Covering the Pacific … “we might even learn a thing or two about the nations and the region within which we live .” Image: Shane McLeod/The Interpreter
ANALYSIS:By Mary-Louise O’Callaghan
It is both apt and overdue that veteran ABC correspondent Sean Dorney was last night awarded the Outstanding Contribution to Journalism at the 2018 Walkley ceremonies.
Judged by the trustees of the Walkley Foundation, this award not only recognises Dorney’s extraordinary body of work built over four decades chronicling life and politics in the Pacific, especially Papua New Guinea, but pays homage to one of the last of a near extinct breed of old-time expat Pacific correspondents who lived and breathed their rounds as long-term residents of the communities upon which they were reporting.
Australian newsrooms, instead of panting and pontificating about the growing influence of China, might be better served by tapping into Pacific conversations.
Mary-Louise O’Callaghan … “not uncommon in the two decades either side of the turn of the century for Pacific correspondents to report on unfolding events such as the Bougainville secession crisis or expose corrupt or inept governance.” Image: The Interpreter
Sprung from the bad-old and arrogant days of colonial dispatches referencing “restless natives” and “strange customs” when first nation’s peoples served merely as the backdrop for the white man’s conquering and efforts to “civilise”, it can be argued that for a time these rusted-on corros (who not infrequently through their marriages, gained the privilege of the unique insight of living life within a Pacific family), served as useful intermediary interlocutors in the transitional societies of post-independent Pacific states.
As nations such as PNG, Fiji, Solomon Islands, and Vanuatu fought to different degrees to shake off their colonial framing and fashion a culture of accountability of their own, correspondents like myself and Dorney strove to facilitate and amplify indigenous views of events in these nations. This was both in our reporting for Australian audiences, or, in Dorney’s case, for the entire region. His reports were broadcast back into the countries he covered by Radio Australia, the ABC’s once wonderful but now defunct shortwave radio service.
Reporting crises With the additional resources afforded our first-world news bureaus, it was not uncommon in the two decades either side of the turn of the century for Pacific correspondents to report on unfolding events such as the Bougainville secession crisis or expose corrupt or inept governance that indigenous journalists literally couldn’t afford to do.
As late as 2003, my “scoop” as The Australian’s South Pacific correspondent on the Howard government’s decision to dispatch a 2000-strong Australian-led Pacific intervention force to restore the rule of law in Solomon Islands after several years of unrest, was lifted by the national newspaper, The Solomon Star to run as their frontpage splash.
The only difference being that, unlike The Solomon Star’s newsroom, I worked for a media outlet that could bear the exorbitant cost of international phone calls; I had the means to contact Solomon Island government officials to confirm the story after their meetings in Canberra.
Much has been written in the past decade or so warning about the dangers of the disappearing resident Pacific correspondent, as first Australian Associated Press, then Fairfax closed their bureaus in Suva, Port Moresby, and Honiara, and in many cases wound down the network of stringers who reported for them elsewhere in the region.
The ABC is now the only Australian media outlet still maintaining a permanent presence in the South Pacific region with its bureau in Port Moresby.
But as we are all learning, with disruption comes new opportunities and with digital disruption, in particular, has come new ways of gathering, reporting, and disseminating news.
Hear from the people Here’s the rub: should we really be lamenting the passing of the old-fashioned foreign correspondent, particularly in our own region?
Or is this a chance to embrace the opportunity to hear from the people of the Pacific in their own voices with analysis from their perspectives and news priorities that reflect Pacific agendas?
There is today a prolific cohort of indigenous journos, bloggers, and social commentators already daily reporting, dissecting, and disseminating their nations and region’s affairs with the insight only an indigenous member of an indigenous society can have.
Australian and New Zealand newsrooms, instead of panting and pontificating about the growing influence of China, might be better served tapping into these conversations.
If we joined them, we might even learn a thing or two about the nations and the region within which we live.
Mary-Louise O’Callaghan lived and reported on the Pacific as a foreign correspondent with Australian metropolitan daily newspapers for more than two decades. In 1997 she won the Gold Walkley for Excellence in Journalism for her investigative reporting exposing the Papua New Guinean government’s ill-conceived decision to hire foreign mercenaries to end a war for secession on the island of Bougainville. Her book Enemies Within, Australia, PNG and the Sandline Mercenary Affair, was published the following year. She is now working for World Vision Australia where she leads the Public Affairs team. This article is republished from the Lowy Institute’s Interpreter with permission.
Accused tourist Jakup Febian Skrzypski with Frits Ramandey of the Human Rights Commission Office of Papua. Image: Tabloid Jubi
By Islami Adisubrata in Wamena, West Papua
Indonesian Regional Police in West Papua have handed over the documents of the case of a Polish tourist, Jakup Fabian Skrzypski, who was arrested recently with three Papuans and accused of “treason”, to the Jayawijaya District Attorney.
Skrzypski reportedly entered Indonesia on a tourist visa but was arrested on suspicion of working as a journalist illegally and having contact with an “insurgency” group, report news agencies.
The file was handed over to the District Attorney on November 2 and he is expected to face trial in Wamena along with three co-accused.
“So, the four suspects were handed over, two arrested in Wamena, including Skrzypski, and others arrested in Yalimo,” said Lintong Simanjuntak, Adjunct Police Commissionaire who is also the Chief of Violence and Crime Division of the Directorate of Crime Investigation of Papua Regional Police.
Skrzypski and three other people departed from Jayapura to Wamena and were immediately transferred to Jayawijaya District Attorney Office for re-examination.
The four now are detained by the Jayawijaya District Attorney.
Two of the defendants were sent to the House of Correction Class B Wamena, while the other two have been placed in police custody in Jayawijaya police headquarters.
Foreign Ministry help Adjunct Commissionaire Simanjuntak, who accompanied the four defendants from Jayapura to Wamena, said that although Papua police would investigate this case of alleged treason, the trial would be conducted in Wamena – the place where the incident occurred.
Simanjuntak said that during the investigation, the police were assisted by the Foreign Ministry and had communicated with the Polish Ambassador in Jakarta, ensuring that all procedures had been completed appropriately.
The Chief of State’s Defence and Public Security of the Papua District Attorney Adrianus Irham Tamana said that the trial would be conducted before 20 days of detention had lapsed.
