Minister embarrassed by Advisory Group failing to keep minutes

Minister of Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media Minister, and Associate Minister for ACC and of State Services (Open Government) Clare Curran has been embarrassed by a letter that shows an advisory group she set up failed to take minutes at meetings when they found out they would be subject to the Official Information Act.

In Parliament today:

12. MELISSA LEE (National) to the Associate Minister of State Services (Open Government): Has she provided any guidance to State agencies and Government bodies about best practice to achieve open and transparent Government?

Hon CLARE CURRAN (Associate Minister of State Services): No, and that’s because the State Services Commissioner provides leadership to the State services on these matters.

Melissa Lee: How concerned would she be if she were to learn that a Government-appointed body had decided not to minute their meetings because those minutes could be subject to the Official Information Act?

Hon CLARE CURRAN: Well, the State Services Commissioner provides, as I said, leadership to the State services. Some examples of that: guidance is provided on the Official Information Act (OIA) to increase public access to information, there is guidance on providing free and frank advice and codes of conduct for staff in ministerial offices, as well as speaking up guidance—so a range of advice on a range of matters. So that’s good advice to the State services, and if there are instances of concern, then I suggest that she raise them with the State services.

Melissa Lee: Is she concerned that the ministerial advisory group appointed by the Minister of Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media to decide the future of public media funding in New Zealand has decided not to keep minutes of their meetings because they would be subject to the Official Information Act?

Hon CLARE CURRAN: I’m not aware of that, but what I would say is that that the ministerial advisory group has provided reports to the Minister, which will be provided in due course publicly.

Melissa Lee: Is it open and transparent for the public media ministerial advisory group responsible for millions of taxpayers’ dollars for public broadcasting to no longer take minutes of their meetings in order to avoid being subject to the Official Information Act?

Hon CLARE CURRAN: I think I’ve already answered that, but I’ll repeat that ministerial advisory groups provide advice to Ministers—that’s what they’re set up to do. That advice is made public to the media in due course as the process goes through.

Melissa Lee: Is it open and transparent for the public media ministerial advisory group responsible for millions of taxpayer dollars for public broadcasting to no longer take minutes of their meetings—

Hon CLARE CURRAN: I’m unaware of any allegation of that sort. My understanding is that my ministerial advisory group is providing reports to me which will be made public in due course. I’m unaware of that matter that that member is raising.

Melissa Lee: I seek leave to table a letter dated 19 June 2018 from Te Manatū Taonga, which is the Ministry for Culture and Heritage, and the 27 February 2018 minutes of the public media advisory group, released from the Minister’s office under the OIA.

Mr SPEAKER: Is there any objection to those documents being tabled? There appears to be none.

Documents, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.

A screenshot of the minute recorded.A screenshot of the minute recorded. Photo credit: Screengrab/Newshub. (more…)

Curran’s problems with RNZ will extend into next week

The story about resignation of RNZ journalist and manager Carol Hirschfeld, and the survival (for now) of Labour MP and Minister Clare Curran, who gave an impression she was saving her career by throwing Hirschfeld under a bus, will move to more chapters of Easter and next week.

And there could be more for Curran to deal with. There were suggestions in Parliament yesterday that she may be subject to a breach of privilege complaint.


Question No. 10—Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media

10. MELISSA LEE (National) to the Minister of Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media: Who from her office contacted Radio New Zealand on two occasions to raise the issue of the inconsistencies in Carol Hirschfeld’s account of the circumstances of their meeting?

Hon CLARE CURRAN (Minister of Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media): Immediately following the Radio New Zealand (RNZ) annual review in select committee on 1 March, a member of my staff alerted RNZ to inconsistencies. That was further reinforced with RNZ last week. It is not my practice to name individual staff members. I take full responsibility for my staff acting on my behalf.

Melissa Lee: Who at Radio New Zealand did her office contact on those two occasions?

Hon CLARE CURRAN: My understanding was it was the communications manager at RNZ.

Melissa Lee: How did the member of her office contact Radio New Zealand on those two occasions?

Hon CLARE CURRAN: By telephone.

Melissa Lee: Did she or anyone from her office contact Carol Hirschfeld to inform her that the circumstances of their breakfast meeting had been misinterpreted to the select committee?

Hon CLARE CURRAN: No.

Melissa Lee: When she found out on 1 March that the circumstances of their meeting had been misrepresented to the select committee, why didn’t she bring that to the attention of the select committee?

Hon Chris Hipkins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I just would like to receive some reassurance. There is a very clear Speaker’s ruling that if a matter is the subject of a breach of privilege complaint, it cannot be raised in the House. If a breach of privilege complaint has been raised about this then it cannot be the subject of questions.

