Hard News by Russell Brown


Top of the Populism

In Media7 this week we're looking at the contrasting approaches to economic nationalism in the New Zealand Australian media.

On Sunday night, Australia's Seven network kicked off its new current affairs show by looking at Pacific Brands' flight from local manufacture -- confronting Prime Minister Kevin Rudd with tearful workers made redundant by a company that has frequently traded on nationalistic passion:

Pacific Brands has also cut nearly 100 jobs in this country, and one of its subsidiaries, Yakka Apparel Solutions, brokered the $2m New Zealand Army contract that Levin's Swazi Apparel lost last week. Swazi's Davey Hughes has been all over the media, but apart from that the response has been muted.

Are our media soft-peddling the story? Or just resisting the urge towards populism? Panelists Hughes, CTU president Helen Kelly and NBR's Nevil Gibson will discuss that.

And in the second part of the show, Keith Ng the numbers king and Radio NZ education reporter Gael Woods discuss the alarming statistics on school violence that churned around the news media last week. Perceptive readers may have guessed that they are not all they seem.

In other news, here's the Wall Street Journal's profile of John Key. It is suffused with the usual no-research-required truisms:

Mr. Key is returning the country to a formula for prosperity that's worked in the past. As in Britain, the U.S. and Australia in the 1980s, New Zealand's government implemented a wide-ranging program of economic liberalization, including deep reductions in tariffs and subsidies, and privatization of state-run industries. The plan, nicknamed "Rogernomics" after then-Finance Minister (now Sir) Roger Douglas, was akin to Reaganomics, and the island nation grew smartly.

But while the U.S. and Australia broadly continued their economic liberalization programs under both right- and left-wing governments, New Zealand didn't -- until now. Over the past nine years, Helen Clark's left-wing Labour government rode the global economic expansion and used the revenue surge to expand government welfare programs, renationalize industries, and embrace causes like global warming. As a result, the economy stagnated while Australia took off.

Never mind that New Zealand remains more neo-liberal compliant than Australia was, is, or probably ever will be, or that the Labour government also ran surpluses and reduced net government debt by 90% (or that the current government openly campaigned on increasing government debt) and got unemployment down to historic levels. I'm not sure which "industries" were "renationalised" either, but perhaps those words mean different things in the WSJ.

And did the New Zealand economy really "stagnate" because the government "embraced global warming"? At any rate, the author seems unaware that, in word at least, Mr Key is giving global warming a great big hug too. In all, it is a piece of writing whose agenda overwhelms any hope of sense.

But the most interesting thing about the profile is the contrast between John Key's posture in it, and the face he presents to the New Zealand public. He does seem to have a habit of telling everyone what they want to hear.

Elsewhere, New Zealander Jamil Anderlini has published a fascinating set of video reports from the Financial Times' Beijing Bureau. The theme is "China's silenced citizens" and their use of the country's 3000 year-old petitioning system in search of relief.

And finally, if you'd like to join us for the Media7 recording at The Classic in Queen Street tomorrow, hit Reply and let me know. We'd need you there before 5.30pm.

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