Our representatives in parliament have had some of their most memorable moments captured on camera. This collection showcases the governors’ screen legacy: from stirring addresses (Kirk), feisty debates (Muldoon, Lange), revolutions, nukes, and schnapps elections, to political punches (Jones), young leaders (Clark), and formative waterbed moments (Key).
A 24-year-old Helen Clark (complete with long flowing locks) features in this NZBC current affairs footage from the annual conference of Young Labour — the Labour Party’s youth division. Twenty five years before she will become NZ’s first elected female Prime Minister, Clark is a junior politics lecturer making her way in the party machine as she chairs a session about abortion law reform. The room might be smoke filled but the atmosphere is more earnest than Machiavellian; and, while commitment to the cause is strong, expectations are more finite.
This Lookout special follows colourful property tycoon Bob Jones hustling on the 1984 campaign trail, and talking up his newly-formed New Zealand Party. The outspoken advocate for free-market liberalisation drew crowds at halls across NZ. The Rocky theme music shamelessly plays as boxing fan Jones approaches the rostrum. The party was ultimately short-lived and won no seats, but achieved its goal of denying National a third term by splitting the vote. The doco includes scenes of the libertarian attempting to dictate how television media film him.
In 1996 Tony Sutorius got his hands on a new digital video camera, days before the start of an election campaign in Wellington Central. Made on the proverbial shoestring, this feature-length documentary chronicles five of those battling for the crown as a new political age — MMP — dawns. Richard Prebble joins a new party called Act, the National candidate joins United New Zealand… and one of the five will be sacrificed by their own party. Sutorius sat through 55 hours of footage to forge the result, which won enthused, sellout audiences at the 1999 NZ Film Festival.
Ten years on from the tumultuous 1984 General Election, this award-winning TVNZ current affairs doco examines the financial and constitutional crisis that resulted from Robert Muldoon’s initial refusal to yield power. Reporter Richard Harman, who conducted pivotal interviews at the time, talks to key players to piece together the events of five remarkable days. They also saw the opening salvoes between David Lange and US Secretary of State George Shultz over nuclear ship visits, and foreshadowed Roger Douglas’ controversial remaking of the NZ economy.
In September 1974, NZ reels from the premature loss of Norman Kirk — dead at 51 after just 20 months as prime minister. For this NZBC current affairs show, reporters Joe Coté and George Andrews head to the provinces to find out how Kirk is remembered by the ordinary men and women he valued so much. In less than stellar Labour strongholds in Central Otago and Taranaki, they meet people won over by a politician prepared to listen and treat them as equals. Their palpable affection is shared by Pacific leaders Gough Whitlam, Albert Henry and Michael Somare.
John Kirk, son of the late prime minister Norman Kirk, is Brian Edwards’ interviewee in this episode from a series featuring the children of famous parents. While undeniably proud of his father, he pulls few punches in describing how his family suffered from the often negative attentions of others, and the demands placed on Big Norm which competed with his role as a husband and father — and may ultimately have contributed to his early death. Kirk was an MP representing his father’s seat of Sydenham, but his political career would not be as illustrious.
This NZBC news item went to air the day after legendary Prime Minster Norman Kirk passed away. There are tributes (some off-screen) involving everyone from Kissinger, Muldoon and Trudeau to the Queen, and an interview with Deputy PM Hugh Watt. Reporter George Andrews outlines Kirk’s life and career, including footage of Kirk recalling his time working on the Devonport Ferry, and having to break a promise about a Springbok Tour. Andrews charts Kirk's rapid political rise, including becoming the country’s youngest mayor, and the mark he made on the international stage.
These remarkable interviews — filmed on 16 July 1984, two days after the General Election — see TVNZ’s Richard Harman talking to defeated Prime Minister Robert Muldoon, then to PM-in-waiting David Lange. With the two sharply divided on the need to devalue the dollar, the country is on the brink of an economic and constitutional crisis, and the stand-off plays out on the nation’s TV screens. Lange (in his first studio interview as PM) has the moral high ground but no power to act until he is sworn in; while a defiant Muldoon acts as if the election never happened.
