NZ on Air wants to stop people thinking they are biased in a partisan way. So why are they being accused of acting in a way that shows partisan bias?

Over on Scoop, Tom Frewen has done a commendable bit of digging into NZ on Air's response to TV3's decision to screen the documentary "Inside Child Poverty" – a NZ on Air funded documentary highly critical of successive governments' policy on the issue – 4 days before last year's election. He's revealed that the agency's Board subsequently sought legal advice as to whether it can insert a clause in its funding contracts "requiring broadcasters not to screen programmes likely to be an election issue within the Election Period as defined in the Broadcasting Act".

I'll get to the substance of NZ on Air's potential – and it is as yet only "potential", for no final decision apparently has been made – efforts to control what happens with the content they fund in a moment. But before doing so, why exactly was NZ on Air so concerned about this documentary? Was it the programme's content? Well, no ... that's not something NZ on Air is allowed to involve itself with. If there were concerns about what the documentary said about child poverty, the Broadcasting Standards Authority is the proper home for them - or perhaps the Electoral Commission, which rejected complaints that the programme breached electoral law.

Instead, NZ on Air was miffed that TV3 decided to run a documentary it funded that raises controversial political issues so close to election day, because (according to the NZ on Air Board chair Neil Walters) "we could attract some flak". NZ on Air's CEO, Jane Wrightson, echoed this concern in an email to the then Broadcasting Minister, Jonathan Coleman: "We are jealous of our reputation as a politically neutral and impartial agency and put considerable effort into protecting that reputation. We take pains to ensure that we do not put ourselves in a position where we can be accused of political bias."

Well, if that was NZ on Air's concern, then its response has been spectacularly self-defeating. The story has now gone from a couple of critical blog-post mentions of its role in the documentary's making plus an upset email from (apparently) a member of the National Party's Board, to headlines such as this ("NZ on Air to stop docos in election lead-up") and this ("Stoush over poverty documentary screening") and this ("Doco censorship called an 'affront to democracy'").

Yes, I know these may be over-the-top mischaracterisations of the options NZ on Air still is investigating. However, given that its angst over TV3's original scheduling move was all about public perceptions rather than substance, you might have thought that the agency's Board would consider how it would look for it to respond to concerns raised by one of its members who happens to be John Key's electorate chairman, echoing criticisms made by a blogger with strong links to the National Party, when the only apparent complaint to it came from (apparently) a member of the National Party Board, by seeking legal advice on whether it can stop documentaries critical of government policies from being aired in the run up to an election.

Even if everyone involved genuinely had a non-partisan interest in ensuring that the election process was fairly conducted and that NZ on Air was not seen to be complicit in improperly influencing the outcome, you'd think it might have occurred to someone at NZ on Air that the "optics" of this situation might look a little... politically biased and partial. 

So at the least, NZ on Air has learnt that when you have a stove fire in your kitchen, petrol is not the most effective way to extinguish it. For what it is worth, I suspect that NZ on Air's concern was not so much how the general public might view its role – the general public, I would hazard a guess, knows next-to-nothing about the agency's existence – and more with how the returning National regime might react to this event.

Now, I'm not suggesting the National Government would do anything so crude as to extract vengeance on NZ on Air for playing a part in potentially derailing its quest for an overall majority. But we live in straitened fiscal times, where all forms of public expenditure is under close scrutiny. And compared to things like, say, combatting child poverty, giving $127 million to production companies and the like so that we can "see more of NZ on Air" must look like one of those "nice to have" luxuries that we just can't afford any more. Particularly when a chunk of that cash went to make a programme that was, how to put it, unhelpful to the present holders of the public purse strings... .

Simply put, all those who sit on public boards or work in the public service want to keep their Minister happy... especially when their budgets potentially are on the line. Hence NZ on Air's decision to react to TV3's scheduling decision – and this was TV3's decision alone – not with a press release explaining that NZ on Air has absolutely no control over what gets done with the programmes they fund, but rather with a frantic effort to identify some way they can reassure their Minister that this will never happen again. 

However, if we step beyond NZ on Air's motives and the fact they've turned a molehill into a towering inferno, what of the concerns it is seeking to address? Is it right to want to restrict how TV channels can use any "programmes likely to be an election issue" that it funds, so as to avoid any possible accusation of bias or partisanship? Or, as DPF put it in one of his more excited pre-election rants, to avoid again being associated with a decision to have "a taxpayer funded documentary which is clearly anti-Government show in the final week of an election, [that] goes against the rules designed to have a fair contest"?

