Bryce Edwards’ Political Roundup: The story of the ‘far-right takeover of New Zealand’

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Headline: Bryce Edwards’ Political Roundup: The story of the ‘far-right takeover of New Zealand’

Bryce Edwards’ Political Roundup: The story of the ‘far-right takeover of New Zealand’

Dr Bryce Edwards.

Political analysts are still trying to work out what the new Labour-led government means for New Zealand. There are a variety of different views on the ideological nature of the new administration, especially because it involves three very interesting political parties, all of which have recently been in a state of flux. 

New Zealand Deputy Prime Minister and New Zealand First leader Winston Peters.

On Thursday, a highly controversial analysis of where this government is going was published, claiming that the new coalition government might appear to be progressive but is actually controlled by the far-right – by which the writer meant the New Zealand First party. The piece gained particular notoriety because it was published by the Washington Post – see: How the far right is poisoning New Zealand.

Author Ben Mack writes: “while Ardern may be the public face, it’s the far right pulling the strings and continuing to hold the nation hostage. What’s happened in New Zealand isn’t just horrifying because of the long-term implications of hate-mongers controlling the country, but also because it represents a blueprint that the far right can follow to seize power elsewhere. Appealing to ethnically homogenous, overwhelmingly cisgender male voters with limited education and economic prospects who feel they’re being left behind in a changing world is nothing new for the far right. But what is new is its savvy at exploiting democracy by doubling down on these voters”.

The article concludes by calling for Labour to dissolve the government: “it would be best for Ardern to end her unholy alliance with New Zealand First and the far right, even if it meant she might not return as prime minister. As long as the far right has power, bigotry and hate will continue to fester in Middle-earth.”

For more on Mack’s view of Peters see the recent Herald column As an immigrant, I’m terrified of Winston Peters.

The dismayed reaction in New Zealand

After being painted as a far-right villain, New Zealand First leader Winston Peters hit back on TVNZ1’s Breakfast yesterday: “Can I just say, I’m writing to the Washington Post to suggest that someone’s escaped from a lunatic asylum about 2.30 in the morning and writing an article in the name of that person, because no sound, sane person could have written that malicious, totally false statement” – see: Winston Peters launches scathing attack on article that called NZ First a far-right party poisoning New Zealand.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was apparently more diplomatic, laughing off the report: “I’d suggest that the Washington Post probably hasn’t interviewed anyone from New Zealand First, or potentially even a voter, before making those assumptions”.

On social media, the reaction has been ferocious, scorning the writer’s understanding of New Zealand, and asking what on earth the Washington Post was playing at publishing the piece. For example, @NZleftrightout said “I’ve never written anything longer than a tweet, but i now believe I could get insanely drunk & write for the @washingtonpost on NZ politics. #nzpol #thisisreallybad”. For more, see my blog post, Top tweets about the Washington Post article on NZ politics.

Duncan Greive ridicules the article on The Spinoff: “New Zealand has been living a lie”, and “It would be easy to brush this off as scaremongering, or a shockingly ill-informed column which mischaracterises everything it touches on. This is exactly what the far right wants you to do” – see: The shocking truth: Washington Post reveals the ‘far right agenda’ of the new Labour-led government.

And today David Slack also mocks the Washington Post piece – see: That’s not a tiki torch, it’s a tiki.

Fact checking the “fake news” 

There has been widespread astonishment that any newspaper, let alone the fabled Washington Post, would publish such a bizarre and inaccurate article. Media commentator John Drinnan blogged to say “the lack of fact checks raises questions about how much the paper that broke Watergate cares about its reputation” – see: Muddled facts on Middle Earth.

Similarly, former Reserve Bank economist Michael Reddell, exclaimed, “how one of the world’s major media outlets, and serious newspapers, fell for this nonsense is a rather bigger puzzle. It might be the age of ‘fake news’, but generally serious newspapers are supposed to be guardians against it, not the purveyors of nonsense to the world” – see his blog post, The Washington Post falls for Ben Mack.

Reddell is one of many bloggers who have valiantly attempted to “fact check” the Washington Post story. He focused in particular on Mack’s arguments that New Zealand First has pushed the new government to implement immigration cuts, and the ban on foreign house buyers: “New Zealand First didn’t get any of its immigration policies (such as they were) adopted at all. The new government says it is adopting the centre-left Labour Party’s policy. And that ban on foreign purchases, well it was supported – going into the election –  by all three parties in the government, including the rather left-wing Greens.”

