PM bears tidings of Meo's departure

By Eugene Bingham

By EUGENE BINGHAM

Helen Clark might just as well have been carrying a platter bearing Rosanne Meo's head.

Within minutes of Rosanne Meo's announcement that she was quitting the TVNZ board yesterday, the Prime Minister was striding the Government benches displaying a piece of paper.

On it was the news of the resignation, word of which reached Parliament during question time.

Helen Clark was the first to find out, informed by a parliamentary messenger that Rosanne Meo had waved the white flag and bowed out of the war of words with the Government.

She took the news in, and then showed it to key ministers and MPs, including Broadcasting Minister Marian Hobbs, whom she sat with to talk things through.

Moments earlier, Ms Hobbs had caused a stir herself, fluffing her responses to an Opposition grilling about the state of TVNZ for the second time in a week.

It was a dreadful performance that drew much ridicule from across the House.

After dodging a question from National's Tony Ryall about whether she had confidence in the board, she was asked to give an assurance that no TVNZ staff members would receive golden handshakes.

"Mr Ryall well knows as a former minister of [State-Owned Enterprises] that that is actually, um, er ... sorry, I've just been flying on a plane ... an operational matter," said Ms Hobbs, who had been in Auckland during the morning.

The laughing began. It got worse when Mr Ryall quoted from an interview in which Ms Hobbs said there was "nothing wrong with [soap opera] Days of Our Lives."

She tried to bat the question off, saying her viewing habits of 25 years ago were irrelevant.

But Mr Ryall, a straight-faced joker, was on to a good thing.

"What is it particularly about the American Days of Our Lives that makes it consistent with Labour's criteria of quality public programmes which helps build New Zealand's identity?" he asked.

Laughter engulfed the House as the questions continued.

Even Speaker Jonathan Hunt was thrown into a spin, confusing Green MP Sue Kedgley for her colleague Sue Bradford.

On the front bench of the Opposition it was all too much. Tears welled up in their eyes.

Ms Hobbs looked for all the world as if she wanted to grab the nearest remote and hit the fast-forward button.

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