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The dust settles on the Hobbit fiasco

Written By: - Date published: 9:54 am, October 31st, 2010 - 35 comments
Categories: business - Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Now the dust has settled on the Hobbit fiasco and it’s become clear the issue was tax breaks all along the media have done a very good job of post-fiasco analysis.

On Wednesday it was clear this was all about the money. Bryan Rudman went as far as to actually point out how embarrassing it was to be played like this.

By that evening the deal was almost done. Just a few minutes before it was announced Mark Sainsbury told CTU Secretary Peter Conway the union had been proven right. In fact he went as far as to ask why they weren’t crowing about it. There was no “told you so” moment from Conway. I suspect because they were more worried about the jobs at stake than in vindication.

On Thursday John Armstrong pointed out the real player in the game:

Money doesn’t just talk. In the case of outfits the size of Warner Bros, it yells.

Indeed. Those who screamed about big Aussie unions were very quiet about big American money.
The same day Vernon Small dug a little deeper:

While we are on the money, does anyone seriously believe that the studio had not even thought about the deals on offer elsewhere – that could cut costs by many tens of millions of dollars – till the union issue surfaced? Or that only then did it look around the world and spot subsidies it was already harvesting with five movies in Britain, including the special- effects-rich Harry Potter series?

The dispute was settled before the hoopla of the march and Jackson’s claim the Hobbit was going offshore. So why blow it up? Vernon Small again:

Had Warner Bros pulled the plug without that excuse, Sir Peter could have come under attack for abandoning his home country to direct “our” movie elsewhere. Warner would have looked greedy for asking for more to stay, or venal for leaving, and the Government would have looked weak and compliant if it had failed to retain the movie or bent to blackmail.

John Drinnan follows the money:

The Hobbit deal is not the first where New Zealand taxpayers have shelled out extra money to keep a Hollywood studio happy. And it won’t be the last.

From 2004 to last year taxpayers gave Sir Peter Jackson’s business interests and overseas production companies $230 million in subsidies from the Large Budget Screen Production Grant.

Fran O’Sullivan has also made it clear it was about the tax and John Key’s weak negotiating:

We can get all prissy about the fact that the Hollywood studios found Key’s inflexion point. Get over it. No one will remember any prime ministerial egg-on-face when the Hobbit omelette is finally cooked.

And today in the Sunday Star Times Finlay McDonald takes a swipe at John Key’s transparent “blame the actors” misdirection:

There’s a fair bit of collateral damage when that [Warners and/or a Peter Jackson starts throwing their weight around] happens, as the poor old actors have found out, but among the rubble is also the credibility and dignity of Key – forced to pretend he’s “saved” The Hobbit by promising exactly the kind of state subsidies he and his ideologically blinkered government don’t believe in.

I was tempted to joke that he should have included as part of the deal a walk-on cameo for himself in the eventual films. But I fear that performance, too, would be so unconvincing it would end up on the cutting-room floor.

As I said back while the unions were being crucified there was more to this story than first met the eye and I was confident that the real facts would come out. I was not so confident they would be picked up by journalists but I have to say our fourth estate has done a bloody good job of digging beneath the veneer of spin and reporting on the real issues.

35 comments on “The dust settles on the Hobbit fiasco”

  1. Pascal's bookie 1

    Tom Frewen also stood out like an island of sanity in the NBR this week.

  2. Fisiani 2

    You missed an excellent summary of the Hobbit saga . Wonder why? Oh that’s right . It does not accord with the rewriting of history rather than accept a monumental cockup by the unions as agreed by Andrew Little
    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10684062

    • IrishBill 2.1

      I read that one but there are significant errors in the timeline and the remarks about what happened in the Warner/Key meeting could only have come from leader’s office insiders which makes them somewhat less than credible. If you want to believe it that’s up to you but anyone with even a modicum of critical capacity would be extremely sceptical about this account.

    • gobsmacked 2.2

      You do bring the funny, Fisi.

      A “summary” of the Hobbit saga by a political reporter, that doesn’t even mention the government tearing up the rule book and Parliament going into extreme urgency. That’s like writing a report on the AB’s game last night, without mentioning the result. To write from Parliament, and ignore Parliament – that’s classic!

