Farewell NZPA

August 31st, 2011 at 3:09 pm by David Farrar

Today NZPA sadly goes out of existence. This will make New Zealand one of the few countries without a national news agency. It also means that fewer worthy but unsensational parliamentary stories will get written and covered. NZPA provided excellent coverage of Parliament.

On Stuff there is a farewell article from former NZPA Editor Max Lambert.

Stuff also has an article focusing on the future:

The NZPA national news service officially ceases today and the void is being filled by news services set up by both companies, named FNZN and APNZ respectively, and joined by a third from the Australian Associated Press.

It will be interesting to see how the three services go. I’m not that hopeful:

APNZ would be “less institutional” in its focus, putting its resources to provide news that readers wanted rather than sticking rigidly to emergency services and political argument, Simons said.

I read this as being more stories about Britney Spears and fewer stories about boring stuff such as the electoral system referendum.

Fairfax kills NZPA

April 7th, 2011 at 7:06 am by David Farrar

The NZ Herald reports:

The New Zealand Press Association, which has supplied news to newspapers for more than 130 years, faces closure after one of its owners withdrew its support.

The Wellington-based news agency’s 40 staff heard last night that Fairfax Media had given notice of pulling out of a co-operative ownership agreement with APN, publisher of the Herald, and independent newspaper companies.

NZPA’s board announced a review of the agency’s future, and a final decision is expected in a month.

Fairfax’s decision has one almost inevitable consequence – NZPA will close after 132 years, and New Zealand will jave no national news agency, such as AAP in Australia and AP in the US.

Fairfax seem to have not only killed off NZPA, but also stopped their staff from reporting on it. The one story on the Stuff website, reads like a Fairfax advertorial about why this is a good thing etc. No outside comment at all.

Very different to TVNZ. Often TVNZ is itself the news, and the TVNZ news department reports on that pretty much as they do for any other agency. Where are the Fairfax stories about the criticisms of their decision?

I think the decision is a disaster for parliamentary reporting, and bad for the overall news industry.

NZPA are the one news agency in Parliament that cover every bill before the House. When other media are safely home in bed, there will be a NZPA reporter noting what time the House rose, and what bill was being debated at the time. Likewise on select committees, they are often the only news agency there (apart from the excellent Select Committee News, which is subscription only).

What I also liked about NZPA is they complement the other press gallery agencies. The other agencies naturally focus on stories which sell – which will make for good television, can run on a front page etc. But NZPA are not about “sexy” stories. They just faithfully produce concise factual and relevant stories about what happened – reporters in the old fashioned sense.  And not just about Parliament, also from the courts and elsewhere.

This is partly why NZPA was so liked and respected by MPs and staff. In my 2009 survey of MPs and press secretaries on the press gallery, NZPA was rated the top agency.

NZPA also used to act as a pool, where member newspapers would share content with each other. This ended in 2006 – again due to Fairfax. Karl du Fresne has an excellent blog post from Jan 2010 on this. He noted:

What this all boils down to is that we know a lot less about ourselves.

As Ellis put it in his thesis, the information flows that help New Zealanders build and maintain a collective picture of themselves have been impaired.

NZPA has survived, but only as a shadow of its former self. It’s ironic that this profound change has happened with little public awareness and even less debate, but reporting on itself has never been one of the newspaper industry’s strengths.

The other sad aspect of the announcement is 40 or so NZPA journalists look to lose their jobs. I know a fair few of them, and they are are excellent reporters. NZPA Political Editor Peter Wilson is a national treasure. Peter’s been there for decades, and his weekly column (only carried in provincial papers) is a first class analysis of what is happening.

In the near future, Fairfax and APN won’t have the cost of NZPA anymore. I hope they see that as an opportunity to hire more journalists themselves to cover the gap NZPA will leave, and enhance their ability to cover important stories, even if not front page stories.

Nuclear powered ships

November 5th, 2010 at 10:16 pm by David Farrar

NZPA report:

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says her country’s nuclear-powered warships are safe and reliable, and whether they visit here again is something New Zealand has to decide.

US submarines carry nuclear weapons, surface warships don’t but most of them are nuclear-powered.

No, they are not. In fact few ships would be ineligible to visit.

The US Navy has 289 ships, being:

    • 11 Aircraft carriers – nuclear powered
    • 10 Amphibious assault ships – non-nuclear
    • 9 Amphibious transport docks – non-nuclear
    • 12 Dock landing ships – non-nuclear
    • 22 Cruisers – non-nuclear
    • 55 Destroyers – non-nuclear
    • 30 Frigates – non-nuclear
    • 71 Submarines
      • 18 ballistic submarines – nuclear powered and armed
      • 53 attack submarines – nuclear powered only

    The ballistic submarines don’t really do port visits. They sit under the ocean waiting to blow Russia up 🙂

    The aircraft carriers are also very unlikely to visit NZ, even if no ban. They’re too large for most docks, and more to the point they tend to be needed in hot spots a lot.

