A Week Of It: Ninth Floor Musings And Rockin' Refugees
PM's Chief Press Secretary Slaps On Campaign Rear Vision Mirror
Long-time resident of the Beehive's ninth floor Mike Munro confirmed to Scoop this week that the just-completed election
would probably be the last time he assisted in keeping the treasury benches under Helen Clark's lock and key.
Currently the Prime Minister's chief press secretary, Mr Munro considered that time spent in the Beehive could be
advantageous to working in the wider media.
"When you leave a job in the Beehive and go back to the media you take a fresh perspective about how things are done and
that can be of great benefit to the [prospective] employer," he said.
For much of the last nine years Munro has been working seven day weeks living, breathing and talking politics. Whilst
willing to chat about the just-completed election campaign Munro retained the noble desire to keep himself mostly out of
the limelight, declining to be immortalised on the internet pictured with his steaming hot chocolate.
Munro's willingness to have a wee chat was in stark contrast to the National media unit. A spokesperson declined the
opportunity of slapping on the election rear vision mirror and taking a wander through the last three months. This may
be partly down to the job Munro and his merry band did of undermining the messages National were attempting to sell to
"I think overall we did a pretty good jobs of exploiting [National's] cock-ups. Our morning meeting with key staff on
the ninth floor would focus very heavily on what was happening in the news that day - what National was saying and what
policies they were putting out – we would look every day for chinks in their armour. I think most days we did a pretty
good job of seizing on the contradictions in their policy and the weakness and lightness of their policy."
As well as looking for weaknesses in National's policy, Munro was also gifted a couple of own goals from the National
camp - firstly in the shape of a series of leaked emails and later in Dr Brash's reluctance to acknowledge his dealings
with the Exclusive Brethren
"I think we exploited those quite well. With the emails we pushed quite hard on the line that it showed Brash's links
with the hard right. On the Exclusive Brethren - because Brash made such a hash of managing it and explaining himself it
we used it again to raise questions about his credibility and his leadership credentials."
For Labour, Dr Brash's credibility was a big issue in the last weeks of the campaign.
"In the last week or two of the campaign we ran very hard on the line 'don't put it all at risk' and we ran very hard on
Don Brash's credibility and we squeaked home. We hit Brash hard - every time Brash made a slip up we hit Brash hard on
his lack of leadership qualities."
Another issue that was hammered throughout the campaign was National's perceived weakness in the foreign policy area.
Munro explained that during the election debates the Prime Minister would try and raise foreign policy issues such as
the war in Iraq or New Zealand 's iconic anti-nuclear legislation.
"I think we made some pretty good mileage out of that campaign and I think it hurt National."
Whilst foreign policy and Dr Brash's perceived weakness as a leader worked well for Labour, Munro conceded that the
endless debates regarding tax may have been 'too intellectual for the public'. The ability to stand up to National on
their key policy was however seen as essential.
"We had to get out there and fight it on their battleground. [Tax] was their big weapon and we had to undermine
In the middle stages of the campaign Labour ran a campaign attacking the affordability of National's tax cut policy.
Ironically it may have been the decision, which Munro described as 'cynical', to campaign on dropping the price of
petrol that helped reinforce Labour's earlier advertising in the minds of the general public.
Maintaining good relations with those in the media is essential to promoting the messages of the Government. However
Munro does have a bugbear regarding the media's coverage of his Government
"There's a much greater propensity for the media these days to analyse the news and interpret it before they report it.
That makes it difficult for us"
As an example of this trend Munro cites two recent occurences of what he considers media analysis overkill.
"The budget is a classic example - it had some major spending announcements, and the trailblazing kiwisaver scheme, for
example, but it was all swamped by media obsession with tax, and the political implications of not picking up the
business/right wing clamour for tax cuts. Another example was Cullen's briefing during the campaign on the real cost of
National's tax cuts - the actual numbers he set out that day were largely overlooked by media (TV in particular) in the
headlong rush to say why they thought he was doing it"
Fortunately for a man who may be rejoining the fourth estate Munro considers the New Zealand media are on the whole
pretty good with the notable exception of the 'screaming skulls' of Auckland talkback.
"The news media in New Zealand is generally pretty neutral – and that is a good thing."
Meanwhile across the Beehive/Parliament bridge at National Party HQ
The National Party, with 25 MPs in the past Parliament, had become rather accustomed to operating its media unit on
something of a shoestring. As Richard Long, chief of staff at National HQ points out, they had four spinmeisters to the
However with 48 MPs in the current Parliament all that is about to change, albeit not just yet. Aspiring spin merchants
of a conservative persuasion might be well advised to get their CVs ready for starter's orders.