      But Derek’s a smart guy. He’s seen Kevin and Paula and co move from the Herald to John Key’s office, and making the big bucks. That article is a job application.

      Extra nice bottle of PM vintage wine for you this year, Derek.

    • bbfloyd 2.3

      you doing the silly stuff again fisi? i’ve come to the conclusion that you havn’t the intellect to make rational judgements… perfect national fodder… nice doggie..

  3. Tiger Mountain 3

    Some of the blogosphere was part of the problem unfortunately. Anyone notice the following from SPADA web site?

    “29 October 2010
    MEDIA RELEASE
    FANTASTIC LINE-UP OF SPEAKERS AT SPADA CONFERENCE 20:10
    This year’s SPADA conference kicks off with a hiss and a roar with the key plenary session on The Hobbit – What Really Happened. Chaired by Russell Brown, the panel will include Philippa Boyens (co-writer The Hobbit), SPADA’s CEO Penelope Borland and Executive Member Richard Fletcher.”

    Conflict of interest possibly, at the very least confirmation of the reality of the general ideological position of PAS.

  4. nilats 4

    These are opinions not facts.
    Still blind to the fact the actors stuffed this up and gave WB a big stick to beat out more concessions they were not iriginally after. It is always about the money but risk/rerward is also a factor. When the actors stuffed up risk increased hence WB wanted more reward.

    Most people say in their opionion that Key did a good deal for NZ considering the situation.

    You need to get out into the real world more and see what people are saying, not rely on left wing bloggers and a few columnists. Blogging under the hammer & sickle flag is not real world.

    • gobsmacked 4.1

      Fair enough, Nilats. Let’s switch off our computers and see what’s happenng in that Real World:

      a) How many Real people joined the Rally for Fairness at Work?

      b) How many Real people joined the Rally for Warner Bros?

      Real World numbers: 5 to 1 in favour of a).

      When you want to “see what people are saying”, where do you go?

    • Colonial Viper 4.2

      Amusing how the Right depracates the arguments of the Left by saying they are just opinions and not facts.

      And then lays into spouting a list of their own Right Wing opinions as being important. For instance

      Still blind to the OPINION the actors stuffed this up and gave WB a big stick to beat out more concessions they were not iriginally after [OPINION 2]. It is always about the money but risk/rerward is also a factor. When the actors stuffed up risk increased hence WB wanted more reward [OPINION 3].

      Most people say in their OPINION that Key did a good deal for NZ considering the situation.

      You need to get out into the real world more and see what people are saying [IE OPINION 4 : FIND MORE OPINIONS]

      So yeah fixed that all up for ya

      • nilats 4.2.1

        All bullshit CV. Still in dillusion and la la land over this issue.
        Hairy palms tonight my pal.
        You union defending idiots cannot see the wood for the trees.

    • George.com 4.3

      Many people, in their opinion, are saying Key mishandled the affair, talked up Warners position for some union bashing publicity and then couldn’t backtrack so he had to cough up some more tax payers money.

  5. Logie97 5

    Sadly, Joe Blo doesn’t:
    – read the editorials of papers
    – columnists in papers
    – listen to RadioNZ National (never could understand the name change)
    – watch Q+A
    – watch parliament

    to read/hear what was actually said or decided.

    Joe Blo hears the 8 second sound bite on Junk Radio or TV news. They see and hear the headlines only. And on this one, Key/Jackson smashed the unions. They probably think Warners are some charitable benevolent society.

    • Craig Glen Eden 5.1

      Agreed Logie97 the only thing I would add is just perhaps some of the Journos might stop repeating what Key says as fact and realize that he is full of it.

  6. Draco T Bastard 6

    forced to pretend he’s “saved” The Hobbit by promising exactly the kind of state subsidies he and his ideologically blinkered government don’t believe in.

    Wrong, they’re exactly the type of subsidies that National believe in – giving the nations wealth to rich people for no gain.

    I was not so confident they would be picked up by journalists but I have to say our fourth estate has done a bloody good job of digging beneath the veneer of spin and reporting on the real issues.

    It was just a pity that they waited until after the Warner/NACT deal.

    • IrishBill 6.1

      To be fair Rudman and Sainsbury made the call (just) before the deal and whoever were spinning for Jackson et al did a very good job of dominating the discourse.

