Whose cracks are more problematic – Simon Bridges’ or Tova O’Brien’s?

Newshub journalist Tova O’Brien has written some scathing reports and opinions about Simon Bridges and his leadership. They have just exchanged jabs on Newshub Nation.

Bridges: “And I know that will disappoint your commentators today such as David Slack and Tova O’Brien, but I’m here to stay.”

O’Brien responded “I think it’s problematic that Simon Bridges keeps having these cracks at press gallery journalists…”

Bridges certainly has problems and challenges as National leader.

But I think it is more problematic that journalists like O’Brien use leaks to make stories out of molehills, and use polls to make baseless predictions based on nothing but a need or desire to make a dramatic story out of something relatively mundane, like a single poll taken at a fairly irrelevant time of the political year.

O’Brien broke the expenses leak story last August:  Simon Bridges’ roadshow cash splash: $113k in taxpayer money on limos and hotels

Simon Bridges is spending up large – using taxpayer funding to pay for his limousine.

Newshub has been leaked MPs’ expenses, which show the National Party leader has spent far more money on travel and accommodation than MPs usually manage to chew through.

This turned out to be a bit of a beat up. The expenses were due to be released through normal procedures a few days later anyway.

But that doesn’t come cheap.

Not due for public release until later this week, the leaked figures show Mr Bridges has been splashing cash.

Travel and accommodation topped $113,973, and most of that – $83,693 – was spent on travelling the country by road and in style.

And it was revealed recently that the leader of the Opposition is ‘charged’ far more than Ministers:

It was National leader Simon Bridges’ $83,693 in VIP transport costs in the June quarter last year were the catalyst for the breakdown between the party and MP Jami-Lee Ross after they were leaked to the media early.

Bridges’ VIP transport would have been $33,281 if he had been charged at the same rate as ministers.

As stated there the leak through O’Brien led to the Jami-Lee Ross debacle, which Newshub was very involved in (various journalists, not just O’Brien), with headlines like:

In one particularly odd report O’Brien discussed various possibilities about the leak – Tova O’Brien says ‘anyone’ could have leaked Simon Bridges’ expenses – but presumably she knows how it happened and who the leaker was, as they leaked to her.

Last month O’Brien fronted a series of stories on a Newshub/Reid Research poll, which was scathing of Bridges, and also grossly overstated to importance of a single poll.

The poll result is newsworthy. Dramatic claims about what might happen as a result of the poll is very poor journalism – it is trying to make a huge story out of just one poll. O’Brien followed up with: Tova O’Brien: Simon Bridges’ trifecta from hell

This is a trifecta from hell for Simon Bridges:

  1. National has plunged under his leadership;
  2. Voters don’t want him as Prime Minister, and;
  3. Judith Collins has overtaken him in the preferred Prime Minister stakes.

And it just gets worse…

Four weeks later, nothing much has changed. In fact, Bridges’ performance as leader has improved a bit, he has effectively applied pressure to the Government over their botched handling of the Tax Working Group report, particularly the possibilities of a Capital Gains Tax.

More recent polls suggest that the Newshub poll may have been more of a temporary drop than a sign of a trend – see UMR and other polls – Labour and National even – which highlights the overblowing of O’Brien’s and Newshub’s coverage of their poll (they also, unusually, held back the results for a week).

On Newshub Nation yesterday questions were asked about polling:

What are you going to do to turn around your poor personal polling, Simon?

I think actually, just what I’ve said to you. It’s two things. Firstly, elections are a referendum on the government. It’s governments that lose elections. At the moment, I think they’re going about that pretty well, from my perspective, with some of the things that they are doing and not doing. What I need to make sure National is doing…

People do say that Jacinda actually won the last election, though.

Well, I think Winston Peters won the last election. I think there’s quite a few that say that as well. He won it for her, and now Michael Cullen’s doing a good job to try and win it for her again – or lose it for her, perhaps. But I’ll hold the government to account. I’ll make sure that National is developing plans so people have got a real choice at the election, and they’ll make up their minds when that election comes.

At what point do you decide you need to step down for the good of the party?

I won’t be. And I know that will disappoint your commentators today such as David Slack and Tova O’Brien, but I’m here to stay. I believe in what I’m doing, I think I’m the best person for the job, and I lead a terrific team that is putting out policy, that is leading the debates. We’re going to continue doing that.

So we’ll definitely see you as leader at the next election?

You sure will.

So Bridges made a direct reference to O’Brien, who was on the panel. She responded directly:

Perhaps if he keeps talking rubbish like, um but actually there’s there’s…who’s the leader of the National Party has absolutely no bearing on me or any other journalist.

I think it’s problematic that Simon Bridges keeps having these cracks at press gallery journalists, um, for reporting the facts, for reporting on his leadership. It’s not our fault that he has abysmal poll numbers, it’s not our fault that he’s failing to resonate with voters, it’s not our fault that people in his caucus are murmuring to us on the sidelines and talking about his leadership.

