An Orwellian Minister for Open Government

Written By: - Date published: 1:46 pm, March 27th, 2018 - 257 comments
Categories: accountability, broadcasting, corruption, leadership - Tags: , ,

So, today we have news that veteran broadcaster and former senior manager at RNZ, Carol Hirschfeld, has resigned over lying for her Minister, covering up that she had a secret meeting in a fairly busy café in central Wellington, despite it later having been revealed that the meeting was pre-arranged. This looks like a case of extraordinary bungling from Clare Curran, who is our Minister for Open Government, and now potentially faces consequences for misleading the house, making her official title seem a bizarre parody. (no doubt, Curran will maintain her line that she simply regarded the meeting to be informal, which is clearly nonsense, but an arguable excuse in terms of procedure, but keeping to that line might convince the opposition to accuse her of misleading the House if they can drum up more evidence) The Minister for Open Government really does have one, and one job only: to be frank with the truth, and not only to never get caught lying, but to never actually lie in the first place. Having found someone backing up her story had lied makes it quite obvious Curran is concealing something here, and as is often said, the cover-up may in fact be worse than the crime here.

It’s also very sad that Carol Hirschfeld, who is a respected broadcaster with a long and productive career on both TVNZ and TV3, has been a victim of this fiasco, and losing her will be an absolute tragedy for Radio New Zealand, but it was absolutely a situation of her resigning or being fired after lying about the nature of her meeting, so the real tragedy here is that she bothered to cover it up at all.

For full disclosure, I was a critic of Curran from before her appointment, and have previously stated I don’t think there’s any reasonable way to say she is qualified to be a Minister, and that she must have somehow leveraged her way into the appointment politically. Given that Labour determines who gets into cabinet by a vote of their caucus, there is no easy way to tell if she did manage to do so, so I will admit to pure speculation there, but I honestly can’t see her impressing the rest of caucus with any actual skills, so it’s either a reward for some sort of favour, or she knows where some bodies are buried.

If Jacinda Ardern hasn’t already asked for a Please Explain note from Curran, I imagine she’s done so first thing today. Misleading Parliament is about as big a deal as you can get, and the House sits tomorrow, so the clock is ticking for Ardern to decide what she wants to do.

There is a very real argument that being overly defensive of infractions against the public trust is part of what helped John Key bring Helen Clark down, as much of his victory was in demotivating Labour supporters as well as in persuading swing voters and turning out his own base. With low polling for both her support partners either below or at the party vote threshold respectively, and neither holding electorate seats, Ardern can’t really afford any perception of public weakness, even though Bridges’ opposition is looking like a fish out of water right now, handing them ammunition seems like a terrible idea.

Firing Curran as a Minister over this, despite no evidence of actual wrongdoing in the meeting itself, is absolutely in the cards, especially given the high level of public trust she needs to maintain to be effective in her portfolios. There is absolutely an argument to do so immediately- it strengthens Ardern’s hand in saying she had accepted her Minister’s assurances and had no idea what was going on, it allows her to shed a minister who is clearly a drag on the Government- despite having portfolios which are incredibly minor, she has been the persistent target of questions from the opposition, who clearly perceive her appointment as a weak spot to harass the Government with.

Despite that, Ardern has been making moves suggesting she’s buying time today. This may just be her waiting to hear more about what went on, or it may suggest she doesn’t yet regard the story as serious enough to fire Curran. Likewise, Bridges is playing his attack a little cautious, suggesting he doesn’t know if there’s really evidence for a knockout blow here.

What’s really troubling, however, is that this takes the sheen of idealism off a government that rode it like a wave into power. We have Peters trying to force the Greens into passing an anti-defection law that legal experts are up in arms about, even if in the short term it may not be disastrous. We have our Minister for Open Government concealing meetings, and stonewalling on written questions to the opposition, and neither the Prime Minister or Speaker are calling her on it. (she can be forgiven for not single-handedly fixing the culture around the OIA in less than half a year, at least, so that’s not on the list) We have ministers defending a $114m subsidy for a private yachting competition as somehow not a drain on public money. (there is no good economic evidence spending on sports events like this is effective economically, so the argument surely has to be it’s worth it in terms of our participation in the event itself?) We have an entire third of Labour’s coalition partner’s caucus under attack for various small issues, and the expected attacks on the Greens for looking too liberal. We have the opposition attempting to separate Labour and the Greens from New Zealand First on permits for new oil drilling, a thoroughly moronic idea that nonetheless both New Zealand First and National somehow support in principle, despite us already having found at least four times as many fossil fuels as we can afford to burn within our estimated carbon-equivalent budget for 2° warming. (In fact, I’ve seen claims that it’s now five times as much as we can safely burn) This is dangerous ground for Labour, and they need to seriously consider if it isn’t time to change course so that they can maintain credible defense as an idealistic, hopeful new government. This story heating up is a perfect excuse to dump a minister who, regardless of whether she has actually done anything wrong, has absolutely passed the line in terms of the perception of corruption, and who is demonstrably doing the opposite of her job.

There is a reason that people say that in politics, the tripod is the most unstable of all structures- all three government parties are putting a lot of effort into hanging together, but it will require high standards from all of them for this government to succeed and last into subsequent terms.

Here is a selection of reactions on Twitter:

There are good people in Cabinet already, or on the backbenches, who could pick up at least one of Curran’s portfolios, if Ardern were to do the brave thing and let her go proactively for not meeting the high standards she requires of the Minister for Open Government. Kris Faafoi could easily take on Broadcasting, and ICT would be a great portfolio to promote a talented or dedicated backbencher into- I have been a persistent advocate for Louisa Wall, who in opposition made very clear she can wrangle support from other parties for important bills, has the technical skills to be a minister, and is one of the most veteran MPs to be left on the backbench without official responsibilities, and of course ICT too could be reshuffled to free up a portfolio well-suited for a particular minister in some other area.

The fact is that organizational politics is not a sufficient reason to make someone a Minister, and Curran was always a time-bomb waiting to go off for Labour. I take no pleasure in seeing her in trouble, because it’s bad for the country as a whole and RNZ in particular, but it does convince me that I was right that she needs to go. I hope Ardern has at least seriously considered where the line is that Curran has to cross, regardless of what she’s decided to do by tomorrow.


Update: Curran is about to speak to media about Hirschfeld’s resignation. You can watch live, and I’ll update the post again once she’s finished.

Update 2: Curran is defending the meeting as “not secret,” that she was mistaken to consider it informal even though it was scheduled, and is framing Hirschfeld’s description as “differing stories,” rather than a lie. So she is expecting to be able to tough this out and not need to resign, and therefore has likely been warned rather than fired. This is disappointing given how badly she has managed to stuff up such a minor issue, and her lack of progress in all her portfolios when compared to literally any other minister- even Shane Jones has made tangible announcements. She has admitted to “making a mistake” in describing the meeting as informal and attending it at all. Not knowing RNZ’s policies around ministerial meetings, as she claims, and not thinking to ask, however, is not a mistake, it is negligence, and Curran should absolutely be publicly apologizing to RNZ for putting a talented manager in this position.

Update 3: Articles released later have made it clear that Hirschfeld was not egged on by Curran, and in fact Curran appears to have tipped RNZ off to the inaccuracy of her statement which were repeated at Select Committee. Apologies for getting that wrong- initial reports were a little confusing.

257 comments on “An Orwellian Minister for Open Government”

  1. Matthew Whitehead 1

    More disclosure: I have a bit of a bet riding on whether Shane Jones or Clare Curran is the first Minister to resign or be fired in the government, but this hasn’t affected my opinion on this issue, and I wouldn’t call for a Minister’s resignation just to win a bet, lol.

    Thought you should all know, but didn’t think it was in keeping with the tone of the post to put it in the main text, lol.

  2. Carolyn_Nth 2

    Curran is saying she didn’t understand previously that there were clear rules about RNZ staff meeting with ministerd. How can a minister with that portfolio, and after having a long period as spokesperson for media and NOT understand this?

  3. Muttonbird 3

    Quoting Farrar, Matthew? That’s brave.

    • Matthew Whitehead 3.1

      I thought it was important to show different perspectives from varied areas of the political spectrum. Farrar and Compton are there to show us what the opposition thinks, and I get Lew’s take as a bonus by giving you that tweet from Farrar.

      • JohnSelway 3.1.1

        I enjoy that you show different perspectives. Shows a fairness as it were (and means I don’t need to visit Kiwiblog!)

  4. Sanctuary 4

    Curren is hopelessly incompetent.

    Everyone said so before the election and subsequent events have borne out those assessments. Curren owes her position to identity politics horse trading within Labour, not to any innate talent.

    Read NRT about her attempts to be secretive, even though she is the open government minister.

    She is reflexively secretive because all incompetent fools rely on secrecy. Now her idiocy has cost Carol Hirschfeld her job, and damaged the governments credibility.

    Jacinda needs to sack this liability immediately.

    • Matthew Whitehead 4.1

      I keep up with NRT all the time, I/S is an excellent blogger. I thoroughly agree with his takes on Curran.

      • tc 4.1.1

        You’re too kind matthew;
        “I don’t think there’s any reasonable way to say she is qualified to be a Minister…”

        A fantastic example of what’s wrong with identity, tick the box politics is you end up with the dull tools where sharp ones are needed.

        Labours thrown many useful tools overboard recently, she’s is way out of her depth and displayed as much in opposition.

