State Of It: Selwyn Manning & Glenn Williams On The Folly Of Political Appointments
While the politicians are away still on holiday this is an excellent time to make note of some important issues already rising in 2012.
This week let’s discuss – Political appointments by the National Party where convention suggests Governmental appointments should be the rule.
We’re talking about the appointment of National Party leader and Prime Minister John Key’s electorate chairman Stephen McElrea to the board of New Zealand On Air.
For the record McElrea is also the National Party’s northern region deputy chairman.
This week, via Scoop, political broadcaster Tom Frewen revealed the funding agency New Zealand on Air was considering changing its rules to prevent publically-funded political content screening during election campaigns. See… Tom Frewen’s work on Scoop
NZ On Air’s intention to censor followed an email exchange between McElrea and the NZ On Air board chair after TV3 screened investigator Bryan Bruce’s documentary Inside Child Poverty days before the 2011 general election.
Let’s have a look at a small section of that documentary.
- Bryan Bruce’s documentary Child Poverty In New Zealand at Ondemand.tv3.co.nz
To me, the documentary was not targeting the National Party, but rather policy that has failed New Zealanders, our most vulnerable people, our children.
It was a documentary that put forward an argument, a theory of why child poverty is problematic in New Zealand, attempted to identify its root causes, and laid a foundation upon which we could all debate how to create solutions to this scourge that faces contemporary New Zealand society.
Why then would the National Party’s envoy to NZ On Air complain that the documentary should not have screened.
When, in 2011, McElrea’s appointment was publicly announced… many of us voiced concern that a political appointment of a very active party stalwart would hardly lead to independent governance on the board of NZ On Air. Were our concerns warranted?
The expectation was then, that if McElrea was appointed to ensure the National Party’s interests were protected from potential investigative programmes being funded via New Zealand On Air – then funding would dry up for documentaries, current affairs programmes that explore issue of public and national interest.
If the culture of timidity that is currently apparent within NZ On Air continues to cement in, if its board continues to react to the pressures applied by the National Party’s appointee/s, then the only programmes and documentaries that will likely be funded will be those that do not critically analyse the impact of political policy on this nation’s peoples, environment, and business economy.
What concerns most here is not that the documentary screened at a politically sensitive time, 3News should be applauded for that decision, but rather that the political reaction has been motivated by self-interest rather than the public good.
Who loses in this issue? Not the National Party – it clearly won the 2011 election with a huge proportion of the popular vote. No, it is the children who live in poverty in this country. It is the children that lose here, robbed of opportunity through equality, denied the fundamental human right to have the means before them to reach their potential.
The saddest thing in this awful affair is that the National Party’s response via its appointment to the board of New Zealand On Air is not one of how to advance a cross-party accord on creating real solutions to child poverty – but rather how to muzzle those members of the fourth estate who seek to report the reality of what’s happening to this country.
And that, is a shameful reaction to a shameful situation.
Other issues we will likely explore in coming weeks include:
- The Food Bill.
- The judicial airing of whether Chinese interests are able to purchase the Crafar Farms.
And that’s the state of it for this week.