Paintergate and other trivial matters


shushing-key-300x235I happened to catch some of the documentary on Helen Clark last night. Generally it was a rather lopsided exposé that strangely tried to employ the “talents” of Matthew Hooton for balance. However, one thing really stood out; the former Prime Minister hardly ever put a foot wrong. Of course there was ‘paintergate’ and ‘corngate’, both of which got a brief mention. But by and large Clark was a pretty decent PM.

During the doco it occurred to me that the problems under the last Labour government just don’t compare to the numerous controversies currently surrounding John Keys’ administration. In fact the documentary makers viewed ‘speedgate’ as being so trivial it wasn’t even worth a mention. Clearly drawing any similarity between the so-called nanny state that legislated for things like power saving light bulbs just doesn’t seem relevant, especially when compared with today’s intrusive regime of increased spying powers that will result in our once cherished privacy becoming a distant memory.

The good old days eh! That’s not how the press used to see things though. They went after Helen Clark with all the fire and brimstone that an avenging angel could muster. Week upon week of news cycles dissected every single nuance of the paintergate, corngate and speedgate scandals, followed by more picked over bones. The raging beast of the fourth estate was apparently hell bent on protecting the public from political wrongdoing and didn’t we know all about it.

Similarly, the contrast between reporting on Clark and Keys’ personalities couldn’t be greater. Clark was indignant when caught out and her response led to even more forensic analysis of the supposed grievous injustice. I mean signing a painting for charity she didn’t paint is a hanging offence, or so we were told.

Key, on the other hand, shrugs off criticism, no matter the severity of the issue. Although such an attitude is well received by our mainstream media, his blasé indifference is the epitome of arrogance; an arrogance that, according to the polls, is generally appreciated by the voting public.

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These days things are in complete contrast to past Labour governance in other ways as well, with Key toying with the mainstream media that, for all intents and purposes, acts like a cute domesticated puppy. The little fluffy critter sometimes has a wee yap and a scratch, but then chews the fat and settles back down for a bit of mutual appreciation. That scalding cup of tea is long forgotten isn’t it? You have to admire the cunning bastards ability to turn all those numerous scandals over the last few years into political capital, aided and abetted by a team of crack spindoctors and compliant media who are not at all concerned with giving Key a similar yardstick as that used on Clark. The same could be said about David Shearer, who has already been labeled a complete failure of a Prime Minister.

Take for instance recent revelations that an investigative journalist, Jon Stephenson, was spied on by the Defence Force and their lackeys because he had revealed New Zealand’s involvement in war crimes. His award winning work has resulted in Stephenson receiving a death threat from a senior ranking officer, who has likely been promoted. Interestingly, another great journalist, Nicky Hager, has unearthed an NZDF manual that seems to advocate for such action against journalists. It outlines the Defence Force’s utter contempt for investigative reporting and labels all journalists as subversives akin to terrorists, especially those trying to get to the bottom of controversial stories the powers that be want kept secret. Defence chief Lieutenant General Rhys Jones has defamed Stephenson’s work while the current Prime Minister tried and failed to besmirch his credibility. Strangely, some journalists have treated this grievous attack on the freedom of the press as a joke. Undermining fundamental democratic principles no longer matters I guess, even to many of those being undermined.

Also consider the case of another journalist who had her private communications accessed and movements recorded by the government during the GCSB leak inquiry. After the speaker of the house, David Carter, had emphatically denied this had occurred, it turned out the order to breach Andrea Vance’s privacy had come directly from the Prime Ministers office. Where is the accountability and perhaps more importantly, where is the mainstream media demand for accountability? The victims here are lucky to even get an apology let alone someone actually taking responsibility for such reprehensible behaviour…conduct that has become all too commonplace from those in positions of power.

Like the previous Key scandals before them, these will soon be replaced in the news cycle by trivial matters…trivial in comparison to a free and effective press that is essential for maintaining our democratic society that is. Oh well, back to mowing the lawn.


  1. Most of them were pretty easy on her/Labour when it came to Ahmed Zaoui, the terror raids, Terrorism Suppression Act etc though. And are easy on Labour’s past now, acting as though this surveillance is a new thing rather than a natural progression.

  2. “Clearly drawing any similarity between the so-called nanny state that legislated for things like power saving light bulbs just doesn’t seem relevant, especially when compared with today’s intrusive regime of increased spying powers that will result in our once cherished privacy becoming a distant memory.”

    I also saw the program. It was of course a brief summary of the Clark leadership years in NZ politics, so not that much could be packed into it.

    Yes, it also showed how bizarre a circus NZ politics is, when Key got voted in, just because the public felt a change was due, and because the journalists in the MSM constantly reported on “nanny state” issues about shower-heads, energy saving light-bulbs and the likes.

    It was so clear that most of the media were totally biased and “charmed” by one new “rising political star” John Key, they forgot all principles and were not focusing on facts and what mattered. Indeed I dare to say that Key and the Nats won in 2008, mainly because the media helped them into power. The fairytale upbringing of Key and his later success were presented to us, to convince us all about how great a leader he would be.

    Helen Clark was a worker type politician, taking her job seriously, and making great efforts to get things right and to keep her caucus in line. Her leadership was very different to what we have now.

    I doubt though that the conduct of the GCSB, SIS, police and defence force than was any “better” than it is now. After 9/11 the US demanded all allies to support their new tough line, and global interventions in a “war against terror”. Although Clark and her government did not join in to do what the Brits and some others did, more efforts were made under her to warm to the US again. The dawn raids in 2007 exposed the darker side of the Clark led government, which was actually more to the right than many Labour supporters then would have wanted to believe.

    Big business was also mostly left alone, and although some of the business leaders were not happy with Clark, Labour and support parties, they enjoyed mostly good times and made nice profits, having willing workers work longer and longer hours.

    And last not least, those were different times, even just for different economic atmosphere then and now, so it is a bit hard to compare the Clark years with now.

    In summary I would certainly still prefer Clark and the then Labour led government to the corrupt and manipulative one we have under Key.

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