2013 Bruce Jesson Lecture: Sir Edmund Thomas – Reducing Inequality: A Strategy for a Cause

Below is the abridged version of the 2013 lecture. It may also be downloaded as a PDF here.


I did not know Bruce Jesson personally. But I am familiar with his writings.  All his books have a place on my bookshelf.  He undoubtedly influenced my thinking.  Much of what I have to say tonight echoes views he expressed over two decades ago.  As I share his distaste for neo-liberalism, his work, and the spirit of his work, infuse and inform my lecture.  It is, therefore, a profound privilege to have been invited to give the Bruce Jesson Lecture this year.

This country, as with many other countries, has undergone a traumatic neo-liberal transformation.  A theory that insists human well-being can best be advanced by liberating individual entrepreneurial freedoms and skills within a framework of strong property rights, free markets and free trade has been pursued in New Zealand to a radical extent.  The outcome, as in other countries that have pursued the neo-liberal creed, has been extreme and even obscene inequality.  Continue reading

Posted in Bruce Jesson Memorial Lecture | 1 Comment

Jesson Awards for 2013

On the occasion of the 2013 Bruce Jesson lecture we announced this year’s Senior and Emerging Journalism Awards.

The Senior Journalism award of $4000 went to Alister Barry, for his feature-length film documentary, Hot Air, which tells the history of the politics of climate change in New Zealand from 1988 to 2008. Alister’s film will contribute to public debate on the politics of climate change in New Zealand from 1988 to 2008, and documenting ‘a political struggle over the burning of oil and coal which is causing the extinction of thousands of species’.

He has a track record of completing work that has generated public awareness and debate. His films as writer-director include Someone Else’s Country (1996), In a Land of Plenty (2002) and The Hollow Men (2008), the latter adapted from the book of the same name by last year’s Bruce Jesson lecturer Nicky Hager.

The Emerging Journalist award of $1000 was shared between Ruth Keber, a journalism student at Massey University, for ‘The New Maori Muslims’, North & South (March 2013) and Deena Coster, a journalism student at the Western Institute of Technology Taranaki (WITT), for a portfolio of articles in the Taranaki Daily News (June-Sept 2013).

Ruth Keber’s ‘The New Maori Muslims’, published in North & South, told the story of a young woman’s personal testimony of a flight from abuse to the embrace of Islam, then broadening into an exploration of linkages between Maori and Muslim culture and consideration of Islam and religious diversity in New Zealand.

Deena Coster’s portfolio of articles published in the Taranaki Daily News showcased a student journalist following in the tradition of the best kind of local newspaper journalism, displaying community commitment, social concern over issues like pay and housing and the initiative to dig around.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Coming up, the 2013 Bruce Jesson Lecture

The speaker, a Distinguished Fellow at the Law School at The University of Auckland, argues that the gross inequality in income and wealth which besets New Zealand is the outcome of the neo-liberal economic measures of the mid-1980s and early 1990s and the culture of liberal individualism and unfettered free market ideology which it spawned.

A breakdown in social cohesion and a sense of community is the result. Reforms to counter this inequality are widely mooted. But increasing focus and discussion on the topic is confronted by a plethora of mantras and myths purveyed by the rich and powerful. The stimulus for change is deadened.

The speaker advances a strategy designed to provide a coherent impetus to reduce the rank inequality that now prevails.

The Rt Hon Sir Edmund Thomas will deliver the 2013 lecture on Wednesday 30 October, 6.30pm, at the Maidment Theatre (bar opens at 5.30pm).

Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Call for 2013 Jesson Prize Nominations

The deadline is approaching for the Bruce Jesson Foundation journalism prize competition, offering funding for high-quality critical journalism. The 2013 competition opened as recent winner Max Rashbrooke unveiled a new book supported by his Jesson award: Inequality: A New Zealand Crisis – and what we can do about it (Bridget Williams Books, 2013).

The Bruce Jesson Foundation was established in 1999 to commemorate one of New Zealand’s greatest political journalists, the late Bruce Jesson, by promoting “vigorous political, social and economic investigation, debate, analysis and reporting in New Zealand”. The Foundation holds an Annual Lecture and awards two journalism prizes, presented at the lecture in October:

  • The Senior Journalism Prize is self-nominated and invites applications for an award of up to NZ$4,000 to assist a project aiming to produce the kind of critical and analytical journalism exemplified by Jesson’s work.
  • The Emerging Journalism Prize has a fixed emolument of $1,000 and recognises “outstanding recent work by New Zealand print journalism students.” It is nominated by the heads of New Zealand journalism schools or journalism programme leaders for published work by student journalists.

