Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: What the people want to hear

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  • Neil Morrison,

    that should be Anderton.

    Since Nov 2006 • 932 posts Report Reply

  • linger,

    Neil - it may be even simpler than that.

    National: "It's our job as opposition to keep the government honest (by attacking them at any opportunity"

    Media: "It's our job on behalf of the public to keep the government honest (by attacking them at any opportunity)"

    So... whose job is it to keep National honest?

    Tokyo • Since Apr 2007 • 1901 posts Report Reply

  • Snowy,

    the BRT

    Wellington • Since Jan 2008 • 62 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    Craig seems to be an expert authority on so many things political that I figured he might be able to fill the vast vacuum of National's non-policy.

    Snowy: I seem to be the only person in these parts who isn't on the distribution list for this 'secret agenda' I keep hearing so much about. On the partisan tip, I'd be quite happy if Labour spends the next eight months pushing a bill of goods nobody wants to buy. But it really adds nothing to substantive political discourse, don't you think?

    I get as bored and frustrated as anyone by 'horse race' process stories (and I've long been on the record with my desire that media outlets sack the pollsters and hire a few more actual reporters), and politicians of all stripes who get away with, shall we say, strategic ambiguity. I'm just a little more sceptical than others that Key is the only beneficiary of less than ideal political journalism.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • linger,

    Snowy, I did say "honest", not "beholden" :-)

    Tokyo • Since Apr 2007 • 1901 posts Report Reply

  • Snowy,

    you're right Craig, and well said.
    I do think however Key is benefitting rather substantially more than say Labour, NZF or the Greens from our Fourth Estates' lameness - wouldn't you agree?

    Wellington • Since Jan 2008 • 62 posts Report Reply

  • linger,

    Craig -- I have to agree.
    It doesn't look good for any government to be attacking the opposition (and even less so for them to seem forced into attacking the opposition). So my question above is quite serious: if the government shouldn't, and much of the media won't, focus on opposition policy, and National itself is either undecided or unforthcoming on any details, then how can voters get this vital information?

    Possibly things may improve once parliament is dissolved and the parties can be seen on a more even footing as candidates ... but I don't think I'd bet on it.

    Tokyo • Since Apr 2007 • 1901 posts Report Reply

  • Idiot Savant,

    I/S's estimate isn't necessarily wrong, but obviously it's the highest possible interpretation

    It's the interpretation I got by taking his promise of a tax cut of "2 - 3 hundred dollars a month" for most New Zealanders at face value. $300 a month x 12 months x 3.2 million odd taxpayers (if you go with the bottom end, its "only" $7.8 billion a year - still crazy talk).

    Now, as I explicitly said, I don't for a moment think that that is what Key will actually deliver (he'll target his tax cuts at the rich, just like National always does), and like you I think he'll deliver something broadly similar to the last effort. But at the end of the day, that's what he said, so that's what gets costed. I'm not a theologian, so I'm not going to piss about trying to work out what he "might" have meant, or what words he "missed out". His statements have a plain and clear meaning, and so that's what I go for. And if anyone things that taking politicians' statements at face value is somehow "unfair" (as many seem to be arguing over the "we would like to see wages drop" quote), then I think they are setting the standards of political honesty far too low.

    Palmerston North • Since Nov 2006 • 1713 posts Report Reply

  • Christopher Worthington,

    His statements have a plain and clear meaning, and so that's what I go for

    Well, having just listened to the interview, Key introduced his statement by referring to "the average income earner" being $200 better off, which would seem to specifically rule out your interpretation.

    Since Jan 2008 • 25 posts Report Reply

  • Kumara Republic,

    Neil Morrison:

    I agree about Labour's sucess economically. they have a good team that have on the whole worked well. Anderton's been very good.

    It makes life difficult for opposition parties the world over - a good economy plus fairly middle of the road econmic policies leaves little for Governments to be attacked on. It's the electorate's weariness with incumbents that gets to be a problem.

    I agree about the policy of economic stability. Incumbent fatigue is an issue, but probably not the primary issue. I suspect the real bugbear facing the Beehive is the culture war doing an Operation Barbarossa on our shores - with issues like Section 59, civil unions, youth crime, the Brethrens and whatnot. And with fifth columnists like Bob McC and FTSoOC...

