Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Maxim-ising the vote

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  • Don Christie,

    Keeping out of the political debate can I just make one comment on the article.

    Business Roundtable, a pro-business pressure group.

    As a businessman and part owner and director of a medium sized operation let me assure you that I have never considered the BRT to be "pro-business". In New Zealand terms they could be considered quite the opposite. The use of "Business" in their title is slightly oxymoronic.

    More accurate would be "Large Monopolistic Corporate Roundtable" with a sub-heading of "because screwing SME businesses in NZ is such a good thing".

    As an example look at this ridiculous piece by Kerr in yesterday's DomPost. He is arguing that monopolies are ok unless they are Government monopolies. I am not quite sure where to start, but I can at least tell Mr. Kerr that one type of monopoly is concerned with outcomes to citizens, the other with making super-normal profits. Working for both types as I do I can safely say that big organisations are, well, big and have very similar problems of resource waste and management capacity. At least Government departments have Rodney Hide to run scared of, corporates have very little to worry about unless things go very horribly wrong. You decide which monopoly (if we are going to have them) is going to be better for the rest of us. As I say, the big losers in the corporatist paradise are your local SMEs.

    This has got to be one of the most confused bits of economic logic I have ever read but it illustrates very nicely just who the BRT is interested in supporting. It ain't me and in fact with the sort of shenanigans they have been indulging in over the last few years you wonder just how much harm they are doing in the public's mind to the reputation of the NZ business community.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1615 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    Okay, no more waterfront stadium - so everyone can stop pretending there isn't a major problem with the Eden Park plan: it's nearly a quarter of a billion dollars shy of being paid for

    As opposed to the waterfront stadium where nobody had a clue how far shy it was of being paid for and the MO boiled down to 'trust us, and we'll sort out the budget later'? Sorry, Russell, but let's leave the badly repressed petulence to Trevor Mallard.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 11900 posts Report Reply

  • David Slack,

    it's nearly a quarter of a billion dollars shy of being paid for

    <quiet voice>how much to do the temporary seating and bill a decent chunk of it to the promoters?</quiet voice>

    Devonport • Since Nov 2006 • 599 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Semmens,

    "...A feature of the wider story in The Hollow Men is the way the same characters turn up over and again, often in different guises and almost invariably not being honest about their motives or their funding..."

    People have a right to their opinion, and a right to express it. The fundamental difference in the current political environment though is the left(ish) is unfront and honest about where its coming from and who is paying the bills. The (hard) right seems not to have the same strength of its convictions and instead tries to manipulate opinion in basically dishonest ways. The fact that they get away with it is to the lasting shame of our media, after all Bruce Jesson showed basically the same group doing basically the same things 15-20 years ago.

    Michael Bassett has an article in todays Herald, I spy. I didn't bother to read it. The man's been exposed as a duplicitous liar. One more right wing Bolshevik exposed to the daylight

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1791 posts Report Reply

  • Don Christie,

    David Slack - my thoughts exactly. And as for the ARC, what a bunch of mealie mouth wallies. Time to front up with some solid cash to support their "unanimous" decision. Otherwise, it looks like they just want to conveniently dump on everyone else.

    How did they get to be unanimous, by the way, was there really not one supporter on the council of the Waterfront? If not, just how representative of Auckland are they?

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1615 posts Report Reply

  • Nick Bryant,

    I think clearly (though I haven't heard the whole interview - just the soundbite - so I don't know how "tetchy" it was) that Plunket was just cramming too many words into the sign-off.

    "Unfortunately," as I heard it, referred to Key not being prepared to discuss what he'd be saying to Brash on Morning Report, which, as a journalist, Plunket would have loved to have extracted from him. I certainly didn't get the sense Plunket was saying it was unfortunate that Key was the leader.

    But who knows, perhaps it was a Freudian slip? Perhaps Sean's been doing Bill English's media training? (Being facetious). Certainly Sean and Bill had a very agreeable interview later in the programme.

    And perhaps RB knows this too and his currently having a laugh at my expense for having taken the time to explain it? If so, I'm only too happy to have fallen for it.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    As opposed to the waterfront stadium where nobody had a clue how far shy it was of being paid for and the MO boiled down to 'trust us, and we'll sort out the budget later'? Sorry, Russell, but let's leave the badly repressed petulence to Trevor Mallard.

    Aw, c'mon Craig. It wasn't petulant, it was salient. There was endless reporting of the holes in the waterfront proposal and very little about the problem with Eden Park.