“The trial before 20 days of detention will be handed over to the court. Currently, they are still under our custody,” said Tamana.
But the public prosecutor’s team objected putting the detainees in the police headquarters jail as it was already overcrowded and this could effect access to the basic rights of the detainees in that overcrowded prison, said the detainees legal adviser Latifah Anum Siregar.
“Does this transfer create a problem of over capacity? What about their access and rights? Can these be fulfilled or not?” she asked.
Cell overflowing Siregar said that during the detention by Papua regional police, the holding cell had already been overflowing, with 50 people occupying space for 25.
Also, the detainees needed to share the toilet for bathing and washing dishes.
“Security must be compared with humanitarian purpose. Don’tt apply security as the reason to ignore humanity.
“My clients have to get access to lawyers, religious leaders and this shouldn’t be restricted,” Siregar said.
She also said Skrzypski had rejected all allegations against him.
Islami Adisubrata is a journalist with Tabloid Jubi and this article has been translated into English and is republished with permission under a content sharing arrangement.
Evening Report Analysis – National Affairs and the Public Interest, by Selwyn Manning.
Accusations have surfaced alleging the current National Party leadership conspired to politically destroy Jami-Lee Ross – this after details of his affair with a fellow party MP became known to them. The allegations raise serious questions. Those questions include: what did National’s leader and deputy leader know and when did they find out?
A sworn to timeline of events is now essential so that the public interest can be satisfied. This must be a crucial element that is cemented in to the methodology of Simon Bridges’ inquiry into the culture of the National Party. Above all, it must be independent and publicly accessible.
The inquiry must examine the National leadership team’s actions and culture, test whether they acted in a proper and timely manner, and assess whether their actions considered a concern for the welfare and mental health of an MP they had previously supported, promoted, and embedded within their leadership team.
It follows that allegations suggesting a “hit job” was orchestrated from inside the National Party leadership must also be independently explored.
If the inquiry finds that either the leader, or deputy leader, was part of a destructive and inhumane attack on Jami-Lee Ross – while it was known that he was at high risk of being pushed over the edge, was ill, and verging on suicide – and that they acted without reasonable regard for his welfare, then it must be accepted by the National Party caucus, its membership and the public, that this National leadership team is at the very least morally bankrupt.
This inquiry ought to be conducted amidst a background whereby Ross declared his role in the destructive side of politics; following the orders of Sir John Key, Bill English, Paula Bennett and Simon Bridges. Ross was afterall a ‘numbers man’ for Bridges, and benefitted from the patronage that the Bridges-Bennett leadership team offered.
There are a number of ‘ifs’ in this analysis, but the public interest demands that they be considered.
The allegations have surfaced on the blog-site Whaleoil which is owned and edited by controversial writer Cameron Slater.
Some may dismiss the allegations on the basis of tribalism, or ignore the allegations because Slater was centrally involved in National’s so called Dirty Politics as revealed in 2014. But the nature of the allegations are as serious as they get in politics, and, if accurate played a part in the sudden deterioration of Jami-Lee Ross’ mental health, the sectioning of Ross for his own protection, and the erasion of credibility of a potential political opponent who was determined to continue as a critical member of New Zealand’s Parliament.
This analysis’ argument suggests any such bias, on behalf by Cameron Slater’s opponents, ought to be ethically and morally put aside until such a time as the truth and facts are tested. Such an inquiry, preferably judicial but essentially independent, must be robust and critical in its analysis.
To reiterate; numerous elements of this saga elevate the issues to a matter of serious public interest.
And it must be noted at this juncture, that the party’s leader Simon Bridges insists he has acted appropriately and denies taking part in any political “hit job”.
Let’s examine what Evening Report has learned from contacts close to events.
Alleged details of events between Saturday-Sunday October 20-21
There is a txt-chain of events that investigators can forensically examine that are central to understanding who was involved in the sectioning of Jami-Lee Ross.
If the txts are examined they will determine if it is fact that the National Party MP, with whom Jami-Lee Ross had a three-year affair, rang the Police and that as a consequence of that call the Police used mental health laws to take Jami-Lee Ross into custody and contain him within the mental health unit at Counties Manukau Health.
Txts will also show whether it is fact that the female MP then called Simon Bridges’ chief of staff at 9:15pm on Saturday October 20 informing him of the events. If so Bridges’ office was aware of an alleged suicide attempt. Investigators would then be able to assess whether a txt message from Jami-Lee Ross’ psychologist, who Evening Report understands messaged Jami-Lee Ross at 9:28pm on Saturday October 20, asking if he was ok, and that the psychologist had minutes prior received a txt message from Jamie Gray, Simon Bridges’ chief of staff.
It is a matter of public record that Simon Bridges appeared on NewsHub’s AM Show on Tuesday October 23, denying all knowledge of events on the Saturday night – that is until a wider grouping within the National Party became privy to what had happened to Jami-Lee Ross.
It appears reasonable to form an opinion that Bridges’ chief of staff would have informed the leader of such an event. If he didn’t, why didn’t he inform Bridges?
The sectioning of Jami-Lee Ross ended a week where many National Party MPs, and a wider network of those loyal to the party, appeared to be actively orchestrating a coordinated campaign to destroy the so-called rogue MP’s political chances and to discredit his claims of corruption within the National Party leadership. Had Jami-Lee Ross abused his position as the senior whip within the party? It certainly appears so. Did he abuse the power he was afforded? Media reports would suggest this was so. Did he have an affair with at least two women? Yes. But it appears that the public attacks began, not at the time when senior members of the party were informed of Ross’ actions, but, once Ross began to attack the leadership. This is significant.
An Opposition’s Role As The Public’s Advocate
As senior representatives of New Zealand’s Legislature, leader Simon Bridges and deputy leader Paula Bennett can arguably be regarded as the public’s advocates within Parliament. Their job is to keep the Executive Government on its toes, challenge its policy and rationale, to be Parliament’s keepers of the public’s interest.
As such, the public deserves to know if the leaders, as a team or individually, conspired to destroy the political chances of an MP and former colleague, who they considered to have gone rogue, and who they knew was suffering a crisis of mental health so serious that it could have ended in death.
It is in consideration of the public interest, that this editorial is written.