Family, friends and former foe joined Helen Clark before the cameras for this TV3 documentary, which charts her journey from Vietnam protestor through low-polling Labour Party leader, to long-reigning PM and the UN. In this excerpt, Clark and biographer Denis Welch recall how after becoming opposition leader, Clark was advised to make various changes to her hairstyle and presentation. Featuring appearances by John Key, Don Brash and media-shy husband Peter Davis, the two-part doco was helmed by Dan Salmon and artist/director Claudia Pond Eyley.
Predating hit show Survivor, this early TV3 reality TV documentary saw Kiwi teens fending for themselves over eight days on Rakitu Island. Among the three females and three males facing off Lord of the Flies-style were future National MP Nikki Kaye, who later argued she was meant to represent the "private school girl who couldn't survive without a hairdryer". Instead Kaye took the leader’s role and clubbed an eel, while many of her companions showed little inclination to help with the fishing. Kaye later opposed her party’s proposal to mine on nearby Great Barrier Island.
Before he was a British MP and Pavlova Paradise author, politics lecturer Austin Mitchell was a well known NZBC broadcaster. In this September 1965 first episode of his parliamentarian interview series he chats to Prime Minister Keith Holyoake. Mid-way through his 12 year reign, ‘Kiwi Keith’ offers frank insight into his job, from how he chooses his caucus to the balance of power between the arms of government. The National Party leader frames the role of PM as, “Chairman of Directors of the Board that runs the biggest business in New Zealand, the Government.”
With her election in 1975 at age 23, Marilyn Waring became NZ’s youngest MP. This TV doco, directed by George Andrews, follows her as she settles into parliamentary life and prepares her maiden speech. Waring happily takes guidance on House decorum from a venerable Keith Holyoake, but is unwilling to let her age or inexperience deflect her advocacy for youth and women’s issues. Her relationship with PM Rob Muldoon is already cautious. It will be more confrontational eight years later when she provokes his ill-fated calling of an early election in 1984.
New Zealand politics was a gentler art in the pre-Muldoon early 70s when superstar English TV interviewer David Frost made the first of two series down under. Here, he talks to Prime Minister Norman Kirk, and opposition leader Jack Marshall. Kirk is assured and statesmanlike (an act that proves hard for Marshall — or NZ politics since — to follow) as he discusses topics ranging from supporting beneficiaries, to opposing French nuclear testing. ‘Big Norm’ purposefully talks about being in the job for another 25 years. Tragically, he died in office 13 months later.
This episode of current affairs show Close Up offers a fascinating portrait of 80s job du jour: foreign exchange dealer. The intrepid reporter heads into "the pit" (trading room) and chronicles the working life of a senior 'forex' dealer, 25-year-old squash-playing accountancy graduate, John Key. The "smiling assassin" (and future Prime Minister) is a now-familiar calm and earnest presence amongst the young cowboys playing for fortunes and Porsches in the heady pre-sharemarket crash world: "they're like addicts who eat, breathe and sleep foreign exchange dealing".
Once upon a time the Kiwi accent was a broadcasting crime, and politicians decided in advance which questions they would answer on-screen. Here is the News examines three decades (up to 1992) of Kiwi TV journalism and news presentation. The roll-call of on and off camera talent provides fascinating glimpses behind key events, including early jury-rigged attempts at nationwide broadcast, Dougal Stevenson announcing the 1975 arrival of competing TV networks, the Wahine, Erebus, Muldoon, turkeys in gumboots, and the tour - where journalists too, became "objects of hatred".
The Governor was a television epic that examined the life of Governor George Grey in six thematic parts. Grey's "Good Governor" persona was undercut with laudanum, lechery and land confiscation. NZ TV's first (and only) historical blockbuster was hugely controversial, provoking a parliamentary inquiry and "test match sized" audiences. It won a 1978 Feltex Award for Best Drama. Auckland Star reviewer Barry Shaw trumpeted: "It has made Māori matter. If Pākehā now have a better understanding of the Māori point of view [...] it stems from The Governor.
Four-part series Revolution mapped sweeping social and economic change in New Zealand society in the 1980s and early 1990s. Described as a “journalist's assembly” by its makers, it collected together interviews with the major players and archive footage. Producer Marcia Russell: “We wanted to make Revolution because we believed that unless we re-run and re-examine our recent history we are in constant danger of forgetting, and forgetting can render us passive about the present and slaves of the future.” It won Best Factual Series at the 1997 Film and TV Awards.
