The state is flexing its muscle in the building and supermarket industries.
In the building industry the intervention can be criticised as long overdue and unlikely to do much good any time soon to remedy a crippling shortage of plasterboard.
A Ministerial taskforce has been set up to look at what more can be done to ease the shortage, including the potential for legislative or regulatory change.
In the supermarket business, the muscle-flexing has been announced in robust language – the press statement is headed Commerce Commission empowered to crackdown on covenants.
The Commerce Commission will be enabled to require supermarkets to hand over information regarding contracts, arrangements and land covenants which make it difficult for competing retailers to set up shop.
A much more troubling sign of the state flexing its muscle can be found in a statement jointly released by Māori Development Minister Willie Jackson and Māori Crown Relations Te Arawhiti Minister Kelvin Davis. Their lark is the mobilising of the media for an exercise in mass education – or is it indoctrination?
He and his colleague announced that the inaugural Matariki public holiday will be marked by a pre-dawn hautapu ceremony at Te Papa Tongarewa
“… and will be a part of a five-hour broadcast carried by all major broadcasters in Aoteaora/New Zealand.”
Its bothersome enough that state-owned broadcasters will provide the same programming fare for five hours – but privately owned media have agreed to pitch in.
We are tempted to liken this to the sort of thing that happens in North Korea, where the state determines exactly what people are told and – more important – what they can’t be told.
It is reported to be one of the world’s most closed nations, with the totalitarian regime tightly controlling outside information and tolerating no dissent. Satellite televison is banned. Until the 1990s, there was one channel during the week, two on weekends North Koreans can be sent to a labour camp for watching Western television.
North Korean television has been described as “one part glorification of Kim Jong Il, one part castigation of South Korea and Japan and revisionist history that blames the U.S. and South Korea for starting the war.”
ABC News journalists in Seoul a few years ago spent a week watching the communist state’s broadcasts to get a glimpse into the average North Korean TV viewer’s mind.
The late North Korean leader Kim Jong-il and his father, Kim Il Sung, are omnipresent on North Korean state television. It is as if the channel warns its viewers: This channel is of the Kims, by the Kims and for the Kims.
By the end of the week, we had become fans of an animated North Korean measuring scale and were humming propaganda songs praising communism.
We are blessed. If we are caught changing channels to watch something else, we won’t be arrested and marched off to a labour camp or some such and – at the next general election – we can try changing governments.
Under the arrangement being trumpeted by Willie Jackson and Kelvin Davis, we will be subjected to just five hours of education – or is indoctrination and/or acculturation?
They have advised us:
Hosted by Stacey Morrison and Mātai Smith, the Celebrate Matariki – Mānawatia a Matariki broadcast will provide insights into the significance of Matariki and include waiata, kapa haka, music, panel discussions facilitated by Moana Maniapoto, John Campbell and Julian Wilcox and an address from the Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
A message from Our Great Leader, in other words, but not from the leader of the Opposition.
The statement went on to note:
With support from Te Māngai Pāho and NZ On Air, the Celebrate Matariki broadcast will be available on Whakaata Māori and Māori+, TVNZ One and TVNZ+, THREE, RNZ, Prime, Iwi Radio via Whare Kōrero, Stuff, Pasifika TV and the national Matariki website, matariki.net.nz.
The good news is that, if we went to find alternative fare broadcast by the state, we can switch to TV2.
The Ministers went on:
“This broadcast is the first of its kind. Never before has every network simulcast a programme on a scale like this. Our broadcasters and digital platforms are to be congratulated for collaborating to support this important kaupapa.”
In other words, the broadcast sets a precedent for the government to follow whenever it feels the urge to drum some other message into the masses.
And let’s note that private-sector broadcasters (which already have signed up to subsidise their operations with state funding and seem seriously disinclined to risk being accused of heresy when Treaty issues are being debated) have agreed to pitch in. Jackson said:
“It is significant that Matariki has been the catalyst to inspire this collaboration between not only our public broadcasters but the commercial networks as well.”
And how will the audience be entertained?
The panel discussions will explore the themes of Matariki. Remembrance – reflecting on the year that has been and remembering those who have passed; celebrating – the present and what we have; looking to the future – focusing and planning for the new year.
“All across the country, communities and whānau are celebrating Matariki. In these challenging times this unique broadcast is an opportunity for all of Aotearoa to learn a little about Matariki, celebrate the rise of the new year and engage in mātauranga Māori,” Minister for Māori Crown Relations Te Arawhiti Kelvin Davis said.
The broadcast will start at 6am on Friday 24 June. You can tune in to your channel of choice to watch or listen to the programme, the press statement says.
We are reminded of George Orwell’s 1984, in which Josef Stalin and the Soviet Union are shown as leaders who destroy individuality to better control the citizens of Oceania.
The character Big Brother and the Thought Police have a method to enforce the people of Oceania to possess the desired thoughts and emotions. The people of Oceania cannot think beyond the greatness of Big Brother and cannot feel any other emotions besides their love and loyalty to Big Brother, as well a hate for Goldstein and the region Oceania is currently at war with. If people such as the main character, Winston, violate these laws then they are punished and sent to the Ministry of Love for a brainwashing cycle of torture.”
A friend of the team at Point of Order observed that – true to form – we’re late in getting to 1984.
Point of Order is a blog focused on politics and the economy run by veteran newspaper reporters Bob Edlin and Ian Templeton