader of the opposition again then.

I wonder if Newstalk ZB are going to have a reshuffle.

Hosking breached broadcasting standards

The Broadcasting Standards Authority has ruled the Mike Hosking breached standards when he incorrectly stated on Seven Sharp” you can’t vote for the Māori Party because you’re not enrolled in the Māori electorate” during the election campaign, and the following night he churlishly dismissed criticism.

On 23 August 2017 he stated:

…so is the fact that you can’t vote for the Māori Party because you’re not enrolled in the Māori electorate, so what are you going to do now? I’m joking.

That wasn’t a fact, it was false, and he was widely criticised for saying it. The following evening he said:

Now, small clarification for you. Now last night in a throwaway line I appear to have confused the Māori Party around the rules of voting and MMP. Now what I was suggesting, what I was meaning, was that the Māori Party, as their representation stands, is an electorate party. In other words they are only in Parliament because they won an electorate seat. Therefore what I said in referring to voting for them, was to vote for them in a Māori electorate you had to be on the Māori roll, which is true.

Now, the fact that anyone can vote for them as a list party I automatically assumed we all knew given we have been doing this for 20 years for goodness’ sake and it went without saying. So hopefully that clears all of that up.

That was a pathetic response. He blamed the Māori Party for being confused, he gave a lame explanation, and then effectively blamed anyone who didn’t know the fact that anyone could vote for the Māori Party.

If you are not on the Māori roll you can’t vote for a Māori electorate candidate, but you can’t vote for any candidate in any electorate except for the electorate you are enrolled in.

Hosking’s comment was sloppy at best – it appeared to be ignorant. And his response the following night was pathetic and irresponsible.

It was poor of TVNZ to allow this to happen as well – they accept the BSA decision and will broadcast an apology this week.

BSA Summary

During an item on Seven Sharp, broadcast on 23 August 2017 during the election period, the presenters discussed TVNZ’s ‘Vote Compass’, a tool available to assist the New Zealand public to make voting decisions. In response to comments by presenter Toni Street about the usefulness of the tool, presenter Mike Hosking said, ‘…so is the fact that you can’t vote for the Māori Party because you’re not enrolled in the Māori electorate, so what are you going to do now? I’m joking.’

The following evening, Mr Hoskingattempted to clarify his comment by saying, ‘Now, the fact that anyone can vote for [the Māori Party] as a list party I automatically assumed we all knew given we have been doing this for 20 years…’

The Authority upheld a complaint that Mr Hosking’s comments were inaccurate, finding that Mr Hosking’s statement about who was eligible to vote for the Māori Party was a material point of fact that was inaccurate and misleading.

Further, his comments the following evening were confusing and insufficient to correct the inaccurate information for viewers.

The Authority acknowledged the high value of political expression during an election period, but found that the potential harm in this case – providing inaccurate information which had the potential to influence voters, despite the alleged clarification – outweighed the broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression.

Upheld: Accuracy; Order: section 13(1)(a) broadcast statement.

Did the statement amount to a material point of fact?

…we have reached the view that Mr Hosking’s comment was presented as fact. We recognise that, as a presenter, Mr Hosking’s style and tendency to offer his opinions on a broad range of topics is well-known to viewers.

However, in this case, Mr Hosking’s comment in effect asserted that only those enrolled in a Māori electorate were able to vote for the Māori Party. This was a statement of fact capable of verification.

We also consider it was material in the context of the discussion about Vote Compass and the upcoming election, as it had the potential to influence viewers’ voting decisions.

We do not consider that TVNZ’s and Mr Hosking’s argument that this was a passing, ‘throwaway line’ or joke changed the nature of the statement as a factual assertion. Mr Hosking’s language (‘the fact that’) implied that this was an authoritative statement and we do not consider it was clear from the 23 August broadcast what Mr Hosking’s statement ‘I’m joking’, referred to.

