Labour, Green MPs block holding Curran to account

The Government that promised more openness and transparency has taken another step backwards, with Labour and Green MPs on the Economic Development, Science and Innovation Committee voting against asking Broadcasting Minister Clare Curran to appear before it to clarify unanswered questions about her meeting with ex-RNZ employee Carol Hirschfeld and her communications with RNZ chairman Richard Griffin.

NZH: National members blocked from getting Clare Curran to appear before committee over meeting with RNZ Carol Hirschfeld

National was blocked from asking Broadcasting Minister Clare Curran to appear at a select committee to clear up unanswered questions around her communications with former RNZ executive Carol Hirschfeld, a report says.

The Economic Development, Science and Innovation Committee released its report
today on a briefing in which the committee was inadvertently misled by RNZ chairman Richard Griffin and chief executive Paul Thompson about a meeting between Curran and Hirschfeld last December.

A minority report by the five National Party members of the select committee said questions remained unanswered regarding the appropriateness of communications initiated by Curran, with Hirschfeld and Griffin.

Curran’s behaviour was potentially in breach of parliamentary standing orders covering “intimidating, preventing, or hindering a witness from giving evidence, or giving evidence in full, to the House or a committee”, the National members said.

The National members also sought to invite Curran to the committee to give her the opportunity to clear up the unanswered questions.

“Regretfully, this resolution was not supported by other members of the committee, once again leaving the matter unresolved.”

The National members of the committee – chairman Jonathan Young, Andrew Falloon, Paul Goldsmith, Melissa Lee and Parmjeet Parmar – said they felt Parliament itself had been impugned by the inadvertent misleading of the committee by RNZ and actions of the minister.

The MPs who blocked holding Curran to account:

  • Paul Eagle (Labour, Rongotai)
  • Tamati Coffey (Labour, Waiariki)
  • Michael Wood (Labour, Mt Roskill)
  • Deborah Russell (Labour, New Lynn)
  • Gareth Hughes (Greens, list)

Coffey had a surprise win against Maori Party leader Te Ururoa Flavell in last year’s election.

Eagle, Wood and Russell scored fairly safe Labour electorates – Wood got into Parliament in a by-election in 2016 after Phil Goff resigned, while Eagle and Russell are first term MPs. Russell was rated as a good prospect as an MP, but she is putting party before principles here.

Hughes keeps a low profile in Parliament these days – Greens are also supposed to be strong supporters of open and transparent government and of holding the government to account (going by James Shaw’s comments in handing Parliamentary questions over to National) but joining the blocking of holding Curran to account suggests big talk, walk away from responsibilities.

Tn the whole scheme of things this isn’t a big deal, but it leaves a cloud over Curran’s ambitions to significantly boost RNZ, and she is likely to be reminded of this embarrassment whenever she tries to do anything on open government.

The final commitment in the Labour-Green confidence and supply agreement:

20. Strengthen New Zealand’s democracy by increasing public participation, openness, and transparency around official information.

Labour and Greens have weakened democracy through their weasel blocking in the committee.

Newsroom: When ‘open government’ becomes a joke

Curran isn’t just the Minister of Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media but the Minster of Government Digital Services and Associate Minister for ACC and Open Government (via a State Services portfolio).

Open Government now becomes something of a joke under Curran at a time when we need it to be the very opposite.

What’s important now is RNZ and the many other initiatives Curran is involved with don’t keep on paying the price for her mistake. Curran’s copybook may well be blotted but she presides over portfolios that are far too important for us to allow that stain to spread.

That was on 2 April. Labour and Green MPs on the committee have spread the stain further.

Most of the public won’t know or care about this festering, but it remains hovering over Curran, and it is a confirmation that Labour and the Greens are in Government more for themselves than for integrity.

Griffin won’t voluntarily hand over Curran recording

After a weekend and a bit of pondering RNZ chairman Richard Griffin has advised that he won’t hand over a recording of a phone conversation between he and Clare Curran, despite acknowledging this is in breach of a select committee directive.