Mr SPEAKER: I can deal with that without referring to whether one has been or not. One can’t refer to a breach of privilege complaint, but the matters which might be contained in the complaint can still be the subject of questioning. Ask the question again, please.

Melissa Lee: When she found out on 1 March that the circumstances of their meeting had been misrepresented to the select committee, why didn’t she bring that to the attention of the select committee?

Hon CLARE CURRAN: I think it was appropriate for my staff to inform RNZ of an accurate account of events.

Melissa Lee: How many text messages has she exchanged with Carol Hirschfeld since the Astoria meeting?

Mr SPEAKER: Order! I just want to ask the member to have a—oh no, I’ll let the member answer because I was probably slack earlier in letting her ask about Carol Hirschfeld when she wasn’t the subject of the question. Could you repeat the question? Thank you.

Melissa Lee: How many text messages has she exchanged with Carol Hirschfeld since the Astoria meeting?

Hon CLARE CURRAN: None.


This looks like a continuation of a methodical attempt to skewer Curran. I’m hearing chat that Curran is at risk of being caught out on some of her statements.

Apart from that, of particular note from that exchange:

Melissa Lee: When she found out on 1 March that the circumstances of their meeting had been misrepresented to the select committee, why didn’t she bring that to the attention of the select committee?

Hon Chris Hipkins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I just would like to receive some reassurance. There is a very clear Speaker’s ruling that if a matter is the subject of a breach of privilege complaint, it cannot be raised in the House. If a breach of privilege complaint has been raised about this then it cannot be the subject of questions.

Mr SPEAKER: I can deal with that without referring to whether one has been or not. One can’t refer to a breach of privilege complaint, but the matters which might be contained in the complaint can still be the subject of questioning.

That’s the words that Mallard spoke, but it doesn’t show some hesitation and what appeared to be careful phrasing.

No…I I I I I c…I can deal with that without referring to whether one has been or not. One can’t refer to a breach of privilege complaint, but the matters which…..ah, ah which might be contained in the complaint can still be the subject of questioning.

It’s not difficult to make some assumptions from that.

Some of this will come up in parliament next week at a select committee hearing (delayed from yesterday): RNZ bosses to correct statements at select committee

RNZ has been recalled to a parliamentary select committee after the board chairman and chief executive misled it this month.

Chief executive Paul Thompson and board chairman Richard Griffin appeared for RNZs annual review, where they faced questions about a meeting between Broadcasting Minister Clare Curran and RNZ’s then-head of news Carol Hirschfeld.

Ms Hirschfeld had repeatedly insisted to Mr Thompson that the meeting, held at a Wellington cafe in December, was coincidental.

Mr Thompson and Mr Griffin backed those assertions, but texts later showed the meeting had been arranged about a week beforehand.

Texts actually showed that Curran tried to arrange a meeting starting a month before the meeting,almost as soon as becoming Minister.

Ms Hirschfeld resigned this week over misleading the chief executive about the nature of the meeting.

Mr Thompson and Mr Griffin will return to the committee next Thursday to correct their original statements.

In the meantime, Curran is scheduled to front up on Q&A on Sunday:

Curran has been keen on establishing a free to air linear TV channel via RNZ. Hirschfeld is also thought to be interested in this approach. This is at a time that traditional type broadcast television is fading in favour of on demand streamed content. Thompson and Griffin are thought to prefer a different approach.

What Curran wants, what she can secure budget funding for, and what RNZ see as their best way forward, are all now going to be more difficult to work out.

It will be an interesting interview. It seems odd that Curran might volunteer herself for this sort of scrutiny at this stage of proceedings.

 

Accusations of Labour shielding Ministers from scrutiny in Parliament

Claims have been made that Labour is protecting some of it’s Ministers from scrutiny in Question Time in Parliament.

The second, directed at Minister of Employment Willie Jackson:

Question No. 11—Employment

11. Hon PAUL GOLDSMITH (National) to the Minister of Employment: Does he still stand by all of his statements?

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS (Minister of Education): on behalf of the Minister of Employment: Yes, in the context in which they were made.

Hon Paul Goldsmith: Does he stand by his statement in the Manukau Courier that there is a “crisis” in New Zealand employment?

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: Yes.

Hon Paul Goldsmith: How many jobs has the New Zealand economy created in the past year while it has been in crisis?

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: I don’t have those figures with me.

Jackson did front up for questions from Goldsmith the day before:

The first minister switch yesterday:

Question No. 10—Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media

MELISSA LEE (National): I seek leave for this question to be held over until the next question time when the Hon Clare Curran is available to answer this question.

