THC News February 2017 - Page 14

The Hemp & Cannabis News MEDIA WATCH

February 2017 14

Democracy wasn't high on the agenda when mainstream media reported on the Mt Roskill by-election in December.

It was hard enough to find any coverage of the vote in the newspapers, on radio or TV, and when it came to reporting on the policies of the candidates New Zealanders were badly served.

Media reported the by-election as pretty much a straight fight between National's Parmjeet Parmar and Michael Wood of Labour, who won the seat that had been vacated by new Auckland mayor Phil Goff.

Labour were always huge odds-on to retain the seat, which Goff had won with 56.5 per cent of the vote at the 2014 election.

With the Greens and New Zealand First - who together had polled 15 per cent in 2014 - opting not to stand, it theoretically gave the media the chance to explore the policies being put forward by the Cannabis Party and others.

The newly-created People's Party were represented by leader and co-founder Roshan Nauhria, Andrew Leitch stood for Democrats for Social Credit and Tua Schuster ran as an independent.

A "meet the candidates" forum was held during the campaign where all candidates were invited, and Cannabis Party candidate Brandon Stronge performed very well.

His views that cannabis should be legalised, for medical use in the first instance, were endorsed by all the other candidates apart from National.

That didn't rate a mention from any of the mainstream media, though two TV stations were there.

Stronge was not interviewed at all by mainstream media during the election campaign, as the media continue their stance of not treating cannabis as a serious subject despite all the scientific evidence and the fact that so many people are suffering and dying while being prevented from accessing the drug.

When he was interviewed on radio, in the wake of the Cannabis Party press release about the planned tour group to California, the presenter was totally scornful of the legitimacy of the plan.

He argued his case well, though, and pointed out that skepticism about whether the

"loophole" could be exploited was ill-founded given that people were already doing so.

As usual, media concentrated exclusively on the "big two" parties, making the most of any slights that either Parmar or Wood made towards each other during the campaign.

There was little of that, though, with Parmar's repeated comments that Labour were "taking the seat for granted" being about the only attempt to get under the skin of opponents.

In a democratic election, the media's job should be to report on what the various parties and candidates stand for so that

their readers/viewers can make up their minds.

That's not actually what happens, though, perhaps reflecting the general apathy towards party politics in New Zealand.

The by-election happened before John Key stepped down as Prime Minister, and the personalities of the leader and indeed their candidate in Mt Albert weren't issues during the campaign.

The media covered the visit to the constituency by Labour leader Andrew Little, but National's campaign was lacklustre and Key didn't even bother to show up for Parmar's team's gathering when the results were announced.

In the end, only 17,476 people voted in the by-election - down from the nearly 33,000 who had done so in the 2014 election. Wood polled 11,623 votes (66.51 per cent) - nearly three times as many as Parmar.

No other candidate got into four figures, Nauhria polling 739 votes, Leitch 126 while Stronge finished fifth with 84. That was in line with the Cannabis Party's general tendency to receive around 0.5 per cent of the votes in elections.

Mainstream

media has

blinkers on

in Mt Roskill

Cannabis Party candidate Brandon Stronge addresses constituents in Mt Roskill.