It’s hard to know whether he is staunch in protecting the recording, or is wanting the select committee to demand more strongly that it be handed over.

NZH: RNZ chairman Richard Griffin won’t hand over Broadcasting Minister Clare Curran’s voicemail

RNZ chairman Richard Griffin says he has no intention of handing over a voice message left on his mobile phone by Broadcasting Minister Clare Curran.

“No, I have no intention of handing it over, so I’m in breach of the select committee directive,” he told the Herald.

He declined to comment further, saying a letter outlining the reasons why had been sent to the Economic Development, Science and Innovation Select Committee.

The committee had requested the voicemail and other communications between the Minister and Griffin following his and RNZ chief executive Paul Thompson’s appearance last week to correct the record over a meeting between RNZ’s former head of content Carol Hirschfeld and Curran.

Select committee chairman Jonathan Young said the committee would meet on Wednesday to review last week’s hearing.

He said a number of issues would be canvassed. Whether to ask Hirschfeld to appear would be discussed only if it was raised by a committee member.

National MP Melissa Lee, who has driven questions over the meeting, said she had not yet had a chance to review the committee documents so would not say whether she would raise the possibility of Hirschfeld appearing.

So this issue will get another airing after the select committee meeting tomorrow.

Griffin had offered to resign, doesn’t want to stay at RNZ

As soon as Clare Curran was appointed Minister of Broadcasting chairman of RNZ Richard Griffin offered to resign, but she asked him to stay on ‘during the transition’.

Griffin has been chairman for nine years, three three year terms, but does not want to have a fourth. It is unlikely he would be offered another term anyway.

ODT (NZME): RNZ chairman offered resignation to Clare Curran

“I proffered my resignation to her the day she was appointed. I think it was the honourable thing to do,” Griffin told the Weekend Herald.

Curran, he said, was gracious and asked him to stay on during the transition to the new Labour Government.

“It’s no secret Clare and I aren’t exactly bosom buddies but I thought it was a reasonable thing to ask and I was happy to do so given that it was going to be a difficult time for all of us.

“But not quite as difficult as it has turned out to be.”

Griffin’s third term as chairman of the RNZ board finishes at the end of April, nine years in all. He doesn’t anticipate an invitation for a fourth, nor would he want one.

“No I would not,” he said emphatically. “I think I’ve run my course and I’m sure they do too.”

He said he was very embarrassed and at times was noticeably annoyed when questioned at the select committee meeting on Thursday, and his annoyance also comes through in an interview with the Sunday Herald.

His biggest regret of his nine years with RNZ? “The last few weeks.”

“I really regret that a great talent and an interesting woman is now having to suffer the slings and arrows. I’m sorry for her. I believe that Carol thought her loyalty to the Minister checkmated her loyalty to the company and I can understand how that could happen.

“I don’t know what possessed her and I don’t know what possessed the Minister. It’s such a pity.”

He has seemed reluctant to criticise but lets a bit out here, suggesting that Hirschfeld’s loyalty to Curran was why she kept lying. On Curran – “I don’t know what possessed the Minister”.

Griffin seems undecided on whether to hand over the recording of a phone call from Curran to him. This would clarify who is being straight on what Curran said to Griffin, and whether Curran tried to encourage Griffin not to appear before the committee.

The recording either clears Curran of trying to block Griffin’s appearance at the select committee to set the record straight on her meeting with Carol Hirschfeld or it could damn her if, as Griffin claims, she suggested it would be better for him not to appear and that a letter would suffice.

Griffin will spend this weekend at his home in Ruby Bay, west of Nelson, deciding whether to voluntarily hand over the voicemail on his mobile phone.

He had asked RNZ to retrieve the voicemail after it was requested by the Economic Development, Science and Innovation Select Committee following his and RNZ chief executive Paul Thompson’s appearance on Thursday.

