New Zealand: Salmond on abuse of democratic freedoms

Dame Anne Salmond [] 1 ### Last updated 10:57 13/01/2015 — Dominion Post
Erosion of democratic rights
By Dame Anne Salmond
OPINION In the wake of the shooting of cartoonists and journalists in Paris, political leaders in New Zealand have expressed shock and horror, and their support for those who uphold freedom of expression in other countries.
What about freedom of speech and thought at home, however?
Over the past decade or so, politicians seeking to uphold their own power have abused democratic freedoms in New Zealand. Journalists including Jon Stephenson (for reporting on New Zealand’s involvement in Afghanistan), Andrea Vance (over a suspected leak of a report about the GCSB spy agency), and Nicky Hager (for exposing scurrilous relationships between senior politicians and muck-raking bloggers) have been intimidated and attacked.
While our leaders do not shoot people, they work with others to try to ruin the lives and careers of those who disagree with them. The means may be different, but the intent is the same. One way or another, their critics (however valid their points of view might be) must be silenced.

It is not just outspoken individuals who are at risk. Institutions that are the bulwarks of our democracy have been undermined. Since the 1980s, the civil service, which is supposed to offer informed, impartial advice to politicians, has been brought under ministerial control, and instead of serving civil society now largely serves its political masters.

The freedom of the press has been compromised, for instance in the wake of the teapot tape scandal, when newspaper offices were raided in an effort to prevent the publication of those recordings, or when improper pressure is brought to bear on journalists and media outlets for partisan political purposes.
While H L Mencken defined good journalism as “afflicting the comfortable, and comforting the afflicted”, much journalism in New Zealand now does the opposite. Read more

█ Dame Anne Salmond is a Distinguished Professor at the University of Auckland. She was the 2013 Kiwibank New Zealander of the Year.

Anthony Robins at The Standard says:
“Salmond goes on to cover attacks on “The independence of the judiciary and the rule of law”, “Independent statutory bodies”, “Freedom of thought and inquiry in universities and Crown Research Institutes” and “Radical extensions of the powers of the SIS and the GCSB” […] It’s an excellent article, and a depressing summary of the state of NZ.” Link

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Posted by Elizabeth Kerr


Filed under Business, Democracy, Economics, Geography, Inspiration, Media, Name, New Zealand, People, Police, Politics

32 responses to “New Zealand: Salmond on abuse of democratic freedoms

  1. Anon

    I’m not sure this is the same thing. And politicians again drawing on a real tragedy to somehow draw parallels with Nicky Hager and dirty politics. Nicky Hager’s source (the hacker) illegally stole someone’s personal documents and Nicky published them. The personal documents did not reflect well on the government or right wing bloggers. No one came out of that looking good. Not the left or the right. And not Nicky Hager either.

  2. Martin Legge

    Dame Anne Salmond makes both relevant and timely observations particularly in respect of politicians and public service.

    As a former Whistle-blower for the DIA, it would appear that when government agencies create policy and issue public statements all purporting to uphold and encourage the role of Whistle-blowers, they are now doing so knowing that at any time during an investigation, a politician with a vested interest or connection to the perpetrators can influence the outcome and leave the Whistle-blower high and dry.

    I can not see the day when govt agencies come clean about political influence and proactively warn potential Whistle-blower’s so that they can fairly assess the risk and the humiliation they face when it occurs.

    • Anon

      Well said Martin. And power to people like Elizabeth and yourself – whistle-blowers and bloggers who bravely speak the truth not for a political end but because it is a democratic right and corruption is a cost to our whole society.

  3. Peter

    Communities also need to take responsibility for corruption. It shouldn’t be left to a small number of people to follow up what is transparent corruption. No point whingeing about it or making excuses for inaction like my job MIGHT be at stake… whoever.
    It amazes me when you get people who complain but won’t go on protest marches, sign petitions or engage in any form of civil disobedience until their own personal situations become desperate. The powers that be know this and ignore the whingeing.
    Talk is cheap and so is blogging at times.

