Hard News by Russell Brown


Steven Joyce: Prick or Treat

The first time I saw Steven Joyce speak to an audience, he was a prize prick. Indeed, I can't recall a senior politician being as openly contemptuous of a crowd as Joyce was opening the second day of NetHui 2011. It was astonishing.

The second time was last month, when he spoke at the launch of a new business service, to an audience of banking and business people. He was relaxed and wrly humorous, transgressing only in the frequency with which he used the opportunity to campaign for votes.

In the latter case, Joyce was among friends -- quite literally, in the case of his former ministerial colleague, Simon Power, Westpac's General Manager Business Bank, Private Bank, Wealth & Insurance -- and presumably felt he had something to gain by being engaging.

Joyce's appearance on The Nation this past weekend was clearly not such an occasion. He heckled and interrupted not only his fellow panelist, Labour's economic development spokesman Grant Robertson, but The Nation's host, Lisa Owen, who wound up shouting too. Robertson ruefully reflected later on Twitter that the discussion had not been great viewing. It wasn't. It was almost unwatchable. Which was perhaps Joyce's intention all along.

Joyce may have simply been prepared to look like an arsehole if it meant depriving Robertson of a sensible soundbite on regional development, an area where National is somewhat vulnerable. He knows it's not him the general public needs to like, when the Prime Minister retains an almost unprecedented level of popularity. And even when it comes time to contest the throne, Joyce's opponent is widely supposed to be Judith Collins. The likeability bar is not set terribly high.

But a series of tweets from Colmar Brunton last week shed a really interesting light on Key's consistent popularity. Only a third of voters believe John Key when he says he had never heard of Kim Dotcom until the eve of the raid on Dotcom mansion -- and 19% don't know and 48% believe Dotcom when he insists Key very much knew about him

So two thirds of all respondents and, according to the full report43% of National supporters, either disbelieved Key or weren't sure. Fully a quarter of self-declared National Party supporters actively believed the Prime Minister is lying about a matter on which he has staked his credibility.

That question was asked in the context of a poll in which Key's support as preferred Prime Minister increased by a point to 48% and his party's support edged up to 52%. It's evident that a fairly large proportion of those who pick Key as preferred PM don't share the trust and affection for him that, say, Jonah Lomu and Mike Hosking do.

Those voters may simply be looking for stability and competence and not finding it on the Left. After David Cunliffe's weird lost fortnight of apologising-for-aplogising, perhaps that's not surprising. Had Cunliffe simply stood his ground on his Refuge speech and his family holiday, voters might have stood a chance of knowing who he is, even if they disagreed with him.

The irony is that when I looked up my original post about Joyce's NetHui horrorshow, I noticed that I'd recorded Cunliffe as being brisk, straightforward and relaxed, even as he basked in Lawrence Lessig's praise for his telecommunications reforms. That Cunliffe (and for that matter, talk of his regulatory achievements) has gone missing. Labour should send out a search party, if it's not too late.

But being popular ain't easy. Cunliffe isn't polling anywhere near Key as preferred PM, but he's not doing so badly that there's any show of a dark horse from any party overhauling him. National Party support is strikingly consilidated on Key: there are 14 people (including seven current or former Labour MPs) in the Colmar Brunton poll before we get to Joyce, who attracted support of 0.1%, equating to one person in the entire sample. That's half as many as Kim Dotcom, but more than Judith Collins, who polled no votes at all. If and when John Key decides to quit parliamentary politics, he will leave a large and possibly quite destructive vacuum to fill.


Friday Music: Curatin' for Your Love

I'm pleased and intrigued that Lorde has been commissioned to curate the soundtrack for the next Hunger Games movie -- and I'd like to claim credit. Well, I can't really, but it was obvious to me after Ella picked Lorde's Mixtape for us last year that she is a curatorial talent and it's not hard to see her career developing in that direction.

It also puts me in mind of something Adam Holt said to me as her music was beginning to take off about the importance of good taste in an artist's arsenal. She's certainly got that.