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5428 posts Report Reply

  • Rob Hosking,

    Re Oppositions and policy: I can well recall in 1999 trying to get Labour to spell our policy far more.

    Monetary policy? They didn't like the way National was managing it. Labour didn't have a position themselves, you understand, but they promised to hold a review on it.

    Telecommunications policy? They didn't like the way National was managing it. Labour didn't have a position themselves, you understand, but they promised to hold a review on it. And they would have a look at changing the wording of the Commerce Act about use of a dominant position. This wasn't their policy, please understand, nothing so firm, but they thought it was wworth a look.

    Financial market regulation? They didn't like the way National was managing it. Labour didn't have a position themselves, you understand, apart from the constantly repeated "wild west" soundbite, but they promised to hold a review on it.

    And so on. Just to spell it out: this is what Oppositions do.

    And yes, those of us in the media, even - especially? - journos whose leanings might be more on the blue than the red side of the spectrum, such as myself, are obliged to try to get them to be more specific.

    I'd love to see them say more, especially on tax and superannuation. (I asked a few MPs about the latter just before Christmas. Say 'superannuation' to a National MP and they react like a vampire to a garlic crucifix).

    They've been specific in some areas: RMA being perhaps the most so. Yes, a lot more is needed.

    But the idea that National is about to do a re-run of 1990-93 is ludicrous, for a whole lot of reasons.

    Firstly, there isn't the crisis of that year. We had a fraudulent final Budget from Labour; then a whole heap of unauthorised and technically illegal spending by outgoing Labour ministers running into the several hundred million: some holes in the tax base rorted to the tune of about $1 billion (the Mother of All Budgets patched up those holes, but public attention was elswhere); a worse recession than anticipated; and of course the BNZ bailout.

    Secondly, even if there were an appetite within the Nats for a re-run of 1990, it would not work. MMP and all that.

    Thirdly, National has returned largely to type. As I've pointed out many times to people I know in Act who have bemoan National's lack of sufficient ideological fervour, this is conservative party. They don't like radical change.

    South Roseneath • Since Nov 2006 • 830 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Rob, I'll have to look it up, but in other areas my recall is that in 1999, Labour had policy detail coming out its orifices.

    Anyway, to be going on with, here's the March 5, 1999 Hard News.

    I was angry: National was trying to fan a drugs panic. Nothing Labour has said or done this year comes close to being as offensive as this was:

    Roger Sowry's slimy little press release, released the night before the Prime Minister's statement, but after she'd made it known she'd be making it, is a particularly nasty work of spin. In fact, apart from spin it has no content whatsoever.

    "Helen Clark has never criticised the insidious drug culture which wrecks thousands of New Zealand families every year," is its opening sentence. Ah. So she's immediately hung for what she hasn't said.

    "There are a lot of intellectuals out there," that is, uppity feminist common-room types like Helen Clark and her mates, "Who think cannabis and designer drugs do not harm young people. Well, they should know better," Sowry says.

    Yeah. Bloody intellectuals. Round the buggers up. Well, it worked for Pol Pot, didn't it? But the Prime Minister had better lose those new glasses, or people might think she's one. Not, I might add, that there's much danger of that.

    "The thousands of disadvantaged families seen by social services and the justice system have multiple problems," Sowry continues. "Almost always one of these is drug or alcohol abuse. I'm stunned that Labour is prepared to risk childrens' lives, by not supporting this tough plan the Prime Minister Jenny Shipley has outlined."

    My God, that bitch Helen Clark is risking the lives of little children! Living in bad, overcrowded housing and getting meningitis isn't too good for them either, but that's not the issue right now. So shut up.

    The clincher comes at the end: "Helen Clark should stop knocking the police and support all efforts to prevent drug abuse and catch the people responsible for destroying New Zealand families."

    That's the final straw, isn't it? Helen Clark has been knocking the police. So that's families, young people, children and our boys in blue that she's against. She should be put away herself. Thank goodness Jenny Shipley know what's right.

