Speaker by Various Artists


An Orwellian Alice in Wonderland

by Rob Salmond

This week John Key attempted to engineer a farce in our parliament, to obscure his own weakness in standing up to Australia’s new, shabby deportation policy.

Aided – whether deliberately or not – by a confusing and inconsistent set of rulings from Speaker David Carter, the result is that New Zealand is yet again an international laughing stock. I can hear John Oliver warming up right now …

The part that will disappoint Key the most is that his dead cat gambit didn’t entirely work.

The gambit works if people both start talking about your outrageous remark, and also stop talking about the issue that forced you to throw the dead cat in the first place.

Certainly people talked about Key’s offensive remark, as they should. People who say offensive, derogatory things should be called out on it.

But Key didn’t achieve his second goal. From revelations that Key was wrong about what kind of offenders on Christmas Island, to the breaking of ranks by the Maori Party and Peter Dunne, people are still talking about Christmas Island, its New Zealand detainees, and Australia’s cruel new policy.

People are also still talking about Key’s weakness in criticising Australia’s policy, and his inability to get it changed. That’s actually quite a big risk for Key – among international leaders, he looks like the guy people are happy to hang out with, but not listen to.

Did Key’s friendship with Stephen Harper get us a TPPA concession on dairy? Nope. And now his friendship with Malcolm Turnbull seems to have got us nothing regarding these detainees.

Not only did the gambit fail to distract people, it came with collateral damage to National, too.

One of the issues with the dead cat strategy, and a reason Crosby almost certainly preaches caution before deploying it, it that it makes quite a mess. Key’s made two messes this week.

The first mess is Key’s status with middle-class women, many of whom swapped from voting for Helen Clark to supporting him, and are central to his ongoing success. Many women, all too often due to previous personal trauma, also react vehemently to any suggestion that rape is being used as plaything in a Parliamentary parlour game, or that their position on Australia’s policy has anything at all to do with their support for rapists. As Rob Hosking (paywall) has pointed out, that damage will take some effort to undo.

The second mess that Key and Carter face is having to explain their many contradictory or illogical comments. Toby Manhire has a starting selection.

We can analyse the logic or illogic of Key’s and Carter’s statements all we like, and it is a fun sport, but the point of the exercise from National’s perspective wasn’t to be logical, but to be distracting.

National’s goal was to stage an Orwellian Alice in Wonderland, right in the middle of our parliament.

Certainly they failed to be logical, and certainly they failed to effectively stand up for the interests of New Zealanders – here at home and on the Island. But they also failed to distract New Zealand from those important issues around justice and community safety. That’s why they failed.

Will this be kept alive when parliament resumes next week? My guess would be no, because John Key’s not in Wellington next week. The next time Key faces the House is 1 December, by which time we’ll have probably moved to other matters.

The one caveat to that comes from the UK. A 51-year old British citizen, who moved to Australia 50 years ago, is being deported back to Britain under the new rules. His crime involves a scrub fire.

It will be very interesting to see whether David Cameron displays the same weakness in accepting this policy. For Britain, this new policy is history in reverse, and I expect they won’t take kindly to it. If Britain applies pressure, it would place new, embarrassing acid on John Key to explain his lack of a backbone.


My Story

by "Claudia"

The word rape hits me like a punch to the stomach every time. Every time I hear it, I am back there, in that room, pinned against that wall.

I am a victim, I guess, or a survivor. I avoid those words myself, because they don’t really speak to who I am, to who I need to be every day to get myself out of the house and into the world.

I can go for days, or weeks, at a time without thinking about the men who assaulted me. I can live my life and not think about the spectre at my shoulder, the one that asks “what if …” and “are you safe here” and “can you trust him” and “is this going to hurt?”

And then someone uses the word rape, and I remember that for years I refused to use that word, preferring to say “sexual assault,” because rape was something that happened to someone else. Someone stupider than me, who didn’t take the right precautions. Who couldn’t or didn’t or wouldn’t stand up for themselves, because who would let that happen?

