If we’re to believe National’s version of events, Pita Sharples kept secret from his colleagues that he was going to take $3 million from a contestable Te Puni Kokiri (TPK) fund meant for job initiatives and give it to Maori TV (MTS) to subsidise their World Cup bid. When it became a big story Sharples apologised to John Key for not telling him about it earlier, saying it was a mistake from a junior minister, and Key said he would be ‘comfortable’ with MTS getting the rights.
Then, Jonathan Coleman, also without higher approval, decided to back a counter-bid by TVNZ and TV3. Just when it was getting farcical, in rode John Key on a white steed and cut the Gordian Knot into which his ministers had tangled themselves by having a taxpayer subsidise all the channels in a joint bid, leading Young to gush “John Key has just shown why he is Prime Minister.”
Nice story. But it’s a load of crap as revealed by a timeline of events leaked (presumably by Sharples or te Heuheu or Comar) to Tracey Watkins and reproduced in today’s Dom (not online, apparently stuff is still living in 1998), Audrey Young’s timeline, along with other public information:
What’s now clear is that senior ministers knew about this whole issue for a long time and the only surprise for them was when MTS’s bid became public on the 2nd. Their response was to blame everything on brownie. National’s ministers pretended they knew nothing. They got Sharples to apologise for not informing them even though he had and didn’t tell him for a week that they were going to launch a counter-bid. They even got him to hand over the information on the MTS bid they needed to beat it (talk about mana-enhancing, they’ll be calling him Pita Pononga soon).
Meanwhile, Key spent a week pretending he was OK with an MTS bid, repeatedly stating on TV and in other media that as long as there was coverage it was OK and also making statements that humiliated Sharples. All the time, Key knew he was going to kill the MTS bid with the counter-bid.
Then when he did launch the counter-bid, MTS and Sharples didn’t back down as National had expected. The thing was develpoing into such a mess that Key had a panic response of getting all the channels together in a single bid and promising them taxpayer money (presumably supplied by those pixies at the bottom of the garden).
Watkins says that Labour has been soft in calling this a shambles. She’s right. This is a shabby, dishonest affair and this government must now be considered the least incompetent and the most internally fractured since the dying days of the previous National government. The upshot is there remains no channel with the free-to-air rights, but whoever does get it, you and I will be subsidising them.