        Shuffle the pack Jacinda, strong visible leadership’s a vote winner and getting winnie to give Jones a public kicking is also welcome.

        • Matthew Whitehead 4.1.1.1

          There is no way Curran was promoted due to “identity politics.” I’m usually an advocate for hiring or promoting more women when they’re under-represented, but if I can come out first thing and say “there is no way she’s qualified for Shadow Cabinet,” then you know that wasn’t a consideration.

          She was an absolute failure as an ICT spokesperson, but is probably a decent electorate MP. If there’s any legitimate reason for her having her portfolios, that’s it- Labour tends to over-value electorate performance in the new MMP environment, and like National, hasn’t yet realized that having unpopular ministers is worse than putting them on the backbench, or deselecting them altogether, as it drags on your party vote. But I find it much more plausible that she’s a great example of the Peter Principle, where people who are good at networking (or uncovering blackmail material…) but bad at their job can get promoted for no good reason.

          • Carolyn_Nth 4.1.1.1.1

            But I find it much more plausible that she’s a great example of the Peter Principle, where people who are good at networking but bad at their job can get promoted for no good reason.

            Yep.

          • Anne 4.1.1.1.2

            But I find it much more plausible that she’s a great example of the Peter Principle, where people who are good at networking (or uncovering blackmail material…) but bad at their job can get promoted for no good reason.

            I saw that in operation throughout my 30 plus years in the Public Service.
            Networking the bosses big time. Acting as spies for them on the rest of the staff. In my case, it went as far as changing my calculations in order to paint me as incompetent. They were promoted way beyond their actual level of competence but since it was normal practice in those days, nobody did anything about it.

            • Matthew Whitehead 4.1.1.1.2.1

              Yeah, it’s the most frustrating thing about the public service, and there really needs to be reforms so that staff can be performance managed fairly, and dismissed or demoted as appropriate if they fail to meet expectations. It creates a hostile workplace for other staff, and seeing it happen in Parliament too is the worst.

            • OncewasTim 4.1.1.1.2.2

              The Peter Principle probably best described what has motivated me to make comments on various threads over the past few days (especially in relation to the PS.
              I seem to rember ( from remarks you made a couple of years back ) you may have had some sort of employment dispute whilst a PS.
              Hopefully the employment court gave them as big a thrashing and admonishment as they did in my case.

              • Anne

                The prime culprit ended up losing his managerial position but not until after I left. There were no support services available for the kind of bullying and intimidation dished out to me in the 80s and early 90s. It was a serious miscarriage of justice, but there was nothing I could do about it because I didn’t have the financial means to take them to court.

    • Bearded Git 4.2

      Agreed Sanctuary, Curran has always seemed pretty useless to me.

      Time for Jacinda to be (and look) decisive and brave.

    • Unicus 4.3

      Absolutely this is an opportunity for Jacinda to rid us all of a complete dead head.

      Prior to the election she was the spokesperson for broadcasting who rarely if ever talked about her designated portfolio

      The government must have a keen and able Minister to deal with the vital changes neccessary in public media .

      Clare Curran is not that person she never been anything other than a time server – Ditch her JA -all of Labour would applaud .

    • Unicus 4.4

      Absolutely this is an opportunity for Jacinda to rid us all of a complete dead head.

      Prior to the election she was the spokesperson for broadcasting who rarely if ever talked about her designated portfolio

      The government must have a keen and able Minister to deal with the vital changes neccessary in public media .

      Clare Curran is not that person she never has been anything other than a time server – Ditch her JA -all of Labour would applaud .

    • Unicus 4.5

      Absolutely this is an opportunity for Jacinda to rid us all of a complete dead head.

      Prior to the election she was the spokesperson for broadcasting who rarely if ever talked about her designated portfolio

      The government must have a keen and able Minister to deal with the vital changes neccessary in public media .

      Clare Curran is not that person she never has
      been anything other than a time server – Ditch her JA -all of Labour would applaud .

    • SPC 4.6

      Hirschfield lost her job because she lied to her boss.

    • Chris 4.7

      I would say the same thing about Jacinda. Incompetent, and got there on good looks alone, and not having achieved anything.

  5. Ad 5

    A great opportunity for the PM to show she has the steel to discipline, by firing Curran’s ass today.

    Too many going off on tangents.

    SparklePony PM needs to rule caucus for real.

    • Matthew Whitehead 5.1

      If you think Ardern doesn’t have steel in private, you don’t know much about her. She can apparently be very hard on members of caucus when she feels she has the need.

      If Ardern’s decided she’s not firing Curran just yet, it’s because she thinks it would be worse for her Government than keeping her on. I certainly don’t agree, but then again, I don’t understand who in Caucus was actually voting for her to be a Minister in the first place. *shrugs*

      • Ad 5.1.1

        Private is irrelevant.

        • Matthew Whitehead 5.1.1.1

          It’s not irrelevant to actually being in control of caucus, it is in fact what matters most, but that does make it clearer you were talking about a perception of being in control, and I agree sacking Curran is probably now necessary for that.

      • Enough is Enough 5.1.2

        She doesn’t get re-elected in private

    • Anne 5.2

      With Ad over what to do with Curran. Helen Clark did not hesitate and if I recall correctly her first ministerial sacking occurred around six months after they came to office – could be wrong though.

      As has been said a million times it is public perception that counts above everything.

      Stand her down please Jacinda. If she shows true remorse and ups her game she can always be reinstated some time in the future.

      • Baba Yaga 5.2.1

        Jacinda is no Helen Clark. Jacinda may well yet fire Curran, but only if Winnie let’s her.

        • Sacha 5.2.1.1

          Why would Winston have anything to do with Curran? He’s the only thing protecting Shane Jones from a proper bollocking, certainly.

          • Baba Yaga 5.2.1.1.1

            My opinion – Jacinda doesn’t blow her nose without consulting Winston. She’s weak, and the cracks are showing. But she’s great for a photo-op with Ed Sheeran.

            • Anne 5.2.1.1.1.1

              That’s crap Baba Yaga.

              She’s neither weak nor is she Peter’s puppet. The respect he has shown her from the start is testament to that.

                • Drowsy M. Kram

                  Prime Minister Ardern, weak and stupid? Heaven help us, and her.

                  Bring back the self-serving plunderers and blunderers (Key, English, Barclay, Joyce, Coleman) – they’ll stop the rot.

                  https://www.radionz.co.nz/news/national/353193/jonathan-coleman-hangs-up-on-hospital-rot-interview

                  • Baba Yaga

                    In just a matter of months this government is in huge trouble. Nothing the nats did comes near the incompetence and dishonesty we’re seeing from members of Ardern’s government on an almost daily basis. And then there’s Ardern herself, making NZ a ‘laughing stock’ internationally (https://www.msn.com/en-nz/news/national/pms-spy-comments-make-nz-a-laughing-stock/ar-BBKMSHp?ocid=spartanntp). Key was highly regarded on the international stage. Ardern is offering nothing beyond women’s magazine photo-ops.

                    • One Anonymous Bloke

                      🙄

                      Scientists are just like lawyers, dildos and Letterman, with a side-order of pedo-hair fetishism, Ad Nauseam.

                    • Drowsy M. Kram

                      Some of you comments are political hyperbole, and/or at best irrational misogyny.

                      Key’s long gone, but never forget – by a ponytail puller we were ‘led’.

                      Whereas repeated unsolicited hair pulling by a sober PM and National Party leader was (rightly) international news. Of course, the motivation for Key’s ‘playful’ assaults was not sexual in any way; honest John might just as well have been tugging on the ponytail of a male waiter. Nevertheless, by a ponytail puller we were led.

                    • Babayaga

                      “Key’s long gone, but never forget – by a ponytail puller we were ‘led’.“

                      A pony tail puller who would never have let his Government turn into the shambles this one has.

                      A pony tail puller who saw off four labour leaders, and enjoyed historically high levels of popularity.

                    • Jesters & Clowns point the finger

                      CleRly you were sound asleep during National’s time in government Babayaga. So we will forgive your ignorant trolling.

                      If Curren, and Jones are the worst culprits to surface during the present administration we are now better served than any time during the previous decade.
                      Jones can be forgiven as he is nothing less than a blunt speaking kiwi bloke, who speaks his mind in inopportune circumstances. He at least has a vision for the regions, however badly he paints it.
                      Curren likewise is forgivable, but because she is stupid, and obviously has risen above her level of natural incompetence. But forgiveness should mean driven out of cabinet, and reduced to the role of retiring back bencher, to permit more useful back benchers to come to the fore.
                      In the meantime, National’s ranks could do with a little more thinning to remove the remaining disengenuous, self serving Homerable arseholes. It’s a pity that a clean sweep of National’s incompetents would strip the opposition bare and would drive the country to dispair due to the extraordinary number of by-elections required.

                    • Baba Yaga

                      “If Curren, and Jones are the worst culprits to surface during the present administration we are now better served than any time during the previous decade.”

                      If you had left it there, I would have considered you delusional. As you then went on to try to mitigate Jones and Curran’s misdemeanors, without so much as a hat tip to Ardern’s utterly useless leadership, almost moves me to pity.

                    • Drowsy M. Kram

                      Ponytail pulling Key makes my breast swell with pride too. He’s the best ponytail pulling Prime Minister in history – what an amazing achievement, fantastic role model, extraordinary legacy, etc. etc.

                      Bring back honest John, National’s champion plunderer.

