Tracy Watkins on Jacinda’s continuing nightmare

Being Prime Minister isn’t all beer and skittles, especially when your own ministers are screwing up beyond all belief.

The media can sniff blood and some of it is the PM’s. Tracy Watkins explores the problems that Ardern is struggling to keep a lid on:

Problems are supposed to come in threes. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is already at two, and it’s only Tuesday.

Her third could be the further unravelling of the saga that has already claimed one scalp – that of Radio New Zealand’s head of content, Carol Hirschfeld.

Hirschfeld resigned over inconsistent accounts of a meeting with Communications Minister Clare Curran, which should never have happened.

That’s because, on Hirschfeld’s part, it breached RNZ protocolsOn Curran’s part, it looked like she was reaching over the top of the board and CEO to the head of news at the State broadcaster.

It smacks of editorial interference.

That’s because it was… and treason.

Labour’s policy boosts public broadcasting coffers by $38 million, a staggering amount in today’s struggling media environment. It’s not hard to see why a senior executive from an underfunded RNZ might have considered it politic to keep Curran happy when the minister reached out.

Astoria Cafe is not the place  for a secret meeting – it is where the movers and shakers in Wellington go to be seen. Yet when asked by National about her meetings with RNZ, Curran initially omitted it, only correcting the record later.

Hirschfeld’s explanation was that they bumped into each other by accident – only that is not what happened either, according to Curran. She says it was in both their diaries.

But Hirschfeld didn’t change her story, according to Radio New Zealand chief executive Paul Thompson, even after he and RNZ chair Richard Griffin inadvertently misled a select committee by repeating her version of events.

She has paid the price for that. Yet Curran also knew they had misled the select committee, but failed to correct the public record.

Instead, a staffer contacted RNZ on March 1, the same day as the select committee, to query Hirschfeld’s story.

It followed up again with RNZ – this time bringing Griffin into the loop – on March 22. Only then was action taken.

Ardern has made it clear Curran is on notice – if more emerges, her head will be on the block.

More will emerge. Media sources I’ve been speaking to in Wellington know an awful lot more than Clare Curran is letting on.

But like the bizarre case of a NZ First MP allegedly warning a National MP off asking awkward questions in Parliament, Curran’s blunder contributes to the perception of an accident-prone and inexperienced Government.

After the recent Labour youth camp blunder, Ardern might have been hoping for a better start to the new week.

No wonder she looks like she is carrying the weight of her government on her shoulders – and it’s only Tuesday.

The youth camp saga is set to re-ignite, when the alleged offender is outed. That isn’t far off. Just a matter of days. More questions will be asked about that and saying a review is under way won’t cut it.

I think we are going to see scowly faced Jacinda for a few more weeks.

 

-Stuff

 


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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.

To read Cam’s previous articles click on his name in blue.

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