Karl Du Fresne

Top Cop should stick to his knitting

Police commissioner Mike Bush didn?t go so far as actually advocating a law prohibiting ?hate speech?, however that may be defined, but obviously it was on his mind. In fact he?s talked to the Human Rights Commission about it.

I imagine it would have been a meeting of minds. After all, it?s the nature of bureaucracies to want their powers expanded.

Combine this with the pervasive school of thought in modern government which holds that a feckless society needs paternalistic minders to keep it from getting into trouble, and almost any busybody law becomes possible.

If we were to have speech police, could George Orwell?s Thought Police be far behind?

A hate speech law would mark a radical and dangerous extension of existing police powers: from protecting people and property against clearly identifiable threats, such as assault and theft, to making value judgments about whether a citizen has crossed the blurry line between fair comment and something much darker.

Wherever this has been tried elsewhere in the world it has led to less freedom. ? Read more »

Karl du Fresne on media bias

I have long gone on about media bias. Many people hadn’t really noticed it until the phenomenon of Donald Trump and now all pretence of media impartiality has fallen away.

Karl du Frense discusses this bias.

One consequence of the Trump presidency is that it has accelerated the decline of detached, objective journalism.

[…] ? Read more »


Add Karl du Fresne as an Air New Zealand hater

Property investor Sir Bob Jones and broadcaster Gary McCormick have both fallen foul of the airline for not complying with what Jones trenchantly calls its infantile nanny-statism. Both were banished to the naughty corner.

Jones ended up buying his own plane. McCormick has been banned for two years, an extraordinary act of arrogant corporate bullying that he intends to challenge.

I banned myself from flying Air New Zealand if I could possibly avoid it after an experience several years ago when I was booked on an afternoon flight to Sydney. I had to catch a bus to Canberra and made sure I had hours to spare, because experience had taught me to expect delays.

So it turned out. As the afternoon wore on, I sat through countless announcements of delayed departure times. I can?t recall precisely what reason was given: ?servicing requirements? or ?engineering requirements? or one of those familiar bland excuses that airlines use to cover up their slackness.

At one stage we were grudgingly given vouchers for the airport caf?, the value of which seemed to have been fixed so as to ensure we couldn?t actually buy anything edible. Otherwise the airline?s ground staff were characteristically missing in action.

In the event, our flight arrived in Sydney several hours late. I missed the last bus by minutes and had to make hurried arrangements to spend the night in Sydney, at considerable inconvenience both to me and the people who were expecting me in Canberra.

But what lingers in my mind was what happened when it became obvious, halfway across the Tasman, that I was at risk of missing my connection.

I approached three flight attendants who were idly chatting at the front of the cabin. I wanted to ask if they happened to know where the bus pickup point was at Sydney Airport ? a piece of information that might save me vital minutes ? or, failing that, whether they could suggest any other way of getting to Canberra at that late hour.

As they saw me approach, their conversation ceased and their demeanour changed. They looked at me with a mixture of alarm and suspicion. A passenger, doubtless wanting something … a problem, in other words.

When the most senior of the attendants opened her mouth to speak to me, it wasn?t to ask how she could help. It was to reprimand me, in headmistressy tones, for stepping across a line on the floor of the cabin beyond which passengers weren?t permitted. It seems I could have been a hijacker trying to get into the cockpit.

She had all the charm of an SS concentration camp guard. Needless to say I hadn?t noticed the line on the floor (who would?) and had no idea I had suddenly become a security risk. No matter. Rules are rules, and I had to be put in my place.

It was one of those moments when you?re so taken aback that you don?t think of an appropriately witty response until much later. (The French have a term for this: l?esprit d?escalier.) But I proceeded to seek the flight attendants? advice anyway.

They not only couldn?t help me, but showed no interest in doing so. In fact they reacted as if it was downright impertinent of me to interrupt their chatter, although it was their airline that had caused my predicament.

Such things stick in your mind for years. It became my defining Air New Zealand moment, even superseding the memorable time my luggage ? and that of most other passengers ? was removed from an Air New Zealand flight to Tonga without our knowledge because the plane was overweight. The pilot casually informed us of this only when we were halfway to our destination.

Everyone has their negative airline stories, but almost all of mine involve Air New Zealand. It’s an airline that does a lot of things well, but it often appears unwilling to accept responsibility for the inconvenience it creates for passengers when it fouls things up.

That?s how McCormick fell out with the airline. He had been stuffed around by flight delays and decided that the least Air New Zealand could do was allow him a glass of wine in the Koru Club as a quid pro quo, even though he wasn?t a member.

I understand his exasperation, but that’s not the way things work with Air New Zealand. It determines the rules, and unfortunately they don’t include anything about getting passengers to their destinations on time or recompensing them if it fails to do so. Read more »

Talking about legacies, what was David Lange’s?