                      The great big list of John Key’s big fat lies (UPDATED)

                    • Baba Yaga

                      “Ponytail pulling Key makes my breast swell with pride.”

                      I tend to not let my breast swell with pride over any politician. They are all rat-bags in one way or another. But there are degrees of competence. Clark was very, very competent. Key was very, very competent. Ardern has only had 9 months and she looks like a possum in headlights.

                    • Drowsy M. Kram

                      Jacinda Ardern – eight months as leader of the Labour Party (numerical competency not your strong suit?), and five months as Prime Minister (sworn in on 26 October 2017).

                      Must be a bitter pill to swallow that such a weak and stupid (your words) leader managed to get NZ1st and the Greens onside, whereas National’s powerful, skilled and dynamic negotiators (and competent; let’s not forget competent) failed. Why, it’s almost inexplicable.

                      Many of National’s incompetent post-election negotiating ‘team’ (e.g. English, Joyce, Eagleson) have now left parliamentary politics.

                    • Baba Yaga

                      “Must be a bitter pill to swallow that such a weak and stupid (your words) leader managed to get NZ1st and the Greens onside…”

                      Not at all. Winnie was never going to negotiate with national in good faith…his hatred of national and the chance to be the effective PM over a weak labour leader were just too tempting. But more than that, this was an election national needed to not win…it brings rejuvenation (which you so kindly acknowledge)…something labour failed to do post Clark. Ardern is an accidental PM, a great smile but zero experience at running anything.

                    • McFlock

                      Ah, victory through defeat, the most cunning plan of all…

                    • Baba Yaga

                      “Ah, victory through defeat, the most cunning plan of all…”

                      A subtle correction. National were not ‘defeated’. They were the highest polling party. But Mr 7% chose Labour for the reasons I outlined above. How he must be regretting that decision, and giving up smoking at the same time!

                    • McFlock

                      Yup. They’re the most popular losers we’ve had for probably most of MMP. Not FPP, but never mind, that’s why MMP is better.

                    • Baba Yaga

                      “…that’s why MMP is better.”
                      Good grief…something on which we can agree!

  6. Venezia 6

    What a media beat up! And on a day where there are at least three significant issues of importance to our nation ( 22,000 cows to be culled after total failure to avert spread of infection, illegal withholding of information by ex attorney general, taxpayer now faced with $90,000 bill for this).

    • Matthew Whitehead 6.1

      you also forgot wasting $114m on a yachting competition.

    • Muttonbird 6.2

      What a media beat up!

      This.

      It’s the political struggle for RNZ on show. The right wing don’t want to let go, and the rest of the media want RNZ (and all public broadcasting) gone altogether and are horrified at the prospect of it expanding.

      The rest is people out for Curran’s head.

      • Carolyn_Nth 6.2.1

        Curran was seen by the right as a weak link. She does not have the competence for this role.

        • tc 6.2.1.1

          as demonstrated by her appalling performance as ICT spokesperson. This is a key area that requires a safe pair of hands not butter fingers.

          Great ideas are one thing…execution of them another.

      • Matthew Whitehead 6.2.2

        I’m sure there’s an element of that, but scalping Curran won’t scupper plans to expand and enrich RNZ’s content, which are well-earned and to be quite honest, it’s past time we did so.

  7. CHCOff 7

    No one cares, Curran ( who seems to give great leadership value with Dunedin ) had a coffee meeting that wasn’t on the books.

    Look at it this way, it was actually saving the org. money from being billed for the coffee and fudge cake or whatever that could have come down the pipe if was an official chin wag!!

    The actual deep issue is that there is no ‘neutral’ media, it is all coming from somewhere with a point of view, & as is the case in current structures often very lobby driven, and the mis-leading counter productive and wasteful nature of media, which is endemic in modern society, comes from pretending that is not so.

    Essentially the govt parties of the day should have their own produced content on across the telly channels one night of the week, and the opposition parties another night, with a lesser overall time since they are doing less than the govt.

    So the govt. gets say a 2 hour slot and the opposition an one hour slot, which they produce themselves, with all relevant parties having creative control over how and what they present.

    Without having thought about ratios, something like National 55 mins and Act 5 * say Tuesday.

    Labour gets 70 mins, NZ1st 30 mins and Greens 20 mins the following night.

  8. Ovid 8

    She’s a liability and an example of the Peter principle in action.

    • Matthew Whitehead 8.1

      Yes, I agree, but I thought the post was too long to go into that. I figured saying she leveraged her way into her position would imply it for everyone. 😉

  9. Carolyn_Nth 9

    I can understand Hirschfeld and Curran wanting to talk without RNZ Chairman Richard Griffin being present, because he was a National appointment, with a background working for National Party people. He was also tipped to be appointed to prepare RNZ for privatisation.

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/5113211/How-the-Silver-Fox-turned-gamekeeper

    But, this was a pretty clumsy way to do it. And it was in a very public place where I understand many Wellington public servants hang out. Many are now pretty much Nat flunkies.

    Hirschfeld is a big loss to RNZ.

    Curran should go.

    As someone who has an interest in public service media, I have attended some meetings where party spokespeople talked about this in recent years.

    I rate Tracey Martin above Curran in her grasp of the significance of public service media, and would suggest, if she hasn’t already got enough responsibilities, that she step up to this role – perhaps with Kris Faafoi as associate minister.

    I do think the development of public service media is a very important part of improving democratic debate and engagement.

  10. McFlock 10

    I did see Curran speak well at a rally once.
    Other than that, I don’t think I’ve met anyone down here who has a good thing to say about her. Like, normal party people, not nutbars or zealots (known for their bile). She doesn’t seem to make political friends easily.

    As for why she’s a minister, I suspect the answer is “South Dunedin”. Apparently the Sth D Lab org owns a couple of properties that return good, regular income. Which gets sent to head office. Money talks.

    On a separate note, another classic Yes Minister line:
    Sir Humphrey: How are things at the Campaign for the Freedom of Information, by the way?
    Sir Arnold: Sorry, I can’t talk about that.

    • Matthew Whitehead 10.1

      If Labour has allowed itself to be set up so that its electorate candidates can blackmail it with donations from local orgs, that’s an absolute failure of leadership, and an excellent reason to leverage Curran out of Parliament altogether, so you can cut her influence out of South Dunedin.

      • McFlock 10.1.1

        She’s not the influence, the electorate committee is.

        The same ones who decided Benson-Pope was no longer their man.

        • Matthew Whitehead 10.1.1.1

          If an electorate committee has that much influence over the voting of caucus Labour has bigger problems than Curran.

          • McFlock 10.1.1.1.1

            Well, it’s not like she’s PM.

            But yeah, if that’s the case then labour HQ needs a more secure income stream than donors.

            • red-blooded 10.1.1.1.1.1

              It’s got nothing to do with the Dunedin South LEC or the fact that they own a building. The fact is that Dunedin is a Labour stronghold and Curran performed well in terms of increasing the Labour vote well above the average in the last election.

              I don’t know her well enough to rate her abilities as a Minister – I can’t claim to have really followed her. The decision to talk face to face with Hirshfield seems pretty innocent to me, and her office did contact RNZ to correct the “accidental meeting” story, but probably should have fronted to the select committee and corrected the record. Not doing so has allowed this story to become a lot bigger than it needed to be.

              Ironically, our Minister of Broadcasting seems to have poorly developed media skills. That doesn’t necessarily make her incapable of managing her portfolio, though. I’m really keen to see more detailed plans for change at RNZ and how these fit into our wider broadcasting landscape, no matter who holds the ministerial position.

              And yes, I’m sure Labour HQ would like a more secure income stream than donors. Income generated from commercial rents from buildings like the one owned by the South Dunedin LEC is one way of managing this.

              • Matthew Whitehead

                She ranks above Jonathon Coleman, but she’s about par for a National Party Minister in terms of competence at doing the advertised job. (which doesn’t mean that her performance is acceptable)

                Honestly, even if she’s innocent in all of this, her resignation will be necessary within a year for not managing to get anything done, so…

                • SPC

                  You’ve run the blame Curran line (to an anti-Curran audience from Red Alert era times), now said even if she is innocent in all this, its an excuse to get rid of her.

                  So much for “Greens” focusing on the issues …

        • Anne 10.1.1.2

          And probably the same ones who in 2013 tried to prevent Cunliffe’s then wife from being allowed into a leadership contest meeting where the candidates, including Cunliffe, were speaking.

    • weka 10.2

      She seems to me to be a good enough electorate MP, although I’d like to see what people in South Dunedin say about that. But she does seem quite active on their behalf.

      • Sanctuary 10.2.1

        May I direct you to her (Shrinking) majorities.

        • mac1 10.2.1.1

          Sanctuary, did you know that what you just wrote about Clare Curran’s majorities shrinking is aaaah very wrong? Or are you being sarcastic?

          Curran’s electorate performance is as follows.

          2017 21,404 votes 54.59% margin 8717
          2014 18,182 49.07% 3858
          2011 16,844 48.89% 4175

          4500 extra votes.
          5% increase to have an absolute majority!

          https://www.parliament.nz/en/mps-and-electorates/electorate-profiles/electorate-profiles-data/document/DBHOH_Lib_EP_Dunedin_South_Electoral_Profile/dunedin-south-electoral-profile#_32

          • Matthew Whitehead 10.2.1.1.1

            To be fair to Sanctuary, he may be referring to the shrinking share of the Party Vote Labour received in Dunedin South until the ’17 election. Labour regained some of that vote this time, but only some of it. It depends whether you think the job of a candidate is to win their electorate or to grow/hold the Party Vote.

