John Key and Tony Abbot resolve Syria!

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I know it has been out of the cycle for a while now, but I couldn’t let it go on without writing about John Key’s daring and groundbreaking trip to the United Nations, following the earlier groundbreaking in the UK.

Well, “daring” and “groundbreaking” it would seem IF AND ONLY IF you are a member of the mainstream media in this country.  I woke up to read the headlines followed by glowing reports: “John Key’s scathing attack on UN failings”, “Key tells UN it needs reform”.  They loved it.  Good old kiwi boy taking on the big blokes…and all without a boat.

So, I did a surprising thing in that I was interested in what my nation’s representative would present to the meeting of the planet’s peoples, and I read the speech.

Scathing?  Strongly worded?  Trenchant?

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Ermmm….

As others have indicated, the speech was clearly drafted by MFAT.  This is entirely appropriate and ensures, provided it remains relevant, a consistent theme in our messaging at this forum.  And, we do have a consistent theme in this forum: our support for a multilateral, rules based approach.  This is the best outlook for a little country like Aotearoa and, in my view, that is something we should absolutely continue to advocate for.

For the most part, as a pragmatic person, I have no major problem with the PM’s address and agree with the calls for reform.  It is the kind of speech I would expect John Key to make – at the UN and at this time.

That does not mean that I generally have no problem when John Key meets my (low) expectations, just that I see this speech for what it is and in its particular context.  I said I was pragmatic, and it turns out that I am also somewhat cynical.  [note to David Cunliffe, if asked to comment, suggest you take John Key’s first dismiss then inane comment approach: “I’m not fazed by it and feel that most kiwis find the décor at the UN quite distracting.”]

Absolutely, there are specific points that could have improved the speech, and Kennedy Graham of the Green party has raised these.  I agree.  But, my point here isn’t about the content.

One thing on content, though, that did strike me was the irony evident throughout his speech.  Suddenly, we see John Key taking on this “fighting for the little guy” persona, completely at odds with his domestic reality and proven track record of being subservient to the big guy.  Corporate welfare anyone?

But, overall,…Mr President…nothing dramatic…nothing out there…Mr President…the same old messages…AND…members of this most General of Assemblies, we’d also like your vote to put us on the Security Council, please.

There certainly wasn’t anything groundbreaking.

Well, not according to the NZ mainstream media!  They were blown away by the sheer bravura of our dear leader to stand up there in front of everyone with such damaging and revealing commentary on the ineffectiveness of the UN.

“Change the Security Council!  Stop the veto!” [Cunliffe: “change the décor!”]

Such pathos!  Syria?!  The UN can’t sort this.  Send in JK! (note: “JK” = John Key, not John Kerry, not John Kirwan, not Steven Joyce – common mistakes, I know.)  I didn’t see any reference to JK’s “scathing attack” on CNN, but maybe I missed it.

One of the Herald reporters even tweeted a photo of JK as he stood up in the General Assembly “John Key’s up!”.

This struck me as exceptionally sycophantic.  Rather than provide the analysis and scrutiny of the comments of our national representative in this international forum at a level we are entitled to from our media, we instead see a form of idol worship.

Even the most superficial attempt at research would place the PM’s speech in a more appropriate context.  Calls for reform at the UN are nothing new, and New Zealand has been a consistent voice on changing the Security Council.

Where is the reporting of the PM’s New York visit that is substantive, analytical, and relevant?  How do voting New Zealanders across the entire country get to assess this performance?

As we head into an election, the simple point is that the media needs to lift its game.

Despite my lament, my sense is that our media are genuinely under a lot of pressure: one has to attend events, tweet about it, write online copy, retweet, prepare a TV item, Facebook it, write an online update, do your live TV feed, tweet some more, get your Piers Morgan haircut, tweet the haircut…all while resources are being withdrawn.  I get that it’s not easy.

But, this country needs a mainstream media hungry for accountability.  Woodward and Bernstein!  If we are to be an effective democracy, especially in a country without a real check on executive power apart from the ballot box, that wonderful power to vote needs to be informed.  Idol worship doesn’t cut it.

Meanwhile, current Security Council member, Australia, has had an election.

I wanted to write a full post on this: I despair.  Tony Abbott as Minister for Women’s Affairs?  I find it deplorable and call on the women of Australia to rise up!  If you haven’t already, then watch this.

Come on, Aussie, come on!

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Michael Timmins
Michael Timmins is an expert in international human rights law. Specialising in refugee rights, Michael has worked in Egypt, the United States, Australia, Thailand, Pakistan and his home country of New Zealand across roles in advocacy, academia, and government. He is also a member of the Child Poverty Action Group's Management Committee. Michael’s writing covers international human rights, counter-terrorism, international environmental law, rule of law and accountability issues, as well as anything interesting happening in international relations.

5 COMMENTS

  1. I am so disgusted by MSM’s sycophantic treatment of John Key that I fully expect to see a headline “John Key Fights Poverty By Putting $1 Coin in Homeless Persons Hat”. Yes I am being facetious but only marginally so. Of course the subsequent headline would be “Homeless Person Jailed For Tax Evasion: Stephen Joyce Celebrates By Dancing On The High Court Steps”

  2. Nine out of ten New Zealanders prefer ignorance over the ‘ News ‘ . The tenth New Zealander votes National . We’ve become a population ruled by the tyranny of the minority and it’s all thanks to the ‘ News ‘ .

    Excellent Post Michael Timmins .

  3. mm, I read the speech and also from what Key has been saying on Syria, it’s clear he’s just towing the US line and not really taking an independent view. As such our involvement in the UN will be an embarrassment as when it comes to foreign policy, Nats and labour are so far up the US proverbial they can no longer see.

    Carefully drafted words do not reveal true intent and in the speech Key’s address to the little guy is a blatant lie as in his policies he is grinding the poor into the dust. Just more lies and hypocrisy…

  4. Great speech by Julia Gillard, well worth watching her put things straight with the twit Tony Piggot, As for John Key no one would even be able to understand a word he said at the UN, let alone it didn’t look like anyone was really there from the footage on the idiot box I saw? Mumbling away to himself and some woman in the corner who looked like she liked him, must have been another admiring sycophant of his eeeekkk.

  5. Flaccid nonentity with politically-correct speech impediment reads content-free US dross to the brays of a mindless mob that he literally rents.

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