First of all, we should note that there already exist "rules" controlling what can be screened during an election period. There is a blanket prohibition on "election programmes" (in effect, party-political adverts), aside from those screened using time or money allocated to political parties by the Electoral Commission. This documentary isn't covered by that prohibition, as there is a specific exception for "current affairs programmes". And despite DPF's continuing claim that the documentary "should have had an authorisation statement on it, as it was very partisan against National",  the Electoral Commission also rejected a number of complaints that it breached the Electoral Act's rules on election advertisements. 

Furthermore, the Free-to-Air TV Code overseen by the Broadcasting Standards Authority requires that broadcasters adhere to standards of accuracy and present a range of viewpoints on controversial issues. Again, these standards apply to all broadcasters and to all programmes they screen, irrespective of how they were paid for. I don't know if any of the critics of the documentary have availed themselves of this avenue of complaint, but assuming that they have done so (rather than just blogged on the matter), time will tell if the BSA believes the documentary breached them. And if it does, TV3 will suffer the appropriate penalty for breaching the rules – just as it did when it breached them with its "Corngate" interview of Helen Clark back in the 2002 election campaign (an intervention in the election process by a broadcaster that, strangely enough, I can't seem to find any criticism of in the Kiwiblog archives).

Therefore, what NZ on Air (supported by DPF then and now) are looking to introduce is an additional rule that will apply only to those programmes that it funds, specifying that if they deal with matters "likely to be an election issue", they cannot be shown in the month leading up to the election.

Note that any such programme not funded by NZ on Air could still be screened: had the costs of making "Inside Child Poverty" been paid for by a private New Zealand individual or trust, then it could still be shown; as could any documentaries sourced from overseas (like this, for instance). So we wouldn't have a new rule that stops broadcasters improperly showing any material that might swing the election one way or the other... just a rule that stops NZ on Air funded material from screening. Which seems a little odd, if your concern is protecting the election process as a "fair contest". 

But doesn't the fact that a programme is funded by NZ on Air justify such a rule? After all, if the taxpayer is funding a programme, shouldn't we make sure that the product of those tax dollars does not improperly sway the decision taxpayers make as to who will represent them? Well, you can push that barrow if you want to (but note how much weight falls on the word "improper") – the question is, how far until you put it down?

Does the fact Radio New Zealand is taxpayer funded mean that it may not engage in any news or current affairs activities in the month before the election? Does the fact that TVNZ is taxpayer funded mean it has to screen nothing but a steady diet of reality TV shows and Coronation Street for the month before polling day (and would you notice the difference)? What about the fact that both Q&A and The Nation receive NZ on Air funding – does this mean that they must cease their activities once writ day takes place, or will they get a special exemption from the "no taxpayer money on controversial programmes" rule (and if so, why)?

Of course, you can try and wriggle around this problem. So, DPF opines that "I don’t think taxpayer funding programmes should be interfering with the election, unless they are part of the normal news and current affairs of a channel." Why exactly there should be a distinction between the "normal news and current affairs of a channel" and "non-normal" programming isn't really explained. And what about, for example, election debates. Both TVNZ and RNZ – taxpayer funded institutions – held a number of special programmes devoted to allowing political leaders to influence the voters in the run-up to the election. I assume these extra programmes that differed from the channel's "normal" ones are forbidden under the Farrar rule? Because if not, why not? And is there any way to tell what is or is not allowed under the Farrar rule, apart from asking him directly?

And that's all without dealing with the question of what programmes are "likely to be an election issue", and thus are subject to NZ on Air's proposed prohibition on pre-election screening. A documentary on child poverty that is scathing of government policy? Of course! A documentary on milk production that criticises its effect on water quality (without mentioning any political parties)? Ummm... a bit tougher, but probably. A documentary on NZ soldiers experiences in Afghanistan, including footage that shows US troops mistreating local civilians. Ahhh... I guess it could, couldn't it? What about an episode of "This is Your Life" on David Kirk, which mentions he sought the National Party nomination for Tamaki in 1992? Well, now I'm just being silly... aren't I? Unless, of course, someone felt minded to complain about the programme in a blog post and thus call into question the impartiality and non-partisan reputation of NZ on Air... . 

So, I'll end on a homily. Sometimes the best solution to a problem is to just pretend you don't see a problem in the first place.

