Wednesday, February 10, 2021

On Magic Talk and Maori wards

[UPDATE: Media outlets are confirming today that Sean Plunket has left Magic Talk amid the familiar, ritualistic "I would like to thank Sean for his contribution to the station" bromides. Nothing in the Mediaworks statement allays the misgivings outlined in this piece.] 

Where do I start? Okay, let’s begin with Sean Plunket.

Reports suggest the Magic Talk host has been, at the very least, put on gardening leave while his employers consider his future. This follows the sacking of John Banks for not challenging a caller who said Maori were a Stone Age people.

The self-anointed arbiters of what’s permissible on air, such as Duncan Greive of The Spinoff and Hayden Donnell of RNZ’s Mediawatch – both of whom are dancing, metaphorically speaking, on Banks’ grave – now assert the right to decide what line talkback hosts should take. Whatever this is, it’s not free speech.

Attacks on freedom of expression are coming from multiple directions: from a government that proposes to place new limits (conveniently vague at this stage, so as not to cause too much alarm) around what people may say on subjects such as race and religion; from woke vigilantes in mainstream and social media who campaign for the defenestration of non-woke broadcasters; and from cowed media bosses and corporate advertisers who show no commitment or loyalty to the values of the free, capitalist society in which they operate, and for whom defence of democratic values is less important than winning brownie points on left-leaning social media platforms.  

It was inevitable that with Banks gone, the vigilantes would be emboldened to go after Plunket – not for anything he’s said or done lately, but for historical transgressions. The existence of even one right-wing talkback host is an affront to the avenging angels of wokedom, who won’t be content until ideological homogeneity applies across the entire media.

In Magic FM and its owner, Mediaworks, they picked a company that was unlikely to put up much of a fight in defence of free speech. Mediaworks’ television arm, Three, has long been captured by the woke left – a fact apparent to anyone watching Newshub’s 6pm News or The Project – and its radio holdings consist almost entirely of music stations. Plunket must feel very isolated and vulnerable.

And I’m sorry, but I have to take issue here with something David Cumin of the Free Speech Coalition said recently about the Banks sacking. Cumin rightly rebuked Vodafone, Spark and Kiwibank not only for pulling their advertising from Magic Talk but for threatening to use their commercial power to influence the station’s future choice of hosts. But he also said, of Banks’ firing: “On the face of it, this seems to be a private company making a choice about who it employs, which it has every right to do” (the italics are mine).

I agree only partly. Companies operating in the field of news and current affairs have a responsibility not shared by purveyors of other commodities. As shapers of public opinion and providers of information of vital public interest, the news media perform a role central to the functioning of democracy.  This imposes obligations of fairness, accuracy and balance; but as long as we profess to be a free and open society, it also requires them to reflect the full spectrum of public opinion. 

So while it may be true in a general sense that companies  are entitled to employ whoever they like, in the news media this right is tempered by public interest considerations. Old-style media companies understood this and took their role very seriously; it was ingrained in the industry culture. I doubt that this remains true in 2021, when the traditional media business model has been blown to pieces and the focus is on survival.

Media companies must also be prepared to stand up to bullying advertisers, which brings me to a relevant anecdote. In the late 1980s, not long after I became editor of The Dominion, the chief executive of the newly corporatised Telecom – then the paper’s biggest advertiser – objected to the tone of the coverage his company was getting in our business pages and pulled all its ads. The boycott tore a gaping hole in our budget - this at a time when trading conditions were tough already - and caused the advertising manager to have conniptions. Pressure was applied on the board of INL, the Dom's parent company. But Mike Robson, then the managing director of INL and a seasoned newspaper man, backed the paper and stood firm. Our coverage of Telecom’s affairs continued unchanged and in due course, the company’s advertising resumed.

Would the same happen today? I’m not so sure. The general manager of Mediaworks, Cam Wallace, came from Air New Zealand – a corporate culture far removed from that of news and current affairs. Would a Magic FM manager be confident that Wallace would back him if a big advertiser tried to dictate the choice of hosts or their editorial line? Hmmm.

