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Public half starved of real debate on election eve

Nov 10th, 2011 | By | Category: Featured Article, Front Page Layout, Opinion

Bryan Bruce. IMAGE: TV3.

THE mediated public – malnourished as they are on a diet of superficiality and high sugar political rhetoric – should get to dine out on naked truth, at least once, before they make the most important decision of the year.   

It was a confronting, heart-felt call to arms for New Zealand and it pulled no punches. Bryan Bruce left us in no doubt just how much work we have to do on child poverty – and it was screened just before the election.

Fantastic.

Of course, the chorus of the right wing blog-o-sphere quickly attacked TV3 and Media-works for screening something so overtly political during the week before the election. 

Self-confessed center right blogger David Farrar labelled it a “taxpayer-funded free hour for labour”.

But we need to drop the punditry and take a look at this issue for what it is.

I don’t believe you can pack away politics into a box, to be unwrapped only when appropriate.  I don’t believe it should be relegated to a section on the news in the same way sport is, and I definitely don’t think you should pull the plug on such an important expose because it might make one side look bad.

It is precisely because one side might look bad that we are having an election; in fact, it is the essence of democracy.  This election is to decide what is important for the country’s future, and as far as I am concerned poverty must be among our top priorities.   

In a society where obesity is a rising epidemic, and the richest New Zealanders have been steadily increasing in wealth, we are letting an increasing number of kids go to school hungry. 

What are taxpayer dollars channelled into media for, Mr Farrar, if not to expose important issues such as this?  It is not a ”paid election ad” to present the facts as they are.  Even more crucially, it is not unfair to try to educate the public on an issue this fundamental to our own humanity.

It is not overstepping the line to say  Ruth Richardson’s mother of all budgets had an effect, or that Lange’s neo-liberal reformists widened the poverty gap.  These are established truths and deserve to be treated as such.  

The point is further cuts and right-wing policy are not going to work.  It is a matter of empiricism.  Poor kids, as the documentary points out, don’t have the kind of representation that other groups do.  They don’t have well-paid lobbyists working on their behalf; they deserve tax payer dollars spent on making sure they are okay.    

I question the motivations of anyone not wanting to air this documentary right before election time. 

We must hold all our politicians to account for their action or inaction, and we must do it objectively.  But we shouldn’t ignore the real issues in favour of a politically pejorative notion of objectivity, which ignores realities.

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is A Journalism Student at Whitireia in Wellington, New Zealand. His specialty areas are digital culture, politics and cyber-crime.
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