Busy people rely on journalists to find out the important news, the stuff we really need to know and do something about. Unfortunately, this era of quick sound bite entertainment has turned the focus from the profoundly investigative to the superficially sensational - a “shark, babe or tears” level of news.
So while politicians do sneaky backroom deals promoting personal or party interests, journalists distract us with a continual flow of the PM’s inane faux pas or the far-too personal anguish of the bereaved (which you’d have to agree is exploited ad nauseum).
Politicians and journalists continually rank low on the annual trustworthy surveys. Concluding that they’re in cahoots is inevitable when you see political shenanigans going completely unchallenged by the traditional media.
A sycophantic relationship was certainly my impression when I read political reporter Audrey Young awarding Chris Finlayson top marks in a recent edition of the NZ Herald. If form counts more than substance, she could be right. Seeming coldly intelligent, manipulative and clever with detail, he is getting the deals done - but in whose interests?
What damage are the likes of Chris Finlayson and short-term thinking governments doing to the long-term health of our country? A bit like the leaky home saga, it takes a few years for us to see the flow-on effects of these deals. But there are serious ramifications - on our economy, our lifestyles and our race relations.
Young describes Finlayson as ‘emotionally intelligent’. Interesting comment considering this list MP’s never managed to persuade an electorate of that!
Certainly his selective use of the truth reassures some, but glimmers of his underlying attitudes occasionally burst forth. At a public meeting in South Auckland, Finlayson retaliated to a politely challenging Dutch-Kiwi that the man didn’t belong in New Zealand anyway. The viciousness and absurdity of that retort in this land of immigrants created quite a stir amongst the audience.
You might recall Finlayson, his fellow politicians and journalists soothing all concerns over the foreshore and seabed giveaway. Meanwhile their reassurances were never supported by fact. The people whom the politicians and journalists decried as “racist, rednecks” were actually the only ones quoting the written terms of the Act. But at least the gullible were calmed.
Young also applauds Finlayson for doing a deal with Tuhoe yet it is in the same vein as the foreshore and seabed rort. What’s been announced to the public is simply sound bite spin, designed to appease the voters. Meanwhile the wording of the deal allows Tuhoe to get their extensive list of demands as long as they wait a little while, until the heat’s gone out of the issue and voters are looking the other way.
The same can be expected of the current creation of our new constitution. Instigated by a minority political party, developed by a group with disputable qualifications in consultation with select iwi - but paid for by taxpayers. You can be depressingly confident that New Zealanders as a whole will not be given the opportunity to vote yea or nay on its contents.
In case no one’s noticed, there’s a trend here. We taxpayers are perpetually expected to cover all the costs but we get absolutely no say on the issue or the expense. The list is extensive – top of mind items include the relinquishing of the privy council, MPs’ pay raises and perks, inept anti-smacking legislation, the ETS, liquor reform, wasteful bureaucratic process, building and resource consents, as well as the ever-creative and expanding contemporary Maori claims.
Democracy in New Zealand has become a once every 3-year tease. In between times, the public are simply ignored and fed a diet of trivia to keep them amused. Abraham Lincoln’s famous inspirational reference - “government of the people, by the people, for the people” isn’t seeing much light of day. Until we can introduce easier and binding referenda, it’s pretty clear that politicians and the media will continue to run the show – for the benefit of just a few.