No one. No one would let that happen, and that’s kind of the point. One day, I looked up what rape meant, to win an argument on the internet. And I realised I wasn’t a victim of sexual violence. I was a rape survivor.

The Prime Minister would have us believe that he wants to protect New Zealanders. Where was he when I was being assaulted? When his government was shutting down rape crisis centres, both here and the ones overseas that relied on New Zealand funding? Where was he for the victims of the Roastbusters? Where was he when the powerful men in Parliament grinned, as successive women tried to tell their story?

How powerful a moment that could have been. For those of us - one in three women, one in six men; however you define that statistic, too many people - to hear our stories in Parliament. To hear those brave, strong, women say “as the victim of sexual violence” and be allowed to finish that sentence.

As the victim of sexual violence, I am fucking appalled that the Prime Minister is using my safety as a political gambit. That he can throw around the words “rapists and murderers” so easily - because those words don’t hurt him. They don’t make him think about the worst moments of his life. They don’t make him feel the need to curl into a ball and wait until the world has gone away. And that even while he wasn’t forced to apologise, he didn’t stand up and say “you know what? I am sorry.”

Being assaulted has coloured every part of my life. It makes everything I do that much harder. It makes my job worse. It distances me from the people I love. It makes special moments less, and bad moments harder.

And yet the only thing I feel for the men who hurt me is pity. I don’t want to see them, or have to think about their existence, but I don’t wish them pain. And I don’t want them used as political tools either. As bogeymen for the government to hide its intolerance and impotence behind. If there are rapists on Christmas Island (and the news this morning would suggest there are not) I hope they've served their time and been allowed some rehabilitation.

I can't avoid the word rape, its dull thud. I can't avoid the smell of lavender, men of a certain physical bearing, the scar on my arm.

I want to believe in trigger warnings, because I want to believe there’s something people can do to make me feel safer in a world that has proven, twice, that I am not safe.

This week, the highest body in New Zealand has proven to me that that wish is pointless. That I can’t be safe. Because the people who are meant to protect me care more about scoring political points than they do about the people who need them.


Cold, calculated and cynical

by Rob Salmond

John Key’s strategic supremo is Lynton Crosby, from the Australian firm Crosby/Textor. Crosby has a trick in his bag called the “dead cat strategy.” Here’s Boris Johnson, one of Crosby’s British clients, describing it in 2013:

If you’re losing an argument, if you’re in a weak position, throw a dead cat on the table, the London mayor wrote.

“Everyone will shout ‘Jeez, mate, there’s a dead cat on the table!’; in other words they will be talking about the dead cat, the thing you want them to talk about, and they will not be talking about the issue that has been causing you so much grief.”

Today, John Key threw a dead cat into the middle of New Zealand’s Parliament.

John Key knew he was in a weak position today for two reasons. First, his deliberate inaction in the face of disgraceful treatment of expat New Zealanders by Australia is a dereliction of his duty, as his many advisers will be telling him.

Second, his Labour opponents have just completed an annual conference that far outshone expectations, capped by a rousing address from Andrew Little, buoying professionals and activists alike across the New Zealand left.

So Key decided to get rid of all those long-term negative headlines by gifting the media a short-term negative headline instead. That’s the strategic thinking behind Key’s disgraceful performance in Parliament today, when he said any politician looking for humane treatment for detainees on Christmas Island was “backing the rapists” and “putting yourself on the side of sex offenders.” Here’s the video:

Make no mistake – this was no passionate outburst. It was a coldly calculated tactic, cynically designed to remove stories about Key’s inaction and Labour’s conference from the media.

The dead cat got even more prominence because the Speaker of the House, National’s David Carter, inexplicably ruled that it is perfectly fine within Parliament’s rules to accuse MPs of “backing rapists” or “putting yourself on the side of sex offenders.”

Bear in mind that Parliament’s rules are so tight that calling someone a liar or a hypocrite are automatically ruled out of order, and you can’t even refer to an MP being absent from the House chamber.

Some might wonder whether the Prime Minister and the strictly impartial Speaker of the House from his own party might have conspired to make the dead cat as big and hairy as possible, so nobody would talk about anything else.