    I never did like Roger Sowry.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22763 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    It's the interpretation I got by taking his promise of a tax cut of "2 - 3 hundred dollars a month" for most New Zealanders at face value. $300 a month x 12 months x 3.2 million odd taxpayers (if you go with the bottom end, its "only" $7.8 billion a year - still crazy talk).

    I can't imagine that your maths works out in reality I/S. There's just over 4.2 million people in NZ. I'd presume the 1 million gap between that and 3.2 million is non-income earners - kids, "homemakers", imprisoned etc. According to the 2006 census, about 22% of our population are 14 or under. For people 15 and over, 6% of them earn no income.

    While there might be 3.2 million people who pay some income tax in NZ, a heap of them must not even earn $300/month, and certainly heaps wouldn't pay $300/month in taxes. High school and uni students working part time, people holding down part time jobs, beneficiaries and superannuitants - they're not going to be looking at a tax break of that size.

    I presume he would mean that that amount would kick in at the $40K-ish income. Still a large tax cut, but at $200/month, probably 4-5 billion, depending on how much the lesser, and higher income earners took from it.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6243 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    And April 16, 1999, which covers WINZ failures, the Roger Estall debacle and what, to me, is still perhaps the most bizarre episode of ministerial irresponsibility since 1990: Murray McCully and the Tourism Board.

    Any mourning Labour people should read this and feel a wee bit better.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22763 posts Report Reply

  • linger,

    Another thing that depresses me is the way National have (with utter complicity of the media) totally owned the phrase "social engineering" and attached a negative connotation to it.
    Where was the obvious left-wing response:
    "What is wrong with trying to make New Zealand society better?"

    Tokyo • Since Apr 2007 • 1901 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    Another thing that depresses me is the way National have (with utter complicity of the media) totally owned the phrase "social engineering" and attached a negative connotation to it.

    It's true. Engineering of all kinds is 'playing God' you see. Cause God was an engineer. He worked out the fastest way to create intelligent life to worship him was to create an enormous explosion 20 billion years ago, and then wait. That's God's engineering, and we daren't tinker with it.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10647 posts Report Reply

  • Idiot Savant,

    Kyle: You can imagine whatever you like. I prefer to use Treasury's figures on Who pays tax... and how much?, and a calculator.

    A tax cut which delivered a flat $200 a month to the 30% (yes, only 30%) of taxpayers earning over $40K would cost $2.3 billion a year. Which is the cost of our entire justice system (police, courts, corrections). Quite a hole, and remember that's a minimum, given that tax cuts tend to alter rates as well as thresholds.

    Given that the annual discretionary spending in the budget is about $1.2 billion, even the charitable interpretation is still in the "unaffordable crazy talk" range, requiring serious cuts to government services on a scale which would be unacceptable to the New Zealand public.

    Palmerston North • Since Nov 2006 • 1713 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    Kyle: You can imagine whatever you like. I prefer to use Treasury's figures on Who pays tax... and how much?, and a calculator.

    OK, well you need to get your calculator checked. That table clearly totals up to 3.2 million people, but 237K of them are labelled as paying zero taxes. So your 3.2 million is actually 2.995 million.

    The table also gives you a fairly good indication of the percentage of people that don't earn enough money to pay $200/month in tax, which would make getting that much back pretty impossible. In fact, at $20,000, you pay just a tad under $3,900 income tax - only $300 more than than your $3,600. 47% of the 3.2 million earn less than that much.

    I think we can assume that it's not these people that Key is offering $200/month to. It's the other half (or probably, the top third) that would be looking at $200/month or more. These people would be lucky if they got back $100/month.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6243 posts Report Reply

  • Geoff Lealand,

    About "social engineering". It is time such phraseology was turned back on its source. It is possible, for example, to argue that Christian schooling and home schooling is actively engaged in 'social engineering', in the endeavours to shape children as replications of adult value systems, or a set of rigid beliefs. The same could be said of that tedious old notion of "political correctness" (which I heard some children's author using yesterday). Through the 1990s, 'political correctness' meant subscribing to the ideology of the mystical free market, deregulation, unbridled greed.

    So, one very effective strategy would be to throw the accusations back in the face of those who use them.

