Winston Peters: A Land Full Of Noise
An address by Rt Hon Winston
Peters to Grey Power Howick/Pakuranga
Lloyd Elsmore Park, South Auckland,
Friday, 12 September 2008, at 11am.
A Land Full Of Noise
Thank you for your invitation to be here today.
If you believe some media reports you were probably expecting some kind of monster with a red coat, forked feet, horns, and a tail, breathing fire and smoke!
Sorry if you are disappointed. It’s only me! No horns, no tail, no problem!
There is an old proverb.
“You should only believe half of what you see, and none of which you hear”
That applies to what this talk is about.
Some thoughts about what is happening in front of your eyes in the media and what is going on to subvert democracy in New Zealand.
It goes to the heart of the basic Kiwi belief that everyone is entitled to a fair go – and that even the criminal facing the most serious charges is entitled to a fair trial.
Our whole justice system is founded on this.
Hundreds of thousands of people died last century protecting societies that were unshaken in their resolve to never let go of their inherent fairness.
It is an ideal that people are still prepared to die for.
However there are some people in our society who see themselves above all that.
There is one group you will not see being persecuted on television, on the radio or in the newspapers.
There is one group that will not be brought before Parliament’s Privileges Committee.
Except in rare and exceptional circumstances, or a ratings war, there is one group who will not be the subject of a concerted campaign of vilification and disparagement by the media.
That group is the media itself.
They are like a school of piranhas circling society, seeking to slash, tear, maim and destroy anything that shows any signs of weakness, non-conformity or heaven forbid – criticises the media.
The 18th century British philosopher and Member of Parliament Edmund Burke said that there were three Estates in Parliament, but in the Reporters’ Gallery, there sat a Fourth Estate, far more important than them all.
The expression ‘Fourth Estate’ is now taken to cover not just the press but the whole of the mass media.
The term has a distinguished ring.
It creates an image of a profession – serious – responsible and public spirited.
At its best the media is a key element in our democracy.
But in New Zealand the mainstream media are in trouble and it shows.
Don’t get this wrong. There are still some journalists of the highest standards with ethics.
But something is seriously wrong with the state of journalism.
It is most apparent in the falling off in journalistic standards.
What standard should we expect of journalists?
Well we do not expect infallibility any more than we do in any other system in which people strive to find the truth - knowing that in practice the truth is elusive and sometimes found in differing versions.
But we are entitled to expect a genuine commitment from journalists to inform the public.
That is the opposite of misleading the public – deluding the public, misinforming the public, and going on ego trips.
Somehow we have got to point where inaccuracy and downright lies are now accepted by journalists if they add to the impact of the story.
Why is this happening?
All too often journalists are working under pressure – and the temptation to cut corners gets the upper hand.
There is time pressure – the race to pre-empt rivals by breaking or revealing a story –even if all the facts have not been properly checked.
There is also financial and commercial pressure – the imperative to deliver “scandal” stories that will promote the product and make money for the proprietors.
Hence the hunt for sensation - the next ‘big story’.
One journalist in Parliament told my senior press secretary last week that she had suggested a number of stories to her news editor about important legislation being passed.
She was told to forget them and to go for Winston Peters. Apparently Winston Peters sells newspapers and attracts television viewers.
Never mind that thousands of peoples’ lives were being affected by the legislation!
And that is the real nub of the issue here.
Editors of our major newspapers, television stations and radio stations have all decided getting rid of Peters is the most important political story in the country.
In fact some of have made it their sole focus – with one going as far as saying that even if Winston Peters is innocent he should be sacked.
People wonder why I am at odds with the media from time to time.
But how would they feel if every editor of every newspaper ganged up and said it is time for you to go.
They have decided it is not up to the people of New Zealand, but them – and that is what incenses us most.
They even have the audacity to criticise the Prime Minister when she wants to follow the principles of natural justice.
Let me give you one more example.
Last Wednesday night I appeared before Parliament’s Privileges Committee to give my side of the story.
TV3 decided to screen it live – or so they said.
When it wasn’t going their way they cut the feed off – and then went to a failed broadcaster and TVNZ reject who is part of a court case I am taking against TVNZ, who then spewed his bile.