But even as efforts were being made to extract the voicemail, Griffin was reconsidering. He worried that refusing to hand over the recording could further damage RNZ but said there was nothing to be achieved by releasing it.

“I will decide over the weekend,” he said.

He seems torn between protecting RNZ’s reputation and causing more of a ruckus, but there is guaranteed to be more attention given to this tomorrow as media will wanting to know if he is going to voluntarily comply with the request to hand over the recording.

On Friday:

If Griffin doesn’t decide to hand it over he could be compelled to by the Speaker. Trevor Mallard has been involved in controversial situations involving Curran in the past:

Stuff: Whistleblower wins defamation appeal

The woman who accused Labour MP Trevor Mallard and a top public servant of destroying her reputation has won an appeal to the Supreme Court.

In 2007, whistleblower Erin Leigh accused Mallard, then Environment Minister, of defamation.

This was after she raised questions about political interference and alleged former minister David Parker pushed for Clare Curran to be appointed to a communications role with the Ministry.

All three Labour members involved are currently sitting Members of Parliament.

At the time Mallard was asked an oral question on the matter in Parliament and spoke negatively about Leigh.

He told the House she had “repeated competence issues” and said Curran had been appointed to “fix up the mess”.

That’s a long time ago, but is somewhat ironic in the present situation.

In its decision released today, the Supreme Court found Gow’s interaction to be covered by qualified privilege but said he could not face a defamation claim unless Leigh could prove he acted with ill-will.

“The issue is whether the public servant, or whoever else communicates information to the Minister, needs more than qualified privilege in order to enable the Minister, and the House as a whole, properly and efficiently to deal with parliamentary questions.”

The Court found that was not necessary and said it was a “no bad thing” that public servants were prevented from acting with ill-will when advising a minister.

“It is very much in the interests of the proper functioning of the House that those communicating with a Minister in present circumstances, whoever they are, have a disincentive against giving vent to ill will or improper purpose.”

Also ironic.

MP for Rongotai in odd incidents

Paul Eagle ditched his role as Wellington’s deputy mayor to take on the safe seat of Rongotai after Annette King decided to retire from Parliament.

He popped up in the political news yesterday when he questioned RNZ boss Richard Griffin in a selection committee meeting yesterday.

Labour members of the committee got in on the action too. Paul Eagle questioned Griffin as to why he had informed Lee of Hirschfeld’s resignation before a press release was circulated around RNZ staff and the public.

Eagle asked when Griffin first contacted Lee. Seeing Eagle’s questions were going to lead to a suggestion of impropriety, Griffin’s response was terse.

He said that he first contacted Lee “three minutes prior to the time we put out a press release, as a matter of courtesy, which may be foreign to some of those in politics”.

He then checked himself.

“I’m sorry that’s unnecessary,” he said.

Eagle then asked if the phone call to Lee was courtesy or “collusion”.

“That’s a ridiculous question with due respect,” said Griffin. “It’s a matter of obvious courtesy, the suggestion that it is somehow…” Griffin paused, apparently frustrated, “let’s not go any further, it gets out of control”.

– from Newsroom Fiery hearing fails to put RNZ bungle to bed

Then today he featured in an exchange on Reddit – Paul Eagle MP is a peice of shit.

He is the most entitled, rude and disrespectful man I have ever had the displeasure of dealing with. It says a lot about a person’s character how they treat those with less power than them and Mr Eagle thinks it’s acceptable to swear at and berate those he does not deem to be of his level. I am shocked someone in the public eye would treat someone as abhorrently as he treats someone who’s just trying to help him. I hope those in electorate meet him and get the opportunity to see what kind of man he is. TL;DR if you work in the service industry watch out for Paul Eagle.

Rant concluded.

Another:

Before he was an MP my old boss, an Island Bay resident, made a submission in some Island Bay cycleway project that was negative about the council’s handling of it. Eagle personally rang him up one evening to have a big angry rant at him about it. Classy dude.

