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Media obsession on coalition talks encourages pointless speculation

In brief
  • Why does the media fixate on coalition speculation when the answer will be known shortly?
  • Some things will definitely change under the new government, including the  push of Labour’s interpretation of the Treaty.
  • Yet, it appears that legacy media would rather encourage avoiding Treaty issues than explaining both sides of the argument.
  • NZ News Essentials and the Centrist, our related publication, are prepared to examine what NZ legacy media won’t. 

Who’s really reading all that media speculation?

Victoria University of Wellington’s Democracy Project produces NZ Politics Daily, which is a regular round up of political articles in NZ media. It has listed at least 100 articles since the election speculating on the details of the ruling coalition. 

Honestly, who cares about the nitty-gritty details of these talks when there’s no real progress to report? Despite this, the media is fixated on the ‘eerie silence‘ surrounding these negotiations and meticulously scrutinising every move of ‘tight-lipped‘ party leaders, including PM-elect Chris Luxon. But is all this coverage really necessary? Aren’t there more critical issues to focus on while these negotiations unfold?

Media obsession on coalition talks encourages pointless speculation - Centrist
Who is really interested in NZ media’s conniptions about the coalition when it’s mostly about ‘nothing’?

Media is MIA on anything challenging Labour’s take on the Treaty

There are some things that seem highly likely to change under the new government, such as interest deductibility for landlords on rental real estate and aspects of employment law. The media is discussing these. 

One thing that is certainly also going to change is what had been Labour’s unrelenting push to promote their take on the Treaty. This was a key feature of the Labour government. Yet, there is deafening silence from the media on this. 

Why is it the media thinks they know best and they just can’t provide balanced discussion on this? Instead, there are a number of organisations that have emerged over the years to cover the missing narrative. These include Hobson’s Pledge, Stop Co-governance and the recently paused Common Room, among others. It is also a big focus for the Bassett, Brash, and Hide newsletters. 

Collectively, these organisations reach hundreds of thousands of people across New Zealand, and are growing. But is that surprising when major media bans these viewpoints, even if they come from very prominent New Zealanders, as the Herald has banned Michael Bassett, former cabinet minister and historian. It’s crucial the media promotes balanced dialogue. Exploring a possible referendum shouldn’t be hastily dismissed, as questions about the Treaty played a significant role in Labour’s defeat.

Isn’t the new Government, with its mandate to stop co-governance, likely going to bin numerous co-governance-aligned thrusts that were advancing under Labour? For example, shouldn’t the Treaty zeal among regulators (of lawyers, real estate agents, and even occupational therapists) now be wound back or even abandoned to more closely align with the new government? 

Brash rightly points out that there is significant confusion about the Treaty, with governments increasingly interpreting it and its so-called ‘Principles’ as conferring different political rights (co-governance) on those of Māori ancestry.

The ‘Principles’ have never been defined by Parliament, and an open conversation about the nation’s constitutional future, while potentially sensitive, is nonetheless important so there is an informed electorate. Also, these issues have a way of re-emerging, opportunistically, if not addressed head on.

While some in the media caution against holding a referendum, there is some polling showing a majority would support it. Instead of tamping down the controversy, shouldn’t the media devote its time to educating and providing diverse perspectives?

Centrist – Your centre for New Zealand news

The Treaty is one of many examples where the Centrist, a related publication to NZ News Essentials, provides  alternative content to mainstream media. Discover more at www.centrist.co.nz and subscribe to the free newsletters.

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