On New Zealand First’s orientation to race issues, Reddell correctly points out that “like them or not, New Zealand First gets a larger share of its votes from Maori than many other parties. In fact, Peters himself is Maori.”

For other fact checking, see Michael Daly’s Washington Post contributor says in NZ ‘real power lies with the far right’, Pete George’s Out of whack Mack on the ‘far right’, and Emma Gorowski’s No, the Far Right is not holding power in New Zealand.

RNZ’s Tim Watkin got the Washington Post to publish his own rebuttal to Mack’s piece – see his excellent response: No, New Zealand is not in the ‘poisonous grip’ of the far right.

Here’s Watkin’s core point about New Zealand First: “no one with any political sense would call the party ‘far right.’ Indeed, many of its economic policies are quite interventionist and arguably its most surprising win in coalition talks was to get the minimum wage increased to $20 per hour by 2020. More importantly, it’s simply incorrect to say Peters and his party have ‘seized power’. The fact is that New Zealand First won very little in its coalition negotiations with the main parties.”

He concludes: “So rest assured Post readers. New Zealand remains a liberal democracy. If we are stuck with those Middle earth analogies, let’s just say that the orcs remain far from the levers of power.”

How could someone get it so wrong?

So, who is the writer of the Washington Post article? Ben Mack is an American who moved to New Zealand a few years ago, and trained in journalism at the University of Canterbury. Mack’s university profile states, “Since graduating, Ben has gone on to a variety of other writing roles, including with Idealog Magazine, feminist blog Villainesse, and the New Zealand Herald”. Mack’s main role at the moment seems to be running Lizzie Marvelly’s Villainesse blog site, which describes itself as “No filter, no bullshit media for young women” and has written extensively on gender issues, including a personal account of gender identity in this New Zealand Herald column: Misgendering in New Zealand.

Mack is quoted saying “I love journalism because of the importance of fighting for positive change, holding power to account, and empowering communities and marginalised people.” And this is the key to understanding where the journalist is coming from: socially liberal, politically passionate and wanting to change the world for the better. For a sense of Mack’s political worldview it’s also worth reading the recent Herald column, Jacinda Ardern won’t change a thing, in which they outline “the problems of misogyny, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, racism, xenophobia, bigotry, hatred and systematic oppression” in New Zealand.

Martyn Bradbury blogs about Mack’s identity politics lens, joking that “In the radical fringe world of Twitter Identity Politics, binary gender and immigration controls are hate crimes, militant veganism is the only dietary option, polyamorous coupling is the only ethical sex and masculinity is a disease ranked somewhere between cancer and ebola” – see: What Duncan Greive misses and why Ben Mack is National’s best chance of winning 2020.

This view of the world is one in which social conservatives are the biggest enemy of the oppressed and marginalised. Economic oppression is less of a focus than oppression on the basis of ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation.

Bradbury suggests that the leftwing programme of the new government is easily overlooked if the focus is on social conservativism: “For the Ben Mack’s of NZ, paid parental leave, free education and 100 000 more new houses are pitiful facades that hides the new Government’s true hatred of immigrants.”

Coming from a similar perspective, one blog commenter at The Standard, says that Mack “provides us all a glimpse into the liberal identity politics mindset of the US culture wars. it is a pretty bleak, polarised and hysterical place replicated in kind from the right” – see: Can Ben Mack please make his mind up.

In this sense, liberals who are horrified at Winston Peters having political power are akin to those in Labour who tried to have Willie Jackson ejected from their party because of his “toxic” views – see my column from earlier in the year: The liberal vs left divide over Willie Jackson.

And a similar notion was advanced by the Greens a few months ago, when then co-leader Metiria Turei went on a campaign against what she called Winston Peters’ racism – see my column from the time: Green anxiety about being locked out of government.

This discussion of racism led to a number of commentators pointing out how toxic they think Peters is. For example, see Hayden Donnell’s Revealed: Winston Peters has never had a racist approach to anything. Such a blog post could be even used as a defence of Ben Mack’s article.

Similarly, other New Zealand politicians from across the political spectrum have been charged with having reactionary views. For an examination of this, see Tess McClure’s For the Record: What Have NZ Politicians Done For Race Relations?

Finally, for a much more robust examination of the reality of the far right in this country, it’s well worth reading the recent investigative report by the Herald’s Kirsty Johnston – see: How NZ’s growing alt-right movement plans to influence the election.