So John Banks' exchange with his caller about "Stone Age" Maori offended people. I found it offensive too (as well as plain stupid), but that’s one of the prices we pay for living in a free society. The people we have most to fear from are not shoot-from-the-lip provocateurs like Banks, but the authoritarian zealots who insist that they be silenced. The threat these censorious prigs pose to a democratic society is potentially far greater and more far-reaching than anything a bigoted talkback host might say to his limited band of followers. As the British columnist Bernard Levin once put it: “Any legally permissible view, however repugnant, is less dangerous promulgated than banned.” 

I constantly hear and read things that offend me, but I don’t react by insisting I should be protected from them. All I demand is that there should be room in the public conversation for a multitude of competing voices. That’s how democracy works: by exposing people to a range of views and trusting them to make up their own minds.

Trust; that’s a crucial factor here. The Left has always had a problem with trust. Leftist apparatchiks fret that people who are left to make up their own minds will make the wrong choices, so seek to lead them by limiting the range of ideas and opinions they are exposed to – which is why freedom of expression is such a crucial battleground in the so-called culture wars.

But of course there are other looming threats to liberal democracy, and none more urgent than Nanaia Mahuta’s proposal – disgracefully kept secret until the 2020 election was safely in the bag, and now being bulldozed through Parliament under urgency– to impose Maori wards on city and district councils by removing voters’ right to veto them.

This idea is obnoxious and anti-democratic on so many levels that it’s hard to know where to start. It strips away the majority’s right to determine the form of local government representation, it provides Maori (or more correctly, part-Maori) candidates with a short cut to power by bypassing the need to win popular support, and it will result in the election of candidates who feel responsible only to constituents who claim Maori ancestry. In all these respects, it subverts democracy. 

It also promises to solidify the Left's grip on local government, since Maori candidates mostly lean left. If there were such a historical figure as Gerry Mander, he’d be quietly whistling with admiration. 

The Maori wards proposition is built on a deliberate and dishonest falsehood. The argument goes that because there are not as many Maori councillors as the promoters of Maori wards think there should be, the only possible explanation is that a racist voting system is loaded against them.

But as Don Brash has pointed out: “The proportion of councillors who identify as Maori has been steadily increasing in recent years, and now almost exactly matches the proportion of Maori New Zealanders in the total population – 13.5% of all councillors were Maori in 2019, while according to the 2018 census Maori New Zealanders made up 13.7% of the total population.”

In other words, there is no deficit when it comes to Maori representation in local government. Democracy has done its job admirably by ensuring that Maori representation is almost exactly proportionate to the number of Maori in the general population. 

And even if that weren’t the case, the answer wouldn’t lie in rigging the system to favour Maori candidates. All that’s required is for more Maori to stand for office, and for other Maori to support them; or as an exasperated Kelvin Davis put it following council elections in 2016, “to get off their arses and vote”.

In fact the record has shown time and time again that where good Maori candidates put themselves forward, non-Maori voters too will support them and propel them into office. That rebuts the specious proposition that a racist system is loaded against them.

Here’s another canard: the reason voters have rejected Maori wards whenever the issue has been put to a referendum is that voters are racist. But I don’t believe for a moment that people vote against Maori wards because they don’t want Maori councillors. They do it because they intuitively understand that democracy is supposed to be colour-blind, and that candidates should get elected on the basis of merit rather skin colour. Voters get that, even if the Year Zero cultists in the government don’t.

Yet another patently false argument is that since voters are not able to veto geographically based wards, allowing them that right in respect of Maori wards can only be racially discriminatory. But the crucial difference is that geographical wards are created and arranged for reasons of administrative efficiency and equality (as far as possible) of representation. That has long been the case, not just in New Zealand but in democracies the world over. Exclusive Maori wards introduce another, entirely different, dynamic. It’s a huge leap from geographical wards to race-based ones, and I’m sure Mahuta is smart enough to know it.

Oh, and here’s another thing. If I were Maori, I would regard the creation of Maori wards as patronising in the extreme, since it assumes that Maori are incapable of getting elected without a leg-up.  As Simon Bridges said in Parliament, it’s an insult to suggest that Maori need special treatment.

The sad thing is that we can expect all these valid and cogent arguments against Maori wards to be dismissed as simply racist. Maori activists and their accomplices in the woke left have so distorted the definition of this word that they fling it at anyone who opposes their agenda, even for the most honourable and defensible reasons.

