Fairfax gets more investigative journalists

March 3rd, 2016 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Award-winning investigative journalists Paula Penfold, Eugene Bingham and Toby Longbottom have joined Fairfax Media.

They add to the existing line-up of Fairfax investigative and special projects journalists around the country and their appointments reflect a focus on increased investment in high quality journalism, Fairfax executive editor Sinead Boucher said.

“Paula, Toby and Eugene are an exceptionally talented team who have created some of the most compelling journalism in New Zealand.

“Their flair for hard-hitting investigative journalism and innovative storytelling will be a real asset to our audiences and I am thrilled they have chosen to join forces with us.”

They are the team behind the three-year investigation into the Teina Pora miscarriage of justice case that exposed faults in key evidence in the case and was credited with helping him get released from prison and having his convictions quashed.

This is very good news – not just for the journalists concerned, but for Fairfax. As the commercial media model gets harder, the focus for many is on sensationalism and clickbait. Having some high quality investigative journalists who may spends weeks or months on a worthy story, rather than have to only focus on getting three stories done by 5 pm, is a good thing.

Fairfax’s 2016 political predictions

January 2nd, 2016 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Fairfax do their annual list of 20 political predictions:

1. Phil Goff will win the Auckland mayoralty, triggering a by-election in his Mt Roskill seat.

2. Immigration will be the big issue of 2016, in NZ and worldwide, under the twin pressures of terrorism and rising unemployment.

3. One party leader will be replaced – or signal they will go.

4. The Government’s books for 2015/16 will show a deficit when the numbers are known in October, and the 2016 Budget will include significant spending on reform in the area of Child Youth and family.

5. John Key will wind back his shock-jock appearances, but only after one final dare involving dancing, underpants and a street corner.

6. The current flag will triumph easily, taking 60 per cent of the vote to head off the black and blue silver fern Kyle Lockwood design in the March referendum.

7. Significant steps will be taken towards allowing the medicinal use of cannabis.

8. A visit to New Zealand by United States President Barack Obama will be scheduled for 2016. Golf anyone? 

9. Pharmac will get more cash allowing it to fund new drugs, such as Keytruda, but the Government will stay out of decisions on specific drugs.

10. New Zealand will send SAS troops to Iraq, and not only as VIP protection. 

11. The review of security services will see the GCSB and SIS get greater powers of surveillance.

12. The freshwater issue will spark up, causing a headache for National MPs and putting their relationship with the Maori Party under stress.

13. ACT leader David Seymour’s “end of life choice” bill will be drawn from the ballot (relying on chance makes this a particularly fraught prediction) and then pass its first reading.

14. At least one MP will announce their engagement to be married.

15. Labour candidate Michael Wood will be sworn in as MP for Mt Roskill – but will not be the first to win a by-election this year.

16. Labour leader Andrew Little will firm up his plans to run in the Rongotai seat now held by Annette King.

17. Speaker David Carter will head off to foreign diplomatic pastures, opening the way for Gerry Brownlee to inherit the wig of office.

18. An MP will find himself or herself giving evidence in court.

19. Pandas! 

20. Australia’s deportation of Kiwi criminals will hit the headlines again when one of them goes off the rails on this side of the ditch, placing New Zealand politicians in the firing line.

Some interesting ones. They are predicting at least two by-elections next year.

Not so sure that a party leader will signal retirement in 2016.Maybe in 2017.

Fairfax score their 2015 predictions

December 22nd, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Fairfax score their 2015 predictions:

  1. Jacinda Ardern will win Labour’s “deputy idol” and be installed as Annette King’s replacement0/10
  2. Trade Negotiations and Climate Change Minister Tim Groser will retire to concentrate on a musical venture. 3/10 
  3. The Government will bow to pressure and introduce a register of foreign buyers of houses – though it will tweak its role and name to hide its embarrassing climb-down.
  4. The Reserve Bank’s official cash rate will still be less than 4 per cent by Christmas. 10/10 
  5. A NZ First MP will fall foul of the past. 0/10  
  6. New Zealand troops will (still) be in Iraq by the end of 2015.  10/10 
  7. Tension in the Green Party will spill into the open over whether it should kill or cuddle Labour. 0/10  
  8. At least one senior MP will signal plans for a tilt at the mayoralty of a major city. (Yes, Phil Goff and Annette King are our top, but not only, suspects.)  10/10 
  9. ACT leader David Seymour will graduate from under-secretary to ministerial rank. 9/10
  10. After February, National will not score more than 50 per cent in any mainstream New Zealand-based polls.0/10 
  11. A National minister will be forced to fall on his or her sword over a question of judgment. 0/10 
  12. The Budget will focus on poverty, including incentives for those moving from benefits into training or work, but will not lift base benefits beyond indexation.  7.5/10
  13. James Shaw, Peeni Henare and Chris Bishop will be the stand-out MPs for their respective political parties among the 2014 year intake. 6.6/10 
  14. Labour will be scoring at least 35 per cent in polls by the end of the year. 2.5/10
  15. Corrections Minister Sam Lotu-Iiga’s sentence in the portfolio will be shortened. 10/10 
  16. Ron Mark will take our gallery bureau’s inaugural Mallard Shield for most ejections from the House. 10/10.
  17. Marama Fox will make a bigger impact – but a lot more mistakes – than her co-leader of the Maori Party. 7/10
  18. Former justice minister Judith Collins will be back in the Cabinet, but not on the front bench.  10/10.
  19. A former Labour front-bencher will quit politics for private enterprise.  0/10
  20. Winston Peters will celebrate his 70th birthday in April by announcing he is standing down as leader. (Worth it to be wrong, just to see his reaction.) 0/10 
  21. New Zealand will win one sporting World Cup. 10/10

That’s actually 21 predictions, but possibly the Winston one was a joke, so we’ll score them out of 20.