We now know as fact, Jami-Lee Ross had a three year affair with a South Island-based National MP.[name withheld]. Like him, she has two children and was married.
While the affair was going ‘well’, contacts inside the National Party have told Evening Report that Jami-Lee encouraged Bridges to promote his lover above her standing and reputation in caucus, well above some high profile MPs like National’s Chris Bishop who are respected among colleagues and media and seen to have been doing their job well. The promotion was seen to give leverage, to sure up the numbers to stabilise Bridges’ and Bennett’s leadership team at a time when they sensed support was delicate.
Meanwhile, Jami-Lee Ross continued to pull in big donations from wealthy Chinese residents in his Botany electorate. As a reward, Bridges embedded him into his inner core, the top three. Politically, this is really an unsound move by a political leader. With Ross being senior whip, he is supposed to be directed by the leader to pull MPs into line, to do the leader’s bidding, and to do this without necessarily knowing the deep and dark details underlying the leader’s moves.
In effect, with Jami-Lee Ross becoming a central figure, knowing all the details, the dirt, the strategy and tactics, it centralised too much power into the whip position and elevated a real danger of a whip using the position for his own gain. To reiterate, this appears a seriously stupid move of Bridges and Bennett to pull a whip in on their machinations. And, in a significant contact’s view, it appears they risked this because Jami-Lee was pulling in the donor money.
Jami-Lee Ross had been on the rise for a time. Former Prime Minister John Key promoted him to the whips office. Then PM Bill English secured Ross’s rise by maintaining and elevating his whip role. Bridges and Bennett further empowered Jami-Lee Ross by cementing him into the whip position, a move that suggested National’s power-politicians were well satisfied with his service.
It’s hard to tell how far back it was when Jami-Lee Ross began to record Bridges. And, at this juncture, it’s difficult to know if he recorded Bennett as well. The public is left to fathom whether it was when his affair with the National MP went sour and perhaps Ross sensed Bennett having become close to her.
In any event, when Jami-Lee Ross fell out with his colleague and lover, sources say Bennett played a crucial role in the analysis of his conduct, in particular women who had allegedly been burned by Ross. Two women, contacts inside National state were staff of the National Party leader. The MP (whom Ross had a three-year affair with) and the two staff members are said by National Party contacts to be the subject of NewsRoom.co.nz’s investigation into Ross’ activities, an investigation that is believed to have spanned up to one year in duration. Evening Report raises this aspect as the public interest demands to consider whether it is reasonable to believe that two staffers in the leader’s office never told nor informed Bridges, or the chief of staff, that they were cooperating in a media investigation into the leader’s chief and senior whip?
Contacts state that Bennett gained the women’s confidence, received information so it could be prepared as part of a disciplinary process. Did Bennett choose to engage media with this information? If so, once media received the information, what involvement did the deputy leader have or continue to have, or engage with, the complainants and media?
Sources inside National state Bennett then seeded info about Jami-Lee Ross having had an affair. They point to her having hinted at behaviour unbecoming of a married member of Parliament during an interview before TV, radio and print journalists. Did she do this without Bridges knowing or being forewarned.
If true, in effect, this would have driven the narrative ahead of the leader. If so, it is reasonable to fathom that a senior politician would know Bridges would be forced to defend the character-attack campaign that appeared orchestrated and designed to destroy Ross. Amidst the firestorm, National MP Maggie Barry spoke out against Ross with significant indignation. This will have been digested by the public that National had expelled a human predator from its midst. It also gave the impression National’s female caucus members were unified. However, respected MP Nikki Kaye kept out of it. Why?
Next, Bridges was forced to field political journalists’ questions about breaking the old convention that you keep affairs and family issues under the covers.
Bridges was then compelled to inform media that he had “told off” his deputy leader for giving credence that an affair had been ongoing between Ross and a Nat MP. This made Bridges look even weaker.
The future of National’s leadership
National Party contacts suggest Bridges is positioned where he will be forced to absorb the political fallout for what is seen by some as a character assassination campaign gone wrong. One contact states that once Bridges is rendered useless, and the issue dies down, Bennett herself will be well positioned to remove Bridges as leader in 2019.
It is reasonable to form an opinion that senior National MP Judith Collins will also be available if the leadership were to fall vacant. Her popularity is again on the rise.
At this juncture, for Bridges and Bennett, it appears wise for them to expect more National Party dirt to emerge before the end of the year. Evening Report’s sources say: “ample dirt lingers just below the surface.”
For a party that once stated it had no factions, it certainly seems its personality factions are now in all-out political warfare.
Judith Collins’ star has been rising since she returned to the front-bench in opposition. And it has been bolstered by a favourable Colmar Brunton Poll. It’s fair to suggest she has laid heavy hits on Labour’s Housing Minister Phil Twyford. As a consequence, her standing within the caucus has improved. On investigation, it is clear she has not had the loyalty of Jami-Lee Ross since he was promoted by John Key. He, along with Mark Mitchell, then supported Bill English for the leadership. Bennett and Mitchell are politically close. It does appear that moves by some media to connect Jami-Lee Ross’ revelations with a Judith Collins plan as not based on fact.
While there’s an expectation among interested public that Collins will be the next leader, she will need the support of what’s left of National’s social conservatives and those loyal to Nikki Kaye.
For Collins to succeed, she will have to be seen to inoculate the party from damaging information that may be in the possession of Jami-Lee Ross. All the while, she, like Bennett, needs Bridges to continue to fail as a leader.
It is fair to accept, the recordings and damaging information are now with Cam Slater and Simon Lusk. It is also reasonable to suggest that Bridges is a disappointment to some who once supported his bid for leadership. Cam Slater is clearly appalled at what he refers to as a “hit job”.
Slater is adamant that he is not motivated by an agenda, nor by a pitch by a fiscal conservative faction to gain leadership of the National party. Rather he said, he is motivated to help an old friend who the current leadership moved to destroy. He added on his blog-site, if the current leadership continues “to lie” he will continue to reveal the truth.
Meanwhile, Jami-Lee Ross is being reassured and cared for by a mutual friend of his and Slaters who is a pastor with the Seventh Day Adventists.
Contacts say, with regard to Jami-Lee Ross and his National Party former lover and colleague, the three year affair was a relationship that in the end didn’t deliver what either banked on – despite promotions and connections and having benefitted politically from their association.