    So really the ban on nuclear power (which is illogical but is now “iconic”) only stops the attack submarines from visiting.

    Going back to the NZPA article which said most surface warships are nuclear powered, it is in fact only 11 out of 218, or 5% of the surface fleet.

    Key is not campaigning to have Helen made Secretary-General

    October 28th, 2010 at 5:54 pm by David Farrar

    NZPA report:

    Mr Key was today on his way to Vietnam, where he will attend the East Asia Summit in Hanoi, but his bilateral meetings with world leaders outside the summit will draw most attention, one of those with Mr Ban.

    The two were likely to discuss a possible bid by former prime minister Helen Clark for the secretary-general role when Mr Ban’s term ended in 2015.

    Miss Clark heads the UN Development Programme.

    Climate change, New Zealand’s bid for a seat on the UN Security Council and the Pacific Islands Forum, to be held in Auckland next year, would also be discussed.

    I can only imagine that NZPA’s reporter interviewed themselves. I can’t imagine there is any way John Key will be chatting to Mr Ban about how to make Helen his successor for four reasons.

    1. First of all Ban is still in his first term in the job and has yet to gain re-appointment to a second term. There is no way you talk to someone not yet reappointed about their possible successor.
    2. Secondly his first term ends at the end of 2011 and his second term would end at the end of 2016 – so no idea where 2015 comes from. Clark’s term ends in 2013 incidentally. Anyway you don’t talk job succession six years before there is a vacancy.
    3. Helen does not speak French, and that is an unofficial requirement for the job.
    4. Also NZ belongs to the Western Europe and Others regional grouping. The job is rotated amongst the regions and the next region due is the Eastern European group.

    So Helen will not be the next UN Secretary-General, and media who say she might be do not understand the UN system. She is from the wrong region (not fixable) and does not speak French (she could learn if she thought she had a chance).Also there will probably not be a vacancy until 2017.

    Further, it is my personal view she does not have the skills and experience necessary to do the job. I think she was qualified to be UNDP Administrator, but Secretary-General is a very different ball game.

    No Right Turn’s OIA study

    August 31st, 2010 at 12:07 pm by David Farrar

    NZPA have done a story, based on No Right Turn’s OIA study. This is a good example of how blogs can do good quality research and get stories into the media based on their worth:

    Nearly all ministers fail to supply information requested under the Official Information Act (OIA) in the required time, a study by a blogsite has found.

    Idiot/Savant of No Right Turn, a left-wing blogsite, gathered information using the Act over the past three months on how requests for information were handled.

    The fastest answering ministers were: Chris Finlayson (who is Attorney-General, and has responsibility for Treaty negotiations and arts) who answered all requests within the 20 working day deadline and Maurice Williamson (a minister outside Cabinet responsible for a range of portfolios including building, customs and statistics) who answered 96.1 percent on time.

    The slowest were:

    * Gerry Brownlee (energy, economic development, leader of the house) — 39.7 percent on-time.

    * Judith Collins (police, corrections, veterans’s affairs) — 48.3 percent.

    * Tim Groser (trade, climate change negotiations) and Jonathan Coleman (immigration, broadcasting, tourism) — 50 percent.

    * Kate Wilkinson (labour, conservation, food safety) — 52.3 percent.

    * Phil Heatley (fisheries, housing) –54.2 percent.

    * Paula Bennett (social development and employment, youth affairs) refused to cooperate with the survey.

    The blogger said it was appalling that ministers were not ensuring they met the legal time limit.

    Hopefully the sunlight will encourage more Ministers to meet the deadlines in future. They are a deadline – not a target.

    NZPA on Budget

    May 23rd, 2010 at 5:13 pm by David Farrar

    A very astute analysis by NZPA Political Editor Peter Wilson:

    Wellington, May 23 NZPA – Post-budget best case scenario for the Government: Most people react responsibly, saving or investing their tax cuts. Inflation rises but far less than Treasury’s forecast. Reserve Bank raises interest rate by a quarter of one percentage point, says it’s because the economy is growing and has nothing to do with the budget. Families realise they really are better off, Labour fails to find anyone who says they are worse off. Petrol and power price rises caused by the introduction of the emissions trading scheme are accepted as necessary to deal with climate change. New Zealand First slips to less than 1 percent in the polls. Solo mum says “I’m voting National”. All Blacks win World Cup.

    Post-budget worst case scenario for the Government: Most people spend their tax cuts, saying they don’t have a choice because GST at 15 percent is hurting. Inflation rises above 6 percent. Reserve Bank announces vicious interest rate rise and blames the budget. Families realise they aren’t better off, Labour finds hundreds who say they’re worse off. Opposition to emissions trading scheme becomes a serious problem. NZ First reaches 7 percent in the polls. Wealthy property owner says “I’m voting for Winston Peters”. All Blacks lose to France in quarter-final.

    I think it will be obvious in a couple of months which scenario emerges.