It's a big week for David Kilgour: not only has the prodigious four-album vinyl set of The Clean's Anthology landed (see rave review from Britain's The Line of Best Fit blog), but he's previewing End Times Undone, the new album from David Kilgour and the Heavy Eights, which sounds pretty great. You can listen to it here:

What with The Chills earning storming live reviews on their European tour and NME running a spread on the Flying Nun heritage, it's all quite nice.


It's also nice to see the Hallelujah Picassos back with 'Salvadore (Miles Away from You)', a sweet little pop tune that happens to be the band's first new recording in 18 years. You can click through on the player here to grab it at a price of your choosing:

Cool new tune from pop culture rhyme artist Randa on TheAudience:

You can download that and another new one, 'Fortress', at Randa's Soundcloud.

Another nicely idiosyncratic local hip hop track from the excellently-named Lost Bandits Forgotten Royalties:


I like what Shihad are doing in premiering their new album FVEY with a gig to raise money for the Christchurch Earthquake Recovery Fund. The show at Christchurch's CBS Arena will be free, with the revenue coming (hopefully) from a  $19.95 charge to watch it live via Sky Box Office. I've never bothered with Sky Box Office before, but I think the price is not unreasonable -- and that live concert broadcasts in general represent a largely untapped opportunity for artists.


Heard this on the radio last weekend. Proper mad. I like it:


If you want to know what the kids are up to -- and how those bedroom producers sound on the big big stereo -- there's 95bFM presents bANG!, an electronic showcase tomorrow night at the King's Arms, featuring Race Banyon, Totems, Career Girls and more.

Race Banyon is also playing tonight at Golden Dawn with She's So rad, who will be presenting both their disco and shoegaze sides. I think I'll be getting along there.

And ... oh god, I need to go outside. Post some good shit of your own in the comments, hey?

But wait, there's more! The long-lost and legendary promo video for 'I'm Bored' made by Iggy Pop during his 1979 visit here and screened on Radio With Pictures recently turned up on YouTube. Features The Beehive and a great many Kiwi liggers ligging. It cuts off early but not before the famous woman-throws-wine-over-Iggy moment.


The Hard News Music Post is sponsored by:



The crybaby philosopher

Earlier this week, Act Party leader Jamie Whyte notified the world that he had delivered a speech entitled Race has no place in the law and, it seemed, sat back in anticipation of plaudits for his tremendous argument.

Sadly, the next day he posted a screed almost as long complaining of the "vitriolic hostility" with which his speech had been greeted, slating his critics as "pathetic" and characterising journalists who had reported on it as "the thought police".

Whyte raged. He told Morning Report's interview Guyon Espiner that he just didn't understand basic political principles, and accused Radio Live's Lloyd Burr of being unable to "read or think" when Burr attempted to press him on errors in his speech.

The irony, of course, is that Whyte's argument has been met with plenty of reasoned debate; it simply hasn't been to his liking. One of the more obvious flaws in the speech is that Whyte contrived himself a definition of "legal privilege" (such privilege accruing to Māori being his chief grievance) encompassing things that largely do not concern the law -- most notably, this:

Some state run or state directed organisations openly practice race-based favouritism. I know a woman who has raised children by two fathers, one Pakeha and the other Maori. If her Pakeha son wants to attend law school at Auckland University, he will have to get much higher grades than her Maori son.

I will not go on. There is no question that the law in New Zealand is not racially impartial. 

The question is why race-based laws are tolerated, not just by the Maori and Internet-Mana Parties, but by National, Labour and the Greens.