We do not consider this, or Ms Street’s reaction, were sufficient to correct the inaccuracy or to reflect to viewers that Mr Hosking’s comment was not factual or meant to be taken seriously. This was particularly so in the context of an item that was seeking to promote the utility for voters of TVNZ’s Vote Compass election tool.

Was the statement inaccurate or misleading?

We therefore find that Mr Hosking’s comment was factually inaccurate and was likely to mislead viewers about whether they could vote for the Māori Party.

Did Mr Hosking’s comments the following evening correct the inaccuracy?

We consider that the clarification or explanation provided was flippant and too general to cure the inaccurate statement made the previous evening. Given the high public importance and the potential to influence voters, in circumstances where TVNZ accepted the comments were inaccurate, Mr Hoskingshould have made a clear, formal statement correcting his earlier inaccurate remark.

In order to clarify his previous comments, in our view, it was necessary for Mr Hosking to provide a clear explanation of the Māori roll, Māori seats and the rights of all voters to vote for the Māori Party when casting their party vote.

We consider Mr Hosking’s clarification was dismissive, in that he did not accept his statement was incorrect, instead suggesting it was the Māori Party who got ‘confused’, and voters should have known better than to be misled.


In light of the importance of free, frank and robust political speech during the election period, we are cautious to interfere unless a relatively high threshold is reached which justifies placing a limit on that speech. After careful consideration, however, we have found that the potential harm caused by this broadcast, in leaving viewers misinformed about their ability to vote for the Māori Party, outweighed the broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression.

We consider that Mr Hosking’s statement during the 23 August 2017 broadcast was inaccurate and misleading, and that the clarification subsequently provided was confusing and insufficient to correct the inaccuracy.

This was an important issue, particularly during the election period, and had the potential to significantly affect voters’ understanding of the Māori roll and of New Zealand’s electoral system.

TVNZ has accepted the decision “and found no errors or misunderstandings by the Authority”.


Under section 13(1)(a) of the Act, the Authority orders Television New Zealand Ltd to broadcast a statement. The statement shall:

  • be broadcast at 7pm at the conclusion of 1 News
  • be broadcast on a date to be approved by the Authority, no later than Thursday 21 December 2017
  • contain a comprehensive summary of the upheld aspects of the Authority’s decision
  • be approved by the Authority prior to being broadcast.

RNZ: Hosking’s Māori party comments ‘inaccurate, misleading’

In a statement, TVNZ said it accepts the decision and will broadcast a statement this week.

“There was no intention to mislead viewers and Mike’s comments were presented as a throwaway line made in the context of a light-hearted exchange between the hosts.”

That’s an odd response given the BSA decision ruled against ‘throwaway line’:

We do not consider that TVNZ’s and Mr Hosking’s argument that this was a passing, ‘throwaway line’ or joke changed the nature of the statement as a factual assertion. Mr Hosking’s language (‘the fact that’) implied that this was an authoritative statement and we do not consider it was clear from the 23 August broadcast what Mr Hosking’s statement ‘I’m joking’, referred to. We do not consider this, or Ms Street’s reaction, were sufficient to correct the inaccuracy or to reflect to viewers that Mr Hosking’s comment was not factual or meant to be taken seriously. This was particularly so in the context of an item that was seeking to promote the utility for voters of TVNZ’s Vote Compass election tool.

And Hosking’s follow up comments were not throwaway, they were dismissive of his ignorance, instead blaming others.

Seven Sharp has finished for the year, and Hosking has quit the show, so may avoid fronting up and taking responsibility himself.

BSA decision: McCaughan and Television New Zealand Ltd – 2017-083 

Praise and hate after Hosking and Street announcement

I never cared for Mike Hosking. I rarely watched Seven Sharp, it wasn’t a programme that attracted my attention.

In the age of celebrity some media portrayed the announcement last night that Hosking and co-host Toni Street (she was a face without a name to me) were finishing their stint on Seven Sharp as ‘Breaking News!’ That’s become normal lame, ‘breaking news’ is broken.