I think there’s no doubt that Bridges has problems as leader of the National Party. One of these problems has been a person or people leaking information to O’Brien with an obvious intention of establishing Bridges’ leadership.

But I think more problematic are the actions of journalists like O’Brien who seem to be deliberately fomenting dysfunction and disunity to create stories and to create headlines.

Journalists should not be immune from criticism by politicians. I think that Bridges is justified in having a mild crack at O’Brien given the nature of some of her coverage, her leaker enabling, and some of her unjournalistic dramatics in some of her stories. Bridges hasn’t been her only target, but she seems to see him as fodder for fame as maker rather than a breaker of stories.

Ardern explains ‘well-being’ approach to budget, sort of

The Government is promoting it’s next budget (due in May) as a world first ‘well-being’ focussed budget. They may be putting more focus on aspects of well-being, but it’s only the label and the emphasis that is different.

The last National government had a different label – social investment. Their emphasis may have been different but they were trying to address a similar approach to spending decisions.

Jacinda Ardern was asked about her wellbeing approach on Newshub Nation.


The government’s about to deliver the world’s first well-being budget. Okay, so there seems to be concerns from economists that this budget might not be so much based on data. One of the examples that’s come up recently is the Treasury’s cost-benefit analysis, where it puts a figure, a specific value on things like contact with a neighbour or feeling lonely. I mean, how do you put a value on those things that you can’t count?

Incredibly difficult, granted.

Yeah.

Actually, what some of the Treasury have used actually were — some of the modelling, as I understand, was actually developed under the last government, when they were doing social investment. These are all pieces of information that we use in a budget process. But it is not the thing that determines precisely what we then prioritise. It’s an input. It gives us extra information. Because you’re right — some of it— it’s quite hard to build evidence base in some of these areas, and yet we know the economic impact of, actually, some of the social issues we’re trying to address. Now let me give you an example. Internationally, a big discussion around the economic impact of mental health and well-being — we know that there are groups of our society who are experiencing more social disconnection, less contact with the outside world, greater levels of loneliness. Now, that might seem fluffy, but there actually is an economic impact for that downstream. How do we make sure we prioritise investing in the areas that help us from a social perspective, but also, ultimately, economically too.

But some of the, sort of, criteria seem a bit out of whack, as it were. Like, you’ve got minus-$17,000 for loneliness, and that seems to be a greater figure than avoiding a heart attack and all these kinds of things.

And, unfortunately, the Opposition have completely misused the tool that Treasury has created by comparing cost benefit and outputs incorrectly.

Okay.

Treasury have debunked the way that that’s been dealt with, but the primary point I’d like to make is these are just different pieces of data and evidence we can use. Ultimately, though, we are still the ones making the decision over what changes these things at an intergenerational level.

So tell somebody. I mean, it sounds lovely and a bit woolly. So tell someone. It’s a tangible difference about having a well-being budget. What’s a concrete example?

Let me give you an example. So health, for instance. In the past, we’d just tell you how much we’d spent in the health budget. It doesn’t really tell you anything about the well-being or the health of New Zealanders. So then you’ve seen governments over time would instead tell you how many operations we’re purchasing. But, actually, again, that doesn’t necessarily mean we’re investing in a way that saves us money in the long term. What we’re trying to do is factor in, for instance, the fact that children that grow up in poverty are more likely to have health problems as adults just by virtue of that trajectory, and they have the equivalent of what looks like post-traumatic stress. So, actually, if we want to save health dollars here, it makes sense for us to invest in the health and well-being of kids.

Hasn’t that been the motivation of government ministers? Shouldn’t that be the motivation — you know the general well-being of the population from day dot?

It should be, but—

So why do you need the marketing stuff over the top? That should be your primary motivation.

It’s not the way policy is developed or spending decisions are traditionally made. Unfortunately, when you’re a minister — and this has happened through successive governments over decades, and it’s an international problem that was being debated at Davos, for instance —individual ministers, of course, make budget bids in their own area, and so that means that, you know, the Minister of Education might not be thinking about, you know, mental health and well-being issues even though he actually has a role to play in that area. The Minister of Health isn’t necessarily— has the responsibility to deal with what happens with child trauma and child poverty, and yet he picks up the pieces. It’s about trying to get everyone to work together to resolve what are long-term challenges. So, actually, this isn’t about ideology; it’s not about left and right; this is just, I think, a good methodology to use in the future.

Nation: Andrew Little on abortion law

The New Zealand Law Commission has made some suggestions on abortion law reform – see Law Commission – alternative approaches to abortion law overdue.

This morning on Newshub Nation (9:30 am) the Minister of Justice Andrew Little will be interviewed on this.

Nation: Jess Berentson-Shaw on ‘fake news’ and it’s effect on our lives

There could be more fake claims about fake news than there is fake news. Media is rightly being criticised for lack of care in reporting, and for slanted reporting, but generally newspapers correct news that they get wrong.