I, of course, couldn’t possibly speculate on that.

Right on cue, everyone who follows in politics exclaimed: “Jeez, mate, there’s a dead cat accusation of backing rapists on the table!” and stopped talking about anything else.

I can’t fault anyone for doing that – because that accusation really did sit there on the table, with the Speaker pointedly refusing to clear it off.

But it’s important we all understand where the accusation came from.

It’s not that Key is necessarily ashamed of his inaction on Christmas Island – in fact, I think he’s proud of it. It’s that Key understands full well he’s got a weak argument - telling people locked in a detention centre that’s on fire that they’re “free to go” and “there voluntarily” just doesn’t pass the smell test.

Key doesn’t win just because we all looked at his dead cat. But he does win if we wake up tomorrow having forgotten about the important issues that lead him to throw the dead cat in the first place. We, all of us, cannot allow that.


The real balance sheet

by Tim McKinnel

In 2009, when the first tentative steps were being taken in the Teina Pora appeal, I was a relative media virgin. My investigative career had taught me to be wary of news media and journalists. I’d been told they were scoundrels who’d stop at nothing to trick a headline out of the naive and witless, and there is every chance I was both of those things.

Six years later, following the quashing of Teina’s convictions for rape and murder, I hold quite a different view, not only of the journalists we dealt with, but of the role investigative journalism plays, and ought to play, in a healthy democracy.

An investigator deals in facts and evidence. No matter the audience or medium, you look for the truth. It is difficult, meticulous, repetitive and sometimes thankless work, and it is definitely not lucrative. But that doesn’t mean it’s without value. On the contrary, the real value of investigative work is rarely captured in an invoice, balance sheet or even ratings.

By 2011, Jonathan Krebs and I had gathered enough new evidence in Teina Pora’s case to be confident we could mount a robust appeal on his behalf, but we were started hitting state-imposed road blocks. We were also uncovering uncomfortable facts, that were undoubtedly in the public interest but not necessarily helpful in advancing Teina’s rather narrow criminal appeal.

We tentatively engaged with a small number of journalists who had enough knowledge about the case to demonstrate they weren’t looking for a one hit headline. They wanted the whole story. We were fortunate that three of those journalists were Paula Penfold, Phil Taylor and Eugene Bingham.

In the following years, all three presented the facts of Teina’s case to the New Zealand public, in a way that it desperately needed to be.  Teina, a poor brown kid from South Auckland, a convicted rapist and murderer, a gang associate with a criminal history, was not an immediately sympathetic character. Teina’s story would have been a tough sell to editors – but those journalists backed themselves and backed the facts.

It is hard to overstate the vital role their investigative journalism played in advancing Teina’s case.  Witnesses came forward and spoke to the appeal team and to police as a result of their work and new evidence emerged and was developed by both sides of the appeal.

Just as importantly, for Teina and our team, there were less tangible products of their reporting. After stories went to print or air, we’d receive emails of support, including from police officers, encouraging us to keep going. We could feel the momentum building as the public began to understand what had happened to Teina, and to Susan Burdett.

When I heard that Mediaworks CEO Mark Weldon was looking to cancel 3D for 2016, I felt angry, then sad, then angry and sad.

I was angry because it was another slap in the face from an organisation that I believe has a responsibility to provide New Zealanders with serious journalism. Sad, because I know how hard those who make 3D work (if Paula, Eugene and Toby Longbottom are anything to go by), and how much they care about their work and the people whose stories they tell.

And both angry and sad because Mr Weldon and his senior management team are treating the New Zealand public like fools. He thinks he can dispense with Campbell Live and 3D and reduce TV3 to a light entertainment channel – and we’ll keep watching. I won’t keep watching TV3, or Radio Live, or any other Mediaworks brand, until I am convinced that serious journalism has a place at TV3.

Aside from the asinine PR game Mr Weldon and his team attempted to play in announcing the “review” in the midst of the World Cup euphoria, it is apparent that Mediaworks has become the type of company where the balance sheets are everything. Ironically, their axeing of Campbell Live for commercial reasons looks to be as disastrous for them commercially as it is for their reputation as a credible media outlet.

