The TVNZ report is quite damning of Shane Taurima. While it clears him of political bias in his interviewing and editorial decisions (which I never thought there was a case for), the damning part is how he ran a Labour Party branch from within TVNZ for many months.
Labour has declined to give him a waiver to stand for Tamaki Makaurau. This is the right decision, as a failure to do so would have been a de facto endorsement of his activities at TVNZ. These activities were not coincidental – but designed to win him the nomination for Tamaki Makaurau.
The report is here. Some key aspects:
- A TVNZ meeting room was used to host a Labour Party meeting – just five weeks after the Ikaroa-Rawhiti by-election which he had sought the Labour candidacy for. This is quite damning, as it shows an almost immediate commencement of activities for Labour – not a gradual decision to get involved again.
- Four TVNZ staff sent or received “hundreds of e-mails” from or to their TVNZ accounts, related to the Labour Party.
- Taurima recruited three TVNZ staff members to join the Labour Party less than one week after the Ikaroa-Rawhiti by-election. The timing is daming, as well as any boss pressuring staff to join a political party – let alone staff at the state broadcaster
- One staff member said she found it hard to complete her TVNZ duties due to the requests from Taurima to do Labour Party business
- Taxpayers, through TVNZ, paid for someone to fly from Gisborne to Auckland to attend a Labour Party meeting at Taurma’s home
- In a number of areas, the panel casts doubt on Taurima’s version of events
- Less than a week after returning to TVNZ Taurima was being e-mailed about how to win Tamaki Makaurau. These e-mails do not come unsolicited.
- The most damning evidence in my eyes is that he did nto set up one branch for Labour – but three branches!! I’ve been in party politics a long time, and let me tell you there is no reason you set up multiple branches – except to win a nomination. You might help set up one branch to help the party grow, You set up multiple branches to win a nomination. Taurima consistently claims he only decided to stand for Tamaki Makaurau six months later in February 2014. I do not believe he is telling the truth. All his activities from the week he returned to TVNZ were what you would expect from someone seeking a nomination – and using their employer’s resources to help gain it.
- Taurima became the Electorate Chairman for Labour in September.
- In January 2014 he hosted a hui attended by David Cunliffe on how Labour should win the Maori vote
- Both Taurima and the other TVNZ staff who were active in Labour actively worked to keep their activities secret from TVNZ
- Taurima was asked by the Herald on November if he was standing for Labour. He told them “categorically” he would not be standing and told his TVNZ boss abotu the denial and the media speculation on him (based on a tweet from Julian Wilcox) was “mud-raking”. As it happens, the speculation was entirely correct and Taurima deceived when he ruled out standing.
As I said above, the setting up of multiple branches is a very strong indicator of a desire to be the candidate. The very small period of time between returning to TVNZ and preparing the way for his candidacy is, in my opinion, proof of very bad faith on the part of Taurima.
Now it will get interesting. Presumably Julian Wilcox will enter the race. I rate Wilcox based on his skills as the former host of Native Affairs on Maori TV. However I do wonder what, if anything, a well targeted Official Information Act request to Maori TV may turn up regarding the Labour Party! Hopefully Julian kept his Labour Party involvement (he was a member last year) away from his work!
Meanwhile the PSA is campaigning for the rights of TVNZ political journalists to be activists within a political party. Not the finest moment for the PSA who should be supporting political neutrality.