    February 26th, 2010 at 9:24 am by David Farrar

    NZPA at 8.14 am reported:

    Wellington, Feb 26 NZPA – A report prepared for the Government proposes opening 500 million hectares of conservation land to mining, it was reported today.

    Now the land area of all of New Zealand is 268,000 square kms. That is 26.8 million hectares.

    Australia is around 760 million hectares so NZPA have exposed that Gerry Brownlee’s cunning plan is to invade and take over Australia, and turn the entire country, except for New South Wales, into New Zealand mines.

    A further NZPA report at 8.52 am reports:

    Radio New Zealand (RNZ) today reported that 7 percent of schedule four land was recommended to have protection removed to allow mining.

    However it understood the Government thought that was too extreme and had scaled back the area, in a proposal to be considered by Cabinet on Monday, to 7000ha.

    Mr Brownlee would not confirm the details when asked by RNZ.

    I’m not sure what the correct figure is, but I guess it will be closer to 7,000 hectares than to 500 million!

    Now 7,000 hectares is less than 1% of the additional land Labour put into Section 4 in 2008. So Labour reclassified around 800,000 (off memory) hectares of land as Section 4, and according to Radio NZ National is looking at reversing less than 1% of that.

    The total conservation estate is 30% of all of NZ, which means it is around 8.04 million hectares.

    That means that, if the Radio NZ report is correct, the proposal is for 0.087% of the conservation estate to be reclassified from Section 4 to non Section 4.

    NZPA on Politics 2009

    December 26th, 2009 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

    NZPA sums up the year:

    The recession hit New Zealand, unemployment increased, the budget was bleak and John Key walked on water.

    It would have been a brave prediction, this time last year, that the Government would end 2009 with more voters backing it than the 44.9 per cent who put it into power last November.

    That was a bad election to win. Economic forecasts were catastrophic, revenue was plunging, companies were closing and the buck stopped in the Beehive.

    Key had never been there before, he had no experience as a minister and not much as leader of the opposition.

    It was soon apparent he didn’t need it, which put paid to beliefs that decades on the benches were an essential part of a leader’s CV.

    The poll ratings have been exceptional is even the best of times. To maintain them all year during the global recession and credit crisis has defied expectations.

    Domestic issues started to exercise Key’s mind. Richard Worth resigned as a minister and then quit Parliament after a scandal involving two women. The Government’s relationship with the Maori Party hit some bumps, the blighted Foreshore and Seabed Act was reviewed and is heading for repeal as Attorney-General Chris Finlayson seeks an alternative, Education Minister Anne Tolley struggled with difficult policies and Rodney Hide set about restructuring Auckland’s local government structure.

    Simon Power began reforming the justice system, Judith `Crusher’ Collins took on organised crime and boy racers, Steven Joyce started building roads and Phil Heatley was fixing state house slums. Tony Ryall changed health administration with hardly a murmur of protest and managed to get hospitals to lift their game. Swine flu came and went,

    Gerry Brownlee redesigned the electricity market and started looking for gold in national parks, Nick Smith wrote the emissions trading scheme bill, which hardly anyone understood, and managed to look good when he raised ACC levies because the hikes weren’t as bad as he had said they could be. Labour saw through that but no one took much notice.

    Tim Groser toiled quietly on free trade agreements, Finlayson signed Treaty settlements, John Carter’s civil defence systems didn’t come out of the tsunami scare with anything to boast about and Maurice Williamson mulled over the H in W(h)anganui.

    Not a bad summary.

    At year end, Treasury delivered a slightly improved economic scenario, but the Government didn’t loosen its tight rein on spending. Budget 2010 will be every bit as hard as this year’s was and if Key can maintain National’s support in the 50 per cent range he will be well set for a second term in 2011.

    National won this election on 45%.

    You heard it here first!

    May 6th, 2009 at 9:34 am by David Farrar

    NZPA reports:

    Wellington, May 6 NZPA – New Zealand Post chief executive John Allen will be the next head of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, NZPA understands.

    I like this new order of reporting senior appointments:

    1. Tipped on Kiwiblog
    2. Predicted on Transtasman
    3. Reported on NZPA
    4. Announced by the SSC


    A useful press release

    March 5th, 2009 at 8:00 pm by David Farrar

    NZPA run a press release service called mediacom. Basically PR companies pay a fee and NZPA distribute their press release for them. This means you can pick them up if you receive an NZPA feed (they are in their own category so no one mistakes them for news).

    They also distribute these releases to other news organisations, and some time ago added Kiwiblog onto the list. So every day I usually get half a dozen or so releases through NZPA’s Mediacom service.

    Most of the time, it isn’t stuff I find particularly useful, but sometimes there is a press release worth waiting for, such as the one I got this afternnon announcing that members of the Blues Rugby Team, and their cheerleaders, were jumping off the Sky Tower. And they even provided a link to photos.

    Photography by Frances Oliver.

    So it allows me to republish the photo, for all the Blues supporters out there!

