Scoop Election 08: edited by Gordon Campbell

Gordon Campbell on last night’s debate, and the Collins accusation

August 29th, 2014

Debating is a peculiar discipline in that what you say is less important than how you’re saying it. Looking poised, being articulate and staying on topic generally wins the day – and on that score, Labour leader David Cunliffe won what turned out to be a bruising encounter with Prime Minister John Key last night on TVNZ. Cunliffe marshalled his points better, kept Key off balance and – more often than not – was in control of the general tenor of the contest. Labour supporters would have been heartened, and given some belated reassurance that maybe the change of leadership last year had been the right decision. Certainly, it was very hard to imagine David Shearer carrying Labour’s banner in that debate last night. The traffic might have been moving a bit too fast.

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Gordon Campbell on Winston Peters’ latest bout of immigrant bashing, and Bob Dylan in the basement (again)

August 28th, 2014

So in the latest 3News-Reid Research poll, New Zealand First and the Conservatives have been the big winners. It is only one poll, but rather than cannibalising each other’s vote, Colin Craig and Winston Peters do seem to be managing to find the room to co-exist. For all the talk among minority centre-left parties about growing the vote, the momentum among the minority parties appears to be down at the other end of the political spectrum. Any cannibilisation going on would appear to be of National’s vote, down to 45% in this poll.

Poll fixation though, is a symptom of horse race journalism. To date, the focus has been on the poll numbers for New Zealand First – at 6.3% in this latest poll – and the power that this puts in Peters’ hands. Few are questioning how he’s got to this happy place, and what it says about the mood of the electorate. Yet as sure as night follows day, Winston Peters is once again peddling bile at the immigrants in our midst. Read the rest of this entry »

Gordon Campbell on the US foreign policy somersaults over Syria and Iran

August 26th, 2014

Amidst the day-to-day reports about the military advances of the Islamic State fighters in Iraq and Syria, one remarkable aspect of this war has barely been mentioned. Namely, the complete 180 degree turn of US foreign policy whereby its former enemies – the Assad regime in Syria, the Sh’ite regime in Iran – are now US allies and their main bulwarks in stemming the tide of Sunni fundamentalism in the region.

Only a year ago, in the wake of reports about the use of chemical weapons in Syria, the US was on the brink of a bombing campaign against the Assad regime. It was only the last minute intervention of Russian President Vladimir Putin that talked the Americans down off the ledge and enabled a deal to be brokered that now seems to have successfully eliminated Assad’s stockpile of chemical weapons.

This week, the Americans are again talking about a bombing campaign in Syria – but this time it would be to prop up the Assad regime, and to inhibit the advance of the Islamic State rebels. Read the rest of this entry »

Gordon Campbell on National’s housing assistance plan

August 25th, 2014

So, as many as 90,000 people could derive some benefit from National’s housing assistance plans for low and middle-income earners. As much as $218 million might be spent on the programme that was announced yesterday by Prime Minister John Key. Yet in reality, the benefits seem likely to be insignificant, and they will be skewed towards those at the top end of the income group that’s supposedly the target.

Essentially, the policy involves tinkering with Kiwisaver in order to boost the size of the deposits available. However, to derive the significant benefits from the scheme, applicants will (a) have to be earning below certain incomes (b) the house price has to fall below a certain cap (c) the applicant needs to have been contributing to Kiwisaver for five years and (d) needs to be building a new home, rather than buying an existing one. Oh and obviously, the applicants will also (e) have to be able to service the subsequent mortgage.