  7. ghostwhowalksnz 7

    If Cheng thinks writing sentences like this can be construed as a ‘timeline’ then he has a career in PR ahead of him, its about as far away from political journalism as you can get.

    He’s leaving for Vietnam early in the morning. He is friendly, but firm. He puts an offer on the table, as far as he’ll budge.
    Followed by sound of arse being kissed!

  8. trademark 8

    On Good Morning, Jane Clifton (political commentator) said that this was just the way business operates. She suggested that if one of NZ’s giants like Fonterra were in a similar situation overseas, we’d expect them to do the same.

    I think she had globalised capitalism down to a t. It’s all about trying to make sure that others don’t screw you over as much as you screw them (wherever ‘they’ may be).

    New Zealand companies would supposedly be no different to Warners since they operate on the same principles.

    • Colonial Viper 8.1

      Yes, well this is just one of the issues that I think ‘global capitalism’ is answerable for. And given all this back and forth ‘screwing’ which occurs it seems that only a very few people at the top are getting a fair share of the pleasure.

    • Vicky32 8.2

      Jane Clifton is solidly NACT… anyone know if she is still in a “relationship in the nature of marriage” (WINZ jargon) with McCully?
      Deb

  9. deemac 9

    phew, glad we found out what “sort of subsidies National believes in” – ie for rich companies like WB that made $2billion profit last year. Plenty of Kiwi firms are looking for investment to protect real permanent jobs, they can whistle for it apparently.

  10. What’s the dipton dipshits take on all this ?

    I reckon he must be off quietly seething in a corner somewhere. Shut out of ‘negotiations’, forced to open a cheque book for something he doesn’t believe in and having to revise his opinion on re writing labour laws for such a petty argument.

    if i was ‘smile and wave’ i’d have joyce and brownlie watching my back whenever that fork tongued devil is around.

  11. M 11

    Yes, an over-enunciated soundbite has been conspicuously absent from Bling – how he remains in the party after being publicly trounced is beyond me.

    Where Key is concerned, Bling is very much a friend with benefits, but can’t wait to chew his own arm off the next morning.

  12. ianmac 12

    Excellent summary Irish. I still marvel that in the House Brownlie said Warners did not ask for a change to the employment Act. But Key said that he had to do that because of the Actors actions. Huh?

  13. freedom 13

    personally i found your voice of sanity during the fiasco was an absolute lifeboat Irishbill

    My question reflects on your statement “but I have to say our fourth estate has done a bloody good job of digging beneath the veneer of spin and reporting on the real issues.” and the question is to all journalists.

    Where the hell was the journalism before and during the shitfight? There were a couple of flickering candles showing where the story was, but the political drizzle and reactionary fog made it hard to see for most. The toxic partyline prose that got dumped onto the masses was as insulting as it was impossible to swim through and only helped to weigh down the drowning integrity of our MSM

    If any sort of boycott should come from this event then my suggestion is a boycott of all MSM

    • IrishBill 13.1

      Cheers. I think it’s hard for the media when one party, in this case Jackson and co, have a well prepared media campaign and launch it on an unwitting foe. By attacking the union when the union thought the whole affair was over Jackson’s PR people gave themselves a terrific headstart. It didn’t help that the that union weren’t that good with their media in the first place.

      It’s notable it took a couple of days for the government to get its lines straight as well. Although they clearly picked the wrong path – a better move for them would have been to be the voice of reason and fact on the sidelines rather than lumping themselves in with the producers – the same producers who had just blindsided them. I think they (with the notable exception of Bill English) probably decided to side with money over workers because that’s what comes naturally to them but like they say, you play with fire you’re gonna get burned. And Key has clearly been burned by this.

