Hard News by Russell Brown


Decision 2014: Where to watch and listen

There were quite a few queries on the wires last night as to where a person who can't receive New Zealand broadcasts might stay abreast of today's election results. Short version: you're spoiled for choice. As I understand it, none of the following services will be geoblocked and everything starts at 7pm when the polls close.

Maori Televsion will be presenting results with a particular focus on the Maori electorates. Go here for that.

TV3's election-night coverage will be available here.

TVNZ will be serving up two streams -- one from its domestic TV coverage and the other solely providing results as they come in. Both of those will be available from this page.

Radio New Zealand will have Kathryn Ryan and Guyon Espiner presenting its election night show and will be publishing results and commentary through the night.

The New Zealand Herald has an interactive created by its in-house data journalist Harkanwal Singh, which will be updated with live results as they come in, right down to individual polling places. Well nerdy.

Scoop, Roy Morgan and QRious, as The Election Data Consortium, will have a live results page, with links to relevant iPredict contracts.

Newstalk ZB will be streaming to the US and Australia via iHeart Radio. For everywhere else, go here. Note that Newstalk ZB also has a results page here.

The Discourse podcast people will be online all night here.

The Manawatu Standard will have live updates from the Palmerston North and Rangitikei electorates.

Radio Live coverage will be hosted by Sean Plunket and also feature David Slack, Mitch Harris and Chris Trotter, with live crosses to Marcus Lush at the party HQs.

Kiwi FM will be doing something slightly different, with a bundle of comedic talent -- Rose Matafeo and a bunch of people from 7 Days and Jono and Ben at 10.

And of then of course, there's the Electoral Commission's official election results website.

Because the rules on election-day media are so goddamn strict I can't share the link to this post if there are comments that may be seen to influence someone's vote in any way. The simplest thing, then, is to leave comments off until 7pm. If you have an election-night thing you'd like me to link to here, click the email button at the bottom of this post, let me know and I'll add it.

At that time I'll also publish a nice guest post by Tze Ming Mok about watching the election from afar. Righto, then. See you when the polls close.


Friday Music: Lovable Munter

I know I've banged on quite a bit about Courtney Barnett lately, but oh my goodness she was great at the King's Arms this week. Her wordy, nerdy songs, her weird guitar-playing, her rockin' band and her lovable-munter persona, they all just came together. And although she could easily have filled a bigger venue, it kind of felt fitting that her first foray in New Zealand was to a jam-packed King's Arms.

There are echoes of the Hoodoo Gurus, the Saints and various other elements of Australian rock 'n' roll heritage in her music, but it's way more than a pastiche of its influences. I look forward to her forthcoming album and to her return her next year. Laneway, anyone?

Cheese on Toast has the pictures.


Out this week, an amazing video by Markus Hofko for Suren Unka's 'Flee'. It's probably worth knowing that the actor in the video, Howard Cyster, is also a stuntman. This is an inspired interpretation of the track:

I think this video is going to be a tipping point for this young guy. Expect to see him go fully international in the next year. The track itself is from this year's album El Chupacabra, which you can by here on Bandcamp.


If you haven't heard Moana Maniapoto's music lately, you may be surprised by where she's taken it with her new album Rima. Paddy Free, who is half of Pitch Black, is now a member of the Moana and the Tribe band and has produced the new album. It's waiata Maori meeting electronic dub and it's way deep. The album is out next Friday, but here's the first single. It's a political song:

I have two double passes for Moana's album launch show at Galatos on Sunday, September 28 to give away. Just click the reply button at the bottom of this post to get in on the draw.


On Audioculture this week, Roger King recalls The Record Warehouse, from the golden days of Auckland record shops.

And Barney McDonald revisits the days of dilated pupils in an account of the heyday of Calibre.

Oh, and just a heads up: there's a new production of Jesus Christ Superstar coming -- and Julia Deans has the part of Mary Magdalene. That's really very cool.


