Some leaders of the Mau, a non-violent movement for Samoan liberation from harsh colonial rule by New Zealand. The New Zealand police killed eleven protestors at a Mau demonstration in 1929.
What were her racist comments?
Some items from Mediawatch (Radio NZ) about radio host Heather du Plessis-Allan’s racist comments:
Broadcaster stands by Pacific Islands “leeches” claim (16 Sep 2018)
Mediawatch Midweek: 12 September 2018 (12 Sep 2018)
Media go OTT on PM as RNZAF VIP (9 Sep 2018)
How to complain:
The official process to complain to the Broadcasting Standards Authority is here. You have to complain to Newstalk ZB first, and then they have to respond within 20 days. If you’re not happy with your response you can escalate it to the BSA.
Here are some tips from the BSA about effective complaints. I wish I’d read this before I submitted my complaint.
The details you’ll need:
1. Station name, programme name, date, and time.
It is important to get these details right. ZB are using imprecise details as an excuse not to respond to complaints.
The station name is Newstalk ZB. The programme name is Wellington Mornings with Heather du Plessis-Allan, and it’s on at 8:30am to 12 noon on weekdays.
My best guess for the date of the first programme is Monday 4 September (as Mediawatch says it was the same day Barbara Dreaver was detained). My best guess for the second programme where she doubled down on her comments was Tuesday 12 September, because Mediawatch talked today about “last Tuesday”, but if it was Tues 5 Sep they could have covered it last week. I have asked Mediawatch on Twitter for confirmation of these dates, or – even better – for the full audio.
2. Precise details of what was said.
I suggest getting this from listening to the excerpts on the Mediawatch episodes. If I get the full audio, I’ll post that here.
What your complaint needs to say:
Your complaint should explain why the broadcast breached at least one of the eleven standards listed in the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice. There are some tips here about what each standard pertains to.
An example you can use (my complaint):
I just wrote this off the top of my head, and I would probably write it differently if I had read all the tips before writing it.
Nonetheless, it’s an example, so it may save you some time. (If anyone else has any examples, please let me know.)
Anyone is welcome to copy this as they wish for their own complaint. I don’t mind if you adapt it or not. No need to ask for permission or to cite me.
Which standards do you think were breached?
Standard 1 – Good taste and decency
Standard 3 – Children’s Interests
Standard 5 – Law and Order
Standard 6 – Discrimination and Denigration
Standard 8 – Balance
Standard 9 – Accuracy
Standard 11 – Fairness
Why do you think the programme breached those standards?
Please note that my complaint is both about the original broadcast from Heather du Plessis-Allan and also about the following Tuesday’s broadcast where du Plessis-Allan defends and stands by her comments. I have attempted to distinguish the two broadcasts in my below comments where practical.
Standard 1 – Good taste and decency. “Current norms of good taste and decency should be maintained, consistent with the context of the programme and the wider context of the broadcast.” Heather du Plessis-Allan said that the Pacific Islands (referring to independent countries and territories of Aotearoa New Zealand) “don’t matter”, asking rhetorically “what are we going to get out of them”, with the implied answer from her following comments being that we get nothing, as “they are nothing but leeches on us”. She also made other insulting comments about certain societies and people in them, as outlined in more detail below. This type of insult to entire societies breaches current norms of decency, as demonstrated by the widespread worldwide outrage earlier this year at US President Donald Trump’s comments referring to countries as “shithole countries”. du Plessis-Allan used a synonym for “shithole countries”, namely “hellhole” for Nauru. She also made similarly insulting and sweeping claims, such as referring to these societies as “nothing but leeches on [NZ]”, referring to “welfare sponging” in relation to some NZ citizens’ rights to superannuation in NZ territories, and suggesting in the following Tuesday’s broadcast Niue does not contribute anything to its own upkeep but that New Zealand aid is “funding all of Niue”.
Standard 3 – Children’s Interests. “Broadcasters should ensure children can be protected from broadcasts which might adversely affect them.” Whilst in the following Tuesday’s broadcast, du Plessis-Allan suggested that her comments were about the countries and their leaders, rather than the individual people in Aotearoa or in the islands, she also referred to individual people, such as people who live in New Zealand and then move back to Niue or other NZ territories with pension portability. Other comments in the original broadcast seemed also to refer to people, such as talking of “leeches” which is an insult that is typically applied to people rather than countries. (Other comments were more clearly about countries, such as calling Nauru a “hellhole”.) It cannot be reasonably claimed that no Pasifika children listening to the broadcast would take du Plessis-Allan’s comments as insulting to them as people, by reducing them to “nothing but leeches” who offer no benefit to New Zealand. It cannot be reasonably denied that this “might [have] adversely affect[ed] them”.
