Friday, June 18, 2004

The Claims We Make.

Here's one in the eye for TVNZ and One News. One of its big stories of the week has been about an Iranian overstayer that the Immigration Service has been after for 18 months. The other night our state broadcaster took apparent glee in leading its news with an exclusive interview of the wanted fugitive (well just his mouth really but you get the idea). While the authorities had been seeking him for a year and a half we managed to find him in just two hours was the overweening cry made by One News. If we found him this fast does this not make immigration staff a bunch of incompetent no-hopers they trumpeted (well not in those exact words but that was their clear meaning). Initially my reaction was fair enough, a little arrogant and over the top perhaps, but you found him and the authorities didn't. Fair enough.

Today my attitude changed somewhat when I discovered the reason TVNZ found the errant Iranian so quickly was because Winston Peters told them exactly where to look. Apparently the local Inland Revenue Department Office had been doing the guy's taxes. Winston referred One News onto them who in turn provided them with the necessary details (which is a bit of a worry really ... what ever happened to our privacy laws?) Strangely enough TVNZ somehow failed to mention the NZ First connection at all.

That aside, it's a point of interest the IRD can point a politician and a news crew in the right direction but somehow fail to inform another Government Department.

Back to stuff I mentioned earlier this week regarding the Canterbury District Health Board and its communications problems. More evidence of that little issue this week as the Christchurch Star led with a full photo front page feature this week on a battle between ZB host Mike Yardley and CDHB CEO Jean O'Callaghan over the DHB banning smoking on its grounds outside Christchurch Hospital. There's nothing quite like taking the media head on is there?

Monday, June 14, 2004

STV, Apathy and Should We Really Give a Damn.

I got a few extra details today about the upcoming STV elections for District Health Boards later this year. For those of you who are wondering STV is not some sexually communicable nasty. It stands for single transferable vote and is the system that's going to elect members to district health boards (yes NZ does have a few socialist hangovers in allowing the people to hold the reins of power in our hospitals). A few concerns were raised in last week's issue of Molesworth and Featherston about what sort of complications might arise if voters had to rank, in preference, fields of candidates possibly numbering over 50. If you think that's far fetched bear in mind the Canterbury DHB had around 80 candidates at the last election. Their argument went that people would be so frustrated at the prospect of ranking 50 or more candidates they'd wash their hands of the whole thing and simply not bother.

Well the good news from the powers that be is we don't have to rank every candidate, just the ones we like. Nevertheless I anticipate, as usual, sod all people will bother voting anyway. Usual turnout for these events is around 30 to 40 percent and I see no reason why things will be any different this time round. The Government is going to do its best to persuade us of the joys of democratic participation and is spending $1.2 million dollars on an advertising and education campaign. It's due to start soon so lets hold our collective breath and see what they come up with (anyone remember the little orange man from the last general election?)

While I'm on matters health I'll have a little dig at the Canterbury District Health Board. They finally had some good news today ... they're not on an intensive monitoring regime by the Ministry of Health. 4 other DHBs are and I think there are a few people a little surprised to see that CDHB wasn't among them. I say this because the Christchurch Hospital is haemorrhaging financially and is set to stuff up the DHB's budget to the tune of around nine million dollars. Naturally management has indicated it'll have to make "adjustments" (english translation - cuts) to cope. Clinicians have looked at this sideways pointing out if you reduce services you logically risk compromising patient care. Management denies this. Hmm I wonder whose opinion I should respect on this; the doctor who provides my treatment, or some individual with a business degree?

Compounding the CDHB's problems is its woeful public relations abilities. I understand its relations with local media have been on a downward slide ever since former communications Alannah James was headhunted by Telecom about two years ago. Apparently her replacement, Vivienne Allen, has a less than stellar reputation with local journalists. In fact the word is she now outstrips the Police's communications person as the most ineffective, obstructive, and blatantly incompetent PR person in Christchurch.

Technically when the DHB holds its meetings it's obliged to make the agendas of those meetings publicly available two days before they're held. Strangely there have been two meetings when those papers haven't been available until the day they were held. Coincidentally both meetings involved financial and staffing issues that could have been construed as damaging to the DHB. Official Information Act requests are commonly lost, forgotten, or "not received". The more cynical among the local reporters reckon that just perhaps something fishy is going on. And further regarding stories written lately about the DHB's budget problems I understand Vivienne Allen's rung one organisation threatening to withdraw DHB advertising because of them. Sounds like true professionalism to me.

Sunday, June 13, 2004

Rugby, and other things.

Well NZ's heaving a collective sigh of relief today after the All Blacks convincingly beat the world champion Poms 36 - 3 at the 'Brook last night. I'm not going to dwell on this too much as there are others far better qualified than me to comment on all matters rugby. The plus side to it all is that our national psyche has got a much needed balm after the devastation of last year's World Cup performance. For those of you who don't know much about NZ, rugby is to us what Islam is to certain fundamentalists who get their jollies out of flying aircraft into skyscrapers. It's taken very seriously. A loss sends the nation into despair, a win into rapture. Economic confidence can be affected by a test result and our politicians have been known to schedule elections to coincide with a hoped for All Black victory (the rationale being a test win will get them more votes). There's also a theory that domestic violence rates increase after a loss ... yes we are that fucked up!

Now permit me, if you will, to vent a little regarding all this unmitigated bullshit that's been spouted this week about the late Ronald Reagan. Great statesman of our age my arse! The guy was a half-witted geriatric who's administration was responsible for the largest amount of bungles, malpractices, and abuses of liberty seen in decades. (though the "Shrub" appears to be giving him a run for his money). Have we all forgotten about the US trained and sponsored death squads in Central America? The arms for hostages nonsense in Iran? (the Gipper literally lost the plot on that one ... remember his "I don't recall" line at the Senate enquiries?) The hasty exit from Beirut? The heroic invasion of Grenada? And all those wonderful informed comments he was so prone to making (eg "Where would this great country be without this great land of ours"). Yes Reagan was witty, yes he had a presence. But for God's sake that was more due to his abilities as an actor than to any gifts of statesmanship. I guess the chances of seeing a balanced critique of his achievements are about as likely as the Warriors winning this year's NRL.

I'll be talking about a few local happenings soon. I've been away from work from a bit so I've been out of the loop. Mind you there's a wonderful bit of gossip at the moment regarding a local PR hound, the bane of many a local journo', who's in trouble for making a obscene phone call. For legal reasons I can't name him yet, but rest assured once the name suppression is lifted all will be revealed.

I'm also waiting for the shit to hit the fan as the countdown to the local body elections continues. So far no strong candidates have come forward to challenge Christchurch's incumbent Garry Moore. There's still speculation as to whether former media personality George Balani will have another crack though I suspect he's more likely to run for Council as he'll prove more of a nuisance to Mayor Moore there. There's a huge amount of antipathy between the two which is being furhter exacerbated by ongoing legal action between them. Balani is suing Moore for $250,000 in a defamation action regarding comments the Mayor is supposed to have made about him after the last election. Mayor Moore has responded with a countersuit and after more than a year of toing and froing it's almost about to hit the Courts. It should prove entertaining.