    NZPA on Labour

    December 22nd, 2008 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

    TV3 has an opinion piece from NZPA on Labour that is good reading:

    Labour MPs aren’t saying it, but they must be thinking it: this year’s election wasn’t a bad one to lose.

    If the results had been different, and if Labour had managed to stitch together a majority, it would have been a fourth term government facing the worst economic crisis in decades with the Greens, New Zealand First and possibly the Maori Party on its back.

    Tax cuts would have been cancelled by now, but even with that Labour would have huge problems if it had won. The Greens and NZ First only care about spending more money – their idea of success is how much money they got for a project. I can only imagine how bad the deficit and debt would have got.

    Also in for the chop is what English calls the previous government’s wish-list of unfunded projects, like pouring millions into KiwiRail. That caused cries of outrage from Labour, as have other cost-cutting announcements, but they must know that if they were still in office the calls they would have had to make would be just as hard.

    How Labour handles the situation in the next year or two will be important in terms of public perception. With the country in crisis, it needs to do more than groan and grizzle every time the Government says something can’t be afforded.

    If it demands a plan from the Government that adapts to a worsening situation, it must produce its own blueprint for economic survival.

    If the Government says it has to cut funding and Labour doesn’t like that, it must say what it would do under the same circumstances.

    This is the key. Everytime Labour complains about a spending cut, ask them where the money would come from. They have left the incoming Government with the worst set of fiscal projections ever. Are they really going to campaign on how they would make them worse?

    Idiot Lawyers

    December 12th, 2008 at 6:33 pm by David Farrar

    Three idiot lawyers – Helen White, Simon Mitchell and Greg Lloyd – have just done a scare-mongering press release about the new probation period law. Their ignorance of the law they criticise seems to be reason never to use them.

    In a statement issued today, the lawyers say that the new act exposes everyone who starts a new job in a company where there are fewer than 20 employees to the risk of being sacked without even being told the reason, let alone having any ability to do anything about it.

    Wrong. They have the most basic fact wrong. It is not everyone who starts a new job. It is only if the employer wishes there to be a trial period of up to 90 days, and only if the employee agrees to it.

    For example, think about a hairdresser who is so good at the job that he/she is attracting all the customers from a nearby competitor. Under these new provisions, a rival salon could poach the hairdresser with promises of more money. Two weeks’ later the hairdresser is sacked – as allowed under the law. It turns out that the new employer’s real intention was to damage a rival’s business and used the hairdresser as a pawn.

    How stupid is this example. If the hairdresser is so good at their current job, why would they agree to a trial period with the competitor? You wouldn’t. You’d say that if you want me that badly, then no trial period.

    We advise workers:

    * Not to accept a position with a company of fewer than 20 employees if they can’t afford to lose the job.

    Again moronic stupidity. They have the most basic law wrong. Their advice should be not to accept any employment contract with a trial period in it. But scaremongering against all small businesses is stupid and wrong.

    So who do these genius lawyers work for:

    Simon Mitchell (Unity Chambers)

    Greg Lloyd (National Distribution Union)

    Helen White (Unity Chambers)

    So one is a union lawyer. How about the other two. Is SImon Mitchell the same Simon Mitchell who purchased the evidence in Paintergate for Helen Clark’s office so they could burn it? And Helen White I presume is the former EPMU lawyer? So is this factually wrong advice politically motivated?

    Here’s my advice. If you get offered a job with a small business, don’t quit your previous job until you have signed the employment contract for your new job, and if your employer insists on a trial period, and you don’t want one, then stay in your current job.

    Section 67A makes it very clear that the trial period is not automatic:

    67A When employment agreement may contain provision for trial period for 90 days or less
    (1) An employment agreement containing a trial provision, as defined in subsection (2), may be entered into by an employee, as defined in subsection (3), and an employer as defined in subsection (4).

    NZPA have already run this press release almost word for word as a story. They should also read the actual law, and also perhaps research the actual background of the lawyers rather than cite them as a neutral group of lawyers.

    MPs survey of the media

    September 29th, 2008 at 3:20 pm by David Farrar

    Last week I set up an online survey for MPs, asking them to rate various media organisations and senior gallery journalists on a scale of 0 to 10. Just under one quarter of MPs responded, and the results are shown below.

    As the media often rate how well MPs are doing, I thought it appropriate to reverse this and ask the questions in reverse. The media are a hugely powerful filter, and it is appropriate (in my opinion) to have some focus on how well they are perceived to be performing.

    The questions were:

    1. For each media organisation please give them a rating from 0 to 10 for how well you think they do in their parliamentary reporting. This should take account of all relevant factors – accuracy, fairness, thoroughness, relevance, substance etc.
    2. Now for some individual senior members of the press gallery, please rate from 0 to 10 how well you think they perform at proving fair, accurate, unbiased and informative reporting on Parliament. You can skip any that you do not feel able to rate.
    3. Finally can you indicate your party grouping as National, Labour or Other. Your individual identity is not sought by us, and we have no way or interest in identifying individual respondents. However we would like to summarise results for all MPs and by the three groupings to see if they vary by party grouping.

