It is No Longer Acceptable to Defend the Indefensible

For a while, I have criticised the mainstream media for defending the indefensible. I am seeing a potential sea change and a realisation that it is no longer acceptable to defend the indefensible, being this government. However, a couple of groups steadfastly still attempt to.

When I saw TV1’s Sunday report on Rotorua, I was initially sceptical, although I ended up surprised and shocked at what I saw. For once, TV1 exposed the truth of emergency housing in Rotorua, something some of us already knew. What I saw shocked me, and it was too hard to watch. For too long mainstream media have been trying to bury this story (albeit one very good piece I saw recently). But not now. The TV1 Sunday programme ruthlessly exposed what this government has done to Rotorua and the people they are supposed to care for. This massive failure by Labour is no longer defendable, even by the staunchest of Labour supporters, inside and outside the mainstream media. Thus, the TV1 expose was as dramatic and damning of the government, as much as the topic was itself.

For some time, The New Zealand Herald has been dabbling round the edges and sniping at the government occasionally. While I like Steven Joyce’s opinion pieces, he is an ex-National cabinet minister and was a good one at that. Obviously, due to his political leanings, he will take the current government to task whenever he can. Even I could not ignore the fact he exposed the government on its blatant attempt to hide the GST take on Kiwisaver. He carefully outlined the process on how such bills come to be tabled; how ministers are consulted and briefed on the important issues that need to be thought through, potentially declared, or even removed from the draft legislation before being tabled. As Joyce put it, “So unless there is a total breakdown of the normal decision-making processes within the Government, which is highly unlikely, the decision and the underhand way it was announced was premediated.” (Weekend Herald, 3 September 2022).

Amazingly, Grant Robertson tried to blame this on the previous National government when he told Heather du Plessis on ZB Talkback that they started this process before Labour came to power. This is arrogantly trying to blame someone else for their own mistake. As Joyce wrote, this government must now be tone deaf to the reality they found themselves in. Even Janet Wilson and Luke Malpass dabbled a little on this matter too, although in a more diplomatic manner.

Regarding The Three Waters, I recently wrote that the mainstream media have avoided getting to the crux of this matter by refusing to openly admit Three Waters is a lie. I quoted the Taxpayers Union on this, who thought their legal opinion would never appear in mainstream media. It did. To the NZ Herald’s credit, they published an opinion piece by Bruce Cotterill. He wrote, “With the support of the Taxpayers’ Union and the Democracy Foundation, those small beginnings have now escalated to the point where there is a strong legal team headed by well-known Wellington lawyer Stephen Franks, a former Act Party MP, and highly regarded Queen’s Counsel Gary Judd, QC.

“This month the Water Users’ Group had their first day in court. At the centre of their case is the challenge to the claims made by the Minister of Local Government that implementing the Government’s proposals is necessary in order for the Crown to comply with its obligations under the partnership outlined within the Treaty of Waitangi.

“The early action has been about the Government’s reassurances that under the Three Waters proposals, local communities and councils will still “own” shares in the new water entities. In reality, while on paper ownership will technically stay in council hands, the usual rights associated with ownership will be stripped away.

“The Water Users’ Group is suggesting that the minister has deliberately misled members of Cabinet during the initial briefings on the proposed legislation, in order to ensure Cabinet support for the Government’s controversial approach.

“The statements from lawyers acting for the Water Users’ Group go further. Their published comments include that “ministers appear to have cold-bloodedly decided to confuse councils and ratepayers with false statements”.

“They go on to say that the claims have been “calculated to deceive parliamentarians, and when it becomes law, to deceive New Zealanders generally”. Gary Judd, QC does not mince words, stating in his opinion that “when all the lying statements are put together, the Government’s effrontery is breath-taking”.

“Remember, these are the learned people of the law, providing an opinion of the behaviour of our government. That in itself is breath-taking.” (NZ Herald 22 August 2022).

I have highlighted what Gary Judd QC has said, because I thought I would never read that in a mainstream media outlet. Thus, even the NZ Herald is now finding it hard to carefully tackle this prickly issue. Essentially, via Bruce Cotterill’s opinion piece, this newspaper has openly said this is all wrong. It can no longer be defended.

The NZ Herald published another article by Matthew Hooton, a centre right political commentor, that “Time’s up for (the) most inept Government ever” (NZ Herald, 2 September, 2022). Meanwhile, Stuff blindly denies anything is wrong in the beehive albeit with carefully worded articles by Wilson and Malpass. Instead, Stuff is running a campaign on “extreme” candidates running for local councils and as mayors this October. They want to out the vaccine deniers, for example. While I do not support these candidates, via this campaign, Stuff is showing its real hand and where its loyalties lie. They are prepared to defend the undefendable by attacking the slightly unhinged amongst us. Stuff should openly admit they are left leaning in principle, and I would be happy with that. I am also happy with the NZ Herald being a centrist outlet, like The Times.  

It is pleasing to see some mainstream outlets are now prepared to say, enough is enough. The indefensible can no longer be defended. If we want a functioning government, the media need to be prepared to hold the governing party (or coalition) to account if it is failing to deliver on policy or failing to protect society. For too long, this has not been the case. Hopefully, that is now changing. 

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