I’d score a few of them differently. They are:

9. ACT leader David Seymour will graduate from under-secretary to ministerial rank. See what we mean! We get it right, he gets the offer from John Key and what does he do? What does he do? He turns it down! And why? To press on with a bill that hasn’t even made it out of the ballot yet? Is this just to annoy us David?!! As the auditor put it, when increasing our initial score on this one, “to have to predict an MP would turn down a ministerial role is just downright unreasonable”. 9/10

Sorry but that is 5/10 at best. The simple fact is he is not a Minister. Yes he turned it down, which is why I’d give 5/10 but 9/10 is too generous.

10. After February, National will not score more than 50 per cent in any mainstream New Zealand-based polls.0/10 It was a struggle at times but they did edge above it from time to time in defiance of our tips and history. So 0/10.

Not disagreeing with the score but will point out they lost this one with the first poll of 2015 – Roy Morgan in January had 52%. Every Herald poll this year was over 50% also.

12. The Budget will focus on poverty, including incentives for those moving from benefits into training or work, but will not lift base benefits beyond indexation.  Yes, yes and mostly. The take-out from the Budget was the move to help the lower paid but and while the base benefits – unemployment sickness etc – didn’t move the Government did give $25 more to beneficiaries with children. 7.5/10

I thin 7.5 is a bit high. I’d go 5/10 as clearly wrong on the base benefits and that was the one specific in the prediction.

Labour will be scoring at least 35 per cent in polls by the end of the year. Hardly at all, to be sure, though the last UMR Research poll scraped in. 2.5/10

I’m sorry but you’re now counting internal polls from parties that are not publicly published?

In other polls They maxed at 32% in TVNZ, 32% Roy Morgan, 33% Tv3 and 31.1% Herald. That’s a 0/10

Ron Mark will take our gallery bureau’s inaugural Mallard Shield for most ejections from the House. 10/10.  As certain as an All Black victory over Georgia that one. But we take the points where they come.

I’m sure he did – would be interesting to know how often.

The Fairfax Awards

December 12th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Fairfax hands out some awards:

  • Politician of the Year – Winston Peters
  • 2nd place – Bill English
  • 3rd place – Kelvin Davis
  • Backbencher of the Year – Chris Bishop
  • Losers of the Year – Sam Lotu-Iiga, Kevin Hague and David Cunliffe
  • Mallard Cup for bad behaviour – Ron Mark

They also hand out some others:

Annette King –  Survivor Politics award. Subject a cockroach and King to a nuclear holocaust and the cockroach may not survive, but King would still be Labour’s deputy leader.

Colin Craig – Coro Street award for best  political soap opera. The year ended in a cliff hanger. Can he make a comeback? Tune in 2016.

Ron Mark – the Donald Trump award for tolerance towards migrants.

Murray McCully – the Lawrence of Arabia award for services to desert agriculture.

Phil Twyford – the Rewi Alley award for building NZ-China relations as mastermind of Labour’s “pick an Asian sounding name” housing policy.

David Cunliffe – Whack-a-Mole award for refusing to know he’s been flattened.

Simon Bridges – the Bridge too Far award for unsuccessfully parachuting policies into a by-election battle.

Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce – the Pantene award for services to hair care after his department was revealed as buying hair straighteners for its staff.

Kelvin Davis – the Santa Award for spreading the Christmas Island spirit.

Act leader David Seymour – The Bastille Day award for pointing out “the French love the coq”. Say no more.

Speaker David Carter – The Nigel Llong award for poor umpiring

Health and Safety Minister Michael Woodhouse – The Bear Grylls award for highlighting the dangers of worm farming

Conservation Minister Maggie Barry – the Tame Iti award for services to Tuhoe for renaming Te Ururoa Flavell Te Urewera Flavell.

Housing Minister Nick Smith – The Promised Land award- for pointing out unattainable building sites in Auckland.

Judith Collins – The Arnold Schwarzenegger Terminator Award. She’s back!

Labour MP Phil Goff – the Panasonic Microwave award for warming up his political career

Key – Bad Hair Day award for Ponytail-gate. The Ball Boy award for services in the All Black dressing room. And the John Oliver award for services to late night comedy shows. Yup. It was a big year for the prime minister.

Peters – Mr Congeniality. Okay so he’s still cantankerous and argumentative 80 per cent of the time. But he does seem to be mellowing.

Sam Lotu-Iiga – The Reverse Great Escape award for tunnelling into trouble.

Gerry Brownlee – The Snow White award for naming Treasury Dopey.

Stuff fails disclosure test

October 26th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

There is an article at Stuff called Ten things you never knew about New Zealand’s birds.

As a bird lover I was interested in it, and read it. It’s an interesting article.

I then noted the author was Kimberley Collins, and I realised (as I knew Kimberley worked for Forest & Bird) that it is not an article by a journalist, but an advertorial by Forest & Bird. But nowhere is it disclosed.

Now Forest & Bird and Kimberley have done nothing wrong. And the article is just promoting their Bird of the Year competition (and I have promoted it myself). But what is wrong is the Fairfax didn’t put a statement on the article saying Kimberley is the online communications coordinator for Forest & Bird. If you did not happen to know this (as I did), then you would assume it is an article written by a Fairfax journalist called Kimberley Collins.

