An interesting insight into Labour’s chinky sounding names scandal

Public Address has published an interesting insight into Labour’s and Phil Twyford’s dodgy chinky sounding names scandal.

The 2015 publication of what has become known as the the “Chinese-sounding-names” story on Auckland home ownership was, says Harkanwal Singh, “a really pivotal moment for me, working in a New Zealand newsroom. Because that’s when I realised that things don’t have to be true to be published.”

Singh was working as the New Zealand Herald’s first dedicated data journalist and was at the meeting where Labour Party MP Phil Twyford and party researcher Rob Salmond brought in their data – which they said showed a hitherto unsuspected level of Chinese foreign ownership in Auckland housing.

“They said ‘we’re not being racist’ as they handed over the data set,” he told Jogai Bhatt and I at last Sunday’s Orcon IRL.

So, Labour gave a massive heads up to the NZ Herald on the story, including the data. What happens next should alarm you.

Singh’s questions over the data delayed publication by a week. During that week he contacted Auckland University’s Thomas Lumley and Edward Abraham of Dragonfly Data Science (“the best statisticians in the country”).

“And I went back to my editors and I said, look, you should publish it, but you should say that Labour is saying this – and the statisticians are saying that it’s not true.”

His suggestion was not taken up by his editors.

What creditable honesty from Singh. And utter dishonesty from the NZ Herald. The data didn’t stack up, the data journalist and external statisticians also said it didn’t stack up, but the editors (Shayne Currie) ran it anyway in as sensational fashion as possible.

“The story ran with the headline ‘We have Chinese buyers’ and and all I did was add some bullet points which said ‘this data is wrong’. But they were published on the fifth page, inside, in a little box, so no one really saw them.

It was hugely problematic and as a immigrant and as a person of colour, I saw a huge problem with it. But no one else in the newsroom saw any problem with it. And when I approached senior journalists I was told ‘it’s a great story’.

I think it’s still not been addressed and no one’s really addressed how they went about doing it. And it’s a huge issue of data literacy if you’re just going to publish analysis done by political parties for their own goals.”

Wow, such integrity. Good on him and shame on the NZ Herald.

The NZ Herald worked hand in glove with the Labour party, with dodgy data and no senior journalist thought there was anything wrong. Neither did the editors. To them it was a great story…even if it was demonstrably and provably wrong.

That isn’t a news story it is a work of fiction. It was Labour party advertising. It was collusion between the Herald and Labour, the very things their senior journalists like Matt Nippert, David Fisher, Tim Murphy and Shayne Currie went after me for. Now it turns out they work cap in hand with the Labour party.


-Public Address


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