Last Saturday the Alliance Party released its 2008 manifesto. Unlike Labour and National, which are both drip-feeding policy, the Alliance has released its full manifesto for people to read and comment on.

Okay, I’m biased.- I like the Alliance’s manifesto. I like it because it is offering an alternative to the market driven policies of the parliamentary parties (and I include the pro-business Green’s here as well),

But, regardless of my bias, the Alliance has produced a comprehensive and thoughful manifesto, which has clearly had a lot of work put into it. And this is all unpaid work. Unlike the parliamentary parties, the Alliance doesn’t have the luxury of calling on the services of a well-resourced research team.

But where is the discussion on the Alliance manifesto in the media? Where are the political columns discussing the finer points of the Alliance manifesto? How come no one from the Alliance has been interviewed on Close Up or Campbell about its policies? It’s even been ignored by TV1’s Agenda, scheduled somewhere in the weekend wilderness.

Why are talkback hosts not bringing it up as a topic of discussion? Why isn’t Paul Holmes seeking opinion on the 35 hour week with no loss in pay? Perhaps Willie Jackson has a view on the Alliance’s tax policy? What does Michael Laws think of establishing a non-commercial Television One?

And even Radio New Zealand, the public broadcaster that likes to think its fair and balanced, has not given the Alliance the time of day.

Ah, there will be discussing it in blogland, you say. Wrong. Apparently the adventures of Winston Peters are of much more importance. Despite the veneer of independence, the majority of blogs are still trapped in that dreary Labour-National continuum. Martyn 'Bomber' Bradbury for example, who once wanted to be New Zealand's answer to Michael Moore, has turned into an apologist for Labour.

In one-party dictatorships, organisations with unpopular views find themselves being censored. Newspapers are closed. Websites are pulled down. Activists are arrested.

Here in the 'democratic' West, it’s a more subtle business. It’s censorship by omission.

I’ve seen this happen time and time again. In a kind of symbiotic empathy the parliamentary parties and the media establish a framework of political and ‘intellectual’ (I use the term loosely) debate that is closed to anyone or any ideas that don’t adhere to the ‘rules’.

In this election year, anyone or any party that wants to promote views that challenge the prevailing free market orthodoxy will find they won’t be getting much, if any, media time. Instead it’ll be more of National and Labour pretending they are different from each other, with the minor parliamentary parties watching from the sideline.

And so the Alliance and its challenging and progressive manifesto gets excluded from the news reports, the commentaries and the opinion pieces.

It’s censorship by omission.


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