Now in this case it is fairly innocuous, but my friends at Radio NZ Mediawatch always go on about the dangers of advertorials posing as journalism, or embedded content. And the key is it is fine, so long as it is disclosed that the author is not the newspaper. But in this case it wasn’t. And if it was say an article by a comms person for Bank of New Zealand on ten things you never knew about insurance, then I’m sure Mediawatch would be up in arms.

Hockey wins vs Fairfax

July 1st, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

News.com.au reports:

TREASURER Joe Hockey has won $200,000 in a defamation case against Fairfax Media.

The Federal Court today decided Fairfax had defamed Mr Hockey with a newsstand poster and two tweets relating to a story it published on May 5, 2014, with the headline ‘Treasurer for Sale’.

They will need to pay Mr Hockey $120,000 in damages for the poster and $80,000 for the tweets.

I’m glad Hockey won. I thought that way Fairfax framed their story was reprehensible.

Jennings vs Fairfax

May 8th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

New Zealand-born businessman and rich-lister Stephen Jennings has launched defamation action against Fairfax Media and a senior journalist.

Jennings, estimated to be worth around $950 million according to the National Business Review, was once seen as the country’s richest man. …

In March, Fairfax Media – which owns stuff.co.nz and a string of newspapers around New Zealand – published a story written by senior journalist Michael Field about Jennings’ business activities in Russia and Kenya.

Around a week later Fairfax published a retraction and apology which said the article “may have been interpreted as implying that Mr Jennings’ business activities in those countries were unethical and open to criticism”.

“It also implied that Mr Jennings was a business rival to Bill Browder, a well known American businessman, and wanted to destroy him.

Stuff.co.nz accepts that none of these statements or implications have any factual basis or legitimacy,” the retraction said.

“No attempt was made to contact Mr Jennings prior to publication, and we accept that had we done so, the article would not have contained those statements or implications.”

I recall at the time thinking this was the most grovelling retraction I’d seen. They must have realised how badly they had stuffed up.

If it proceeds to court, it will be an interesting case. It could cost Fairfax a lot of money, but they tend to have defamation insurance, so in fact their insurer is the one who ends up getting pinged.

How badly did Fairfax defame Jennings?

March 10th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Last week, stuff.co.nz published an article regarding New Zealand businessman Stephen Jennings, and his business activities in Kenya and Russia.

The article may have been interpreted as implying that Mr Jennings’ business activities in those countries were unethical and open to criticism. It also implied that Mr Jennings was a business rival to Bill Browder, a well known American businessman, and wanted to destroy him. 

Stuff.co.nz accepts that none of these statements or implications have any factual basis or legitimacy. No attempt was made to contact Mr Jennings prior to publication, and we accept that had we done so, the article would not have contained those statements or implications.

We accept that Mr Jennings is a respected and successful figure in the banking and business worlds, and we deeply regret any suggestion to the contrary. Accordingly, we unequivocally retract the factual errors and misleading implications contained in the article, and unreservedly apologise to Mr Jennings for any distress suffered by him and his family as a result.

On the please don’t sue us grovel scale that is around a 9.5/10.

I didn’t see the original article, but it must have been really bad.

Fairfax’s 2015 predictions

January 25th, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The predictions of the Fairfax press gallery team for 2015 were published on 1 January, but they don’t seem to be on the Stuff website. They were kind enough to send me a copy to blog, as I always appreciate their willingness to go out on a limb and make some predictions. Their 20 predictions were:

  1. Jacinda Ardern will win Labour’s “deputy idol” and be installed as Annette King’s replacement.
  2. Trade Negotiations and Climate Change Minister Tim Groser will retire to concentrate on a musical venture.
  3. The Government will bow to pressure and introduce a register of foreign buyers of houses – though it will tweak its role and name to hide its embarrassing climb-down.
  4. The Reserve Bank’s official cash rate will still be less than 4 per cent by Christmas.
  5. A NZ First MP will fall foul of the past.
  6. New Zealand troops will (still) be in Iraq by the end of 2015.
  7. Tension in the Green Party will spill into the open over whether it should kill or cuddle Labour.
  8. At least one senior MP will signal plans for a tilt at the mayoralty of a major city. (Yes, Phil Goff and Annette King are our top, but not only, suspects.)
  9. ACT leader David Seymour will graduate from under-secretary to ministerial rank.
  10. After February, National will not score more than 50 per cent in any mainstream New Zealand-based polls.
  11. A National minister will be forced to fall on his or her sword over a question of judgment.
  12. The Budget will focus on poverty, including incentives for those moving from benefits into training or work, but will not lift base benefits beyond indexation.
  13. James Shaw, Peeni Henare and Chris Bishop will be the stand-out MPs for their respective political parties among the 2014 year intake.
  14. Labour will be scoring at least 35 per cent in polls by the end of the year.
  15. Corrections Minister Sam Lotu- Iiga’s sentence in the portfolio will be shortened.
  16. Ron Mark will take our gallery bureau’s inaugural Mallard Shield for most ejections from the House.
  17. Marama Fox will make a bigger impact – but a lot more mistakes – than her co-leader of the Maori Party.
  18. Former justice minister Judith Collins will be back in the Cabinet, but not on the front bench.
  19. A former Labour front-bencher will quit politics for private enterprise.
  20. Winston Peters will celebrate his 70th birthday in April by announcing he is standing down as leader. (Worth it to be wrong, just to see his reaction.)
  21. New Zealand will win one sporting World Cup.