  14. Draco T Bastard 14

    And Winston steps up to the plate…

  15. Gazza 15

    It seems to me that the jurno’s,Bloggers & commentators are dropping the ball on this subject, as people working in the movie industry would pertain to about 1% of the employment population it seems strange that “WE must protect the rights of the worker” catch cry is so important to the unions.
    Up until recently the acting/movie industry did not require any need for union interference until a couple of near has-beens decided that if they couldn’t break into the big productions scene the would stir some shit.
    My understanding of unions is that they are there to protect workers rights when needed, so in actual fact by joining you retain their services just like you would do with legal services (no pay no play)so if Malcolm and co have a gripe go join a union.
    Would it not be reasonable to think that maybe the unions think that by controlling all industries they control the Govt and the country?………

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    Recently  TVNZ ran a story with confronting footage showing rodeo animals being punched, repeatedly shocked with electronic prods and having their tails violently twisted over their backs. It was clear that significant force was being used behind the scenes to make… ...
    GreensBy Mojo Mathers MP
    1 day ago
  • Budget puts the squeeze on police
    The Government has cut funding to the New Zealand police force in the latest Budget, says Labour’s Police spokesperson Kelvin Davis. “The reduction is a whopping $15.3 million that could put front line officers at risk. ...
    1 day ago
  • Crucial social services take another hit
    The Government looks set to slash half a million dollars of funding for critical social services, including Women’s Refuge and Barnados, says Labour’s Social Development spokesperson Carmel Sepuloni “Taking $500,000 from organisations aimed at improving the lives of vulnerable families… ...
    1 day ago
  • Saying it Loud on Climate in Christchurch
    The Government’s Christchurch consultation meeting on New Zealand’s emission targets was inspiring – not for what was in the Ministry for the Environment’s (MFE’s) defeatist video about the obstacles to changing to a low carbon future, but for what the… ...
    GreensBy Eugenie Sage MP
    1 day ago
  • Budget silent on small business
    The Government has completely ignored one of the most important sectors of the economy – small and medium-sized enterprises – in Budget 2015, Labour’s Small Business spokesperson Jacinda Ardern says. "A stunning 41 per cent of jobs were created by… ...
    1 day ago
  • Thank you John, it’s been bloody marvellous
    The departure of John Campbell is a blow to current affairs investigative journalism, Labour’s Broadcasting Spokesperson Clare Curran says. “Campbell Live stood out in its field. Its axing comes as local broadcasting in New Zealand remains in a state of… ...
    1 day ago
  • KiwiSaver cut shows no long-term plan
    National’s cutting of the KiwiSaver kickstart is incredibly short-term thinking, typical of a Budget that is woefully short on ideas to generate wealth and opportunity, Labour’s Finance spokesperson Grant Robertson says. “New Zealand’s savings rate is far too low. KiwiSaver… ...
    1 day ago
  • National hits the panic button for its 7th Budget
    National has hit the panic button for its 7th Budget in a desperate attempt to look like they’re taking action to reduce our shameful child poverty rates, but they are giving with one hand and taking with the other, Opposition… ...
    2 days ago
  • Panic and back-flips can’t hide twin deficits
    National’s token measures to fight fires they have left burning for seven long years can’t hide a Budget that is long on broken promises, short on vision and fails to reach surplus, says Labour’s Finance spokesperson Grant Robertson. “After being… ...
    2 days ago
  • Auckland land measure seven years too late
    National are so desperate to look like they are doing something about the Auckland housing crisis they have dusted off Labour’s 2008 inventory of government land available for housing and re-announced it, says Labour’s housing spokesperson Phil Twyford. “Despite National… ...
    2 days ago
  • Access to gender reassignment surgery essential
    I was frankly disgusted to hear the Minister for Health say that funding gender reassignment surgeries is a “nutty idea”. A recent study found that in New Zealand 1% of young people identified themselves as transgender, and 3% were unsure… ...
    GreensBy Jan Logie MP
    3 days ago
  • Global milk prices now lowest in 6 years
    The latest fall in the global dairy price has brought it to the lowest level in six years and shows there must be meaningful action in tomorrow’s Budget to diversify the economy, says Labour’s Finance spokesperson Grant Robertson. “Dairy prices… ...
    3 days ago
  • Big risks as CYF checks stopped