Reluctant Revolutionary mines a wealth of then-new interviews to trace David Lange's rise from pudgy doctor's son to lawyer, to Prime Minister leading the country through radical change. Along the way writer/director Tom Scott asks how a man as gifted as Lange allowed his Government to collapse around him after only five years in office. The film includes rare input from National leader Jim McLay (who praises Lange's wit at university), Rogernomics architect Roger Douglas, and the first ever TV interview with Lange's second wife Margaret Pope.
Like many other current affairs shows in the 70s, Tonight had a fairly brief existence, but it provided the forum for this infamous May 1976 battle of wills between journalist Simon Walker and Prime Minister Robert Muldoon. Walker interrogates Muldoon about his assertions regarding the Soviet naval presence in the Pacific, and NZ vulnerability to Russian nuclear attack. Muldoon grows increasingly annoyed and bullish at being asked questions that are not on his sheet: "I will not have some smart alec interviewer changing the rules half way through."
Six days out from the 1984 snap election, PM Sir Robert Muldoon and Leader of the Opposition David Lange face off across a table in a TVNZ leaders’ debate chaired by Ian Johnstone. A tired Muldoon, on the back foot since calling the election two weeks earlier, attempts to claim the high ground of experience in office and on the international stage; but he is no match for Lange’s deftness and gravitas — and his parting shot of "I love you, Mr Lange" is a startling admission of defeat and one of the more remarkable moments in NZ political history.
Mikey Havoc and Newsboy (Jeremy Wells) take a typically sideways glance at the 2002 general election in this one-off special, broadcast live from inside "a giant stainless steel question mark on the neutral electorate of Rangitoto Island." In case you hadn't noticed (Havoc presents in Paul Frank pyjamas), the analysis is more satirical than factual, and along the way they find time to put the boot into Auckland's then-mayor John Banks, learn parliamentary etiquette from Jonathan Hunt and compliment Don Brash on his six-cylinder Ford.
No-one else has dominated the NZ political landscape the way Sir Robert Muldoon did — or been subjected to the level of TV scrutiny he was in this controversial two part series made by Neil Roberts. It was produced with his company Communicado’s customary style: brooding music, big slow motion close-ups and a malevolent rotating bust — and Roberts, much like his subject, took no prisoners as he explored Muldoon’s career and relationship with power. Complaints of unfairness from Dame Thea Muldoon and son Gavin were later partially upheld by the BSA.
This edition of the Rangatira (‘chief’) series on Māori leaders, looks at academic and politician Dr Pita Sharples, a key figure of the Māori cultural renaissance. The future Māori Party co-leader visits his Takapau home, acknowledges his pivotal time at Te Aute College, talks candidly about the pressures his tireless schedule places on his whānau, demonstrates his cherished taiaha, and goes ten pin bowling. In extensive interviews he enthuses about realising the dream of kaupapa Māori (education, language, prison) cultures, and on the importance of kapa haka.
In July 1985 New Zealand Party leader Bob Jones and president Malcolm McDonald surprised many by announcing the nation's then-third most popular party was taking an 18 month recess. TVNZ went searching for comment, and after chartering a helicopter, found Jones fishing near Turangi. Jones was not amused; he infamously punched reporter Rod Vaughan, arguing later he would fight any charges in court, since the journalists had subjected him to intolerable harassment. When fined $1000, Jones asked the judge if he paid $2000, could he please do it again?
A Week of It was a pioneering political satire series that entertained and often outraged audiences from 1977-1979 with its irreverent take at topical issues. This first episode opens with a literal investigation into what Labour politician Bill Rowling is like in bed, and then Prime Minister Muldoon gets a lei (!). McPhail launches his famous Muldoon impression, Annie Whittle does Nana Mouskouri; and the Nixon Frost interview is reprised as a pop song: "Let's rip the whole world off". The well-known Gluepot Tavern skit wraps the show: "Jeez Wayne".