I agree with No 1. No 5 is interesting – do they know something, or is it a statistical probability?

For 8 I think Goff is far more likely than King.

No 10 is luckily excluding January.

No 14 is a big call, and a big reach for Labour.

Fairfax scores 141/200

December 31st, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The 2014 Fairfax predictions have been scored.

  1. “National will get a lift in the polls early in the year as the economic news gets better.” 10/10
  2. “John Key will reshuffle his cabinet lineup in the first two months of 2014.” 9/10
  3. “At least one of the Green MPs will step down before the general election.” 5/10
  4. “Two of Labour’s ‘old guard’ will go on the list to give themselves the option of quitting after the election without triggering a by-election.” 0/10
  5. “Brendan Horan, Eric Roy and John Hayes will not be MPs by the end of the year.” 10/10
  6. “Irrespective of the election result, David Cunliffe will stay on as Labour leader.” 3/10
  7. “The Genesis Energy sale will go ahead, but for the election campaign National will call it a day on the partial privatisation programme.” 10/10
  8. “Conservative leader Colin Craig will stand in the East Coast Bays seat, his party will get into Parliament but will not cross the 5 per cent threshold.” 6.66/10
  9. “The economy will start to flag late in 2014 as rising interest rates start to bite.” 6/10
  10. “The brawl between Judith Collins and Steven Joyce over who will inherit John Key’s crown will heat up as the election approaches.” 2/10
  11. “Mr Key will give the thumbs up to talks with all of National’s potential allies: ACT, the Conservatives, the Maori Party and UnitedFuture. But he will make it clear NZ First will be his last cab off the rank if he is in a position to form a government.” 10/10
  12. 12. “The Maori Party will win two seats at the election.” 10/10
  13. “Key will visit the White House and host a high-profile return visit.” 5/10
  14. “ACT will not get more than 1.5 per cent of the vote.” 10/10
  15. “New Zealand’s push for a temporary seat on the United Nations security council will be successful.” 10/10
  16. “A senior member of David Cunliffe’s office will quit.” 10/10
  17. “Housing will be one of the most contentious themes of the year, prompting National to announce further measures to help low-income and first-home buyers.” 10/10
  18. “There will be upsets in the seats of Napier, Mt Roskill, Te Tai Hauauru, Ohariu and Maungakiekie.” 4/10
  19. “The election will be held in October.” 0/10
  20. “National will form a government with at least two other parties.” 10/10

Not a bad score. Their 2015 predictions come out tomorrow.

Is Fairfax showing their colours?

December 26th, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

An interesting article on Stuff naming 5 people who tried to make NZ a better place, and 7 who didn’t. The author is unknown, but what they write is very revealing.

They name Nicky Hager as someone who made NZ a better place.

They also said Kim Dotcom was in with a chance to make NZ a better place but didn’t as his parties failed to get into Parliament. Does that mean the author thinks NZ would be better if he did get in?

The author also attacks Mike Hosking and Paul Henry:

But both leapt back into the limelight to spout their biased beliefs as Hosking took over Seven Sharp and Henry started The Paul Henry Show to replace Nightline on TV3.

Oh dear we can’t have anyone on television who is unsound, can we.

So why did Fairfax change their story?

May 23rd, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Whale Oil blogs:

Earlier today I busted Fairfax with their radical censorship of an article that was published yesterday.

Huge amounts of the original article were expunged and replaced with additions that made no sense. So much was removed that it shows clear manipulation of the story by someone.

WOBH contacted Labour and received an emphatic denial that they were involved in censoring the story. The spokesman for David Cunliffe said “We aren’t that powerful”.

Contact was also made with John Key’s people who as predicted said it wasn’t them.

I stand by my statement earlier that John Key probably laughed out loud when he saw David Cunliffe was calling him a liar.

It is worth following the links to the original story.

The Stuff article, here, originally had as its lead paragraph David Cunliffe saying the Prime Minister is a liar and his word can’t be trusted. They also had a direct quote from him saying “John Key tells lies”.

Now my reaction when I saw the original story was that it just made David Cunliffe look shrill and nasty, and that the more people who saw the article the better.

When Fairfax changed the story an hour later, I assumed they had got the quote wrong and Cunliffe never said what they reported.

However it seems Cunliffe does think it is a good strategy to go around NZ, and call John Key a liar. That’s fine. But why did Fairfax change the story to hide that? Did they think it was defaming John Key? Or did they think it made Cunliffe look too shrill?

Answers to those questions would be welcome.

It also raises the bigger issue of the practice of some media to significantly amend a story, and not note that have amended it. I think significant changes should always be noted.

Will take more than want

January 22nd, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Finance Minister Bill English says he wants Google, Apple and Starbucks and other multinationals to pay more tax and hopes the issue will be raised at economic talks this week.

One can want them to do many things, but they’re not going to. Of course they will locate their tax base in a country with a lower company tax rate.

The minister said this morning that getting corporates to pay their fair share of tax required international collaboration.

“We’re very keen to see them pay more tax. The tricky bit is that it requires combined international action,” he told Radio New Zealand’s Morning Report.

“A whole range of countries are going to need to agree on tax rules for companies like Google and Apple and Starbucks and any number of corporates that you can think of.