Critical Politics Newsletter: New Zealand Politics Daily – 10 November 2017

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Headline: Critical Politics Newsletter: New Zealand Politics Daily – 10 November 2017

Critical Politics Newsletter: New Zealand Politics Daily – 10 November 2017 – Today’s content

Editor’s Note: Here below is a list of the main issues currently under discussion in New Zealand and links to media coverage.

The Beehive and Parliament Buildings.

Below are the links to the items online. The full text of these items are contained in the PDF file (click to download).

Trade

Vernon Small (Stuff): TPP ‘agreed in principle’ as Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern arrives in Vietnam

Audrey Young (Herald): We have a deal? TPP ‘agreed’ as Jacinda Ardern lands for Apec

Sam Sachdeva (Newsroom): Jacinda Ardern: TPP talks ‘down to the wire’

Corin Dann (1News): Winston Peters hits the world stage in group photo with APEC Foreign and Trade ministers in Vietnam

Gordon Campbell (Werewolf):On Ardern’s trade battles at APEC

Audrey Young (Herald): Jacinda Ardern’s top priority at Apec will be survival of TPP

Audrey Young (Herald): Make-or-break time for TPP deal

Vernon Small (Stuff): PM Jacinda Ardern is putting even odds on the Trans-Pacific Partnership getting the tick

Patrick O’Meara (RNZ): 50-50 chance of TPP deal – Ardern

1News: Jacinda Ardern heads to APEC summit for first big test on international stage

Gerald McGhie (Stuff): How our diplomats can come up trumps

Parliament

John Armstrong (1News): Opinion: Ardern needed Peters at her side when National went for the jugular

Chris Trotter (Bowalley Road): Chris Hipkins’ Mistake.

Press Editorial: the prime minister’s positive way forward

Toby Manhire (Herald): The minister whose homework was eaten by a dog

Jo Moir (Stuff): Question Time: Confusion, chaos and comedy as MPs face-off for first time

Claire Trevett (Herald): Speaker Trevor Mallard’s left ear the hero of the Opposition

Jane Clifton (Stuff): More mirth than menace at Parliament’s first Question Time

Jane Patterson (RNZ): Parliament gets off to stumbling start

Jane Patterson (RNZ): Jesus, Queen dropped from Parliament prayer

No Right Turn: Progress

David Farrar (Kiwiblog): Good innovations from Speaker Mallard

1News: ‘They’ll be held hostage by lobbyists and laziness’ – Bill English’s scathing first speech as Leader of the Opposition

Watch: Labour’s Kiri Allan lays down some slick spoken word poetry and praises Jacinda Ardern in maiden speech to Parliament

Denis Welch (Opposable thumb):Real thing

Laura Walters (Stuff): Breastfeeding babies in the debating chamber becoming normalized

Holly Walker (Spinoff): I left parliament because I couldn’t be an MP and a mother. This week has given me hope

Government

Stacey Kirk (Stuff): Row erupting over level of expert scrutiny on early Government decisions

Mike Hosking (Herald): This government is specialising in window-dressing, not reform

Lindy Laird (Northern Advocate): Acting PM Kelvin Davis expects a bit of stick from Tai Tokerau cousins

Washington Post article on govt

1News: Watch: Winston Peters launches scathing attack on article that called NZ First a far-right party poisoning New Zealand

Duncan Greive (Spinoff): The shocking truth: Washington Post reveals the ‘far right agenda’ of the new Labour-led government

Michael Reddell (Croaking Cassandra): The Washington Post falls for Ben Mack

Martyn Bradbury (Daily Blog): What Duncan Greive misses and why Ben Mack is National’s best chance of winning 2020

Pete George (Your NZ): Out of whack Mack on the ‘far right’

Winston Peters legal action

1News: Video: Deputy PM Winston Peters stonewalls journalists when grilled over pension leak legal action

Mai Chen (Stuff): No quick resolution in Winston Peters superannuation leak case

Dan Satherley (Newshub): Winston Peters ‘not genuine’ in coalition talks – Judith Collins

Benedict Collins (RNZ): Peters’ attempts to obtain journalists’ phone records over leak ‘wrong’

Listener: We deserve better than Winston Peters’ legal stunt

TOP

RNZ: TOP party candidate told to resign

Dan Satherley (Newshub): Gareth Morgan fires ‘pain in the arse’ candidate

Stuff: ‘You’re a pain in the arse – ka kite ano, Gareth’

Laura Walters (Stuff): Gareth Morgan calls TOP candidate ‘pain in the a…’, tells her to resign