Comments (26)

by Maureen Jansen on January 18, 2012
Maureen Jansen

I agree with all you say. I saw the doco online after the election, however, and found it thrillingly anti-National. Part of me was amazed that it was "allowed" to be shown right before the election. This is not a rational, considered reation; it's just how I felt at the time. I'm not surprised that it sparked some sort of political reaction but I'm more disappointed that party leaders and spokespeople haven't taken up some of the issues ... 

Hmmm ...  Was it fair to blame National for the poor condition of state houses? 

by Graeme Edgeler on January 18, 2012
Graeme Edgeler

I don't know if any of the critics of the documentary have availed themselves of this avenue of complaint, but assuming that they have done so (rather than just blogged on the matter), time will tell if the BSA believes the documentary breached them.

I know that one has. His complaint was rejected on the basis that he had seen the programme on demand on the TV3 website, and thus wasn't complaining about a broadcast.

And if it does, TV3 will suffer the appropriate penalty for breaching the rules - just as it did when it breached them with its "Corngate" interview of Helen Clark back in the 2002 election campaign (an intervention in the election process by a broadcaster that, strangely enough, I can't seem to find any criticism of in the Kiwiblog archives).

Could that be because Kiwiblog's first post was in 2003, well after Corngate?
(and also after the BSA's decision, although not by very much)

by Tim Watkin on January 18, 2012
Tim Watkin

We're on much the same page, old son. As for where you draw the line, it's something that vexes many in TV especially and much effort is made. One example: You may have noticed that repeats of Maggie's Gardening Show didn't screen during the campaign, given Barry was standing. THAT's how careful TVNZ was! I imagine TV3 can offer similar stories.

by Andrew Geddis on January 19, 2012
Andrew Geddis

Maureen,

I actually haven't seen the documentary, so can't really judge how "anti-National" it was ... but from various accounts I can accept that it took a particular polemical stance on the issue. The questions are, I guess: (1) does that polemical stance mean TV3 has breached one of the broadcasting standards?; (2) and if not, should there be more or less of this sort of polemical programming just prior to an election - is it good or bad for our democracy to have such issues raised in the public conscience?

Graeme,

I'm sure there are more complaints in the pipeline. As for the fact Kiwiblog premiered post-2002 ... true. But there is this mention of the issue, which you might note takes a somewhat different tone on the role of the media (taxpayer funded and otherwise) in raising controversial and challenging issues during the election campaign - at least when this involves Labour or Green politicians. 

Tim,

Yeah - I saw you'd posted on this when I put mine up. We should talk more often ... .

by XChequer on January 19, 2012
XChequer

Given the doco was shown on a privatly owned network, what's the fuss? They are quite allowed to exercise their discretion as to what and when to show. Much like Fox News.

And, like Fox News, one should take the subject matter of the doco and view it in the context of TV3's programming pre-election night. Given Garner and Gower's double teaming as point-men for the election and their subsequent experimentation with manipulation of the electorate through "hard-nosed" reporting, one really shouldn't be surprised at all at the content. Much like Fox News.

Similarly, we are, as private citizens, allowed to exercise our discretion and not watch TV 3 - or their doco's - and thereby pronounce judgement by berefting them of relevence and revenue.

 

by alexb on January 19, 2012
alexb

Does anyone else ever feel there is a creeping authoritarian nature to this governent? The overuse of urgency last term, the search and surveillence bill changes, harrassing a cameraman for recording the wrong facet of a public media event, and now pressure being put by National on the funder of state TV. Where exactly will it end? Will we still have a (reasonably) level playing field between the government and opposition by 2014? 

by Graeme Edgeler on January 19, 2012
Graeme Edgeler

I actually haven't seen the documentary, so can't really judge how "anti-National" it was ... but from various accounts I can accept that it took a particular polemical stance on the issue.


I believe the major issue was a quote from an academic who said something to the effect "we all know that National sells state houses and Labour builds them" (a falsehood) because very little (if any) of the rest of it was partisan.

by Andrew Geddis on January 19, 2012
Andrew Geddis

I believe the major issue was a quote from an academic who said something to the effect "we all know that National sells state houses and Labour builds them" (a falsehood) because very little (if any) of the rest of it was partisan.

