Brian Edwards Media

Archive for April, 2012

Question: Can being fabulously rich and still in one’s prime affect a Prime Minister’s approach to the job?

 

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This question arose in my mind a day or so back: how, if at all, would being fabulously rich and still very much in one’s  prime affect a Prime Minister’s approach to the job?

I was of course thinking of John Key, billed ‘the fifty million dollar man’ when he first came to the public’s attention as a potential prime minister in the early 2000s. It would be reasonable to assume that Mr Key is worth a lot more now. He could presumably have lived quite comfortably off his parliamentary salary and perks for the last ten years, and certainly for the last six as Leader of the Opposition and Prime Minister. So even if he’d been earning a measly 5% on his investments, he could theoretically have increased his wealth by 50 percent. His $50 million could now be $75 million.

Now please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not complaining about Key being rich and I don’t begrudge him the money. What I’m interested in is how such absolute long-term financial security might affect a 51-year-old former investment banker and  foreign exchange trader’s approach to his future career. How might a graduate of the bourses of Singapore, London, Sydney and Wall Street feel about settling down to a long-term career as Prime Minister of New Zealand or, heaven forefend, as Leader of the Opposition?   Read the rest of this entry »

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On David Shearer And Wisdom Before And After The Event

The Listener.co.nz

Yesterday Chris Trotter’s Bowalley Road blog, headed The Unfortunate Experiment, came to the conclusion that David Shearer had to go as leader of the Labour Party. Trotter’s caption, beneath a photograph of Shearer, read: David Shearer is an immensely likeable bloke, and his work at the UN was truly inspirational, but he ain’t anybody’s kind of leader.

Trotter then advanced his reasons for believing that Shearer had to go. And I think those reasons are sound. Other bloggers from both Right and Left appear to agree.

But this is all just wisdom after the event. Shearer won the leadership of the Labour Party over David Cunliffe on December 13 last year. Six days earlier I had written a post on this site, titled Shearer or Cunliffe? Why I’ve changed my mind.  

If you revisit that post you’ll find that it’s remarkably similar in content to Chris Trotter’s blog, dated 27 April 2012, four-and-a-half  months after Shearer assumed the leadership? And it’s precisely what other bloggers are also now saying?

And yes, I’m blowing my own trumpet. And I’m entitled. Wisdom before the event is a helluva lot more impressive and useful than wisdom after the event.

This morning my co-commentator on The Nation and fellow media trainer Bill Ralston joked about Shearer, ‘He should have had some media training.’ But it was a joke. Media training would have made not an iota of difference to Shearer’s fortunes. He would have proved untrainable.

That sounds harsh, but it is not intended to be. Shearer is simply miscast as the leader of a political party in opposition. To change his image, he would have to change his personality and that, in human terms, could only be a change for the worse. Shearer is genetically challenged as a Leader of the Opposition. The killer instinct and the showbiz gene are both missing. He can be reasonable but he can’t project.

Media training is a waste of time for such politicians. Worse, it’s transparent, an ineffective cover-up job that listeners and viewers can recognise and see through. And that is damaging.

Bill Rowling, whom I mentioned in the earlier blog, was a strong personality who looked weak on television. Attempts to make him more forceful made him look like a weak man trying to appear forceful.

A similar fate was met by the rather wooden Geoffrey Palmer, who was Prime Minister for a year and who, I’m told, received media advice from some Australian gurus in the art. The advice was apparently to be physically more animated and smile more. The effect, however, was to make him look remarkably like the American Eagle on The Muppets.

Media trainers need first and foremost to be skilled diagnosticians. A wrong  diagnosis, followed by inappropriate treatment can be fatal to the patient’s prospects of survival. Sometimes, as in the case of David Shearer, it is kindest to admit that there is no cure and wish them a happy life – perhaps doing something else.

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Empty pockets in Ponsonby and Herne Bay. Yeah right!

When the weather is fine, Judy and I go for a morning walk around our local suburbs – Ponsonby, Grey Lynn, Herne Bay. Our walk takes between  an hour and  an hour-and-a-half, depending on the route, and invariably ends with a cup of coffee and, if we’re feeling wildly irresponsible, a biscotti. (Did you know that the word ‘biscuit’ comes from the French and means ‘twice cooked’. No charge for that derivational gem!)

We’re quite well known for our walking and expect to be bailed up several times for a chat with friends and acquaintances. It’s fun.

Less amusing is being harassed by the legions of collectors, fundraisers, proselytisers and raffle-ticket sellers who lie in wait in Three Lamps where, less than coincidentally, there are several banks and the local Post Office. I’m perfectly happy to hand over a few bob for most charities, but I really don’t want to be lectured for 10 minutes on the threat to the rainforests, the plight of the blue-nosed dolphin, the work of Amnesty International in Tibet, the evils of Wall Street, or why I really ought to buy a raffle ticket to support our Paraplegic Olympians .

I’m not a cold-hearted, mean-spirited, penny-pinching scrooge; I’m just sick of being stopped in the bloody street and harangued by total strangers.   Read the rest of this entry »

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TVNZ7: if you want to save it – adopt it out.

Q:        What do you call public service television that almost no-one watches, because almost no-one knows about it?

A:        TVNZ7

Q:        Why aren’t the programmes advertised?

A:        Because they might attract viewers from the commercial channels run by TVNZ.

It appeared to be an inspired plan, to get our state broadcaster to run the two commercial-free channels TVNZ6 and TVNZ7. TVNZ had the infrastructure, the studios, the staff and the know-how. It also had millions of dollars, kindly donated by the Government, to run the channels.

It was in fact an invitation for TVNZ to shoot itself in the foot. 

