Stephen Joyce – “Yes minister, your F grade IS well-deserved.”

March 10, 2010

There’s a not-so-subtle form of political agitation that Government ministers employ when they want to stir the pot and push through some ill-conceived short-term policy change that will save them money and make them look good to some sections of the electorate.

It’s called “dog whistle” politics and the simple technique is to make an emotionally-charged announcement in a speech or other forum that gets the media’s attention and then gets the hounds racing.

Tertiary Education minister Stephen Joyce made a dog whistle announcement yesterday in a speech to the Wellington Chamber of Commerce.

The language of dog whistling has to be carefully constructed. There are two methods – scare mongering and aspirational – and both are usually employed.

Here’s a sample of Joyce’s aspirational language. The language of “improving outcomes”:

  • Increasing the number of young people achieving degrees
  • Increasing the success rate of Maori and Pasifika students
  • Increasing the number of young people successfully moving from schools to tertiary
  • Improving the outcomes of level one to three study
  • Improving the educational and financial strength of providers, and strengthening the research outcomes.

Who could disagree with these sentiments. Of course we want to improve and increase the outcomes of tertiary education. But, as always, the devil is in the details.

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Should Parliament be protected from satire

July 10, 2007

You know it’s interesting how politicians are usually the first group to complain when their freedom of speech is attacked. They all like to make motherhood statements that free speech is the cornerstone of a “democratic” system of government, but they don’t like it when the media tries to insert some leavening humour into proceedings by poking fun a their stuffed shirt antics.

The New Zealand parliament recently held a select committee process to look at the satirical use of footage of parliamentary proceedings and guess what…the committee voted to ban TV networks and other media from using such images in comedic pieces that might tend to denigrate the solemnity of their work.

In a rare show of standing up for themselves, the TV networks refused to go along with this ridiculous idea, which was first mooted back in late June. This week both the Greens and the Nationals have said they won’t go along with the ban. As this transcript of the TV1 programme, Agenda, makes clear, the matter is now back in the hands of the politicians. How can we recognise them? They’re the suited-up spivs in the dark corner wiping egg of their faces.