    Revelations that Child, Youth and Family is no longer assisting home-based early childhood educators by vetting potential employees should set alarm bells ringing, Labour Children’s spokesperson Jacinda Ardern says. “Doing away with an extra mechanism for checking potential new employees… ...
    4 days ago
  • Housing crisis about real people not numbers
    The Government’s continued failure to tackle the housing crisis is seeing thousands of vulnerable Kiwis being kept off social housing waiting lists, while others, who are on the list, are being forced to live in cars and garages, says Labour’s… ...
    4 days ago
  • Housing crisis about real people not numbers
    The Government’s continued failure to tackle the housing crisis is seeing thousands of vulnerable Kiwis being kept off social housing waiting lists, while others, who are on the list, are being forced to live in cars and garages, says Labour’s… ...
    4 days ago
  • State of origin
    Kiwis are increasingly concerned about the food they give their families. New Zealand consumers have the right to know where their food has come from, particularly when it involves animals, and should be able to expect our Government to label… ...
    GreensBy Steffan Browning MP
    4 days ago
  • Relationships Aotearoa
    It is disturbing that Relationships Aotearoa, a voluntary organisation set up in 1949 to help couples struggling with their relationships following the upheavals of World War II, may be forced to close, says Acting Spokesperson for the Voluntary and Community… ...
    4 days ago
  • An economy that is just working for some is an economy that is not working
    The National Party presents itself as a great manager of the economy, but if the economy is only working for some we really need to question that assertion. Alongside the perpetually elusive surplus, the levels of risk in our economy are… ...
    GreensBy Jan Logie MP
    4 days ago
  • An economy that is just working for some is an economy that is not working
    The National Party presents itself as a great manager of the economy, but if the economy is only working for some we really need to question that assertion. Alongside the perpetually elusive surplus, the levels of risk in our economy are… ...
    GreensBy Jan Logie MP
    4 days ago
  • House prices to a crack $1 million in 17 months
    The average Auckland home is on track to cost $1 million in 17 months’ time if nothing substantial is done to rein in soaring price rises, Labour’s Housing spokesperson Phil Twyford says. “Auckland’s house prices have skyrocketed 63 per cent… ...
    4 days ago
  • Vital support services can’t be left in lurch
    The National Government has big questions to answer about how a provider of services to thousands of vulnerable New Zealanders is set to fold, Labour’s Finance spokesperson Grant Robertson says. Relationships Aotearoa which provides support and counselling to families, individuals… ...
    5 days ago
  • Treasury and IRD on a capital gains tax
    Both the Treasury and IRD have been advising the National Government on the benefits of a capital gains tax. Documents released to the Green Party under an Official Information Act request show that John Key has been selective with the… ...
    GreensBy Russel Norman MP
    5 days ago
  • Charity legislation needs review
    It is unacceptable that the big corporate based charities claim  millions in annual income tax exemptions, while small community based and operated non-profit organisations  struggle to gain official charity status, Labour’s acting spokesperson for the Voluntary and Community Sector Louisa… ...
    5 days ago
  • John’s panic-Key response to housing crisis
    John Key needs to tell New Zealanders what caused his sudden change of heart that led to the Government’s scrambled and last-minute housing measures, Opposition Leader Andrew Little says. “The Prime Minister’s sudden rush of blood to his head followed… ...
    5 days ago
  • Keep our Assets Christchurch Campaign: An update
    I recently presented my submission to keep Christchurch Council assets at the Christchurch City Council’s public hearings on its 10 year plan on 13 May. The hearings are live-streamed and recorded so you can watch them on www.ccc.govt.nz. The Council’s… ...
    GreensBy Eugenie Sage MP
    5 days ago
  • John Key finally admits there’s a housing crisis
    John Key’s weak measures to rein in the astronomical profits property speculators are making are an admission – finally – that there is a housing crisis, Labour Leader Andrew Little says. “But yet again National is tinkering with the housing… ...
    6 days ago
  • Government stifles voices in CYFs review
    The Government’s exclusion of the Māori Women’s Welfare League in a panel on the future of CYFs is a cynical ploy to stifle views, says Labour’s Māori Development Spokesperson Nanaia Mahuta. “It's unbelievable that a significant review on the future… ...
    1 week ago
  • Speech to the Otago Chamber of Commerce
    Thank you very much for the opportunity to be here today. It’s a pleasure as always to be back in the town that raised me. Growing up in St Kilda meant that there was one thing that was a big… ...