Of course 1 News praised their highly paid employees, but some of the reaction showed how much hate is expressed on social media.

1 News: Watch as Toni Street and Mike Hosking say they’re stepping down from Seven Sharp after four years co-hosting show

After four years, Toni Street and Mike Hosking are stepping down as co-hosts of TVNZ 1’s Seven Sharp.

Toni is cutting back on her weeknight work commitments to spend more time with her family.

“This decision has not come easy for me, but with two young children, I want to be home more often in the evenings for them.”

Mike says the feelings were mutual.

“This was particularly important to me personally to honour what has been one of the best combinations on television,” he said.

Hosking, like many media ‘personalities’, are not shy to praise themselves.

“That given we started together we end together. It is also always good to leave on your own terms and at your own time, often a rare trick in media.”

John Gillespie, TVNZ’s Head of News and Current Affairs, said the company was working through potential opportunities with Mike for the future.

“Toni and Mike are stepping down tomorrow night. They’re a dynamic and great team and together they’ve made a big difference for viewers and TVNZ. Their leadership at 7pm has been a defining force in our media landscape.”

More media self praise, somewhat embellished. Leadership? Leaders of the trite and banal perhaps, that’s the direction media seems to view it’s salvation as growing numbers of people desert broadcast television.

1 News managed to select some praise of the two people changing jobs ‘A great duo’ – Viewers react to news Mike Hosking and Toni Street leaving Seven Sharp.

Friday night’s programme will be their last, the pair announced at the end of tonight’s show.

It was a show, largely entertainment. For some – I just didn’t watch what wasn’t my style of programme.

But Hosking has been a polarising figure in politics. He has capably conducted election debates, but on shows and radion was seem by the left to be a right wing enemy, so attracted a lot of vitriol.

And on his announcement last night the hate flowed as freely as the praise.

A thread at The Standard included:

 Bye bye Mike…. from 7 Sharp…. And there is now dancing in the streets!

Good job. TVNZ have been a nest of right wing vipers for too long.

TVNZ is a neoliberal propaganda outlet.
It’s managers, editors and senior business and political staff all work towards the goal of disseminating such propaganda.

I agree. Comical Ali was more impartial than Hoskings.

Hosking was the propaganda wing for John Key

He’s also quite thick, has almost no education, and makes no effort to inform himself before one of his drunken rants.

Yep, Hosking is a toxic little twerp who hates Labour so screw him.

Typical ugliness in politics and media.

Similar on Reddit: Toni Street and Mike Hosking stepping down from Seven Sharp after four years co-hosting show

🎶 It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas 🎶

It’s the most wonderful time.. Of the yearrr

Now Mike can finally follow his dream of becoming a National MP! /s (god forbid)

Stepping down? They couldn’t possibly get any lower.

Four years too late.

Leighton gone, hosking on the way out, now we just need matthew hooten to join gloria vale and life will be so serene

now we just need Mark Richardson to contract some sort of disease that silences him

National gone. Hosking out. It’s like the country is waking from a boomer-centric lapel tweaking nightmare.

Whenever I had the misfortune of seeing these clowns on TV I always felt sorry for Toni. If I had seen her in isolation I would have just dismissed her as the vapid bint that she is. Mike has a powerful effect.

There is so much good news this week in terms of NZ becoming a progressive country again Im struggling to know where to look! I wish them both well in their personal lives and Toni in her future endeavours….but Hosking you are a selfish, biased and regressive prick who has no place in public broadcasting…please piss off from NZ media forever you are not needed in this country.

The intolerance, immaturity and toxicity prevalent on many online forums is something that will likely continue.

It’s a shame but we seem to live in an increasingly childish, trivialised and abusive society.

An online opportunity for more free speech serves to highlight, time and time again, the ugly side of human communication.