And another:

I’ve witnessed him tearing into an elderly lady at a housing meeting, after she’d asked a very reasonable question. He was incredibly rude and patronising to her.

This was picked by Henry Cooke at Stuff and Labour MP Paul Eagle apologises for profane ‘misunderstanding’

Labour MP Paul Eagle has apologised for an incident that saw a Wellingtonian call him an “entitled douchebag.”

Eagle says the whole thing was a misunderstanding, and that he was swearing at people blocking his way into his office – not someone on the phone.

When reached by Stuff, Eagle said the event was a misunderstanding, but offered his apologies.

Eagle said he was talking to a panel-beater on Friday afternoon about getting his car fixed and having a polite but robust discussion about whether or not a separate piece of damage could be fixed at the same time.

Whilst on the phone he was trying to get into his electorate office in Newtown, Wellington, and found his way blocked by some “guys give me lip outside.”

“We’ve got a diverse community in Newtown and sometimes this happens. People are not shy to give you their honest feedback about things,” Eagle said.

“I was swearing at them, they were swearing at me.”

Once Eagle was in the office he said he realised he had been hung up on and was confused. Later his insurance company rung to suggest he try a different panel beater.

“It makes total sense, because now I understand why when I went back to the call it was dead. Within minutes the insurance company rang me,” Eagle said.

“I’d like to formally apologise for any misunderstanding. And I certainly don’t want her feeling any ill will.”

Eagle said he was keen to go back to the panel beater and apologise in person.

A weird explanation – surely that’s too weird to have been made up.

 

Curran’s future may depend on phone call

RNZ chairman Richard Griffin and chief executive Paul Thompson appeared before a select committee in Parliament yesterday to correct inadvertent erroneous assurances made to the committee last month that resulted in RNZ news manager Carol Hirschfeld.

Minister of Broadcasting Clare Curran was already under fire for her part in organising a meeting with Hirschfeld and subsequently appearing to avoid disclosing that the meeting had taken place. It also appears that Curran threw Hirschfeld under  bus to protect her own (political) career, and she added to Jacinda Ardern’s difficulties as Prime Minister. Ardern still backs Curran, but she must be getting exasperated with apparent ineptitude.

More was revealed at yesterdau’s meeting, but perhaps the career killer blow wasn’t reevealed – the contents of a phone call Curran made to Griffin. Their descriptions differ.

Andrew Geddis at RNZ: Politicians seek different narratives at RNZ hearing

This hearing ostensibly was to allow the chair of Radio NZ’s board, Richard Griffin, and chief executive Paul Thompson to correct their previous inaccurate statements about the now-infamous breakfast meeting between Radio NZ’s head of content Carol Hirschfeld and new Broadcasting Minister Clare Curran.

Back at the start of March, Mr Griffin and Mr Thompson informed the committee that Ms Hirschfeld had assured them this meeting was an inconsequential coincidence; nothing more than a chance encounter following a gym workout. They subsequently found out that Ms Hirschfeld had misled them and the meeting was a prearranged discussion about the state of New Zealand’s media.

Correcting the record then becomes necessary because misleading a select committee is potentially a contempt of Parliament, in theory punishable by a fine or imprisonment. And even if Parliament chose not to pursue the matter as contempt, public bodies simply should not lie to their political overseers, intentionally or otherwise.

National did possibly draw some blood with its questions regarding Minister Curran’s subsequent communications with Mr Griffin. She left him a voicemail last week which he characterised as containing a “strong suggestion” that rather than turn up before the Committee in person to answer questions, he just provide it with a written statement.

This is important, because Minister Curran has told both the public and the Prime Minister that her message to Mr Griffin simply advised him that providing a written statement for the Committee’s meeting last week would be a quicker way of correcting the record. If she in fact went beyond this and actually counselled him not to attend in person, then she will be in real trouble.

National MP Melissa Lee’s last action at the Committee meeting was to request a copy of the relevant voicemail. Minister Curran’s political future may well rest upon what it says.

