Media short-changing democracy, says Hobbs

Last updated 00:13 26/09/2008

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Departing Labour MPs took a stick to the media in Parliament yesterday.

Marian Hobbs, a former minister, said he had loved being in cabinet and when she didn't return to it after the 2005 election journalists couldn't conceive she had voluntarily stood aside.

"In their eyes, I must have been pushed," she said in her valedictory speech.

"It is sad that our gallery is full of people whose perspective is so jaundiced.

"It doesn't build respect for democracy, but maybe that's the aim of the media, increasingly owned by fewer corporations."

Ms Hobbs said she didn't care how she had been reported, what worried her was the way the media trivialised the decision-making process.

"Politics is about making decisions, be it the laws we pass or the budgets we approve," she said.

"But modern news media doesn't evaluate our decisions in the light of which policy is best.

"Instead they build a web around personalities and behaviour. It's about a smiley new face versus the one we are familiar with. The news is about decision makers, rarely about decisions."

Ms Hobbs said the media created a shallow world of perception which played into the hands of the slick and polished.

"You need only to sound assertive, even when you don't know what you're talking about," she said.

"If we continue in this unholy partnership between assertion without knowledge and a celebrity-focused media, then democracy is short-changed."

Ms Hobbs came to Parliament as a list MP in 1996 and won Wellington Central in 1999. She has held it since then.

Dover Samuels also entered Parliament in 1999 and served as a list member and MP for Te Tai Tokerau.

He said the media didn't let the truth or the facts get in the way of a good story.

"They're accountable to no one but their big bosses...inventing the headlines, all under the guise of freedom of speech."

Mr Samuels said he had never seen the media in a feeding frenzy like the one surrounding Winston Peters.

"The two major newspapers and television, insatiable in their attacks," he said.

"And Maoridom is asking why - why don't you run the ruler over every party and leader? The ones that are hiding millions.

"If you want to run the ruler of morality over members of this house, run it over everybody."

He said Maori weren't dumb.

"Maori can understand the secret agenda, and it's not going to work.

"Keep putting Winston Peters on the front page of the paper and you will guarantee he will get back into Parliament."

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- NZPA

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