Just some tracks. By rights, a techno-house remix of James Brown's 'Sex Machine' should be an abomination. But this had my darling and I chair-dancing this morning. It's amiably silly and a free download via Facebook:

Another house track for download, this time from Karim:

In a wholly different vein, three voices and strings from Wellington folk trio Ida Lune on TheAudience:

And finally, one I've burgled from the discussion of Grant McDougall's excellent tribute to the late Peter Gutteridge. Earlier this year, Peter shambled up on stage to join The Clean at Chick's Hotel for a song or two, including this one that he co-wrote for The Clean way back when. The riff is his and I don't think there are many, if any, songs that mean more to me than this:

Anyway, I'm kind of knackered and I'll be working on a post-election wrap-up for the TV show on Sunday, so I'm award myself the rest of the day off. But I'll be going to a couple of election-night parties and I thought it might be fun if you guys wanted to pitch in with a few election-night party tunes.

Downloads are cool, but so are YouTube clips. Remember that in our comments section all you need to do is paste in the URL and your clip will automagically embed. Chur.


The Hard News Music Post is sponsored by:



A call from Curia

The phone rang last night and when I picked it up, a young woman said "Hi, is Russell there please?" It turned out that we didn't know each other. She was working the phones for Curia Research, the National Party's polling company, which is owned by David Farrar. She didn't say who the client was, but I wouldn't expect her to.

Curia's work for National -- like UMR's work for Labour -- is internal polling and as such its style and content is different from that of public polling by firms like Colmar Brunton and Reid Research. The latter are looking for discrete, publishable results, while party pollsters are seeking not just to determine a party's position with voters, but what to say to voters. The call had elements of the dreaded brand perception surveys, but was shorter and far less annoying than most of those.

I was asked first how likely I was to vote (I wasn't given a list of options, and the caller wrote down "certain" when I said that); where I'd direct my party vote; how likely I was to change my mind on my party vote; where my vote would go if it did change; who I thought would win the election; who I voted for last time.

Then it was into issues: did I think the country was "generally going" in the right or wrong direction and the "most important issue" to me, before were got into brand perceptions and I was asked to rate, from 1 to 5, and in this order, Russel Norman, Winston Peters, John Key, Bill English and David Cunliffe. Curia's practice here is flexible: I was able to award half-points.

Then we moved on to a Key vs Cunliffe head-to-head: Who would make the better Prime Minister?

And then this series of questions:

• Is it more important for political leaders in NZ to be "strong and decisive" or "in touch and listening"?

• Which political party has the best approach to that description?

• Which party believes in doing what's right for New Zealand?

• Is best to manage New Zealand's economy?

• Is best to make improvements to the health system?

• Will help families?

• Is providing strong and decisive leadership?

• Is in touch with the majority?

• Is able to keep mortgage interest rates low?

• Is able to keep prices and the cost of living down?

• Is best able to manage the welfare system

• Will crack down on crime?

• Will make sure that the tax system is fair?

• Are basically honest and trustworthy?

• Has the best approach on climate change?

• Is able to support jobs and keep unemployment low?

• Knows the pressures that households are under?

• Has the best team behind the leader?

• Has the best approach to foreign investment in New Zealand?

• Has the best overall position on asset sales and ownership?

• Has views closest to yours on the issue of immigration?

By their nature, these questions aren't really geared towards firmly decided voters, if only because they tend to push the respondent towards the choice they've already made. I kept wanting to discuss each question, which of course isn't what the poll is there for.

After three demographic questions (dependent children under 18; employment status, self-employed, full-time, part-time; and "which ethnicity you most identify with") we were done and I was asked whether I was prepared to be called next week for a post-election follow-up, which I guess might not come now.

I should emphasise that my caller was polite and patient and of course had no idea that I might record and report her questions. I'd be interested to know how they associated my name and my (VOIP) landline number but apart from that, that was my call from Curia.


Time to Vote

I haven't voted yet. As intriguing as the electorate's unprecedented embrace of advance voting is, I like the idea of going out and casting my vote on the day. For the first time, we'll vote as a whole family, and it's been rewarding watching both our sons consider their decisions.

This has, to state the obvious, been a strange, exciting and occasionally alarming election campaign. From a journalistic point of view it's been great fun. Since I published the first, short blog post about Nicky Hager's Dirty Politics on August 13 (and functionally, that's where the campaign we've been experiencing began), Public Address has served well over half a million pages, and most of that is down to you good folk and your conversations.

