The Neverending Story in Mainstream Media Fairytale Land





“Public backlash grows against pointless media speculation on coalition talks”

— is, unfortunately, not a headline we’ll be seeing  any time soon.

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The media role is reporting post-election politics has not been an edifying spectacle to watch. Put simply, the most exacerbating aspect of three weeks of coalition negotiation has not been the length of time – remarkably short by international standards – but the interminable, inane,  media commentary we’ve had to endure.

As reported on 7 October, in lieu of any actual news-worthy stories, the msm (mainstream media) has taken to either parroting National Party propaganda on a non-existent “Teal Coalition” – or engaged in an onanistic beat up on the length of time needed for coalition negotiations.

National Party de-facto spokesperson, Maserati-owner, and legend-in-his-own-mind, Mike Hosking, waxed lyrical about a so-called “Teal” arrangement;

The concept of a grand coalition? Naive in theory yes, in reality not the slightest chance.

The best suggestion for the deal that never was – but could so easily have been – was the teal coalition, the Nats and Greens.

The Greens held themselves to ransom by tying themselves to Labour.


A teal coalition could well have worked and the Greens would almost certainly have got more out of it than they will get if the nod goes their way tomorrow (or whenever Winston decides).

Although why Hosking considers a “Grand Coalition between National and Labour as “naive” without “the slightest chance” and a National-Green coalition as something that “could so easily have been” – is never explained by him. But that’s the thing with public displays of  political-porn – it requires no internal logic or consistency.

On 14  October, I watched TV3’s The Nation – expecting a one-hour long exercise in pointless navel-gazing as to who Winston Peters will “go with”.

To my pleasant surprise, adults had taken over the programme and the viewer was treated to more pressing issues;



In segment one, Lisa Owen discussed workers’ rights and workplace safety with Richard Wagstaff, Hazel Armstrong, and Jackie Blue. It was a critical look at the grim stats surrounding workplace accidents; deaths; injuries, and maimings.

Former National Party MP – and now Human Rights Commissioner – Jackie Blue, made the startling  admission that low unionisation in the workforce was part of the problem of workplace accidents;

I also think a fact in the forestry deaths is that they have very low rates of unionisation. They don’t have anyone speaking for them. There’s no voice for forestry workers. And I listened to an interview Helen did a year before she died, and she said she got to know the forestry workers, and once they understood the concept of a union, they wanted to be part of one.

The second segment featured an interview with BNZ CEO, Anthony Healey, supporting the Left’s call for a capital gains tax. Some of Healey’s comments would have come straight out of The Daily Blog;

“It’s really about equity in the tax system.


Well, I think you can take a very broad based approach to it, but one of the things that I think is really important in this discussion is we’re not talking about, and my opinion is we need to tax in aggregate more; it’s about redistributing tax. So if you were to apply a broad based capital gains tax, that gives you the ability to address other things in the tax system, like company tax, like income tax, especially for those that are more needy.


Well, I think where we really need to address tax is at the lower end of the taxation system. If you were to apply a capital gains tax where you see a lot of wealth accumulation as opposed to income, then you have room to move, and you can look at the lower income tax rate, particularly for those who are struggling to make ends meet.”

When bank CEOs are advocating Labour and Green Party tax policies, you just know that the neo-liberal paradigm has lost it’s 1980s/90s gloss.

The last segment featured a good look at how Artificial Intelligence (AI) would be impacting on jobs in the coming years and decades. People closely connected with the AI industry – Greg Cross, Grant Straker, and Ben Goertzel shared their insights as to where we were heading with increasingly advanced technologies.

Then came the panel – Tracy Watkins from Fairfax media; former National Party parliamentary researcher, Chris Simpson, and political pundit,  Vernon Tava.

What came next in the following ten to fifteen minutes was not a word uttered to discuss any of the three issues raised in The Nation. Even Lisa Owen’s opening remarks on the one year anniversary of trade unionist Helen Kelley’s death and the role she played in highlighting workplace  accidental deaths was not discussed.

