In the second part of this controversial, no-holds-barred portrait, Neil Roberts And Louise Callan look at Robert Muldoon’s tenure as Prime Minister — and claim that his best days were behind him before he took power. They examine Muldoon’s brutally divisive leadership style, which saw him at odds with officials, ministers, unions, the media and social groups that opposed him. The tumultuous events of 1984 that resulted from Muldoon’s desperate attempts to cling to power — calling a snap election and all but refusing to leave office after his defeat — are explored in depth.
The first part of this controversial, no-holds-barred portrait of Robert Muldoon — the dominant figure of 20th century NZ politics — traces his rise to power. In one of the show’s most contentious themes, Neil Roberts and Louise Callan explore the effect that the death of Muldoon's father from syphilis may have had on his political career. Interviews with colleagues and family members cover his childhood, war service, early years as a husband and father, his immersion in the National Party and the relentless, divisive style that saw him become Prime Minister in 1975.
Like many other current affairs shows in the 70s, Tonight had a fairly brief existence, but it provided the forum for this infamous battle of wills between journalist Simon Walker and Prime Minister Robert Muldoon. It is May 1976, and Walker is daring to interrogate Muldoon about his claims of a Soviet naval presence in the Pacific, and New Zealand's 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."
In this feisty late 1976 The Friday Conference interview, host Gordon Dryden holds Prime Minister Muldoon to account over his 1975 election pledges. Dryden challenges Muldoon’s touting of freedom (amidst price freezes, wage controls and an All Blacks tour to apartheid South Africa), and the PM's description of himself as a liberal (with heated talk about insults traded during the Colin Moyle affair). Dryden evokes the spectre of the McCarthy era, and a pugnacious Muldoon invokes “the ordinary bloke”. Muldoon later refused to be interviewed by Dryden again for the show.
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 — his parting shot of "I love you, Mr Lange" is one of the more remarkable moments in NZ political history.
On June 4 1976, Gordon Dryden hosted Abraham Ordia — president of the African Supreme Council of Sport — for a public forum on New Zealand’s sporting ties with apartheid South Africa, which would result in an Olympic boycott by African countries the following month. The debate erupted into what the Auckland Star called “a diabolic confrontation between Māori and Pākeha”, with Dryden frequently pleading for civility. Weightlifter Precious McKenzie, MP Richard Prebble, activist Syd Jackson and Donna Awatere-Huata are among those in the audience, making their feelings known.
In 1977 protesters occupied Bastion Point, after the announcement of a housing development on land once belonging to Ngāti Whātua. Five hundred and six days later, police and army arrived en masse to remove them. This documentary examines the rich and tragic history of Bastion Point/Takaparawhau — including how questionable methods were used to gradually take land from Māori, while basic amenities were withheld from those remaining. The Untold Story features extensive interviews with protest leader Joe Hawke, and footage from seminal documentary Bastion Point Day 507.
Bookended by cameo appearances from the Queen and Robert Muldoon, this National Film Unit short offers a brief history of the various buildings that graced Wellington’s parliamentary lawns, before moving to the main event: the design and building of the Beehive. Plans are drawn up after acceptance of Scottish architect Sir Basil Spence’s “bold, circular design”. Then we watch as one of NZ’s most iconic structures is born from a gaping hole in the ground in 30 seconds of swift cuts. At the official launch, a still youthful looking Queen expresses her approval.
This 1975 general election leaders' debate sees Prime Minister Bill Rowling (Labour) square off against contender Robert Muldoon (National) in front of a panel (Bruce Slane, Gordon Dryden, David Beatson). Rowling had been in the job a year, after the death of Norm Kirk, and Muldoon paints him as a drifter in the face of the first oil shock. It was one of three pre-election specials made for NZ TV’s new second channel. This is filmed in black and white, but during this campaign National exploited newly-arrived colour TV via the infamous ‘Dancing Cossacks’ ads.
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.