As National settles down, Hosking loses the plot

The broadcaster is fast becoming a laughing stock

Thakur Ranjit Singh

Auckland, November 9, 2017

Indeed, this is a David versus Goliath story.

This David had earlier shot his sling at some Goliath mainstream journalists who have been shaming the Fourth Estate in the aftermath of 2017 election, unable to digest the results of MMP.

My scepticism with media ethics was further heightened by actions of one award-winning journalist of New Zealand Media and Entertainment. NZME is huge media duopoly, owning NZ Herald and Newstalk ZB, among others.

NZME was launched in 2014 after the formal merger of the New Zealand division of APN News & Media and The Radio Network, part of the Australian Radio Network.

It operates 32 newspapers, eight radio networks and several websites in 25 markets across the country and reaches over three million people. They are huge but the behaviour of some of their celebrated journalists is contrary to what I learnt in the media school at Auckland University of Technology (AUT).

Some solace

The only confidence that I get is from the Commerce Commission, which is opposing the merger of NZME with Fairfax (Stuff) as this would produce a virtual monopoly in news, and cut quality. We already seem to be experiencing this deterioration from NZME.

National’s crony

That brings me to NZME’s hero, Mike Hosking.

He has been circulating a video under the banner of Newstalk ZB titled: “Does Labour want to sink the housing market?” It goes with his comments: “This so-called ban on foreign ownership is xenophobic bollocks. It’s the work of inexperienced amateurs.”

Is this an advertisement from National Party?

Or is it supposed to be a critique of an award-winning journalist who is expected to apply media ethics when publicly talking about a government which has been in power for merely a week.

He has gone on a tangent, blaming Labour for doing what National has not done in the last nine years. Therefore, what has been untested should be allowed time.

As a celebrated journalist of almost monopolistic media organisation, he owes a duty of care to be probing, balanced and telling the truth – and the whole truth. It appears he did not allow truth to spoil a good story.

Three percent window dressing

I will only pick two issues from his very partisan video. The first was his undying reliance on government statistics which showed only 3% of buyers were from overseas. We know that National government had failed to keep any credible records, and only did so half-heartedly when forced to do so.

There was a warning from Officials on some limitations to the data and it was not an authoritative guide to the level of foreign investment in New Zealand’s residential property. (New Zealand Herald, May 10, 2016). The then Labour spokesman on Housing (and current Housing Minister) Phil Twyford stressed that these figures were effectively useless because of their limitations.

“It also excludes trusts and businesses. A further 45% of the Auckland sales were also excluded because of exemptions for those buying family homes and those who signed contracts before the law came in.” Mr Twyford had said.

Hence the 3% was a window-dressing and nothing to rely upon. One would have expected greater degree of journalistic acumen from Hosking.

In a recent Radio talkback, a director of a leading real estate cited a case where an Asian resident student owned 41 houses. So, you can guess what methods are employed to hide the true picture of foreign ownership.

Ban on foreign buyers

The other issue in his video was about breach of free trade agreements. If Hosking had cared to read comments of a more credible journalist from NZME’s sister organisation, Fran O’Sullivan of NZ Herald, (November 2, 2017), he would have been enlightened:

Labour now says that it was incorrect to claim the house ban could not be done without breaching other free trade agreements.

(Prime Minister Jacinda) Ardern has announced the Government’s chosen mechanism is to introduce an amendment to the Overseas Investment Act to classify residential housing as “sensitive.”

While the previous government has been sleeping on the job, Labour has found an escape clause within five days of coming to power to bring necessary changes without breaching overseas trade agreements.

Perhaps if that was not understandable to Hosking, he needs to read article by another colleague from sister organisation at NZ Herald (05.11.17). Heather du Plessis-Allan, under the heading “Labour’s new broom lightweight, but sweeping clean”, had relevant revelation for Hosking:

The first to go was the notion New Zealand should be for sale to the world. National refused to ban foreign house buyers, claiming it would breach our free trade deals.

Except, it turns out it won’t, which is why Labour did it within five days of taking office.

Foreign buyers should have been banned years ago. Ignore the data that suggests it wasn’t a problem. It was.

The data goes nowhere near capturing what was really happening in the housing market, especially Auckland’s, where some foreign buyers were snapping up houses sight unseen.

The fact is, if we put this country on sale to the world, our citizens will end up being outbid by foreigners every time because we don’t have their kind of cash.

What was evident to the other journalist was missed by Hosking. He was very emphatic on questioning government’s objective on banning foreign buyers.

You do not have to be a rocket scientist to know the reason why.

Whose interest is he safeguarding? The foreign buyers?

Or is he more worried about National’s rich cronies being able to sell their overpriced properties at extremely high prices and untaxed profits to foreign buyers? Like Sir John selling his Parnell mansion for $20 million to a Chinese buyer?

As a responsible, credible and conscientious journalist, it is one thing to be ignorant about issues. It is quite another to use your position in an influential media to degenerate journalism to spin-doctoring.

Thakur Ranjit Singh is a Political Observer, Indian Newslink columnist and Media Commentator and runs his Blog, ‘Fiji Pundit.’ He lives in Auckland. Email: thakurji

Photo Caption: Mike Hosking (Photo Courtesy: thespinoff.co.nz)

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