Instead, Owen led the panelists down the garden path to discussing… the coalition talks and “the mysterious NZ First Board”.

It was ten to fifteen minutes of pointless pontificating and using up valuable oxygen as Fairfax political reporter Tracy Watkins lamented that Winston Peters  “ just doesn’t look like he’s enjoying it very much“.

The obligatory cliche of “the tail wagging the dog” was trotted out by Watkins and Owen. Watkins description of the coalition talks as a “circus” suggests she has been too long in politics and jaded cynicism has coloured her view of things.

Only Vernon Tava’s comments struck home when he pointed out;

“…Media, who are becoming increasingly desperate standing around in cold lobbies in Wellington shouting questions at people as they walk briskly from one hallway to another…”

The only “circus” has been a media one.

Meanwhile,  broadcast and print media have been going nuts with their ongoing speculations. For example, the 16 October edition of The Dominion Post had no less that seven distinct pieces in that edition, including an editorial headedTime for Waiting to end“;



(Curiously, the very same editorial was republished in Christchurch’s The Press, and headed, “New Zealand needs to know who will govern it“.)

The opening statement was so ludicrously dripping with sanctimony that it beggared belief anyone could write it with a straight face;

“The New Zealand public is to be congratulated for it’s extraordinary patience over the last three weeks since the general election.”

The New Zealand public is not only patient – but a darned sight more mature than the children who currently work in our mainstream media, and who constantly pester their Uncle Winston from the back seat of  the family stationwagon;

“Are we there yet?”


“Are we there yet?”


“Are we there yet?”


The public are patient. They fully understand  the complexities of forming a government and that it must be done carefully. As Labour leader Jacinda Ardern explained on Radio NZ’s Morning Report on 17 October with pained patience for the benefit of the media, ;

“…The ability of a government to be both  stable and durable ultimately comes down to whether or not you have enough commonality to form a government that’s going to  last the distance.”

In the same edition of the Dompost, Tracy Watkins had a front-page piece beneath the paper’s banner, entitled, “Is the coalition deal a crown or a poisoned chalice?” She stated matter-of-factly;

“After weeks of secrecy and the bizarre silence of the two major party leaders…”

“Secrecy”? “Bizarre silence”?!

Another way of  phrasing Watkins’ prose could be;

“After weeks of  nothing to write about by the two major newspaper chains…”

As a political blogger, I write often and passionately about transparency in government; government departments; NGOs, etc.

On coalition negotiations, however, confidentiality is a prerequisite for meaningful dialogue between the parties, unfettered by pressure from pious media pundits.

Case in point, TV3’s  Patrick Gower passing judgement in 2014 on an electoral arrangement between Mana Movement and the Internet Party;



Second case-in-point; numerous media commentators (Mike Hosking, et al) calling for the Green Party enter into coalition dialogue with National. As if such a scenario were remotely possible (or desirable).

On 11 October, Radio NZ’s Tim Watkin (former Producer of TV3’s The Nationexpressed his own personal frustration in a way that was verging on the farcical;

“Well, I hate to say ‘I told you so’. But as frustration builds over the way our new government is being built – amid casual abuse, secrecy and over-reach – we really only have ourselves to blame, for the way this administration is being born in darkness, at least. Its mother is our own complacency.


Yet many New Zealanders fell in behind the parties’ spin, complaining that journalists were wasting time asking coalition questions and pushing for answers the poor party leaders couldn’t possibly give. ‘Focus on the issues,’ they cried.

How many of them are now among those bemoaning the lack of transparency in these negotiations and the deals being done behind closed doors?

We are left with little idea of which policies are being traded for which and have next to no notion about the priorities of whichever government might emerge, because we failed as a public to demand answers before the election.