Standard 5 – Law and Order. “Programmes should not actively promote serious antisocial or illegal behaviour, including violence, suicide, serious crime and substance abuse.” Whilst not included in the list of examples, racism and/or xenophobia towards Pasifika peoples is serious antisocial behaviour. The programme actively promoted resentment towards Pacific Island nations as being nothing but “leeches” who “do not matter”, except, apparently, insofar as we should be upset at funding them.
Standard 6 – Discrimination and Denigration. “Broadcasters should not encourage discrimination against, or denigration of, any section of the community on account of sex, sexual orientation, race, age, disability, occupational status or as a consequence of legitimate expression of religion, culture or political belief.” “‘Discrimination’ is defined as encouraging the different treatment of the members of a particular section of the community, to their detriment. ‘Denigration’ is defined as devaluing the reputation of a particular section of the community.” du Plessis-Allan encouraged discrimination against a particular section of New Zealand citizens, namely Nieuan, Cook Island, and Tokelauan NZers who have moved from Aotearoa back to one of these three NZ territories. She opposes their right to receive NZ superannuation, whereas she does not oppose this right for other NZ citizens who also qualify for superannuation by living in New Zealand for the requisite number of years. du Plessis-Allan also encouraged, and indeed engaged in, denigration of a section of the NZ community (Pasifika people in NZ and its territories) and a section of the global community. She devalued the reputation of this section of the community by saying they do not matter, and that NZ does not get any benefit from them, because they are “nothing but leeches” on NZ.
Standard 8 – Balance. “When controversial issues of public importance are discussed in news, current affairs or factual programmes, broadcasters should make reasonable efforts, or give reasonable opportunities, to present significant points of view either in the same programme or in other programmes within the period of current interest.” du Plessis-Allan brought into the public conversation a controversial issue of public importance, namely whether the Pacific Islands have any value or whether they are “nothing but leeches on us” that “do not matter”. While I have not listened to every Newstalk ZB broadcast since then to see what other views were aired, I am not aware of significant effort from Newstalk ZB to present other significant points of view on this issue of public importance.
Standard 9 – Accuracy. “Broadcasters should make reasonable efforts to ensure that news, current affairs and factual programming:
• is accurate in relation to all material points of fact
• does not mislead.” “The requirement for accuracy does not apply to statements which are clearly distinguishable as analysis, comment or opinion, rather than statements of fact.” du Plessis-Allan made factually inaccurate comments, such as that “the Pacific Islands are nothing but leeches on us” that New Zealand does not benefit from these nations (despite many economic and other benefits to New Zealand, according to various official reports and statistics), that Niue is entirely funded by New Zealand, and that Nauru is a “hellhole”. She also gave a misleading impression of the rights of people in NZ territories to receive NZ superannuation if they qualify for it by having lived in NZ for the requisite amount of years, by portraying this right as “welfare sponging” and as an unfair imposition on New Zealand, without clarifying that this is the same right as that enjoyed by other NZ citizens who qualify for superannuation. These comments could be construed as statements of analysis, comment or opinion (and therefore exempt from this standard), but in later broadcasts she insisted that the “hellhole” description of Nauru was “factually correct” (she used the purported factuality as a defence of her right to make the comments).
Standard 11 – Fairness. “Broadcasters should deal fairly with any person or organisation taking part or referred to in any broadcast.” “If a person or organisation referred to or portrayed in a broadcast might be adversely affected, that person or organisation should usually be given a fair and reasonable opportunity to comment for the programme, before the broadcast.” du Plessis-Allan did not deal fairly with the Pacific Island nations (both nation-states and territories of New Zealand), their governments, and their people, when referring to them as “leeches” and saying they “do not matter”, saying that Niue is entirely funded by New Zealand, and saying Nauru is a “hellhole”. I am not aware of Newstalk ZB giving these people and organisations “a fair and reasonable opportunity to comment for the programme”.
“National and the Greens should work together” sentiment seems to have reached an all-time high. This is not because the two parties have moved closer together in policy or philosophy. It’s because after the election, this is the only way—short of a Nat-Lab grand coalition—to lock Winston Peters out of any role in government.1
I can’t be bothered to list examples because I’m sure you’ve all seen or heard people calling for a blue-green government arrangement (or “teal deal” if you will). Perhaps you’ve even suggested it yourself.2
What I want to talk about is the suggestion that usually comes after “National and the Greens should work together”. This is how former National PM Jim Bolger puts it:
“the Greens might be quietly reflecting on whether they, unique in the world of Green parties, should only link themselves to left-wing politics, whereas the environment is neither left wing or right wing, frankly. The environment is the environment; it’s Mother Earth we’re talking about.”