    While the waterfront was very likely to run over budget, there was a clear government funding commitment to a public asset. Extending the same commitment to Eden Park raises the fairly significant issue that it's not a public asset: it's owned by a private trust.

    I'd go for David's temporary seating fix, but I get the impression that a good part of the additional cost in the latest Eden Park plan was stuff chucked in to mollify the local residents. It's pretty messy.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18807 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    And perhaps RB knows this too and his currently having a laugh at my expense for having taken the time to explain it? If so, I'm only too happy to have fallen for it.

    No, I was genuinely puzzled. Perhaps you're right, but it sounded bloody odd.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18807 posts Report Reply

  • John Francis Logan,

    Now that the Waterfront option is out of the way the drawbacks with Eden Park are becoming obvious. Spare a thought for the poor buggers who live nearby -- the enormity of the building (did someone mention 15 storeys?), the shading (and depreciation) of properties, parking, noise, vomiting louts, et al. The smart move would be the North Harbour Stadium. The vast sums that Mallard had ready to waste on the Waterfront could go to help fund a rapid transit system to North harbour -- say a monorail, with a bridge clip-on on the clip-on? Solving all sorts of other transport probs at the same time?

    Katikati • Since Nov 2006 • 10 posts Report Reply

  • Juha Saarinen,

    Yebbutnobbutitsays:

    The focus now is on paying for the $385 million Eden Park upgrade, particularly after Mr Mallard did a u-turn on introducing bed and departure taxes to take the load off Auckland ratepayers, who are already facing big rates rises.

    Is that $385 million a firm, blowout-proof figure? Could someone get Burqa Bob on the blower for a realistic estimate?

    Since Nov 2006 • 523 posts Report Reply

  • Nick Bryant,

    Agree, it sounded odd but listening to it again I do think that's what Sean meant.

    On Hager - and in offering the letter below I'm not saying his book isn't illuminating in a number of regards - I rather liked the summing up of his modis operandi penned by my dear old Dad last week (which ran in the Dom Post).


    Dear Sir

    In 1999 Nicky Hager wrote a book based on papers stolen from our company office. By slanted and selective use of these he made outlandish and damaging claims about the public relations programme we implemented on behalf of the Government-owned company, Timberlands West Coast Ltd.

    On close inspection the negative conclusions he drew were proved to be unfounded. Everything we did was authorised, responsible and lawful.

    Nonetheless to counter Hager’s slanted presentation was time-consuming and costly. Damage was briefly done to corporate and professional reputations – but in the longer term only to that of Hager himself.

    That is the heritage of Hager, who consumes the stolen wholemeal ingredients of the contest of ideas, and by assertion and innuendo disgorges them as the waste of the rumen.

    It is sadly predictable that this publicity-seeking controversialist is again the conduit of such waste.


    And in regards to Hager's claims on this occasion that the Brash emails were not stolen - rather, they were forwarded to him by people within National who were senior enough to legitimately hold them - and thereby his hands are cleaner than National is making out, the files he based the Timberlands book on were stolen in a break-in that saw only that client's files removed from the office. In my opinion he is one of the last people who should be given an opportunity to lecture others on ethical behaviour.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12 posts Report Reply

  • Manakura,

    Don, clearly there wasn't one supporter of the waterfront option amongst the ARC, otherwise they would have voted for it. True some may have had vague support for the idea only to be pressured into a no vote, but then that shows the conviction wasnae that strong in the first place.

    As for not representing Auckland, well the majority of people who publicly expressed their opinions whether through submissions to the ACC, ARC or Herald were firmly opposed to the waterfront option. And no I am not saying this is a particularly scientific measure, but it does show a strong indication.

    It seems to me that Auckland, and its eledted representatives were put in a difficult position by the meglomaniacs in central government: Pick the waterfront and be bold visionaries... and earn the ire of all taxpayers when the budget explodes (which is to say nothing to the damage to shipping industry - did we really think hastily mucking about a multi-billion dollar industry was a good idea?)

    Or go with the Eden Park option and be boring nimbies, unrateful of the public being show generously given to us for a flash new toy. Was really a claytons choice we got, and the rush to build on the waterfront without consultation was rather unseemly.

    The irony is that Mallard and co saw no problem with steamrolling a massive project, that clearly hadn't been costed properly, onto us, but if want to build a garden shed I have to hire a lawyer and plan it a year in advance. (and now of course, we learn Eden Park has hidden costs we are only just learning about, to go with its already glaring problems.)

    Hooray for democracy, it really allows the cream to float don't it.

    Whaingāroa • Since Nov 2006 • 133 posts Report Reply

  • Sara Bee,

    While hilarious, I wonder if Sean "misspoke"? He certainly did sound tetchy...