Whyte is referring to the University of Auckland's Targeted Admission Schemes, which are designed to improve access to higher education for under-represented groups: Māori, Pasifika, people living with a disability. The scheme, as Whyte must surely understand is, is not the consequence of a "race-based law". Indeed, it is not what Whyte says it is in quite a number of ways. As Matthew Dentith points out:

The Māori quota for some university courses is a very real thing, but people like Whyte either haven’t looked into how the quota operates, or he has deliberately chosen to ignore said processes in order to make an inflammatory point. The quota provides extraseats aimed at getting more Māori into certain subjects (like Medicine and Law), so Pākehā do not miss out: if, for some reason, there were no Māori applicants for places in Law or Medicine one year, those spaces simply would not be filled. It’s not, then, as if Māori are taking places away from Pākehā. The quota is a top up, rather than a reserve system. As for the lower grades allocated to these quota seats; this is simply a recognition that most Māori come from lower socio-economic areas and we know, from the statistics, that grades on average are lower across the board in lower socio-economic areas. As such, the quota recognises this disparity as being yet another barrier to entry. That being said, it’s not as if universities let morons into these courses, and people who get in under the quota have to perform to the same standard as other students once they are in.

Lawyer and business consultant Joshua Hitchcock also makes this point in response to Whyte -- and further describes as "nonsense" this unsubstantiated claim from Whyte:

Of course, many Maori are better off, better educated and in better health than many Pakeha. And these are often the Maori who take most advantage of their legal privileges, especially those offered by universities and by political bodies.

From the real world, Hitchcock responds:

The large majority of my peers at law school were upper-middle class paheka kids from suburban Auckland.  They came from the Grammars, or private school.  Us Maori were almost all provincial kids, many on scholarships because our parents could not afford to send us away, and working several jobs to pay the rent.  Most had grown up poor, brown, and considered unlikely to succeed by almost every teacher they met along the way.  Most have gone on to working low paid law jobs as advocates for Maori – and the most disadvantaged Maori at that – before the Waitangi Tribunal, Maori Land Court, Family Court, and in the public sector.  Law school was not a path to riches, it was a path to service.

Whyte has taken the privilege we can actually detect in evidence -- that Pakeha with the benefit of growing up in higher socio-economic groups overall do better at all levels of the education system and are thus over-represented in higher education -- and flipped it, sans evidence, to assert the opposite.

There are more subtle flaws in Whyte's argument. The UTAS is, as already noted, also there for people with disability. Let's take Sacha Dylan's definition in the debut post for this site's Access blog, that:

Disability is what happens when your needs don’t match the world as it is right now ... Disability combines personal experience and social process. It is the interaction between how the world functions and how people function.

It's not difficult to apply this perspective on disability -- a fundamental mismatch between what a person needs and what the world actually offers -- to the other groups served by the UTAS. This does not mean being Māori is a disability, but it is clearly, on the evidence, an impairment in being able to tap the power of education. Would Whyte kill off the additional places offered to the disabled? Does he claim, as he does in the case of Māori, that disabled people would do better if they received no help? (I did in fact query Whyte about this, via Twitter, but received no reply.)

Whyte carefully exempts the work of the Waitangi Tribunal from his criticism: 

The reparations made to iwi by the Waitangi Tribunal are NOT an example of this. The Treaty of Waitangi gave Maori property rights over the land they occupied. Many violations of these rights followed. The remedies provided by the Waitangi Tribunal are not a case of race-based favouritism. They are recognition of property rights and, therefore, something that we in ACT wholeheartedly support.

But he seems unable to grasp the fairly basic idea that "remedies" for the theft of property on the part of government should also extend beyond the (partial) return of the proprty and address the material harm suffered by the owner of the property. As Tim Watkin says on Pundit:

That's why affirmative action, such as places for Maori at universties, is right and fair. And it works. Whyte suggests that the legal privileges haven't meant material gain, but he's wrong in that. Since the Maori renaissance of the early 1970s and the arrival of affirmative action, many Maori social statistics (while still behind Pakeha) have improved. Life expectancy is catching up, education rates have improved, and so on. 

I doubt Whyte would pretend that Lady Justice has always been blind. He may even be honest enough to accept that he and perhaps his forebears have (directly or indirectly) benefited from that historic lack of blindness.

Although he basically conjures facts to suit himself, the real problem in Whyte's speech is that it is the work of a man who seems incapable of any sense of proportion. The presence of, say, a fairly powerless Māori advisory board to the Auckland Council is rolled up towards this amazing assertion:

Maori are legally privileged in New Zealand today, just as the Aristocracy were legally privileged in pre-revolutionary France.

