Real New Zealanders

Random thought

Is Paul Henry (presenter on state-owned Television New Zealand’s Breakfast “news” programme) a real New Zealander, that is, in his definition, one who looks and sounds like a real New Zealander?

If Henry is a real New Zealander, then a real New Zealander doesn’t speak with Governor-General Sir Anand Satyanand’s very broad, that is, genuine, Kiwi accent. If Henry is a real New Zealander, then a real New Zealander is a “shock jock”, which was the Prime Minister’s description of Henry in his post-cabinet press conference (4 October 2010), thereby implying it is OK that the state-owned mainstream purveyor of “news” thinks a “shock jock” is exactly the right person to front a main “news” programme.

If Henry is a real New Zealander then a real New Zealander cannot be brown, yellow or black. A real New Zealander cannot be an immigrant.

But Henry has one thing going for him: tradition. He issued a “Clark” apology, which is not an apology at all. Helen Clark said that if she had caused offence in Washington by saying that if Al Gore had won the presidential election in 2000, the United States would not be invading Iraq, she apologised for that. She used that formula on a number of other occasions. Henry said that “if” he had caused offence he apologised for that. In other words, he believed that he had not given cause for offence. If so, no apology was needed, nor was one given.

The Prime Minister, who has an overarching responsibility for social cohesion of a bicultural and increasingly multicultural society, given that he is Prime Minister of the nation, not just a part of it, said this was not a matter for him (the Prime Minister) but for the Broadcasting Standards Authority and Television New Zealand. Aw shucks.

Helen Clark would have lowered the temperature in the studio to the point where Henry turned into a block of ice.

But the present Prime Minister is a Prime Minister who thinks the Governor-General can refuse to sign an Order-in Council. The cabinet secretary could offer some advice on conventions, of course, but conventions are a bit hard to understand, especially the one which says the G-G can ask for more information before taking the Prime Minister’s advice but must in the end take that advice (polite words for “do what the Prime Minister says”). If the G-G ever refused to sign an Order-in-Council we would be in a constitutional crisis. The G-G knows that, because he has learned up. But, of course, when you think about, in Television New Zealand’s world, learning up makes you not a real New Zealander.