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 57 posts Report Reply

  • Manakura,

    Nick, nice letter, but would be better if it actually substantiated its criticisms with... y'know, concrete examples or evidence. Not saying Hager isn't trouble, just that the letter doesn't go anywhere in proving it.

    Speaking of letters, has anyone read Hone Harawira's open letter of farewell to Dr Brash?

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/section/story.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10412731

    I like Harawira, its good to see people I have marched with in parliament, but his tone was a bit off-colour. I can see what motivated him, but its not a good look to be so ignoble in victory.

    Whaingāroa • Since Nov 2006 • 133 posts Report Reply

  • Don Christie,

    Manakura - there were plenty Aucklanders in support of the waterfront, maybe not the majority but not a number so tiny it could easily be rounded to zero as the ARC seem to have done.

    The irony is that Mallard and co saw no problem with steamrolling a massive project

    Except the facts inconveniently do not back up this statement. The Government seems to have been the only party willing to consult and listen. Greens, National and Act were all determined to oppose. And the Government also said that they would respect the decision that was made. They did this, however unwillingly on Mallard's part.

    It does seem to me that a considerable segement of naysayers (with some honourable exceptions) were more concerned about giving Mallard and Clark a slap in the face than with what would be good for Auckland and NZ.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1615 posts Report Reply

  • Joel Zwartz,

    That is the heritage of Hager, who consumes the stolen wholemeal ingredients of the contest of ideas, and by assertion and innuendo disgorges them as the waste of the rumen.

    In other words, the honourable PR company hasn't had a chance to cook those ingredients ice and package them so there can be no confusion as to how we are supposed to respond to them. No, I think I'd prefer the wholemeal ingredients, thanks.

    Welly • Since Nov 2006 • 4 posts Report Reply

  • sagenz,

    the viaduct has been a great place to go boozing for years now. why would you want to move along the waterfront when the viaduct has it all?

    Aucklanders were smart enough to realise they would end up paying the $1.5bn plus it would cost.

    eden park trust has 2 options. Pay for everything itself, or surrender some control in return for investment. same as any business that wants to live beyond its means.

    what makes me laugh is how petulant the govt is being. you did not accept our stupid idea with promises of hundreds of millions so we wont give you anything. GREAT way to win votes in 2008 helen.

    don christie - thanks for putting your finger on something that has been bothering me for a while. you are exactly right.

    JFL - Why should anybody give a stuff about people living near eden park. the park has been there longer than they have. caveat emptor.

    Russell - do you think that the fact hager got 2 out of 3 things wrong with regards to hard news is any indication that there might be other errors in the book? Or do you think those were the only ones.

    uk • Since Nov 2006 • 128 posts Report Reply

  • David Slack,

    Russell - do you think that the fact hager got 2 out of 3 things wrong with regards to hard news is any indication that there might be other errors in the book? Or do you think those were the only ones.

    The errors were understandable. Several of us are actually unreconstructed Neocons in deep cover. Keith's not even Asian. We truly had Hager's ass confused.

    Devonport • Since Nov 2006 • 599 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Nick said:

    On Hager - and in offering the letter below I'm not saying his book isn't illuminating in a number of regards ...

    Which it is. I'm already noticing points where he bridges gaps with possibly unwarranted speculation, and I'm wondering how many lurid ways he'll find to describe economic liberalism - but it's still a fascinating and important story.

    I think the "stolen emails" meme is largely a red herring. National has still offered no proof that the emails were "stolen" (or even a realistic definition of what "stolen" is as opposed to "leaked"), and the sheer breadth of material cited (including communications in which Brash took no part) is hard to square with a single act of theft, as opposed to supply by sources.

    What do you make of the role of NBR and your old boss in the story, Nick? I'm not having a go, I'm interested in your perspective.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18807 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Russell - do you think that the fact hager got 2 out of 3 things wrong with regards to hard news is any indication that there might be other errors in the book? Or do you think those were the only ones.

    That was why I made a point of noting it. Anyway, I've just worked it out - the date and title of the citation are right - it's just the vehicle that was wrong. It wasn't Hard News, it was Left Field, my column in Unlimited, one titled Right and Wrong. It quoted the same Maxim-supplied editorial as my original Hard News post did.

    So, yes, a minor mistake in attribution, but a mistake nonetheless.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18807 posts Report Reply

  • Manakura,

    Sagenz, we should have a measure of care for the people living around Eden Park because, they're like y'know, humans and all... besides they form a powerful lobby that can and do restrict the activities that are allowed to occur at Eden Park, i.e. only 25 night of use per year.