    It is important that these be read in context, so make the following points:

    1. This is the opinion of MPs only. It does not set out to be an objective rating, and should not be seen as such.
    2. MPs get reported on by the gallery. While this makes them the group of NZers potentially best able to have an informed opinion on the media (which is why I surveyed them), it also gives them a conflict of interest. MPs may score journalists lowly due to personal run ins with them, or the fact they are too good at their job! This should be borne in mind.
    3. I only e-mailed the survey to the 121 MPs, but it is possible that one or more responses was filled in by a staff member who has access to the MPs mailbox. I think this is unlikely, as most staff are very professional. However MPs were not required to prove their identity to vote, as confidentiality of individual responses was important. You need to know the Survey URL to be able to vote.
    4. National MPs made up 43% of responses, slightly above their numbers in Parliament. Minor Party MPs were also slightly over-represented, Labour MPs under-represented and some MPs did not give a party identification.
    Media Mean Median Mode Minimum Maximum Range
    NZ Press Assn 6.1 6 6 4 9 5
    Newsroom 5.8 6 5 1 10 9
    Trans-Tasman 5.5 6 6 0 8 8
    NZ Herald 5.3 6 6 0 8 8
    Scoop 5.2 5 5 0 10 10
    Newstalk ZB 5.1 6 7 1 8 7
    Listener 5.0 5 3 1 8 7
    NBR 4.9 4 4 1 8 7
    Radio NZ 4.8 6 3 1 9 8
    Radio Live 4.4 5 1 1 8 7
    Sky/Prime News 4.3 5 5 0 7 7
    The Press 4.2 5 1 1 7 6
    TV Three 4.1 5 6 0 8 8
    Dominion Post 4.1 4.5 1 1 7 6
    TV One 3.9 5 5 0 6 6
    Maori TV 3.7 4 5 0 6 6
    Herald on Sunday 3.5 3.5 7 0 7 7
    Sunday Star-Times 2.7 3 3 0 5 5

    NZ Press Association tops the rankings with a mean or average 6.1 rating – and received no very low ratings from anyone. The two Internet agencies were in the top five, indicating MPs like the fact their releases are carried in full. Trans-Tasman also does well.

    Television generally gets ranked lowly with all four stations in the bottom half. Sky News actually ranks highest.

    Radio is middle of the field with NewstalkZB being the highest ranked radio broadcaster.

    The newspapers range the spectrum. The NZ Herald is up at 5.3, Press at 4.2 and Dom Post at 4.1. I would have them all higher, but this is a survey of MPs, not of my views.

    Now the sample sizes are of course very small (but of a limited population) but let us look at how National MPs ranked media compared to all the other MPs:

    Media All Mean Nats Mean Others Mean Difference
    TV One 3.9 6.3 2.2 4.2
    TV Three 4.1 6.2 2.6 3.6
    Maori TV 3.7 5.2 2.5 2.7
    Sky/Prime News 4.3 5.5 3.3 2.2
    Sunday Star-Times 2.7 3.5 2.1 1.4
    Radio Live 4.4 4.8 4.2 0.6
    Radio NZ 4.8 5.0 4.6 0.4
    Dominion Post 4.1 4.2 4.0 0.2
    Herald on Sunday 3.5 3.5 3.5 0.0
    Newstalk ZB 5.1 4.8 5.4 -0.6
    The Press 4.2 3.8 4.6 -0.8
    NZ Herald 5.3 4.2 6.1 -1.9
    NBR 4.9 3.3 6.1 -2.8
    Listener 5.0 3.3 6.3 -3.0
    NZ Press Assn 6.1 4.3 7.4 -3.1
    Trans-Tasman 5.5 3.3 7.1 -3.8
    Scoop 5.2 2.8 7.0 -4.2
    Newsroom 5.8 3.0 8.0 -5.0

    National MPs ranked the four TV channels much higher than other MPs did. Maybe this is minor parties upset that they do not get on TV much?

    Despite the generally accepted lean to the left of Radio NZ, National MPs ranked Radio NZ higher than other MPs did. And while some on the left attack the NZ Herald at favouring National, National MPs actually ranked them lower than other MPs did. The Listener and NBR also get accused of leaning right, but again get ranked lower by National MPs.

    The Nat MPs also rated the online media very lowly.

    Now the journalists. I decided not to list all members of the press gallery, but only those who are relatively senior, and are more likely to have a reasonable number of MPs have formed opinions about them. Looking back I could have included more.

    If any journalist is unhappy about being missed out, happy to include you next year. Now again it is worth remembering these are only the opinions of those MPs who responded to my survey – it is not an objective rating.