Last debate, Ardern versus English

The last debate between Bill English and Jacinda Ardern will be on TVNZ 1 at 7 pm tonight. I think that Mike Hosking will be back running it after an illness ruled him out of the second debate.

English was rocked by a bad poll result before that debate, but it has swung the other way with tonight’s Colmar Brunton poll has national back up to 46% and labour slipping 7 to 37%.

It will be interesting to see who is finishing the campaign stronger.

The Spinoff:  The final battle: A fight to the death in the last English-Ardern debate

Duncan Greive:

What we saw tonight was essentially the entire campaign, distilled. English: dogged, stolid, indefatigable. Ardern: passionate, idealistic, frustrated.

English looks like he has grown into the task and is enjoying it, Ardern looks like she is just about over it – but she may have to pick herself up on Sunday and launch into another major exercise for a few weeks, which may launch into three years of hard yakker.

Simon Wilson: Ardern failed to land a death blow.

Jacinda need to crush Bill tonight. Land those body blows, leave him looking like he wasn’t sure what day it was.

She was never going to do that with reason or calm reassurance, and certainly not with relentless positivity. The defining characteristics of her campaign have been phenomenally successful, but at this point, like the campaigns of Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders, they have not been successful enough.

Annabelle Lee: The winner on the day was… that giant desk

Both Ardern and English gave as good as they got and played well to their respective strengths (him: it’s the economy stupid. Her: kids are living in cars stupid) so no clear winner other than the desk which could double as the iceberg in the remake of The Titanic.

Ben Thomas: A plodding draw

It was also a harder English that emerged. Rightly challenged on his characterisation of Labour scrapping planned tax cuts as a “tax rise”, he doubled down. Asked about the now-notorious $11 billion, he nakedly misrepresented the argument and its outcome saying economists agreed there was a “hole” (no economists agreed, either on the accounting or the metaphor). Hosking slumped in his seat exasperated, but Ardern’s response of surprise rather than fury failed to settle the matter for anyone unfamiliar with the facts (still a possibility even after the last few exhausting weeks). She called him “mischievous”, which fed into English’s narrative that it was all just a typical politicians’ semantic playfight.

Ardern’s own vision, expressed during the election period as a concern for the children in poverty and locked out of homes, didn’t make an appearance until the dying minutes. It was her strongest moment, but not enough to save the debate from being a plodding draw.

Madeleine Chapman: Please, god, can this be over now?

This debate was so boring. Usually I can do screengrabs while also remaining engaged but by god, I felt like I was watching a family argue at dinner.

I think a lot of people are over the campaign.

When Jacinda told Bill “look me in the eye” regarding his insistence that Steven Joyce (very much wrong) was right about the $11.7b Labour fiscal hole, I expected her to follow up with an “I’m the captain now” to make all my meme dreams come true. Instead I could only manage some uninspired memes from an uninspiring debate.

I think that most people have already decided or will still be undecided after this debate.

Appalling non-apology from Hosking, TVNZ

On Seven Sharp last night Mike Hosking upset the Māori Party with a comment on voting. He said to co-presenter Toni Street:

“You can’t vote for the Māori Party because you’re not enrolled on the Maori electorate”.

That appears to be incorrect, or at least misleading, because you can party vote for any party, including the Māori Party.

The Maori Party complained in a media statement:

Māori Party co-leaders
Te Ururoa Flavell and Marama Fox
24 August, 2017

Ill-informed Hosking needs to learn the rules

Māori Party co-leaders Te Ururoa Flavell and Marama Fox are questioning the ability of TVNZ presenter Mike Hosking to host any election debates after his major blunder on Seven Sharp last night.

Mr Flavell says he was disappointed by Mr Hosking’s ill-informed comments last night when the Seven Sharp host said people on the general roll can’t give their party vote to the Māori Party.

“He is just plain incompetent – pure and simple. How can Mr Hosking host a debate on the election when he clearly has no idea on an issue around the party vote?