            If it’s the latter, arguably Curran is under-performing- while her electorate is 3-4% ahead of the average national swing to Labour, it is a Labour stronghold and should be doing much better than that in an election that Labour won, but it’s also arguable the other way given that Dunedin South did still swing back 15 points towards Labour, so it’s very much a judgement call for the Party on whether they think she’s doing a good job.

            • mac1 10.2.1.1.1.1

              Maybe, but Sanctuary does say “her (shrinking) majorities”, not the Party’s.

              A candidate’s job is to do both. I was one.

              How did Labour do nationally in 2011 and 2014?

              Labour 2011 27% of the vote, down from 2008 by 6.5%
              Labour 2014 25% of the vote, down from 2011 by 2.35%

              Curran, in a Labour stronghold, got 48% in 2011, and 49% in 2014.

              Then, in 2017 the Dunedin South Labour Party vote went up 15% and her personal vote went up 5% to an absolute majority.

              Nothing like figures to disprove arguments based on other ‘rationales’.

              I’d say that Curran has performed very well in electorate and party votes in the last three elections.

              People may have a snitch against Curran. But the figures disprove Sanctuary, and also your apology for him, Matthew.

              • Matthew Whitehead

                I don’t really have a game in it one way or another. If Labour want to keep her on as an MP that’s their business. My disagreement is with her as a Minister, and her conduct being either unethical or incompetent or both in this matter.

                But, now you’re pretending to have won, let’s look a bit more closely at those years you gave.

                In 2011, Labour’s share of the party vote in Dunedin South was down by -11.76%. That’s a lot more than the national drop you gave of -6.5%, and it comes after a -10.4% drop in her electorate in her debut year in 2008, although that one I’ll give her for free, despite outpacing the -7.1% national drop, because she was a new candidate, and it can be hard to pick up a new electorate, even a party stronghold, if you’re not some kind of superstar candidate.

                To be fair to Curran, in 2014, the share of Dunedin South’s party vote won by Labour dropped by only -1.84%, compared to the 2.35% national average you gave, but with so many consecutive drops ahead of the national average, Curran may have simply been bottoming out on voters she could lose, so a drop roughly in line with the average is actually kinda bad. I’ve already looked at 2017, where you would expect Dunedin South to deliver well above the national swing given Curran was riding Ardern’s wave as a popular new Prime Ministerial candidate, but not so much. She got +15.0% vs a 11.76% national swing to Labour, which is acceptable but hardly stellar in a Labour stronghold.

                Like I said, if you judge Curran by her performance getting Party Votes, she didn’t do particlularly well, but wasn’t the worst. Certainly not some all-star that justifies her becoming a minister to retain her services regardless of her poor technical performance in her portfolios. If you’re going to quote figures, give them all. The only election year Curran has ever raised the Party Vote in her electorate was 2017.

      • Trewindle 10.2.2

        Hi Weka,

        Clare’s active enough that she fields requests and then acts on them from North Dunedinites as well as working for her own constituents. From what I’ve seen working with her (including on her campaign last year), she is the South D candidate because of her hard work in the electorate and her involvement in keeping our services and advocating on behalf of people that need help accessing them, as when she camped in the octagon until two young mothers were supplied with state houses here.

  11. Muttonbird 11

    Also not sure why we are promoting the right wing meme that it was a secret meeting, when clearly it wasn’t???

    • Matthew Whitehead 11.1

      I’m sorry, but if someone resigned due to lying about the meeting, there was absolutely a desire to keep it hush. Would you prefer the term “cover-up?” Because regardless of whether the meeting was wrong, the attempt to cover up its existence definitely was, especially for a Minister for Open Government.

      • Muttonbird 11.1.1

        As far as I can tell the meeting itself was not secret (why would they have met in the Astoria is it was?) The instigator of the meeting and presumably what was discussed has tried to be covered up since, but that’s not the same thing.

        The right wing are pushing the idea that the meeting itself was secret and you are helping them here, imo.

        • Matthew Whitehead 11.1.1.1

          No, I am opposing the idea that we can have someone who thinks covering her tracks is appropriate as a Minister for Open Government.

          Holding Labour accountable is not “helping the Right Wing.” If Labour wants to stay in Government, it has to act like a responsible Government.

          • JohnSelway 11.1.1.1.1

            “Holding Labour accountable is not “helping the Right Wing.” If Labour wants to stay in Government, it has to act like a responsible Government.”

            I wish others realised that too. I voted Labour/Green and as such I’ll harsher on my own ‘team’ than the opposition

          • dukeofurl 11.1.1.1.2

            Open Government isnt about ‘meetings’ its about increasing public participation amoung other things.
            http://ogp.org.nz/
            Commitment 1: Open Budget
            Commitment 2: Improving official information practices
            Commitment 3: Improving open data access and principles
            Commitment 4: Tracking progress and outcomes of open government data release
            Commitment 5: Ongoing engagement for OGP
            Commitment 6: Improving access to legislation
            Commitment 7: Improving policy practices
            Appendix A – Plan development and engagement

            Just playing to the right way who just play a gotcha is the antithesis of Open Government

            • Matthew Whitehead 11.1.1.1.2.1

              I know what open government is, good grief. (Coincidentally, Curran has done nothing to improve adherence with the OGP, which we are in serious danger of getting kicked out of)

              That you don’t get that the Minister for Open Government has moral responsibilities beyond their actual portfolio is very troubling to me. Just like we expect to see the Minister for Transport on buses and trains, we also expect to see the Minister for Open Government eating her own dogfood by being more open than other Ministers about her own schedule, information, and practices, otherwise she has demonstrated she doesn’t believe in what she’s supposed to be doing.

              • dukeofurl

                In your heading this is what you said
                ” The Minister for Open Government really does have one, and one job only: to be frank with the truth,”

                Tell me which one that is on the list ?

                That may be commendable , but lets NOT wrap it up in the Mantle of what Open Government really is.

                • Matthew Whitehead

                  It’s all of them, obviously. Forgive me for summing up the minister’s responsibilities in brief with metaphorical language.

      • McFlock 11.1.2

        Every politician needs a plaque on their wall that says something like:
        It’s not screwing up that will end your career, it’s the cover-up. The cover-up. That’ll be the end of you. The cover-up. Front up, don’t cover-up!

        • dukeofurl 11.1.2.1

          And the cover ups ended Keys career ?

          Dont make me laugh. he would just say anything he didnt want to reveal was ‘his work as an MP’ and thus none of your business.

          • McFlock 11.1.2.1.1

            Not many politicians lose their jobs because of a simple fuckup. It’s the coverup that usually takes them out when they go.

            That’s not to say they never get away with it.

          • Matthew Whitehead 11.1.2.1.2

            What exactly did Key cover up? He fronted on everything, would put on the charm for the media and say he didn’t think it was a particularly big deal, and oh look over there, haven’t we got some nice new money to announce for our corporate mates? And how about we cut taxes for well-paid journalists so you don’t have to question me?

            Sadly, the rules of the game seem to be: Minimization and misdirection are, to an extent, allowed, but actual cover-ups aren’t.

            • dukeofurl 11.1.2.1.2.1

              have you never seen the list of over 200 items where he covered up or lied.

              Ive given the reference to where he covered up his contact with bloggersjournalists
              There was Sky City or as Hootun put it
              ‘Close to corruption’
              Close to corruption
              The origins of this fiasco lie in the close private relationship established between John Key and SkyCity in the mid 2000s. When he became prime minister, Mr Key surprised many when he appointed himself minister of tourism but it was old news to SkyCity. Its executives had advised business partners well before election day that things were looking up because Mr Key had “agreed” to become tourism minister.

              https://www.nbr.co.nz/opinion/skycity-debacle-offers-morbid-fascination

              • tracey

                Surveillance of dotcom

                English covered up for Barclay

              • Matthew Whitehead

                I am intimitely familiar with his many lies. He never claimed to be responsible for opening up the government, and I agree they should have been scandals, but the fact is if you misdirect and minimize like key did, and have enough charisma, banked political capital, and consistent public support by your cronies, the media don’t care, but if you say things that simply aren’t plausible, they do. It sucks that there’s one standard for our lot and another, much lower standard for theirs, I agree. But the correct response is to go after their lot when they’re in power, not to excuse ministers because we like their party.

            • red-blooded 11.1.2.1.2.2

              Key covered up the whole Dirty Politics game, for starters. He just kept repeating that it was a left wing conspiracy theory.

            • Stuart Munro 11.1.2.1.2.3

              He wouldn’t front up on RNZ though – knew his smarm wouldn’t cut it except on talkback. A coward after all.

  12. Stunned Mullet 12

    CV will have burst his spleen from laughter

    • Muttonbird 12.1

      Would make a change from venting it.

    • McFlock 12.2

      He wasn’t always wrong, in the old days.

      • Muttonbird 12.2.1

        So I hear. He had a fight with Labour and has held a grudge ever since.

      • veutoviper 12.2.2

        100% McFlock.

        And Muttonbird it was Curran – not Labour – that the fight was with.

        • McFlock 12.2.2.1

          I wouldn’t go to 100% right either, though 🙂

          And his targets seemed to be wide-ranging.