In one of NZ politics’ more notorious episodes, PM Rob Muldoon, his slim majority in tatters, calls a snap election. Party president Sue Wood is beside him but he has already ignored her advice that the party isn’t ready for the polls. It was widely suggested that Muldoon was drunk (and reporter Rob Neale can’t resist a “high spirits” jibe) — or perhaps he believed his own invincibility — but it was the beginning of the end for an era he had dominated. The limousine looks quaint, but the National Party’s Macintosh is a pointer to the electioneering of the future.
Written by Tom Scott and Greg McGee, South Pacific Pictures-produced Fallout was an award-winning two-part mini-series dramatising events leading up to NZ’s 80s anti-nuclear stand. PM Robert Muldoon (Ian Mune) calls a snap election when his MP Marilyn Waring crosses the floor on the ‘no nukes’ bill, but his gamble fails, and David Lange's Labour Party is elected. Lange (played by Australian actor Mark Mitchell) is pressured from all sides (including a bullish US administration) to take a firm stance on his anti-nuclear platform. He finally accepts there is no middle ground.
Inspired by the British series Spitting Image, Gibson Group's Public Eye features latex puppets based on drawings by cartoonist Trace Hodgson and built by a team headed by future Weta FX maestro, Richard Taylor. Highlights from the first episode include a boxing match between former finance minister Ruth Richardson and Winston Peters; Helen Clark's attempts to convince a bunch of labour party ministers to enforce a ban on pornography; and cricketer Richard Hadlee's failure to promote a life insurance company while being interviewed by Keith Quinn.
The pressure is on as contestants from Kirkwood, St Bernard’s and Remuera intermediate schools compete in the 1980 final of this children’s quiz show. Future MP, minister and Speaker of the House, Lockwood Smith asks the questions, assisted by Relda Familton (a National Radio overnight host until her death in 1995). The finalists, competing for a state of the art colour TV, are quizzed on subjects including geometry, the years 6 BC to 30 AD, Shakespeare quotations, deserts, anatomy, historic England and, appropriately for the quizmaster, cabinet ministers.
Dame Catherine Tizard has been many things: mother, marriage celebrant, civic leader and Her Majesty's rep in NZ. Here Tizard takes reporter Marcia Russell through her life, from a Waikato town (where she was wary of becoming a farmer's wife); through marrying her uni lecturer; leading Auckland as mayor; to her Governor-General role. Her front-running story parallels societal changes that presented increased opportunities for Kiwi women. A roll-call of Governors-General outlines how for over 100 years the position was held exclusively by white British males.
In 1973 Prime Minister Norman Kirk announced that the anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi would be a unifying national holiday called New Zealand Day. The inaugural 1974 day featured a royal entourage, was watched by 20,000 people and screened live for TV. Excerpts include the Aotearoa pageant (from giant moa to the Age of Aquarius, including kapa haka, settler cabaret, and Howard Morrison as Kupe), and Kirk’s iconic — and more enduring — speech. New Zealand Day was abolished by the next (National) Government who renamed it Waitangi Day.
This hit animated series about five Auckland school kids was created by Elizabeth Mitchell and theatre group Naked Samoans. This episode sees Vale (Oscar Kightley) dealing with deadlines, punch-ups and prima donnas as he rushes to write and direct the school musical. In the audience are HRH Prince Charles, Chris Knox, Scribe and Helen Clark, who all end up joining in during a showstopping final number about togetherness. "Stop the violence. We're honkies and Asians, horries and curry munchers. Morningside for life."
The tagline runs: "The story of unemployment in New Zealand" and In A Land of Plenty is an exploration of just that; it takes as its starting point the consensus from The Depression onwards that Godzone economic policy should focus on achieving full employment, and explores how this was radically shifted by the 1984 Labour government. Director Alister Barry's perspective is clear, as he trains a humanist lens on ‘Rogernomics' to argue for the policy's negative effects on society, "as a new poverty-stricken underclass developed".
After turning “Jeez Wayne” into a national catchphrase with their hit series A Week of It, comedy duo David McPhail and Jon Gadsby continued their TV dream run with the sketch comedy show McPhail and Gadsby. This 1983 'Best of' featured highlights from series five including: 'pronouncing things proper with Jim Knox'; 'This Is Your Life with Robert Muldoon' (featuring McPhail’s infamous caricature of the then PM); Lin Waldegrave’s popular impersonation of music show host Karyn Hay; and a Goodnight Kiwi take-off in 'Goodnight from the Beehive'.