Mr SPEAKER: Is there any objection to that? Yes, there is.

10. MELISSA LEE (National) to the Minister of Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media: Does she believe it is important for State-owned broadcasters to be independent?

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS (Leader of the House) on behalf of the Minister of Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media: Yes.

Melissa Lee: Does she agree that maintaining the independence of Radio New Zealand includes full disclosure of any meetings the Minister has with RNZ’s head of content?

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: Yes, and the Minister has corrected the written answer that she gave, which was referred to in the questions yesterday.

This follows Lee questioning Current on Tuesday:

 

Melissa Lee has been submitting many written questions to Curran.

NZ First “assault on free speech”

NZ First deputy leader Ron Mark’s remarks in Parliament last week, and the support of those remarks by leader Winston Peters, have been described in a Herald editorial as an assault on free speech.

I agree. Trying to put someone down and telling them they should go back ‘to where they came from” is an insidious attempt to shut them up, an attempt to tell them thay have no right to speak or to be critical. This is especiallyh serious as it happened in Parliament, where it’s important MPs can speak openly for their parties and constituencies.

Editorial: ‘Korea’ slight an assault on free speech

New Zealand First MP Ron Mark’s suggestion in Parliament that National’s Melissa Lee should “go back to Korea” rather than criticise something in New Zealand has been called racist, which it was, but it was also oppressive of free speech, which in Parliament is even worse.

Mr Mark is denying the right of immigrants to criticise their adopted country, which is an attitude heard often enough in general conversation where it is deeply oppressive for immigrants who are sensitive to the fact that they are recent arrivals and would like to join the conversation.

It is an attitude that should never be heard in Parliament, where it is essential to democracy that representatives of all shades of opinion, interest and ethnicity are allowed to speak.

NZ First have attacked Asian immigration and Asian investment and attacked Asians generally for some time. But to attack a New Zealand MP and to try and shut them up because they are of Asian origin, in Parliament, is probably a new low.

On that basis, Mr Mark may say he should be free to express the view that immigrants who do not like something about New Zealand should go back where they came from rather than criticise this country.

But Parliament has numerous rules that restrict its members’ rights to speak in ways that abuse their rights or oppress the rights of others to be heard. This should be one of the them.

It was ethnic bullying.

It is hard enough to encourage immigrants to stand for Parliament, as any political party can attest, for exactly the reason Mr Mark has stated. Naturally they wonder whether they have a right as new citizens to join in our political debates. We need to stress they most certainly do have a right. They have chosen to become citizens of this country, they are a large and growing minority contributing to its economy and we need to hear their views. It is not healthy for any country to suppress the voice of any section of its population.

It is similar to if Mark had told a female MP to shut up and go back to their kitchen or a Maori MP to shut up and go back to their Marae.

For these reasons, Mr Mark ought to have apologised to Ms Lee and to Parliament as soon as he had reflected on what he had said. The fact that he still has not should be treated very seriously in view of its oppressive implications for free speech in the chamber.

It is possible Mr Mark has not reflected on his remark even yet.

Mark should reflect on a number of things he has said in Parliament said and on his behaviour in Parliament. He appears to be too arrogant to do so.

It is not too late for the House to take some sort of action when it resumes next week. The need for a directive on oppressive speech has become stronger now that New Zealand First leader Winston Peters has echoed the offence. When the country’s most experienced parliamentarian says, “If someone is complaining about the country they are in, they … can always go back home,” he is a disgrace to free and fair debate.

It’s not unusual for Peters to be a disgrace to free and fair debate. It’s very sad that NZ First now have a deputy who seems tol be prepared to be more disgraceful.

All of this arose because Ms Lee criticised shop trading hours in New Zealand as they used to be. Any member of Parliament who cannot acknowledge the right of another to be here, and take part in our politics, is not worth his seat.

As far as Peters goes that’s up to the voters in his electorate.

Mark is a list MP, so it is up to NZ First to decide on whether he  deserves his seat. That his leader has endorsed and repeated his insidious remarks means voters should seriously consider whether NZ First is worth having in Parliament. Unfortunately democracy means even racists and bigots and those who verbally assault immigrants and assault free speech can get elected.

Ignorance about New Zealand culture

There’s a common mistake made about New Zealand culture in relation to immigration – that immigrants should “accept our culture” or “go back home”.

Two mistakes actually – some immigrants don’t have homes to go back to, or don’t have safe homes to go back to.

But some seem to think that their culture represents New Zealand culture and everyone should do and be the same.That’s nonsense. There are a wide range of cultures co-existing and intermingling in New Zealand and there always have been.

