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.
Like many other current affairs shows in the 70s, Tonight had a short-lived existence: in 1975 the newly-elected National government was determined to streamline television's high number of news and current affairs shows. However, the show made its mark with its infamous interview between PM Rob Muldoon and Simon (future Royal PR man) Walker, in which Walker has the temerity to ask questions not on Muldoon's sheet: "I will not have some smart alec interviewer changing the rules half way through." Tonight did well to survive two years before getting axed.
Bill Ralston worked for both TVNZ and TV3 during his long media career. He was a TVNZ political correspondent in the era of Muldoon and Lange, then became TV3’s Political Editor. Later he did time as TVNZ's Head of News and Current Affairs.
This 2006 documentary is a portrait of one of New Zealand politics' most contradictory figures: unionist Ken Douglas. At the time of filming Douglas occupied numerous board positions (eg Air New Zealand, the NZ Rugby Football Union), but early on he was a truckie and Marxist. Rob Muldoon branded him 'Red Ken'. For 15 years until 1999 he led the Council of Trade Unions. Directed by Monique Oomen for Top Shelf Productions, the film is framed around interviews with Douglas and his colleagues, and asks whether he is a turncoat or a strategic realist moving with the times.
To mark 50 years of television in Aotearoa, TVNZ's Heartland channel picked gems from the archive, and surveyed local TV history decade by decade. Each episode in the series featured an interview with a Kiwi TV personality. In this interview from the 1980s slot, comedian David McPhail chats to Andrew Shaw. McPhail describes his involvement in what Shaw calls the "golden age of comedy" (A Week of It, McPhail and Gadsby). He touches on current affairs, screen chemistry, his famous impersonations of Prime Minister Rob Muldoon, and the catchphrase "Jeez Wayne".
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.
Bill Ralston has had a long, varied, and sometimes controversial career in New Zealand's media. He joined South Pacific Television as a news reporter in 1979 and went on to become political correspondent for TVNZ in the era of Muldoon and Lange. Moving to TV3, Ralston was the channel’s Political Editor and hosted a current affairs slot on their nightly news bulletin. Ralston joined the Nightline team and later hosted popular panel discussion show The Ralston Group, then arts/media series Backch@t. In 2003 he became Head of News and Current Affairs for TVNZ.
Being Chinese: A New Zealander’s Story author Helene Wong grew up in 1950s Aotearoa, and has worked in the arts as a performer, writer, and film critic. She discusses her varied career in this Funny As interview, including: Growing up with radio comedy, being the class clown at school, and realising that you could make people laugh with voices and accents The university capping review being a revelation and a liberation — presenting an opportunity to deal with issues and being more than just "prancing about on the stage" How the introduction of television meant being able to see politicians — "their physicality, their flaws and their body language" – providing wonderful source material for satirists Working with Roger Hall, John Clarke, Dave Smith and Catherine Downes on university revue One in Five, and mimicking three-screen promotional film This is New Zealand to open the show Working for Prime Minister Robert Muldoon in the 70s as a social policy advisor – despite spending “the previous few years having a lot of fun satirising him”– and feeling that he had a "kind of dark force field around him" Reaching a turning point in comedy about Asians in New Zealand; Asians have started to "take back the power" and "as opposed to encouraging audiences to laugh at us, we’re now getting them to laugh with us"
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.
One of the most controversial political adverts to emerge from New Zealand, this 1975 spot only played twice on local television, but helped bring National a landslide win. National leader Rob Muldoon’s chief target was the Labour Government’s superannuation scheme, which the ad notoriously associated with communism, via a troupe of dancing Cossacks. Created by ad agency Colenso, the concept was animated by company Hanna-Barbera in Australia. After being elected, Muldoon brought in a replacement superannuation scheme.