I have no problem with these negotiations being conducted in confidence. I don’t mind New Zealand First shuttling back and forth between parties and being able to handle this process in secret. This is a time for a veil, of sorts.

But we should know, from reportage and interviews pre-election, what’s being traded.”

Tim demanded that “we should know, from reportage and interviews pre-election, what’s being traded” – seemingly forgetting that any post-election agreement would eventually reveal precisely “ what’s being traded“.

The rest of his intemperate commentary is symptomatic of political journos and commentators venting their impatience. In the meantime, the public went about their daily lives, content with leaving coalition-building to those who had been elected to carry out that task.

This is not how the Fourth Estate should be behaving. This is not reporting unfolding political events. It is not even analysis of unfolding political events. This was a naked move to artificially generate political events.

No news?  No problem.

Make some up.

The impatience of the msm was highlighted when, on several occasions, TV3’s news led with the length of time being taken for coalition talks – complete with this melodramatic graphic;



It takes a remarkable talent to create a story out of simply… waiting. This desperation of the msm for any political activity to report  was remarked on by Auckland University political scientist, Jennifer Curtin on 15 October;

Associate Professor Curtin said the amount of time being taken was reasonable and in Nordic countries such as Sweden taking two to three weeks to form a government was the norm.

“So asking for something to happen since October the 12th in four or five days is probably a little bit unrealistic and a little bit first past the post really, in the way we’re thinking about government formation.”

Four days later, as if further illustration was required, on 19 October Mediaworks presented us an updated report that… well… there was nothing to report;



When Tracy Watkins referred to a “circus” on The Nation, she was almost right. There has been a circus in this country since 23 September. But this time  it hasn’t come from our  political representatives.

Lisa Owen from The Nation on 21 October was honest when she admitted on behalf of the Fourth Estate;

“We’re impatient. We are impatient.”

The ‘Devil finds work for idle hands’, it is said. More so for idle children and  journalists with nothing to do, and too much time to do it in.

Let’s hope that all these well-paid, well-resourced journalists will be devoting equal air-time or column-inches to scrutinising the attacks-to-come from the Neo-liberal Establishment. Those attacks have already started.

That is where the real reporting, analysis, and commentary should be focused on.

What are the chances?





NZ Herald:  Mike Hosking – Reading the coalition tea leaves

Mediaworks: The Nation (14 October 2017)

Scoop media: The Nation – Workers’ Rights Panel

Scoop media:  The Nation – Lisa Owen interviews Anthony Healy

Mediaworks:  Panel – Tracy Watkins, Chris Simpson and Vernon Tava

Radio NZ:  Labour, Greens ‘ready to go’ – Ardern

Fairfax media:  It’s difficult to know if Winston Peters is offering a crown or a poisoned chalice

Twitter: Patrick Gower

Radio NZ:  Negotiation secrecy a snub to democracy

Mediaworks: Newshub Live at 6pm (18th October 2017)

Radio NZ: NZ First board set to consider possible coalition deal

Mediaworks: Newshub webpage 19 October

Scoop media:  The Nation – Lisa Owen interviews Jacinda Ardern

Other Blogs

Cut Your Hair:  Don’t blame MMP for bad king/queenmakers

Sciblogs:  For a teal coalition

The Standard: “Reporters”

Previous related blogposts

How biased is the media? A Patrick Gower case study

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign… (tekau)

An Open Letter To Winston Peters

Once Upon a Time in Mainstream Media Fairytale Land






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  1. Unfortunately our media are focussed on “influencing” the population rather than “informing” the population. Until that changes, we will continue to see the above examples more and more.

  2. Melodramatic is right , Frank .

    A great descriptive word to be applied aptly to much of the so – called New Zealand media.

    This is not a news media , – this nothing but a manipulative bunch of vested interest pundits wishing to exploit a situation for their own ends.

