Reported at Maori Television: Ihaka takes up Senior Communications Advisor role:
Putting Māori Members of Parliament (MPs) at the forefront of important New Zealand politics is Jodi Ihaka’s plan, as she was recently appointed the Labour Party’s new Senior Communications Advisor (Māori).
“I’m really excited to use my communication skills in such an important Māori advisory capacity. I have loved my time at Whakaata Māori (Māori Television) and have nothing but respect for the Māori journalists on Te Kāea and Native Affairs,” says Ihaka.
The position sees Ihaka take on a key advisory role to Labour leader, Andrew Little as well as Māori MPs including Kelvin Davis, Peeni Henare, Louisa Wall, Meka Whaitiri, Nanaia Mahuta and Adrian Rurawhe.
Of Te Aupōuri and Ngāti Porou descent, Ihaka says her grandparents were staunch Labour supporters and taking up this role means she is making a call about her own political affiliations.
Just days ago, the Native Affairs journalist was getting story leads from Senior Labour MPs and will now play the role of cheerleader, camp mother, and all consuming communicator.
That’s one way of interfering, pinching one of their top journalists. But that’s not what Labour is complaining about.
3 News reports: Labour claims interference with Maori TV:
Labour is accusing a minister’s office of editorial interference in Maori TV.
Clare Curran has released copies of emails Maori Development Minister Te Ururoa Flavell’s press secretary sent to a producer.
In one of them, Hinerangi Barr questioned the purpose of a panel debate on the Maori welfare delivery programme Whanau Ora.
“I don’t think the issue will be covered in any depth if you have NZ First on it, for example,” she told associate producer Kelvin McDonald.
In another email to Mr McDonald, Ms Barr said: “I’m just not convinced that you’ll enlighten your viewers by having a panel of politicians talking about Whanau Ora.”
Mr McDonald had asked Mr Flavell to appear on the programme with representatives of other political parties.
Mr Flavell had agreed to take part.
However, the minister met Maori TV’s chief executive Paora Maxwell on May 20 and later that day the programme was cancelled.
Ms Curran questioned Mr Flavell in Parliament yesterday about the meeting, and Mr Flavell said the programme hadn’t been discussed.
He said the meeting had been in his diary since February.
Ms Curran believes the Maori Television Service Act has been breached.
It states: “The responsible minister, or any person acting on behalf of or at the direction of any minister… must not direct the service or any director, officer or employee of the service in respect of the preparation or presentation of current affairs programming.”
“Just days ago, the Native Affairs journalist was getting story leads from Senior Labour MPs” – one could wonder whether Labour MPs were getting story leads from Native Affairs journalists.
Curran questions Flavell in Parliament yesterday:
[Sitting date: 17 June 2015. Volume:706;Page:14. Text is subject to correction.]
10. CLARE CURRAN (Labour—Dunedin South) to the Minister for Māori Development : When he met with the Chief Executive of Māori Television in May, did he or his office discuss the planned Native Affairs debate on Whānau Ora?
Hon TE URUROA FLAVELL (Minister for Māori Development): Tēnā koe, Mr Speaker. Kia ora tātou. In answer to the question: no. I met with the chief executive officer of Māori Television once in May 2015. The meeting itself had been confirmed in my diary since February 2015, when I believe I had my first meeting with him. I did not discuss, and do not discuss, planned news items or editorial decisions, as those are matters for the staff of Māori Television to consider.
Clare Curran : Did his press secretary question the format and offer alternative suggestions for a proposed Native Affairsdebate regarding Whānau Ora, which was to have occurred on Māori Television on 1 June 2015?
Hon TE URUROA FLAVELL : I am advised that my media secretary had communications with the associate producer of Māori Television to clarify the purpose of the panel and, having been told by Māori Television that it was to discuss Whānau Ora and its details, she questioned whether a panel of MPs, including MPs from New Zealand First—who have clearly never understood in any detail what it is all about—would achieve the stated purpose.
Rt Hon Winston Peters : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It is well known that a Minister cannot seek to answer and lay out the policy of another political party, particularly when it is so demonstrably false.
Mr SPEAKER : I just want to rule on the point made by the Rt Hon Winston Peters, because he is right on this occasion. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER : Order! When answering a question, it just does not help the order of the House to take the opportunity to criticise in any way another political party.
Hon TE URUROA FLAVELL : The questioner asked about discussions that might have occurred with my press secretary—
Mr SPEAKER : Order! [Interruption] Order! The Minister will now resume his seat. I have no problem with that part of the answer. The part that caused a little disruption in the House was the reference to whether or not another political party understood the purposes of Whānau Ora. That was not helpful and is not actually in accordance with the Standing Orders.