By promoting a fundamentally anti-democratic idea that supporters of genuine democracy feel compelled to oppose, the activists force their opponents into positions where they can then be conveniently dismissed as being motivated by blind prejudice. To paraphrase Edmund Blackadder, it's a tactic so cunning you could pin a tail on it and call it a weasel. 



Ricardo said...

Yes, yes and yes again.

Ironic that while Trump and the Republican Party are rightly excoriated on voting right suppression, the very same vote suppression is promulgated and celebrated here.

The dismal prospect is that with each coming year more bright-eyed and evangelical graduates of non-critical and identity based curricula pour forth.

CXH said...

Ricardo, could I have some of what you are on?

Unknown said...

If they can use the racist word, so can we. Having been part of the team that collected 14000 plus signatures for the Northland councils petition, I can tell you the thousands of good people who signed are not racist, they signed because they see Maori wards as racist. And they are right, is there anything more racist than giving special seats to one etic group only?

David George said...

The "arguments" put forward as part of the campaign of lies, gleefully regurgitated by our complicit media, includes "the winning (Maori) candidates will be bound by their oath to serve the interests of all"
So what is the process if they don't?
There isn't one.
The only realistic recourse is through the ballot box but the general electorate have no way of responding, they can't vote out a rogue, separatist, activist with an agenda aimed solely at their racially determined constituency. Given the wet, complicit performance from councils that seem to believe the whole thing is a great idea what are the chances they will have the wit or wisdom to rein them in.
Not good!

Odysseus said...

Do New Zealanders really care that their country is becoming less free by the day? I doubt it. Or perhaps, to be charitable, they are intimidated.

In any case, what is to be done? First, we can boycott those corporate advertisers who throw their weight around when it comes to free speech on the airwaves. We will be closing our account with a certain bank very shortly, and letting them know why. I have in the past directly taken issue with another bank we use who joined in the disgusting cancel-chorus against Maria Folau. Small steps but it's important to "give feedback".

Secondly, do make a submission on the Maori Wards matter as soon as possible. It doesn't have to be long. Don't try to write it out on the parliamentary services' electronic form which is unstable, attach a PDF instead. A key point is that this move undermines the legitimacy of local government in which many people already lack confidence. The government needs to be reminded that legitimacy depends on the consent of the governed, a principle that is also incorporated in the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights and which underpins our own system of government. I don't expect these arguments to prevail because the government's move is purely political and impervious to reason. But every journey starts with a single step. The more of us the better.

Unknown said...

"the winning (Maori) candidates will be bound by their oath to serve the interests of all"


Just like every other council member. Which means that every other council member is duty bound to server the interests of Maori (and others). Which means Maori wards aren't required, because Maori are already having their interests met. Surely?

David McLoughlin said...

The self-anointed arbiters of what’s permissible on air, such as Duncan Greive of The Spinoff and Hayden Donnell of RNZ’s Mediawatch – both of whom are dancing, metaphorically speaking, on Banks’ grave

A quick look at journo discussion groups confirms they are cheering this, but they have also been demanding for quite some time now the head of Mike Hosking, who particularly angers them, presumably because he has a big audience for views they don't want aired MediaWatch regularly has what I call the Mike Hosking Hate. It disturbs me greatly as a journalist that most journalists now appear to oppose free speech, claim it is dangerous, claim anyone who supports it is a "fascist," and actively work to limit the range of information reported (the whole of Stuff now suppresses any contrary evidence in global warming or the oppression of Maori, for example).

My retort to this new wave of woke journalists has become: "Beware for whom the mob bays; for next it bays for thee."

If there were such a historical figure as Gerry Mander, he’d be quietly whistling with admiration.

I'm sure that's just rhetorical, Karl. Of course you know that gerrymander is named after Governor Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts, who is 1826 drew a constituency boundary around his state in such a way as to lock out the votes of opponents, but also in the shape of a salamander!

Joh Bjeklke Petersen was so proud of his gerrymandering of Queensland electorate boundaries (known there as the Bjelkemander) that he often said "I keep it in the backyard," as if it were his a pet.

David McLoughlin said...

Pardon my having a second go.

there are other looming threats to liberal democracy, and none more urgent than Nanaia Mahuta’s proposal – disgracefully kept secret until the 2020 election was safely in the bag.... to impose Maori wards on city and district councils

Being a contrarian, I can posit some good arguments in favour of Maori wards on councils.

Our governments (and increasing numbers of people) have accepted since circa 1987 (the Court of Appeal in Maori Council v Attorney General) that the Treaty is this country's founding document and that in the 21st Century there is a partnership that says Maori should be at the table where decisions are made about issues of importance to them.

This already happens in Parliament and Government -- Maori have sat cointinuously around the Cabinet table for several decades now, whoever is in power. Since 1867 we have also had Maori seats in Parliament. Back then they represented the first time any colonised people were granted the vote (while at the same time confining that vote to four seats). They were thus both progressive and a form of reverse-gerrymander for around a century. But Maori have been able to vote on the general roll for decades now (and many do) and since 1996 the Maori seats have been based on the same population formula as the general seats (so at present there are enough voters registered on the Maori roll to give seven seats). As well as those seven MPs, there are around 20 MPs of Maori ethnicity in general seats. We have one of the most representative parliaments in the world. Only nine indigenous Australians have EVER been elected to the Federal Parliament in Canberra, for example (five of whom are sitting members at present; at last, progress!).

Local government is a legal construct of the central Government. Councils must do (and can only do) what they are required and allowed to do by acts of Parliament. As happily demonstrated this week in Tauranga, the Government can sack a council and install new managers at the signing of a pen. It is totally within the constitutional powers of the Government to decide how councils should be elected. In recent decades, central Government has been steadily and increasingly devolving to councils matters of considerable concern to Maori, especially those related to land use planning. If the Treaty is to mean anything (and to many people it does) then it means Maori via their iwi and similar authorities should be at the table when councils discuss lands, forests, waterways and other taonga. It is not adequate in 2021 to say Maori can be consulted like everyone else once a decision is made. Maori should be at the council table to take part in decision-making on matters concerning te Ao Maori, just as they sit at the Cabinet table.

My understanding of Nanaia Mahuta's proposal is that a Maori council ward would work similarly to the Maori seats in Parliament -- Maori ward candidates would stand for election in a Maori ward and be voted for by those on the Maori roll. The number of Maori wards would be based on population, which means many councils would have just one such seat. A Maori councillor would have the same single vote as every other councillor and the total number of council seats including Maori seats would be based on the total population of the council area (just as all the electorate seats in the NZ Parliament have equal populations whether they are general or Maori seats).

While I have put these ideas forward because I believe a legitimate and strong argument can be made for having Maori wards on councils that want Maori wards, I am very surprised -- and disappointed -- that the Government is not bothering to make such arguments, but is simply ramming through under urgency a retrospective law to permit such wards, when there is no matter of urgency whatsoever about it, the next council elections not being until October next year.

Have a good day everyone.

Mark Wahlberg said...

Karl, at the last Local Government Elections here in the Tararua District, a dynamic young Maori wahine stood as a first time candidate.

Not only was the lady elected, she was the highest polling candidate of all those seeking election, sitting councilors included.

Speaks for itself.

Mark Wahlberg said...

Might I add, there was no contest as to whom our new Deputy Mayor would be.

Trev1 said...

@ David. Partnership? Lord Cooke in the Court of Appeal's 1987 landmark ruling on what the expression "Principles of the Treaty of Waitangi" meant said the Crown had a fiduciary duty to Maori "akin to a partnership". He did not declare the Treaty was a partnership as such. This analogy however has been misrepresented over the intervening years, despite the idea of "a partnership" being a constitutional nonsense. The Crown as sovereign does not enter into partnerships with its subjects.

There is plenty of scope under the Local Government Act for Maori to be co-opted onto committees or other bodies where they have particular expertise to offer or where their interests are in play. This I believe is already happening quite widely. However Councillors have broader governance responsibilities that require them to be accountable to the electorate as a whole, not just to one group. Up to date figures suggest that Maori are proportionately represented as elected local government officers already, at about 13.5%, so there is no need for affirmative action.

As for the government, it can indeed sack Councils and appoint Commissioners but it should always be aware that its own legitimacy and the legitimacy of its actions depend on the consent of the governed, at least in a democracy.

Ricardo said...


Thank you for your reasoned and detailed contribution. I understand your points on the need for actual Maori presence at the table which makes decisions on matters affecting Maori.

One counter-argument (among several) is that Maori representation by decree actually reinforces and solidifies the status quo. Why should I consider matters Maori, when that person over there can do that; I don't need to bother.

On the contrary, where representation is by democratic choice and candidate presentation, the responsibilities under the Treaty are everyone's responsibility.

Personally I serve on the board of an educational institution that is energetically and passionately identifying how it can improve respect for, inclusion, knowledge of Maori, the Treaty and mana whenua. As far as I can tell we are all white bread.

nga mihi


One Law for All said...

A believe the comment was 'from a Stone Age Culture, a big difference from calling them a stone age people, most have moved on. If it wasn't a Stone Age culture, what was it?

Max Ritchie said...

Even if Robin Cooke said that the Treaty implied partnership that only applied to the particular case he was judging. Subsequent legislation makes it absolutely clear that there is no partnership. That councils and other bodies have to consult the local Maori tribe is legislated. It could, and should, be removed of course - Maori are no more entitled to consultation than any other part of the community. We should all be consulted and we should all have a say. At no stage in the last local election campaign did Tenby Powell say that he wanted a Maori ward in Tauranga. There should not be any Maori wards anywhere - any more than there should be wards for New Zealanders of European descent or Indian or Samoan etc. this is a racist policy and should be resisted. One can only hope that voters will come to their senses in 2023.

Hilary Taylor said...

Terrific piece, and comments. I was amused to read that here in ChCh there was thought to be no pressure for a Maori ward per se, as relations were very good with Ngai Tahu...which I interpreted as meaning there already plenty of well-renumerated pozzies for representatives and why would we want to upset those particular applecarts/sinecures. One Law...all I can say is 'quite'. Too, each of us gets riled by different things but intellectual dishonesty really gets up my nose. The Paul Holmes 'cheeky darkie' episode was rife with po-faced pronouncements by folk whom I have had no time for ever since...yes, I've got a long memory. This Maori ward thing is full of lies utterred by our flippin' government ministers. Own it for what it Trev says, affirmative action, and put it the vote.

hughvane said...

Karl - you are rightly indignant at recent media developments - I despair of them.

No time have I for Plunket and his views, none of which I have heard since he left Morning Report, but he may be amongst the last of the last, along with the obnoxious Banks, (and dare I say it, yourself), in exposing/opposing the leftist social engineering that is now rampant amongst anything to do with academia, education, literacy, history, Maori, politics, race ….

[Update] I read that Plunket has gone from MediaWorks, as you more-or-less predicted, and there are more media opinions about what has happened than hot dinners in the middle of winter. Will SP become a loose cannon, will someone reemploy him? ... “no prophet is accepted in his own land.”

There are ways to do battle against armies of the Left, for our freedom of speech:
Full-frontal confrontation, Flanking, Rearguard, Guerrilla, Sniping, Retreat
There are probably others, but I’ll stick with the basics I learned whilst doing military service a long time ago.

We cannot currently rely on the right-of-centre to do much at all, they seem continually to wallow in the misery of their past blunders, but one can only hope that instead of sniping, they will confront with rational alternatives. Not everyone is enamoured of or smitten by carefully and deliberately orchestrated ‘kindness’, which is now shown, given the evident hypocrisy of political machinations, to be as genuine as a 30c piece.

Doug Longmire said...

Thank you Karl, for an excellent article.
The racist agenda being trotted out by the government is just getting more and more oppressive.
This latest move to pass an Act of parliament which will deny New Zealand citizens the right to vote is straight from the Stalin/Hitler 101 textbook.

As a pharmacist, I am being lectured by my professional bodies to provide special services for people who identify as Maori.
My view, and the view of other (multicultural) pharmacists that I have discussed this with, is that we do not see race or colour - we see an individual person. We counsel them as individuals according to their individual needs as human beings.

As regards the BLM, shop trashing movement, I recommen the following quote from that great man, Martin Luther King:-

“The limitation of riots, moral questions aside, is that they cannot win and their participants know it. Hence, rioting is not revolutionary but reactionary because it invites defeat. It involves an emotional catharsis, but it must be followed by a sense of futility.”

Andy Espersen said...

Yes, people are not against Maori wards because of racism but only because they are undemocratic. That is shown as a fact because so many Maori are elected to councils in the normal manner. But I think it is also against the spirit, even against the letter, of the Treaty of Waitangi.

The Treaty was between collective Maori and the Crown – our cities were built exclusively on land purchased from collective Maori. The Treaty never envisaged that collective Maori, as opposed to individual Maori, would ever have any say in city affairs. The Treaty gave Maori the same rights as Pakeha - individual Maori were free to move into the cities with the same rights and privileges. Likewise Pakeha were free to move on to Maori land – where, of course, they had to accept local Maori rules and ways. This was perfectly understood by both parties in those days.

This state of affairs lasted until the 1960s, as emphasised by historian Michael King. Only then did individual Maori finally began flocking into the cities. But it was never expected that collective Maori would ever move here, let alone ever demand having a say here as collective Maori.

Am I right??

Trev1 said...

Dear Karl, your article in this week's Spectator on Ardern's " transformation" of our country is excellent. It needs to be circulated as widely as possible here. How can this be done?

Karl du Fresne said...

Thank you Trev1. The article is accessible on the Spectator Australia website.

Unknown said...

The Bastardization of two great languages.
The current phenomenon in New Zealand to lift the use of Te Reo /Maori has become an obsession within certain groups headed by political parties and the mainstream media. Their attempts to be “PC” and promote Maori, while well intended is headed into territory which will demean and degrade both languages. The way it is being expounded may seem noble but they, and we, forget the primary reason for language is communication between individuals and groups, it must be the best and most efficient way to transmit a thought, idea and link without impediment or distortion. All other considerations such as cultural and artistic usage are secondary.
What has and is transpiring in NZ partly born out of a two culture mentality as a nation where the reality is we are a multi not a bi-cultural society. In this premise it is even more important that we clearly use language, not confuse it.
We must keep ‘All’ languages separate as to the way they are used. The ‘blending’ as an example becomes a disjointed delivery when TV announcers try to use both languages in newscasts and even try to fit as many of both withing even singular sentences. The same applies to government, who are moving beyond the standardization of department names where traditionally and functionally they were English with Maori names subtitled.
We must accept certain realities and the key points are not ‘racist’ in the observation:
English is a universal and one of the key global communication languages. Of the new language building blocks the English language is the core of the computer world.
Maori and English are both unique rich languages and in that must be separately appreciated and enjoyed beyond the communication basis to enhance the culture and art of each. Blinding them into a ‘new’ homogenized language does nothing for each.
Statistically Te Reo is not the predominant language in NZ and a minute number of speakers globally. Even among Maori the language is not widely spoken.
History and research into the past shows that in regions in Africa, Asia and Europe, where multiple languages/dialects existed and where the ‘blending’ effect was intentionally and unintentionally introduced, that over time only one where the population numbers were present only one survived. So, the good intentions of the current direction could in fact absorb Maori into some sort of hybrid.
It is vital that Maori is taught and available in schools. But not made compulsory. It must remain optional. As to the multi-cultural and expanding diversity of the population other languages, like the many growing Asian dialects must also be available. But English practically, logically, and essentially must be the common denominator to them all.
We must make sure that in the arts, entertainment, cultural and media in general that every opportunity is given to let Te Reo like English flourish. Maori Radio and TV must be retained and allowed to grow. But forcing a ‘blending’ must be stopped as it dilutes, denigrates and in time will diminish both. There will be proponents who are and will be obsessed if being sycophants to the current direction and then there are the true racists who will become more active in their opposition to either language. To many Maori the non-Maori attempt to use the blending of the two languages is patronizing and the real development is to treat all languages as unique and important.
In a smallish country like NZ, it is easy with a media largely on the same rail that we are being lulled into acceptance of the ‘blending’ model and to speak out is either stifled, vilified or not given a platform for discussion.
Stop the MANGLISH!