But who should correct those who use ‘fake news’ accusations as an attempt to discredit news or opinions they don’t like or don’t want published?

On Newshub Nation this morning:

And as hundreds of newspapers across the US fight back against President Donald Trump’s attack on the media, we speak to author Jess Berentson-Shaw about the prevalence of Fake News and the effect it’s having on our day-to-day lives

A book by Berentson-Shaw – A Matter of Fact: Talking Truth in a Post-Truth World – was recently launched, and was the basis of a panel discussion last weekend,


Dr Jess Berentson-Shaw describes misinformation as ‘sticky’, says it is very hard to change someone’s mind once they are convinced of a falsehood, regardless of what evidence they are presented

She says misinformation is not new, the Trump administration just gave it a new name with ‘alternative facts

Education: Nation interview with Chris Hipkins

Chris Hipkins has had a challenging start to his job of Minister of Education (he is also busy with other things, being Minister of State Services, Minister Responsible for Ministerial Services and Leader of the House).

He has had a lot of pressure from the National opposition over his determination to see the end of partnership (charter) schools.

And he has had to deal with teachers striking, taking advantage of a Government that should be more impressionable to their needs.

He is being interviewed on Newshub Nation this morning (9:30 am, also 10:00 am Sunday).

Won’t commit to smaller class sizes, says more support for students with special needs is the current focus

Nation: James Shaw on climate change progress

This morning on NewsHub Nation James Shaw fronts up to report progress on consultation on climate change and the net zero carbon bill.

Climate Change Minister James Shaw says the independent climate change commission will be charged with making the big decisions about what areas NZ prioritises in terms of emissions

There have been 15,000 submissions on the zero carbon bill – Shaw says it’s going to take a bit of time to go through them

Shaw not willing to make any big calls on agriculture – kicking it back to that independent commission.

Shaw said he has a goal of every vehicle being net zero emissions by 2023. Far out!

Making older higher emission vehicles more expensive? He really avoids answering this by diverting to alternatives like public transport.

80%-90% of the new vehicles purchased in NZ are company fleet vehicles. James Shaw says that’s one of the big targets in terms of transitioning to more electric vehicles.

Shaw avoided addressing that. And also – where is all the electricity going to come from for electric vehicles?

So will there be incentives to companies etc going electric? James Shaw keeping mum on that.

Shaw says the Government will be working with National on the zero carbon bill. He’s hopeful there will be bipartisan support for a way forwar.

A lot of unanswered questions on this, which is a bit alarming considering the radical changes that will be necessary to come close to achieving goals.

Can we hit 90% of our cars being electric within 30 years?! James Shaw says NZers tend to hold on to their cars for a long time. I own a 1995 Toyota Corolla.

Urging Government to borrow more to pay nurses and teachers more

Both nursing and teacher groups are on a roll. They have already been offered pay raises significantly more than average pay raises – they say it is necessary to catch up ‘after nine years of neglect’ and to attain pay parity.

They say for the good of children and their sectors the Government must borrow more to pay them.

What they don’t say is what a likely flow on effect would be if they get pay increases well over 10%.

Newshub Nation had a decent panel discussion on this today (their panel discussions are often brief and rushed).

Nation: Twyford on Kiwibuild progress

This morning NewsHub Nation interviews Minister of Housing Phil Twyford on progress on the ambitious but slow  Kiwibuild programme.

@Jasonwalls92

Twyford says he has been talking to bother overseas and NZ investors about preprefab investment.

He says when KiwiBuild is up and running, he wants roughly half to be prefabs.

Twyford will not names of investors, but says the Superfund has shown interest. They have also expressed strong interest in Auckland light rail.

100 proposals for development of KiwiBuild homes Twyford says. Can’t say how many will get the contracts but will be making an announcement within the next few weeks.

On prefabs, it’s an area where banks have in the past been reluctant to issue mortgages because of the complex nature of the homes. Will be interesting to see what Twyford does to get around this issue, or how he’s going to work with the banks.

@NewshubNationNZ

Housing Minister Phil Twyford says the Kiwibuild unit in the Ministry of Building, Innovation and Employment is the ’embryo’ of the Urban Development Authority he hopes to establish next year.

The Government will formally “invite expressions of interest” from construction firms both internationally and in New Zealand on creating a prefabrication industry to meet Kiwibuild targets.

International construction firms? Chinese construction firms perhaps?

The Nation: Housing Minister Phil Twyford (transcript) http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO1806/S00262/the-nation-housing-minister-phil-twyford.htm

Nation – Solving the housing ‘crisis’

This morning on Newshub Nation:

Can the Government’s big ideas really solve the country’s housing crisis? We talk to housing strategist Leonie Freeman and Alan Johnson from the Salvation Army.

Alan Johnson from the Salvation Army:

Kiwibuild is going to benefit the young middle class, not the people he deals with everyday.

The Government is being unrealistic thinking they can reach Kiwibuild goals with very little subsidy