Bill Ralston's Media Scrum

Bill Ralston is a long-time journalist and broadcaster. A former head of TVNZ's News & Current Affairs, he now hosts Radio Live's Drive Show and writes media and political commentary for several papers and magazines.

Knees jerk at resource idea

12:09pm 28 Aug 2009 35 comments

Want $140 billion? Nah, thanks, we're obviously rich enough. The hysterical reaction to Energy and Resources Minister Gerry Brownlee's suggestion we should look at whether we could extract some of this mineral wealth from conservation land has been quite bizarre.

Knees were rapidly jerked by opposition parties and Green lobby groups who immediately painted a picture of Mt Cook being strip-mined for coal and Gerry being let loose with a chainsaw in the West Coast beech forests.

In fact, all Brownlee's quite rightly suggesting is that the mineral estate in New Zealand can probably produce more wealth for the country than it is currently doing and we should see how we could increase it without destroying our clean, green countryside.

He's also right when he talks of people "leaping to the extremes of paranoia" but, then, environmentalists tend to be paranoid - mainly because, as we've seen in the past, mining and forestry companies really are out to get them.

Brownlee stresses there is no intention of "ripping up" DoC land but the media mostly downplayed that assurance in favour of the much more alarmist "shock, horror" reactions of Labour and the Greens.

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The screws go on Key

12:55pm 25 Aug 2009 8 comments

The screws are really going on John Key this week. He's facing pressure on several fronts and how he handles it all will be a good test of whether he's a short- or long-term prime minister.

The media, rightly, have focused on the dilemma he faces over the Maori seats for the Super City.

Key's choices are limited but, in naked political terms (let's forget principle) they are perfectly clear:

1. If he lets an amendment to the bill go through giving Maori seats on the Super City Council, he loses Rodney Hide as a minister but Act remain supporting National as government.

2. If he rejects Maori seats the Maori Party are angry but its co-leaders will probably remain as ministers and the party will continue to support National.

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Maori seats? Let Auckland decide

11:13am 21 Aug 2009 25 comments

Hide will quit over Maori seats! Shock! Horror! The Government could fall! With John Key and senior ministers in Australia it must be a slow news week in Parliament and the gallery is desperate, hence this beat-up.

Ever since the Super City proposal was mooted we've known the Government had problems with its partners over the Maori seat proposal for Auckland. The Maori Party wants them and Act doesn't.

National's position has always been to not include a provision for Maori seats in the new council. Instead, the new Super Council can, in its first term, decide if it wants them.

And why not?

It's more democratic, surely, to let Aucklanders decide on the question than have central government impose the requirement.

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A lesson in Politics 101 for Goff and Labour

11:26am 17 Aug 2009 38 comments

How long can National stay up to 30% in support ahead of Labour? As long as Labour lets them, is the short answer.

The latest TV3 poll shows the Nats on a long-term unrealistic 58.1%, and Labour trailing by an equally silly 29.2%.

Come election day, whenever that may be, that gap will be much closer.

Labour had only fallen by a margin of 0.8% while National were up 2.1%, showing the Government is attracting fickle support from third parties and the collapsed NZ First vote. That won't stay.

The Labour Party need not panic yet. It has a reasonably solid base from which it can rebuild if it takes it slowly and picks its targets.

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Tensions in the TV world

10:53am 14 Aug 2009 10 comments

Happy 20th birthday Sky Television. You've been in the Pay TV business for two decades now, gathered virtually half the homes in New Zealand as subscribers and you're turning a bigger profit than any of your rivals.

And you thought you'd get away with that? Being a successful business model is not going to make you popular with your competitors, and some politicians and commentators.

A Business Herald story by John Drinnan airs the grievances and arguments that have largely, till now, simply bubbled under the surface in places like the boardrooms of TVNZ, MediaWorks, and the Ministry of Culture and Heritage.

The litany goes that Sky is becoming too powerful, that it will snaffle all the good programme rights for both Pay TV and Free to Air and the other broadcasters will starve. "We need regulation of the broadcasting market," comes the cry.

If the other broadcasters face starvation it is hardly Sky's fault.

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