Broadcasting Minister Clare Curran has apologised to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern for not being transparent over her meeting with RNZ’s Carol Hirschfeld.
Curran looks unlikely to resign and the Prime Minister has accepted the apology. She said Curran apologised for not including the meeting in her written answer to a question from National MP Melissa Lee, but said the meeting itself was not a breach of Curran's ministerial responsibilities.
“There has not been a breach of the Cabinet Manual,” said Ardern.
“Equally, in general, ministers do meet with individuals who work in crown entities from time to time. Having said that, the minister has apologised to me for the lack of transparency from the very beginning about the fact that the meeting occurred and the fact that it was not included in the initial written question,” she said.
Ardern walked with Curran to question time this afternoon, stopping together to answer questions from press gallery journalists about the RNZ issue.
Ardern said she expected the primary relationship between the Government and RNZ should be between the Minister and the Board, but that it was not unusual for ministers to meet with people working within crown entities. She gave the example of a minister meeting with scientists from a crown research institute for research purposes.
Curran said that she had sought the meeting because Hirschfeld was “a very highly respected well-known expert in her field” and she wanted “a quick exchange of views”.
She said that she was not trying to hide the meeting, but that she thought it was “just a catch-up and an unofficial meeting”.
“I have since corrected that, I have apologised to the Prime Minister and I was wrong,” she said.
There has been speculation that Curran sought the meeting with Hirschfeld because RNZ chairman Richard Griffin and the RNZ board were unenthusiastic about RNZ+, which had been billed as a full television channel run by RNZ. Hirschfeld, who comes from a background in television is thought to be more supportive of Curran’s vision.
Both Ardern and Curran refused to comment on whether there was disunity between the Government and RNZ on the matter of RNZ+.
“That is a policy matter and I don’t know if we’re in a position at the moment to disclose that, given the work that is still ongoing,” said Ardern.
On whether RNZ+ would be a full-service TV channel or a more multimedia version of the current RNZ model, Curran said, “That’s a policy matter that is ongoing”.
Lee questioned Curran in the house about the nature of what was discussed and whether high level funding had been mentioned.
Curran said that she still had confidence in Richard Griffin.