A Week Of It: TVNZ Salary Blowouts And Poetry

Published: Fri 4 Nov 2005 05:02 PM
A Week Of It: Mysterious Salary Blowouts And Poetry
TVNZ's Mysterious Wage Blowout Of 1996 Still Causing The Govt A Headache
Algerian Poetry First
TVNZ's MysteriousWage Blowout Of 1996 Still Causing The Govt A Headache
Ms Susan Wood as she appears in the Close Up @ 7 promo
This week Susan Wood was reported in the New Zealand Herald as being dissatisfied with TVNZ's attempts to trim her salary to a modest $350,000 per annum.
"$450,000 is a long way from the package Paul Holmes had. And what I do is not just reading the news. It requires a whole range of skills," said Ms Wood.
Ms Wood is correct about the package Mr Holmes enjoyed in 1996, which was reported to be around $700,000. Mysteriously, wages at TVNZ in the year beforehand were of a much more modest nature. With no attempt by the National administration of Jim Bolger to put in remuneration committees or check wages there was a massive unexplained wage blow-out some time in 1996.
The effects of this are still reverberating around the halls of TVNZ's Auckland head office. Since late 1999 attempts – not all of them successful – have been made to curb the exploding wage bill. The most recent example was the outcry over Judy Bailey's $800,000 salary package, negotiated with head of news and current affairs at TVNZ Bill Ralston.
When Scoop made an Official Information Act request to TVNZ Company Secretary/General Counsel Noel Vautier last year requesting what the top salary was for the year ended December 1995 he declined the request, stating that no such information existed. After some months of correspondence between the Ombudsman and Scoop, Mr Vautier was finally able to locate the records for the year ended 1995.
Subject: Attention: Kevin List - Official Information Act Request
Date sent: Fri, 15 Oct 2004 15:39:15 +1300
From: "Noel Vautier"
I refer to your email of 21 April and the letter sent to you on 13 October by the Ombudsman. As a result of reference to requests under the Act for similar information sought by the Evening Post in 1996, I have now been able to ascertain the following.
The top 10 employees' remuneration paid for the year ending 31 December 1995 were in the following bands:
$400,000 to $410,000 1
$300,000 to $310,000 1
$280,000 to $290,000 1
$270,000 to $280,000 2
$200,000 to $210,000 2
$190,000 to $200,000 2
$180,000 to $190,000 1
Given the above information - it would seem various people in a publicly-owned company were able to double their salaries with no public or parliamentary scrutiny – and this was well before Bill Ralston had been given the task of negotiating salaries with presenters such as Judy Bailey.
It was this culture that led to a number of tough reports from Parliament's commerce committee. TVNZ officials were grilled by MPs from all parties and urged to put in place far more rigorous procedures for dealing with salaries than those of the 1990s. A Week of It is therefore mystified about the claims of political interference that emerged over the last week: every year TVNZ is 'politically interfered' with when democratically elected MPs scrutinise a public company. Those MPs then request TVNZ abides by the decisions made during these "Financial Reviews".
In February 2001 MPs of the commerce committee were concerned about rising staff salaries despite public undertakings by TVNZ they would be reduced. In 2001 all salaries above $160,000 were scrutinised by a remuneration committee chaired by Dr Ross Armstrong. MPs called for a more 'robust' approach from TVNZ regarding salaries.
The following year (2002) the MPs were again concerned by the salary levels at TVNZ. However, Chief Executive Rick Ellis assured the committee that, due to their concern, salaries were being reduced. It was noted in the committee's report that "salaries were reduced as contracts came up for renewal, and only one or two presenters had not yet had their salaries reduced".
The attempts made by Bill Ralston and the board of TVNZ to pay Ms Wood less money than she was able to extract in the previous year should therefore be no surprise to anyone – least of all the allegedly 'well-read' Ms Wood.
Algerian Poetry First
Algerian refugee Ahmed Zaoui indulges in a spot of internet poetry
This week a diverse group of New Zealand and overseas poets gathered in Wellington for a spot of poetry reading. Among them was Algerian refugee Ahmed Zaoui. Mr Zaoui shared the stage with a variety of individuals, many of whom National MP Wayne Mapp may have on his PC eradication list.
There were powhiris in the morning; Maori greetings and foreign tongues spoken with abandon at the City Gallery during the afternoon. A Week of It's correspondent doesn't really get poetry but for those whose souls are stirred by iambic metre and rhyme and reason here is possibly an internet first: Ahmed Zaoui reading a poem published in New Zealand read live on the internet in Arabic. For those not gifted with a mastery of Middle-Eastern languages, Scoop has provided a written translation.
Listen to the Mr Zaoui's poem Amalgams in Arabic (Three Mins) STREAM:
One day when I was in Paremoremo, I was called to the security office to speak to my family by phone.
I took this opportunity to put my shoulder to a window and tried to enjoy the sounds of the drops of rain, after so long in isolation.
Suddenly and without any introduction an Indian guard asked me a question that broke like a storm upon me.
This question came at a time when I was under very close scrutiny, including my sleep, my words and of course, my deeds. He asked me a worrying question:
Do you love New Zealand ?
Oh God! If I answer "Yes" then he¹ll say, I am a hypocrite.
While if I say "No" he will say, why are you here?
I started thinking: yes I love New Zealand, but it is a crazy and foolish love.
A crazy love because I only look to this country
A foolish love because some of its people hate me, while I was expecting a kiss on my cheeks
A mad love because this nation fears me, while I swear my sincerity
A complicated love because she has complicated my life
A wonderful love because I insist, while she consistently rejects me God forgive me and help me
I was still thinking, unable to translate my thoughts, when the Indian guard repeated his question, impatient for my answer. I closed my eyes and simply said yes. Then in my mind I said: it is a complicated love but I hope to grow and develop this love.
He then broke into my thoughts again.
I was feeling pain and excitement. Pain because I was deprived of the few moments to enjoy nature¹s sounds ( the ta ta ta of the rain) ; excitement because I wanted to hear the voices of my children on the phone.
He asked me a more perilous question: Do you love Algeria? I stopped. Breathless. I thought : of course I love my homeland : the love I have for my country caused me to leave it. I reply : yes. He simply nods his head and says OK, and starts to dial the numbers on the phone.
'Amalgams' and other poetry by Ahmed Zaoui is available in the book Migrant Birds published by Craig Potton

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