The Ralston Group was an anarchic early 90s TV3 political chat show. Ringmaster Bill Ralston wrangled a caucus of political and media industry insiders, ranging from broadcaster Derek Fox and writer Jane Clifton to Peter Williams QC and PR man Richard Griffin. The irreverent show offered in the moment opinions on an especially heady era in NZ politics. A 2003 issue of The NZ Herald remembered it as “the best sort of dinner party: noisy and gossipy, the guests well informed, well lubricated with lots of opinions and zero inhibition.”
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.
New Zealand politics was a gentler art in the pre-Muldoon early 1970s, when superstar English TV interviewer David Frost made the first of two series downunder. 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 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.
Georgina Beyer was the first transgendered person in the world to be elected to national office. Co-directed by Annie Goldson and Peter Wells, this internationally lauded documentary, tells the story of Beyer's extraordinary, inspiring journey from sex worker to member of Parliament for rural Wairarapa, and handshakes with the Queen. Born George Bertrand, Beyer grew up on a Taranaki farm, before spreading her wings on Auckland's cabaret circuit. Subsequent events led her to the town of Carterton, where she became involved in local body, and then national politics.
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.
"You waste my time because you have not prepared for this interview. This interview frankly is a disgrace." This is an excerpt from Kim Hill's infamous 2003 interview with John Pilger, award-winning journalist, author and documentary-maker. Via satellite link from Sydney, Pilger discusses Middle East politics. He says what he would do about Saddam Hussein, and what he thinks about sanctions against Iraq. An angry Pilger says Hill is not asking informed questions. Hill pushes Pilger's book across the desk. Pilger implores Hill to: "Just read. Read. It takes time."
In this episode of Talk Talk musician Don McGlashan discusses politics, growing up and the art of communicating emotions and ideas, with journalist Finlay MacDonald. The Talk Talk host starts by asking McGlashan to explain how he managed to offend Kiwi seafood lovers across the country with a political analogy during the 2008 general election. Then the pair explore McGlashan's early inspirations and musical development. McGlashan finishes with a live rendition of his 2009 single 'Marvellous Year', complete with accordian, theremin and strings.
Gibson Group production Public Eye was inspired by the British series, Spitting Image. Latex puppets caricature topical personalities, mostly drawn from the world of politics (Ruth Richardson, Helen Clark, Winston Peters etc). Their foibles are duly skewered in fast-moving comic skits such as the 'Ruatoria Rasta' segment, 'The White Way' and 'Honky Tanga'. The wickedly grotesque puppets were based on drawings by cartoonist Trace Hodgson, and built by a team headed by future Weta FX maestro, Richard Taylor.
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.”
In the 2000s mockumentary realism (led by The Office) was making its mark in television comedy. Series The Pretender gave Kiwi politics the embedded camera treatment, with expat comedian Bob Maclaren playing overconfident property developer-turned-MP Dennis Plant. The first episode of the second series sees Plant cause political chaos, with the launch of his Future New Zealand party. This season was nominated for three Qantas TV awards in 2009, including best comedy. The show was created by Peter Cox (Insider’s Guide to Happiness) and Great Southern TV’s Philip Smith.