"Just as"? Really? Dentith notes in response to this point:

Let’s just let that sink in. He first compares the status of Māori in Aotearoa (New Zealand) to the aristocrats of the Ancien Régime, which as analogies go is pretty weird. In the Ancien Régime the nobles were gluttons whilst the people of France starved. Yet, in Aotearoa (New Zealand), it is Māori who play the role of the French populace and Pākehā who are predominately living the high life off of the back of the unfortunate, indigenous people of this place. 

The Race Relations Conciliator Dame Susan Devoy also responded to this argument, describing it as "grotesque and inflammatory" and "incredibly naïve". Whyte duly responded -- you can see this coming, can't you? -- by declaring that Devoy "can't think straight".

What we're really seeing here is the time-honoured libertarian fallback that it's not their argument that's wrong, but reality. As someone noted to me yesterday, Whyte's three-day tantrum is the response of every libertarian in every comment thread ever.

But Whyte isn't just the put-upon libertarian on the the internet, he's the leader of a political party -- albeit a profoundly unpopular one -- likely to form part of an agreement to govern the country.

A man as intelligent as Whyte endlessly claims to be would have anticipated, even embraced, all this criticism, rather than expressing hurt and astonishment at it. What we have seen instead instead is a crybaby philosopher, a manchild who seems almost pitiably innocent of the job he's supposed to be doing. We can only speculate what absurdity Whyte would generate in the unlikely event he enters Parliament.

For the time being we can only note that for all the Prime Minister likes to list the alarming oddballs who would line up in a coalition of the Left, the really strange people would seem to be on his side of the line.


Media Take: In the Eye of the Storm

I'm flying solo on this week's Media Take -- for a very good reason. My colleague and co-host Toi Iti had an engagement in the Urewera on Sunday. He was present when Police Commissioner Mike Bush visited six whanau -- including that of Toi's father, Tame Iti -- to apologise for the raids seven years ago in Ruatoki that traumatised families and were ultimately deemed unlawful by the Independent Police Conduct Authority.

A great deal has been written and said about the investigation and attempt to prosecute Tame Iti and others under the Terrorism Suppression Act, but in a media context the story is particularly notable for the apparent attempts by some in the police to leak and spin the most inflammatory elements of the evidence they had gathered. Some news organisations really got played.

It was into this media storm that Toi and his brother Wairere were thrust as family spokespeople. To this extent, the report Toi presents in tonight's show is his story as well. I say this not having seen the report itself -- the timings meant we had to record the show yesterday evening without it. But I'm very confident it will be worth your while watching.

Also in tonight's programme: I talk to Katherine Reed, Associate Professor at the Missouri School of Journalism, about the new face of serious reporting: Buzzfeed and Vice. As big media organisations have withdrawn to some extent from foreign reporting, unlikely players -- a website founded on amusing listicles and cat pictures; and the spawn of a snotty fashion mag -- are diving in.

Former AP Moscow correspondent Max Seddon was Buzzfeed's first hire foreign correspondent hire, a year ago, and his work at and around the MH17 crash site has been pungent and readable in a way you could never imagine him being as an AP correspondent. In particular, reading his tweets in real time has been quite a vivid experience:

Vice News's video reporting from the same place has also been notable. It upends the grammar and pacing of traditional TV news reporting in favour of a kind of first-person immersion in events.

It doesn't always work out. Both Vice and Buzzfeed have had reporters taken hostage by Ukrainain rebels. And back home, Buzzfeed has just been obliged to sack its hyper-ambitious "viral politics editor" Ben Johnson after it became clear he'd been committing plagiarism on a substantial scale. It might reasonably be observed that the line on plagiarism is not exactly clear at Buzzfeed, which has built its fame on "re-purposing"others' content.