    Journalist Mean Median Mode Minimum Maximum Range
    John Armstrong (NZH) 6.4 7 2 2 10 8
    Peter Wilson (NZPA) 5.8 5 5 3 8 5
    Audrey Young (NZH) 5.7 6.5 7 0 10 10
    Ian Templeton (TT) 5.6 7 7 0 9 9
    Jane Clifton (Listener) 5.6 6 6 2 9 7
    Barry Soper (Sky & ZB) 4.9 5.5 7 1 9 8
    Ian Llewellyn (NZPA) 4.9 5 5 1 8 7
    Vernon Small (DP) 4.6 5 6 1 8 7
    Colin Espiner (Press) 4.5 5 6 0 8 8
    Guyon Espiner (TV1) 4.4 5.5 7 0 7 7
    Tim Donoghue (DP) 4.1 4.5 2 1 9 8
    Brent Edwards (RNZ) 4.1 4 4 0 7 7
    Tracy Watkins (DP) 3.8 4.5 6 0 7 7
    Duncan Garner (TV3) 3.7 3.5 3 0 8 8
    Gordon Campbell (Scoop) 3.6 5 5 0 7 7
    Ruth Laugeson (SST) 2.7 2.5 2 0 6 6

    John Armstrong tops the ratings, followed by the NZPA Political Editor Peter Wilson. Generally MPs ranked journalists slightly higher than media organisations. As can be seen by the minimum ratings showing, some MPs were very harsh handing out zeroes. Did WInston multiple vote? 🙂 (Note I have no idea if Winston did vote)

    And once again we compare responses between National MPs and other MPs.

    Journalist All Mean Nats Mean Others Mean Difference
    Laugeson 2.7 4.2 1.6 2.6
    Clifton 5.6 7.0 4.5 2.5
    Soper 4.9 6.2 4.0 2.2
    Campbell 3.6 4.8 2.8 2.0
    Edwards 4.1 4.8 3.5 1.3
    Llewellyn 4.9 5.2 4.7 0.5
    Young 5.7 6.0 5.5 0.5
    Garner 3.7 3.5 3.9 -0.4
    Espiner G 4.4 4.2 4.6 -0.4
    Wilson 5.8 5.5 6.0 -0.5
    Armstrong 6.4 6.0 6.8 -0.8
    Watkins 3.8 3.0 4.4 -1.4
    Donoghue 4.1 3.2 4.9 -1.7
    Small 4.6 3.2 5.6 -2.4
    Espiner C 4.5 2.8 5.8 -3.0
    Templeton 5.6 1.8 8.5 -6.7

    Again very interesting. The SST is generally seen as hostile to National, but Ruth Laugeson is ranked much higher by National MPs, than by other MPs. Likewise the Gordon Campbell and Brent Edwards (both left leaning) are ranked higher by National MPs than other MPs.

    Also for some reasons National MPs ranked Ian Templeton very lowly. Maybe they don’t like his weekly chats with Clark and Key, ignoring the lesser MPs?

    NZPA on Winston’s contradictions

    September 11th, 2008 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

    NZPA have done an excellent job detailing how Winston couldn’t even keep to the one line, last night.  Very good research on their part to go through the transcripts and recordings. They say:

    New Zealand First leader Winston Peters last night gave several different positions on the crucial phone call and email at the centre of the conflict between he and billionaire Owen Glenn’s testimony….

    Mr Peters’ responses

    1. He said money was not discussed in the call and he did not recollect Mr Glenn asking for Mr Henry’s bank details, but conceded the latter was possible.

    “That’s the only logical conclusion that one can come to. That he (Glenn) asked for the details and that’s why it is mentioned in the email.”

    He said it was “fair” to presume Mr Henry was talking about him when he referred to “my client” in his email.

    2. At another point he said he believed Mr Henry’s reference may have related to another client who had solicited the donation in an earlier call.

    “Mr Henry … in his last evidence to you points out that the person involved in the set up of Mr Glenn making this donation was not Winston Peters. That’s the light in which you should see that email. That’s the only conclusion I can come to.”

    But he appeared to contradict that by arguing it was Mr Henry who initially solicited the donation from Mr Glenn.

    “I believe now that Mr Henry had called him on 5th of December to solicit the funds.”

    Mr Henry himself has in letters to the committee — most recently three days ago, before the full email was revealed — asserted the client referred to in the email is not Mr Peters.

    3. Mr Peters also said the email did not refer to his conversation with Mr Glenn as it referred to a call made at 1.30, whereas Mr Glenn’s six-minute call to him started at 1.26.

    This is why people who were there labeled it pathetic. It was grasping for straws.

    Mind you looking at Labour in the House today attacking Owen Glenn and agreeing with Winston, I have to say I think Helen may be now moving to keep Peters on.

    Confusing figures on cost of universal allowances

    July 18th, 2008 at 7:58 am by David Farrar

    Media reports on the costs of universal student allowances are somewhat confused. The initial story in The Press stated:

    The paper shows that removing income tests on the allowance and providing it to all fulltime students would cost a total of $2.09 billion over four years.