          • veutoviper 12.2.2.1.1

            LOL – not well thought out on my part! But he was a very different person back then and still is from time to time. I was actually quite interested in some of his comments the other day when the axe fell yet again in OM 21 March down under 16.1.1.1.2. He answered John Selway’s questions in a quite reasonable manner which gave a little insight into where he was coming from. But getting onto ‘unsafe’ ground.

        • Muttonbird 12.2.2.2

          I see. Well the whole episode has turned him into a low-functioning anarchist.

    • RedLogix 12.3

      After a moment or two indulging in well-earned schadenfreude; I imagine he’s just disappointed like the rest of us.

      An utterly unnecessary and pointless embarrassment all for zero possible gain.

      • Stunned Mullet 12.3.1

        “I imagine he’s just disappointed like the rest of us.”

        Nope, he’s been vocal about Curran’s failings for a very long time.

  13. Carolyn_Nth 13

    Whoa! It’s all going down right now.

    Just breaking, Helen Clark says Ardern was “let down” by not being told about the Labour Summer camp sexual assault allegations.

    https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/102623029/helen-clark-pm-ardern-was-let-down-when-she-wasnt-told-about-sexual-assault-allegations

    Ardern needs to step up and show she is in control. And I suspect Curran will be gone by lunch time tomorrow!

    • Matthew Whitehead 13.1

      Ardern has already said she currently doesn’t intend to fire Curran, so there would need to be an angle to this story that isn’t public for her to change course here, I think.

      • Carolyn_Nth 13.1.1

        But Ardern also was critical of Curran. Her support of Curran was pretty cautious. i suspect Ardern is playing for time, to see how things play out.

        It may require some more info to come to light for Curran to go. But, i do think Curran looked weak in press stand up this afternoon, and think she will go tomorrow. She’s a dead woman walking.

        • Matthew Whitehead 13.1.1.1

          That is my take too, although I don’t know if it will be as soon as tomorrow. 🙂 I would have thought it was when I first heard the story, but…

    • Bill 13.2

      “And in our second 100 days in office, we will attempt to eat ourselves for breakfast.”

      I’m right in saying there is pressure from within caucus to be done with Kirkton? And what does Helen Clark’s opinion have to do with anything – apart from the fact it carries heft and so plays into any pressure on Kirkton?

      • dukeofurl 13.2.1

        Kirton isnt appointed by Caucus, if he has the support of the President he will stay.

        [lprent: *sigh* The NZ Labour Party General Secretary is appointed as an employee by the NZ council into a paid position with some pretty specific tasks.

        Try reading the available documentation rather than simply lying when you don’t know. Take the next week to read it. Normally I’d give an educational ban. But I can’t be arsed doing the required work for someone who is probably just being a dimwit.

        However as you are probably aware, I really hate arseholes inventing false facts. Next time I see you do it, I will assist your attention to detail with a incredibly long ban. Your absence for an extended period will make the work worthwhile. ]

        • dukeofurl 13.2.1.1

          Quite so.
          “The General Secretary:
          (a) Holds office on terms and conditions agreed with the NZ Council; and
          (b) Must be confirmed in office at the first Annual Conference after his or her appointment.

          I merely ‘stated’ he wasnt appointed by caucus – the rules confirm this, my ‘opinion’ is if the President supports him he would stay.

    • weka 13.3

      I’m also curious about what the deal is with Clark. She’s been quite outspoken about a number of issues for NZ lately. Is she still between jobs?

      • Sacha 13.3.1

        Her close pal H2 will be keeping her updated from the inside more than in previous years.

      • Matthew Whitehead 13.3.2

        I think having been voted down by the UN and thus not needing to maintain a public profile that’s above national politics has freed her to talk.

        I wouldn’t classify her as “between jobs” so much as fulfilling the party elder role, and trying to be a conscience to the Labour Party now she doesn’t have to contend with political considerations herself.

      • veutoviper 13.3.3

        No, Helen Clark is not between jobs, but her new job is not as full time and consuming as her previous UN role.

        https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/98718546/helen-clark-takes-job-at-global-commission-on-drug-policy

      • Anne 13.3.4

        Is she still between jobs?

        Not really. She’s highly sought after on the international speaking circuit. Don’t think she charges $500,000 though. 🙂

        She’s essentially back in NZ now. It’s her country and her base. She’s not holding down any official position so she is free to express opinions just like the rest of us.

  14. weka 14

    Can someone please catch me up on the sequence of events?

    CH and CC arranged to have a meeting, in a cafe.

    CC didn’t put that in her Ministerial diary?

    At some point CH told her bosses that the meeting was not prearranged but that they had run into each other.

    Eventually questions were asked in the House, and CC obfuscated but essentially said that the meeting was not prearranged.

    For some reason CH has now told her boss that it was prearranged. She resigned for lying to him?

    CC is now trying to fudge it some more.

    What I don’t get is what would be the problem with CH meeting with CC in a cafe? i.e why the need to lie about whether the meeting was planned or not?

    • Carolyn_Nth 14.1

      What I don’t get is what would be the problem with CH meeting with CC in a cafe? i.e why the need to lie about whether the meeting was planned or not?

      I suspect it’s because RNZ is a National Party appointment, and tipped to prepare RNZ for privatisation.

    • McFlock 14.2

      I think it’s more the principle that if a minister is backchannelling two or three levels down the chain, it’s essentially making it impossible for the people in the intermediate positions to do their jobs by opening the organisation to conflicting objectives.

      Additionally, the minister is there for governance, not to manage specific aspects of operation.

      And the board is supposed to be in charge, as well. Ministerial meddling can make it difficult for them to fulfill their statutory obligations.

      And finally, if the minister is cutting a chief executive out of the loop, then basically it creates an untenable workplace for that executive and opens the govt to massive employment payouts, when you could have just replaced them normally without grievance some time later. Ctutting them out suggests any consideration was predetermined.

    • Sacha 14.3

      “CC didn’t put that in her Ministerial diary? ”

      And now we are told she did.

    • veutoviper 14.4

      I posted a detailed timeline at 13.3 on Open Mike as I have been watching this fiasco from its early days and had kept a record as I needed to get my head around the sequence etc.

    • veutoviper 14.5

      What I don’t get is what would be the problem with CH meeting with CC in a cafe? i.e why the need to lie about whether the meeting was planned or not?

      Nothing if they were personal friends, relatives etc and it was a strictly personal get-together.

      If however,it was a business meeting, then it would be unusual or possibly against RNZ’s own rules for someone at Herschfeld’s level to meet with a Minister without first getting the approval of the CEO – and possibly that of the Chairman of the RNZ Board.

      Its were a get-together is a bit of each that things can get really tricky – and perhaps this one was. In which case, you meet in private somewhere – your home etc; not in a very public cafe.

      Anyone at Curran’s level and at Herschfeld level should know the rules and conventions – as these are there to protect you as much as your position/organisation.

    • Ovid 14.6

      What I don’t get is what would be the problem with CH meeting with CC in a cafe? i.e why the need to lie about whether the meeting was planned or not?

      I delved into the Cabinet Manual. Radio New Zealand is a Crown Entity. The Manual says under the Crown Entities Act “an accountability relationship exists between Crown entities, their board members, and their responsible Ministers on behalf of the Crown and the House of Representatives”.

      Statutory Crown Entities: a guide for ministers (pdf) says on p.34 “As the responsible Minister, you should regularly engage with your board(s) to clarify performance and any other expectations you or the Government may have, reduce misunderstandings, and enhance the relationship you have with the board”.

      Engaging in an end-run around the board to a staff member while not explicitly ruled out by the Cabinet Manual or the Guide undermines this relationship.

    • Matthew Whitehead 14.7

      So, there’s a few problems:

      * RNZ has procedures about how to meet with ministers to avoid the perception of meddling in their operational independence. Curran made no attempt to check if such procedures existed before arranging a meeting, and either did not correctly direct her staff to find out any such information, or her staff failed to prevent her cock-up, too. If Curran wanted a meeting with Hirschfeld, she should have gone through top management at RNZ first for permission. At this stage, I will grant her that she didn’t intend to dodge those procedures.

      * Curran was incorrect that this meeting counted as informal, and corrected the record in her official dairy after the fact. This should be largely a non-issue now, as she has apologized and corrected the record, but it again goes to her lack of competence as a minister.

      * Both Curran and Hirschfeld have lied and said the meeting was coincidental, when it was in fact arranged.
      Hirschfeld has had to resign because she lied on the public record, and she had to admit so to her boss, (the reason for the admission is unknown at this stage) and she did the right thing by resigning. [Actually, looks like I was wrong here WRT Curran- I’m having difficulty finding Curran on record saying the meeting was coincidental, but she is in the “either lied or was incompetent” situation regardless in claiming that she thought it was informal, and had to correct the record. – MjW]
      Curran has spun this as “different versions of events,” but this does mean she has potentially misled the house if she ever claimed the meeting was coincidental in Parliament- from what I recall she may have said “informal” in oral answers, in which case she’s off the hook there, but would still be very vulnerable to attack from the opposition.
      A couple of senior RNZ managers will now need to correct their statements to the select committee, too.

      * Paul Thompson, RNZ’s CEO, has said the meeting was inappropriate and that it likely included discussion of RNZ+, and given Hirschfeld’s then-role as Head of News, she should probably not be meeting with the Minister alone, and there would be issues of commercial sensitivity here, too.