    1 week ago
  • Key can’t just be Prime Minister for Parnell
    John Key must show New Zealanders in next week’s Budget that he is more than the Prime Minister for Parnell, and is also the Prime Minister for Pine Hill, Putararu and Palmerston North, Labour’s Finance spokesperson Grant Robertson says. In… ...
    1 week ago
  • Stop the conversions
    This week, some Waikato locals took me and intrepid photographer Amanda Rogers on a tour of some  lakes and waterways in their region, and up to the massive dairy conversions in the upper catchment of the Waikato River. It… ...
    GreensBy Catherine Delahunty MP
    1 week ago
  • More regional jobs go in Corrections reshape
    News that 194 Corrections staff are to lose their jobs will have ramifications not only for them and their families but for the wider community, Labour’s Corrections spokesperson Kelvin Davis says. Prison units at Waikeria, Tongariro and Rimutaka face closure… ...
    1 week ago
  • Government’s climate meetings off to a bumpy start
    On Wednesday, I attended a hui and an evening meeting that the Government had organised in Nelson as part of its climate change consultation tour, to support the Nelson community telling the Government to take meaningful action on climate change.… ...
    GreensBy Steffan Browning MP
    1 week ago
  • Taxpayers the only ones left feeling blue
    Ministry of Social Development bosses could have saved themselves thousands of dollars in consultants’ fees by providing staff with rose-tinted spectacles, Labour’s State Services spokesperson Kris Faafoi says. A report out today reveals the Ministry is spending over half a… ...
    1 week ago
  • Why are the regions still facing restrictions?
    Labour's Housing spokesperson Phil Twyford is questioning why the regions should continue to be saddled with LVR lending restrictions announced by the Reserve Bank today. “Labour has been calling for the regions to be exempted from LVRs for the best… ...
    1 week ago
  • The high costs of weak environmental regulation
    Te Waihora/Lake Ellesmere is described on the Department of Conservation website as “Canterbury’s largest and New Zealand’s fifth largest [lake], and an internationally important wildlife area.” But the lake is also polluted by nutrients leaching from farms in the catchment.… ...
    GreensBy Eugenie Sage MP
    1 week ago
  • Submissions to Wellington City Council on their Gambling Venues Policy
    Every three years Councils across the country are required to check that their gambling venue policies are still fit for purpose and they can choose to consult on their policy if they are thinking of making changes. Councils don’t have… ...
    GreensBy Denise Roche MP
    1 week ago
  • Reserve Bank action shows Govt out of touch and out of ideas
    The Reserve Bank’s unprecedented measures today show it understands the serious risks of the overheating housing market – in complete contrast to John Key’s refusal to acknowledge the crisis, Labour’s Finance spokesperson Grant Robertson says. “The Bank is right to… ...
    1 week ago
  • Send us your snaps: 25 Years of the Green Party
    This year we've hit a milestone. We're turning 25.To help celebrate a quarter of a century, please send us your photos from the last 25 years of the Green Party Aotearoa New Zealand! Note: Photos must be jpg, gif or… ...
    2 weeks ago
  • 25 Years of the Green Party
    This year the Green Party sends 25. To help us celebrate a quarter of a century please send us you photos of 25 years of the Green Party!Photos must be jpg,gif or png and smaller than 2MB. If you are… ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Bay growth plan too little too late
    Today’s Bay of Plenty growth study from MBIE is another example of Government spin - lots of talk but little action, says Labour’s Regional Development spokesperson David Cunliffe.  “This is a region that desperately needs to develop the downstream processing… ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Government bows to ACC pressure
     The Government has finally buckled to pressure from Labour and the New Zealand public in making a half billion dollar cut to ACC levies, but the full benefits are two years away,” says Opposition Leader Andrew Little.  “$500 million over… ...
    2 weeks ago
  • False figures cloud Auckland transport facts
    The Prime Minister should apologise and issue a correction after both he and Transport Minister Simon Bridges have been caught out misrepresenting facts on Auckland’s transport spending, Labour’s Housing spokesperson Phil Twyford says. "Both John Key and Simon Bridges have… ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Govt books confirm National can’t post surplus
    The last publication of the Government’s books before the budget shows National will break its promise of seven years and two election campaigns and fail to get the books in order, says Labour’s Finance Spokesperson Grant Robertson. “The Government is… ...
    2 weeks ago

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