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Gordon Campbell on the usual round of mud slinging and name-calling

August 21st, 2014

The media, as its critics regularly point out, is far too easily diverted by political sideshows and slanging matches, from its duty to cover the real issues. Yet this week gave an interesting example of how hard it is to untangle the reality from the slanging matches. The issue that emerged early this week could hardly be more important. Does the government intend to cut spending in health, education and on the environment if re-elected, or not? For clarity’s sake, here are the arguments, as they unfolded. Read the rest of this entry »

Gordon Campbell on no more Mr Nice Guy

August 19th, 2014

When future historians seek to identify the exact moment when the prime ministerial career of John Key hit the downward slope, they may well point to Key’s interview yesterday with Guyon Espiner on RNZ’s Morning Report. In particular, they’ll cite the broken record moment when Espiner repeatedly asked Key whether he thought the behaviour of his Justice Minister Judith Collins was OK, and Key kept on trying to ignore the question. Was it OK with Key that one of his Cabinet Ministers has admitted that she secretly released to Cameron Slater the name of a public servant that she thought might have leaked some information that had embarrassed the government, thereby exposing that individual, as Espiner noted, “to some pretty serious death threats.” Is that OK? Read the rest of this entry »

Gordon Campbell on the ongoing fallout from Nicky Hager’s book

August 15th, 2014

Call me old-fashioned, but ad hominem attacks have almost seemed the last refuge of a scoundrel. That doesn’t mean you can’t reach a conclusion or make a judgement call – but you need to be guided by the evidence. You don’t start with personal abuse, to try and distract people from looking at the evidence. Right now, that’s the difference between John Key and Nicky Hager. Key’s desperate accusations: “screaming left wing conspiracy theorist” “typical Nicky Hager book” “baseless accusations” “what ifs” etc etc are personal slurs that can be easily refuted by picking up the book and reading what it contains. If I was Gareth Morgan, I’d spend a few bob on sticking a copy of Dirty Politics in every letterbox in New Zealand, before the election. Read the rest of this entry »

Gordon Campbell on Nicky Hager’s new book

August 14th, 2014

Illustration by Tim Denee

According to Minister of Everything Steven Joyce – whose duties now extend to fielding questions about Nicky Hager’s new book Dirty Politics – Hager has got it all wrong, and the apparent collusion recorded in its pages between the prime minister’s office and blogger Cameron Slater is really no more than business as usual between government on one hand, and the journalists they brief as a matter of course on the other. Nothing to see here, move on.

If that’s true, one wonders why almost all the key players mentioned in the book have gone to ground, and don’t seem to be available for interview. To date, the other well-worn route of response has been to cast aspersions about Hager’s motives and to denigrate his modus operandi. Prime Minister John Key laid out that line of defence yesterday – even before Dirty Politics was out of the box – by trying to write Hager off as “a screaming left wing conspiracy theorist” who didn’t really know what he was talking about. Methinks the PM protests too much. Read the rest of this entry »

Gordon Campbell on dropping bait for election coverage

August 13th, 2014

Getting yourself criticised by the educated elite is a well-worn path to electoral success in this country, dating all the way back to Rob Muldoon and the Citizens for Rowling campaign, which played right into his hands. Winston Peters’ Chinese “joke” was a similar attempt to bait the same elites, in the hope of drawing critical fire. Thereby, Peters could cozy up to the wide swathe of conservative voters who dislike being lectured about their racism and sexism, and who resent being mocked for being unable to explain the difference between a mochaccino and a cappuccino. Sure enough, Peters has since portrayed himself as the innocent victim of the PC brigade. Read the rest of this entry »

Gordon Campbell on the US rescue mission in Iraq

August 11th, 2014

It isn’t often that unilateral US bombing raids within a foreign country can be supported, but the current US bombing campaign in northern Iraq is one such case. The fighters of the Islamic State (IS) appear to be intent on committing genocide against the Yezidis, Christians, Turkmen, Kurds and every other non-Sunni community in the region. Due in large part to their capture of US-originated weapons and Humvees, the IS forces currently enjoy military superiority over the Peshmerga fighters of Kurdistan. If the US air strikes can check the IS progress, and allow the exit of the hundreds of thousands of refugees (currently in peril of being massacred) to safer territory, then so be it. Amidst the bombs, the US has also been dropping thousands of ready-to-eat meals (MREs) and water supplies to the refugees cornered by the IS advance. Read the rest of this entry »