National

Tom Sainsbury (Spinoff): Kiwis of Snapchat: Simon Bridges, opposition MP

Matthew Hooton (Metro): Auckland’s National voters were largely immune to Jacindamania

Chris Bishop (Spinoff): Prouder, wealthier, more confident: 10 of the National government’s big achievements

Herald: Paula Bennett impersonator returns with grim ‘confession’ about Ardern’s cat Paddles

Mitch Harris (Radio Live): National Grief Cycle

Environment

RNZ: Govt to block new mining on conservation land

Herald: Minister says no more mines on conservation land

Eric Frykberg (RNZ): Mining industry caught off guard by ban

No Right Turn: Orcs not welcome

David Williams (Newsroom): NZ getting close to ‘peak cow’ says Minister

Herald: New Zealand wants to take lead on climate change, minister to tell conference

RNZ: Winter is 30 days shorter, Niwa research finds

Alexia Russell (Newstalk ZB): Peters picking a fight with Japan over whaling

No Right Turn: Are there too many farmers?

Refugees

Herald: Leading Aussies plea with PM Jacinda Ardern to save Manus refugees

RNZ: Manus Island refugees given two days to move

Herald: Amnesty pleads for medical care for about 90 sick Manus Island refugees

Donna Miles Mojab (Herald): Refugees have no need to be grateful

Employment

Gerard Hutching (Stuff): Landcorp to pay 1400 workers $2.4m following seven-year pay slip up

RNZ: Working group formed for ‘Hobbit law’ replacement

Simon Smith (Stuff): Minister Iain Lees-Galloway says replacing Hobbit law will be ‘a joint solution’

1News: Government reaffirms commitment to scrap ‘Hobbit Law’ which saw an end to collective negotiations for film industry workers

Reserve Bank and economy

Brian Fallow (Herald) : Why the long faces about the economy?

Hamish Rutherford (Stuff): New Government spending will boost NZ economy, says Reserve Bank

Richard Harman (Politik): Reserve Bank doubts Labour’s Kiwibuild plans

Bernard Hickey (Newsroom): RBNZ wary of Robertson’s jobless target

Education

John Gerritsen (RNZ): Teachers, principals worried about restraint rules

John Gerritsen (RNZ): Teacher censured for carrying struggling child

Justin Stevenson (Stuff): Here’s why removing tertiary fees will make inequality worse

John Boynton (RNZ): Māori academics gather to present research

Justice and police

Herald Editorial:Pora case strengthens argument for criminal cases review commission

RNZ: Police unveil online alert system for missing children

Housing

RNZ: Hope turns to frustration as homeless men wait for housing

Robin Martin (RNZ): Builders worried best timber sent overseas

John Boynton (RNZ): Tūhoe prepare housing plan for tribe’s future

Health

Katie Kenny and Laura Walters (Stuff): Mental health inquiry in ‘preliminary stages’, minister says

Aaron Leaman and Florence Kerr (Stuff): Waikato DHB won’t release Nigel Murray email

Don Rennie (Werewolf): Is It Time To Take ACC Back To First Principles?

Media

Tom Pullar-Strecker (Stuff): RNZ television no direct competition to commercial stations, minister says

Phil Pennington (RNZ): New Zealand’s television history archive under threat

Tess Nichol (Herald): ASA rules Facebook ad implying Ardern would end child poverty with abortion misleading

Helen Clark

Laura Walters (Stuff): Helen Clark takes job at Global Commission on Drug Policy

Herald: Helen Clark appointed to Global Commission on Drug Policy

RNZ: Clark joins global drug commission

Other

Susan St John (Newsroom): A good start on tackling child poverty

Joel Ineson (Stuff): Renewed calls for Royal Commission into abuse of people in state care

Herald: Minister of Forests Shane Jones targets timber ‘shysters’

Andre Chumko (Stuff): Napier City councillors vote against establishing Māori wards

Derek Cheng (Herald): Defence Minister Ron Mark requests briefing on Hit & Run issues

Laura Dooney (RNZ): Shutter buildings that miss quake deadline – investor

Te Aniwa Hurihanganui (RNZ): ‘We are never going to let the memories of our unique tribe fade’

Deborah Coddington (Spinoff): Book of the Week: The wild life and times of ex-junkie, ex-Green MP, constant hero Sue Bradford

RNZ: Sport: ‘Samoa rugby will die’ warns Leo

Bryce Edwards’ Political Roundup: Winston Peters’ fight against “filthy” politics

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Headline: Bryce Edwards’ Political Roundup: Winston Peters’ fight against “filthy” politics

Bryce Edwards’ Political Roundup: Winston Peters’ fight against “filthy” politics

Dr Bryce Edwards.

