One Photo worth $ 276,753.05

To be precise it was not just this one photo but the one photo opportunity, which lead to this photo and the rest of the coverage of John Key’s last visit to New Zealand troops in Iraq, which cost the New Zealand Defence Force alone NZ 276,753.05 dollars.


First of all I have to acknowledge and thank the Prime Minister’s Department for passing my Official Information Act (OIA) request on to the defence force and their Chief of Staff Commodore G.R.Smith for his timely response. I hope that he does not get into trouble for this under the “No – Surprises” policy of the government.

Pastoral Care or Propaganda ?

When the commander in chief visits the troops for some photo-, television- and selfie- opportunities it might be a good thing for our people in the desert.
Talking to the soldiers and giving them a pat on the back or pull on a pony tail for the female members of the armed forces might increase moral and qualify as pastoral care. That however, could have been achieved without 8 journalists travelling with the PM. We don’t know if the soldiers other than the top brass actually enjoy the media attention. Remember all the secrecy around their deployment allegedly for their own personal safety ? When the last lot came back the media at home were not even allowed to film them getting off the plane.

Then there is the question about the reporting from the camp in Iraq. The news value of the coverage we received is questionable. What we ‘learned’ is that our training contribution was very much appreciated by the Iraqis. The Iraqi officers who were asked would say that wouldn’t they.
And we ‘learned’ that our soldiers had something special in doing the training job the “Kiwi Way”. I know and appreciate that there is something very special about the way how Kiwis relate to other people. I wonder however, how much difference the “Kiwi Way” makes in a hot desert camp in Iraq where our soldiers are basically training some Arabs to kill other Arabs. No questions asked.
Will they become more deadly fighters being trained the “Kiwi Way”?
However, as you’d expect those questions were not asked when our media trotted out and regurgitated the old “Kiwi Way” myth.

Any pastoral care could most likely have better been achieved without the prying eye of the media.
The news value from the reporting we have seen was more than questionable.
It therefore appears that the whole prime-ministerial trip boils down to a public relations or rather propaganda exercise for Mr Key.

Let’s then look at the propaganda value of what eight journalists produced out of Iraq. The only memorable new thing were the images of John Key in protective armour and desert coloured cap looking like a strong leader as a war prime minister should. When I showed the above image to my son his immediate reaction was : “John Key is having a good day and loving it.”


These images are worth every taxpayer’s cent the Defence Force spend and more for “Brand Key”. The man nothing sticks to and no scandal can penetrate body armour or not. The only thing, which sticks in my throat is that I paid for the cap as part of the $4,680.81 cost for “equipment, clothing and consumables” as specifically listed in the OIA response.

Timing and Context

We have to remember the timing of the trip and appearances of these images. It exactly coincided with John Key and his minister Tim Grosser in Atlanta signing the TPPA and surrendering New Zealand’s sovereignty and selling our economic future to international corporations. All this while we were not looking being instead distracted by these images from Iraq.

Isn’t it ironic that we have been fed the above images at the exact time when the man featured betrayed everything New Zealand soldiers fought for in WWI and WWII ? That is the democratic right to determine our own future.

The Middle East

Looking at the situation in the Middle East and Mr Key in it I am thankful for a couple of things.
One is our good fortune not to have an aircraft carrier or anything else to land on. John Key would have been on it George Bush style to portray himself as the great helmsman.
The other is the fact that a wiser previous government disestablished the NZ strike airforce. We would by now be bombing Iraq and Syria with the same effect as the German Blitz on London and Coventry.

But to end on a positive note. There are good images coming out of the Middle East. Thanks to Twitter we see Sonny Bill Williams “making new friends” in a refugee camp in Lebanon.


We didn’t even have to pay for seeing this Kiwi sporting hero making friends for us.

In contrast the taxpayer funded images of our Prime Minister in Iraq are showing New Zealand making enemies.

The difference is far more than just the cost to the taxpayer of NZ$ 276,753.05

by  Dr. Hans B. Grueber

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