Sunday, May 5, 2013

Karl du Fresne: Debasing Debate

Once again, Radio New Zealand has debased the word “debate”.

It’s currently broadcasting what it calls a series of “debates” on the current review of New Zealand’s constitution. But they are nothing of the sort.
They are cosy consensus sessions featuring safe speakers who can be counted on to agree broadly on the key issues. While the participants are learned and articulate, it’s dishonest to pretend these affairs are a genuine contest of ideas.

They are a sham, creating the misleading impression that the highly contentious issues under discussion – such as the place of the Treaty of Waitangi in our constitutional arrangements – are largely settled.
The only hint of dissent comes in the few minutes allocated for questions at the end, when one or two brave souls have the temerity to ask pointed questions – such as whether the speakers favour a society in which rights are allocated on the basis of race.

Even my left-wing fellow columnist Chris Trotter is appalled, pointing out that there are plenty of people willing and able to challenge the politically correct orthodoxy of the “debaters”. (Ironically, the same Chris Trotter recently denounced me for suggesting some Radio New Zealand programmes were biased. Perhaps he has had a change of heart.)
This charade closely follows a series of pretend “debates” on the Treaty, also broadcast by Radio New Zealand, to which I referred in an earlier column. The state broadcaster and Victoria University, whose Centre for Public Law organised the events (and stacked the panels with its own academics), should be ashamed. It is a misuse of power – nothing less.

Karl blogs at 


John Ansell said...

Believe me Karl, the Victoria University 'debates' have been the very model of impartiality compared with the Te Papa ones!

All are a disgrace, of course - apart from last week's in which Stephen Whittington and Jack Hodder provided some pushback to Margaret Wilson on the subject of the Bill of Rights.

And why the make-believe-Maori Dr Carwyn Jones is a permanent fixture at these events remains a mystery. This man is able to keep a straight face when insisting he is "of Ngati Kahungunu and Te Aitanga a Mahaki descent", when one look at his pale face and Welsh name outs him as overwhelmingly Ngati Cardiff.

Anonymous said...

David Round gets a mention on the Great Constitutional Debate (23″)…” an argument I don’t accept…… but the problem is that argument is hard to knock down”