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Sucking Up and Kicking Down: The NZ Media Covers the Queenstown Summit.

Published: in New Zealand News by .

THE NEW ZEALAND NEWS MEDIA’S coverage of the regular get-together of the Australian and New Zealand prime ministers was appalling.

THE NEW ZEALAND NEWS MEDIA’S coverage of the regular get-together of the Australian and New Zealand prime ministers was appalling. Like their reporting of New Zealand politics generally, most of the journalists’ effort was devoted to seeking-out story-lines with which to embarrass the Labour Government of Jacinda Ardern. In many cases, this involved openly talking-up the Australians’ book at their own country’s expense. Confirmed, yet again, is the unhealthily large number of “suck-up, kick-down” personalities currently at large in New Zealand’s Fourth Estate.

So many contemporary journalists appear to be in the job for trophies. Not the sort of trophies one displays on the mantelpiece (although they like them too) but the sort of trophies big-game hunters hang on their walls. The current Press Gallery’s definition of a good political journalist would appear to be based on how many politician’s they have “bagged”. As if stuffing someone’s career is something to be proud of.

Never has the British Prime Minister, Stanley Baldwin’s (1867-1947) crushing condemnation of the news media been more apt: “What [it] is aiming at is power, and power without responsibility, the prerogative of the harlot throughout the ages.”

After the vicious attack on New Zealand’s foreign policy broadcast on Channel Nine’s “60 Minutes” programme, during which this country was accused of selling its soul and abandoning its Australian “mate” for a mess of Chinese pottage, most Kiwis would have greeted the Aussie media pack with hackles raised and teeth bared. Not our journalists, or, at least, not where anyone could see them.

Rather than respond in kind to the “60 Minutes” onslaught, with questions about the Australian Defence Minister courting Armageddon over Taiwan and the South China Sea, our scribes were more keen to know how fast Jacinda planned to skulk back, like a whipped puppy, to her kennel in Canberra’s back yard.

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Certainly there was no one there in Queenstown with the wit to object, when Scott Morrison blathered on about not letting hostile forces divide the Anzac partners, that since the man in charge of Channel Nine was his old mate and Liberal Party colleague, Peter Costello, he might like to pick up the phone and ask him to stop calling New Zealand a Chinese puppet.

But that’s the problem, isn’t it. The hacks and hackettes of the New Zealand Press Gallery just don’t know stuff like that. All they know is what the smooth operators at the Australian High Commission, the British High Commission and the American Embassy whisper in their shell-like ears at receptions and cocktail parties arranged for just such a purpose.

One is reminded of the famous scene in Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four when the “orator” on the platform is handed a note informing him that Oceania is no longer at war with Eurasia, it is now at war with Eastasia:

“The speech had been proceeding for perhaps twenty minutes when a messenger hurried on to the platform and a scrap of paper was slipped into the speaker’s hand. He unrolled and read it without pausing in his speech. Nothing altered in his voice or manner, or in the content of what he was saying, but suddenly the names were different. Without words said, a wave of understanding rippled through the crowd. Oceania was at war with Eastasia! The next moment there was a tremendous commotion. The banners and posters with which the square was decorated were all wrong! Quite half of them had the wrong faces on them. It was sabotage! The agents of Goldstein had been at work! There was a riotous interlude while posters were ripped from the walls, banners torn to shreds and trampled underfoot. The Spies performed prodigies of activity in clambering over the rooftops and cutting the streamers that fluttered from the chimneys. But within two or three minutes it was all over. The orator, still gripping the neck of the microphone, his shoulders hunched forward, his free hand clawing at the air, had gone straight on with his speech. One minute more, and the feral roars of rage were again bursting from the crowd. The Hate continued exactly as before, except that the target had been changed.”

For nearly 40 years, New Zealand’s diplomatic stance has reflected its location in the Asia-Pacific region of the world. Its relationships with other nations are based on the indisputable reality of New Zealand being a small, economically vulnerable, trading nation situated in the south of the South Pacific. It’s a stance that has the merit of being both expedient and ethical. Other nations know exactly where we stand and what we want – which is, essentially, to be everybody’s friend and trading partner. For decades now, New Zealand diplomacy has possessed the added advantage of in no way contradicting the general strategic posture of the region’s major military actors – the USA and Australia. We were focused on the Asia-Pacific. They were focused on the Asia-Pacific.

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Except, they’re not – not any longer. The USA’s and Australia’s strategic perspective has shifted abruptly from the Asia-Pacific theatre to the Indo-Pacific theatre. From an essentially defensive stance, aimed at preserving the regional status-quo, New Zealand’s former ANZUS allies (with Japan and India in tow) have adopted a clearly aggressive posture aimed at containing, weakening, and ultimately breaking, the Peoples Republic of China. (In exactly the same way the USA and Nato contained, weakened and ultimately broke the Soviet Union.) And New Zealand, like the orator in Orwell’s novel, is supposed to accept the change without missing a beat. “Oceania is at war with Eastasia. Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia.”

Significantly, the Press Gallery – bless their hawkish little hearts – has fallen into line without a murmur. China is New Zealand’s enemy. China hasalways been New Zealand’s enemy. Canberra says so. Washington says so. Even London says so. (Although what business it is of theirs God alone knows!)

Never mind that, by putting our export earnings at risk, the demands of our “allies” pose a direct threat to our national security and wellbeing. Never mind that, like the Soviet Union, China is a nuclear power, which, if cornered, has the power to blow up the world. None of this matters. As far as this country’s senior political journalists are concerned, New Zealand is out of step with the big boys. Ergo, New Zealand must get in step with the big boys. Jacinda needs to hold hands with “ScoMo” and “Sleepy Joe”, and quickly – or run the risk of being “bagged” and having her head hung on the Press Gallery wall.

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Unless, of course, our “friends” decide that Oceania is no longer at war with Eastasia. That Oceania has never been at war with Eastasia.


Source: Setting The Agenda – The Daily Blog

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