It’s fair to say, Jami-Lee Ross was out of his experiential depth and in part abusive from the point of view of how to handle political power, networks and consensual relationships.
Two other women who laid complaints about Ross, worked in the leader’s office.
Bridges is adamant he didn’t know about the abuse of power nor the complaints. Did Bennett know? At what point was she privy to the information?
One National Party contact said: “It defies reasonable belief that Bridges didn’t know.”
It is right that Bridges has initiated an inquiry into National’s culture. But that in itself falls short or what the public interest demands. Why? Because the inquiry reports back to Bridges, who as leader may well be one of the protagonists. Also, the report will not be released to the public which leaves it as a golden prize, the holy grail, for any journalist and, irrespective of who it damns or exonerates, will become a currency for any MP with leadership ambitions.
As it now stands, Bridges’ worst nightmare must be not knowing what Jami-Lee Ross recorded and at what point did he begin taping the National Party leader’s conversations.
If those recordings contain further embarrassing or damaging content and references, then he will be finished as leader. Bridges, as leader, even if he has a clear conscience, must be wracking his memory as to past conversations and comments while knowing the conversations may be in the hands of people with whom he has lost their trust.
And the question remains unanswered: Was Paula Bennett recorded as well?
If her actions are found by inquirers to have led an orchestrated political response to Jami-Lee Ross’ revelations, whether that be at the behest or otherwise of the current leader, then this will destroy any higher ambitions that she may have ever contemplated.
It follows, that if the report concludes that the rot inside National extends to its current leadership, then it may well be that Judith Collins will become the leader of the National Party, unopposed.
Whatever the future holds for the National Party, it is in everyone’s interests that an independent judicial investigation into this National affair be conducted in a spirit of openness and propriety.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Evening Report invites any individual connected to this analysis to have a right of reply.
Footnote: Interview between the author and Jami-Lee Ross on his role as a new National Party MP (August 13 2012):
Media Association of Solomon Islands president Charles Kadamana, a University of the South Pacific journalism alumni, with wantok student journalists Rosalie Nongebatu (left) and joint top award winner Elizabeth Osifelo. Image: Harrison Selmen/Wansolwara
By Geraldine Panapasa in Suva
The Media Association of Solomon Islands (MASI) plans to work closely with the University of the South Pacific journalism programme to develop journalists in the region, says president Charles Kadamana.
Kadaman, a senior journalist with the Solomon Star daily newspaper, says past collaboration with USP Journalism has been successful, including a recent week-long training on anti-corruption reporting in the Solomon Islands.
He said the training was timely as the Solomon Islands government was in the process of debating the Anti-Corruption Bill.
“In Solomon Islands, there are about 36 USP journalism alumni now holding top jobs in the media industry, the government and in the private sectors,” said Kadamana, who was a guest at last week’s 18th USP Journalism Students Awards ceremony at Laucala campus in Suva.
“Looking at the list of journalism alumni, it is evident that the USP journalism programme has produced a lot of communications professionals in different areas contributing to our countries.
“Fiji and other Pacific countries also have USP journalism alumni in top posts.
“Today, there is growing interest of journalists studying at USP. I am also happy to see the number of students from Solomon Islands is increasing.”
Dominated awards Eleven student journalists are currently with the USP programme and they dominated the awards.
As educated young people, Kadamana encouraged student journalists to take up leadership roles, adding taking up journalism was not an easy task.
“There will be people who will stab you in the back. To avoid disaster, all you have to do is produce the results.
“Do not be the person who only wants the position for status and glory,” Kadamana said.
The USP journalism alumni said the university had been the breeding ground for nurturing future journalists to meet the needs of the region during the past 50 years.
Wansolwara News and the Pacific Media Centre have a content sharing arrangement.
Professor David Robie presenting the Best Mobile Journalism Documentary prize sponsored by Internews and Earth Journalism Network at the annual University of the South Pacific journalism awards. Pictured is Kirisitiana Uluwai of Fiji in the runner-up team. Image: Harrison Selmen/Wansolwara
By Geraldine Panapasa in Suva
Pacific journalism academic Professor David Robie believes the media play a critical role in exposing abuses of power in a world increasingly hostile towards journalists.
However, journalists in the Pacific are frequently “persecuted by smallminded politicians with scant regard for the role of the media”, he says.
Speaking at last week’s 18th University of the South Pacific (USP) Journalism Student Awards ceremony at Laucala campus in Suva, Fiji, Dr Robie said despite the growing global dangers surrounding the profession, journalism was critically important for democracy.
Dr Robie said while such “ghastly fates” for journalists – such as the extrajudicial killing of Saudi dissident writer Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey earlier this month – may seem remote in the Pacific, there were plenty of attacks on media freedom to contend with, while trolls in the region and state threats to internet freedom were “also rife”.
“Next month, Fiji is facing a critically important general election, the second since the return of democracy in the country in 2014. And many graduating journalists will be involved,” Dr Robie said.
“Governments in Fiji and the Pacific should remember journalists are guardians of democracy and they have an important role to play in ensuring the legitimacy of both the vote and the result, especially in a country such as this which has been emerging from many years of political crisis.
“But it is important that journalists play their part too with responsibilities as well as rights. Along with the right to provide information without fear or favour, and free from pressure or threats, you have a duty to provide voters with accurate, objective and constructive information.”
Professor David Robie presenting a Te Matau a Maui – Mau’s fishhook – to USP journalism coordinator Dr Shailendra Singh for the newsroom to mark the “NZ connection”. Image: Harrison Selmen/Wansolwara
Tribute to whistleblowers Dr Robie also paid tribute to two whistleblowers and journalists in the Pacific.
“Firstly, Iranian-born Behrouz Boochani, the refugee journalist, documentary maker and poet who pricked the Australian conscience about the terrible human rights violations against asylum seekers on Manus Island and Nauru,” Dr Robie said.
“He has reminded Canberra that Australia needs to regain a moral compass.
“And activist lawyer communicator Joe Moses, who campaigned tirelessly for the rights of the villagers of Paga Hill in Port Moresby.
“These people were forced out of their homes in defiance of a Supreme Court order to make way for the luxury development for next month’s APEC summit.
“Be inspired by them and the foundations of human rights journalism and contribute to your communities and countries.