Twitter has been mad, funny and frequently fractious. I've picked up more than 2000 followers during the campaign and I almost don't want to know how many tweets I've dispatched. But I'd like to particularly note the working journalists who are there, and who have provided timely reports and observations from the campaign, often scooping themselves in doing so. Felix Marwick, Jessica Williams, Laura McQuillan, Andrea Vance and many others: thanks.

I know that most of them have found some of their engagement with the public wearying. You'd tire of being rudely instructed about your wicked corporate media ways, and presented with banal conspiracy theories about why your stories are a certain way. (Example: People who should know better muttering that the Herald's innumerate 'Backfire' story this morning is something more sinister than a clumsy attempt at a news angle.) Twitter would be more impoverished without them being there than their partisan critics understand.

And we will need journalists to persist with the stories that have dominated this campaign and should not end when the campaign does: the rot underlying the Dirty Politics revelations; the unresolved questions and equivocations around the security state and, this morning from the redoubtable David Fisher, the systematic supression of the OIA process in a way that, I think, amounts to official corruption. As the Ombudsman -- the Ombudsman! -- tells David Fisher, if we can't restore and maintain trust in the system, "We may as well kiss democracy goodbye."

So I don't hold to the view that the big, sensational stories have come at the expense of the important things. Because these are crucially important things. And I hope that once the partisan fervour of the election campaign subsides, we can begin to address them with some degree of common purpose. There is a sense that this democracy needs to clean house.

Moreover, the public square hasn't been quiet. The three "leaders debates" between John Key and David Cunliffe have largely been arid, unfulfilling exercises in scoring points -- but much more so than in 2011, it seems to me that there have been more lively candidate meetings, more public debates and, it must be said, an unprecedented quality of billboard defacement. For all the scorn lately tipped on Internet-Mana, its campaign roadshow meetings were a phenomenon. It's not easy to go out in public and do these things: please do read Laura O'Connell Rapira's guest post on running the RockEnrol youth voter drive.

We need to make it easier for people like Laura, and we need to explore ways of helping those meetings and debates reach more people -- to make the room bigger, by making streaming easier and more accessible, or commandeering Parliament TV, which has broadcasting a holding page since Parliament dissolved. Perhaps that would help us keep up this level of engagement between elections. It would be good for democracy to do that.

I'd appreciate if the discussion for this post was not rancorous -- and, of course, please don't upset the Electoral Commission tomorrow by appearing to persuade any other reader to vote in a particular way. But apart from that, rock on everyone. See you at the polls.


Interview: Glenn Greenwald

I was offered an interview with Glenn Greenwald yesterday in the wake of his appearance at the Moment of Truth event. What follows is the transcript of that interview. It covers both the specifics of what he reported at the event and more general questions about state intelligence agencies and the practice of doing the kind of journalism he does.

Why do you think the GCSB needed the law change to do its own surveillance when it had the potential deniability of letting the NSA do the job?

I think there are definitely advantages from the signals intelligence perspective of being able to tap directly into the principal cable through which all New Zealanders' communications transit with the rest of the world and to be able to collect it in a much more efficient manner.

I think there was pressure placed on the GCSB by the NSA to engage in that kind of mass metadata collection, as part of its obligation to the Five Eyes programme. So there's been mass surveillance of New Zealanders, but that would have been a much more potent and effective way to do it.

It has already been revealed that the NSA has funded GCHQ facilities in Britain. Do you think the same is true here?

We're definitely working on reporting about the money that changes hands between GCSB and NSA. I think the reporting will reveal that it goes both ways. The GCSB purchases rather expensive equipment and other capabilities from the NSA and the NSA also funds various activities here in New Zealand.

The Prime Minister has given a less-than-unequivocal denial today when asked if the NSA has staff working here. Do you think it's true?

Mr Snowden was unequivocal about that fact The X-Keyscore map we published last year with The Guardian clearly indicates that there's a major collection site here in New Zealand. The statements from the Prime Minister, as you indicated, are far from emphatic in denying that that was the case and I think it would be shocking if suddenly out of nowhere, after a year and a half of very reliable and credible statements, Mr Snowden made claims that just turned out to be false. So I think the evidence is pretty compelling.