This after TV3 ratings were over one hundred thousand viewers larger than they would normally be.
No wonder talkback went wild.
Things weren’t going their way so TV3 cut the feed – now let me ask you where is the justice in that.
The announcement last month that Fairfax Media are to slash 160 jobs in New Zealand signals a further fall in standards.
Once it was an article of faith in journalism that the facts were sacred.
Now if no facts are to be found - it is a case of making some up.
For the media facts are no longer sacrosanct.
There is a temptation to get creative, inventive, and start embellishing them.
This has bred a style of journalism that is:
Lacking in proportion
Cavalier with the facts
Is it any wonder that more and more people are abandoning the mainstream media as their prime source of information?
What is happening within the media now is that they are all taking in each other’s washing.
This practice has been referred to as “churnalism”.
This involves recycling second hand stories without checking facts – without seeking corroboration and without adding anything that is new or of value.
It also means that journalists steer clear of providing BOTH SIDES of a story.
Journalists seem to be unable to carefully balance sets of conflicting facts and then let the public make up their own minds.
They believe that they have to tell you that someone is a “baddie” and someone else is a “goodie”.
The goodies and baddies are decided at the morning editorial meetings.
You have no say – after all the journalists are the experts.
They are at least five years out of secondary school with a journalism diploma.
They are all experts in every subject under the sun and they actually believe their opinions are important.
Einstein was a slow learner compared to this lot.
Journalists should be reminded that ultimately their profession rests on trust.
If their stories are not to be trusted they have no credibility.
Their stories will not be read or watched.
Many journalists are also blogsters. They write their opinions on the Internet.
There is an inherent danger in this.
How can a journalist report fairly on an issue involving New Zealand First when he or she is demanding my resignation on their blogsite?
If you raise this issue with them, they look bewildered, or worse, offended.
They do not understand that if they take a public position on an issue it is impossible to be seen as a neutral observer acting on behalf of the public.
Tell me, how much are you being told of political policies - the things that will happen after the election?
How much critical appraisal have you seen of the National Party’s policies – or lack of them?
It is not as if there are no serious issues for journalists to get their atrophied investigative skills into, for example:
The huge losses among finance and property companies that has seen hard working Kiwis relieved of billions of dollars
The dire state of the balance of payments
The ongoing exodus of the young and the restless to Australia
The threadbare policy positions of some parties and their failure to address the real issues facing New Zealand
The loss of our prime assets into overseas ownership
No, the media prefer to hound New Zealand First on the basis of speculation and innuendo.
Against New Zealand First the media turned into a hunting pack.
The media campaign against us can be summed up in three words:
We acknowledge the media have an important job to do.
But it is not to be the police, judge and jury or to decide on the law of the land.
Their role is certainly not to usurp the expressed will of the people as reflected in Parliament.
The media should never lose sight of one fact – they are not elected.
They are self-appointed and accountable only to their proprietors in overseas boardrooms.
TVNZ are accountable only to themselves. Their organisation is a giant personal cash cow.
Instead of defending democracy in this country, the media are actually creating a threat to it by failing to give you ALL the facts and BOTH sides of the story.
The New Zealand First side of the story has yet to be told.
We have made some mistakes – trivial human mistakes that can be rectified.
We are confident about this.
Find one party that hasn’t.
Our mistakes happened after a change of three key office holders and in one case a serious communications gap.
Fair minded New Zealanders know that I have never enriched myself on any battle fought on their behalf.
In these battles we are fighting the same faces with whom over two decades we have had so many battles.
I have spent my whole political life to preserve New Zealand for New Zealanders.
This is an attempt to undo the people’s will, to bring down a government then govern alone. My enemies and an elite media have surely proven that.
My record over many years speaks for itself. I have made more sacrifices than most.
We want above everything else to be judged by decent New Zealanders who understand justice and the essence of democracy, not bias, prejudice and pre-judgement before any of the facts are even known.
We want you to decide our fate – not some media baron in a foreign boardroom.
And we will accept your decision – confident it will be fair.