by Don Brash
I was brought up in an era when Radio New Zealand news broadcasts seemed to be broadly neutral politically, as was surely appropriate for a taxpayer-funded radio network; when the same was true of TVNZ; and when the main privately-owned newspapers leaned to the right politically.
How times have changed! Today, RNZ and both TV news channels lean well to the left, NZME and Stuff have both been captured by a radical interpretation of the Treaty of Waitangi, and the Otago Daily Times won’t touch a cartoonist like Garrick Tremain.
Is that too harsh? Then why has there been absolutely minimal coverage of He Puapua, the most radical document ever written at taxpayers’ expense? As most of the readers of this blog will know, He Puapua was commissioned by the last Government, completed in November 2019, but kept carefully out of sight until after the election in October 2020.
Thanks to some investigative work by Muriel Newman, the full document finally saw the light of day in April. And what it proposes is that, in order to “implement” the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, signed by the Key Government in 2010 but essentially ignored by all the other governments which have signed it, we should establish in New Zealand basically two governments – one for those with some Maori ancestry and one for all the rest of us.
The aim would be to have separate health authorities, separate education ministries, separate justice systems, separate social welfare systems, and so on.
For those who care about New Zealand being a democracy where all citizens have equal political rights, irrespective of ancestry or when they or their forebears arrived in New Zealand, this is appalling stuff. Yet our media gave it almost no coverage at all, and when David Seymour and Judith Collins have made an issue of the report in Parliament they have been accused of racism or separatism, yet it is they who are opposing racism and separatism.
Yes, there are individuals on commercial radio who have given the matter prominent coverage – in particular Mike Hosking on NewstalkZB and Peter Williams on Magic Talk – and Chris Trotter has also written extensively on the issue on his blog. But for the most part the media have ignored the report or attacked those trying to bring it to the public’s attention.
And it is not as if there is no evidence that the Government is indeed moving in the direction suggested by He Puapua. In the last few months, we have seen legislation passed through the House under Urgency to deny citizens the right to have a say on the creation of Maori wards in local government, with the result that such wards are being set up all over the country despite ample evidence that, when citizens are asked, they make it clear that they want no part in such racially-based representation. We’ve seen the announcement of a separate Maori Health Authority. We’ve seen legislation freeing some Maori-owned land from the obligation to pay rates. There is increasing talk of having a childcare agency “for Maori, by Maori”, replacing Oranga Tamariki.
I am one of the two spokespeople for the Hobson’s Pledge Trust, the other being Casey Costello, a person of Ngapuhi and Anglo/Irish heritage. When we first launched and issued press statements in her name, with her phone number, the media typically contacted me: I could be portrayed as “male, pale and stale” whereas she could not be. It suited the media to portray Hobson’s Pledge as racist and out of date, even though we were arguing for a recognition of what the Treaty of Waitangi had promised – equal rights for all New Zealanders.
These days, with the single exception of BFD (the blog of Cam Slater) none of the media carry our press releases at all.
Perhaps I am the problem – the person who gave a speech to the Orewa Rotary Club in January 2004, when I was Leader of the National Party. Well, first let me say that I don’t resile from a single sentence in that speech. But no, my colleague on this blog, Dr Michael Bassett, has apparently been banished from NZME because of an article he wrote some months ago attacking the way in which everything now has to be interpreted through a Maori lens. And to remind: Dr Bassett was a long time Member of Parliament, a Minister in the Fourth Labour Government, a member of the Waitangi Tribunal for 10 years, and a highly regarded authority on New Zealand history.
Last week, I received the following email from somebody deeply troubled by the way in which the media has been taken over by a minority of woke radicals. He wrote:
I’ve spent three weeks trying to get either the Waikato Times (Stuff) or Waikato News (Herald) to take an opinion piece from me around the Maori wards issue – as there is a lot of information and background most people are unaware of.
I have been a local journalist in Hamilton for 30 years and I’ve done plenty of work for both outfits. I know the Waikato News editor well. He spent some time trying to talk me out of it (providing an opinion piece). Pertinent comment from him being ”I don’t want to make myself a target.”
He put the idea to NZME management and their come-back was ‘we will take nothing on this subject.’
I offered to buy a page as advertorial. Same roadblock.
Went to the Waikato Times (Stuff media), which also would not take an opinion piece. Again offered to buy a page as advertising. I provided the copy. They wanted me to reference every point I made in my copy like an academic paper and said it would have to go through the Advertising Standards Authority. I did this – referenced everything – as far as you can with opinion – declined in half an hour.
I asked if I could run a notice around a public rally in Civic Square before the Hamilton City Council’s Extraordinary Council meeting May 19 – where they will make a decision about Maori Wards – as a Display Advertisement – Yes! it seemed. The advertising staff were very helpful. The ‘Ad’ was laid out, and paid for ($3000) – a quarter page in this (15/5/21) Saturday’s paper, all go.
…4.30pm Friday I got a call from one of the ‘Times’ advertising people, whom I have known for 25 years, apologetic, she’d been instructed to ‘pull the ad’, as it ‘didn’t fit with our values’. Apparently it was passed by the local team, but had been stopped at executive level.
So, yes, something, or someone is gagging the media and is very determined that the co-governist roll-out will continue. We have a coup d’etat going on here.
We desperately need a more balanced news channel. If we don’t get something more balanced soon, the risk we run is that we get something like a Fox News, and a politician like a Trump, as the public get fed up with getting such a biased and distorted view of reality. And that’s the last thing we need.
It shouldn’t have to be left to independent magazine sites like ours to provide the balance and scrutiny of what the government does sorely lacking in the legacy media now. —Eds