The idea is that the Greens would be more effective in pushing environmental policy if they stuck to that, and got rid of their insistence on left-wing socio-economic policy. This way, it is suggested, they would have a better chance of being able to find room for compromise and cooperation with National. Other Green parties in countries like Germany have been willing to form coalition governments with right-wing parties.
The Greens’ usual response is to give reasons why environmental justice and socio-economic justice (or environmental sustainability and socio-economic sustainability) are inextricably linked. Ever since they were the Values Party they’ve pushed both, and they don’t intend to stop now.
Another response could be to say that New Zealand is not Germany. Germany has a democratic socialist party called The Left which pushes left-wing policy even if the centre-left parties (the Greens and the SDP) don’t—even if they form grand coalitions with the centre-right. In New Zealand, the Alliance and Mana have disappeared as left voices in Parliament. Moreover, Labour kickstarted neo-liberalism and haven’t really repented from it. Until Labour make a significant change from Clark/Blair-esque compromise to Corbyn-esque social democracy, the Greens are the only party significantly trying to push New Zealand in a leftward direction.
However, both of these responses to the challenge accept the terms of the challenge (like Labour accepted the terms of National’s “dead cat” “fiscal hole” challenge). These responses accept the assumption that it’s the Greens’ left-wing socio-economic stance that blocks them from working with National, and that they’d be able to find common ground on the environment.
However, I don’t think this is correct. Certainly the Greens’ socio-economic stances—making welfare more of a livable UBI and less of a punitive control mechanism; raising tax on the rich and introducing it for property investors; returning the minimum wage to 2/3 of the average wage; reducing imprisonment—are all basically the opposite of what the Key-English government have done. However, I think Bill English is actually more likely to accept these policies than to accept Greens’ environmental policies. If Bill could be convinced these socio-economic policies are good “social investment”, he could get behind them. Of course, he won’t. (This is largely because National’s vision of “social investment” is so limited by a pathologically individualist mindset, and so tantamount to Minority Report in its instinct to control the risk factors rather than healing the determinants.) But it’s not outside the realms of possibility.
The Greens’ environmental policies, on the other hand, would require National to actually seriously challenge farm owners, drilling/mining companies, and other capitalists. Currently the costs of these capitalists’ activities are largely falling on the environment, and therefore on the present and future public. The Greens want to stop these business activities destroying our shared home by preventing and internalising these external costs. They’ll ban some unjustifiably polluting business activities, such as drilling or mining or exploring for more fossil fuels at a time when even burning the fossil fuels already dug up will make the Paris target impossible. They’ll tax other business activities for their pollution—making those who produce the costs pay the costs, instead of externalising them. And they’ll use the tax revenue to clean up the damage and to subsidise farmers and other businesses moving to more sustainable ways of doing business.
Do you really see National doing that? The party whose base is farm owners and other capitalists? The party that think climate change is only an issue for “elites”, and that it’s not a “pressing concern”, and that we should adapt to climate change rather than mitigating it? The party who scaremongered on a small water tax for some big farms that are currently destroying the quality of Aotearoa’s awa and wai?3
So how should the Greens respond to this “helpful suggestion” to the Greens—and this implicit congratulation of National for their supposed hypothetical willingness to “green up”?
Well, I wonder if they should make an offer to National this election: If you let us have our way with the environment, we’ll give you confidence and supply to do everything else you want to do as the Government for the next three years. We’d pass a zero carbon act and introduce the Greens’ policies for actually getting to zero carbon. We’d follow the Greens’ ideas to clean up our rivers instead of pretending National and the “hard-working farmers“4 already have the issue under control. We’d build sustainable transport instead of roads, roads, and more roads.
National would refuse this offer. And then maybe people would stop trying to make the teal deal happen. Or at least realise it’s not Green stubbornness stopping it happening. It’s National’s near-total lack of concern for the environment.
- Special votes are extremely unlikely to change the basic possibilities. ↑
- Someone who can always be bothered finding, listing and summarising examples is my hero Bryce Edwards who has subsequently done one of his legendary political round-ups on the teal deal. ↑
- These points I’m making are not new—here‘s basically the same point made three years ago on the No Right Turn blog. ↑
- It was shrewd of National to portray criticism of National’s record on rivers as criticism of farmers who are working hard to clean up rivers, because it’s deeply ingrained in the NZ psyche to pretend we’re really farmers at heart. We all lie about being the rural type. ↑