Well, if people are just getting upset about something an academic says, then I fail to see the problem. I mean, who on earth would take such a creature seriously ... ?

by Maureen Jansen on January 19, 2012
Maureen Jansen

I believe the major issue was a quote from an academic who said something to the effect "we all know that National sells state houses and Labour builds them" (a falsehood) because very little (if any) of the rest of it was partisan.

I think that's the main bit that made me suck in my breath. I found that pretty powerful. 

by Ross on January 19, 2012
Ross

> Was it fair to blame National for the poor condition of state houses?

Maureen, the doco didn't blame National for the condition of state houses. The doco was about poverty, not the National Party. It seems that more than a few National supporters are upset about the programme because their party has not prefromed well in alleviating poverty.

by Ross on January 19, 2012
Ross

> I'm sure there are more complaints in the pipeline.

Viewers have 20 working days to complain from the time the programme was screened. In this case that time limit has expired.

http://www.bsa.govt.nz/dealing-with-complaints/

by Steven Price on January 19, 2012
Steven Price

Graeme - you don't think that the visit to Michael Joseph Savage's tomb was maybe a little bit partisan?

by Simon on January 19, 2012
Simon

...you might have thought that the agency's Board would consider how it would look for it to respond to concerns raised by one of its members who happens to be John Key's electorate chairman.

Alternatively, Neil Walter, a former career diplomat and MFAT mandarin, might know exactly what he is doing. Perhaps Walter has deliberately parroted the McElrea/National insider/DPF viewpoint to the media in order to make it public, knowing that general opprobrium will follow ensuring that National cronies like McElrea will never again try to use NZ On Air as part of John Key's media management. Seeking of a legal opinion on NZ On Air's powers looks like a deflecting tactic. Walter must know already what the advice will be.

by Maureen Jansen on January 19, 2012
Maureen Jansen

Maureen, the doco didn't blame National for the condition of state houses. The doco was about poverty, not the National Party. It seems that more than a few National supporters are upset about the programme because their party has not prefromed well in alleviating poverty.


I'm not a National supporter in any way shape or form. I think it was an excellent documentary. It was passionate and true and should have sparked more outrage than it got from people across the political spectrum.  But that comment about Labour building houses and National selling them was a bit glib. I'm just trying to be fair and understand people's responses. 

 

 

by Ross on January 19, 2012
Ross

Maureen

You're entitled to think the comment was glib. But I'd hate to think that such comments could be censored. I personally think the comment was close to the mark. Certainly it's fair to say that Labour and National have had, for quite some time, different views on state housing.

http://www.nzhistory.net.nz/culture/we-call-it-home/the-state-steps-in-and-out

by Graeme Edgeler on January 19, 2012
Graeme Edgeler

Graeme - you don't think that the visit to Michael Joseph Savage's tomb was maybe a little bit partisan?

I don't recall the trip to MJS's tomb, but it now sounds familiar. Also, in the current context, no, political, sure, but partisan? What party is pushing for anything like what MJS started?

by Andrew Geddis on January 19, 2012
Andrew Geddis

"What party is pushing for anything like what MJS started?"

Perhaps the whole documentary was a coded call to vote for The Alliance?

by XChequer on January 19, 2012
XChequer

alexb

"Does anyone else ever feel there is a creeping authoritarian nature to this governent? "


No

by Frank Macskasy on January 20, 2012
Frank Macskasy

Andrew...

"Simply put, all those who sit on public boards or work in the public service want to keep their Minister happy... especially when their budgets potentially are on the line."

Which was pretty much the same rationale put forward by another blogger (whose name escapes me at the moment), when Bomber Bradbury was banned from Radio NZ, in early October, last year, after making critical comments about the Prime Minister.

The blogger concerned remarked that Radio NZ seeks  not only to be  scrupulously fair - but is paranoid that it's impartiality can be threatened. In which case it's funding would also be threatened. (Chris Trotter? Brian Edwards?)

"And despite DPF's continuing claim that the documentary "should have had an authorisation statement on it, as it was very partisan against National"..."

In which case DPF's blog should also carry an authorisation statement, clearly identifying it as a tool of the National Party? After all, DPF does recieve tax-payer funding for work he carries out for the National guvmint...

"And if it does, TV3 will suffer the appropriate penalty for breaching the rules – just as it did when it breached them with its "Corngate" interview of Helen Clark back in the 2002 election campaign (an intervention in the election process by a broadcaster that, strangely enough, I can't seem to find any criticism of in the Kiwiblog archives)."

