Written By: - Date published: 10:10 am, December 22nd, 2010 - 44 comments
Categories: corruption, film, Gerry Brownlee, Minister for Overseas Holidays, Parliament - Tags: dalai lama, murray mccully, peter jackson, the hobbit, wikileaks
It seems we don’t have a government at the moment. John Key is incommunicado in Hawaii. The Acting PM, Bill English, and Key’s press people refuse to speak for him. Someone needs to front up because serious questions are emerging about the honesty of statements Gerry Brownlee and Murray McCully made in Parliament and to the New Zealand people.
Last year McCully told Parliament that there was no government policy not to meet the Dalai Lama:
KEITH LOCKE (Green) to the Minister of Foreign Affairs: Is it Government policy that no Minister will officially meet with the Dalai Lama when he visits next month; if so, why?
But MFAT diplomat Graeme Morton told the US embassy:
“PM Key had earlier conversed with Premier Wen Jiabao concerning the Dalai Lama’s December 4-7 visit to Auckland, saying that neither he nor any of his ministers would meet with the Dalai Lama.
“Morton said the Chinese ‘obviously registered’ this. Morton added that the PM … made this decision without any consultation, but others in the Government are still obliged to respect it.”
You can’t take the account of a Kiwi diplomat as reported by US diplomats as the gospel truth but it’s up to Key and McCully to set us straight if it isn’t – just as Labour has corrected misinterpretations in other leaked US cables.
The fact that McCully and Key have both been silent and Kevin ‘Captain Panic-pants’ Taylor refuses to make a statement on Key’s behalf suggests that the cable has revealed the truth – Key did have a secret policy of not meeting the Dalai Lama despite his pre-election pledge and McCully knew that. This means McCully’s statements to the contrary where deliberately misleading the House and Key aided and abetted him.
Then, there’s Brownlee and the Hobbit shakedown. The new revelations have destroyed Jackson’s reputation and exposed him as a liar. They should take down Brownlee too.
We now know that on the 18th of October Peter Jackson told Brownlee:
“There is no connection between the blacklist (and it’s eventual retraction) and the choice of production base for The Hobbit.
What Warners requires for The Hobbit is the certainty of a stable employment environment and the ability to conduct its business in such a way that it feels that its $500 million investment is as secure as possible.
Unfortunately Warners have become very concerned at the grey areas in our employment laws. The situation hasn’t been helped by the fact that they spent a lot of money fighting the Bryson case – unsuccessfully – in the New Zealand courts.”
Which says two things: the blacklist didn’t matter and Warners wanted a law change so workers couldn’t get employee rights even if their work was in the nature of employment if they were signed up as contractors.
Yet here’s what Brownlee told the House in subsequent days (he doubtlessly made similar statements in the media):
“If we look at the history, we see that there is no doubt there were some financial concerns about the future of The Hobbit. Everyone knows that. Those concerns have been sorted. There were some concerns about the effect of Bryson v Three Foot Six, but there had been a history over a period of 4 years where it felt like we were getting to a slightly more settled position. Indeed, Warner Bros came here earlier this year and made a movie called Yogi Bear, which was about $160 million worth, and there was no issue at that point.
So, Brownlee is saying that the Bryson decision – which upheld the long-established law that it is the nature of work that creates an employment relationship, not whether the contract says ‘employee’ or ‘contractor’ – was not an issue for Warners, the opposite of what Jackson told him.
Where things tipped over seriously is when the Australian union decided through the International Federation of Actors to issue a ban on anyone signing a contract for The Hobbit unless that contract was negotiated by the Australian Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance. That was the problem. At that point, everybody who was likely to have a stake financially in the picture asked themselves what that would mean for the next 4 years as they went ahead producing those pictures. It was pretty clear that there was an unsettled industrial road ahead
Of course there was a settlement and Jackson said that the blacklist wasn’t an issue anyway.
The Government has moved to try to get things back on the right track. I want to make it very clear that Warner Bros did not tell us what to do.
In fact, they’re doing exactly what Warners and Jackson told them to do.
Brownlee is refusing to make any comment other than that he is ‘comfortable’ with his actions. No surprises there.
Labour will need to hunt down these ministers in the coming year because there’s no what Hawaiian John will.
A final note, in Parliament Brownlee also said:
I have seen in the street some of the actors who want to work on this production, and they were protesting against the union’s activity. Anyone on that side of the House who wants to say that people somehow are being misled, or otherwise, assumes that those actors are not intelligent enough to work out that without these films being made here, this industry will not grow.
Those Weta workers, mainly techs, who marched when their boss told them to must be feeling like real chumps now. And they are. They marched against workers rights and it was they themselves that lost out the most from the Hobbit Enabling Act. They were being used as extras in a shakedown staged by Jackson and Warners who knew the issue was never the blacklist and that the Hobbit was never going overseas.