Hon David Cunliffe : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER : Is this is a fresh point of order?
Hon David Cunliffe : Yes, it is a completely separate point of order.
Mr SPEAKER : I will hear it.
Hon David Cunliffe : There was a degree of to and fro across the across benches, which made it difficult for members here to hear the Minister’s initial reply. I wonder if it would be possible for the Minister to repeat his reply to the previous supplementary question.
Mr SPEAKER : If the member is saying that he did not hear that—I heard most of the answer without any difficulty—I have got to accept the member’s word. Would the Minister please re-give his answer without the part that caused some difficulty in the last answer.
Hon TE URUROA FLAVELL : I will do my best. In answer to the question: I am advised that my media secretary had communications with the associate producer of Māori Television in order to clarify what the purpose of the panel was, and, having been told by Māori Television that it was to discuss in detail what Whānau Ora was about, she questioned whether a panel of MPs, including New Zealand First—for those are the statements—would achieve the stated purpose. The note continues in the same discussion thread with Māori Television. My media secretary confirmed also that I was happy to be interviewed on the Whānau Ora story, and that is because I do not shirk my responsibilities and I would have no difficulty in answering questions about the value of Whānau Ora, because it has benefited so many families’ lives throughout the country.
Clare Curran : I seek leave to table emails dated 14 May 2015 and 19 May 2015 between the Minister’s press secretary and a Māori Television associate producer, which offer alternative suggestions for the format and which question the need for New Zealand First to appear in the proposed Native Affairs debate regarding Whānau Ora that was to occur—
Mr SPEAKER : Order! I think the document has now been described more than adequately. Leave is sought to table this particular email. Is there any objection? There is.
Clare Curran : When he told the Māori Affairs Committee this morning that neither he nor his office expressed a view about what should be screened or who should be approached to comment on Māori Television, why did he not admit then that his own press secretary had indeed engaged in an email discussion with a Native Affairs producer about what should be screened and who should be approached to comment?
Hon TE URUROA FLAVELL : It is pretty simple: I did not believe that the communications between my press secretary and, indeed, Māori Television did what the member has just said.
Clare Curran : Is it correct that on the afternoon of 20 May 2015, just after he met with the chief executive officer of Māori Television, Paora Maxwell, the planned debate regarding Whānau Ora was cancelled?
Hon TE URUROA FLAVELL : That is very insightful. Yes, it was cancelled. We were notified on that date, having also told Māori Television on the 14th that I was prepared to appear on that programme.
Clare Curran : I seek leave to table an email dated 20 May 2015 at 3.13 p.m. from the producer of Native Affairs stating that the proposed debate on Whānau Ora had been—
Mr SPEAKER : Order! [Interruption] Order! The member will resume her seat. The email has been described adequately. I am putting the leave. Leave is sought to table it. Is there any objection? There is.
Clare Curran : I seek leave to table an email from Paora Maxwell dated 22 May 2015 showing that he met with the Minister for Māori Development on Wednesday 20 May.
Mr SPEAKER : Leave is sought to table that particular email. Is there any objection? There is objection. [Interruption] Order! If the member wants to ask a supplementary question, get on with it.
Clare Curran : Can he assure this House unequivocally that he has complied with section 10 of the Māori Television Service (Te Aratuku Whakaata Irirangi Māori) Act, which states that a “Minister, or any person acting by or on behalf of or at the direction of any Minister … must not direct the Service … in respect of … the preparation or presentation of current affairs programmes”?
Hon TE URUROA FLAVELL : Absolutely.
Clare Curran : Did he post a tweet on 8 June in response to Graham Cameron that he had never been invited to talk to theNative Affairs programme about the Whānau Ora programme?
Hon TE URUROA FLAVELL : I am not sure, but I think I did post a tweet and confirm that I had not been invited. The communication that the member has talked about was through my press secretary. It had not arrived to me, and I stand by what I said.
Clare Curran : I seek leave to table a copy of the 8 June tweet by the Minister in response to Graham Cameron.
Mr SPEAKER : Leave is sought to table that particular information. Is there any objection? There is objection. [Interruption] Order! A member on this side is trying to ask a supplementary question.
Clare Curran : Is he concerned about the claims of continued editorial interference with the Native Affairsprogramme, including stories on Whānau Ora and Te Kōhanga Reo National Trust; and if he is concerned and is not a party to this editorial interference, as he claims, why has he not investigated these allegations or raised them with the chief executive officer and chair of Māori Television?
Mr SPEAKER : The Hon Te Ururoa Flavell—any of those three supplementary questions.
Hon TE URUROA FLAVELL : Those issues are matters for both the board and the chief executive; they are not the prerogative of the Minister.