    • Elizabeth

      For many, civil disobedience, employment strikes, protest marches, petitions and social media leaves themselves and others cold. Rightfully so. That is exactly what democratic freedoms are all about, the power to choose, to not be coerced or bullied into uncomfortable, corrupt or repugnant positions. Or indeed ‘protest’ positions — with or without name(s) on it. Bullying is something some so-called ‘moral authority’ protestors need to measure themselves against. May they look deeper.

      There are abundant other means to educate, influence and sanction wrongdoing, so often this requires bottom up leadership and creative community — not placards, yelling, clashing, digital signatures and pens. Or nasty bullying of the bullies by people who should know better. And so we go back to the momentous physical Silent Revolution at Iceland which was enhanced by internet, as a constructive suggestion. (see relevant post)

      • Peter

        Very conservative and ineffectual position. As if those corrupt individuals who rort us care about endless education so we are all wiser but still powerless. Tell Martin Luther King etc to write pleading, well informed letters. Oh yeah, how about the consultation process so often mocked on this site?
        Blah blah blah.

        • Elizabeth

          Dame Anne Salmond doesn’t write pleading (JOKE, Peter) well-informed letters to make a community or the nation aware or indeed, her political adversaries. You miss the points so well, but that is your democratic freedom.

    • Anon

      Communities can impact corruption. But truly being on top of the information needed to understand trusts, local government, the assets and outcomes is extensive. So bloggers or whistle-blowers who are passionate about the subject, or have industry knowledge trawl through the paperwork and bring the conmunity specialist information on which they might chose to act or form an opinion. And act as an independent watchdog.

  4. Martin Legge

    What is more disturbing is just how pervasive political influence has become in NZ and how it’s been used to neutralize not only Whistle-blowers but other public watchdogs that a Whistle-blower may refer a complaint to.

    The lack of action and corruption to cover their tracks becomes systemic as the bureaucrats are safe in the knowledge that keeping the current government happy is the only priority if they want to retain their high paid positions and a future with the public service.

  5. Elizabeth

    Martin, you are entirely correct about the insidious all-pervasive systemic abuse of power propping up New Zealand government.

    This year is documentary film and video year.

  6. Peter

    Dame Anne Salmond can always be….respectfully….ignored or thrown some minimal concession. Which isn’t meant to deny the truths she espouses. That’s unequal power for you even under an ostensibly democratic system.

  7. Martin Legge

    Blog sites are an excellent form of protest and along with other social media are becoming more relevant by the day whether we like it or not.

    It’s the old adage of a problem shared is a problem halved and in my case “what if” linked me to people who can corroborate the evidence ignored by the DIA and visa versa.

    I’m not sure the limp wristed journalism pumped out by the mainstream media cuts it any more as people are turning to the internet, social media and blog sites for information to help them with decisions.

    As an example, recently a very senior real estate agent let slip to me that 95% of sales are derived from the internet. It’s only a matter of time before vendors who signed up for those big expensive adverts in the local paper wake up to this fact.

  8. Anon

    Agree Martin. I’m a whistle blower and have found information on this blog and others that has helped me understand the law. Believe what I was seeing. And realise that others were having similar experiences. And fill in the information gaps. It is now bloggers who are more frequently stepping up and playing the role of the fourth estate.

    • Elizabeth

      Anon, thanks for your comments today :)

    • Peter

      Anon. I am curious why you call yourself a whistleblower, but post anonymously here?

      Site Admin.
      There is NO legal requirement for contributors to this website to identify themselves using their real name(s). Nor should it be a question.