    Interesting to see BNZ CEO, Anthony Healey, advocating CGT. I noted that , … and mused that this is certainly a change of heart,…in fact much of what he said falls in line more or less with this new govt…. so that’s a positive.

    But in agreement ,… this modern news media is simply a by product of the now waning , soon to be dismantled neo liberal era. This is what we get when we enable private business to shape public opinion , – it can only go one way and that way is tailored towards advancing their own business affairs.

    In other words, … affiliated with big business and what they want .

    Thus it becomes corrupted and not a ‘news media ‘ at all but a propaganda source.

    But very very soon ,… ‘ there’s going to be some changes around here ‘.

    And that’s no joke.

    And they had best shape up fast and get with the program. Because no amount of trying to discredit this incoming govt using cheap tricks , lies and fabrications is going to work. They will only find themselves increasingly offside with a public that has been forced to awaken to the treachery of neo liberalism and those who advanced it in this country.

    Neo liberalism has run its course , is almost dead , – and will be finally killed off once the policy’s of this new government start to kick in.

    The clocks ticking.

    Choose your side.

    And choose wisely , media personnel.

  3. Fantastic article again frank you are a great jorno,

    I liked reading this article in todays NZ Herald by Heather du Plessis-Allan:
    NZ HERALD SAYS THIS; The days of freight-carrying trucks cutting up our highway network are numbered. Both NZ First and the Greens are obsessed with getting freight off our roads and back on the railways.

    Shit I nearly leapt out of my chair seeing this, “The days of freight-carrying trucks cutting up our highway network are numbered”

    I have been fighting in Napier and Gisborne for 17 yrs trying to get the rail workinng properly again between Gisborne and HB, andthis was music to my ears today when I ca read what i have been wanting for years to appear in a right wing paper.

    I will send a copy to the Gisborne herald hoping the editor Jeremy Muir will place heather’s article in their paper to wake them up and help us get the rail service re-oenned again.

    I will send a copy to TV3’s Lisa Owen to as she also comes from Gisborne and should support rail for her severely isolated Gisborne City.

    NZ Herald.
    Heather du Plessis-Allan: Winners and losers of the new Government
    22 Oct, 2017 5:00am
    5 minutes to read
    Jacinda Ardern will be New Zealand’s next Prime Minister but who really won when New Zealand First decided to back Labour.
    By: Heather du Plessis Allan
    Heather du Plessis-Allan is a columnist for the Herald on Sunday
    Change is coming. Big change. That much Winston Peters has told us.
    Exactly what that means we won’t know until the new government reveals its coalition policy deals in the next few days. But still, we have enough hints and clues to already declare some winners and losers.
    Anyone with a car
    The days of freight-carrying trucks cutting up our highway network are numbered. Both NZ First and the Greens are obsessed with getting freight off our roads and back on the railways.

    Things are even better for Auckland drivers. If Winston gets his wish of moving Auckland’s port up to Northland, that’ll further reduce the number of trucks on the motorway heading south.
    And things are even better for Auckland drivers who actually believe migrants are clogging motorways. Under this government, immigrants and their cars are no longer as welcome.
    Farmers are probably not much better off but they’ve snuck into the winners’ category on the strength of sheer relief. Boy, did they kick up a stink over Labour’s entirely reasonable plan to tax commercial water use. It sounds like Winston’s put a stop to that.
    On the plus side, Winston’s probably struck a deal to increase regional spending which is a geographic win for farmers. On the down side, expect the Greens to properly tackle climate change which is a loss to farmers given their cows are New Zealand’s biggest problem.
    First Home Buyers

