PM standing by Curran after RNZ committee hearing

8:49 am on 6 April 2018

The Broadcasting Minister remains safe in her job with the Prime Minister saying there was nothing new out of a specially called select committee hearing about a meeting between Clare Curran and a former RNZ news executive.

Screengrab of Broadcasting Minister Clare Curran speaking to media outside ASB Waterfont Theatre on 28/03/2018

The Prime Minister has again said that she retains confidence in Clare Curran Photo: RNZ

RNZ's head of news Carol Hirschfeld resigned last month after it emerged she had lied to her boss about the meeting with Ms Curran.

The broadcaster's chief executive, Paul Thompson, told the committee last month that the meeting between Ms Hirschfeld and Ms Curran was a chance encounter, because that is what Ms Hirschfeld had told him.

It later emerged Ms Hirschfeld had lied and the meeting had been pre-planned.

Mr Thompson and RNZ board chair Richard Griffin reappeared before MPs at Parliament yesterday morning to put the record straight.

RNZ chief executive Paul Thompson (left) and chair Richard Griffin are grilled at the select committee hearing by National MP Melissa Lee.

RNZ chief executive Paul Thompson, left, and chair Richard Griffin are grilled at the select committee hearing. Photo: RNZ / Richard Tindiller

Under questioning from National's Melissa Lee, Mr Thompson said he got repeated assurances that the meeting was coincidental.

"That they had bumped into each other in the cafe and had talked, and I questioned her on that intently and I also asked for details of the discussion, which was a broad discussion about the media sector and the RNZ policy, those were the assurances Carol gave me and I trusted her word."

After yesterday's hearing, Ms Lee asked RNZ to provide all communications between Ms Hirschfeld and Ms Curran.

She has also asked for a voice mail message left on the chair of RNZ's board by Ms Curran.

"I have no idea what's in the voice mail, obviously there are two different accounts, the minister has actually suggested one account and the chairperson has a very different account of what that conversation was all about, so when we actually have a recording we'll actually get to the bottom of that."

Melissa Lee

Melissa Lee at the select committee meeting yesterday Photo: RNZ / Richard Tindiller

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has outlined her understanding of that conversation.

"Yes a phone call was made and advice was passed on that the quickest way to correct the record given that RNZ wasn't able to make their appearance last Thursday would have been in writing - the minister has advised me that she did pass on that advice.

"Look, I have certainly told her that in my view it was wrong that she contacted the chair directly given the circumstances, she acknowledges that."

Ms Ardern said there was nothing new from yesterday's select committee appearance, and she retained confidence in Ms Curran.

Ms Lee said she hoped the committee would get the extra information regarding any correspondence between Ms Curran and Ms Hirschfeld next week.

RNZ said if the voicemail message could be recovered, it would release it to the committee.

Voicemail to be released to committee next week - Lee understands

Ms Lee said it was possible Ms Hirschfeld and Ms Curran would be asked to appear before the select committee.

"That is for the select committee to decide. We haven't had that discussion but that could be potentially possible," she told Morning Report.

The hearing yesterday raised more questions than it answered, she said, and the only two people who could say what went on at the meeting between the two was Ms Curran and Ms Hirschfeld - and they were not saying anything.

"What was discussed at the breakfast in December 5 that was so so important that Carol Hirschfeld felt the need to lie about it, not once, not twice but four times to her bosses."

Ms Lee said she understood the voicemail would be released to the select committee next week.

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