No one should have been surprised by Winston Peters taking legal action this week over what he calls “filthy politics”. After all, he signaled before the election that he was determined to use the law to get justice. And although most of the media reaction has been very negative, it really is understandable that he is still seeking answers.

Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters (left), the Governor General of New Zealand Dame Patsy Reddy (centre), with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern – image taken at the swearing in of the new Labour-led Government, October 26, 2017.

The new deputy prime minister is taking the action against nine individuals, including former National prime minister Bill English, the head of the Ministry of Social Development, and Newshub political reporter Lloyd Burr. It’s all because he believes that the personal information about his superannuation overpayment was deliberately made public at the height of the election campaign. For more details of the legal action, see Nicholas Jones’ Winston Peters’ legal action a ‘personal matter’, Ardern says.

Newsroom co-editor Tim Murphy was also served legal papers by Peters’ lawyers, and he details the court action in Winston goes fishing. Murphy explains that Peters is seeking a judgement related to a “breach of privacy”, and is requesting those served provide all sorts of records of communications relating to the Peters superannuation scandal in order to discover who is responsible for the breach of his privacy.

The best discussion and examination of the law around this case is by Mai Chen, in her article published today, No quick resolution in Winston Peters superannuation leak case. She explains how the court process is supposed to work, and concludes: “The likelihood is that it will take several months for the court to determine the matter – longer if there are appeals.  If the court grants Peters’ applications, and he finds what he is looking for, then the substantive claim for breach of privacy will then be determined against the alleged leakers.”

Much of the case revolves around the fact that Peters’ superannuation information was provided to Government ministers by the Ministry of Social Development under the so-called “no surprises” policy, in which officials make politicians aware of anything that might affect their job. And it is the decision by the Ministry’s boss, Brendon Boyle, to inform ministers that Peters is also challenging.

Tracy Watkins reports what Peters’ affidavit has to say on this: “The briefing, while required by the National Party government, has to the best of my knowledge no basis in law. The no surprises policy is considered by myself and counsel to be both a breach of the Privacy Act requirements and the duty of care to protect my client’s private information held by the MSD” – see: Winston Peters looks to sue over pension leak.

No surprises in Peters’ fight

Although the legal action has been portrayed as a surprise, Peters was very clear during the election campaign that he intended to pursue the issue after the election. For example, Claire Trevett reported at the time: “Peters said he would speak to his lawyer about his options and was determined to get to the bottom of the matter so people could have confidence when dealing with Government departments” – see: Winston Peters calls in the lawyers, claiming character assassination attempt.

The same article reported “Labour leader Jacinda Ardern said there was a need to get to the bottom of it to ensure people’s privacy was protected by Government departments” and said the episode fed the “perception that dirty politics was rife”. And Peters was inclined to use even more colourful language to describe what had happened, claiming that he was the victim of “filthy politics”, and that “it’s deceitful, it’s duplicitous, it’s all the worst elements of dirty politics.”

Peters supported by left and right bloggers

If Peters is correct and there was an orchestrated attempt to turn voters against him by using state-provided information to the media, then surely Peters is to be encouraged in his bid to find justice. However, it’s hard to find much published support for his endeavour. The exception is Lynn Prentice, writing at The Standard, who says Suck it up political sleazers.

Prentice argues that the leak of Peters’ private information was “clearly politically motivated”, and the whole operation was “a classic Dirty Politics ploy”. Therefore Peters’ legal fight is to be supported: “Frankly win or lose, it is just another round in the continuing battle to reduce the garbage in local politics that National and Act seem to like adorning themselves in. It should also be a round in making public servants accountable for who they choose to share private information with, and that includes with their current political masters. I wish Winston Peters and his legal team the best of luck with cleaning this kind of trash out of our local politics. I’m sure that there will be a lot of other people cheering him on in his search for personal responsibility and liability over politically motivated privacy breaches.”

From the opposite side of the political tracks, blogger Cameron Slater is also in solidarity with Peters against this “dirty politics”. He has written comprehensively about the case on his Whaleoil blog – see: Winston starts dropping lawsuits on media and Nats.

Slater points the finger at National’s current leadership: “This also shows that the deliberate leaked attack against Winston Peters, those involved, and the subsequent actions show where the election was lost. No doubt the discovery process will find that it was in fact a deliberate strategy of National, and one which ultimately backfired. It was a poorly executed and ultimately short-sighted smear job on Winston Peters by the so-called ‘brains trust’ of National’s campaign team. It also shows that the real dirty politics players inside National, who have never appeared in any of Nicky Hager’s books, are in fact those aligned with Bill English.”

