Unwise meeting and answers

From Hansard:

Melissa Lee: Does she stand by her answer to written question No. 19129 (2017) in regard to meeting with board members or staff of TVNZ or RNZ since 1 December?


Melissa Lee: How can she stand by that answer when she failed to mention her breakfast meeting with RNZ head of content Carol Hirschfeld on 2 December?

Hon CLARE CURRAN: I have a range of discussions, informal or otherwise, with many people in a range of portfolio areas.

Melissa Lee: If they did have breakfast together, as the Minister's office has confirmed, and discussed a range of issues about the future of in New Zealand, why did she not include extremely relevant meeting in her answer to written question No. 19129 (2017)?

It is very unwise for the Minister of Broadcasting to have breakfast with the head of news for – especially as the Minister is proposing to give New Zealand millions more in funding.

The Minister should only meet the Chair and/or the Chief Executive. To directly interface with someone who has editorial control of news reporting is unwise. As far as I know no previous Minister has met with news editors, except with CEs present.

Also meetings to discuss portfolio issues should be with staff present, so a record is kept of what is said. A private meeting between a Minister and a news director is unwise – especially one owned by the state and one the Minister is promising lots more money for.

Melissa Lee: Thank you, Mr Speaker. If she did have breakfast together, as the Minister's office has confirmed, and has discussed a range of issues about the future of New Zealand media, why did she not include this extremely relevant meeting in her answer to written question No. 19129?

Hon CLARE CURRAN: Because I didn't perceive it as an official meeting.

So the Minister for Open is now saying that she doesn't have to include meetings if she deems then unofficial. Way to go for transparency.

Hon Chris Hipkins: Mr Speaker, I draw your attention—I'm sure you're aware of it, because I think you were involved in it—to a lengthy series of points of order during the last Parliament about the former Prime Minister John Key and the various hats that he wore and what were deemed to be official engagements and what were not deemed to be official engagements. And I think the precedent was very clearly established by the previous Government.

Hon : The point, Mr. Speaker, is that if a Minister—in this case, the Minister of Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media—has a meeting with someone who is an employee of Radio New Zealand, are we expected to believe that there was no discussion at all about matters that fall within portfolio responsibilities? I think that would be a huge stretch. 

If they had been discussing the weather then it would not be a meeting relating to her role as Minister. But her own office confirmed they discussed issues around the future of NZ media, so it clearly was in her role as Minister.

Mr SPEAKER: Well, I really don't think this is that complicated for members who have looked at the issue of ministerial responsibility carefully. Clearly, members can be involved as a Minister at a breakfast, which is not a meeting with a specific person, because quite often there is a large group of people at a general breakfast and someone else could be there, and there could be discussion. That is not a meeting with an individual, as far as I'm concerned.

As I understand it, it was not a group breakfast, but just the two of them.


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