Yep there is no unilateral solution. But even multinational co-operation has its limits. It takes just one country not to agree, and that is the country where those companies will be established for tax purposes. It will be good if they can get agreement.

Although Google and other companies had local offices in New Zealand, their tax bills were believed to be out of proportion with their reported sales in this country.

That’s because tax is paid on profits, not sales. ‘ll use a good example.

The latest APN financial statement has revenue of $461 million. Their tax was $652,000. Their tax as a percentage of sales was 0.14%. This is clearly out of proportion to their sales, and APN should immediately pay a fairer proportion.

How about a fair “living tax” of 5% on sales? This would mean APN pays tax of $23 million instead of $652,0000 and Fairfax would pay A$100 million instead of zero. Isn’t this the logical outcome of repeated reporting by APN and Fairfax of other companies’ tax bills in relation to their sales instead of their profits?

A newspaper that pays no tax complains about tax avoidance!

January 16th, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Dom Post editorial:

Taxes are what we pay for a civilised society, according to the great American Supreme Court judge Oliver Wendell Holmes.

If that is so, then aggressive tax avoidance is an offence against civilisation.

I’d love to know what the Dom Post defines as aggressive tax avoidance. I presume it means tax avoidance done by other companies, but not by ourselves.

Google, for instance, whose slogan used to be “Don’t be evil”, in 2012 paid a mere $165,000 in tax in New Zealand. Amazon paid $1.6m tax on sales of $46.5m. And Apple paid $2.5m on sales of $571m. Does anyone think these companies are paying their fair share?

I’ve got a much better example. Fairfax Australia (owns the Dom Post) paid no tax at all last year on revenue of A$2.01 billion. That’s outrageous I’m sure the Dom Post agrees, and I look forward to them joining with the NZ Herald to campaign on their owners paying more tax. The fact it means they may have to sack a few editorial staff to afford their increased tax bills I’m sure is not what is preventing them from not being total hypocrites.

Or maybe the Dom Post will say you can’t compare them to Google and Apple because tax is paid on profits, not revenue. Well yes they are, so why the hell did the editorial not mention that actual profits made by Google and Apple in New Zealand? They made a conscious decision not to tell their readers that essential piece of information.

For the record I’m all for the IRD taking court action against tax avoidance that is artificial, as defined in the Tax Act. They do this on a regular basis. For example, they are battling APN (NZ Herald) for $48 million.

Some will argue that companies are entitled to minimise their taxes. Tax avoidance, after all, is legal, unlike tax evasion. Some even say that companies owe their loyalty only to shareholders, not the taxpayer, the government or their fellow citizens.

This is plainly wrong. Taxes provide the schools, hospitals, infrastructure and social services on which we all depend. Corporations benefit directly from state-funded education, research, roads, courts and public health programmes. So they should contribute to “the cost of civilisation”.

I agree people should pay their taxes. Fairfax has paid no income tax in the last year. This means they are not contributing to the cost of civilisation. According to their editorial it doesn’t matter what their taxable profit is, as that may have been minimised by accountants. Amazon paid tax equal to 3% of their revenue. As the Dom Post seems to think you should pay tax on revenue, I think Fairfax should pay A$60 million immediately as their contribution to the cost of civilisation.

Fairfax’s 2014 predictions

January 2nd, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Fairfax gallery team make 20 predictions for 2014:

1. National will get a lift in the polls early in the year as the economic news gets better.

2. John Key will reshuffle his Cabinet lineup in the first two months of 2014.

3. At least one of the Green MPs will step down before the general election.

4. Two of Labour’s “old guard” will go on the list to give themselves the option of quitting after the election without triggering a by-election.

Jones is one of them. I presume they mean list only. Not sure who the other will be.

5. Brendan Horan, Eric Roy and John Hayes will not be MPs by the end of the year.

6. Irrespective of the election result, David Cunliffe will stay on as Labour leader.

That’s a big call, and I would’t predict that.

7. The Genesis Energy sale will go ahead, but for the election campaign National will call it a day on the partial privatisation programme.

That’s not a prediction. National said some months ago there were no more planned.

8. Conservative leader Colin Craig will stand in the East Coast Bays seat, his party will get into Parliament but will not cross the 5 per cent threshold.

Agree they will make it.

9. The economy will start flagging late in 2014 as rising interest rates start to bite.

10. The brawl between Judith Collins and Steven Joyce over who will inherit John Key’s crown will heat up as the election approaches.

11. Mr Key will give the thumbs up to talks with all of National’s potential allies: ACT, the Conservatives, the Maori Party and UnitedFuture. But he will make it clear NZ First will be his last cab off the rank if he is in a position to form a Government.

Key may rule them out again, as he did in 2008 and 2011.

12. The Maori Party will win two seats at the election.

I said at least two. If they get 2% party vote they get a third seat.

13. Mr Key will visit the White House and host a high-profile return visit.

14. ACT will not get more than 1.5 per cent of the vote.

That high?

15. New Zealand’s push for a temporary seat on the United Nations Security Council will be successful.

I predicted the other way.

16. A senior member of David Cunliffe’s office will quit.

Statistically likely

17. Housing will be one of the most contentious themes of the year, prompting National to announce further measures to help low-income and first-home buyers.

18. There will be upsets in the seats of Napier, Mt Roskill, Te Tai Hauauru, Ohariu and Maungakiekie.

19. The election will be held in October.

20. National will form a Government with at least two other parties.

Another big call. I like that they are willing to make predictions. Would be fun if other gallery teams did the same, and one could judge them all at year end!

