Documents that the government was forced to release under the Official Information Act reveal that Bill English exercised extensive control and sign-off over each stage of his million dollar political propaganda ad, funded by publicly-owned broadcaster TVNZ.
The documents (which, unfortunately, the media organisations have not seen fit to release to the public in full) show that far from just editing the script to correct some economicic misunderstandings as he had claimed, English re-wrote it to include more of his party’s political rhetoric.
TVNZ Script: In these recessionary times
Bill English rewrite: As we emerge from the recession
TVNZ Script: “We can beat those Aussies. Time to back ourselves – kick for the corner then muscle over the line.”
Bill English rewrite: “You know, we can beat those Aussies. It’s time to back ourselves. With a bit of old fashioned Kiwi can-do, we’ll get there.”
TVNZ Script: “It’s time to give the snip snap to the zip zap plastic fantastic” (make finger scissors gesture)
Bill English Rewrite: “Lets get investing and back our exporters. That’s where the jobs will come and that’s how we can boost our incomes.”
TVNZ Script: “Keep a few bob in the bank and Bob will be your uncle. We’ll get there. Bottom line: it’s your economy too.”
Bill English rewrite: We’re nearly through the tough times and things are looking up. We have plenty of work to do. But I’m confident New Zealanders are up for it and together we’ll do it.” (Changed by TVNZ for final cut to “We’re nearly through the tough times and things are looking up. Together us Kiwis can do it.”)
English was given final sign-off on the script and on the final edit of the ad.
This whole thing stunk before, now it stinks even more of corruption. There needs to be an independent investigation. I would think the State Services Commission is the logical body. Shareholding ministers are not permitted to exercise this degree of control over the actions of Crown-owned companies. English knew that, TVNZ CEO Rick Ellis knew that, the presenter, Guyon Espiner, knew that. Everyone involved in the process knew that it is not permissible for a company to pay for a party political broadcast and it is not within the minister’s powers to direct operational matters. The public must be told how and why it was allowed to happen. Heads must roll.
On a wider note, this is another example of the rampant corruption and disregard for the rule of law that we will have to put up with from this Key Government for another two years. Key has neither the will nor the strength to pull ministers into line, especially not English.
That means that English will see fit to continue behaving as he damn well pleases. Whether its ripping us off for tens of thousands of dollars by abusing the ministerial housing allowance, abusing his ministerial powers to give himself a million dollars of taxpayer-funded ads, or whatever other rort he can come up with, English is not going to change his ways. And Key can’t make him.