“The Māori Party has been a registered political party since July 2004. You can vote ‘party vote Māori Party’ whether you are on the General or Māori Roll and anyone and everyone can give their party vote to the Māori Party,” says Ms Fox.

“How can it take more than 13 years for the media to understand you don’t have to be Māori to vote Māori Party? Those on the Māori roll get the extra bonus of being able to vote for the Māori Party in the electorate as well.

“The information Mr Hosking gave out last night was misleading and irresponsible. He should do his homework,” says Ms Fox.

“It’s important to give the public the correct information, keep the voters informed and having a person who is so ill-informed hosting the debates is amateur.”

Mr Flavell says the show’s producers have agreed to highlight the mistake and a correction will be aired tonight.

“But frankly the damage has been done. You can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube. There will be some who watched last night’s show, who don’t watch it tonight,” Mr Flavell says.

TVNZ stated:

“We will make a clarification on tonight’s show to clear up any confusion. We advised the Māori Party that we would be setting the record straight on tonight’s show a couple of hours before they issued their media release.”

Tonight Hosking said at some stage through the ‘show’ (not at the start):

“Small clarification for you.

“Now last night in a throw-away line I appear to have confused the Māori Party around the rules of voting in MMP.

“What I was suggesting, what I was meaning, was that the Maori Party, as their representation stands, is an electorate party.

That’s incorrect. The Māori Party has one electorate MP (Flavell) and one list MP (Marama Fox).

“In other words they are only in Parliament because they won an electorate seat. Therefore what I said in referring to voting for them was to vote for them in a Maori electorate you had to be on the Māori roll, which is true.

“Now the fact that anyone can vote for them as a list party I automatically assumed we all knew, given we’ve been doing it for 20 years for goodness sake and it went without saying.

“So hopefully that clears all of that up.”

That’s an appalling non-clarification and non-apology. The only thing it clears up is how badly Hosking has handled it.

He is sort of correct, you can only give an electorate vote for the Māori Party in an electorate they are standing in, and they only stand candidates in Maori electorates. But he explained that very poorly.

And he hasn’t apologised at all for his misleading statement last night, and he hasn’t explained that anyone on any roll can party vote for the Māori Party.

Hosking has made things worse for himself and for TVNZ.

For this Hosking deserves to be dumped from leaders’ debates – at least from the small party leaders’ debate that the Maori party will participate in.

Hosking should moderate election debates

I’m not a fan of Mike Hosking. I rarely watch or listen to him or read his opinion pieces.

He has been named as moderator for the 1 News Debates and some on the left are trying to kick up a storm and get him kicked off the debates. For this reason, trying to demand who shouldn’t be involved, I think Hosking should remain as moderator.

In any case he did a good job of moderating debates last election. The opposition to him moderating is just another example of social media pettiness.

Jacinda Ardern has said she doesn’t care who the moderator will be, she will be focussed on her opponent, Bill English. As she should be.

1 News:  TVNZ’s election leaders debate dates and coverage team for September’s vote revealed

Newstalk ZB and Seven Sharp host Mike Hosking will be the moderator for the three televised leaders debates while Breakfast host Jack Tame will lead the Young Voters Debate.

The leaders debates between National Party’s Bill English and Labour’s Jacinda Ardern will take place on August 31 and September 20 at 7pm.

A multi-party debate on September 8 will bring together the potential coalition partners of the major parties, while the young voters debate will take place on September 14.

Action Station have started yet another lame petition:  Replace Mike Hosking as Election Debate Presenter

Please replace Mike Hosking as the host for the upcoming election debates on August 31, September 14 and September 20. Hosking is well known for his aggressively right wing views in his segments as a political commentator. As such, Hosking cannot be trusted to present each candidate fairly in a moderated debate.

Section 4(1)(d) of the Broadcasting Act 1989 requires broadcasters to maintain standards consistent with the principle that when controversial issues of public importance are discussed, reasonable efforts are made, or reasonable opportunities are given, to present significant points of view either in the same programme or in other programmes within the period of current interest.

