The nightly Eyewitness News debuted in 1982 having evolved out of TV2’s twice weekly current affairs show of the same name. Screening at 9.30pm, it moved to TV One before being axed in 1990 in favour of a later One News bulletin. Two of the key moments in the political turmoil of 1984 played out in front of its cameras — PM Robert Muldoon’s calling of the snap election and his devaluation interview which sparked an economic and constitutional crisis. Reporter Rod Vaughan also received his infamous bloody nose from Bob Jones while on an Eyewitness story.
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. Seeking comment, TVNZ chartered a helicopter and found Jones fishing near Turangi. Jones was not amused, infamously breaking reporter Rod Vaughan's nose (and punching cameraman Peter Mayo). Claiming harassment and backed by public opinion, Jones filed a court writ claiming $250,000 in damages. Later, after being fined $1000, he asked the judge if paying $2000 would allow him to do it again.
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.
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.