While most of us will be easing down today thought a few nerds will still be interested in the fact that I have written to the Speaker following Brownlee’s Hobbit comments and the release on the facts.
Will continue to look at Key’s comments but to date his most blatant misleading appears to be of the media.
1. I wish to draw to your attention under Standing Order 393 a matter of privilege relating to statements in the House by Hon Gerry Brownlee that give rise to a matter of privilege and request that you refer this matter to the Privileges Committee for further consideration.
Misleading the House
2. On 26 October 2010, in answer to questions in the House about doubt that The Hobbit would be filmed in New Zealand, Mr Brownlee made the following statements:
“the moment the ban on work on this film was put in place by the International Federation of Actors, at the behest of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance of Australia, the film was in some trouble.”
“The concern in this case is about the industrial relations situation that arose out of this extraordinary resolution, passed by the International Federation of Actors, instigated by the Australian union, and presented as an ultimatum to the producers of this film.”
“Until the issue arose—that is, the threat was put to the producers by way of a work ban issued by the Australian union backed by the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions—there was no need for the Minister to be involved.”
3. Mr Brownlee’s clear intent in making these statements was to suggest that the main cause of uncertainty around whether The Hobbit would be filmed in New Zealand was the action taken by the International Federation of Actors to pass a resolution for their members to refuse to sign contracts on The Hobbit until the film producers enter into a collective bargaining agreement with the Australian-based Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance.
4. Given the information that has now been released under the Official Information Act in relation to this matter, it is now clear that the Minister’s statements were untrue and deliberately misleading.
5. Radio New Zealand and the New Zealand Herald have both received documents under the Official Information Act, which include an email from Sir Peter Jackson to Mr Brownlee on 18 October. In this email, Sir Peter made it clear to the Minister that:
“There is no connection between the blacklist (and it’s eventual retraction), and the choice of production base for The Hobbit. What Warners requires for The Hobbit is the certainty of a stable employment environment and the ability to conduct its business in such a way that it feels that its $500 million investment is as secure as possible.”
6. Standing Order 401 sets out a number of examples of contempts, including (b) deliberately attempting to mislead the House or a committee (by way of statement, evidence or petition).
7. As this email was sent to Mr Brownlee on 18 October 2010, the Minister must have been aware when he made his statements to the House on 26 October 2010 that they were false.
8. You have previously advised Labour MPs that the test for deliberately misleading the House is a high one and you have also informed Members of the importance of discharging the test that there must be evidence of intent to mislead.
9. It is not plausible for Mr Brownlee to argue that he was confused or mistaken when he made these misleading statements. We now know that he had received unequivocal advice from Sir Peter Jackson that the reason for Warner Brothers reconsidering the filming location for The Hobbit had nothing to do with the action of the unions.
10. Despite this clear advice, Mr Brownlee proceeded to make statements both to the House and to the media on numerous occasions asserting that the union action was the primary reason for Warner Brothers’ concern.
11. Having dismissed the possibility of confusion or misunderstanding, the only credible explanation for these statements are that they were designed to deliberately mislead.
12. The House has traditionally seen any statement by a Member designed to deliberately mislead the House as very serious breach of privilege.
13. Furthermore, I believe it is necessary in this case to take into account the damage that the Minister’s statements had on other groups or individuals. Mr Brownlee attacked the unions who were party to the boycott action on a false basis, and he brought into question the credibility of other unions and individuals, such as the CTU’s Helen Kelly, who were in fact telling the truth. That has been very damaging to those groups and individuals.
14. This being the case, I formally draw your attention under Standing Order 393 to a matter of privilege relating to statements to the House by Hon Gerry Brownlee on 26 October 2010.
Timing of this complaint
15. Standing Order 393 requires that I draw these complaints to your attention in writing at the earliest opportunity. I have written to you as soon as possible after this information was released and before the House next sits. In this regard I have met the requirements of Standing Orders.
16. I have attached the relevant Hansard from Hon Gerry Brownlee. I have also attached articles from the New Zealand Herald and Radio New Zealand in relation to the email released under the Official Information Act.
Reservation of right to provide further information
17. In order to meet both the requirements of Standing Orders and my desire to provide you with full information, I will write to you again if further, material, information is discovered.
18. In fulfilment of the requirements of Standing Order 395 I am forwarding a copy of this letter to Hon Gerry Brownlee.