Kim Hill interviews former Prime Minister David Lange. Aged 60 and battling ill health, Lange talks about "the loneliness of politics", and what you can and can't achieve; and also about facing his own mortality. Lange says he is not haunted by death, but celebrates his time with his young daughter Edith. He also reflects on the ephemeral nature of having a high profile role, by telling a story about being in hospital and someone calling out "hi, Mr Muldoon". Lange died two years after this interview, in 2005.
In this Gallery episode David "Mr Current Affairs" Exel politely interrogates Labour Prime Minister Norman Kirk on his first 250 days in office; ranging from Britain's changing role in the Commonwealth to Kirk's weight loss. Dairne Shanahan comments on the PM’s image and Ross Stevens weighs in on broken election promises. Exel became Gallery host in 1971, when Brian Edwards quit after NZBC refused to screen a notorious pilot for an Edwards-fronted show (then-Finance Minister Rob Muldoon sparring with young critics Tim Shadbolt, Chris Wheeler and Alister Taylor).
Someone Else’s Country looks critically at the radical economic changes implemented by the 1984 Labour Government - where privatisation of state assets was part of a wider agenda that sought to remake New Zealand as a model free market state. The trickle-down ‘Rogernomics’ rhetoric warned of no gain without pain, and here the theory is counterpointed by the social effects (redundant workers, Post Office closures). Made by Alister Barry in 1996 when the effects were raw, the film draws extensively on archive footage and interviews with key “witnesses to history”.
This Alister Barry-directed documentary is about the National Party and the 2005 election; it was made in conjunction with Nicky Hager’s book written from leaked party e-mails. Barry follows novice MP, and then leader, Don Brash through a hyper-charged era in NZ politics as National attempts to reconcile a political agenda with electability, and to unseat Helen Clark’s Labour government. Speechwriters, advertising agencies, pollsters and party donors all feature, as do Brash’s infamous Orewa speeches, Exclusive Brethren “attack” pamphlets and Iwi/Kiwi billboards.
Ngāti Porou leader, land reformer, politician and scholar Sir Apirana Ngata (1874-1950) is celebrated in this episode of a series about leading Māori figures produced by TVNZ's Māori Department. Ngata was seemingly ordained for greatness from birth. The first Māori university graduate, he was an MP and a Minister of Native Affairs, and a firm believer that Māori had to live alongside Pākehā and learn from them. Reforms he instituted helped his people retain their lands and language; and he led a cultural renaissance that revitalised action songs, waiata and haka.
In the tradition of novelty songs, ‘Culture?’ was catchy to the point of contagion. Fuelled by carnival keyboards, it was The Knobz response to Prime Minister Rob Muldoon’s refusal to lift a 40% sales tax on recorded music (originally instituted by Labour in 1975), and Muldoon's typically blunt verdict on the cultural merits of pop music (“horrible”). The giddy, hyperactive video comes complete with Muldoon impersonator (Danny Faye), and casts the band as the song’s 'Beehive Boys'. In the backgrounder, Mike Alexander writes about his time as the band's manager.
In the episode of TVNZ's media commentary show, Brian Priestley examines coverage of the 1987 general election and finds much to like in the "terrific" efforts of radio, television and newspapers. TVNZ's "sloping thing" graphic comes in for particular praise but Priestley is less enthusiastic about the televising of Jim Bolger’s painfully uncomfortable concession phone call to victor David Lange; and the newly re-elected Prime Minister doesn't escape Priestley's vigilance as he is chided for his post-election cancellation of press conferences.
The series Pounamu focused on the lives and deeds of Māori who played vital roles in the history of Aotearoa, including Te Kooti, Te Puea, Te Whiti, Āpirana Ngata, Guide Rangi and others. Made by the Māori Programmes Department of TVNZ, this episode features a re-enactment of part of the life of Prophet Tahupōtiki Wiremu Rātana (1873 - 1939). Ratana was a key influence in Māori politics and religion. For years virtually all Māori MPs were followers of the Ratana faith and supported the Labour Party on his instruction. The influence of Rātana remains strong.