    The net extra cost of such a plan is $728 million after the existing costs of the scheme are removed, along with a forecast plunge in borrowing under the student loans scheme that might accompany such a plan.

    Now this story is largely correct, but the confusion starts here because of two things. Firstly it wasn’t made clear the $728 net cost was over four years also, and the reduction in cost from $2.09 to $0.73 billion is attributed to both the existing costs of “the scheme” and a forecast plunge in borrowing.

    I’ve obtained a copy of the Ministry paper, and the $2.09 billion “total net cost” actually already includes any savings from reduced student loans. The difference between the $728 million and the $2,094 million is merely the difference between the status quo and the “total net cost” of universal allowances. In 2011/12 it would be an extra $226 million of annual expenditure.

    So what impact would universal allowances have on the student loans scheme? In fact fairly modest. Over four years there would be a reduction in operating expenditure of $107 million and a reduction in capital expenditure of $260 million. In 2012/12 the student loans scheme would cost the taxpayer $33 million less than if one had universal allowances.

    So the original story while largely correct, was imprecise and had one aspect wrong. And then see how the story changed;

    NZPA picked up the story, and as reported in the Herald says:

    The Press said the $728m net extra cost of such a plan was based on removing existing costs of the scheme and factoring in an expected reduction in student loans.

    NZPA have left off the all important fact that this is a cost over four years.

    Then we turn to today’s Press editorial:

    Figures from the ministry suggest that the total cost would be $2.09 billion over four years, although that could go down to a net cost of $728 million if student borrowing fell, as the ministry expects it might.

    No no no. The $2.09 billion already takes into account a decline in student borrowing. The fall to $728 million is merely deducting the cost of current student allowances.

    The Press are correct with their warning:

    Voters will recall the Government’s assurance that interest-free loans would not greatly increase student borrowing. A survey of student borrowing shows, however, that since 2004 the average debt has risen 54% to $28,838. While not all of that is attributable to the interest-free nature of the loans, it does suggest that a considerable number of students (or their parents) are doing exactly what was predicted leaving their own money in the bank to earn interest and taking out a loan interest-free, at the taxpayers’ expense, to meet their educational costs.

    And something the Ministry paper does not do is project any increase in student numbers, if allowances became universal. I suspect there would be an increase in numbers studying if this did happen.

    Anyway back to what are the actual costs of universal allowances. As far as I can tell from the Ministry paper, the costs are:

    1. Gross costs of universal student allowances: $2,221 million/4 years or $657 million in 2011/12
    2. Reduction in operating cost of student loan scheme: $107 million/4 years or $33 million in 2011/12
    3. Net cost of universal student allowances: $2,094 million/4 years or $624 million in 2011/12
    4. Current cost of student allowances: $1,366 million/4 years or $399 million in 2011/12
    5. Net additional cost of policy: $728 million/4 years or $226 million in 2011/12

    Note I don’t guarantee these 100% as the Ministry paper itself is not totally explicit with its calculations. But hopefully this gives a far better idea of the costs than the various media reports.

    NZPA Political Column

    July 7th, 2008 at 12:25 pm by David Farrar

    NZPA Political Editor Peter Wilson reviews the week (no link):

    On Friday night another poll showed National holding more than 50 percent of the party vote and leading Labour by more than 20 points.

    Three previous surveys during the last three weeks, taken by different polling organisations, delivered very similar results.

    They all put National above 50 percent, they all showed the gap at more than 20 points.

    Contrary to the Government’s comments, public opinion isn’t volatile.

    It’s about a solid as it gets, and the message for Labour is about as bad as it gets.

    How long will Helen keep rubbishing every single poll as extreme? And I note that the John Key attack site has stopped publishing poll results since mid May, after previously recording every single one.

    The trucking industry’s protest against the latest rise in their road user charges — clogging up feeder routes into cities around the country — would normally have been expected to provoke confrontations with motorists on their way to work.

    Very little of that happened, and although industry claims of nearly 100 percent public support were probably exaggerated the truckies were getting the thumbs up from drivers.

    Most of them probably weren’t aware of the details behind the Government’s actions that had infuriated the industry but they knew one thing — the protest was about rising costs and the truckies were fed up.

    People are fed up. They’re fed up with the price of petrol and the price of food. They’re fed up with the Reserve Bank using the mortgage rate to control inflation and they’re fed up with the slump in the housing market.

    Well I doubt many understand how the Reserve Bank acts but they are certainly fed up with high prices, high interest rates and falling property prices.

    Before that, many of them perceived the Government as bossy and interfering. The law change that banned smacking was the catalyst for a swing against Labour, although it was a Green Party bill.

    The Electoral Finance Act was introduced late last year amid strident opposition protest and a rash of mostly bad publicity.

    And they deserve to lose for both laws. The first for the blatant dishonestry around what they were doing, and the second for trying to silence its critics and legalise its own use of taxpayer money for campaigning without it counting towards their limit.