“Don’t be seduced by a fast foods diet of distortion and propaganda. Be courageous and committed, be true to your quest for the truth.”
Professor Robie is the director of the Pacific Media Centre and professor of journalism in the School of Communication Studies at Auckland University of Technology. He is also editor of Pacific Journalism Review research journal and the news website Asia Pacific Report. He is a former USP Journalism Coordinator 1998-2002.
Geraldine Panapasa is editor-in-chief of USP’s Wansolwara journalism newspaper.
Pacific Media Centre director Professor David Robie and MASI president Charles Kadamana with graduating student journalists at the University of the South Pacific. Image: Harrison Selmen/Wansolwara
Telstar Jimmy with her poetry book Journey of Truth at USP’s Laucala campus in Suva … now keen to help others publish. Image: Harrison Selmen/Vanuatu Daily Post
By Harrison Selmen in Suva, Fiji
Vanuatu student journalist Telstar Jimmy launched her first poetry book in Fiji last week and vows bigger plans ahead to to help boost publishing in her country.
Although it took her several years to achieve her passion, Jimmy was proud that everyone around her is enjoying the moment.
“I feel relieved that I was finally able to publish, and overjoyed that I can now be able to share my poems with others – not just in Vanuatu but in the Pacific, because friends from Solomon Islands, Fiji and Nauru have already started buying the book and giving me a lot of positive feedback on it,” she says.
Jimmy’s plan now is to find other poets in Vanuatu and promote their work in anthology collection that can give them recognition.
“I know many have the potential but they lacked the opportunity to shine and share their stories,” she says.
While on the verge of completing her Bachelor degree at the University of the South Pacific majoring in journalism and language and literature at the end of this year, the launch of her book marks a double highlight in her academic journey.
The title of the book is Journey of Truth with four chapters and 76 pages.
Oceanic views The poems cover global issues, oceanic views of the Pacific, family values and love stories.
She says the title of the book reflects the many stories in the book depicting real life events and journeys of life.
When asked who inspired her develop her poetry and why she decided to write a book, Jimmy answers, “Grace Molisa [an acclaimed ni-Vanuatu politician, poet and campaigner for women’s equality in politics] was my big inspiration … but then she passed away so soon”.
She said one of the main reasons to publish the book is to create a resource for Vanuatu generations with the Oceania and Pacific context.
As a mother of three children and mentor for many young Vanuatu students at Laucala during her three years of study, Telstar Jimmy describes the poems as a voice for all the silenced women – especially in a male-dominated country like Vanuatu.
Many student journalists at USP have posted messages on social media to congratulate the Vanuatu journalist for her poetic talents.
“Writing was fun and easy but publishing was quiet hard,” she says, thanking her family for funding her publication in Fiji.
Never give up Jimmy’s message to her peers is never give up in life, even if it takes many years to achieve their dream.
“Don’t neglect the potential that you have.”
She thanked her families, especially her parents, siblings, children and husband for their support.
“Not forgetting Tony Alvero and Jerome Robert for the artistic designs, my English teachers at Malapoa and literature lecturers at USP, colleagues and friends and most importantly the almighty God for the wisdom and blessings,” she says.
Telstar Jimmy featured in a Pacific Media Centre climate change video last year by AUT student journalists Julie Cleaver and Kendall Hutt. Asia Pacific Report has a content sharing arrangement with Vanuatu Daily Post.
Photographers: Harry Selmen, Jovesa Naisua and David Robie
USP journalism awards night
USP1: Graduating final year students and their awards with USP journalism coordinator Dr Shailendra Singh (left) and PMC director Professor David Robie. Image: Harry Selmen/Wansolwara
ISP2: Part of the crowd at the USP journalism awards night. Image: Harry Selmen/Wansolwara
USP3: Invited speakers … USP journalism programme coordinator Dr Shailendra Singh (from left) with Pacific Media Centre’s professor David Robie, head of the School of Literature and Media (SLAM), and MASI president Charles Kadamana. Image: Harry Selmen/Wansolwara
USP4: MASI president Charles Kadamana and PMC director professor David Robie with graduating student journalists. Image: Harry Selmen/Wansolwara
USP5: PMC’s Dr David Robie speaking at the USP journalism awards. Image: Harry Selmen/Wansolwara
USP6: Keynote speaker Professor David Robie (left) presents a koha from New Zealand to USP journalism programme coordinator Dr Shailendra Singh during the awards ceremony. Image: Jovesa Naisua/Fiji Times
USP7: PMC’s Professor David Robie, Fiji Times editor-in-chief Fred Wesley and USP journalism coordionator Dr Shailendra Singh at the awards. Image: Harry Selmen/Wansolwara
USP8: Fiji Times editor-in-chief Fred Wesley presenting an award with the Storyboard in the background. Image: David Robie/PMC
USP9: PMC’s David Robie making a prsentation at the awards. Image: Harry Selmen/Wansolwara
USP10: Second year student journalists – smartest dress award? Image: David Robie/PMC
USP11: Kava not Fiji Gold. Image: David Robie/PMC
USP12: USP Journalism’s Geraldine Panapasa amd PMC’s Professor David Robie share a joke. Image: Harry Selmen/Wansolwara
Bryce Edwards’ Political Roundup: Ardern’s stardust and substance on display in New York
The phrase “stardust and substance” continues to epitomise much of the thinking about Jacinda Ardern as she spends a week in New York gathering both media profile and making diplomatic speeches.
To her admirers, it’s a nice phrase that draws attention to the fact that she has both style and depth.
You can see an example of both in the Herald article, Baby Neve watches mum Jacinda Ardern speak at the UN. In this you can view the first public pictures of Ardern’s three-month-old baby, as well as the speech given by the Prime Minister to the UN, about Nelson Mandela’s impact on New Zealand.
The Guardian reports: “New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern has made history as the first female world leader to attend the United Nations general assembly meeting with her newborn baby in tow. Ardern appeared with her infant daughter at the UN on Monday evening, and played with her before giving a speech at the Nelson Mandela peace summit. While she spoke, Ardern’s partner Clarke Gayford held the three-month-old baby on his lap.”