      • Anon

        Most Whistle blowing is done anonymously. And in fact overseas in the UK they appear to be doing more to support and encourage it. It’s often at significant cost to the person who blows the whistle, and there’s been plenty written on the issue. Before calling out the corruption and facing possible defamation issues, I am following process and the information is currently being verified by the correct dept. And although the target of my complaint will know it’s me who blew the whistle (by the sheer number of LGOIMAs and complaints I’ve lodged leading to the process) I have no desire to be a public persona. I would just like to stop seeing my community ripped off.

  9. Elizabeth

    Taking out the PM? Abort project !!

    Tom Scott cartoon 13.12.14 - Curse of John Key

    Tom Scott 13.12.14 – Curse of John Key [via]

  10. Calvin Oaten

    It’s a slippery slope which is seriously contagious. When it is seen as OK for the top governance of the country to ‘gerrymander’ human rights and freedom of speech, then it is seen by lesser public authorities like regional and city councils as being OK for them as well. We only have to look at the repressive manner in which our Mayor and council operate to realise that. It is insidious and demeaning.

  11. Elizabeth

    “Dame Beverley’s health check will surely confirm that much more needs to be done. One should be changing the legislation’s name to the Freedom of Information Act. The information belongs, after all, to us, not to officials.”

    This from NZ Herald’s editorial today on Chief Ombudsman Beverley Wakem’s post-election review of the Official Information Act (OIA) – reference posted at this thread.

  12. Elizabeth

    ### ODT Online Fri, 16 Jan 2015
    Editorial: Super snooping laws
    The bloody streets of Paris following the attacks on Charlie Hebdo, a Jewish supermarket and a policewoman, are indelibly imprinted on the minds of millions. The images of fallen journalists have been used by governments around the world to show their so-called solidarity with the fourth estate – despite some of those governments being guilty of the same acts of terror committed by the French brothers later shot by armed forces. But this week, a new type of terror tool has been used in a way which should concern citizens around the world in a much more intimate way – cyber terrorism.
    Read more

  13. Here at the Broadcorping, all we know of Iceland is the Cod War. Here is the release by UK North Sea Fleet, 1975: Fishes for me, Save all your fishes for me, Bye Bye, Iceland, Bye bye. The time is after time for the Song of The Civilian Disobedient: Na na na na x2 hey hey, sit down now, in the road and that man’s drive now, don’t move out the way now, for any emergency vehicle ‘cos we know best now. The writer writes, and having writ, moves on. Well done Deb- sorry! I mean Elizabeth Kerr.

  14. Elizabeth

    a) b) brownestudy, been meaning to say how well your writing/creativity has been these last few months at all outlets visited. From strength to strength, wit-wise, and referentially if real, faux or elastic in the sewing. -Deb, I mean Ms E Kerr.

  15. Elizabeth

    For a short while on Saturday morning, ODT Online mistakenly published an opinion piece titled ‘Basphemy or free speech?’. The name of the contributor had been omitted, so I added a comment asking for it. But hey, the column then completely disappeared from their website.

    By the early afternoon, after buying the print edition, I realised ODT Online had in fact inadvertently published this week’s Passing Notes by Civis.

    Despite all the rant in the column, it wasn’t a pleasant read, god knows who Civis is just now, at least this made sense:

    “Ideas, and their expression, are ultimately more powerful than violence. We shouldn’t try to muzzle those who use satire to encourage us to think, even if we sometimes find their efforts offensive.”

    DCC, it’s all yours. See this:

  16. Elizabeth

    Change follows reappointment of Judith Collins as Minister of Police.

    Sat, 9 Jul 2016
    ODT Editorial: Community policing disappearing
    OPINION The New Zealand police have apparently decided which crimes will be made public and when those announcements are made. […] People in the community, and remember it is the community which pays for the police within it, have a right to know about events within their own areas. It is not up to members of the police to decide which event should be made public and which should stay hidden.

    Concealing certain events from the community by the police is not appropriate and is something not to be encouraged.

  17. Hype O'Thermia

    Crusher Collins. First cars, then truth. Go girl, there’s still more to crush – the spirit of ALL NZers……

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