      * For LOLs, the meeting happened at Astoria, (for those who don’t know Wellington well enough, that’s a very busy café, and there’s no way Curran wouldn’t have been seen with Hirschfeld) so the secret part here is that the nature of the meeting has been covered up, not that it was actually happening in private in any way.

      * This is further complicated by Curran’s other role as Minister for Open Government, because she should have a higher standard about telling the truth and being perceived to tell the truth and properly disclose. For any other Minister, this would be a stupid mistake that couldn’t lead to calls for her head without evidence of the actual wrongdoing, (but would still make them look slimy) but in this case prevarication and attempts to dodge directly undermine her credibility in her other portfolio.

      So essentially, it’s a case of “don’t cover things up, it’s worse than the crime, especially if you’re the Minister for Open Government.

      • tracey 14.7.1

        Thanks for that summary

      • dukeofurl 14.7.2

        Are you sure of your facts ?
        Both Curran and Hirschfeld have lied and said the meeting was coincidental.”

        Curran has NEVER said the meeting was coincidental, that was Hirschfeld alone

        Theres rules about attacking authors here , but nothing says we cant point out gross misinformation

        • tracey 14.7.2.1

          Just that it was informal and didnt need to be reported

        • Matthew Whitehead 14.7.2.2

          She certainly never said so in Parliament, although she did have to correct a written answer on that meeting. I would have said she might have said “coincidental” outside of Parliament, but I wouldn’t bet on it, so you may be right.

          I encourage pointing out errors, this was an abnormally fast post for me, I usually take several hours of checking facts and ensuring I don’t imply anything I shouldn’t, but thought you all deserved some discussion of it, so things got a bit more muddled for me than they usually do.

      • veutoviper 14.7.3

        Matthew, all the videos and Hansard links to the Oral Questions in the House that Curran has answered on this meeting are in my comment at 13.3 in Open Mike if anyone wants them – rather than having to delve all over the Parliament website.

        The videos are worth a look to see Curran’s demeanour and attitude in answering questions. Mallard has no time for her as a result and gives her no leeway. They had quite a little ‘polite’ confrontation last Thursday when she was answering another question from Lee unrelated to this matter.

        https://www.parliament.nz/en/watch-parliament/ondemand?itemId=198962

      • weka 14.7.4

        Cheers Matt, that’s a good explanation (and that of others above).

        So essentially, from what everyone is saying, CH shouldn’t have met with CC without taking someone with her and telling her boss. CC should have known that was a requirement and is either doing her job badly or doing her job really badly.

        At some point CH or both of them lied about whether the meeting was planned.

        Still unexplained is why CH lied, and then why she came clean. Got to feel for her, because that might just be one of those stupid in the moment mistakes that one thinks isn’t going to be a big deal but seriously damages one’s life (in this case her career).

        • Matthew Whitehead 14.7.4.1

          Well, it’s more like CC should never have asked CH directly, he should have asked her boss, and CH should never have accepted directly, she should have uplined the request to her boss for approval through the correct processes.

          CH definitely lied, and CC is, at the least, spinning this rather unfairly as CH’s fault to minimize blowback on herself. There is speculation that she did so for internal RNZ politics reasons, and that CC may have been backing her, but we honestly don’t know why for sure- at first I couldn’t find that info so I had assumed the only reason to lie was to cover up the topic of the meeting, and that surely that would have to reflect badly on CC.

          And yeah, I definitely feel for her, although I would also say she should have been fired if she hadn’t resigned, even though I know she was excellent at her job if the final product is anything to judge her by.

  15. Ad 15

    My bet is Hirschfelt was being tapped to replace Griffin, so he knifed her.

    • Muttonbird 15.1

      Yeah, it’s nothing to do with ‘transparency’. The meeting at the Astoria was a (turns out clumsy) discussion about the future of RNZ under Hirschfeld.

      Griffin spat the dummy.

    • Tiger Mountain 15.2

      yep, traces of a classic Wellington “assassination”, and as another well known blogger asked–“who was the rat?”

      all of which does not excuse Curran’s behaviour, but the new govt. needs to realise “they” ARE out to get them; and need keep a closer eye on all the Yes Minister tories at the top of the public service!

      • Muttonbird 15.2.1

        Clearly a few in RNZ resented Hirschfeld’s rise.

        Hopefully Ardern has further information on how this played out and who the players are which is why she’s resisting calls for Curran’s sacking.

      • Carolyn_Nth 15.2.2

        Who was the rat? Seems to have been Curran – see my comment below.

    • weka 15.3

      He’ll be leaving anyway though, right? So he would knife her to keep a good person out of the job?

      • Ad 15.3.1

        Yes. He has his own names and succession plan. A core part of a Chair and Boards job.

        Fully a fireable offence.

        • Muttonbird 15.3.1.1

          A succession plan he had absolutely no power nor authority to implement. Unless I’m mistaken the government does the hiring there. Perhaps in the private sector or in party politics succession plans might be relevant but not in the public service I would have thought.

          His having a succession plan (if that’s the case) is as bad as Hirschfeld meeting with Curran to press her case for the job!

        • veutoviper 15.3.1.2

          ” He has his own names and succession plan.”

          Griffin always has – even when he was/is not actually in a position of authority to do so and whether it is a private business, public service organisation or a not for profit. I know from personal experience. But Griffin is well on in years now and from what I hear, not that interested in the hands-on way of operating that he used to be.

          But I am not sure that Chair of the Board, or on the Board ,of RNZ would actually be Herschfeld’s scene or interest.

      • McFlock 15.3.2

        Definitely.
        In defeat, malice; in victory, revenge!

        • Sanctuary 15.3.2.1

          You should open for Australia, I hear they have a vacancy. You’d fit right in!

          • McFlock 15.3.2.1.1

            ha – that was another Yes Minister line, talking about the motto of the new Prime Minister in series 1 as I recall. It really is an outstanding guide to dealing with workplace manipulators and bullies.

            I sometimes suspect that questions along the lines of “but why would X do Y?” are because the questioners are too nice to understand some of the seedier parts of life. But Aussie cricketers are a good start.

    • Sacha 15.4

      No way she would want to be the Chair. Would have led their push into TV and then likely become CEO when the timing was right. What a waste.

    • The whole incident stinks of Crosby/Dexter and the Nat’s dirty tricks brigade ,and how anyone who declares they are Labour supporters is beyond me.

  16. adam 16

    Curren is an awful failure as a politician, from her condescendance, to her inability to actually do the job she was elected for.

    I’m surprised how she holds her seat, let alone the utter shock when they made her a minister. I’m going with the dead bodies theory.

    This is a person who has truly risen way above their level of incompetence. Be nice to have a government unlike the last one, in that they actually deal with arrogant tools.

  17. Carolyn_Nth 17

    People are asking who was the rat that tipped off Richard Griffin that the meeting was not accidental.

    Well, it seems to have been Claire Curran on 1st and 22 March 2018.

    I am laughing as I type. But cynically. Seriously, Curran has REALLY let down Hirschfeld.

    https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/102619960/rnz-senior-manager-carol-hirschfeld-resigns-over-meeting-with-minister

  18. Alfie 18

    Hold on a minute people. Stuff is reporting that it was actually Curran who informed RNZ on 1st March about the meeting with Hirschfeld. When CH denied this to her RNZ bosses, Curran’s office again contacted RNZ (22nd March) to point out the inconsistency in CH’s statement. Note also…

    “The meeting was pre-arranged, and was in Curran’s ministerial diary.”

    https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/102619960/rnz-senior-manager-carol-hirschfeld-resigns-over-meeting-with-minister

    While I’ve never met the woman, Clare Curran has done a stirling job of representing the people of South Dunedin for many years. She’s one of those hard-working MPs who deserves a lot better than some of the treatment being handed out above.

    Just saying.

    • Ad 18.1

      Then she should be nothing but a local MP.

      Ain’t no one will ever speak to her or trust her in Wellington now.

      She’s radioactive.

      • dukeofurl 18.1.1

        Do you apply the same standard to Peter Dunne and his meeting with a journalist

        • Sacha 18.1.1.1

          This is the Minister of Broadcasting meeting with a person with editorial control over a public broadcaster. Bigger stakes.

          • DoublePlusGood 18.1.1.1.1

            You have to admire the huge euphemism of ‘meeting with’ though…

          • dukeofurl 18.1.1.1.2

            Would having a social meeting with Paul Holmes – a leading broadcaster at the time be regarded as ‘unacceptable’

            • Gosman 18.1.1.1.2.1

              Was Paul Holmes working for a public broadcaster at the time and the meeting was not made aware to the board of the broadcaster at the time?

    • Matthew Whitehead 18.2

      Cheers.

  19. dukeofurl 19

    Key used to wrangle out of revealing ‘official contacts’ all the time by claiming they were done as an MP

    Eg The Contacts with Slater

    “Back in early 2014 Newstalk ZB requested records of all such contacts that had occurred over a two year period.

    John Key’s office declined to release details, saying to do so would require substantial research and collation and also that some communications may have been made in Mr Key’s capacity as an MP and leader of the National Party.
    http://www.newstalkzb.co.nz/news/politics/ombudsman-to-investigate-john-key-over-blogger-contact/

    So Key was allowed to claim contacts with a ‘ self described journalist’ were done in his capacity as an MP and didnt have to be revealed !