Karl du Fresne runs Lange through an honest reassessment

Is it time for a reassessment of the David Lange legacy?

I ask that question for a couple of reasons. The first was a speech that Sir Gerald Hensley gave late last year.

Hensley was head of the Prime Minister?s Department under Lange and thus uniquely positioned to observe him. The picture he painted of Lange?s behaviour during the showdown with the United States over nuclear warships was not flattering.

Before I go any further, I should mention that I was delirious with pleasure when Lange?s Labour government was elected in 1984.

Sir Robert Muldoon had cast a malevolent shadow over New Zealand since 1975. He was a bully who succeeded politically by polarising New Zealanders along them-and-us lines, never more so than at the time of the 1981 Springbok rugby tour.

In Lange he faced, for the first time, an opponent he couldn?t handle. Lange seemed impervious to Muldoon?s method of attack, responding with sparkling eloquence and insouciant wit.

As prime minister, Lange appeared to champion New Zealand?s right to repudiate nuclear weapons. Many New Zealanders experienced a surge of nationalistic pride at the way he stood up to pressure from Washington to accept visits from American warships.

Peak pride came with Lange?s performance in the celebrated Oxford Union debate of 1985, when he argued that nuclear weapons were morally indefensible. He famously told his opponent, the American televangelist Jerry Falwell, that he could smell the uranium on Falwell?s breath.

Lange was in his element. He was a performer who loved to charm people with his humour and verbal dexterity. I was in Britain at the time and recall feeling quietly pleased that New Zealand and its charismatic prime minister were being noticed and admired internationally for taking an independent line.

But as Hensley has revealed, Lange was talking out both sides of his mouth ? saying one thing to New Zealanders and another to our allies.

In public, he was pledging to honour Labour?s commitment to ban nuclear weapons and nuclear propulsion. But behind the scenes, he was assuring America and our other Anzus treaty partner, Australia, that he would make the problem go away.

As Hensley tells it, the Americans were genuinely disposed to seek an amicable and mutually honourable solution, but in the end became so exasperated with Lange?s duplicity that they spat the dummy. He even kept his own Cabinet in the dark.

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Interesting information on the road toll, lower drink driving limits and policy

Karl du Fresne has an interesting column about the road toll, lower drink driving limts and policy directions which don’t seem to match political and Police rhetoric.

I checked the latest road toll statistics a few days ago. Interesting.

I checked the latest road toll statistics a few days ago. Interesting.

For the year from January 1, road deaths were up from 291 last year to 300. For the 12 months to Tuesday, they were up from 315 to 328.

For driver fatalities, the figures were up from 138 to 151 (for the calendar year to date) and from 146 to 170 (over 12 months)

These are not big increases, but they appear to be more than mere statistical blips.

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Will local news media become like boutique breweries?

In 2012 I was invited to speak at the?New Zealand Community?Newspapers Association awards dinner.

I made my speech about how the future of publishing news was in their hands and they didn’t even know it.

As Fairfax and APN (then, NZME. now) got bigger they had ignored the local news. They concentrated more and more on Wellington, Auckland and Christchurch.

Those papers that did the basics well locally were actually able to grow if they just?thought?about it and got?even more parochial. Even in Auckland there were opportunities, like the Howick and Pakuranaga Times…unfortunately they were at?the?time in?the?thrall of a couple of wide boys talking?the?big game in digital without even bothering to understand their audience or what they were even doing.

Karl du Fresne has a blog post about just those sorts of sentiments, that “boutique” is profitable and lucrative and perhaps the way of the future for local news.

It?s rare these days to hear about any development in the news media that?s worth celebrating, but the announcement that the Wairarapa Times-Age is reverting to local ownership is a tonic.

After 12 years in what is now the NZME (previously known as APN) stable, the Masterton-based Monday-Friday paper is being bought by its general manager, Andrew Denholm. My guess is that other local money is involved, although I have no inside knowledge.

The news is encouraging for several reasons. For a start, it represents a tiny reversal of a trend that has greatly diminished the relevance of local papers.

The process of agglomeration by which provincial papers such as the Times-Age were gobbled up in the late 20th century by the two big industry players of the time, INL and Wilson and Horton, was once overwhelmingly positive for the industry.

It gave small, previously family-owned papers access to capital with which to invest in vital new technology. It brought them into a nationwide career structure that lifted professional standards and it also meant that small papers were less likely to be captive to local parochial interests.

That all worked well while the two big companies remained in New Zealand hands. The turning point came when the Australian outfits Fairfax (which acquired INL) and APN (which bought Wilson and Horton) moved in.