Our state broadcaster operates with one hand tied behind its back at the best of times. The mixed model that requires it to be mindful of public broadcasting requirements and programming  and at the same time be commercially successful and return a healthy profit to the government, is as daft as claiming someone’s a little bit pregnant. You can be a successful public broadcaster; you can be a successful commercial broadcaster. You can’t do both successfully because their aims and objectives are antipathetic.

Every viewer who switches to TVNZ7 is a viewer who isn’t watching TVOne or TV2. Why on earth would TVNZ  encourage people to switch to it? That would be commercially irresponsible. It’s also a dilemma the network faces every time it puts a public service programme to air, which is why most of them are broadcast in the dead of night or on Sunday mornings. The programmes that make up good public service broadcasting are in the main programmes that networks believe would spell death to the ratings. Read the rest of this entry »

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More proof that you can’t judge (even a very expensive) book by its cover.

One of our readers has drawn my attention to an item in the Easter Sunday edition of the  Sunday Star Times. The paper had asked a number of well known people to answer the question: What does God mean to you? An eclectic mix of respondents included fashion icon Colin Mathura-Jefree, novelist C.K. Stead, Warriors and Kiwis centre Jerome Ropati,  former Anglican Dean of Christchurch the Reverend Peter Beck, the Sceptics’ Vicky Hyde and businessman Eric Watson.

In general the responses were what one might have expected. But this response from Eric Watson really surprised me:

“I genuinely believe the teachings of most religions are founded around promoting good morals and strong community characteristics, representing a way of life that’s about helping one another, forgiveness, charity and seeing the good in people. So you could say religion has helped shape how I live my life. It is one of the world’s great mysteries and I often think God is seen as the answer to a number of unanswerable questions or used as an excuse for inappropriate/extreme behaviour we simply can’t explain or come to grips with.”

Inspirational, uplifting and an apt reminder of where our real values should lie in these selfish and materialistic times. And these are the values that have helped Eric Watson shape his life. Sometimes you just don’t know people at all.

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How success can spoil an excellent restaurant – and why we’d still go back.

 

 Today,  Easter Monday,  we decided to have lunch down at the Viaduct. A couple of months ago we’d discovered this marvellous Italian restaurant there -The Merchants of Venice. The food was superb, the service exceptional. We’d gone back a month or so later and were not disappointed. For the second time I took the trouble to congratulate the chef. ‘Brilliant. Thank you.’

On both of those occasions The Merchants of Venice had been reasonably quiet. Today the restaurant, and seemingly the entire waterfront, was packed. We nonetheless asked for a table for two. The maitre d’ informed us that there would be a 15 to 20 minute wait for a table. Would we like to sit at the bar?

Judy explained that her husband was diabetic and would have to eat reasonably soon. The maitre d’ brought the menu and the wine list. We ordered a bottle of cheapish Italian pinot grigio and some sparkling water. Carbohydrate to fend off a possible hypo was the next urgent requirement.

On our previous visits we’d ordered the bread and dips to start with. A variety of interesting breads and three delicious dips had arrived post haste.

We waited a lot longer today. What finally arrived was a mountain of bread and two smallish portions of dips. The bread was dry and heavy. One of the dips bore a passing resemblance to pesto in aioli; the other, a yellowish concoction which Judy swears she saw squirted from a plastic bottle, had no flavour we could identify. We left most of the bread and half the dips.

More than 20 minutes later, the maitre d’ returned to ask us if we’d be happy to sit at the back of the restaurant. Beggars, as they say, can’t be choosers, and we reluctantly agreed. The pleasure of eating in these waterfront restaurants is being able to see the water and the passing parade. You couldn’t see the water from our table next to the toilets. Nor, given the relative darkness of that part of the restaurant , could you see anything at all. The couples on either side of us, who were already seated when we’d  arrived at the restaurant, had that hangdog look of diners who’ve waited too long and have exhausted every ounce of small-talk that can fill the empty conversational space before the food arrives.   Read the rest of this entry »

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‘Suffer the little children!’ Before you tuck into those chocolate Easter eggs, take a look at this.

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Is New Zealand ready for its first gay Prime Minister?

The premise behind my question is that this National Government is stuffed and has little or no chance of retaining office after the 2014 election. A serious mishandling by the Prime Minister of the infamous ‘cup of tea’ episode, the Crafer Farms cock-up, asset sales in general, the ACC debacle, the factionalism within National which that debacle has revealed and the emergence of a less assured and grumpier John Key, all point to an administration in meltdown. Given all of that, the next Government ought to be a Labour-led coalition. But led by whom?

In his weekly Herald on Sunday column, Matt McCarten correctly states that ‘this has been a good week for the left. Labour has been useless for so long we’ve forgotten what it’s like for it to have the National Party on the back foot in Parliament. This week Labour was on fire.’

The column is accompanied by a photograph of Labour Leader David Shearer with the caption: David Shearer and his colleagues finally have the Government in their sights.

But there is no mention of Shearer anywhere in McCarten’s piece. Instead he singles out Trevor Mallard and Andrew Little as ‘pressing the attack’.

In a column headed ‘Scrappers thrive as Shearer acts statesman’, The Sunday Star Times’ John Hartevelt singles out Labour’s Deputy Leader Grant Robertson as ‘the party’s political scrapper’:

‘He’s been called up repeatedly as the point guy in the debating chamber on ACC and asset sales – two of the government’s worst bleeding sores.’

He also singles out Andrew Little:

‘If there were any doubts Little was genuine leadership material, his unflinching performance against a steely-eyed Collins should have put them to bed. That may be discomforting news to Shearer but it will be welcomed by his party.’

No more discomfiting to the Labour leader perhaps than Hartevelt’s description of him as ‘still dangerously bereft of a firm identity and without a proper grip on the leadership.’

Just four months after an election then, political commentators are suggesting replacements  for the current Labour Party leader.  Read the rest of this entry »

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