Fairfax scores their predictions

January 1st, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Fairfax score their 2013 predictions:

At an annual salary of almost $145,000 plus allowances, Brendan Horan will continue to believe he is needed in the House and will tough out the criticisms and stay on in Parliament – unless the police intervene. 10/10. With a backdated pay rise before Christmas, this is a prediction with legs for 2014.

Rarely lose if you predict an MP will hang on!

Official interest rates will end the year no higher than they started it at 2.5 per cent, and if the Reserve Bank moves at all it will be to cut the OCR. 10/10. Predictions vary as to when the bank will move in 2014, with March the new favourite. But it flatlined in 2013.

It’s been 2.5% since March 2011, so a fairly safe and accurate prediction.

David Shearer will win unanimous support for his leadership from his caucus in the February vote, and remain safe from any serious challenge throughout the year. 0/10. As wrong as a wrong thing. No-one knows for sure how the vote went, but unanimous it wasn’t. Neither does jumping before you are pushed qualify as “safe from a serious challenge”.

I thought he would stay also.

Aaron Gilmore will return to Parliament and be joined by a least one other replacement list MP – though Gilmore will make no better an impression in 2013 than first time around. 9/10. We were simply too kind. One mark off because we did not pick how much worse he could be. The luckless Mr Gilmore out-did his own bad press as he came and went in just a few months. 

Could mark lower for not predicting he would go, but to be fair no one did.

5 Arise Sir Lockwood Smith. The former Speaker will be knighted in the Queen’s Birthday honours. 10/10. A bit like putting a dollar on the All Blacks to beat Japan, but on the money all the same.

As inevitable as the sun rise.

Hekia Parata will remain in Cabinet but lose the education portfolio. 3/10. We were holding our breath when the OECD figures showed New Zealand’s rankings plummeting but John Key held his nerve and she not only kept her seat at the top table, she kept the education role too.

Most of the plummeting is for kids who had their primary education under the last Government.

Labour will rewrite its list selection rules to give the regions and the unions less power, but not without a major controversy. 6/10. They rewrote the rules along those lines, but we failed to pick the major controversy would be around gender quotas and the late-but-unlamented “man ban”.

I’m not at all sure the new rules give unions less power.

National will fail to find a cross party “consensus” on changes to the MMP rules, but Opposition parties will pledge to implement the main Electoral Commission recommendations if they win power. 7.5/10. Sure enough Justice Minister Judith Collins used the “no consensus” line to justify no change, but the Opposition has not waited for the election but is rallying behind Iain Lees-Galloway’s member’s bill.

I’d score that one 10/10

The referendum opposing the sale of state assets will get the numbers and go ahead in October. But the partial sale of Mighty River Power will go ahead, after the Maori court challenge over water rights fails. The Government will also sell shares in Meridian and Genesis in 2013.7/10. The referendum went ahead (but in November) and the Government did sell three of its planned partial privatisations, although it opted for Air NZ ahead of Genesis after the share market developed indigestion over energy shares.

I never thought Genesis would go ahead in 2013. I believe Solid Energy would have, if it had not near collapsed.

10 John Key will make international headlines again for a gaffe to rival the Beckham putdown, but he will resist the urge to become a full time talkback host. 2.5/10

No gaffe, gov’r

11 Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples will bow to pressure and give up the co-leadership, opening the way for Te Ururoa Flavell. But Dr Sharples will not relinquish his portfolios. On the button! It’s a shame they don’t give more than10/10.

A good call.

12 Maurice Williamson and one other minister will announce they will not stand for re-election in 2014. 4/10. Come on Maurice – don’t keep us waiting! Oh, all right then, stay. Chris Tremain did surprise everyone with his decision to call politics quits. Kate Wilkinson and Phil Heatley were pushed out of Cabinet and have joined the exodus.

Keep watching – but maybe not for Maurice!

13 A new Right-wing party will emerge, offering to fill the need for an ally for National. But National will be less than enthusiastic. 6/10. There are a number of contenders including the 1Law4All Party that recently pamphlet-bombed some suburbs with policies that hark back to Don Brash’s Orewa speech. There is also a rumoured ACT-like party in the wings, but so far National only has eyes for its existing allies – and Colin Craig’s Conservatives.

A bit generous there. The party cited is a fringe party that will make no impact. Unless they have a significant leader or funding base, hardly counts.

14 The Government will launch the year with a major economic policy promising to boost job numbers and make employment its top priority. 9/10. It made the promises all right, with a John Key speech launching a big push on apprenticeships. Forests also gave their all for a series of glossy “business growth agenda” booklets. But did anyone notice?

Safe prediction that the Government will focus on jobs.

15 A minister will resign over allegations surrounding events that emerge from the past. 10/10. ACT leader and minister John Banks quit after he was hauled into court to defend his disclosure of donations during his campaign for the Auckland mayoralty.

Possibly a bit generous there. The resignation was not over events that emerged from his past. The events were well known in 2012.

16 As a consolation for missing out on the speakership, National list MP Tau Henare will be offered a diplomatic post in the Pacific. 3/10. Sure enough he missed out to new Speaker David Carter and was apparently sounded out on whether he was angling for a post, but it seems no formal offer was made.

His Excellency Tau Henare – has a ring to it 🙂

17 The Greens will not top 15 per cent in any major poll in 2013. 9.5/10. The third party’s support has held up remarkably well during the year, but it only hit 15 per cent once – in the volatile Roy Morgan survey – and never bettered its target mark. So we are claiming vindication by a nose.