Bad blood with National

The launch of legal action is a sign that Winston Peters is in revenge mode, according to Patrick Gower: “Winston Peters search for ‘utu’ is now clearer than ever before. Not only has he dispatched National into Opposition – now he has targeted them with legal action over leaking his pension details. It will now be obvious to most New Zealanders that there was way too much bad blood between National and Winston Peters for them to form a Government together” – see: Winston Peters deepens ‘utu’ with legal action over pension leak.

Of course Lloyd Burr reported at the time of the superannuation scandal: “Winston Peters is on the warpath over who leaked details of his pension over-payments. The New Zealand First leader says he’s the victim of a privacy breach, claiming it’s dirty politics orchestrated by the National government – and he’ll ‘lodge a serious action’ when his lawyer returns from an overseas holiday today” – see: Winston Peters accuses National of ‘filth and dirt’.

Despite the fact that Peters had clearly signaled his intentions to pursue legal action, some political journalists are now suggesting that this week’s legal move is an indication that New Zealand First never would have chosen to go into coalition government with the National Party.

Here’s what Newstalk’s Barry Soper says: “It was just over a week later that the same three Nats filed into the coalition casino with the gambler Peters, who unknown to them, or anybody else for that matter, had already laid his cards on the table. The dealing had been done. Like all good gamblers, Peters kept a stony face, letting them believe they were still in the game whereas in reality they’d been dealt out when the court papers were filed against them. The notion that he could now be sitting at the same Cabinet table with them is beyond comprehension. But they were playing blind, so for that matter was Labour. If they’d known of the court papers they might not have been so generous. But Peters played on, playing one side off against the other until he struck the jackpot with Jacinda” – see: Pension papers is why Wily Winston Peters went with Labour.

The New Zealand Herald has published an editorial today, along similar lines, saying “the main reason this lawsuit is unwise is it discredits his post-election negotiations and inevitably reflects on the Government he has chosen. It is now obvious there was extremely little possibility he could work with Bill English, Paula Bennett, Steven Joyce and Anne Tolley since he had initiated legal action against them the day before the election. Why he put them and the public through three weeks of uncertainty only Peters knows. It is hard to avoid the conclusion it was to increase his leverage on Labour” – see: Peters’ suing of ex-ministers discredits negotiations.

The latest Listener magazine is also extremely critical of Peters’ legal action, saying “for him to proceed with this action now does far more to lower his reputation than the pension controversy” – see: We deserve better than Winston Peters’ legal stunt.

The main point of the editorial is to say: “legal action confirms he harboured a material distrust of National. How can we not believe he simply used those talks for bargaining leverage, with no intention of doing a deal with National?”. The Listener thinks the action is somewhat bullying: “It’s also appalling that he has included a senior public servant and two former political staffers in his discovery claims, knowing, as he must, how hard it is for such employees to defend themselves in a politically charged situation. And it’s an ogreish and futile act for any politician, as Peters as done, to demand that journalists disclose sources.”

Media freedoms under threat?

The Herald editorial above provides a further argument against Peters taking legal action over the scandal: “It is disturbing that Peters seeks to have journalists reveal their sources through court discovery procedures. He evidently wants the court to order them to hand over phone records, notes and emails relating to his superannuation overpayment. His attitude to news media going about their job leaves a lot to be desired and may come to pose a threat to press freedom if he now uses his position to try to put his antagonism into law.”

This is another aspect of the case that Mai Chen discusses in her article, suggesting that the journalists involved might attempt to “claim privilege under section 68 of the Evidence Act 2006, which allows them to withhold information that might disclose the identity of an informant”.

Additionally, she says they “may try to argue that there should be no discovery because Peters’ substantive claim will fail, either because disclosing the information about his superannuation was not highly offensive to start with, or because the disclosure was in the public interest having regard to Peters’ position as leader of the NZ First Party.”

Finally, Toby Manhire has also expressed his concern about media freedoms – see his article on The Spinoff: The brand new Deputy PM just served papers on the media and that is not good at all. After expressing disappointment in the deputy prime minister starting his new job in this way, he reminds him of the other lawsuit he has promised against a broadcaster: “And if he’s determined to continue waging war on the media, hasn’t he got enough on his plate already, what with that lawsuit he promised he’d filed against Mark Richardson, for comparing him to pus?”