Monday, May 25, 2009

A glaring gap

Most of the time I bemoan what makes it into the paper - skateboarding nun stuck in tree, or the political equivalent. But the inverse of something ridiculous making it into the paper is something serious not making it. Well, almost not making it - in this case, it made it into the Herald poll as reported in today's paper.
"Should New Zealand's MPs have to disclose what they spend their allowances on?"

Yes - 93%
No - 7%
In fact, only 70 people voted 'no', which makes it perfectly possible that they were all MPs. 93% percent is the sort of number you never get, even if the question is something along the lines of "Should Maori immigrants be allowed to claim the dole while beating their children?" Of course, before I get called a hypocrite, I'm not saying that the Herald ought to publish stories because of what Your Views says. It's just that I find it odd how small a deal they have made of this particular issue. The Herald has heavily reported the political crisis in Britain that was broken by the Daily Telegraph's investigation into the ridiculous expense claims that MPs on both sides of the house were making - but they do not seem to have transferred that concern to these shores.

That's not to say they haven't reported it at all. Friday's article was headlined "Scrutiny of MPs expenses rejected". A Herald on Sunday piece (shoved in the middle of the paper, well after the millionaire fugitives and a woman who lost 45kg on a diet of energy drinks) was titled "MPs' conspiracy of silence", but was largely taken up, as is the style of the HoS, with a picture of a Monopoly board. Given the lack of any follow-up piece today, the Herald seems to have gone all weak-kneed at Lockwood Smith's insistence that there would be no change to the current policy. Meanwhile, John Key's 'Don't ask me, ask the Speaker' line is pretty pathetic when he's the Speaker's boss - it's kind of like the old 'Ask your mother/father' trick that parents use. Well, I've grown up now and that doesn't work on me any more. It seems like an obvious case of the fox guarding the chicken coop, and the 'nothing to see here, folks' attitude of the Herald is confusing. Forget any moral imperative to report serious news - don't they want to sell papers?

So here's a free tip for the Herald editorial team: your readers overwhelmingly want the parliamentary expense system reviewed. Readers buy papers. How about you write a front page article about how the man who decides whether MP expenses are reviewed is an MP, and that there is possibly a conflict of interest here? You could even say 'Hey look, MPs in Britain were claiming money to build duck houses and clean their moats - maybe something is going on here too?' Remember Tuku Morgan and his $89 undies? How many papers did you sell then?

(If you want to offer me a free subscription for the idea though, that would be sweet.)


  1. Comparing the expense regimes of Britain and New Zealand are like comparing chalk and cheese.

    That's why there's no 'big' scandal.

    There's also the matter that no one inside the beehive has a terabyte of scandal and no one in the media has $1 dollars to buy it.

  2. Have to agree with anon above, a pair of £30 undies is not that big of a deal compared with the sewerage that spills from the pages of the free commuter papers over here.

  3. James argues that the New Zealand Herald should run a page one story on the following:

    Look at all those MPs 14,000 miles away being naughty with tax-funded expenses.

    Okay so far.

    New Zealand also has MPs.


    "Hey look, MPs in Britain were claiming money to build duck houses and clean their moats - maybe something is going on here too?"

    newsFAIL, right there. Unless you'd really like the Herald to print unverified and spurious tat, think before you sponsor such actions next time.