Oh, surely not, Andrew! *shocked look of disbelief*

Maureen...

"I agree with all you say. I saw the doco online after the election, however, and found it thrillingly anti-National. Part of me was amazed that it was "allowed" to be shown right before the election. "

Actually, I think we were fairly gobsmacked as well. And then it dawned on us why: because docos that are critical of the government-of-the-day are so incredibly rare, now, on our television, that when one is broadcast - well, it's kinda like the North Koreans suddenly receiving South Korean news on their channels. The Nth Koreans wouldn't be believing their eyes either.

Which, in a way, sez quite a bit about the state of television in our country, doesn't it?

Even "Q+A" and "The Nation" can be fairly bland these days. For example, when Espiner interviews Key; Espiner rarely challenges the PM in a way that gives the viewer any insights as to what Key is saying.

Contrast an episode of either "current affairs" programmes with Stephen Sackur's interview with Key here. The result was the best interview since... since... well, whenever!

Alexb...

"Does anyone else ever feel there is a creeping authoritarian nature to this governent? The overuse of urgency last term, the search and surveillence bill changes, harrassing a cameraman for recording the wrong facet of a public media event, and now pressure being put by National on the funder of state TV... "

And added to that list;

    July 2009

    Natasha Fuller &  Jennifer Johnston, solo-mothers

    Personal WINZ details released to the media by Social Welfare Minister, Paula Bennett, to discredit both women after they criticised National for canning the Training Incentive Allowance (which Bennett herself used to pay her way through University).

    May, 2011

    Jon Stephenson, journalist

John Key derides Stephenson’s research into NZ activities in Afghanistan: “I’ve got no reason for NZDF to be lying, and I’ve found [Stephenson] myself personally not to be credible.”

    September, 2011

    Nicky Hager, writer, researcher

 John Key dismisses Hager’s book, on CIA involvement in NZ military activities in Afghanistan:  “I don’t have time to read fiction,” quipped the Prime Minister, adding that the book contained “no smoking gun”, just supposition, which, “makes it business as normal for Nicky Hager”. (Despite the book having 1300 footnotes to referencing documentation.)

    October, 2011

    Martyn “Bomber” Bradbury, broadcaster, blogger

Criticised John Key on Radio NZ. Subsequently banned/ “uninvited”  from returning to Radio NZ as a panellist for the Afternoons with Jim Mora segment.

    November, 2011

    Robyn Malcolm, actor

Criticises the John Key led National government for it’s failures at a Green Party campaign launch, and is, in turn, vilified by the ‘NZ Herald’, and by one-time National Party aspirational-candidate, Cameron Brewer.

Yeah, I get that feeling as well.

Graeme...

"I believe the major issue was a quote from an academic who said something to the effect "we all know that National sells state houses and Labour builds them" (a falsehood) because very little (if any) of the rest of it was partisan."

Probably because National sold around 16,000 state houses back in the late 1990s. It's not hard to earn a reputation when a government does stuff like that.

The point you have missed, Graeme, is the the criticisms in the doco could also be levelled at Labour, for not fixing up those same moldy state house during it/s 9 years in office.

You see, Graeme, the doco actually made the viewer think. And it was fairly obvious that that the running down of properties took a long while to happen.

But then, National supporters  became so defensive that they missed the bloody obvious.

Well, guess what - many viewers didn't miss that point. Try having a bit of faith in the intelligence of  most voters. You may be surprised. 

Steven Price...

"Graeme - you don't think that the visit to Michael Joseph Savage's tomb was maybe a little bit partisan?"

Actually, no. Since state housing was a product of Labour policy; and since Savage was the architect of the welfare state - it seemed fairly logical. Much in the same way that, if a doco was made about the free market in NZ, that the host would visit the grave of Roger Kerr. Or a doco about feminism might visit the grave of Kate Sheppard. Fairly logical really.

Andrew...

"Perhaps the whole documentary was a coded call to vote for The Alliance?"

Well, that worked well, didn't it...

by Frank Macskasy on January 20, 2012
Frank Macskasy

Ooops. That was a bit longer than I intended.

 

Sorry, folks.

by Ross on January 20, 2012
Ross

"National sold around 16,000 state houses back in the late 1990s. It's not hard to earn a reputation when a government does stuff like that."

