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In For A Penny: News Digest

In For A Penny: News Digest

By Simon Pound

News Digest first goes out on bfm on Friday Morning........ To listen to 95bFM click here - Also, for more of Simon’s columns see… inforapound.blogspot

Now for this week I thought I’d have a quick look at a couple of papers for rather different reasons, the Guardian Weekly and the NBR.

First up, because it is always good to start with something positive first thing in the morning, The Guardian Weekly, that fine and venerable English institution that, in good news, is now being printed in Australia and as such has become both affordable and timely.
In the old days you had to shell out a packet for the air-freighted edition or wait an age for it to arrive by snail mail, by which time of course the writing, no matter how good, was well out of date.
Ironically now that we can get our hands on it so readily we don’t need it so much because of the excellent Guardian website, but surely these great sites will soon start to cost moolah so I guess we’ll just have to enjoy them for free while we can.
Although, no matter how good a website is it can never replace that satisfying feeling of having a good newspaper in your hand.
And my, it is a good newspaper. Nice compact size and packed full of well-informed stories, commentary and debate – as only the most influential left wing weekly could achieve, hailing as it does from the home of the great newspaper tradition – mother England. And, incorporating as it does the best writings of the Guardian Daily, its sister paper The Observer and also Le Monde in France (thankfully for those like me without a wide ranging classical education, it does so in English).

Though this publication never started life as an establishment creature. Indeed for the first, many, years of its life it was known as the Manchester Workers’ Guardian, and was far, far, far left of where it rather respectably sits today.
And also surprisingly for a venerable left wing institution it is missing the standard Achilles heels of the left. Instead of being humourless, sanctimonious, preachy and totalitarian as most leftist publications are it is, in fact, lightly cynical, slightly knowing, genuinely concerned and does not advocate class-warfare as a solution for everything from student-loans to the common cold.
Not of course that the vast majority of right-wing publications are any better but we’ll save that scorn for a couple of minutes until we put the hooks into the NBR shortly.

Sooooooo. In this weeks Weekly we can find a host of interesting and illuminating things. One of the best packages I’ve picked up in ages.
For example, there is a wee story on the Fathers4Justice Batman guy who scaled Buckingham Palace to raise awareness for Father’s rights to visit their children. Turns out that this pompous git in the silly costume and the ill-fitting speedos is so enamoured of his, admittedly often valid cause, that he has no time to see his own kids and his last girlfriend left him, taking their child, because he was always out protesting and never at home with them. Classic. What a nonce.
And that is not the worst of it, there was another little cracker tucked away amongst all the serious worthy stuff that most people would buy it for that just made my week.
The European Union, newly enlarged, and the corresponding European Parliament are, it reports, buckling under the pressure of translation duties. The 25 current members are spending a billion Euros a year just on trying to understand each other and apparently are failing miserably. This latter-day tower of Babel is in a real mess which is only getting worse because in three years Romania, Croatia and Bulgaria are going to join and they haven’t a hope of finding enough interpreters in time. It is always pleasing to a bad minded bugger like me to see a paternalistic and prescriptive organisation buckle under the weight of its own bureaucracy. But that’s just me. I also like to think what Bulgarian or Czech scrabble must be like – they probably all sit round going – oh shit, I’ve only got vowels.

Anyway, as so often tidily happens with these radio things, it just so happens that the Guardian Weekly and the mighty b are pooling some resources. At the moment it is to the pretty small level of them sending us two free copies a week (at a not to be scoffed at saving of $4.95 an issue) and us getting access to their journalists in the field. So watch this space, the opportunity to tap into some of the best writers in the world at the scene, so to speak, is a great coup.


Annnnnnnd soooooo the NBR. Another weekly and about as far away from the Guardian as you get. Known to a large degree to the non-business reader for the high calibre of some of their stable, in particular Deborah Hill Cone and David Cohen, and also for the annual Rich List, which is sort of a Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous for accountants. In short the Review is kind of like a paper of record for business establishment views. To say it is right wing is boring, but in the limited sense most people understand right wing, true. It is very economically dry and no friend of the Labour government, and, until Dr Brash’s ascendancy, no great friend to National either.
And now the NBR has squarely landed in the broader public view for their frenzied character assassination of Auckland Mayoral hopeful Dick Hubbard.
Now Dick Hubbard was never a fellow traveller to this paper. Goebbels once stated that when he heard the word culture he reached for his revolver. Similarly, the NBR is the kind of organ that reaches for the revolver when it hears words like sustainable development and corporate social responsibility. But it is also not the kind of rag to immediately jump into bed with someone who made their millions peddling something so airy-fairy as bee-pollen supplements, as in the case of incumbent John Banks. So why did the paper effectively weigh in behind Banksie by devoting nine stories to discrediting Hubbard?

I suppose that to the NBR Banksie is the devil they know, and by now, as he certainly has an odd car-crash charm, quite like. Well whatever it is one thing I do know is that it has led to the running of such an ill-conceived, vaguely hysterical and overall grasping hatchet-job on Hubbard in the latest issue.

The importance of such an all-out assault by what is in effect a minority reach paper became apparent to this speculator only yesterday. It turns out, and perhaps I really should have known this already, that businesses also receive a vote in local body elections, excluding District Health Boards. Once again, if you already knew this readily available information please do excuse me but how fascinating.
The logic goes, as I found out from David Smith, Chief Executive of the eye-poppingly innocuously named Society of Local Government Managers, that as businesses pay rates they should get a say in how councils are populated.
Again, fascinating. Were this entirely reasonable-sounding logic extrapolated out to the General Election then Businesses, as taxpayers, ought also to receive a vote. I know one-person one-vote is not going to be replaced quietly but it is not too far fetched to foresee this kind of argument creeping in sooner or later.
So anyway, so as to try to adhere to some sort of traditionally understood democratic ideal if a business owner is also a resident voter in a local body election they are supposed to proxy their vote to a nominated staff member who lives outside the area…….. but they can still, I’d imagine, direct who that vote would go to. It all sounds remarkably murky to me, a smoke and mirrors approach to transparency.

But finally, in light of this, it makes a lot more sense to me that the NBR would try so strenuously to have a go at Hubbard’s credibility. If, as the respected business paper, they get behind a candidate then the business vote may very well swing the election his way.

Interesting huh. Though I still can’t for the life of me work out exactly why the NBR are so keen to back Banks.

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