    As for central Government consulting.. eh? I completely missed that phase of the stadium process, please, show me the evidence and I will be happy to admit I am wrong. There is no denying people wanted to give Clark and Mallard a slap in the face, but I think many ordinary people just didnt want the waterfront for good reasons.

    Don, is right, the ARC decision doesn't reflect the thoughts of the Auckland population in a sense, but then what do they know that we don't, vis a vis disruption to port business (meaning a drop in funds for infrastructure, so a double cost for Auckanders), the actually buildability of the stadium, and the cost. I bet a huge amount of those things got seriously fudged in the rush to build what seems to me to be a vanity project.

    The trouble is the choice that was pushed on the ACC and ARC was so narrow, and when you weigh up all the ramifications of each, it was always going to be a lose-lose situation for the people of Auckland.

    What no one seems to be really be picking up on, is its all for a stupid sports tournament. Let the people who will actually benefit from RWC pay for it, and send millions of taxpayers cash to things that matter. Like fraudulent election campaigns with shadowy religious groups whose member wear cute headdresses.

    Whaingāroa • Since Nov 2006 • 133 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    I'm interested in criticism of 'Secrets and Lies': is anyone saying that Coast Action Network wasn't a creation of Shandwick and Timberlands?

    Shandwick is a dreadful outfit. I first encountered them during stories I did for Computerworld on the Mondex e-cash shemozzle that the major New Zealand banks bought into. This is the most relevant story:

    AUCKLAND-- Mondex International is running a public relations campaign to emphasise positive aspects of its security after acknowledging in a confidential document that customers may not be protected if its electronic cash scheme is "compromised".

    Holders of Mondex smartcards will not be protected by Mondex and will not necessarily be able to redeem the value held on their cards if the scheme is successfully attacked, according to an agenda item on security PR prepared for a Mondex board of directors' meeting in July.

    The document, leaked to Computerworld, describes a plan to counter "this obvious weakness" and cites the need to step up security PR in light of "recent events", namely the series of articles in Computerworld (New Zealand).

    Potential adverse impacts on Mondex of fears about its security are listed. These include attacks from consumer groups and pressure on governments "to act to protect the consumer against products like Mondex, either by insisting that Mondex accepts liability or that it is not allowed to be developed". Mondex also fears adverse impacts on the other brands held by MasterCard, Mondex's 51% owner.

    Six New Zealand banks - ANZ, National, Westpac Trust, BNZ, Countrywide, and ASB - are also shareholders in Mondex and recently confirmed their intention to launch the smartcard-based system in October next year.

    "Given our assertion that Mondex is 'tamper resistant' and not 'tamper proof', any stepping up of PR security must include clear statements of the basis upon which consumers will be protected in the event of a security breach",” the document says.

    "Without these statements, we are in danger of exposing the fact that the system is not tamper-proof, and should it be compromised, we will not protect cardholders."

    "Until this issue is resolved, we cannot afford to take a pro-active stance on security because it will cause more problems than it will solve, in particular with consumer lobby groups."

    The author notes that issuers of Mondex's two leading competitors, Visa Cash and Proton, do "appear to provide the means for cardholders to redeem value held on the cards".

    Visa is planning a Visa Cash pilot here and in Australia next year. Visa spokesman Bruce Mansfield confirmed to Computerworld that Visa would protect cardholders in its Visa Cash scheme in the event of fraud or of loss or damage to cards.

    "Because we have a fully accountable stored-value system which keeps transaction dates and balances, we are able to deal with customer service enquiries and refunds where appropriate", said Mansfield.

    Eventually, the banks got embarrassed and walked away from their equity investment in Mondex. The other Computerworld stories are here:

    http://www.efc.ca/pages/media/

    This was the series for which I rather tragically failed to win (or even be nominated for) a Qantas media award, but which I think was the most significant news reporting I've ever done.

    I would also note that Shandwick was recently caught again concocting a fake grassroots advocacy group - Cancer United, which billed itself as a lobby group launched by doctors and patients, but was in fact a creation of Roche and Shandwick that aimed to pressure European governments in funding Roche cancer drugs.

    So if Shandwick didn't do anything whiffy in the Timberlands saga, it would be somewhat out of character.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18807 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    Russell Brown wrote:
    Aw, c'mon Craig. It wasn't petulant, it was salient. There was endless reporting of the holes in the waterfront proposal and very little about the problem with Eden Park.