Well, exactly. In fact, National's desire to sell state houses dates backs to the early '50s. The second link below provides a detailed review of the history of state housing. But it's quite clear that Labour and National have had quite a different view of what should be done with state houses.

http://www.nzhistory.net.nz/culture/we-call-it-home/the-state-steps-in-and-out

“Since the 1950s the construction and sale of state houses has fluctuated considerably depending on which of the major political parties has been in power. In general, National governments have encouraged tenants to purchase state houses, while Labour governments have discouraged or prohibited sales in order to conserve state-housing stocks. These trends were especially marked in the 1990s, when the sale of state houses soared under National until a new Labour-led government placed a moratorium on further sales in 1999.”

http://motu-www.motu.org.nz/wpapers/10_13.pdf

“The history of state housing has…exhibited cyclical patterns determined by the party of government. Since the 1950s, all governing parties have acted on the presumption that home ownership is desirable and should be promoted. Labour has focused more on retaining the state housing stock and promoting home ownership through finance to buy houses on the private market. National, on the other hand, has generally sought to promote home ownership, in part by selling off state rental stock to tenants. In the 1990s, it supplemented this policy with a more general sale of existing vacant state houses on the open market.”

by Steven Price on January 20, 2012
Steven Price

What party is pushing for anything like what MJS started?

I had in mind Labour's opening address that sought to connect the modern Labour party with its roots, and at some length.

But perhaps a better lens is this: the documentary was essentially an hour-long endorsement of one the Greens' three flagship policies.

That said, I thought it was an important and useful documentary. It was a valuable addition to the election debate, on a vital issue, at a time when thoughtful analyses were both necessary and rare. I think the Election Commission is dead right that it wasn't an election ad.

But... it cried out for some response - from both the major parties, but particularly National. Did they disagree with the facts presented, or think some important information was omitted? What policies do they have in place to combat the problems raised? How do they answer the allegation that they should be doing more?

Those responses didn't have to be canvassed in the documentary itself, but could have been raised, for example, in a panel discussion afterwards, or an interview on a news programme fairly shortly afterwards. I didn't see that.

If this hits the Broadcasting Standards Authority, it's going to produce a very interesting ruling on balance (and perhaps fairness and accuracy too).

by Ross on January 20, 2012
Ross

Steven,

I agree that it would've been useful to have had a response from the main parties. But clearly the programme maker's intent was to identify the nature of the problem and to offer some solutions. Since the programme was aired, the new Labour leader, David Shearer, has offered to take part in a multi-party discussion on poverty. This has been rebuffed by John Key. On the day the programme was aired, Bryan Bruce said that each political party had "bits" of policies that were helpful. He was suggesting that political parties needed to discuss the issue with each other and to come to a consensus.

by Ross on January 20, 2012
Ross

One further point. I understand political parties were given an opportunity to watch an advance screening of the doco before it was broadcast. Apparently, neither National nor United Future took up the offer.

http://www.infonews.co.nz/news.cfm?id=80803

by Graeme Edgeler on January 20, 2012
Graeme Edgeler

But perhaps a better lens is this: the documentary was essentially an hour-long endorsement of one the Greens' three flagship policies.

I'm happy to check, but I'm pretty sure "end child poverty" isn't a policy.

by Frank Macskasy on January 20, 2012
Frank Macskasy

Graeme...

"I'm happy to check, but I'm pretty sure "end child poverty" isn't a policy."

Well , it ought to be a policy of every political party.

Steven Price...

"But... it cried out for some response - from both the major parties, but particularly National. Did they disagree with the facts presented, or think some important information was omitted? What policies do they have in place to combat the problems raised? How do they answer the allegation that they should be doing more?"

When we get this sort of leave-it-to-the market type of approach, I think we know where National is coming from,

"A spokesman for Mr English said the [Ministerial] poverty committee would focus on "providing opportunity through things like education and jobs and ensuring we are getting the best results from the hundreds of millions of dollars already being spent on social service delivery"."

Why do I get the impression that National doesn't know what to do on this issue?

Ross...

"One further point. I understand political parties were given an opportunity to watch an advance screening of the doco before it was broadcast. Apparently, neither National nor United Future took up the offer."

Indeed. And as an illustration of United's head-in-sand attitude, one of their main supporters is busily being an apologist for United on "The Standard" blog. And some  of his "explanations" for poverty are unhelpful and depressing.

Which is ironic, considering that UF came up with the Families Commission in the first place. Perhaps another example of Orwellian doublethink, a-la "Ministry of Truth", "Ministry of Love", etc?

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