The whole interview with “Madam Prime Minister” is worth watching, but of particular interest is her discussion of juggling motherhood and being prime minister, and her leadership philosophy: “I really rebel against this idea that politics has to be a place full of ego, where you’re constantly focussed on scoring hits against one another… Yes we need a robust democracy but you can be strong and you can be kind. We’re building what I’d like to believe is a really compassionate government, one that’s focussed on lifting the wellbeing of our people but also doing well economically too.”
Also, it’s worth watching an earlier item about Ardern, from June, when The Today Show’s Cynthia Mc Fadden visited the Prime Minister – see: Meet New Zealand’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern – pregnant and in power. In this, Ardern says she was “furious” to be compared to Donald Trump on immigration, and any suggestion that “New Zealand was not an open, outward-facing country” under her leadership made her “extremely angry”.
Increasing fascination with Ardern, Gayford, and Neve
For Jacinda Ardern, the whole week is turning into something of a “celebrity circuit” according to Newshub’s political editor Tova O’Brien, who reports from New York that baby “Neve has gone global”. The AM Show’s Duncan Garner says about Ardern: “She’s very much going to be a new squeezy toy in the toy shop. They’re all going to want to touch her and meet her and shake hands and ‘aw where’s the baby’” – see Scott Palmer’s Jacinda Ardern ‘new squeezy toy’ at United Nations – Duncan Garner.
International fascination with the family is being helpfully assisted by Ardern’s partner Clarke Gayford, who has been dutifully tweeting updates on the week. His latest says: “Because everyone on twitter’s been asking to see Neve’s UN id, staff here whipped one up” – see: A UN ID for baby Neve, by public demand.
Watkins also reports on the Prime Minister’s first speech in New York to the Social Good Summit, where she was introduced to the audience as “one of the voices of ‘hope’.” And Ardern didn’t disappoint: “Ardern’s speech would have enhanced her credentials; she focused on children and poverty and promised to get New Zealand’s ‘own house in order’ rather than lecture the world.”
But apparently, the biggest response came when Ardern dealt with the fact that the US hasn’t yet had a female president: “We’ve had three female prime ministers. It’s really no big deal guys.”
This doesn’t mean that Ardern is just getting scrutiny-free publicity at the moment. Some of New Zealand’s journalists are already noting that Ardern has been making herself more available for interviews with international media than with domestic outlets. For example, on the RNZ website, David Cohen writes about the “almost uniformly positive global coverage” that the PM is receiving and asks whether she is in fact “booking in too many international media appearances” – see: How to win an argument about: the Primetime Minister.
This sort of criticism is dealt with by Claire Trevett, who examines Ardern’s schedule in New York, and reports that the PM has deliberately pulled back on appearances: “Ardern copped some flak for the amount of ‘soft’ international media she did after becoming PM, especially because she was turning down New Zealand media at the same time. That criticism is one of the reasons she decided to turn down screeds more international media requests than she has accepted – among them the prestigious New Yorker. That is something of a shame” – see: When the Prime Minister looks good so does New Zealand.
Bryce Edwards’ Political Roundup: Jacinda Ardern’s stardust returns
An important new book is being launched tonight in Wellington by the Prime Minister. Stardust and Substance: the New Zealand General Election of 2017 is Victoria University of Wellington’s collection of 38 perspectives on last year’s fascinating campaign and the formation of the new government headed by Jacinda Ardern. I’ve written a series of essay reviews of the book – you can see the first one here: Stardust and Substance: the 2017 election through politicians’ eyes. And the Herald has published an excerpt from the book – Jacinda Ardern’s chapter: Labour 2017: the Prime Minister’s perspective.
The title of the book plays on the phenomenon of Jacindamania that dominated the campaign, together with questions of to what extent Ardern epitomised style and/or substance. That question has re-emerged in terms of her major speech yesterday, which was meant to provide a “re-set” after a troubled month for the government.
The speech was all about shoring up support amongst those Government voters who might have started to have doubts about the unity and coherence of the coalition, especially after the last week of instability caused by Winston Peters and New Zealand First.
Despite the stardust in Ardern’s speech yesterday, there wasn’t a lot of substance in either the speech or the new “roadmap”. As I said on Breakfast about the event, “Stylistically it was brilliant but it was fairly hollow in terms of substance”, and “I don’t think there was anything particularly in this roadmap that couldn’t have been in a National Party roadmap if they were in Government.”
Perhaps the strongest critique of Ardern’s announcement came from Toby Manhire who said the “plan was simply serving up the same ambitions-values-visions-priorities salad from a new bowl. If it felt rather hollow, it was a slick show” – see: ‘Not dysfunction junction’: what was Jacinda Ardern’s big speech really about? Furthermore, “There was nothing discernibly new there. If it was a road map, it was a pretty vague and well-thumbed map.”
Manhire draws attention to opposition leader Simon Bridges’ labelling of the event as “Trump-like”. Bridges has explained the comparison, saying the event was an “attempt to avoid tough questions with a stage-managed pep rally and carefully vetted questions”. And interestingly, Manhire gives some credence to this analysis: “it is nevertheless true that the prime minister has withdrawn from interviews on programmes where interviewers would be asking a host of difficult questions on the same weekend that she appeared before an audience of adoring supporters, who proffered a bunch of preordained, softball questions at the end.”
But Manhire does see the event as having some limited success: “It was an attempt to recapture and reignite some of the energy of the campaign, an effort to put some fresh air in tyres that had started to feel kind of flat. It was a rally. But that’s all it was.” It also “delivered the most valuable image of the day for the government: leaders of the three parties of government standing hip to hip to hip – a remarkably rare sight over the last year.”
Newsroom’s Tim Murphy is less than impressed with the stardust or the substance that was on display yesterday. He admits that “Ardern presented well, as is her way”, but says for “an evangelical gathering” the “atmosphere in the room was warm, but a furnace away from the sort of heat Ardern produced a year ago on the election campaign trail” – see: The Push-me-Pull-you Government.
Murphy also reports that Ardern’s slogan of “Let’s do this!” has been updated to the less-Zeitgeist version of “We are going to keep doing this”. Similarly, Ardern’s summation of the new agenda is “hardly a searing political ambition” – this is: “We want to be the country that we are already pretty proud of.”
In terms of the substance of the plan, he says “it was virtuous and nebulous. Everything to agree with, nothing to oppose. And it was un-detailed and unspecific and unformed and unknown.”
