John Minto: RNZ and the news media – asking the hard questions

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Rocket Lab ... hard questions needed
Rocket Lab ... hard questions needed but don't expect them from the news media. Image: The Daily Blog

COMMENTARY: By John Minto

The last 10 days has seen the entire media focus (aside from the ubiquitous concern for the All Black prospects in a rugby test and then the fate of coach Ian Foster) has been on allegations of bullying by new opposition National MP Sam Uffindell and bullying of first term Labour government MP Gaurav Sharma.

Sam Uffindell’s future is still up in the air while Dr Sharma’s political career has resembled a meteorite — a brief, bright burn.

Meanwhile, over this time we were visited by US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, who was on a whirlwind visit through the Pacific which the US has just rediscovered after finding China has been courting our Pacific neighbours.

Sherman was here to remind us the US fought in the Pacific 75 years ago, that it is ready to fight here again (on the side of “democracy” and “freedom” of course) and probably assessing when best for the US to launch a destabilising campaign against Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare, who has had the audacity, from the US point of view, to sign a development agreement with China.

There is a host of good, hard questions that should have been put to Sherman by our journalists but alas there is nothing of substance anywhere.

Here for example is RNZ’s Morning Report interview with Sherman.

Calling it a “soft” interview doesn’t describe it well — “cringing embarrassment” would be better.

Full of talking points
Sherman was full of US talking points such as the importance of the “[US] rules-based international order developed after World War II” and “no country should decide the political future of another country or bend that country to their political will”.

Just read that last Sherman quote again. She is aiming at China but probably three quarters of humanity have experienced precisely that interference at the hands, guns, banks and bombs of the US since World War II — democracies included.

Suspended backbench Labour MP Dr Guarav Sharma
Suspended backbench Labour MP Dr Guarav Sharma … a “meteoric career”. Image: Prime News screenshot APR

RNZ let it all go unchallenged. The US is already on the record as saying they will “not sit by” and allow China to get a foothold in the Solomon Islands or the Pacific.

Why wasn’t Sherman interrogated on this? Why weren’t hard questions asked? The danger signs for our corner of the world are everywhere — but invisible to RNZ.

Instead the hard questions were saved for the hapless thug Uffindell and those responsible for Dr Sharma’s meteoric career.

Aotearoa New Zealand got closest to an independent foreign policy in the mid-1980s but there seems no journalistic memory. Instead of asking about US intentions in the Pacific and suggesting that New Zealanders don’t want to see superpower rivalry on our doorstep, RNZ simply asks what are the prospects of New Zealand joining the AUKUS alliance (Australia, the UK and the US who are joining forces to arm Australia with nuclear submarines to counter China)

Meanwhile, Aotearoa New Zealand moves insidiously closer to the US military.

Here in Christchurch, protests will accompany the Rocket Lab presence at the 2022 Aerospace Summit.

In case anyone hasn’t caught up with developments, Rocket Lab is now majority owned by the US military and has launched numerous rockets for direct military purposes.

The protest will have some hard questions for Peter Beck — don’t expect them from the news media.

John Minto is a political activist and commentator. This article was first published by The Daily Blog and is republished with the author’s permission.

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