I believe that as a large broadcaster, TV3 has a corporate social responsibility to deliver us quality journalism. Without 3D and its predecessor Third Degree, Teina Pora would not be where he is today, and so I watch with desperation as the Mediaworks team proposes cancelling their last investigative journalism program.

Over four years those programmes posed important questions about the Malcolm Rewa serial rape investigation, about the police treatment of some of Rewa’s rape victims, the apparent disappearance of important documents from police files, and many more important questions that were never going to be part of Teina’s appeal to the Privy Council but needed to be asked. There are still more questions to be asked, but it seems 3D will not be around to ask them.

I suspect Mr Weldon will tell us, if he has the courage to  front, that the media landscape is changing, 3D was expensive, out of date, not snackable, ratings were low (not surprisingly given the constant shifting of its timeslot), and that the program did not provide the value Mediawork’s owners require. That’s all bullshit. The value of 3D, of any investigative journalism, can’t be measured by ratings. In Teina’s case, those journalists were the critical difference between New Zealanders understanding justice and injustice.

My work with Paula, Phil and Eugene taught me that when you do investigative work it doesn’t matter who your audience is – criminal courts, tribunals, or the wider public. The real balance sheet measures evidence, facts and ultimately the truth.

Tim McKinnel is a director of the private investigation company Zavest and was previously a detective in the New Zealand Police.


Out of the Mist: An Alternate History of New Zealand Film

by Tim Wong

The Lumière Reader presents its third "essay film", Out of the Mist: An Alternate History of New Zealand Film free online from today. Directed by Lumière editor Tim Wong, narrated by Eleanor Catton and funded by NZ On Air, it stretches from the pre-history of New Zealand film through to films as recent as What We Do in the Shadows.

The film is embedded for viewing below. Tim Wong has also written the following introduction for Public Address readers:


Since its premiere at the New Zealand International Film Festival in July, Out of the Mist has been largely discussed in terms of its advocacy for New Zealand films and filmmakers forgotten or ignored. That’s certainly the original impetus behind its creation, and while I’ve only been able to scratch the surface of our film heritage, it’s been a pleasure rescuing a personal masterpiece like George Rose’s Time is a Spider – virtually unseen since the late 90s – or championing a truly great New Zealand film like Alison Maclean’s Crush, which to me has always (unfairly) existed on the periphery of the popular canon.

On the other hand, what has been rightly acknowledged by some critics – but not necessarily vocalised by audiences who saw the film the first time around – is the implicit challenge Out of the Mist presents to established ways of imagining, producing, and critiquing movies made in and about this country.

With the online release, this perspective will hopefully come into sharp relief – or will at least allow the film’s ideas to be more closely scrutinised and debated. As a first-time filmmaker, I’m acutely aware of the flaws that will likely come out in the wash through this extra exposure.

But I’m also curious to see how the many open questions the film puts forward – in lieu of well-argued statements, which are straightforward to make on ‘paper’ yet more complicated when adapted for the screen – are extrapolated in relation to the film industry, wider creative community, and issues of national and artistic identity, such as the unresolved flag referendum.

Writing and directing this film has also given me a greater empathy for the artist and the creative process. Because making a film is hard (not to mention expensive), and it’s even harder for those prepared to go against the grain. Whatever the outcome, those artists are to be admired and ought to be supported. I for one couldn’t have made this film without NZ On Air, whose backing of innovative digital content deserves praise.

One final note: Out of the Mist is a “found footage” production with extensive use of film excerpts, some of which have been cleared under the Fair Dealing copyright exemption of the law. As I’m unaware of other local filmmakers and content creators working exclusively within the same space, this film has been developed as something of a test case. Provided I’ve dotted my I’s and crossed my T’s, it will be the first in a series of film essays about cinema and other art forms.

OUT OF THE MIST: An Alternate History of New Zealand Cinema from The Lumière Reader on Vimeo.