But it's very definitely a thing. One of Reed's former students, Chris Hamby, caused quite a shock in announcing just after winning a Pulitzer Prize for a series of stories on chronic heath problems among miners that he was off to work for Buzzfeed. But it's not like he'd been working for a traditional media organisation when he won his Pulitzer. He'd been with a non-profit called the Centre for Public Integrity. Perhaps the real key here is that journalism's future might not necessarily be a job at The Daily Bugle.

And finally on the show, a great chat with film-maker David Blyth, who dropped Angel Mine on middle New Zealand 36 years and has taken his own path ever since. We recorded an extra 10 minutes for the Media Take website and even then David wasn't done. Here he is afterwards, holding court with a group of film students who'd been in the studio audience.

So, we have a really good show for you tonight, at 10pm (note the earlier time) on Maori Television. Tell your friends.


Friday Music: Why anyone does it in the first place

Florian Habicht’s Pulp film is warm, funny, satisfying and true. And its first few minutes are just brilliantly, awesomely exuberant. They're why people buy records and go to gigs and obsess over bands, and why people play in bands in the first place.

By the time we'd seen the whole film and had Jarvis Cocker himself join us by Skype for a Q&A afterwards, the audience for last night's first New Zealand screening of Pulp: A Film About Life, Death, And Supermarkets didn't so much leave by the exits as float out of them. This is a life-affirming film and you should try and see it at the Film Festival.

I knew a little of the territory, having seen Eve Wood's 2009 Sheffield music documentary The Beat is the Law, which you can watch online here. Sheffield people have an idea of themselves that is borne out in both films. They're funny buggers and it was a pleasure to meet them.


I have previously mentioned here a forthcoming Shayne Carter "piano album", for which Shayne deliberately took himself out of his comfort zone by putting down the guitar and writing on the piano, an instrument he'd never played before. Well, it's still forthcoming, but near, and Shayne is doing a little crowdfunding to get him over the line with mixing, mastering and manufacturing. You can read more and make a contribution here. There's also a video ...

And there's that book of Chris Knox's art and graphics still being crowdfunded too. In that case, you can have the satisfaction of pre-ordering the product.


You know there are ways in which a dreamy rap about getting it on with a Greek god could go wrong, but Coco Solid's new (here on iTunes) single 'Oh My Zeus' gets it really right. It's meta-clever and funky.

Bristol-based New Zealander Sammy Senior has posted this thumping ghetto funk take on The Fatback Band's 'I Found Lovin'':

A dazzling bit of Latin dancehall reggae from the Auckland-based Chilean vocalist Jah Red Lion, produced by New Zealand's Dub Terminator and released on the local label Soul Island.

You can buy the 100% Aotearoa-produced EP (which also includes the cracking 'Never Leave Me Alone') here on iTunes.

Also on out today and on iTunes‘This Love’, by Dave Dobbyn with the Orpheus Choir of Wellington, is a tribute to the Pike River 29. Not at all what I usually post here, but I'm a sucker for Dave's big, wide, essentially civic tunes. Is there an emotional equivalent to "public intellectual"? Poet, I guess:

Aaaand ... something comes out of that Lorde-and-Diplo partners-in-crime thing. A terrific remix of 'Tennis Court' that has "feelgood anthem" written all over it. Release or download please.

Artist of the week at TheAudience: Kaine Harrington, aka American French Fries, a solo project born in a bach. His guitar sounds sweet:

Thanks to Paddy Buckley for the tip on this post about Ibiza's Glitterbox club night (where the roster includes Hercules & Love Affair, Kenny Dope, Joey Negro, Late Nite Tuff Guy, David Morales, Todd Terry and Dimitri From Paris), which features a free download of Late Night Tuff Guy's disco-delightful 'Do You Wanna Get Down'.

And finally ... I'm not going to shit you, if the name Fonzi Thornton came up in a pub quiz, I'd be guessing. But he turns out to have an incredible career as the "vocal contractor" on a string of classic records from Chic's 'Good Times' to Roxy Music's Avalon to every gold or platinum album Luther Vandross ever made. My curiousity was triggered by this joyous rework posted this week by Yam Hoo?:


The Hard News Music Post is sponsored by: