Brian Edwards Media

Thuggery in the Parliamentary Press Gallery

paparazzi1 

Watching the unedifying spectacle of a group of primarily television reporters and cameramen chasing Chris Carter down the corridors of Parliament, like a pack of hounds baying for the fox’s blood, I was reminded why journalists are competing with politicians, used-car dealers and parking officers for the title of New Zealand’s most despised profession. The comparison is unfair both to the politicians, used-car dealers and parking officers and to a large section of those in the journalism trade itself, primarily the print media.

The difference between print and television journalists is an expression of the differing approach each group has to their trade. Print journalists in my experience are more idealistic about their function in society, seeing the role of the fourth estate as worthwhile, positive, concerned with truth, perhaps even noble. Few become household names, and those who do are likely to have made the transition, often via radio, to the small screen.

The television journalist, in common with pretty well everyone else on television, is primarily motivated by a desire for public recognition – to be seen, noticed, recognised, admired, famous, loved. Among the applause industries, television offers the most accessible entree to all of that.  The newspaper by-line cannot compete.   

So how does the television journalist make it big? Well, you could be a fearless war correspondent, a maker of brilliant auteur documentaries, an authoritative newsreader, a charismatic field reporter, an intelligent and incisive interviewer, the polarising host of a prime-time current affairs show with your own name on it.  We have had all of those in the past 50 years of New Zealand television. And we still have some of them.

But in the last two decades we have seen the emergence of a different style of television journalist, nowhere more at home than in the parliamentary Press Gallery, never more in his or her element than when confronted with the human frailty, the clay feet of those in power.

If there has been a common theme in the reporting of the abuse by former and current cabinet ministers of their expenses it is ‘entitlement’ – the sense of entitlement which these ministers felt their positions gave them to live high at the taxpayer’s expense. Most of it was small beer compared to similar rorts in Britain and the United States, but it was wrong nonetheless and deserved to be exposed.

The Press Gallery’s television journalists were meanwhile exhibiting a different but no less objectionable sense of entitlement – the right not merely to report on the MPs’ crimes but to act as counsel for the prosecution, judge and jury. This right entitled them, as they saw it, not just to ask questions, but to demand answers to those questions and to vilify any politician who failed to  recognise their quasi judicial authority or to supply the responses the journalists judged acceptable.  

Their authority also apparently included the right of subpoena. There was, the political editors of both major channels, the hosts of Close Up and Campbell Live and assorted other TV reporters believed, an onus on these wrongdoers to accept their invitations to come when they were called.  Those who declined to appear for interview were named and shamed and a running total announced of the number of their refusals. One expected to be told at any moment that warrants had been issued for their arrest on charges of failing to appear in (television) court.

The next logical step would be to organise a posse to round up those miscreants who failed to answer the subpoena and demand that they account for themselves, the right to silence not being available in this particular jurisdiction.

Which brings us back to the extraordinary sight of Chris Carter having to flee from a lynch mob of television journalists and their cameramen who are increasingly required by their networks to behave like paparazzi.   

This is not journalism, it is harassment bordering on thuggery.   

But the occasionally cloud has a silver lining. The thuggery involved several breaches of parliamentary rules and led to Parliament’s excellent Speaker, Dr Lockwood Smith, punishing the networks concerned by withdrawing their parking entitlements in the Beehive’s basement car park.

The political editors of both major channels responded. According to the Herald, One News’ Guyon Espiner claimed the news team were pursuing a legitimate story, but accepted they had broken the rules.

3 News’ Duncan Garner said the crew ‘knowingly’ broke the rules but he had no regrets because Mr Carter needed to front up.

My assumption is that ‘needed to front up’ means that Carter was under some obligation to stop and answer whatever questions TV3’s reporter (who I think was the bizarre Patrick Gower)  had been shouting at him as he chased him down the corridor, at times getting ahead, blocking the former Minister’s path and shoving a microphone in his face. That is apparently Garner’s understanding of journalistic entitlement.

I make no defence of those Ministers who abused their privileged positions. I entirely accept the right, indeed the obligation of journalists to seek answers from politicians. But they have no right to resort to intimidation and harassment in order to get those answers.

In an email today, my friend Gordon McLauchlan, one of New Zealand’s most experienced and respected journalists, noted with satisfaction the absence from the Carter melee of the print media and posed this highly pertinent question: ‘Do Garner and Co think they are participants in Parliament rather than observers?’

My answer is that their limitless arrogance prevents them from knowing the difference.

,

45 Comments:

  1. First, many thanks for expressing your indignation (which I mostly share) without using an offensively simple-minded analogy to racist murders or rape.

    Having said that, I do hope Mister Speaker takes an equally hard-arsed approach to the member of the Chinese Vice-President’s “entourage” who allegedly assaulted Russell Norman in the grounds of Parliament. I think the one thing we don’t need to outsource is common thuggery.

  2. Agree 100%. It is not often I turn on the TV, and it is less often that I catch the TV news. I find commercials deeply irritating to my soul and TV news deeply insulting to my intelligence. However, by some chance of fate, my late solo dinner channel surfing caught the whole daft melee on TV6 or 7 or whichever plays the news late. Very pointless, very rude and very insulting to my intelligence.

  3. Well it would appear that Phil Goff does not share your disquiet since he has said publicly that Carter ‘needs to front up to the media’.

    As for your idealistic view of print journalism I suggest you review the reporting of the recent shootings in NW England in particular the Daily Mirror that published a large photograph of the taxi driver’s son on its front page. The appalling journalism was not limited to the tabloids, the so called ‘quality’ papers were as bad.

    You may also recall the unedifying reporting following the disappearance of Madeleine McCann.

    The DomPost’s coverage of the expenses issue was no less sensational than that of TV.

    Yes, the picture of Carter being pursued by parliament was distasteful, but one has to say that Carter in his arrogance of believing he had nothing to explain was largely responsible. And when he once again comes out and complains that he is being persecuted because he is gay (a view that by all acounts disgusts his coleagues), how can anyone have any sympathy for him? Shane Jones may have ovedone the mea culpa a bit but at least he recognised that he had to explain himself. My understanding also is that Jones paid back the money for the movies immediately the credit card statement was received. Carter had to be pursued by Parliamentary Services.

    All ministers knew the rules, as I know the rules with my company credit card. If I break the rules I get the sack so don’t expect me to shed tears because of the stupidity or arrogance of a minority of ministers, when the majority knew the rules and stuck to them. As for the speaker’s snctions; he has moved the TV crews’ car parks from inside to outside; wow, talk about draconian! Something about a wet bus ticket springs to mind.

    • Well it would appear that Phil Goff does not share your disquiet since he has said publicly that Carter ‘needs to front up to the media’.

      As for your idealistic view… The tone of newspapers is set by their owners or editors, not by working journalists. There’s plenty of ‘unedifying’ material to be found in the press both overseas and here, but as yet nothing as extreme as you’ll find in the British tabloids.

      I agree that Carter hasn’t handled this very well. One reason may be that he has been singled out for attention by Garner and others over a lengthy period and is simply worn down. My own view is that his sexuality and his relationship with Peter made him more interesting to some sections of the media than other straight MPs. You’ll be aware that I’ve written about this on the site before.

      All ministers knew the rules, as I know the rules with my company credit card. If you check this morning’s Herald you’ll see that a hellua lot of ministers didn’t appear to know the rules. You’ll also see that most of the offending was minor in nature. I don’t excuse it either but we’re really losing perspective on this thing.

      And, by the way, shouldn’t we be asking the media judges of our politicians to let us in on their company credit card spending? Several little birds have told me that would be a really good story.

  4. Many “journalists” appear to be fashion school graduates rather than serious people conveying serious ideas.

  5. Excellent article Brian. The standard of journalism on our TV screens is pathetic. As a news junkie I find it sad that I no longer care if I miss the 6pm news on either channel.

  6. Gower is a former print journo with no background certainly in Television, but in broadcasting. He looks terrible on TV and his delivery is awful. However looks aren’t everything, which TV3 especially need to think about, the predominance of pretty young female under-graduates is a strike against them too. Where is the experience, the gravitas and credibility?

  7. “Meanwhile blog accusations that PM Key and Wyatt Creech are co-investors in the dairy business and cooked up the ECan sacking for their benefit remain uninvestigated by our self-obsessed TV journalist sleuths.”

    Do me a favour. If journalists spent all their time investigating every piece gossip and title tattle on blogs TV news would be even more appalling than it is now. Quite frankly I am surprised the comment was published since it borders on defamatory.

    Incidentally returing to topic I do not recall all this indignation when Brian Tamaki was hounded mercilessly by TV3 camera crews. Presumably God botherers are fair game.

  8. My own view is that his sexuality and his relationship with Peter made him more interesting to some sections of the media than other straight MPs. You’ll be aware that I’ve written about this on the site before.

    You certainly have, Brian. Which begs the question: You know something about Bill English, Phil Heatly and Shane Jones’ taste in PPV blue movies the rest of us don’t? (Or why the spending of gay current and former ministers like Chris Finlayson and Maryann Street have not received much play — beyond being utterly unexceptional, that is.)

    Sorry, but this gay man thinks there’s plenty you can ping the media (and the Press Gallery in particular) for, but homophobia is not one of them.

  9. “Thuggery”!? You kiddin’ or what? This was an edifying display to be applauded and lauded. Finally, from our “Young Guns”, a show of real sanguinity and journalistic rigour, which brought much credit upon them. Take a bow, guys. I salute you.

    The only “thuggery”, has been Carter’s unrelenting violent assault upon the taxpayer. And for this, Goff, finally, carpeted him on his return from China. So, Carter was under no illusion as to what was required from him (as to his demeanour), when fronting the waiting press.

    He was expected to front up a la Shane Jones, and offer an apology. But what did he do? He treated them exactly the same way as he has, with the taxpayer, over his 200K travel costs (6 months) — showing them his upright middle finger. The ensuing reaction from the press, was to be expected. And fully deserved.

    Goff, had simply had enough of his wantonness, and sent him home, to “consider his political future”.

    Prior to the pursuit, Carter was given numerous opportunities to say “sorry”. Instead, he chose to taunt the media with his — ugly — obdurate sense of self-regard.

    Parliament has been the gateway to an Elysian Wonderland of Overseas Travel, for Carter. And what has come of it all, with regard to new initiatives, ideas and inspiration — for legislative amendments and bills? A. Big. Fat. Zero!

    • “Thuggery”!? You kiddin’ or what? This was an edifying display to be applauded and lauded. Finally, from our “Young Guns”, a show of real sanguinity and journalistic rigour, which brought much credit upon them. Take a bow, guys. I salute you.

      If you say so, Merv.

  10. I’m not sure it is ‘homophobia’ Craig. But little things like Carter more often than not shown with his partner on the TV when he is the subject of a story.Or last week when Noelle McCarthy hosted The Panel and said he “flounced” down the stairs.
    These little things give an edge that presumably sells…they certainly frame the subject.

  11. @Peter Martin: Nah, I’m sorry but I think I’m being perfectly fair to Brian in saying homophobia is exactly what he’s accusing “some sections of the media” of where Chris Carter is concerned. (He’s certainly not going to stand mute if he thinks I’m wrong.) I think it’s safe to say I remain unconvinced.

    • Nah, I’m sorry but I think I’m being perfectly fair to Brian in saying homophobia is exactly what he’s accusing “some sections of the media” of where Chris Carter is concerned.

      What I actually said was that ‘his sexuality and his relationship with Peter made him more interesting to some sections of the media than other straight MPs.’ That is very different from accusing those sections of the media of homophobia. What you come to understand when you’ve been around the media for as long as I have is that journalists, editors and their bosses understand that the best way to keep your ratings and sales up is to reflect the prejudices of your audience. Coming out against the popular view is rare in the media because it doesn’t pay. So if you think a significant portion of your audience find the idea of Chris Carter swanning round the world with his ‘husband’ at taxpayers’ expense unacceptable or even offensive, you can pander to that audience without actually sharing its prejudices. In some ways, of course, that’s almost more reprehensible.

  12. “Unedifying performances especially by TV reporters” was in my view “sickening” performances.

    There was even a 500 person poll taken for TV1 Closeup:
    “Should Mr Jones be sacked for using taxpayers money to watch pornographic movies?” (approx)
    49% of the people asked did NOT think he should be sacked. Close Up said that they were surprised at this result. Sadly? What a question! What a transparent call for sensation. Crap I say!

  13. Thanks Brian. I missed the episode of chasing Chris Carter, but I remember walking past a sniggering camera crew next to parliament’s steps during my walk to work that morning. In hindsight I guess that’s why they were there.

    Like Joan I no longer care in the slightest if I miss the 6pm news, or any television news. I gave up when it became painfully clear that it was nothing more than an entertainment show, and journalism had little to do with it. I flicked it on for a moment the other night to see a reporter ask someone (possibly McCullay?) an embarrassingly wasteful question like “You’ve just met the second most powerful man in China — what was he like?” It’s no wonder Russel Norman felt it necessary to press more relevant issues around dealing with China in a way the media could hardly ignore! It’s not as if they’d seem to care unless it can be made entertaining.

    I imagine today’s standard television news contract guarantees reporters a proportion of time with their face shown on screen for the public recognition you referred to, and we now see the reporters on-screen for about as much time as whoever it is they’re speaking to, sometimes just trying to appear intelligent as their question is answered. Clearly it’s important if they’re to successfully move to other entertainment careers once they’ve left the 6pm news, maybe hosting the next show in which artificial people get kicked off an island.

    • Thanks Brian. I missed the episode of chasing Chris Carter, but I remember walking past a sniggering camera crew next to parliament’s steps during my walk to work that morning. In hindsight I guess that’s why they were there.

      One thing that particularly annoys me is how the field reporters talk to the newsreaders rather than to the television audience. ‘Wendy, there’ve been extraordinary scenes here at the Congressional Inquiry…’ ‘Mike, the rainfall here in the Waikato…’ And they keep this up in every response throughout the item. This conveys that we’re talking to one another, because we’re all part of the TVi/TV3 family, right down to calling one another by our pet names. Bugger the viewer!

  14. We dont appear to have any decent tv politcal journos in the country anymore….

    Guyon and Duncan seem to believe they choose governments and MP’s in this country……i do laught when i see them on telly…..very puffed up and self important..really, who are they to demand anything!

  15. What I actually said was that ‘his sexuality and his relationship with Peter made him more interesting to some sections of the media than other straight MPs.’

    I don’t think you even need to be falling over with sympathy for Carter (and, frankly, the gay community isn’t, to judge by the forums at GayNZ.com) to acknowledge the truth of that.

    Duncan Garner in particular developed an interest in Carter’s same-sex relationship that I just don’t think he’d have had in a hetero MP and his wife.

    Garner appears to have let it become personal — and, if Carter’s account of their Koru Club confrontation is accurate (Garner apparently threatened to “get” Carter), his behaviour verged on the unprofessional.

    Carter, OTOH, will have been telling himself that almost nothing he did was against the rules, and that he’s a scapegoat. He didn’t seem to grasp that his willingness to take all that was on offer, every time, had become a problem. As Goff put it, a “perception” of entitlement had developed.

    • I don’t think you even need to be falling over with sympathy for Carter (and, frankly, the gay community isn’t, to judge by the forums at GayNZ.com) to acknowledge the truth of that.

      Quite. There’s been an assumption in some of the comments that in criticising Garner et al for harassing Carter, I was defending his excessive spending on his Ministerial credit card. I wasn’t and there’s really no connection between the two. I agree entirely with your assessment of Garner’s behaviour re Carter and said more or less the same thing in an earlier post http://brianedwardsmedia.co.nz/2010/04/duncan-garner-on-chris-carter-journalism-or-obsession/#more-2813.

  16. Gower is a former print journo with no background certainly in Television, but in broadcasting. He looks terrible on TV and his delivery is awful.

    I can’t get over the way way TV has taken a very good newspaper journalist and employed him to pursue the empty spectacle of the Carter chase. Print’s loss has not been broadcast’s gain.

  17. One thing that particularly annoys me is how the field reporters talk to the newsreaders rather than to the television audience.
    That is straight out of Fox News. If you are very very lucky we might let you the viewer join our special circle.

  18. I do believe Garner was obsessed with Winston Peters around the last election.

  19. There is no doubt there is something seriously wrong with the current similarities of all the TV political reporters, editors etc. Its almost like they’ve all graduated from the same school at the same time. I have totally given up on TV1 and TV3. I am simply not interested in this type of TV infotainment. I think maybe they are modelling themselves on the hollywood papparazzi, and in the absence of any real stars in NZ, politicians are the next best thing.

    Why aren’t people more interested in how public money is being spent in other areas like education etc (or not being spent where it should be)???? Actually we are, but these infotainment journos think we’re not.

    • Why aren’t people more interested in how public money is being spent in other areas like education etc (or not being spent where it should be)???? Actually we are, but these infotainment journos think we’re not.

      I suppose the critics of excessive ministerial spending would argue that that wasted money should have gone to Education, Health, Social Welfare etc. The truth is it probably would not have and the amounts would have made very little difference. Or it is really a matter of principle?

  20. Duncan Garner in particular developed an interest in Carter’s same-sex relationship that I just don’t think he’d have had in a hetero MP and his wife.

    OK, I’m going to say something rather unpopular here but do you think Carter and Kaiser inviting the media to their civil union had something to do with it?

    I think Carter’s sense of oblivious entitlement is near-perfectly mirrored by Bill English. The difference is that Mary and Bill have taken a leaf out of Sarah and Gordon Brown’s book — it’s no accident that there’s not a lot of file footage around of their children.

    • OK, I’m going to say something rather unpopular here but do you think Carter and Kaiser inviting the media to their civil union had something to do with it?

      Possibly. I don’t know whether Chris and Peter invited the media or not. The civil union of a cabinet minister and his partner was inherently highly newsworthy. Sex is a major attractant to the media and anything novel or outside the mainstream will be irresistable. ‘First openly gay MP! First transexual mayor! First civil union! To have banned the media from the ceremony would have invited really bad press. And Chris and Peter would not have wanted to anyway. Their civil union was a matter for celebration, something to be proud of.

      Chris’s problem lies in his inability to accept that his spending on the taxpayer was excessive and indicated a mentality of entitlement. Two columns in today’s SST by Rosemary McLeod and Finlay Macdonald present differing viewpoints on this, both of which have some validity and are well worth reading.

  21. And I’d actually make a much broader criticism of Garner, which Russell should be familiar with. IMO, Three has built up quite a run of political “gotcha!” stories that (as Helen used to say) over-promise and under-deliver. Some people would frame that as partisan bias, one way or another, but I think it has more with being so desperate to score another sin-sational “gone by lunchtime” scoop basic editorial judgement is weakened.

    And I think we can both agree that Keystone Kop-style stalking of MPs adds nothing to the sum total of human wisdom.

  22. I suppose the critics of excessive ministerial spending would argue that that wasted money should have gone to Education, Health, Social Welfare etc.

    My line was slightly different, Brian. Both National and Labour have a very thick clippings file of stridently denunciations of (to coin a phrase) “the culture of waste and extravagance” in the public sector. And when Ministers are telling nurses and teachers to exercise “wage restraint” (yet again), and the public sector is being told to tighten the fiscal corset until their ribs crack? Well, I’d say there’s a legitimate public interest in asking whether our political lords and master have been walking the talk.

  23. Craig: At the Prime Ministers Office hasn’t there been a large increase in numbers of staff and the salaries paid to staffers? Bet that does not meet the same degree of scrutiny from the media or the Public even in times of constraint.

  24. 24

    Damien, Oh, Damien

    Craig — “And I think we can both agree that Keystone Kop-style stalking of MPs adds nothing to the sum total of human wisdom”.

    When Carter was fleeing the press, I would’ve loved to have seen him tumble down the stairwell, arse over kite. Seeing that would’ve amped up my wisdom, heaps.

    • When Carter was fleeing the press, I would’ve loved to have seen him tumble down the stairwell, arse over kite. Seeing that would’ve amped up my wisdom, heaps.

      Plenty of room to ‘amp up your wisdom’ I would have thought, Damien.

  25. Brian, you frequently remind us of your advice to clients: Be straightforward, tell the truth, admit your mistakes. How do you rate Chris Carter in these three areas?

    • Brian, you frequently remind us of your advice to clients: Be straightforward, tell the truth, admit your mistakes. How do you rate Chris Carter in these three areas?

      Correct. But I think you will find from his statements since his ‘apology’ that he really doesn’t believe he made any mistakes. By his own judgement he has been straightforward and is genuinely bewildered by the opprobrium he is receiving. That may well be the problem.

  26. BE: “…and is genuinely bewildered by the opprobrium he is receiving.”

    Well, what does that tell you about Carter’s sense of entitlement? Punch-drunk, I’d have to say.

    Goff, needs to stop sounding so wishy-washy, with his dealing over Carter. Because, he comes across as equivocating — by delivering a backhander across one cheek; then, stroking the other cheek, by praising him as “well regarded” and a “hard working” MP. (In his letter of response).

    We could accept, being a so-called “hard working MP”, would entail some overseas travel as an adjunctive to “hard work”. But this was NOT the case, with Carter. These were blatant overseas jaunts, undertaken under the guise of “parliamentary business”. And Goff became aware — finally — of Carter’s despicable ruse, when Carter’s job sheet had nothing but blank white pages; not even doodling.

    Rosemary McLeod’s article in the SST, pretty much sums up the case against Carter. And the writer is correct, with her take — that, Carter does provide a microcosm as to the Helen Clark years. And by extension, how Clark saw herself in relation to the rest of us; with her supercilious vanity (her speeding motorcade, rewarding fawning loyalty over ability etc). Prescribing legislation embedded with a moral code for social behaviour and responsibilities, upon the populace. But seeing herself as somehow exempt, when it suited her.

    Carter is just an unwelcome relic, who hasn’t outlived his usefulness — because he had none to start off with. And Goff can’t even begin to reinvent the Labour Party, with the yoke of Carter weighing him down. You’re left wondering, if he really wants to rid himself of it, when castigation is immediately followed by conciliation.

    The rebuke, Goff delivered to Carter, all seems rather pointless.

    • Well, what does that tell you about Carter’s sense of entitlement? Punch-drunk, I’d have to say.

      You seem to have strayed off the point somewhat, Merv. However, I agree with you that McLeod’s column had some validity. But so too did Finlay McDonald’s on the same page, though you may have missed it. Anyway, it contains this paragrapah:

      “God forbid we elect politicians with feet of clay and a detectable pulse! God forbid we condone anything beyond the meanest, dowdiest, most parsimonious lifestyles for those in office. God forbid our media trawl through the prospectuses and tax records of banks and finance companies with the same wet-lipped anticipation with which they parsed the hundreds of pages of yellowing dockets dumped on their doorstep by the bureaucracy.”

      The rest is worth reading too. Curiously enough, I thought of you when I read it.

      Cheers.

  27. Couple of comments from Tumeke I have run together and edited to suit my own point of view:

    Chris Carter is responsible for much of what cost Labour so dearly in the last election and its current place in the polls.

    If you think back, the rot began when, as Minister of Building Affairs, Carter’s lack of experience in the industry led him to formulate the Building Act 2004 which was, in the words of one prominent structural engineer, “dumb legislation”. His Weathertight Homes Resolution Service was (and remains) a complete disaster.

    It was largely this Act that gave rise to the “Nanny State” (shower heads, lightbulbs etc) talking points that worked so well for National. Carter’s sexuality reinforced this perception of Labour promoting individuals on the basis of some “social engineering” or “politically correct” agenda rather than practical criteria.

    It is ironic that Jones has been rendered impotent by this boondoggle and it is Carter who is screaming blue murder at the slap on the wrist he received, causing even more damage to the party. After all is said and done, it was Jones, who as Minister, made a good fist of fixing up the mess Carter had made of the Building Act while keeping expenses to a minimum (no overseas trips whatsoever during his term).

    Goff has now promoted two more “Rainbow” members to the front bench.

    This will not play well among the “blue collar” constituents that Labour most needs to win back. Despite my respect for Goff’s integrity, I think he lacks political judgment.

    In dollar terms, the malfeasance of English, Heatley and Groser is monstrous compared to that of the Labour Ministers and the public seems well pleased with the wasting of $50,000+ on the political fishing expedition that resulted in these wonderfully prurient and damaging scandals. They don’t seem to be aware that there was no financial cost to Jones’ peccadillos. Carter’s troughing, although wasteful and ill judged, was within the rules – a claim that got English and co off the hook.

    Somehow out of this, Key has emerged smelling of roses and Goff has lost ground. Reminds one of the Muldoon/Rowling situation where the public perception was the reverse of the reality – Muldoon never sacked anyone, yet was perceived as being tough. Rowling immediately canned any wrongdoers and was labeled weak.

    Labour’s problems are in the backroom. Mike Williams was a dolt and they don’t seem to have found a good strategist to replace him. Someone like Chris Trotter (or Dr Edwards) would fill the bill nicely.

  28. I don’t think, I was “straying off the point”. This is about Chris Carter; how he is and how became to be. And how, the press’s exuberance overwhelmed Parliamentary protocols, when it came to eliciting a simple response from him. Besides, you have posted the links to the SST articles by Finlay MacDonald and Rosemary McLeod, broadening the discussion base.

    To be honest, I skimmed-read Finlay’s musings. Like, Paul Holmes — over his Manurewa Cosmopolitan Club pious pontificating — Finlay just doesn’t get it. He’s succumbed to simplistic reductive-type reasoning, with its attendant flawed conclusions. (Gee, and from a fellow AGS Old-Boy, too).

    This is not about accounting for every single item re Ministers’ — spurious — expense claims. This is about a creeping cavalier culture of Attitude and Arrogance. And the accompanying sense of immutability, freeloading on the taxpayer. It’s about, our MPs enacting laws to regulate how we live our lives. But, when it comes to showing financial propriety and some moral probity — when discharging their responsibilities and obligations — some of them plunge into the Pool of Hypocrisy and Double-Standard.

    No one’s ever going to begrudge a drink (or two) from the hotel mini-bar. It was never about that. It’s about conduct that wouldn’t be acceptable in the corporate world — where the overriding function is to make profits for the shareholders and owners. So, why is it that our “outed” MPs feel they have every right to play footloose and fancy-free with the taxpayer, when their function is to SPEND taxpayer money to run the country? It runs a lot deeper than just about their liberal interpretations as to what qualifies as a bona fide expense on a credit-card charge. It’s about rorting housing allowances etc, present perks and lifelong perks and privilege — that these guys confer upon themselves, at our expense. And Carter was the most profligate of them all.

    Good job, many of them have been found out. And here is Tapu Misa, touting Shane Jones to be future leadership material, even after his viewing preferences have been “exposed”.

    • I don’t think, I was “straying off the point”.

      it must be wonderful to enjoy such moral superiority over the rest of humanity, Merv. I envy you.

  29. “it must be wonderful to enjoy such moral superiority over the rest of humanity, Merv. I envy you.”

    Not ripping people off and having them pick up the tab for my guilty pleasures, doesn’t give me a “moral superiority”. But I’ll take the compliment, anyway.

    • Not ripping people off and having them pick up the tab for my guilty pleasures, doesn’t give me a “moral superiority”. But I’ll take the compliment, anyway.

      You might like to add telling the truth. All of Carter’s expenditure was signed off and approved by Pariamentary Services bar about $250 which he has repaid. No one was ‘ripped off’. I’m not sure what the ‘guilty pleasures’ are you’re referring to. Carter sent flowers (part of the repaid $250) and one of his staff got a massage (part of the repaid $250). And it wasn’t a compliment, Merv. I accept that Carter has not handled this well, but most of the criticism about him, including yours, has been mean-spirited and politically motivated. Had National been in government for those same nine years and, at the end, had had to produced all its ministers’ credit card statements, I doubt that the result would have been any different.

  30. 30

    I’ve only just caught up with this debate here but really Brian you are either becoming forgetful or showing your age. I started trying to film politicians in the Beehive (but not Parliament because we weren’t allowed to then) back in 1982 — and I can vividly recall Sir Robert Muldoon making the Argentine Ambassador thread his way through what is now called a cluster fuck of print and Tv cameras when Muldoon kicked him out of NZ at the start of the Falklands War. We chased him right down the Beeive. As we did Sir Roger Douglas when he resigned. Or the French Ambassador when he came to call on Lange over the Rainbow Warrior. I’ve also chased Winston Peters and any number of other MPs round the building — we’ve consistently staked the place out (remember Keith Allan and his drunken walk) — always (I hope) we’ve been guided by the simple idea that it’s the media’s job to disclose — and to chase, niggle and harass until that discolosure has taken place. Yes, sometimes it’s ugly. Sometimes it doesn’t go down well with the chattering classes. Sooner that though than a supine media which simply asked (as they did when you began in TV and broke the mould) whether the Minister would oblige us with a statement. Mr Carter is the author of his own misfortune.

    • Sooner that though than a supine media which simply asked (as they did when you began in TV and broke the mould) whether the Minister would oblige us with a statement. Mr Carter is the author of his own misfortune.

      Good to hear from you, Richard. Then and now? I guess my answer would be that there ought to be a middle way. Have a look at Robin Day’s Code for Television Interviewers which appears on this site. Day, to my mind, sets the tone for what ought to be the relationship between the media and the politicians. But you have reminded me that the political paparazzi have been around rather longer than I thought. Warm regards.

  31. New to your site Brian and my politics light years from yours but totally agree with your original thoughts.

    In my world there is right and there is wrong and certainly the wrong should be exposed. But there is also a nuanced boundary which reflects the human condition and at which we ponder our own fallibility and hope no one comes to examine our record.

    Well unless we are journalists – or some at least. Then we ignore nuance and context and use the language of starkness to judge and condemn. And all the while we make it clear we are doing God’s work – note Harman’s comments above. The problem, as I heard Sir Bob Jones observe on one occasion, is that the only party in our system not subject to adequate checks and balances is the media.

    Regards.

  32. When ever Chris Carter decides to join the real world he may be able to overcome his REACTIONARY attitude. He has the reputation of being a BIG SPENDER of public money as his travel bills to the Taxpayer will reveal. This chap is not required by Phil Goff as he was a dedicated Helen Clark supporter. He should see if Helen has a job for him in New York. His actions and attitude are an embarrasment to Phil in Phil Goff. His job is being made too hard with performances like Chris has carried out. BACK TO THE LEC EH?