As with other journalists, Murphy draws attention to the degree of stage-managing that took place, especially with the question-and-answer session: “Questions were sourced from known attendees in advance, and from vetted offerings via Facebook. It was almost as if the event wasn’t for the media or the public, the voters, but for the three parties themselves. It was a kind-of-tripartite party conference.”
Watkins reports that Labour and Ardern are clearly bending over backwards to keep Winston Peters happy: “The biggest symbolism of all, however, was in what wasn’t said – like Ardern’s failure to mention even once the words Labour-led Government. In fact, Labour appears to be a dirty word in what we are told is a new era of MMP government, with Ardern’s speech notes mentioning her own party just once during a 25-minute speech”.
Yet, Watkins notes that the favour didn’t appear to be returned by Peters: “After being invited onto the stage for what media had been told would be a speech introducing Ardern, Peters failed to mention the ‘A’ word – Ardern – in his roll call of the Government’s achievements. Even the term prime minister seemed to be another dirty word since it wasn’t mentioned”.
The Herald’s political editor Audrey Young also says Ardern’s address was a success in terms of style rather than substance: “Ardern delivered her speech in Ted-talk-style, like the gifted communicator she can be. And while it was important in terms of setting out priorities, nothing in it was new” – see: Show of unity by Peters was important at Jacinda Ardern’s speech. Furthermore, “The political theatre is of greater value than the substance of the Prime Minister’s speech”.
Nonetheless, Young says that the timing of yesterday’s speech was good for the Government: “It may help to give a sense of coherence to the Government which has been looking fairly chaotic recently.”
Numerous commentators, including Young, drew attention to Winston Peters not playing a full and positive role in yesterday’s events. For example, he conspicuously left the stage once Green co-leader James Shaw arrived, which seemed to undermine the message of unity.
This morning, former politician Peter Dunne has been the AM Show to explain why he thinks Peters has become more belligerent and difficult lately: “When he was Acting Prime Minister while she was on maternity leave, he did a reasonable job. In a way that’s emboldened him and I think the contrast between the relatively calm times during her absence and the chaos that’s occurred since, is pretty stark – and he’s playing to that.”
Bryce Edwards’ Political Roundup: Sympathy for Clare Curran
It is very hard not to feel sympathy for Clare Curran. The minister was obviously not coping with her job, and scrutiny from the National Party opposition and the media. She was clear about that herself in her statement, saying she found it an “intolerable” situation, and pleaded to be understood as a “human being”.
This has raised questions in recent days about whether Curran really deserved the treatment she was receiving, and the manner of her downfall. Some have seen it as a “media beat-up” or a “National Party lynching”.
Many of her supporters, especially on social media, have painted a picture of the former minister as a victim of an unnecessarily brutal and dehumanising political culture. Some have questioned whether her downfall was even warranted, suggesting it was simply a result of bullies in Parliament and the media wanting to claim a “scalp”. Others feel the heat on Curran was over the top.
Such reactions are fair enough, and it’s always good to reflect on whether politics and the media are becoming too harsh at the expense of everyone’s humanity. However, the problem is that the people asserting the cries of “injustice” are invariably partisans of the politician in question, and their arguments often appear as just another form of opportunistically appealing to some sort of higher principle in order to defend their own team. Very seldom do those crying “unfair” seem to ask themselves whether they have behaved in the same way, or how they would react if the shoe was on the other foot and the other political side was under pressure.
For a good example of sympathy for Clare Curran over the whole scandal, you can read Frank Macskasy’s blog post, Kicking a person when they are down is never a good thing. He argues that National’s pursuit of Curran was akin to amoral hungry animals killing their prey: “Sensing the Minister’s vulnerability, National Opposition MPs continued to attack her in Parliament and through on-line social media. It was the most primal of interactions between creatures; a pack of predators hungry for a kill, circling a solitary, wounded creature. The ‘pack’ pursued her, drained her of strength until all resistance crumbled, and she relented”.
Macskasy does admit the same occurred to National when they were in power: “To be utterly, brutally fair – the Labour Opposition scored their own victories during nine years of Key’s administration, claiming one ‘scalp’ after another; Todd Barclay; Judith Collins; Aaron Gilmore; Phil Heatley; Mike Sabin; Kate Wilkinson; Maurice Williamson; Pansy Wong; Richard Worth”.
National Party blogger David Farrar has also expressed sympathy for Curran, but points out Labour was equally ruthless in targeting National MPs. Farrar says: “I actually feel sorry for Clare Curran… I’ve always found her well intentioned, nice on a personal level, and it must be horrible going through all this” – see: Duncan and Tova on Curran.
Farrar’s main point, however, is that no side is blameless in putting pressure on MPs: “Parliament is a tough environment and Labour never held back when a National MP was in trouble. As someone pointed out on Twitter, Labour tried to crucify Todd Barclay (also a really nice guy) for a stupid mistake, and even get him arrested.”
Similarly, Claire Trevett says this is simply reality for all in politics: “Ministers who make one mistake will always be branded a potential weak link and face greater scrutiny than their colleagues from the Opposition. It looks like bullying and sometimes it is. But neither side can cry foul because both do it” – see: Clare Curran the canary in the mine for Jacinda Ardern.
Trevett says some politicians actually benefit from the pressure: “those who emerge tougher than tungsten from the pressure… Judith Collins is one exhibit, Bill English and Helen Clark are others who have the intestinal fortitude to forge through hard times and ultimately triumph. The hard times simply make the redemption that much sweeter. Others crumble under the pressure”.
Too much media scrutiny of Curran?
The claim that the media has also been bullying towards politicians has been made. And Clare Curran seems to think so, too, making one last tweet at a political journalist who had been covering her press conference: “That is an incredibly nasty comment… Just show a damn example to other journalists will you” – see the Herald’s Clare Curran hits back at RNZ journalist on Twitter, then deletes account.
Certainly, a number of journalists have been rather scathing of Curran. The Political editor of the Otago Daily Times has reflected on Curran’s ten years as a politician in Dunedin, and suggested it might be time for Labour to seek a replacement for her, as her electorate is now vulnerable to National taking it off her – see Dene Mackenzie’s Gone but wrongs not forgotten.