“Go back home” came up in a spat between MPs in Parliament this week. Curwen Ares Rolinson (young NZ First activist) has  acknowledged the damage of Mark’s comments in a post at The Daily Blog – On Ron Mark, Melissa Lee, and Public Holidays in Korea.

Now for the record, I wouldn’t have spoken as Ron Mark did. I can see how such a statement could easily be misconstrued and has the real potential to make members of migrant communities who *have* chosen to make New Zealand their home – and work for the betterment thereof – feel unwelcome.

But he also defended Mark and supported NZ First’s divisive tactics.

In any case, while I might disagree with the wording used in the bridging phrase, I can nevertheless easily see why Ron would have cited a list of comparable conditions (in this case, Korean national holidays) designed to demonstrate that Lee’s “as a migrant” assertions about New Zealand’s status relative to other countries were spurious.

The “go back to Korea” line was a poor choice of set-up for this, and there are certainly other ways Ron could have lead into talking about that part of Lee’s speech … but I make no apology for New Zealand First harbouring legitimate concerns as to how this legislation might affect and undermine the rights and protections of the ordinary Kiwi worker.

A commneter agreed with Mark. Pietrad:

I agree with the writer and with Ron Mark. The truth of the matter is that NZ is our home and if someone visits and doesn’t like the way we do things, then they need to accept our culture or go live somewhere else that operates to their satisfaction. I especially feel this to be the case with people whose religion requires them to be always masked in public.

I don’t recall seeing any religious masking. The garb of nuns or Brethren or Muslims is not my thing but it’s their choice (hopefully) what they wear.

I see what I think are far worse fully clothed sights from youth ‘fashion’ statements. I find gang regalia more distasteful than religious clothing. I’d rather see many of the the overuse of tattoos covered up and face piercings look much worse to me than a scarfed head.

This is NOT part of our much more open culture and those people need to accept being un-masked is how we are, or GO and LIVE WHERE THAT SORT OF BEHAVIOR IS THE NORM. That’s not to judge it wrong but it is an example of such a different culture and one which essentially exists in conflict with ours. Would the NZ public find it acceptable if immigrants came from a culture where they wore NO clothes? ‘Go back where you came from’ would be a much more common demand. ‘When in Rome …..”

Is Pietrad suggesting that anyone not complying with the Kiwi cuklture of a black singlet, shorts and gumboots should ‘Go back where you came from’?

People stating that people who don’t fit in with “our culture” shoukld bugger off never seem to say what specific Kiwi culture they want everyone here to comply with. There’s a vast array of cultures on display around New Zealand.

It would be awful of everyone was a clone of Pietron or Ron Mark.

I think people like this have as much right to choose their attire in New Zealand as I do:

Ron Mark unrepentant

NZ First deputy leader Ron Mark is unrepentant following widespread criticism of his speech in Parliament earlier this week – see Re Mark remarks – appalling in Parliament.

NZ Herald reports:  Mark stands by ‘go back to Korea’ jab:

During a debate on shop trading hours on Tuesday, Mr Mark accused Ms Lee of being condescending towards New Zealanders.

“I have got a short message: If you do not like New Zealand, go back to Korea,” he said.

In the same speech, the New Zealand First deputy leader also made disparaging comments about Indian-born MP Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi.

Mark has responded to criticism:

Yesterday, Mr Mark said he objected to being told to grow up.

“Some people who come here might think we’re a bit antiquated or … need to grow up.

Talking about growing up Mr Mark…

Winston Peters backed Mark…

…saying any claim of racism was “poppycock”. He echoed Mr Mark’s criticism of Ms Lee: “If someone is complaining about the country they’re in, they … can always go back home.”

Peters probably complains more than anyone in Parliament – perhaps he could follow his own advice and go back home.

However Mark’s remarks (and as he said something similar,Peters) were not backed by all of the NZ First MPs.

Most New Zealand First colleagues also backed Mr Mark. However, Tracey Martin, whom Mr Mark unseated as deputy leader, jumped on his gaffe, saying, “It is not a statement I would have made.”

Dissent in the ranks is usually not tolerated. Martin must be planning on quitting, otherwise she is likely to be pushed, as happened to other NZ First MPs last term – Brendan Horan was excommunicated during the term and Andrew Williams and Asenati Taylor who were pushed so far down the list last yer there was no chance of them returning.

Peters has got away with nasty attention seeking stunts for a long time because the media flock to give him coverage.

Mark is unlikely to get the same help from media. It;s unlikely he will improve NZ First support and may do the opposite.