Hide: ‘It’s shocking Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern hasn’t fired her’

Rodney Hide doesn’t pull any punches in analysing the Clare Curran catastrophe at NBR: Quote.

The Curran-Hirschfield saga is a signal of rotten government.

The meeting between the broadcasting minister and the head of RNZ News should never have taken place. Both Clare Curran and Carol Hirschfield appeared to know that with their fumbling attempts at denial.

Ms Hirschfield repeatedly told her Radio NZ bosses that the meeting was accidental. When it transpired she had pre-arranged the meeting she resigned her job.

Her denial of premeditation had led Radio New Zealand’s chairman and chief executive to inadvertently misled Parliament.

The checks and balances on government are limited and misleading Parliament defeats the possibility of the most basic accountability. That’s why it’s treated as such a big deal even on the most minor of issues.

To make misleading Parliament anything other than a big deal is to surrender parliamentary democracy to tyrannical government.

Ms Curran herself denied to Parliament her meeting with Ms Hirschfield. When caught, she blamed her naivety for thinking the meeting was informal, nothing to do with her as a minister and of no interest to Parliament.

The attempt at a cover-up was shoddy but the meeting itself was shocking.

Radio New Zealand is a Crown entity bound by statute and subject to the Companies Act 1993. Ministerial direction is thereby limited and must be made public by Gazette. Likewise reporting lines and processes are strict.

Parliament’s purpose is to ensure the entity operates at “arm’s length” from the Minister. Private tête-à-têtes completely smash the entity’s purpose, operation and accountability.

Radio New Zealand also operates under its own act to ensure reporting independence. The act prohibits ministers directing programming. The self-described naivety of the minister meeting one-on-one with the person described variously as head of news or head of content and then attempting to suggest an informal catch-up is truly breathtaking.

It doesn’t matter what was discussed. The very meeting destroys Radio New Zealand’s claim of editorial independence. Besides, who would believe what the two would now say about the meeting content?

The responsible minister has enormous power in recommending to the Cabinet Radio New Zealand’s funding, direction and board membership. That power should not be used to conduct meetings outside of the office, without staff, without notes and without the knowledge of the board or chief executive. Such a meeting destroys accountability, cuts across editorial independence, undermines the board and the chief executive and breeds distrust within the organisation.

And then to top it off, we have Ms Curran leaving a message for Radio New Zealand’s chairman Richard Griffin suggesting there is no need for him to appear before a select committee to apologise and explain his misleading statements, a simple letter will do. For obvious reasons Parliament treats as serious any attempt to hinder an appearance before a select committee. Any suggestion from the responsible minister for the independent board chairman not to attend is just such a hindrance.

It’s rotten to have a minister behaving in such fashion. It’s ironic she’s minister for open government. It’s shocking Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern hasn’t fired her. End quote.

Brutal, but accurate. Rodney Hide clearly lays out the case for why this is a sackable offence.

Unless something more comes out then it is unlikely that Curran will be sacked, and the Prime Minister has tried Helen Clark’s old trick and declared the issue over. I think she is wrong and that may well come to pass in due course when Griffin is forced to produce his voicemail, if not under the OIA, then almost certainly by the Ombudsman.

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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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