What did you make of the documents that John Key released yesterday to pre-empt your report? Was he deliberately confusing Cortex with Speargun?

Yes. This is clearly the strategy of the Prime Minister at this point, which is to take what is always a complicated issue -- electronic surveillance -- and make it so difficult and so confusing to the public that they just throw up their hands and dismiss it all as bickering that they can't resolve, and move on to other issues.

And it's really the media's job to point out exactly what is being done and not being done. He made definitive commitments since the weekend that he would release documents, declassify material, showing that he looked at this proposal and then intervened and stopped it before it was implemented, in order to negate the claims that I was making. These documents do nothing of the kind.

There is nothing about the Prime Minister intervening and stopping the programme, and the programme that these documents are describing, which is Cortex, is radically different than the NSA documents that we published that are described in the NSA materials. They're not even really related.

In that light, what should journalists here be asking about? What documents should they be seeking?

To me, these are the two most important questions that if I could sit John Key down in a room I would be asking him. Number one is: even if you believe what he says, which was that this was simply a proposal and not anything that ended up being implemented, at the time that it was being proposed -- and he said it was built over many months, it was developed as a detailed policy -- mass surveillance aimed at New Zealanders, of the kind described in the NSA documents, would have been illegal. Against the law. Why was his agency, the agency over which he exercises supervision, planning a policy of mass surveillance that under New Zealand law was completely illegal?

And the second thing that I think is really important to ask is that in order to get New Zealanders to agree to pass that new internet spying law that he was so intent on having enacted last year, he repeatedly insisted that this law did not really provide any additional surveillance authority, that it would not have allowed mass metadata collection.

And yet the documents between the GCSB and the NSA are completely clear that the GCSB was telling the NSA that they had to await enactment of that law before they could complete this programme. Meaning they understood that the law would vest them with exactly the power that Prime Minister Key vehemently told the public the law would not vest. How can he possibly reconcile what they were telling the NSA about this law and what they were telling the public about it?

You referred last night to potentially working with New Zealand journalists. Does that mean Nicky Hager?

I've spoken with several New Zealand journalists about working in different capacities to do further reporting on the GCSB.

Do you have further documents relevant to our situation? Especially documents that aren't slides?

There are definitely a lot more documents to do reporting on with respect to the GCSB, including ones that I think are significant. I discussed what some of those were, including the list of countries on which the GCSB spies, either on its own initiative or at the behest of the NSA.

There are definitely, as I indicated, documents about the money that changes hands between the two agencies and for what purposes. And there are other documents as well that I think are going to be important.

This story has taken months. The early reporting of the Snowden documents was done very, very quickly -- do you regret that at all?

Different stories take different amounts of time to report because of the complexity involved. The very first story that we reported was a stand-alone top-secret court order compelling a leading American telco to turn over all metadata to the NSA every single day. That was a relatively easy story to report, because the court order was so clear about what it was. Other stories just take more time, because they're more complicated, because they take more investigation, you have to piece the pieces together. And I wanted to make really sure that if I came to New Zealand and did reporting on the GCSB and made claims about misleading statements by the Prime Minister, that my journalism was unimpeachable. And that just takes time.

So where do you think the story goes from here?

You know, there's been a lot of speculation about the impact on the election and I never in a million years thought that this reporting would sway the election. I never gave that any thought at all. I wanted to make sure that New Zealanders had this information to go to the polls, because I would have felt like I'd failed in my obligation, but that wasn't at all my goal.

Because I knew that this was a longer-term story, that putting this information into the public would force the Key government to answer a whole variety of important questions that up until now they haven't really been asked.

That it would give the New Zealand media all kinds of information to work with -- because the New Zealand media has been pretty interested in surveillance questions for at least 12 to 18 months, and I knew that it would stimulate debate, probably lead to investigations and make New Zealanders much more aware and much more cautious about what the GCSB is doing and the extent to which they're being told the truth. So I think it's going to lead to more public debate, more media inquiry and, I hope, more formal investigation.

And apart from anything else, it's not as if these activities have only taken place under governments of the right.