More recently Labour seem to be taking support from them.

18 Andrew Little and David Clark will be promoted to the Labour top 12 and Nanaia Mahuta will not hold the prime responsibility for education by year’s end. 6.5/10. Two out of three aint bad. Ms Mahuta gave way to Chris Hipkins in education. He hung on despite being on the wrong side of the leadership spill. David Clark did scrape into the top 12, before being demoted after the change at the top. Mr Little is still waiting . . .

Cunliffe demoted Clark to 20. still unsure why.

19 Growth will fall short of Treasury’s pick of 2.3 per cent in the year to March but the economic mandarins will be closer to the mark on unemployment, which will be near their 6.9 per cent forecast. 0/10. Don’t take investment advice from us (or Treasury). Growth actually bettered Treasury’s forecast reaching 2.7 per cent in the March year, while unemployment fell to a surprisingly low 6.2 per cent – though there was some questioning of the data.

A good one to be wrong on.

20 David Bain will be paid some compensation, even though a second review will be more ambivalent about his innocence – but he will get less than $1 million. 0/10. We are still awaiting the final outcome.

A new review will start once the judicial review action by Bain is dealt with.

Their overall score was 133/200. Not bad.

The new Radio New Zealand CEO

June 13th, 2013 at 4:11 pm by David Farrar

I understand that the new CEO of Radio New Zealand is Paul Thompson. This has not yet been announced publicly.

Paul is currently the Group Executive Editor of Fairfax New Zealand. He has been a journalist basically all his adult life, starting as a cadet reporter at age 17. He has been Editor of both the Nelson Mail and The Press.

I predict the appointment of someone with such a strong media background will go down well with Radio New Zealand staff. My congratulations to him on the appointment.

Stuff to go paywall?

June 10th, 2013 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Press reports:

Fairfax Media is looking at paywalls for its online publications in New Zealand, plans to cut staff and may close some publications as it faces the strains from falling advertising.

The Fairfax Media business in New Zealand includes newspapers such as The Press, magazines and online news websites, such as Stuff.

In Australia yesterday, parent company Fairfax announced plans to cut total group costs by A$60 million (NZ$72m), above the A$251m already promised to the market following a restructure of its print and digital operations.

As part of the update yesterday, Fairfax released details of digital subscription for its news websites in Australia with packages from A$15 to $44 a month.

In New Zealand, acting managing director Andrew Boyle said just when or how paywalls would be brought in here remained to be seen.

I’m sort of looking forward to the paywalls coming to New Zealand. I’d say it will lead to many more people coming to blogs, as they won’t be able to get their news from the main media websites.

It will be a good opportunity to boost resources at the blog, and try to fill the gap left by the newspaper sites.

Fairfax’s 2013 projections

January 5th, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Fairfax gallery team have made their 2013 projections:

1. At an annual salary of almost $145,000 plus allowances, Brendan Horan will continue to believe he is needed in the House and will tough out the criticisms and stay on in Parliament – unless police intervene.

2. Official interest rates will end the year no higher than they started it at 2.5 per cent, and if the Reserve Bank moves at all it will be to cut the OCR.

3. David Shearer will win unanimous support for his leadership from his caucus in the February vote, and remain safe from any serious challenge throughout the year.

4. Aaron Gilmore will return to Parliament and be joined by a least one other replacement list MP – though Mr Gilmore will make no better an impression this year than first time around.

5. Arise Sir Lockwood Smith. The former Speaker will be knighted in the Queen’s Birthday honours.

6. Hekia Parata will remain in the Cabinet but lose the education portfolio.

7. Labour will rewrite its list selection rules to give the regions and the unions less power, but not without a major controversy.

8. National will fail to find a cross party “consensus” on changes to the MMP rules, but opposition parties will pledge to implement the main Electoral Commission recommendations if they win power.

9. The referendum opposing the sale of state assets will get the numbers and go ahead in October. But the part-sale of Mighty River Power will go ahead, after the Maori court challenge over water rights fails. The Government will also sell shares in Meridian and Genesis this year.

10. John Key will make international headlines again for a gaffe to rival the Beckham putdown, but he will resist the urge to become a fulltime talkback host.

11. Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples will bow to pressure and give up the co-leadership, opening the way for Te Ururoa Flavell. But Dr Sharples will not relinquish his portfolios.

12. Maurice Williamson and one other minister will announce that they are not standing for re-election in 2014.

13. A new Right-wing party will emerge, offering to fill the need for an ally for National. But National will be less than enthusiastic.

14. The Government will launch the year with a major economic policy promising to boost job numbers and make employment its priority.

15. A minister will resign over allegations surrounding events that emerge from the past.

16. As a consolation for missing out on the Speakership, National list MP Tau Henare will be offered a diplomatic post in the Pacific.

17. The Green Party will not top 15 per cent in any major political poll in 2013.

18. Andrew Little and David Clark will be promoted to the Labour top 12 and Nanaia Mahuta will not hold the prime responsibility for education by year’s end.

19. Growth will fall short of the Treasury’s pick of 2.3 per cent in the year till March but the economic mandarins will be closer to the mark on unemployment, which will be near their 6.9 per cent forecast.

20. David Bain will be paid some compensation even though a second review will be more ambivalent about his innocence – but he will get less than $1 million.

No 13 could be interesting. Not sure about the unions having less power in Labour list ranking, as they just gave them increased power in leadership selections.

