Much to thank Williamson for
Writers Aldous Huxley and CS Lewis (of Narnia fame) both had the misfortune to die on November 22, 1963 – which meant their deaths got totally overshadowed by the assassination of President John F Kennedy on the same day.
In similar fashion, a couple of news stories worthy of extensive coverage were swamped by last week’s media fixation on Pakuranga MP Maurice Williamson. Fair enough, on one level. Williamson’s interference in the police investigation into a domestic violence incident involving a National Party donor fully deserved the media’s attention.
Yet since New Zealand has chosen to sell its citizenship to wealthy foreign bidders – many of them mainland Chinese looking for a bolt- hole to stash their money – we can hardly be surprised if the buyers come to expect the best in after-sales service from our politicians.
All the same, Immigration New Zealand must have been thanking its lucky stars that the media was distracted from pursuing another immigration-related scandal – the banning of the rap group Odd Future from this country in February.
Immigration New Zealand’s rationale was that Odd Future posed a risk to public order, traceable to a rowdy concert in Boston in May 2011.
At the time, the explanation didn’t jibe with how Odd Future had been given visas and performed in Auckland in 2012, without incident.
Last week, it emerged that this year’s ban had been viewed internally as something that could be managed to Immigration New Zealand’s advantage.
In emails released under the Official Information Act, department official Karen Urwin wrote: ‘‘Given that this group’s intended appearance already has the lobby groups up in arms, our denying them entry will undoubtedly generate some media interest (shades of Mike Tyson).
’’However, I think we have the opportunity to spin this into a good news story for immigration New Zealand.
‘‘There is also the strong possibility that the group will make some very public (and offensive) protestations, but in my view this will only serve to reinforce the appropriateness of our decision.’’
A department colleague commented: ‘‘Thanks, Karen. Fun times. I think you’re right. This is a good story for immigraton New Zealand.’’
Apparently, rights to freedom of speech were a less important consideration than the public relations opportunities.
Social Development Minister Paula Bennett also had reason to feel grateful to Williamson.
In February, chronically ill beneficiary Sarah Wilson had written about her mistreatment at the Work and Income office in Nelson.
Her blog became an internet sensation, and a rallying point for people who had experienced similar treatment from Work and Income.
Last week, Bennett visited the same Work and Income office and – incredibly – largely put Wilson’s experience down to her illness: ‘‘We work with some people who are at the most challenging and distressing times in their lives and their perception of how they’re dealt with can sometimes be not perhaps the reality if they were in a different frame of mind.’’
Wilson said she felt ‘‘ gobsmacked’’ by Bennett’s comments, adding that women’s experiences are often belittled to silence them.
‘‘Yes, Paula, I am stressed. No, I am not incapable. My illness does not affect my brain, and my perception is entirely coherent,’’ she wrote.
In a normal week, both stories would have received front page treatment. Little wonder Bennett said she felt ‘‘ incredibly sad’’ about Williamson’s demise.
Demoted: Maurice Williamson lost his ministerial position.