    Weill, not wanting to get into a furious comparison of column inches I guess the proposal you've been told to sign off on in two weeks or go get fucked is bound to get some attention. I just find it rather amusing to listen to some of the more OTT waterfront advocates who are now fiscal neo-conservatives. :)

    And more:
    I'm already noticing points where he bridges gaps with possibly unwarranted speculation, and I'm wondering how many lurid ways he'll find to describe economic liberalism - but it's still a fascinating and important story.

    And while I'm not going to comment on a book I haven't read (and won't for a long time, if at all), I look forward to any such "speculation" being critically tested and examined by the very media outlets who I think it's fair comment to say haven't done so this far. Being a muckraker with an agenda is one thing - and not a class without precedent or honour in the history of journalism - but let's see if the 'mainstream media' is going to treat Hager's work with the same critical acuity they'd apply to a politician.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 11900 posts Report Reply

  • Nick Bryant,

    Manakura,

    I attempted to make it clear that my criticisms weren't of Hager's book on Brash and National - I've only flicked through it and the letter was the view of my more eloquent father - rather Hager's credibility given that following a drawn-out process of independent review in 2000 (in part by Hugh Rennie QC) it was determined that none of Shandwick's actions that Hager fingered as being worthy of punishment, sanction, call it what you will, was in fact worthy of any such thing; in fact, quite the opposite, with Rennie finding Timberlands to have been under such a state of seige from Hager's friends at Native Forest Action that Shandwick's efforts to disseminate the truth about Timberlands' operation were not only justified but in the client's best interests.

    Out of multiple reviews into complaints against Shandwick only one tangible thing stuck. Rennie posed the question: was it unethical of Shandwick to label Native Forest Action members "extremists" in correspondence to newspapers on its client's behalf. The Public Relations Institute, in an appallingly gutless decision decided it was and gave Shandwick a ticking off, despite extremist being a superbly accurate label for most NFA members. (One suspects the reason for the finding was that having wasted so much time and the Institute members' money on a witch hunt it was deemed politically advisable, lest the PRINZ executive be deemed completely incompetent, that they find something wrong).

    The history and result in a nutshell: obviously environmental activists have no industry body they must answer to, so the way was clear for Native Forest Action to use the sorts of tactics that would make the puritan Mr Hager blush. An example would be to disseminate photos of clear-felled forest sites that had nothing to do with Timberlands and represent them as being recent proof of "State destruction of rare native bush" to a chosen member of the media hungry for an emotive scoop. Variations on this tactic continued throughout the late 90s. The photos ran, the electorated was successfully piqued and efforts to clarify the issue never had a hope of gaining traction. And Hager knew of these methods to sway the electorate; his friends claiming it was a legitimate tactic for the greater good - the end of all native forestry in New Zealand, no matter how selective or sustainable it might be.

    Meanwhile, the World Wildlife Fund was calling for examples of sustainable native forestry for official sponsorship in an effort to squeeze out black market operations across the globe. New Zealand could have been a shining environmental light. Instead, thanks to a man who requires a greater threshold of ethics for others than himself, the issue became a political football, the West Coast lost an industry that was not only lucrative but effected a tiny percentage of the forest estate (and was socially responsible - as a trade-off for logging Timberlands did a much better job of controlling possums on the West Coast the DoC now does), and the global blackmarket in native hardwoods got an unexpected boost.

    Nice work Nicky!

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    Don Christie wrote:
    It does seem to me that a considerable segement of naysayers (with some honourable exceptions) were more concerned about giving Mallard and Clark a slap in the face than with what would be good for Auckland and NZ.

    Yes, Don, just as I think a 'considerable segment' of yay sayers were exactly the people who were screaming blue murder when previous right-dominated Auckland City councils were *ahem* playing fast and loose with the resource consent process for reasons they thought were "good for Auckland and NZ". FFS, I'm no cheerleader for the ARC - or the painfully petty bureaucrats who infest local bodies like maggots on a corpse - but how about granting the mere possibility that just because you don't agree with their decision, doesn't mean it wasn't a lawful and legitimate one made in good faith.

    to paraphrase Dr. Cullen: They won, you lost, eat that.

    And here's one more thing to consider: Every Aucklander on the electoral roll gets a chance to elect their representatives on the Auckland Regional Council. (That over half couldn't be bothered last time, is a whole other can of worms for another post). And by any reasonable measure, it's silly assert that the current membership of the ARC is dominated by frothing-right wingers obsessed with doing the dirty on Helengrad. The same cannot be said about the NZRFU Board, and unless I'm very much mistaken there was no public consultation or mandate sought about the bid for the 2011 RWC.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 11900 posts Report Reply

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