Hype, Spin And Restrictions On Freedom Of Information

Information is too easy to manipulate in small, remote countries.

Information is too easy to manipulate in small, remote countries.

This page is about Spin, the deliberate withholding of information, and other misleading hype and propaganda about New Zealand.

This can range from myths perpetuated by  ‘100% pure’ slogans, to ‘least corrupt country in the world’ statements, to significant restriction on the type and nature of information that is released to the public. Click on the links to read the full story at source:

Peter Lyons: Nothing but spin coming from our Government (NZHerald.co.nz Sept 2015: normally a pro-National newspaper) unsurprisingly, readers’ comments to this article were opened and closed within 24 hours.

After the global financial crisis hit, the Prime Minister called a summit in 2009 of important people to brainstorm ideas to buoy our economy and create jobs in difficult times. A big bold idea that he suggested was a national cycle trail. It would provide a financial stimulus to the nation and spread the benefits throughout the country. It would create jobs in the regions and boost tourism to our shores. It was a great idea. It quickly dissolved into local regions being left to do their own thing. To be fair, the National Cycle Trail did directly create jobs. In 2011 staff were cut from 7 to 3. It was marvellous spin. The spin really hasn’t stopped.

When our exchange rate was high, Mr English described this as a vote of confidence by the rest of the world in the soundness of our government’s financial management. When the kiwi dollar almost gained parity with the Aussie some pundits, including the noted economist Mike Hoskings, highlighted this as evidence we were overtaking our neighbours in economic prosperity. Now the kiwi is dropping against other currencies. This is apparently the long-awaited rebalancing. It is allowing exporters who struggled with the high exchange rate to finally prosper. Mr English recently pointed out in a Q and A program that a lower exchange rate will be a big help to exporters… We are living in an age of spin. The Roman leaders gave their people bread and circuses. Sadly we no longer get the bread.

Here’s one of the comments that was left in reply to the above article. Many New Zealanders considered the $4 million paid to the Saudi businessman to be corrupt, yet New Zealand perpetuates the myth that it is a country free from corruption.

Banaari: Yes, fair comment. But you forgot to mention the tremendously successful “agrihub” in Saudi Arabia which is a showcase in the region for New Zealand’s agricultural expertise. Except the New Zealand breeding ewes died in a sandstorm, apparently, and we had to pay a Saudi businessman a $4 million dollar grant for his intellectual property, apparently.

Now back to flag design doodling and Rugby World Cup all night beersies…

On the other hand, there have been countless privacy breaches, the most recent (Oct 2015) being the release of private medical information for 24,000 New Zealanders. Their highly confidential personal details were sent in a spreadsheet to almost 1,000 pharmacists, in an email that was intended for internal viewing only source:

A number of Government agencies have admitted privacy breaches over the last three years. In 2013, a major breach by the Earthquake Commission saw details of more than 80,000 claimants sent to the wrong email address.

The EQC also sent a claimant an email with an attached spreadsheet with 2200 names, stopped cheque details and claim amounts worth about $23 million.

Also in 2013, the Ministry of Education owned up to a staff member attached the wrong letter to an email, Immigration New Zealand sent two emails with client email addresses to more than 200 advisers, lawyers and individuals, the Ministry for the Environment sent about 150 people each other’s private email address and a Hawkes Bay District Health Board worker mistakenly released a patient’s confidential medical file to the media.

Other links:

  • New Zealand is often described as the most peaceful country in the world, however it is still legal to deploy NZ troops overseas on illegal missions. The Non-Aggression and Lawful Use of Force Bill was defeated in parliament on its first reading in June 2009. If successful the bill would have introduced legislation that “required NZ leaders, when requested by another country for armed assistance in foreign military operations, to seek a finding from the New Zealand Attorney-General whether the operation was in conformity with the United Nations Charter. [The UN Charter prohibits initiation of armed action for any reason other than immediate self-defence] before deciding on such a request. A special prosecutor’s office would have been created to investigate and possibly pursue charges that such a decision violated the United Nations Charter.” Scoop Sept 2009
  • New Zealand is a target for arms traders. The Oxfam report Brokers Without Borders “holds New Zealand up as an example of how illicit arms brokers continue to use international networks of companies to exploit regulatory gaps, when detailing an incident last December when a 35-tonne cache of conventional weapons, which left North Korea bound for Iran, was seized by authorities in Thailand…All of a sudden New Zealand, the country ranked as the world’s most peaceful nation in 2009, was linked to one of the biggest international arms trafficking cases that year,” the report says.”
  • Ministers are ignoring the Official Information Act, according to a No Right Turn press release. “Only one Minister, Chris Finlayson, met (the standard). Most fell far below it, with four making timely responses in only 50% of cases. The worst-performing Minister was Gerry Brownlee, who answered only 39.7% of requests within the statutory timelines set by the Act. Overall, across all Ministers, only 71% of requests were answered on time.  One Minister, Paula Bennett, refused to cooperate with the survey, saying that she did not consider release of accurate tracking data to be in the public interest. Her refusal is currently the subject of a complaint to the Ombudsmen…The difference between Ministerial offices and government departments is significant,” said Idiot/Savant. “It shows that the problem is political. Ministers just don’t want to answer.” Source
  • The bill was only passed after two members switched sides in protest at the PM ordering them to vote against it. It was passed by 20 votes to 18. Both sides tried to claim credit for the bill and sought women’s votes accordingly. But women weren’t given full sufferage and allowed to stand for office until 1919 and they were not eligible to be appointed to the New Zealand Legislative Council (the Upper House of Parliament) until 1941.
  • Women were able to vote in 1838 in the Pitcairns and in South Australia in 1861, long before their New Zealand sisters. Places with similar status which granted women the vote include Wyoming Territory (1869). South Australia went on to grant both universal suffrage and  allowed women to stand for the colonial parliament in 1895, long before NZ did the same. In 1906 (7 years before NZ) Finland was the first NATION in the world to grant suffrage (the right to vote and to run for office) to all citizens, including women.  Other possible contenders for first “country” to grant female suffrage include the Corsican Republic, the Isle of Man (1881) and Franceville.
  • Despite a lot of hype about made about women’s rights and equality in NZ, women are still required to sit behind the men at Maori ceremonies.
  • Far from being the progressive country it tries to portray, NZ is letting Women Rights slide backwards. See Here for more details.
  • NZ did not invent the bungee/bungy  jump. By and large the first time the modern world saw the jump was in the 1950s when British film maker David Attenborough brought back footage of people jumping from wooden platforms in Vanuatu with vines tied to their feet. The first  modern bungee jumps were made on 1 April 1979 from the 250-foot Clifton Suspension Bridge in Bristol, UK by David Kirke, Chris Baker, Simon Keeling, Tim Hunt and Alan Weston of the Oxford University Dangerous Sports Club. Kiwis, however, were the first to turn bungee into a commercial enterprise.

3 thoughts on “Hype, Spin And Restrictions On Freedom Of Information

  1. Speaking of aircraft, Air NZ has many Boeing 737s, a model that is in the news at this time as showing microcracks. It is improbable in view of their budgetary restrictions that NZ would perform what are called “heavy checks” that would forestall an incident like the one in whose wake inspections are presently being carried out in the U.S.

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  2. Some of us, I am sure, have noticed not only how criticism of New Zealand is shouted down or deleted on many expat or travel forums, but also how quickly negative reviews of “anything New Zealand” are taken down off the web, if this can be managed. This author below was probably offered a discount flight or two to take her review down. This is a cached version of a customer review (on the Art of Health blog), of Air NZ’s new mega-hyped premium economy air service, it was completely deleted within a matter of days, so I am putting it on here for the record…in fact, you could have a section on your blog, “Gone Tomorrow”, about articles mysteriously taken off the web (dug up cached versions). 😉

    http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:YS4NHxfpWiUJ:kimknight101.wordpress.com/2011/03/26/new-air-new-zealand-777-300-new-meaning-to-sardines-in-a-tin-can/+new-air-new-zealand-777-300-new-meaning-to-sardines-in-a-tin-can/&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&source=www.google.com

    New Air New Zealand 777-300 – new meaning to sardines in a tin can

    Posted on March 26, 2011. Filed under: Uncategorized |

    As a seasoned traveler, and a great fan of comfort, I was eager to test out Air New Zealand’s brand new premium economy and ‘cuddle class for two’ economy seating at their open day in Auckland yesterday. And let me say, if I ever have an opportunity to rave about a hotel or airline, I will do so openly and with pleasure. I’d also like to add, in the light of the recent traumatic world events, that rating the quality and comfort of an airline’s seating is quite inconsequential. ***However, after all of Air New Zealand’s hype about their new seating, I think people deserve to hear an opinion which doesn’t come via their own PR department***.

    CUDDLE CLASS – LIE FLAT OPTION IN ECONOMY

    First of all, the new ‘lie down for two’ seating in economy class, colloquially known as ‘cuddle class’. I have to say, for one person, this option would be wonderful. Somewhat smaller than the width of a single bed, it was plenty wide for one person, and very comfortable. However, as I squeezed myself in with a friend, both of us lying sideways like a club sandwich, there was little room left to breath. This would not be a comfortable option for two adults on a long-haul flight.

    Perhaps what concerned me even more was sitting in the row behind any economy seating when the seats are in the lean back position. I don’t think I’ve ever felt more wedged in and unable to move in an economy seat. I cannot even begin to imagine lasting more than an hour, never mind 12 hours on a long flight. It seems to me that their long-haul economy seating has less room than the smaller planes used for national flights. So, apart from booking a complete cuddle class to myself, economy gets a thumbs down.

    PREMIUM ECONOMY – A STEP UP FROM ECONOMY? DOUBTFUL…

    Then it was on into the much talked about new premium economy class. Apart from the new shiny white leather seating, there was nothing impressive about these seats. The aisle seats are designed for solo travelers, so they have a sense of ‘personal space’. In order to achieve this, the seats have been set at an angle, which from a feng shui perspective just feels all over the place. There’s something not quite right about sitting at 45° when one is moving straight forwards. In particular, apart from the first row in the cabin, I was shocked at the leg room between rows, only a midget or child would have enough space for their legs. And the ‘pull forward, tilt back’ function of the seat, which apparently supports the lower back, felt very uncomfortable. Overall I felt completely claustrophobic and couldn’t wait to get out of premium economy.

    BUSINESS CLASS – LIE FLAT

    I’ve often eyed-up the lie flat business seats, so I was eager to finally try them out. Being very sensitive to the feng shui (energetic flow and layout of space) the oblique angle, as in premium economy, just didn’t feel quite right. Despite the fact that the beds are lie flat, and quite comfy, they are not a patch on the business class of other airlines such as Thai, Singapore or British Airways). I will always be grateful for any opportunity to lie down flat on a long flight, and this would be no exception. However, the cubicles are not overly large and the overall feeling in the cabin was cramped. Partly I think this was also due to the very narrow aisle.

    So, after looking forward to the tour of the new aircraft, I came away feeling most disappointed, to the point that Air New Zealand’s promotion – in particular for premium economy – could be considered false advertising! I’m sorry Air New Zealand, I have been a great fan of your airline for many years, but I am simply shocked at how stacking people in like sardines in a tin can passes for quality in this day and age.

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