    The budget in May this year delivered tax cuts, but it did nothing at all to improve the Government’s poll rating. The reaction seemed to be “thanks, but you should have given it to us three years ago”.

    This set of circumstances has come about at a really bad time for a third term government, and the impact could be catastrophic.

    Not just in terms of the party vote, but in individual electorates. It is possible one could see Labour reduced to a mere dozen or so electorate seats, if the electorate vote margin is similar to the party vote. And the challenge for Labour will be whether to protect incumbent MPs on the list or allow some new blood to come in.

    Against this backdrop, Labour’s attacks on National’s leader John Key risk looking like desperate diversions.

    Voters don’t want more negative news, they want to hear something that will make them believe things are going to get better.

    They are looking to National and John Key to deliver it, and whether or not he sold his family trust shares in Tranz Rail before or after he asked a question in Parliament about the railways isn’t going to make a damn bit of difference.

    Yes, Labour’s biggest concern. That plus Crosby/Textor.

    Review of Absolute Power

    April 28th, 2008 at 7:05 am by David Farrar

    Ian Llewellyn of NZPA has done a review of the Helen Clark biography “Absolute Power” by Ian Wishart. It’s a fair and balanced review in my opinion. I am not sure which papers will carry the review, but here are some extracts:

    The book, released last week, is a collection of articles which attempt to prove Wishart’s thesis that the current Government is corrupt and Prime Minister Helen Clark entered Parliament under false pretences to push a hidden agenda.

    The book is similar in many ways to Nicky Hager’s book The Hollow Men, and they share many of the same strengths as well as flaws.

    They also both reveal as much as about the author’s world view as they do about their subjects.

    Both gathered exhaustive (and in places exhausting) material and did meticulous research, but the impression is the evidence has been gathered and presented to reach a pre-determined position.

    I think that is a very fair call. Ian Wishart didn’t just form a view as he started to put his book together that Helen Clark was no good – he has been of that view for some time.

    In Hager’s case it was that National was controlled and driven by dark forces ranging from big business, the religious right and foreign interests.

    Wishart aims at the other end of the political spectrum and sees Miss Clark as someone who would do anything to get into power and do anything to hold on to it, all in order to push a hidden feminist, socialist agenda on an unsuspecting New Zealand.

    It is unclear whether political blindness or naivety colours both authors’ views as they often see quite ordinary political processes as something far more sinister.

    In Hager’s case, the lobbying of big business and internal caucus power struggles were proof of conspiracy. …

    The fact that people join or lobby political parties to push a view that they believe is a better way for the world seems to be lost upon both authors.

    I can’t agree too strongly here. Hager would have you believe that every business donor and supporter is motivated by self interest and greed, rather than a genuine belief in their views and policies being best for NZ. Likewise Wishart does fall down when he reads too much into fairly predictable stuff such as the PMs Office not being very helpful too him.

    This is not to say that Wishart’s compilation of all the scandals under Clark is not valuable. People have become so used to them, they hardly register now, and the one thing they all have in common is that in almost every case Clark or her coterie lied and covered up – from paintergate to corngate to speedgate (yes I know all those gates sound lame but they make for easy reference) to doongate.

    Much of the book is spent on Wishart’s arguments over whether it is ethical to get into the personal lives of politicians.

    He concludes that it is necessary to expose hypocrisy.

    Some of the material is an interesting take on political events, such as the downfall of former police commissioner Peter Doone and similar events.

    It also documents the habit of many politicians to say one thing in opposition and another in government.

    Wishart believes his book portrays a pattern of behaviour that makes Labour and Miss Clark unfit to hold office.

    For his followers and those who dislike the current administration, the book will be a gospel.

    Miss Clark’s supporters will dismiss it as the ravings of an obsessed individual.

    The vast majority of the population will simply not care either way as they accept things are not black and white; instead there are many shades of grey.

    Most people accept that others are prone to make mistakes and get things wrong, as much as they get things right.

    In the end Absolute Power is not Absolute Gospel, but neither is it entirely Absolute Nonsense.

    NZPA should be congratulated for doing a review of the book, rather than just ignore it. I suspect those on the left will not like the comparisons to Hager’s book (which is treated like the Koran by some Labour Ministers as they refer to it daily), but likewise some on the right will not like the dismissal of much of the book as reading too much into everyday politics.

    When you have upset people equally on both sides, then you are often spot on 🙂

    NZ news was ahead of China’s

    February 26th, 2008 at 12:47 am by David Farrar

    Back on the 14th, I linked to a post on the Hive. about how a Chinese newspaper reported the Chinese Government reported the the China-NZ Free Trade Agreement

    Somewhat unkindly (and not entirely seriously) I suggested that NZers are getting better news from China than NZ on the Free Trade Agreement.

    An alert journo has pointed out that in fact NZPA had a story in January on the China FTA, and that it would be signed in April.

    So let the record be corrected.  The NZ Govt is officially still more open than China’s, and the gallery did not get scooped by the Chinese!