    Labour will build more houses. These houses will be affordable. To further help first home buyers, there will be rules against foreign speculators buying existing houses and, of course, as many immigrants won’t be allowed in to outbid them.
    It has to be said that National let the country down in this general category. It’s been a tough few years for lower income earners, and now the minimum wage is set to increase. It’s been tough for those needing mental health intervention, and Labour’s promised a ministerial inquiry (not that that necessarily means much). And it’s been awful for the Pike River families who deserve to go into the mine if that’s what they want. Now, it sounds like they’ll get it.
    The Greens
    Finally. It’s been a long apprenticeship.
    Don’t let anyone tell you four positions outside Cabinet is a slap in the face. It’s a win. It gives the Greens power in the areas they care about, but enough arms-length from bad decisions to give them a chance at surviving in government. Remember, no minor party has yet survived an MMP coalition. But, the Greens probably will because co-leader James Shaw understands MMP and because they’ll already claimed a win with the marijuana referendum.
    Existing Home Owners
    Take everything that counts as wins for first home buyers, and they’re losses for home owners. If someone knows how to flood the market with cheap houses and not crash the prices of existing houses, please contact the Labour Party. Do it now.
    Not to be dramatic or anything, but we may have a problem. Our economy may look like one of the strongest in the developed world, but economists will tell you much of that is an illusion pumped by high immigration. Actually, things aren’t that flash. You know it because no one’s getting a pay rise.
    The new government’s going to cut that immigration pump. Dramatically. That should slow things right down.
    Plus, there’s not a lot of spare change by the looks of things. Labour’s promises alone cost a lot. A lot. Now factor in the Greens’ and NZ First’s and you’ve got a tight budget. Governments need spare change so that they can increase spending and prop up the economy during tough times. Well, we may have a tough time coming but not enough coin to remedy it.
    In this scenario the losers are all of us.
    All of us
    Just to drive that last point home, you’re not getting the tax cut National has already put into law. That’ll be unwound with urgency
    ACT should’ve disbanded years ago. Do you know how many people voted for ACT last month? 13,000. That’s about five times fewer than Gareth Morgan’s party, and please remember that, in my view, Gareth Morgan did everything possible to repel voters.
    ACT is part of the reason National No-Mates lost the election. With only one MP, ACT is too small to help a right-wing government over the line. The ACT brand is damaged, possibly beyond repair. It may be time to make way for a new right wing party.
    Everybody who’s freaking out
    This new Government’s caused some people to descend into a shrill panic.
    If that’s you, settle down. You’ve lived through changes in government before. You’ll survive this.
    If this new government gets out of hand, you still have the power to vote them out in 3 years. Your vote is valuable. They’ll try to win it, which means they won’t go crazy.
    Give them a chance.

    • HDPO writes intellectually lightweight drivel, as usual.

      Jesus, almost anybody could come up with such a column, given 5 minutes in the smallest room.

      I can’t believe they’re paid for that shit.

  4. The CGT needs careful thinking about. Who do you want to tax? And are they particularly wealthy, and are you really talking about an inflation tax?
    And is the purpose of the tax to raise revenue , or is it to assuage the jealousy of some people who often erroneously imagine that people who own an extra house, and that provides their only income must be better off than they are.
    If it’s to raise extra revenue, then when the economy is buoyant , extra revenue isn’t needed. When it is not buoyant there is no capital gain to tax. Unless it is falsely assumed. It is a tax on the inescapable increase money valuation of an asset , the replacement money value is climbing too , the real value is not changing, the target is just gradually being disenfranchised while much wealthier people and organisations have their investments in shares and derivatives that are not to be taxed.
    And do you really want to dissincentivise investment in housing?
    The recent blowout in house prices in some cities of the world (not all) has created a speculative bubble, partly through QE providing a flood of money that is not being directed into the working economy, so there is nowhere else but speculation on shares housing and derivatives for it to go. This needs to be addressed , but a CGT is not going to address it. And the speculation bubble can’t last, but the CGT will.
    Remember that only a few speculative house transactions can take place before the speculator is deemed to be a dealer by IRD and pays tax on the profit as income. Extending the criteria for determining someone to be a dealer so the time period between transitions that qualify for dealership would be a reasonable way of addressing this.
    D J S

    • Who do you want to tax?