That's a really important point. The GCSB is a long-standing agency, it's a lot like the NSA. The NSA has grown more or less steadily regardless of whether there's a Democratic or Republican administration, and of course currently in the United States there is a Democratic President who is perceived as more on the left than the right, and yet the NSA has grown dramatically over the last six years. These agencies really do exist outside the democratic process. They are in a sense their own autonomous beasts and election outcomes really don't determine the extent to which they continue to grow, unfortunately. That's part of the problem.

So what drives that growth?

I think that one of the things that has happened is that military structures in general have insulated themselves from the political process. And the kinds of claims that are made to justify their growth, whether putting people in fear of terrorism or other kinds of threats, are very powerful tools. No politician wants to be seen as making the country less safe, or to be vulnerable to claims that they stood in the way of the security of citizens. And these agencies are very good at manipulating public discourse to make sure that they're continually fed greater authority and greater budgetary support -- and just generally allowed to operate without much interference from political officials.

There is a document that we published maybe four or five months ago. It was an interview that was done internally at the NSA with the official in charge of foreign partnerships. And they asked him, why is it that for example in Europe, where you have wildly disparate swings in the election outcomes, from the right to the left, it doesn't really affect the partnerships that we have with these countries' intelligence agencies?

And he said, that's because virtually nobody in the political process, anyone outside of the military structure, even knows these partnerships exist.

You had the Green Party leader here in New Zealand say in an interview that I watched that he was on the committee that oversees the GCSB and yet he learned far more about what the agency does by reading our stories than he did in briefings. They really have insulated themselves from the political process and have a lot of tools to ensure that they continue to grow and their power is never questioned.

Moving on to Edward Snowden, What does the future hold for him? Do you think there's a prospect of him being able to leave Russia?

I hope so. Even if he got to the point where he were able to leave legally because another country offered him some kind of protection, there would still be the question of whether it was really safe for him to do so. Probably Russia is one of the safest places for him to be, just physically. He does have asylum or residency rights for another three years, so for the foreseeable future my guess is he'll be there. It's not ideal. He didn't choose that country, he was forced to remain there by the United States government. But as we saw last night, he's able to very constructively participate in the debate that he helped to trigger about surveillance and that's a very important thing.

What about your own safety? What are the implications of working in a situation where I guess you assume that you are being surveilled?

Definitely. I have pretty compelling, conclusive evidence that I have been surveilled. My partner is in litigation with the UK government, claiming that his detention at Heathrow airport under their terrorism law was illegal. And in the course of that litigation, British authorities filed documents saying why they chose to detain him -- and in doing so they cited a whole variety of communications that he had, that I had, that The Guardian had, that others with whom we worked had, making it clear that we were surveilled and monitored.

There was almost a full year when we were being told privately and public by the US government that if we went back to the US we might be arrested because of the journalism that we were doing. But there are journalists all around the world who face all kinds of risks in this sphere, and much, much worse. I feel relatively protected at this point by the visibility of the story.

Obviously this kind of work in general requires a free and robust press, and this is a difficult time for the news media. You've found a way through, via the patronage of Pierre Omidyar. Is that a model? How do we get through?

I think it is a model. I don't think it is at all the model. There are big benefits to having one person with lots of resources fund you -- you don’t have to answer to lots of people or worry about financial imperatives and making profits. You can just focus on serious, sustained journalism and know that you're being supported. But the important point is find somebody who is genuinely committed to not interfering in the journalism that you're doing. And that's not easy to find.

There are other models, such as tapping into the voluntary support of readers, who are hungry for the kind of journalism they think is valuable. I do think that there is always a place and will always be a financial model that will sustain the kind of journalism that people are really eager to have.

A final question: you dissociated yourself from Kim Dotcom's Warner email at the press conference last night. Did you go so far as to veto it being presented on the night?

No, I wouldn't say I vetoed it. I didn't really have the power to veto what he wanted to do or say. But we did talk about the fact that in the scheme of what we might talk about, that the time would probably be used a lot more constructively to focus on the questions of mass surveillance and the truthfulness of the Prime Minister, and the trade agreement that Mr Amsterdam spent quite some time talking about, as opposed to the particulars of Mr Dotcom's case. That it would probably be a better use of the time of the event. I think we came to a consensus about it and I felt very comfortable with that.