Curran was quick to release texts between her and Hirschfeld that left no doubt that Hirschfeld had lied to her bosses about the meeting – it is still not known whether she was trying to protect herself or Curran.

Curran’s future may rest on whether Griffin releases a recording or transcript of the phone call.

NZH: Richard Griffin says he was told not to comment on Hirschfeld, Curran meeting

Griffin told the committee today that on March 22, about five minutes before Curran was due in Parliament to answer questions, he received a call from her office.

Griffin said he was “gobsmacked” to receive the call to say the December 5 meeting could come up in the questions.

“The staffer’s attitude was ‘we will handle this appropriately but we’d like you basically to stay out of it’. I was gobsmacked quite honestly.”

In a timeline provided to the committee, Griffin said: “I was told that, if the matter was raised, the Minister and her staff would be responding as they felt appropriate and that they expected there would be “no comment” from RNZ”.

It was reported on Tuesday that Curran had phoned Griffin on March 29 to suggest it would be better for him to write a letter rather than appear in person.

Both Curran and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern have denied that, saying Curran left a phone message to pass on advice from the Office of the Leader of the House that a letter would be faster to correct the record if Griffin was unable to make it to the select committee in person.

Today Griffin said: “She made it very clear that she wanted me to write a letter to the chair of the select committee to be on his desk before one o’clock that day which would then ensure that there wasn’t a public hearing involving either of us.”

NZH: PM Jacinda Ardern reiterates support for embattled minister Clare Curran

Their appearance in Wellington was pre-empted by reports yesterday that the Broadcasting Minister had phoned Griffin to suggest it would be better for him to write a letter rather than appear in person at Parliament.

Both Curran and Ardern earlier denied that, saying Curran left a phone message to pass on advice from the Office of the Leader of the House that a letter would be faster to correct the record if he was unable to make it to the select committee in person.

After opening a science block at Waitaki Boys’ High School, Ardern today stated eight times there was no new information over the Carol Hirschfeld affair involving Curran, or the phone call she made to Griffin about his appearance at the select committee.

Ardern confirmed she had spoken to Curran about her recollection of the voicemail and it matched up with what had been recollected at select committee today.

“The minister has clearly made mistakes, she has apologised for them.

“I certainly advised her that the call to Richard Griffin should not have been made, but as I say there’s nothing new that we have learned from today that we didn’t already know.

“From what I hear has come of today’s meeting, there is no new information, I have reprimanded the minister for making that call she shouldn’t have, but I don’t think we’ve learned anything new from today that we didn’t already know.”

Ardern’s credibility as leader is also at stake over this.

This may all fizzle out now, but will flare up again if the phone call is handed over.

RNZ:

More Curran contact with RNZ a messy mistake at best

Clare Curran faced a barrage last week after Carol Hirschfeld resigned from RNZ as a result of of lying about a meeting that Curran had organised. Hirschfeld had assured her bosses several times it was a chance meeting, but Curran produced text records that showed that it had taken a month to arrange the meeting.

Now Curran is under fire again, this time for contacting chair of RNZ, Richard Griffin, over correcting the select committee record – with claims she tried to get him not to attend the scheduled meeting tomorrow.

It came up in Question Time yesterday, first with Simon Bridges questioning Jacinda Ardern.

Hon Simon Bridges: Does she know who directed Richard Griffin, chair of Radio New Zealand, to stay away from the Economic Development, Science and Innovation Committee?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: My understanding is that when the Minister learnt that Radio New Zealand were unable to attend the original meeting they were scheduled to attend to correct the record around the breakfast meeting the Minister had, she sought to contact Radio New Zealand to find an alternative so that they could correct the record immediately.

Hon Simon Bridges: So is the Prime Minister’s understanding that Clare Curran told the chair of Radio New Zealand that he shouldn’t go to the select committee?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: As I’ve just said, the Minister exchanged voice mails and text messages with the chair of Radio New Zealand, where I’m advised that she sought to have the record corrected immediately. Obviously, the fastest way to achieve that in lieu of attending that meeting would have been in writing.