    • Matthew Whitehead 19.1

      It’s about having arguable credibility. Curran attempting to claim the same thing here would be laughed out of the room- the Minister for Broadcasting does not meet with an RNZ employee as an MP, but any other Minister could.

  20. Sacha 20

    “after having been persuaded to lie for her minister”

    No evidence to support that claim yet, Matthew.

    • Matthew Whitehead 20.1

      That’s fair, but I’m not editing that because I do think there’s something that smells funny about Curran minimizing the meeting while Hirschfeld was lying about it. Upthread they seem to think it’s about a power play to take control of RNZ, which may be the case, but it’s still unacceptable.

      Curran is implicated either way as it would have been an inappropriate discussion for her to have.

      • Sacha 20.1.1

        Hey it’s your defamation risk, not mine. 🙂

        • Matthew Whitehead 20.1.1.1

          Eh, if anyone would like to contest that that’s what’s happened officially I’ll be happy to take it down or post a correction, but I don’t like to edit things that were overtaken by events that frequently.

        • Matthew Whitehead 20.1.1.2

          Have updated post now that commenting is finished to withdraw and apologize, btw. Later news definitely made it clear as to what was going on and that the fishiness was around Curran’s having dobbed Hirschfeld in, effectively.

      • dukeofurl 20.1.2

        Have you retracted your claim that Curran lied and claimed the meeting was coincidental ?

      • mac1 20.1.3

        Matthew, I do have to say that your failure to process properly figures on Clare Curran’s personal performance in Dunedin South both personally and for the Party vote does not sit well alongside your willingness to not amend an opinion based on such evidence as “I do think there’s something that smells funny”………

        I refer to our discussion at 10.2.1.1.1 and ff above.

        • Matthew Whitehead 20.1.3.1

          You left out every year she lost votes, Mac1. I didn’t fail anything there, and I feel you were very disingenuous in your argument that she did well given the other factors going on in the 2017 election. She has overall lost a lot more ground than she gained, even compared to Labour’s national-level figures.

          I’ve edited the comment in question- I had thought that the thing about talking about *both* of them was in the post when people raised it. It’s very easy to get confused when you go straight from writing to moderating with no gap in between about what you said in the comments vs what you said in your post, especially when you’ve got dyslexia and you can get mixed up when you’re tired.

  21. weka 21


    Tim Murphy
    ‏ @tmurphyNZ
    5h5 hours ago
    Replying to @jmjenningsnz

    It is odd. Surely editors can meet ministers, whether they bump into them or not, unless inopportune corporate or governance matters were discussed.

    WhakarauJK
    ‏ @ArrestJK
    4m4 minutes ago

    WhakarauJK Retweeted Sacha Dylan

    They are meant to put any such preplanned meetings in their diaries Clarie didn’t until 24 hrs later that’s it that’s all. Carol on the other hand lied and continued to (why is a good question)

  22. mary_a 22

    It’s a pity Carol Hirschfield resigned, considering she is one of the best broadcasters and broadcasting brains in NZ. Her resignation from RNZ is NZ’s loss.

    Clare Curran is proving a liability to the coalition government now. She has been caught covering up details of this issue, so on principle IMO she should resign.

  23. Delia 23

    Well tell it to Curran’s electorate because they have voted her in over and over again, so presumably are happy with her performance for them.

    • Sacha 23.1

      Electorate MPs do not need to be Ministers.

    • timeforacupoftea 23.2

      A turkey could win our Labour safe seat.

    • Matthew Whitehead 23.3

      Electorates don’t vote to determine ministers, Delia. Under Labour, their Caucus votes to determine who gets into cabinet, and then the Prime Minister distributes portfolios based on that team. So my real beef is with every MP who voted that Clare Curran should go into shadow cabinet.

      If she wants to stay on as MP for Dunedin South, that doesn’t bother me.

  24. Sacha 24

    http://www.newshub.co.nz/home/politics/2018/03/hirschfeld-resignation-clare-curran-to-stay-on-as-minister.html

    But Ms Curran defended her own conduct during what she called an “informal catch up over breakfast.”

    “At no time have I ever said the meeting was coincidental.

    “While I believe the meeting was not official and informal, as soon as I became aware that it should have been considered an official meeting in answer to a written question, I corrected the Parliamentary record. This was a mistake.

    “The meeting was not a secret, and I regret that the meeting took place.”

  25. tracey 25

    Cabinet Manual: in personal and professional behaviour will uphold the highest ethical standards.

  26. Sacha 26

    http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/national/353485/curran-on-hirschfeld-s-resignation-it-was-not-a-secret-meeting

    “now that I am aware RNZ has policies around meetings with ministers”

    FFS, you’re a Minister. How could it possibly be a surprise?

    • Matthew Whitehead 26.1

      Honestly, I actually believe her on that. She’s absolutely incompetent enough to have not known to check that sort of thing.

    • McFlock 26.2

      Also known as “I misinterpreted the rules” lol

      • tracey 26.2.1

        Nats have been wilfully misinterpreting the Privacy Act for years with no consequence.

        Are we suggesting this got leaked today to coved the Finlayson story cos outside Newsroom it appears Finlayson’s depriving a defendant of evidence was not deemed newsworthy.

      • Keepcalmcarryon 26.2.2

        Misunderestimated even.

  27. Grant 27

    Meet the new boss, same as the old boss

  28. mauī 28

    Thanks for encapsulating this Matt. It does seem a great opportunity to bring on a new talent now, someone who is a great communicator, onto it and knows politics. Having a look at the current Ministers in this Gov, there’s not really many to get excited about. Maybe I’m being too harsh though, expecting another Lange-esque figure to emerge.

    • Matthew Whitehead 28.1

      Eh, I don’t think it’s harsh to want people who are inspiring in government, but I’ll accept people who are convincing, or competent, or bold instead. I personally do not find Curran to be any of those things, but there are people in Dunedin who feel she’s an advocate, and I don’t think she’s done anything worthy of resigning as an MP over.

  29. timeforacupoftea 30

    It will be great to have somebody decent representing us labourites in the very very safe South Dunedin seat.
    A turkey could win this seat for Labour.
    It appears we have years of clowns representing us down here.
    Please find someone with good morals for a change.

    • Heather Grimwood 30.1

      to timeforacupoftea at 30 : Normally I dismiss such lazy vitriol, but this column is riddled with it today/tonight. I grieve.
      Please don’t let TS descend to level of talkback. It is an avenue for considered discussion, not for the vitriol being seeded.

      • Matthew Whitehead 30.1.1

        “Clowns” is rather tame by the standards here, but yes, I prefer considered discussion to name-calling, although I understand feelings will be high on this one.

  30. dukeofurl 31

    “Broadcasting Minister Clare Curran says she told RNZ in early March that her meeting with senior manager Carol Hirschfeld was not coincidental.”

    https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/102619960/rnz-senior-manager-carol-hirschfeld-resigns-over-meeting-with-minister

    A lot of people need to retract their claims over Curran. We wait for the mea culpas

  31. veutoviper 32

    OMG – probably no connection, but Jacinda Ardern is looking for a new Chief Press Officer and the ad went up first thing on Monday morning.

    Herschfeld? I do like the occasional conspiracy theory ….

    https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/102592564/prime-minister-jacinda-ardern-on-the-hunt-for-new-press-secretary

  32. Muttonbird 34

    Here we go. Peter Thompson of The Better Public Media Trust argues that,

    Although the Opposition is attempting to highlight ministerial impropriety, informal meetings between ministers and people in public sector positions are commonplace.

    and,

    The timing of Hirschfeld’s departure may…hint at a deeper conflict with her RNZ bosses over RNZ+.

    and,

    Richard Griffin recently claimed that RNZ was not planning a stand-alone TV channel, and last year he rejected Better Public Media’s claims that RNZ needed significant additional funding, even advising the Commerce Committee that RNZ was a ‘competitive organisation, not public service per se’.

    Looks to me like Griffin has always been against RNZ+ and this is what led to the meeting between Hirschfeld and Curran, and the subsequent fall-out from that meeting.

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=12021221

    • Carolyn_Nth 34.1

      Thanks. Now that is interesting.

    • veutoviper 34.2

      And I would say that Thompson’s opinion that Hirschfeld’s departure hints at deeper conflicts within RNZ (ie with Griffin) over RNZ+ is absolutely spot on.

      IMO, having had some very close dealings with Griffin in relation to a not-for-profit we were both involved in outside of our paid work, he is a through and through blue and would have been mortified when the Coalition Government was set up – and will be totally opposed to what is proposed for RNZ. He is also someone who does not follow rules and conventions when it does not suit him and his goal to do so. Integrity is not his strong suite; expediency is.

      He sees himself as the saviour of RNZ over the last seven or so years since he was appointed Chairman of the RNZ Board; and will not accept anyone wanting to change it. So I don’t find it surprising he has come out of the woodwork after being very much MIA for some years.

      This article in Sept 2017 gives some insight into his thinking re RNZ
      https://www.stuff.co.nz/nelson-mail/news/96119720/enjoying-the-view-from-both-sides-of-the-fence

      But lets face it, this is a last ditch fight on his side, as he knows the new government is very unlikely to roll over his Chairmanship again.

    • Matthew Whitehead 34.3

      Ta.

  33. Delia 35

    Curran has been an MP since 2008, and I have never seen such a merciless attack on a Labour MP in here before. She is an electorate MP and is well regarded in her electorate. Why not just do National’s job for them, most of you are doing very well and from where I am sitting it all looks very personal.

