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www.mccully.co.nz - 6 October 2006

www.mccully.co.nz - 6 October 2006

A Weekly Report from the Keyboard of Murray McCully MP for East Coast Bays

Mr Plod’s Silly Spin Machine

Over decades our Parliament has featured Police Ministers making themselves objects of derision and mirth as they explain away the latest crime statistics. But generally our Police bosses have maintained an air of gravitas and authority, staying above the crass silliness of such contortions. Until now, that is.

Over recent years we have seen the rise of the Police PR machine. And the release of the most recent crime statistics this Wednesday saw the Police PR machinery thrust into overdrive. The statistics, you see, were universally negative. But that wasn’t going to stop Mr Plod from attempting to sell a cute political line - all in the interests of helping out the hapless Minister.

Crime generally was up by 6.9% over the past year. Murders were up by nearly one third, grievous assaults up by 54% and kidnappings and abductions by 46%. But the Police strategy was to discredit the previous statistics. It’s not that crime was increasing, but rather that the statistics were now "more accurate than they have been" according to Police Commissioner Howard Broad.

His Assistant Commissioner in charge of disinformation, Grant Nicholls, pushed the boat out further: "a considerable amount of crime" previously went unreported, he said, "so it’s pleasing to see that there’s a turn, that we are seeing an increase in reporting, and that’s positive." Really??? So it’s not that crime is increasing. Rather our very efficient, hugely clever Police had persuaded the public to report vast reservoirs of crime that had previously gone unreported. An outstanding and unqualified success for Mr Plod.

To the suggestion from Radio NZ presenter Julian Robbins that an almost 7% jump looked a bit like the Police were "losing the battle", the Assistant Commissioner in charge of disinformation was undaunted: "That is a one year view of crime", he said. "For example, in 1996 there were about 482,000 crimes reported to the Police. In 2006: 426 (presumably thousand). So that’s a reduction of 60,000 crimes reported. That’s good news." But hang on. Hasn’t this same officer just told us that this year’s increase in reported crime is good news because previously unreported offences are now being reported? But apparently back in 1996 the crimes being reported were not previously unreported ones, so that was bad news. Particularly if you happen to be sycophantically sucking up to the current Minister.

So, asked, the RNZ presenter: "Why do you believe there was a rise in this last 12 months?"

"Well”, said the Assistant Commissioner, "there were a few changes as the result of the introduction of a new computers system." Ah. So that’s the problem. In previous years the Police, unaided by the new computer, were actually losing count of the number of crimes. How very very fortunate that the Police have now acquired a machine that, unlike its senior officers, has some skills in the area of basic numeracy.

But what, asked our persistent presenter, Mr Robbins, about the Counties Manukau region where crime, according to the released statistics was up by 22.6%? "In part,” explained Mr Nicholls, "it’s those youth gangs." But wait for it…."I could tell you that a couple of weeks ago the New Zealand Government launched an initiative led by the Ministry of Social Development improving outcomes for young people in Counties Manukau. Now that’s a plan of action for youth support in that locality," said the Assistant Commissioner, no doubt reading carefully from his cue cards.

So, dear readers, get this right: Crime figures are not going up because there is more crime. They are going up because more crime is being reported. Except when we are talking about figures from the 1990s before the Assistant Commissioner’s exalted Labour Party bosses took office. Back then, increasing crime statistics were bad news because it wasn’t previously unreported crime now being reported. So the fact that this year’s numbers were lower than those from 1996 was good news. And the fact that they were higher than those from last year was also good news. Get it?

Assistant Commissioner Grant Nicholls is now clearly our leading candidate for the 2006 Comical Ali Award for Factual and Accurate Commentary. Let’s see whether his boss, Commissioner Broad, (who has made a couple of adventurous initiatives) or one of the other senior Police spin merchants can head him off in the remaining months.

The TVNZ Supplicants

The Television New Zealand annual report received scant coverage in the nation’s media last week. Which was remarkable when the report disclosed for the first time that TVNZ’s owners had gouged a $70 million special dividend out of the company. And most of it was in borrowed cash.

In earlier times such a revelation would have led to all manner of insinuations; rampant commercialism and asset-stripping, no less. But this Government, of course, promised a TVNZ charter. Complete with charter funding. So just what is going on here?

TVNZ has already announced plans to go digital. Plans are due to go before the Cabinet within weeks. Some tens of millions of dollars have been requested to fund the venture. So the Government has just raided the TVNZ coffers to the extent of $70 million. And rumour suggests that another cash grab yet is still on the agenda. The vast bulk to be funded out of borrowings.

The state broadcaster is now required, in effect, to beg for some of the borrowed cash back in order to fund its technology development. And nervous managers are fretting that any offence taken by Clark and Co might lead to the requested funding being denied. Our state broadcaster has been reduced to the position of a supplicant, begging the Government for the cash it surely needs to undertake its programmed development. After, of course, it has been forced into debt to meet its owner’s demands. A situation that will bear the closest of watching, to be sure.

The Pacific Plan

The offering from the worldwide headquarters of mccully.co this week is truncated. The National Party Spokesman on Foreign Affairs and Trade is spending Thursday and Friday in Fiji (no, not on an exotic island, working on his bronzed Adonis-like form, but clad in a suit and tie at meetings in Suva).

The visit is part of a program of familiarisation and relationship building in the Pacific. Dr Brash has led visits to the Cook Islands and Samoa. The Fiji visit is being undertaken in conjunction with Associate Foreign Affairs Spokesman, John Hayes, a former head of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s Pacific Division.

On the agenda in Fiji are meetings with the Prime Minister, Vice President and leaders from political parties, as well as a briefing from the Pacific Forum Secretariat based in Suva. The Forum leaders meet in a few weeks. On the agenda will be progress with the Pacific Plan.

Recent visits to both Australia and the United States have reinforced the heightened focus which has developed in relation to the Pacific. The Fiji visit and the wider programme of which it is a part provide a welcome opportunity for New Zealand’s next Government to understand the issues and know the people.

In addition, the term of the current Secretary-General of the Forum, Greg Urwin, is completed at this month’s meeting. There is, so far as we are aware, no truth to the suggestion that the National Party visitors to Suva this week have lodged nomination papers for Mr Winston Peters.

ENDS

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