Close Up’s ‘debate’ on the state of the New Zealand economy tonight was about as ideologically lopsided as you could imagine it.
Mark Sainsbury’s four guests were Mark Weldon from the Stock Exchange, Dominic Stephens, a Westpac economist, Peter Townsend from the Canterbury Employers’ Chamber of Commerce and former National Business Review journalist Graeme Hunt.
Apparently Close Up didn’t think it a good idea to have any worker’s representatives on the show. It didn’t think that it might have been good idea to have, at least, one person on the show who offered a view that wasn’t just more of the same failed neo-liberal mush.
No we got four supporters of free market economic policies. Not surprisingly, they all attempted to downplay the magnitude of the economic crisis.
Sainsbury played along. Are New Zealand’s free market policies just wrong? Is there an alternative? Why should ordinary people suffer because of the greed and recklessness of business? These were three questions that the hopeless Sainsbury didn’t ask.
Graeme Hunt, a free market zealot and admirer of Roger Douglas, who would like to wipe out the welfare state altogether, fatuously claimed that there was no crisis because it’s all in people’s heads! According to Hunt its just a matter of being positive, and packing up you’re troubles in you’re old kit bag. He even asked the media to be more positive! Given his dismal performance tonight, I think Sainsbury has already taken that message on board.
Hunt, while claiming the crisis was no crisis at all, still argued that government spending needed to be slashed and recited a list of ministries he thought could be closed down. He avoided talking about welfare but I’m sure that’s on his list as well
No political party will do this! exclaimed Sainsbury. He never once questioned whether Hunt was just vomiting up the same tired and failed neo-liberal dogma that got us into this mess in the first place. We're going to hear this 'cut government spending' refrain a lot over the coming months and it's disturbing that Sainsbury seems so willing to go along with this rubbish.
Interestingly, Hunt appeared on TV3's Sunrise this morning saying exactly the same things.
Hunt’s fellow ‘debaters’ said what you might expect from free market supporters. All attempted to be upbeat, although Townsend did have the decency to admit that there was a serious crisis that would take ‘some time’ to work through.
Close Up was a disgrace and this ‘debate’ raises serious questions about its political direction.