Ralston on spin

Bill Ralston covers several issues today:

There are now more media communications and public relations staff working for the Ministry of Social Development than there are journalists working in individual newsrooms for media organisations across the country.

The MSD apparently employs 61.5 media staff. Quite what the half person does is not clear but the rest appear to be trying to put a positive spin on everything the department does. All appear to be failing spectacularly.

It may be more than that. For example spies in the Education Ministry tell me the under-report their media/comms personnel by only counting those who work in the central comms unit, but that every operating section also has it owns comms person.

Actually, I suspect the 350 policy advisers are too busy with the 61.5 media people working out how to spend your money telling you that they are working hard for you. Last year, the MSD budgeted 15 million taxpayer dollars to promote, for example, the Working for Families scheme this election year. The Government is anxious to remind you that it is looking after you – even if you don’t want to be looked after.

I’m from the Government and I’m here to help you!

With this in mind, the Government last year published, at your expense, a brochure subtly called We’re Making a Difference. It is designed to tell you how good the Labour Government has been for you and, not surprisingly, the courts and Electoral Office came to the conclusion it was campaign advertising for the Labour Party under the Government’s stunningly stupid Electoral Finance Act.

However, last week the Government started ducking and diving in Parliament about whether the brochure would be counted against Labour’s spending cap for the election. Labour Party secretary Mike Smith has been telling the Electoral Office that the breach of the act wasn’t committed by the Labour Party, it was committed by the Labour Government, or more precisely, the Prime Minister’s Office, which is entirely different, says Mr Smith.

Quite how the Labour Party’s Prime Minister and the Labour Government is divorced from the Labour Party is not clear, but members of the Labour Party must be wondering if this is final confirmation of what they have felt for years, the party’s parliamentary wing is a law unto itself and no longer has any connection with its rank and file.

The arrogance of the parliamentary wign as they pushed through the EFA was staggering, only matched by their refusal to concede they overspent by $800,000 last time.

What she is saying is that the Government rammed through an act of Parliament, put the Electoral Office to enormous expense, tied up endless amounts of police time investigating alleged breaches of the act, and further troubled the overburdened court system with litigation about the meaning of the act because Labour was worried National might put up billboards attacking the Government this election year.

Yep, this could not be allowed.

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