It is unusual for the Minister to approach the RNZ chairperson to correct the Parliamentary record on it’s own, but there are questions about what Curran said. She was also questioned.

Melissa Lee: When she said in answer to oral question No. 12 on 29 November 2017 that this will “be the most open, most transparent Government [that] New Zealand has ever had”, is it open and transparent for the Minister if, as reported today, she or her office asked the chair of Radio New Zealand, Richard Griffin, not to attend the call-back select committee meeting scheduled for this Thursday to correct the records?

Hon CLARE CURRAN: I reject the premise of that question. On learning that RNZ would not be appearing before the select committee last Thursday to correct the record at the earliest opportunity, and on advice from the office of the Leader of the House, I rang Mr Griffin last Thursday morning around 8.30 a.m. to advise him that it would be preferable to send a letter of correction that day before 1 p.m. rather than waiting until the following Thursday to appear in person. This was a voicemail message. I received a voicemail message from Mr Griffin at 3 p.m. that day to say that he had a prior agreement with the chair of the select committee to appear at the committee this Thursday and to call him back if I had a problem. I didn’t call him back.

But more from Newstalk ZB – Exclusive: RNZ chair to ignore Govt directive over notorious meeting

The chair of Radio New Zealand’s set to ignore a Government directive and attend a Parliamentary committee to set the record straight about the notorious meeting Minister Clare Curran had with the now former head of content at the state broadcaster.

Newstalk ZB Political editor Barry Soper understands Richard Griffin was directed to stay away from the committee, and was instead told to write a letter apologising for misleading the committee.

Griffin would not say who made the suggestion that he instead write a letter of apology to the committee, but  Soper says that it was Broadcasting Minister Clare Curran.

The phone message Curran left may or may not be made public tomorrow. if not it is a ‘he reported, she said’ sort of situation.

RNZ followed up: Curran says RNZ board should correct record asap

Ms Curran said what she said was that if he could not appear in person, the record could be corrected with a letter.

“I thought it was really important that given the state of affairs around this particular issue that the record be corrected as soon as possible, if he was unable to attend in person last week then a letter could have been sent to the select committee and that was what my advice was.”

Ms Curran told Parliament she left that message on Richard Griffin’s voicemail.

She said she later received a voice message from Mr Griffin saying he was instead attending the committee Thursday this week, and if she had a problem with that to let him know.

Ms Curran was acting on advice from the office of the Leader of the House, Chris Hipkins, when she contacted Mr Griffin about making a corrected statement.

Curran may not have done anything particularly wrong, depending on what she actually told Griffin, but this looks messy from a bunch of amateurs.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said it would have been preferable for someone other than the Broadcasting Minister to have contacted the RNZ board chair, given the circumstances of last week.

“Even though she certainly advised me her intent was to pass on a message about correcting the record directly to the chair, there are indeed multiple ways she could have done that,” Ms Ardern said.

But it would have been “cleaner” to have had someone from the select committee office or the Leader of the House to pass on the message, she said.

It certainly would have looked better.

“Ultimately though the minister’s focus was on getting the record corrected, it’s something she’d been criticised for in the past.”

Ms Curran left the matter alone once she found out the RNZ chief executive and board chair had been scheduled to reappear at the committee this Thursday, Ms Ardern said.

Tracy Watkins at Stuff: Labour’s new strategy – bury bad news in more bad news

Curran left a message on Griffin’s phone suggesting he send a letter to the select committee, rather than answer its recall in person.

It would suit Curran and the Government not to have Griffin front in person to answer questions – which is why Curran should never have made the call.

If the voicemail contradicts her version of events Ardern will have an excuse to sack her.

Ardern on RNZ – says she has confidence in Curran, says Curran made a mistake contacting Griffin, but it wasn’t a sackable offence.

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.