    Screen & Media Studies, U… • Since Oct 2007 • 2547 posts Report Reply

  • linger,

    Geoff-- while not disagreeing with your take on education and/or religion-based socialisation as "social engineering", I don't think that strategy of "turning it back on the accuser" will work. Labour doesn't look good on attack, it's reactive and negative. What they have so far signally failed to do -- and what they must do to win over the electorate -- is to take back such terms and identify them with positive values that they believe in. They need to state: YES, we do social engineering, we're proud of it, we think any reasonable government needs to spend time on social issues, here's why.

    Tokyo • Since Apr 2007 • 1901 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Semmens,

    I spent some time watching Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama debating on CNN the other night, and I was stuck by the amount of time each candidate was given to deliver their response to set piece questions. Nothing like this exists in our TV - not on pay TV and definitely not on free to air television. Public opinion in NZ is heavily influenced by a TV "news" culture that has driven serious discourse on public issues to extinction. Instead of serious debate on electoral finance reform we get hysterical grandstanding. Instead of measured investigation of the agenda of the anti-smacking brigade we get un-examined hypocrisy from Family First and a Trojan horse anti-progressive campaign that has unexamined & scary social engineering goals all of its own.

    And even get me started on talk back radio. The ignorance, fear and loathing the reeks from the sewers of ZB is enough, after half an hour of listening, to make you question the wisdom of the universal franchise - and that’s just the hosts.

    Much of the current atmosphere of faux-crisis can be laid at the door of a media that has, in its race to the bottom, abjectly abandoned any attempt at rational and serious discussion of issues designed to inform the citizens of a participatory democracy. Instead we get conflict presented in a state of permanent amnesia, designed primarily to deliver consumers to advertisers. Its reached the point now where it is hard to distinguish the flagship TV news broadcasts from the trashy women’s magazines and what passes as current affairs is, frankly, a disgrace. No one demands TV be a vehicle for an elitist coterie of political aficionados, but equally - does have to be aimed at ignorant half-wits all the time?

    Clemenceau once remarked that war is too important to be left to generals. I am beginning to wonder if in a democracy television to important to be left to the advertisers.

    Sevilla, Espana • Since Nov 2006 • 2213 posts Report Reply

  • FletcherB,

    They need to state: YES, we do social engineering, we're proud of it, we think any reasonable government needs to spend time on social issues, here's why.

    Actually... I think you can insert any number of Labour's policy objectives over the last 2, if not all 3 terms in exchange for "social engineering" in the above paragraph....

    Labour has done a lot of "good stuff" with very poor attempts to justify/explain it to the electorate at large....

    West Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 887 posts Report Reply

  • daleaway,

    "conflict presented in a state of permanent amnesia, designed primarily to deliver consumers to advertisers."

    Beautifully put.

    It's the amnesia I find so perturbing. No wonder folk think my scenario above was apocalyptic. But they are nearly all policies that have been tried before or signalled (allowing for some humour). If you lived through them once, you're not looking forward to a rerun.

    And I don't agree that MMP leads us not into temptation nor delivers us from evil. That's a statement of faith too far.

    When either party announces tax cuts, why does no journalist ever ask them what service cuts they plan to introduce as a result?

    Since Jul 2007 • 198 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    Up to a point, Tom. But I've got to admit to feeling a pronounced lack of sympathy for politicians like Tony Blair, complaining on their way out the door about the media culture they did so much to create, and were certainly happy to take full advantage of when the going was good. Lie down with whores, odds are you're eventually going to get up with a nasty infection -- though I'm not really sure who's screwing who in this scenario.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Gareth Ward,

    While it's hard to identify the new tax curve that Key had in mind, his comment of $200-$300 a month for the average worker (which I've taken as $40k) means that he is at least going to drop the low tax rate from 19.5% to 12% (based on the midpoint of $250/month giving $3000 more a year, so your tax burden must go from $7,800 to $4,800 which represents a 12% tax rate)

    Given that the IRD site I/S linked to suggests that a 1% move in the bottom tax rate costs the Govt $220m, then we are looking at $1.65billion a year just from the change to that rate.

    That's just the cost of dropping that bottom rate, National would never let the tax rate differentials expand so everything else would have to come down too - basically $250 a month to someone on the average wage ain't going to happen.

    Auckland, NZ • Since Mar 2007 • 1727 posts Report Reply

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