Thursday, April 26, 2007

Another holiday - another leak...

Yesterday, April 25, was Anzac Day. It is the commemmoration of the landing of NZ and Australian troops in the Dardanelles 92 years ago. Over that time, it has become our equivalent of Remembrance Day.

So why is it that the news (Granny Herald specifically) carries the following as a banner headline?
10c tax on petrol to pay for roads, trains

By Paula Oliver

Motorists face paying more for petrol through regional fuel taxes, levied to pay for local transport projects including the electrification of Auckland's suburban trains.

In an announcement understood to form part of the Government's Budget, the Auckland region will be given the go-ahead to introduce a fuel tax of 10c a litre.

This would push the cost of 91-octane fuel to $1.60 a litre.

Just over a third of the rise - 3.5c - will pay for the rail electrification project, which fits well with the Government's climate change ambitions.

The rest of Auckland's fuel levy will help to pay for Rodney District Council's link-road between Whangaparaoa Peninsula and the Northern Motorway, and for completing the Manukau-Waterview western ring route.

Now there is one thing that I must give Auntie Helen and Uncle Michael credit for - it is the originality of their "leaks". Remember this one?

Well, I wonder who it was that dropped this latest one to the Herald?


Dave said...

I don't get it, how is an 'announcement' a 'leak'? Generally speaking, I don't think something can be both.

The probligo said...

Dave, there are two points here -

The first kinda points in the direction of political manipulation of the news. Howso? If Auntie Helen wants to get something potentially "damaging" to her government out into the open then it "makes sense" to do it at a time when the media are either on holiday or preoccupied with other news. So, a holiday such as Anzac Day, or Easter, or Christmas makes an ideal opportunity. Ninetyfive percent of the population is preoccupied with their holiday and don't even bother to buy a newspaper; or listen to the radio (other than the cricket); or watch tv news (best fishing is early evening).

Second point is that this example, and the other I linked to - the unbundling of Telecom - are both Budget measures. There is, or rather it seems was, a tradition that the contents of the Government Budget was confidential to the highest level. To the extent that about 15 years ago the MSM were complaining about the advantage the morning newspapers were getting because they had the time to put together their news stories when tv and radio had to wait until the Budget had been read before making any news and by that time most people were heading for bed... So they took to locking reporters into a room at Parliament and giving them copies of the Budget document. That gave them the opportunity to prepare reports for the 10p.m. news.

So, something like a tax change would be announced in the Budget, the legislation would be introduced to the House as the next item of business, and could be in place as law the following day.

To that extent, the speculation in the Herald is based upon a "leak" if you can not count the "premature and unauthorised release" as anything else.

The best indicator that Auntie Helen is "up to no good" is a face that she gets which looks as though she has bitten into a very unripe lemon, or someone has been a bit too free with the asafoetida in the curry. It comes with a very cutting tone of voice usually saying that she has no comment to make. Every time I have seen her asked about this item (the proposed petrol tax) in the past three days, that is the face she has put on...

Now I gotta go look up "phlegmatic" in the dictionary.

Dave said...

Certainly the timing of information releases and announcements (and 'leaks') for that matter, is typically thought about for maximum utility. Perhaps this is a new practice in New Zealand, in the U.S. it has been going on for longer then I am alive.

I still don't see how this is a 'leak' though, by any usual defintion of the term. A leak is an unauthorized release of information, this is an announcement, which is an official release of information. It may depart from New Zealand 'tradition' but that doesn't seem to make it a 'leak.'

You say in your comment that this release was 'premature' and 'unauthorized.' I am not sure what criteria you are using for 'premature' but I see nothing to indicate that this was 'unauthorized' quite the reverse actually.

The probligo said...

Leak - information comes from unauthorised source - like a bicycle courier or an office clerk.

Release or announcement - information comes from authoirsed source - like the Minister of Finance or Prime Minister or one of the other laggards and dishwashers.

Can you see the difference?

The Herald story was based around "rumour presented as fact", promoted largely by Jenny Greensleeves. As leader of the Greens, and not a formal member of the coalition government, I would imagine that to be a fairly concrete source but certainly not the "official" source. The fact that Jenny Greensleeves had opened this little Pandora was probably the reason for the expression on Auntie Helen's face.

Nowhere in the article is the source of the announcement revealed.