Entries for the 2013 Bruce Jesson Journalism Prizes are now invited both from self-nominating senior journalists and the Heads of New Zealand journalism schools. Entries will be assessed by members of the Foundation’s Journalism Sub-committee: Geoff Kemp (convenor), Camille Guy, Joe Atkinson, Simon Collins, and Jon Stephenson.

Details are available by clicking the ‘Awards’ tab at the top of this page. Applications and nominations (including copies of nominated work) can be submitted online, or mailed to Dr Geoff Kemp, C/- Political Studies Department, University of Auckland, PB 92019, Auckland (g.kemp@auckland.ac.nz).

The DEADLINE for receipt of nominations is 5pm, Monday, September 30, 2013.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Nicky Hager Delivers the 2012 Bruce Jesson Lecture

Nicky Hager - Photo John Miller

Hager delivers 2012 Jesson Lecture (Photo: John Miller)

Nicky Hager

Taking questions (Photo: John Miller)

Jane Kelsey & Nicky Hager

Jane Kelsey & Nicky Hager (Photo: John Miller)

On Wednesday 31 October, Nicky Hager delivered the 2012 Bruce Jesson Memorial Lecture to a packed and attentive Maidment Theatre audience. Entitled ‘Investigative journalism in the age of media meltdown: from National Party Headquarters to Afghanistan‘, the lecture described the key political, commercial and economic influences Nicky identifies as degrading public and democratic discourse. He particularly noted the impact of PR machines, but drew on material from his books to illustrate the impact of other interests.  Continue reading

Posted in Bruce Jesson Memorial Lecture | 2 Comments

Nicky Hager 2012: Investigative journalism in the age of media meltdown: from National Party Headquarters to Afghanistan

Kia Ora Tatou,

Each time I go walking near my home I pass an old war memorial inscribed with the words “magna est veritas, et praevalebit“: Truth is great and will prevail. The words date from 1917, in the middle of the First World War, and were obviously attempting to reassure the locals that their sons and brothers were dying in a noble cause. But for me these words can apply equally to a very different subject: the motives, and the inherent optimism, of the activity known as investigative journalism, which is the subject of my lecture today. Investigative journalism includes, for instance, the public service of investigating truthfulness in politics and of seeking facts when the truth is disputed, twisted or hidden. It can also involve a different kind of truth: trying to discover and illuminate what is right and wrong. In essence, it is about investigating and challenging the activities of the powerful, the opposite of course of what the war memorial was proposing.  Continue reading

Posted in Bruce Jesson Memorial Lecture | 22 Comments

Pike River Book Wins Top Jesson Award

A planned book on the Pike River mine disaster by Christchurch journalist Rebecca Macfie has won this year’s top Bruce Jesson journalism award.

Macfie, the South Island correspondent for the Listener, has covered the Pike River story ever since 29 miners died on 19 November 2010 in New Zealand’s worst mining disaster in almost a century. Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Making fun of TPP: National Cartoon Competition Launched

The 16th round of the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations will be held in Auckland from 3-12 December, presumably at Sky City as that was the venue of the December 2010 round.
A Trans-Pacific Partnership Cartoon Competition has been launched to encourage the country’s satirists and graphic artists to engage creatively with the many issues. Continue reading
Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Nicky Hager to deliver 2012 Bruce Jesson Lecture

This year’s Bruce Jesson Lecture will focus on New Zealand’s need for investigative journalism – by someone once described as “New Zealand’s leading investigative journalist”.

Nicky Hager, who will present the lecture at Auckland University on 31 October, has been a fulltime writer for more than 20 years and is the sole New Zealand member of the Washington-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

2012 Award Applications Now Open

The Bruce Jesson Foundation presents the Bruce Jesson Senior Journalism Award ($4,000) and the Bruce Jesson Emerging Journalism Award ($1,000) annually for critical, informed, analytical and creative journalism or writing which will contribute to public debate in New Zealand on an important issue or issues.

Applications/Nominations for the 2012 awards are now open and will close on Friday 7th September 2012.

Posted in Awards | Leave a comment