Mackenzie argues that the MP was never strong under scrutiny: “Ms Curran was never suited to be a minister. She struggled in Opposition to build a credible reputation after unseating MP David Benson-Pope in a contested selection in February 2008, and was never confident under scrutiny.”
Furthermore, he argues that as the local MP for Dunedin South, Curran has been rather ineffective compared to her predecessors. And he expressed his frustrations with her interactions with the media: “She could not complete a task and was very defensive when questioned on any of her actions. Her relationships with even the most accommodating of local media personnel were fractious, to say the least. Arriving late for interviews was stock in trade. In fact, this reporter used to wait 10 to 15 minutes and return to the office rather than continue to wait for the then Opposition MP. As a minister, she has not been in contact.”
Some in the media have also challenged the notion that Curran was the victim of someone else’s harsh actions. For example, Heather du Plessis-Allan responded to this, saying “as for Curran’s exit statement, she told reporters that the pressure has become ‘intolerable’ because the current heat being placed on her is unlikely to go away. Come on, that’s blaming everyone else! Curran’s not in this position because people are chasing her. She’s in this position because she kept stuffing up” – see: Curran saga shows PM is lacking a spine.
And when Curran hit out at a journalist on Twitter, former parliamentarian Deborah Coddington tweeted: “MPs should just suck it up. Taxpayers pay them good wages. They want to regulate; they have to roll with the punches and NEVER blame media. It’s the old kitchen/heat cliche.”
Was Clare Curran “hard enough” for ministerial politics?
I’m reported in an ODT article about Curran’s demise, suggesting that the former minister was perhaps not as tough as she made out: “Edwards said Ms Curran was normally a feisty and combative debater, but recent events suggested she was not as tough as that veneer suggested” – see Mike Houlahan’s Pressure sinks Curran.
The same article also quotes rival local MP, and former minister, Michael Woodhouse: “The so-called intolerable pressure has been brought on entirely by her own actions… Life as a minister is difficult and busy and there is a high level of scrutiny. If she wanted less intolerable pressure she should have performed to a higher standard.”
As to Curran’s status as a tough and battling politician, Richard Harman has written a revealing commentary today which looks at some of the issues of her operating style. He relays a recent conversation with her: “she reminded me that she had worked for the Australian Labor Party. It was something her opponents didn’t seem to realise, she said. “I learned how to be tough there,” she said. Sadly, it is now obvious. She didn’t” – see: Why did Labour let Curran go.
Harman reflects on how Curran normally operated in politics with a “forceful personality”, but her performance last week in Parliament “was not the way an ALP hard person would have reacted.”
Others have drawn attention to Curran’s infamous and unique achievement of successfully challenging her Labour predecessor in Dunedin South, David Benson-Pope. Not only had this taken an incredibly ruthless approach from Curran, but there now seemed to be, according to Barry Soper, a case of “History repeating itself – or karma” – see: Clare Curran saga reflects poorly on Jacinda Ardern’s leadership.
Soper points out that the parallels between the declines of both Labour ministers are uncanny. For example, “By the time he stepped down as a minister, Benson-Pope was a quivering wreck, having developed a nervous tick.”
Curran an author of her own misfortune
Soper also suggests that politicians just have to get used to the rough and tumble of politics: “Politics is a tough business but if you answer questions honestly and in good faith you generally survive relatively unscathed.” And he doesn’t believe that Curran was in anyway a victim of misfortune: “Curran committed what were two significant strikes, meeting secretly with people who sought to gain from her role in Government, she should have been fired after the first and after the second it was a no-brainer.”
Also unsympathetic to Curran’s plight is broadcaster Kerre McIvor, who says “Her press conference on Friday afternoon was full of self pity and delusional justification” – see: Clare Curran had to go but must own mistakes. She suggests that some self-reflection is in order: “Come on, Clare! Whose fault is it that the media are asking questions and the Nats are taking chunks out of you?”
McIvor explains in detail why Curran’s misdemeanours were actually very serious, and she is worth quoting at length: “the clandestine meeting with Radio NZ’s head of news was a shining example of what NOT to do to create a thriving democratic system… The point is that in an open democracy, you cannot have a government interfering, or appearing to interfere, with the media. The Minister of Broadcasting held a meeting with a senior member of management at Radio NZ. The Cabinet Manual says that if a minister wants to meet with an employee of a government agency, then the minister must first have ensured the employee has raised the matter with the chief executive. That clearly didn’t happen. Who knows what sweetheart deals could be arranged in meetings between taxpayer funded ministers and members of taxpayer funded organisations?”
Ardern’s failure to be “cruel to be kind”
I’ve written about how Curran has faced “one of the most wretched weeks of her life”, and how this might be partly due to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern failing to be “cruel to be kind” in not removing her earlier – see: Curran’s misery at an end, but the PM’s goes on.
Here’s my main point about Ardern’s “kindness” in keeping Curran in the job as long as she did: “If it was a matter of personal friendship or loyalty, of giving a colleague another chance, then it will be a tough lesson for everyone concerned. The phrase “cruel to be kind” springs to mind, because allowing Ms Curran to stagger on did her no favours and certainly did not help the government.”
Similarly, Tracy Watkins has written, that “Sometimes in politics, you have to be cruel to be kind” and “Forcing Curran to limp on until then would have been as cruel as it was unwise politically” – see: Wounded Clare Curran had no choice but to quit.
Watkins suggests that it might be Ardern’s intended approach of being “kind in government” that has let her down: “Her popularity in huge part was based on her putting a softer kinder face on Government. But there is a fine line and strong leadership isn’t always just an image thing.”
In his article today on the issue, Richard Harman also draws attention to whether Ardern and the rest of the Government’s leadership and advisers did enough to help Curran during her difficulties, saying that normally these problems would mean “she would come under tight political management from someone higher up the Beehive. We now know that this did not happen and because of that she was doomed. It may be that management was attempted, and maybe it was rejected. We don’t know.”
Finally, despite the question of whether Clare Curran was the author of her own misfortune, clearly there is a need to remember that such politicians are – as the former minister rightly put it, “human beings”. And the pressures of life in politics need to be considered in the current focus on mental health issues. In this regard it’s worth considering Laura Walters’ thoughtful article, asking: Where is politics’ John Kirwan?