Australian ownership has not been good for the New Zealand print media. Their disregard for the New Zealand way of doing things was never more obvious than when they dismantled the New Zealand Press Association, thus ending a system of news sharing that had lasted more than a century and ensured that newspaper readers in Whangarei and Gisborne knew about things of importance that were happening in Invercargill and Greymouth.

Sharing wasn?t the Australian way, so it was scrapped.

[…] ? Read more »

Does NZ have a drinking problem or a drinkers problem?

Karl du Fresne writes:

It has become accepted wisdom that New Zealand has a serious drinking problem. But do we? And if we do, what?s the reason?

Let?s start by tackling that first question. In 2014 the World Health Organisation published a table showing per capita alcohol consumption in 190 countries.

New Zealand was ranked 31st. At first glance, that seems a bit of a worry. It suggests we?re among the world?s heaviest boozers.

But that ranking needs to be put into perspective. In many of those 190 countries, especially those in Asia and Africa, alcohol has never been a big part of the local culture. Consumption is accordingly modest.

And Muslim countries, don’t forget them…no alcohol there or precious little if any.

Now, factor in the many countries where drinking is discouraged and even prohibited for religious reasons. That includes the entire Islamic world.

Take all that into account, and the list of countries that New Zealand can meaningfully be compared with becomes a lot shorter.

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Karl du Fresne has a message for Rachel Stewart

Karl du Fresne has been attacked on Twitter by Rachel Stewart.

He didn’t even know who she was so the effect was minimal, but he took some time to find out all about her and what he discovered is that she is just like most left-wing shouty types on Twitter, an anti-free speech troll.

He has a message for her…that would apply to other left-wing trolls as well.

Here?s something for Stewart to consider. I don?t object to her having a platform for her views and I expect the same in return. Indeed I don?t object to any left-wing commentator having a platform. I often read them and sometimes even nod in agreement. I have never believed that any ?ism? has all the right answers.

I would go further and suggest Stewart should force herself to read my stuff, even if she has to hold her nose while she does it. Having to confront the unpalatable fact that other people have different opinions can only be good for her ? that is, unless she really doesn?t like the idea of a pluralistic democracy, in which case things are worse than I thought.

And here?s something else for her to consider. There might actually be issues on which we agree ? the environmental damage done by industrial-scale dairying, for starters. As far as I know, I was writing about this long before Stewart launched the public crusade against the dairy industry that made provincial headlines this week. ? Read more »

Karl du Fresne on Bryan Bruce’s latest hit job

On Tuesday night Bryan Bruce released a new documentary.

It hasn’t gone down well, mainly because it destroyed the union narrative that our education isn’t as world-class as they’d like us believe. The luvvies are upset too because normally they’d be singing from?the?rooftops about his findings. The problem is that Bruce’s narrative has taken away many of the claims from the unions and actually, despite it not being the intent, promoted why it is that charter schools are so popular.

Paid mouthpiece website The Spinoff’s Duncan Grieve had a crack at it, and has been attacked for daring to speak the unspeakable..

Karl du Fresne also has some commentary:

I forced myself to watch the Bryan Bruce documentary about New Zealand education on TV3 last night. Past experience told me not to expect an even-handed assessment of the issues, but the optimist in me hoped that Bruce might offer some insights into where our education system has gone wrong. Faint chance.

If there?s a word that describes Bruce?s broadcasting style, it?s tendentious ? in other words, calculated to promote a particular cause.

Viewers might have learned something worthwhile had he approached his subject with an open mind, but no. He clearly started out with a fixed goal in mind. Bruce doesn?t like choice, doesn?t like competition and doesn?t like individualism. He despises Treasury and the disruptive neo-liberal reforms it has championed since the 1980s.

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Karl du Fresne on the self-absorption of the media luvvies

Karl du Fresne looks at the self-absorption of the media luvvies:

Is the world going mad, or is it just me?

On second thoughts, don?t answer that. But please consider, just for a moment, some of the issues that have been making headlines over the past couple of weeks.

First, Hilary Barry. The announcement of her resignation from MediaWorks was reported as if Earth had momentarily tilted on its axis.

Here I was thinking Barry was just a newsreader ? a competent newsreader, admittedly (although her pronunciation and personal asides sometimes grate), but just a newsreader, nonetheless ? someone who reads words written by other people.

Obviously I completely misunderstood her place in the life of the nation. If the media coverage of her resignation is any guide, she?s a totemic figure whose career moves are a matter of urgent and compelling public interest.

No doubt media people would justify the fuss over Barry?s resignation by saying it was the tipping point that led to the departure of the unloved MediaWorks boss Mark Weldon. But they didn?t know that then.

Even if they did, it was an example of media people being too absorbed in their own affairs, and assuming that the ordinary punter in the street shares their fascination. My advice would be to get over themselves.

In television especially, detached judgment in journalism is old-hat. The rule now is that if journalists are interested in it, it must be news.

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