I’m not aware of any evidence or record that should rule Hosking out.

Why is this important?

It is vital that the nationally broadcasted election debates offer an unbiased opportunity for candidates representing their political parties to debate on policies. Mike Hosking’s socially irresponsible style of presenting has led to public campaigns for his removal, notably his comments on Andrew Judd in 2016. Hosking is an inappropriate choice to present the election debates in a fair, unbiased manner.

It’s important that activist groups do not get to dictate who should moderate debates.

This petition is ridiculous. It will probably get a similar number of signatures (actually clicks online) that all the other organised Action Station petitions get.

RNZ beats commercial radio

The biggest surprise for me in this story is that Radio NZ (the now like to be called RNZ) hasn’t been included in ratings done for commercial radio before.

This makes some of Stuff’s stuff a bit strange in Bloody marvellous! John Campbell and Morning Report lead RNZ to a ratings resurgence

The “king of breakfast radio” Mike Hosking has been dethroned by state broadcaster RNZ’sMorning Report programme.

RNZ has attracted the highest national audience against commercial radio news rivals in all key time slots, results from a survey released this week show.

It was the first time in 17 years RNZ has been included in a radio survey with its commercial competitors.

How can they (Stuff) claim ‘a resurgence’ and that Hosking is ‘dethroned’ when there was no previous comparison?

Regardless of that, the survey GfK survey (conducted over 18 weeks and sampled nearly 11,00 people aged 10 years and over) shows that RNZ is a major player on the pictureless airwaves.

Total New Zealand Commercial Radio Audience Measurement

For the first time a Commercial Radio Audience Measurement Survey has been conducted across the whole of New Zealand, giving valuable insights into the strength and scope of commercial radio listening across the country. The survey was conducted over 18 weeks and sampled 10,863 people aged 10+.

Department of Statistics estimated population data at 30 June 2015 indicates approximately 4,010,000 people aged 10+ years live in New Zealand. The Total New Zealand Commercial Radio Audience Measurement Survey shows over 3,134,000 or 78.2% of them listen to a commercial radio station each week.

The survey showed:

  • RNZ’s Morning Report programme, hosted by former TV personality Guyon Espiner and Susie Ferguson from 6am-9am, had about 386,000 listeners.
  • Mike Hosking Breakfast, which runs from 6am to 8.30am, was ‘a distant second’ to Morning Report.

(In May, Newstalk ZB reported that Mike Hosking was the “king of breakfast radio” with 265,000 listeners).

  • RNZ shows Nine to Noon with Kathryn Ryan, Jesse Mulligan in afternoons and Checkpoint with John Campbell were all leading their time slots against rival stations.
  • The Edge was the top ranked station nationwide with 663,000 listeners each week followed by RNZ with 529,000 listeners. Newstalk ZB was close behind with 504,000 listeners.

So RNZ appears to be working and providing something that many people make use of.

I think that an alternative to commercial radio is worthwhile and adds something different to the radio mix.

Who else should be dumped?

Taking the lead of Dan Wayman and his attempts to have Mike Hosking dumped from TVNZ’s Seven Sharp – see The Hosking petition – why stop there? Who else should be dumped?

Why not have petitions to shut up other people in media and social media?

Suggestions please on who you think should be shut up, gagged, put in their place (in the silent naughty corner).

Perhaps we could have a whole bunch of petitions and see who are the most despised media presenters, the most hated journalists, the most despised Tweeters and Facebookers and bloggers.

Why not have a bloody good shake up of who is allowed to speak in public.

Then we could have discussions and petitions on who should present Seven Sharp, The Story and run Whale Oil and The Daily Blog etc.

Wayman provides a template:

“The ultimate goal is to have a more appropriate face on the national broadcaster in the 7pm slot,” he says. “That’s the ultimate goal.

Shouldn’t The People decide who has an appropriate face for television?

The ultimate solution for free speech.