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Fran O'Sullivan: Activist stunt made at Kiwis' expense

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Robyn Malcolm of  Outrageous Fortune  fame is at the forefront of the misguided anti-Warner Bros campaign. Photo / