Saturday, September 25, 2021

Frank Newman: Fact-checking the fact-check

On the 15th of September 2021, Sky News Australia host Andrew Bolt ran a segment on "apartheid" in New Zealand. He introduced it as follows:

"Jacinda Ardern. Prime Minister of New Zealand. She has been the poster child of the left for a couple of years now. But what she is doing to New Zealand actually amazes me. In fact it scares me. Be warned. This is where woke politics is taking us all to a form of apartheid."

During the segment, the Australian news channel host interviewed Dr Muriel Newman, director of the New Zealand Centre for Political Research which she founded in 2005 after nine years as a Member of Parliament.

The interview canvassed a range of topics including: the He Puapua report, Maori representation, the Treaty of Waitangi, the Public Interest Journalism Fund, and Three Waters. The full clip can be seen  HERE.

The following day Newshub (a New Zealand multi-platform news service that airs on TV channel Three, radio stations run by MediaWorks Radio, and on digital platforms) published an article called, "Fact-check of Sky News Australia segment warning of 'apartheid' in New Zealand". It was written by Newshub reporter Zane Small, and started with the comment, "Sky News Australia host Andrew Bolt has warned of ‘apartheid’ in New Zealand, pointing to the controversial He Puapua report and Three Waters reforms - but many of the claims are questionable."

Newshub's report may be seen HERE.

What follows is a fact-check of Newshub’s fact-check.

 Newshub confirmed a number of points mentioned in the Andrew Bolt interview were factually correct:

·        That Maori make up about 16 percent of the population,

·        That a Māori Health Authority is being established and will have a right of veto over the whole health system,

·        That the creation of a Māori Health Authority is mentioned in the He Puapua report.

·        That the He Puapua report was withheld from public release.


He Puapua

With respect to the He Puapua report, Newshub added the comment made by the former Deputy Prime Minister the Rt Hon Winston Peters that the report was "deliberately" withheld from his party during the previous term when they were coalition partners with Labour.

Presumably, in the interest of balance, Newshub states that Prime Minister Ardern denies the report was deliberately withheld. They say, "Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern revealed earlier this year that He Puapua wasn't released publicly over concerns it could be misconstrued as Government policy." They also confirm as fact that He Puapua was only made public "after it was forced to".

Here are some facts about the release of the He Puapua report.

FACT: Minister Mahuta received the He Puapua report around October 2019. It was not released until after the October 2020 General election campaign. It was given wide public attention in March 2021 when a heavily redacted copy was obtained by Muriel Newman, who obtained the full report a week or so later.

Newhub says it is not correct to say He Puapua is about Maori taking control of half of everything in New Zealand. They say He Puapua report contains ideas about Māori "self-determination".

FACT:  Newshub is correct to say He Puapua contains ideas about "self-determination". However, He Puapua also says, "the meaning of self-determination and how it is exercised is up to the Indigenous peoples to determine". In other words, self-determination is whatever Maori want it to be.

He Puapua goes on to say it may mean FULL independence at one end of the spectrum or participation in state government at the other, which may include "independent indigenous education systems and healthcare services". (Para 3)

Newshub says He Puapua "outlines a 'roadmap' to achieve 'Vision 2040' - a realisation of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which New Zealand signed up to in 2010 under former Prime Minister John Key's leadership."

FACT: It is correct to say it was the John Key Government when in coalition with the Maori Party that signed up to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in 2010. At the time the then opposition member the Hon Nanaia Mahuta said this in the House:

"The Government [National] has taken care to recognise that this document is aspirational and non-binding, an approach that should weigh heavily on the efforts of those people who wanted the declaration to be a strong platform for the continued assertion of indigenous rights." (Hansard See HERE >>>) (emphasis added)

FACT: It was after Labour became the government in 2017 that the UN Declaration was given a mandate to become "a strong platform for the continued assertion of indigenous rights" and that gave rise to the commissioning of the He Puapua report.

Presumably the aspirational and non-binding approach taken by the National lead government in 2010 weighed heavily upon Nanaia Mahuta.

Newshub says, "The Government commissioned the report in 2019 as a response to New Zealand signing the UN declaration."

FACT: That is not correct. The UN Declaration was signed in 2010, nine years prior to the He Puapua report being commissioned. The timelines would suggest He Puapua is a consequence of Nanaia Mahuta being in a position to use the UN Declaration as "a strong platform for the continued assertion of indigenous rights".


Maori representation

During the interview a comment was made that "because the Labour Party doesn't need a coalition partner anymore under our MMP electoral system, it means that the Māori caucus actually has a lot of control over Cabinet".

Newshub has confirmed as fact that "there is more diverse representation today. New Zealand's 53rd Parliament is the most diverse in history, with nearly 50 percent of the 120 seats held by women, 11 percent LGBTQI representation and 21 percent Māori MPs." They have also confirmed as fact, "Labour's Māori caucus is the largest ever, with 15 members."

Here are some more facts about Maori representation.

FACT:  21 percent of MPs identify as being Maori, which is greater than the 16.7 percent of the population that identify as Maori.

FACT: 25 percent of the Cabinet identify as Maori.

FACT: Maori are overrepresented in Parliament and in Cabinet. 


Public interest journalism fund

Newshub says, "There is no condition of the $55 million Public Interest Journalism Fund, announced in February, for journalists to report favourably on 'this Treaty partnership agenda'".

FACT: That is not correct. The eligibility criteria for funding applications from the Public Interest Journalism Fund says: "All general eligibility criteria below must be met for applications to be assessed." The first of those criteria is: "Commitment to Te Tiriti o Waitangi and to Māori as a Te Tiriti partner".

Applicants need to show "a clear and obvious commitment or intent for commitment to Te Tiriti o Waitangi, including a commitment to te reo Māori. This commitment will enhance public interest journalism, resulting in stronger Māori representation and greater bi-cultural collaboration within the wider journalism sector." See guidelines HERE >>>

FACT: Newshub was successful in gaining funding for two projects in the first funding round of the Public Interest Journalism Fund. This included the "Te Rito Journalism Project, NZME, Māori Television, Newshub and Pacific Media Network with 11 support partners, up to $2,419,253 (Funding spans two financial years, $800,000 in Yr 1). A programme to identify, train, develop and hire 25 cadet Māori, Pasifika and diverse journalists." Details may be viewed HERE >>>


Treaty of Waitangi

During the interview, Muriel Newman said: "The reality is that the Treaty brought equality - equal rights for all New Zealanders and that is the way this country has developed."

Newshub's Fact-check says, "The term 'equality' is questionable" because "Māori have worse outcomes than non-Māori across almost every measure." They add, "Dr Claire Charters, a member of the He Puapua working group commissioned by Te Puni Kōkiri, advocates for what's called substantive equality, which is ensuring disadvantaged people aren't just treated the same - but that the outcomes are equitable."

FACT: Muriel Newman was referring to the Treaty providing equal legal rights, not equality of outcome. Equality of rights is explicitly stated in the Third Article of the Treaty, "In consideration thereof Her Majesty the Queen of England extends to the Natives of New Zealand Her royal protection and imparts to them all the Rights and Privileges of British Subjects."


Three Waters

During the interview Muriel Newman made the comment, "We're fighting a battle against Three Waters, where the Government's got this plan to centralise control of water services ...take it away from councils, and centralise it in four authorities and they'll be half controlled by local iwi…That'll give them essentially the right of veto over water in New Zealand." [emphasis added]

Newshub says that is not true. Newshub then pivots away from ‘control’ to cite comments about ‘ownership’ by Judith Collins and Ngāi Tahu. Newshub says, "The Government has confirmed the four entities will remain in public ownership".

FACT: The government proposal is for 6 of the 12 governance seats on each water authority to be appointed by iwi and decisions will require a super-majority of 75 per cent. No decision could be made without the consent of iwi interests.

FACT: The Department of Internal Affairs website states, "The Government has proposed that new entities would be required to partner and engage early and meaningfully with Iwi/Māori, understand local aspirations for Te Mana o Te Wai, mātauranga Māori, tikanga Māori and kaitiakitanga and support and enable these."

FACT: The Government's interpretation of ‘ownership’ in the context of the Three Waters assets is ownership through a legislative provision rather than through a conventional shareholding - it is in name only exercised through their representation on the 12 member "representative" governance board, six of whom will be appointed by iwi to represent iwi interests. This is confirmed in a Cabinet Briefing Paper released in June which states, "local authority ownership rights are instead provided for in the oversight and governance arrangements".

FACT: The Three Waters reform proposes local council water assets will be vested in the four new water authorities. A council's control over those assets will diminish from absolute (100 per cent) control to fractional control. For example, the 22 councils in proposed Entity B will share between them 6 of the 12 governance seats that will control those assets. That's six seats to share between 22 councils. There are 21 local councils in Entity C, 20 in Entity D, and four in Entity A.


 Newshub took issue with the comment by Muriel Newman that: "All this is going on without an open debate…It's going on secretly. I mean, we're sort of picking up on it but we're small voices trying to warn the country that this is underway and they should be aware of it and if they don't like it they should damn well speak out about it."

Newshub said, "The Government is currently consulting with Māori on proposals mentioned in He Puapua, before engaging with the wider public. It's been reported a preliminary document for public discussion will be announced by the end of the year."

FACT: Cabinet papers reveal that the Government has had 60 consultation meetings with Maori about the Three Waters proposals. To date, it has not had any meetings with the community.

Newshub says the Government is currently consulting with Maori on proposals in He Puapua.

FACT:  That is true. The Three Waters reform proposal is consistent with that goal on page 31 of the He Puapua report which states, "The Crown's contribution to capacity-building will be resourcing. There are multiple streams from which financial contributions might be sourced, including, for example, levies on resource use where Maori have a clear interest if not a strong claim to ownership, such as water."

Accuracy is an important part of the principles of good journalism and it is laudable that Newshub has confirmed the accuracy of the Bolt interview through a fact-checking exercise. Accuracy is included in the very first Statement of Principles published by the New Zealand Media Council, which states:

 "Accuracy, Fairness and Balance - Publications should be bound at all times by accuracy, fairness and balance, and should not deliberately mislead or misinform readers by commission or omission. In articles of controversy or disagreement, a fair voice must be given to the opposition view." [emphasis added].

As Newshub is a member of the NZ Media Council, I am sure there are many who look forward to it  upholding those principles and provide a fair voice to those with a view that challenges the prevailing political narrative of the day.

Frank Newman is a director of the NZCPR, a political commentator and investment analyst, and a former local body councillor.


DeeM said...

"As Newshub is a member of the NZ Media Council, I am sure there are many who look forward to it upholding those principles and provide a fair voice to those with a view that challenges the prevailing political narrative of the day."
The chances of that happening any time soon are depressingly zero. Newshub, like TVNZ, are political organisations now. They are paid to report what the government deems to be acceptable. I'm afraid Kiwis wanting fair and balanced reporting need to look elsewhere for it. The internet and overseas news channels are the only options!

LaidbackSally said...

Surely a complaint can be made to this NZ Media Council, best by yourself Frank, to keep the pressure on Newshub to get them to stop being a Labour govt news outlet?

Janine said...

It was so refreshing to see Muriel on Sky tv. This is the sort of interview we used to have on New Zealand tv,knowledgeable people expressing different viewpoints and informing the public on topics of the day.

Unfortunately we don't have any quality programmes or journalists here now.

Honestly, you can't really compare the political reporters we have on tv1 and TV3. They probably would be pretty hard pressed to get a job anywhere except in little old New Zealand wouldn't they? That's if the same suspects are still there that featured when I watched the local media a few years back. They don't seem to have been taught adequate interviewing techniques or manage to pose any probing questions.

Maybe more New Zealand politicians could feature on Kenny or Bolt or Credlin?

I'm pretty sure those shows are getting the bulk of the intelligent Kiwi viewers these days.

KP said...

The word apartheid should have been applied to Govt laws decades ago! You have enough South Africans in NZ to recognise it easily, and special treatment for one race over another goes back a long time.

South African apartheid favoured white over blacks, NZ apartheid favours browns over whites. The colours may be different, but the system is the same.

The South African immigrants may now be leaving for yet another country, the white Kiwis might as well join them. The NZ you will be living in will be unrecognizeable as the one you grew up in. The descent of Africa into violent tribalism once the white Govts were removed will be a model for NZ in the future.

Don't be silly, it can't happen here you say? That's just what they said in Yugoslavia under Tito...

Don said...

For the 85+% of us who cannot claim even the slightest trace of Maori inheritance it is starting to look like KEEP NEW ZEALAND BROWN.
But never should we consider the suggestion by KP above:

Pete said...

How interesting that newshub share govt definitions and policies . I enjoy both TV1 and TV3 evening News , although I cannot stand their morning shows . TV1 is hosted by a group og giggling clowns (not unlike the maori party ) and TV3 is so,ewhat wayward : they don't know where they belong or how they should conduct a basic information or news hour . The managers or people who direct the policies of either chanel have never watched UK or US news programs : they , are at least professional and informative . I am sure their advertisers must wonder just where their money is going and to what effect . Slowing sales of their products or lawsuits against their products must be a real problem . Imagine if the people stopped buying the Herald and all its regional papers that it owns . I refuse to buy or at least pay for ( I wait till the next day or so when the retailer has chopped off a corner of the paper for its admittance as unsold and a refund is issued ) and therefore is FREE ! I have added RESENE to my list of NEVERBUYFROM products for their support of an extended maori language week . I do not want to be taught any language by any advertiser or any media medium . There are maori RADIO STATIONS (21) 2 Maori TV stations all funded by the taxpayer . Not that anybody asked me if I minded some of my money going to these bottomless pits of loot gobblers . We need to agitate the farmers so they can withhold their taxes and gst and rates , to wake up the opposition and what sensible labor MPs there are . The govt cannot survive without our taxes . Well spoken Mr Newman : I'm with you all the way . Lets get Winny out there and start stirring some stuff .

Geoffrey said...

The term Iwi/Maori puzzles me. Does it have some special catch-all meaning? Can a person not be a member of an Iwi but still be a Maori, or vice versa? Perhaps it is used as a way to soften the concept of Maori entitlement..