Fairfax scores its 2012 predictions

December 31st, 2012 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Fairfax gallery team put up 20 political predictions at the start of each year. I like that they are game enough to do so, as events can be hard to predict.

They have scored their 2012 predictions and got 126.5/200. Their best prediction:

3. Former forecaster Brendan Horan will prove to be NZ First’s own weather bomb.

Soothsaying at its very best. The embarrassing allegations about his use of his dying mother’s money, and his expulsion from NZ First speak for themselves. He was the party’s weakest link, goodbye. We thought it was worth a good 10/10 but the auditor gave a generous 12.5/10 noting it was “luck bordering on genius”.

A good call indeed. Balanced with:

17. NZ First will pick former North Shore Mayor Andrew Williams as its deputy leader.

Winston Peters is still teasing that an announcement will be made “soon” but after a year we are still waiting so . . . 0/10

I think they will annoint one in 2013, and it will be Tracey Martin.

Fairfax slashes newspapers values by 80%

December 29th, 2012 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The NZ Herald reports:

Fairfax Media, which publishes the Dominion Post, Press and Sunday Star Times newspapers, slashed the value of its New Zealand mastheads by more than 80 percent in a group-wide writedown of its traditional publishing assets.

The New Zealand holding company, Fairfax New Zealand Holdings, valued its local newspaper titles at $175.2 million as at June 30, down from $950.1 million a year earlier, according to financial statements lodged with Companies Office. Value is allocated to the mastheads based on how much a company expects to recover from the asset, and is reviewed annually.

Ouch. That is a huge devaluation. Realistic, but painful.

The bulk of the remaining value in its titles is in the North Island publications such as the DomPost and Waikato Times, valued at $112.5 million, compared to $564.1 million in 2011. The South Island publications, including the Press and the Nelson Mail, were written down to $54.9 million as at June 30 from $343.2 million, while national publications such as the Sunday Star Times and Cuisine magazine, were valued at $7.7 million from $42.8 million.

Some might say $7.7 million for the SST is still too generous!

Fairfax sells remainder of Trade Me

December 16th, 2012 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Fairfax Media is reportedly selling its remaining stake in Trade Me for about A$650 million (NZ$810m).

If the sale were to proceed, it would considerably pay down the company’s debts.

The stake is reportedly being sold to a range of New Zealand and Australian institutions in a placement through UBS, according to market sources.

The quoted sale figure would exceed what Fairfax paid for Trade Me in its initial investment five years ago.

Fairfax bought the online auction company from founder Sam Morgan and his fellow private investors for NZ$700m in 2006 and previously recouped NZ$364m by selling a 34 per cent stake through Trade Me’s initial public offering in December 2011.

Morgan went on to be made a board member at Fairfax.

In June, Fairfax further sold down its holding by 15 per cent at a discounted price of $2.70 a share, retaining 51 per cent of the company.

The sale is surprising because it is regarded as the best asset in the digital arm of Fairfax, said Lance Wiggs, a former Trade Me insider who worked on the initial sale to Fairfax.

‘‘It does make sense for investors that you want to separate your assets, one old media, one new media. If I was Fairfax I would want to own Trade Me, not old media,’’ Wiggs said.

The purchase and sale has been a net gain for Fairfax. However I do wonder at the wisdom of selling the only part of your business that actually made money!

The Fairfax front bench ratings

December 15th, 2012 at 8:24 am by David Farrar

Fairfax have rated the respective front benches. Their ratings on a one to five star scale are:

  • Tony Ryall 4.5
  • Paula Bennett 4.0
  • John Key 4.0
  • Gerry Brownlee 4.0
  • Judith Collins 4.0
  • Chris Finlayson 3.5
  • Bill English 3.5
  • Steven Joyce 3.5
  • David Carter 2.5
  • Hekia Parata 0.5

The minor parties:

  • Russel Norman 4.5
  • Peter Dunne 3.5
  • Winston Peters 3.0
  • Hone Harawira 3.0
  • Tariana Turia 2.5
  • Metiria Turei 2.5
  • Barbara Stewart 2.0
  • Pita Sharples 1.5
  • John Banks 0

Labour

  • David Parker 4.5
  • David Shearer 4.0
  • Jacinda Ardern 3.5
  • Grant Robertson 3.0
  • Clayton Cosgrove 2.5
  • Maryan Street 2.0
  • Su’a William Sio 2.0
  • Nanaia Mahuta 1.0

A fair few there I’d dispute, but each to their own!

SST online edition three weeks out of date

November 11th, 2012 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Is Fairfax abandoning having online editions of its Sunday newspapers? Previously it was mainly the Sunday News that was embarrassingly out of date, but now it is the Sunday Star-Times also.

The lead story on the SST home page is from three weeks ago. The most recent column is from five weeks ago.

Under latest edition, there are some sports stories from today, but none of them are on the SST homepage. The most recent non sports story is two weeks old.

Now many of the SST stories are on the Stuff website main page, which is good. But what is the point of having a homepage for the newspaper itself if they are not there also? Fairfax, in my opinion, either needs to drop having the SST as a separate sub-site within Stuff, or they need to keep it up to date.

SST editor made redundant

October 19th, 2012 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

A media source tell me there has been a major upheaval at Fairfax and Sunday Star-Times Editor David Kemeys has been made redundant.

Next month a new role will be created of Chief Editor for Fairfax, in charge of the Sunday Star-Times and all online media.

The SST has been losing readers for some years. It will be interesting to see who gets the new top job, and if they can turn it around.