      Wrong question.

      It’s what practises do you want to tax?

      “who” is how those opposed to CGT will frame the problem because they want to generate fear.

  5. The IQ of most media political commentators is low to average – they are lazy, conceited sensationalists, in thrall to trivia and blatantly partisan.
    Like their masters, the newspaper owners, they choose not to respect the democratic principle of impartial journalism.
    A properly funded national tv and radio service able to employ quality journalists may counteract the baleful influence of people like Trevett, Watkins, Hosking, Garner et al – lets hope the new government does just that.

  6. The beginning of the rot started back in the 1980s. Suddenly parts of the media decided that it didn’t have to just report the opinion of society. It could direct the opinions of society. The example that struck me at the time was The Listener deciding to run a campaign to change New Zealand’s flag where there was no interest in from the public for it to change.

  7. According one D Garner one J Ardern is an “accidental PM”.


    The depressing thing is that he gets paid to write that rubbish.

    The NZ MMP system is designed to make various political parties form a government.

    It delivers.

    Garner needs to join Prebble and be sacked.

  8. I just hope this coalition lasts the full term so as not to attract a smug :I told you so” from these arsehats. Better yet would be to expose all the wrongs (e.g. illegal spying, inequality, selling state assets, Pike River, private prisons etc) the National government has foisted upon NZ in the last nine years.

  9. I just hope this coalition lasts the full term so as not to attract a smug :I told you so” from these arsehats. Better yet would be to expose all the wrongs (e.g. illegal spying, inequality, selling state assets, Pike River, private prisons etc) the National government has foisted upon NZ in the last nine years.

  10. The partial media is of great concern. How will folks know what is really happening if it’s not from the MSM? The Government needs to seriously invest in an Iindependant impartial, non commercial, top quality public broadcaster that will make the commercial stations freak. Long overdue, and a lost opportunity from the last Labour Government. Winnie is strong on this. Thanks Frank, much appreciated.

  11. The partial media is of great concern. How will folks know what is really happening if it’s not from the MSM? The Government needs to seriously invest in an Iindependant impartial, non commercial, top quality public broadcaster that will make the commercial stations freak. Long overdue, and a lost opportunity from the last Labour Government. Winnie is strong on this. Thanks Frank, much appreciated.

  12. As you’ll have seen by now (the trash NZH attempt at satire, “Did Jacinda Ardern curse the All Blacks?”) they are fully prepared to lower the bar. Watch any economic issues closely though – Now that John Key is chairman of ANZ, my guess is he’ll be the next “commentator” on anything involving the economy. He will be used as a weapon against Ardern because of his lingering popularity, and the msm will lap it up.

    Hopefully my guess is proved wrong, and he fades into oblivion.

  13. Have no time for the Herald yet I visit it daily. I think this is called a niche waiting to be filled.

    However the Guardian opposed Jeremy Corbyn in the last UK election?! Not much has moved on since the Ancient Roman Republic. Everything but the people.

  14. Good article, Frank. I have long given up on the main stream media as a source of information/news, unless I’m trying to catch up with the latest celeb news-which I don’t give a damn about anyway.
    As for the coalition talks taking a long time, I found it quite pleasant not having any idiots trying to run the country! Almost sorry it came to an end.

  15. And as long as we have the same business model for the MSM, and the same staff and management, and frontline presenters, all working in it, NOTHING will change, not a bit!

    That is why we will soon have lamenting business people and bank economists run down the new government, instead of news about homeless sleeping rough, or in cars, and instead of poor kids going to school hungry.

    A slight change of narrative, all geared to ‘reign in’ the ‘unruly’ lot in government, like a tasked nanny keeping an eye on the ‘naughty kids’ called Jacinda, Winston and James.

    They will try to wear them out and down, to tow the line of the very business model we have, and to finally sign up FULLY to neoliberalism, as there is ‘no alternative’, in their view.

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