    • Carolyn_Nth 35.1

      Curran may well be a very good electorate MP. But that doesn’t mean she’ll make a good minister. She has handled this issue very clumsily, and has put the whole Labour plan for RNZ+ under threat. This needs to be handled with someone with far better political savvy.

      We desperately need a better public service media. The right wing and the right wing commercial media do not want it. They perceive Curran to be weak and will go after her.

    • veutoviper 35.2

      Delia, some people are good are some things and bad at others. From everything I hear she is an excellent electorate MP. I personally would not like to see her resign from that role; it is just that to some of us outside her electorate, she did not seem to do to well in the IT and communications roles she held in opposition so it was a bit of surprise that she was made Minister in charge of these areas.

      Perhaps she would be better suited to some other areas like social welfare, poverty, housing etc ?

    • Louis 35.3

      +1 Delia

    • Matthew Whitehead 35.4

      I will concede she may be a good electorate MP, and I am certainly happy for the two women she helped into state houses. I have no objections to her remaining a good electorate MP. But if you know anything about either open government or ICT, you will know she is a terrible spokesperson or Minister in the areas she’s always been assigned.

      It may be she’s just got the wrong portfolios. But I ask you to seriously go and have a look and see if she has accomplished a single concrete thing since becoming a minister- Even Twyford has set up a housing development now, despite having a really hard job of getting the ball rolling on Kiwibuild, and he and David Clark have the two hardest jobs after nine years of National. I ask you to actually compare her speeches in the house with a speech on the same topic by an expert and look for a single informed or insightful comment in her policy areas.

      She was on Twitter arguing with Rachel Glucina after she defended herself today, which again goes to competence- when you are under attack and it looks bad for you, you should sit down and wait for feelings to cool, especially if you’re not Judith Collins.

      She has been a spokesperson for a long time, and needs to be moved on. This has crossed the line that is acceptable for someone in her portfolio in my view.

      As to loyalty to Labour- no thankyou. I will be friendly with Labour, and I will defend them when they deserve it, even though they’re not my party. But blindly withholding criticism is surely a step too far.

    • SHG 35.5

      Curran has been an MP since 2008, and I have never seen such a merciless attack on a Labour MP in here before.

      You must be new here. Curran’s a muppet, a vindictive poisonous incompetent pretender. She deserves everything she gets here.

  34. peterlepaysan 36

    Curran as Minister for open Government? Hah!
    Anyone remember Red Alert, the so called Labour Party blog?
    Curran censored any comments not approved of by a censor known as “Spud” (I suspect it was related to a duck).

    OBTW I too have had dealings with Richard Griffin (going back decades) and endorse comments from Veutoviper.

  35. SPC 37

    So someone who should not be meeting with the Minister, does so, at an arranged meet at a public location. So it’s in the Ministers personal diary but not the Ministerial diary, until added a day later as an informal meet.

    The Minister is asked about in Parliament (and calls it an informal meet, not an official meeting of the Minister), RNZ boss gets asked by a Select Committee (and repeats the line of a staff member that it was not an arranged meeting – thus the claim of being misled by the employee).

    What is the difference between an arranged unofficial meet between the Minister and a RNZ employee and an arranged official meeting with the Minister – well the one that occurs when the employee is not supposed to have (arranged) meetings with the Minister.

    Does no one arrange dinner parties … where the two can meet … just walk into the backyard and have a talk?

  36. repateet 38

    Curran as Minister for Open Government is as appropriate as having Judith Collins as Minister of Justice.

    Did Curran meet Hirschfeld on the way to the airport?

  37. Sacha 39

    Journos adding to the story: https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/102649454/rnz-saga-could-hinge-on-curranhirschfeld-texts

    Stuff has been told by an RNZ source that Curran and Hirschfeld communicated by text over a period of several days ahead of their meeting …

    By Tuesday night Curran’s office could confirm that a [OIA] process was “in train” for the text messages to be released.

    RNZ is reeling over the controversy, with one source describing it as a “debacle” and a disaster for the broadcaster. Hirschfeld was a popular and respected member of the senior team and no one could understand why she did it.

    • Carolyn_Nth 39.1

      Thanks.

      And this from the article:

      parking suspicions within RNZ that Curran wanted to pump Hirschfeld for information about potential roadblocks to Labour’s plan for the state broadcaster to set up a free-to-air TV arm.

      Board chair Richard Griffin and chief executive Paul Thompson are known to be unenthusiastic about the TV plan, and would rather put the money into other platforms. Hirschfeld, who came to RNZ from a broadcasting background, backed the proposal.

      Griffin is also seen as being on Curran’s hit-list, after the pair sparred for many years while she was opposition broadcasting spokesman. His term as chair expires in April and there is an expectation he will not be reappointed

    • veutoviper 39.2

      Right … I am now beginning to understand why the PM is backing up Curran for the moment at least. Basically to hold the line until Griffin is gone, replaced etc in April and other things that are in train (related budget decisions, announcements etc in May) have reached more conclusive stages.

      To step Curran down right now could be seen as weak, and giving in to the opposition from certain RNZ quarters to the RNZ+ plans, which were part of the Labour Party campaign promises.

      • Matthew Whitehead 39.2.1

        So why not just replace Curran but keep the plan and still replace Griffin?

        There’s nothing that says you need Curran to do any of that.

  38. Trewindle 40

    Hi Weka,

    Clare’s active enough that she fields requests and then acts on them from North Dunedinites as well as working for her own constituents. From what I’ve seen working with her (including on her campaign last year), she is the South D candidate because of her hard work in the electorate and her involvement in keeping our services and advocating on behalf of people that need help accessing them, as when she camped in the octagon until two young mothers were supplied with state houses here.

    • weka 40.1

      thanks Trewindle.

    • Heather Grimwood 40.2

      to Trewindle at 40: Absolutely so ….. regarding her camping protest in theOctagon…it was really freezing …she developed a chestiness through that but persisted. Another night would have seen her very ill indeed in my opinion. How many of the writers of vitriol above would have had the guts to do what she did? She actually had two-legged trolls sent to hassle her by day too….probably they had no idea how obvious that were.

    • dukeofurl 40.3

      Thanks Trewindle, good to hear from people who have experience with Clares work in Dunedin, as you reminded us
      Dunedin MP camps out in Octagon to highlight homelessness

      An MP who is camping in the centre of Dunedin until two single mothers get a state house says they have run out of options.

      Clare Curran started her protest in the Octagon on Sunday night, saying she will stay for as long as she has to.
      https://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/checkpoint/audio/201851516/dunedin-mp-camps-out-in-octagon-to-highlight-homelessness

  39. Keepcalmcarryon 41

    Next time news hub or garner tries to crap on about labour how about reminding them of John Key and his non meetings before giving private media public money
    : https://thedailyblog.co.nz/2018/03/28/national-pissed-off-labour-is-nicking-john-keys-dodginess/

  40. Sacha 42

    Released text messages between Curran and Hirschfeld reveal nothing about meeting topic: http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/political/353548/text-messages-between-curran-and-hirschfeld-released

  41. Sparky 43

    It never gets any better…..not sure what more there is to say……

  42. Sacha 44

    Ex-TV3 head of news Mark Jennings tries to make sense of it: https://www.newsroom.co.nz/2018/03/27/100637/coffee-meeting-leaves-rnz-in-a-mess

  43. Peroxide Blonde 45

    I can hear Colonial Viper giggling madly in the distance.

    The hapless Curran screwed up publicly in handling lively activity in her electorate a few years ago. She even wanted the NZ Council to kick people out of the party who had the temerity to grow the Labour party in her patch.

    Her holding the national Govt to account during the “un-bundling of the loop” was atrocious. She failed to spot that Telecom/Spark retained the core network. She was way out of her depth. She help a positions because she is foot soldier for Grant Robertson.

    The story here is the dynamic between Robertson and Ardern.

    • veutoviper 46.1

      Lest we forget indeed! Gosh how time flies.

      just look at us all and see who is still here six years later.

      Really interesting to read your 42 there again SHG. Food for thought.

      Thanks for this.

      • SHG 46.1.1

        QoT’s comment at 46.1 of that old thread seems apropos:

        as far as Labour/Clare Curran is concerned, “Open Government” means “we demand transparency of the government while in opposition but deny basic freedom of expression to people who disagree with us”

  44. NewsFlash 47

    What a load of TRIVIA, I think I’ll go back to reading the Womens Weekly

    • R.P McMurphy 47.1

      right on the flash.
      this molehill is about to implode soon.
      what a crap shit storm invented by the nationals.
      time for RNZ to ditch the tory cabal and set off on a new direction of honesty and objectivity.

  45. Philg 48

    This, amongst other things, shows how the MSM are controlling the narrative in this country, and RNZ is part of the problem. Clare is not up to the huge task of setting up a quality, non commercial Public Broadcaster. This is the foundations of Demockary we are attempting to construct. Without a well resourced, impartial, non commercial, and informed media there is no Democracy. How much does the SIS and GCSB cost per annum? Get on with it.

    • SHG 48.1

      Quality noncommercial public broadcasting is what the country needs. Curran’s plan is to add… an Auckland TV station. If that isn’t reason to fire her I don’t know what is.

  46. Editor .My comment are not being recorded.

    [try altering your email address slightly (e.g. put a dot after the first three letters). At the moment all your comments are going into spam and sometimes that fixes that. – weka]

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