It's election time in this special episode from the topical weekly satire series about a PR firm (written by James Griffin, Dave Armstrong, Tom Scott and Roger Hall). Giles Peterson and Associates will take on any client - even if it means trying to update Helen Clark's wardrobe, speechwriting for Winston Peters, offering succour to fading National and Alliance MPs, brokering a coalition deal between the Greens and Labour, or helping candidates master the intricacies of The Worm. Meanwhile, elements of the Catholic Church feel they haven't apologised enough.
Future Labour MP Charles Chauvel joins the ‘academic-quiz-show-as-kindergarten-for-aspiring-politicians’ tradition (see: Lockwood Smith hosting W Three) in this 1987 University Challenge final. An ever youthful Peter Sinclair (C’mon, Mastermind) presides, with Waikato and Auckland universities competing for bragging rights (and 80s personal computers). Subjects cover the arts and sciences, with each correct starter earning bonus questions. Chauvel captains Auckland, and sagely stays away from undergraduate humour in his intro — unlike his fellow contestants.
Marae (now Marae Investigates) is the longest running Māori current affairs programme. First broadcast in 1992 the hour long magazine programme aims to keep its audience in touch with the issues, political or otherwise, that affect Māori, and explain kaupapa Māori from a Māori perspective. The Marae Digipoll gives the programme publicity in other media as a respected barometer of matters Māori. One of Marae's high points is its post-election mustering of successful Māori candidates — this 2008 edition features the five Māori Party and two Labour Party MPs.
The episode opens with a story about the Maxim Institute, an international think tank that has been linked to anti-gay fundamentalist groups. The main feature focuses on Marilyn Waring, an MP from 1975 until 84. She talks candidly about the personal cost of being in parliament — especially when she was outed as a lesbian. Waring also shares her opinions about the Civil Unions Bill and why she is opposed to it. The show finishes with a gay literature review and an interview with James Hadley, the incoming programme manager of Wellington's Bats Theatre.
In this episode of the kids’ adventure series, 12 year old Terry Teo has stumbled on a gunrunning operation. The baddies — boss Ray Vegas and villainous sidekicks Curly and Blue — are hunting for him; and Terry’s brother and sister are doing their best to help, ending up in Kaupati in the most Kiwi holiday park ever. Meanwhile, more information emerges about the mysterious, but dim, Thompson and Crouch as they report to their boss (none other than real life former PM Sir Robert Muldoon) and Billy T James is turning out to be a very cultured bikie.
This showcase for Arthur Baysting's sleazy, comedic alter-ego Neville ("on the level") Purvis ("at your service") is notorious for containing the first use of the f-word on NZ television. As a result, Baysting was banned and crossed the Tasman to find work (an irony given the show's anti-Australian jokes). The controversial utterance no longer exists — extant segments include a launch by PM Rob Muldoon, a tour of Avalon, a performance by Limbs Dance Company (including Mary-Jane O'Reilly), a visit to the Close to Home set, a garden gnome fan, and some Mark II Zephyr worship.
On the heels of Issues (1990), More Issues offered more of the same satirical takes on local and international current affairs. It pokes fun at the advent of news-presenting personalities like Judy Bailey, Richard Long and Paul Holmes - such a prominent feature of NZ TV at the time, and politicians and celebs of the day. These excerpts from the series include Rima Te Wiata's uncanny impersonation of Judy Bailey, David McPhail's reprisal of a conniving Rob Muldoon, Rawiri Paratene as Oprah Winfrey, and Mark Wright as war reporter Peter Arnett.
This edition of the Rangatira series chronicles the colourful life of Donna Awatere-Huata: activist, opera singer, psychologist, businesswoman, author, Ngā Tama Toa member, ‘81 Tour protest leader, daughter of war hero-turned-murderer. Awatere-Huata’s decades of dedication to Māori causes, including the promotion of literacy and education programmes, are reflected upon by Dr Ranginui Walker, Sir Roger Douglas, Tame Iti and Hana Te Hemara. Filmed here debuting in parliament as an ACT MP, Awatere-Huata was later to be expelled from the party and convicted of fraud.