Mr Long told A Week of It that at present all decisions on expansion of the opposition media team were on hold pending the final outcome of the
Government forming negotiations.
"There is still a chance that she [Helen Clark] might fail," he said.
That said, assuming the outcome that everyone is expecting, the National Party's research and media units are likely to
have a number of positions come available shortly.
At present the National Party media team is made up of Brent Webling, Jason Ede, Anita Ferguson and Kim Jeurgens.
In addition the party can call on the services of four researchers and has two senior specialists Sarah Boyle and Peter
Keenan who are involved more in strategy and house management issues than directly in the media front line.
Final numbers in terms of expansion in the media and research units have not been decided upon, says Long, but Scoop
sources indicate that probably a further three or four researchers and three or four media hack positions will shortly
And A Departure In The Office Of The National Party Leader
Richard Long confirned to A Week of It that one of the most controversial figures of the National Party campaign, Bryan Sinclair - political strategist /
chair arranger / writer of florid email advice to Dr Don Brash - is set to head back across the ditch imminently.
Mr Long said that Mr Sinclair, who arrived in Parliament with Dr Don Brash, had always been contracted only up till the
end of this election and was headed back to Australia where he had been working prior to his political sojourn with
Mr Sinclair is no doubt one of the bright young New Zealanders Don Brash seemed concerned about losing to the 'lucky
country' during the election campaign. Mr Long did not know what exactly Mr Sinclair would be doing when he returned to
Mr Sinclair unwillingly shot to media prominence three weeks before the election thanks to an expose in the Sunday Star-Times based on leaked emails and faxes to the National Party Leader.
(Diet) Coke Addict Takes Over Metro's Reins
The ground floor of Metro's offices, which used to house the special Iraqi foreign correspondents section, is now awash
with Diet Coke in preparation for the new editors arrival
Lauren Quaintance, the woman described as a 'shooting star' by Robyn Langwell (North and South), has shot her way into
the editor's seat of Metro magazine. Whilst Ms Quaintance may be a shooting star – stories regarding shooting type activities look to be on the back burner
at Metro – that is unless the shots involved are caffeine-based and spewing from an espresso machine in Ponsonby. Ms Quaintance,
who was allegedly once on standby for Iraq whilst working in the UK, has decreed that under her reign Metro will be an Iraq-free zone.
Whilst it remains unsure where the new refreshed Metro will be heading, given Ms Quaintance's work for quality papers in
the UK it seems likely hard hitting (Non Iraq, Gaza, Zimbabwe) stories will still be the order of the day at Metro. A Week of It tracked down one of these hard hitting exposes dedicated to ripping the scab off society's knobbly knees.
Confessions of A Diet Coke Addict
Tuesday October 29 2002
For someone who has never been on a diet, I drink an enormous amount of Diet Coke. It is usually the first thing to pass
my lips in the morning and, often, the last thing I taste at night. There's no sound more satisfying than the hiss and
pop of a can being opened and, for a few minutes after my first sip, I feel my heart flutter. I blame late nights spent
studying for university exams when I needed regular swigs from a two litre bottle to prevent me slumping over my desk…
If your appetite's been whetted by now, the full article is available at...
Amazingly, given the above hard-hitting expose A Week of It has been reliably informed that some staff are unhappy at the appointment - fearing Metro will move towards becoming a lifestyle magazine similar in tone to the publication Ms Quaintance formerly edited - the
Sunday Star-Times' lifestyle magazine, Sunday. Resignations are expected.
Raging Ryall Gets Rarked Up By Refugees Rock'n'Roll Antics
National Party MP Tony Ryall, no doubt frustrated that he's likely to be in the opposition camp for the foreseeable
future, was enraged that Algerian refugee Ahmed Zaoui got his bail extended to sing a duet with Dave Dobbyn on Wednesday
evening. Whilst Mr Ryall was no doubt working late in his office serenaded by the sounds of Dusty Springfield (or
Mantovani) the groovin' Algerian came out from his closeted priory existence and sang up a storm at the NZ Music Awards.
Mr Ryall is now convinced that Mr Zaoui's exercising of his tonsils will make New Zealand seem a 'soft touch' where any
would-be security risk can arrive, request asylum be banged up in jail for a couple of years and end up performing duets
with New Zealand pop icons
Luckily for Mr Ryall there are some musicians that share his views. Spoilsport country crooner Gray Bartlett rang fellow
grumpy man Larry Williams of Newstalk ZB to whinge about the NZ Music Awards (Gray is never invited evidently).
Perhaps Mr Ryall, Mr Bartlett and Mr Williams can get together with a warm cup of cocoa and some Griffin's gingernuts
(good for dunking) and play duelling banjo's all evening – as English punks the Jam would say - that'd be entertainment!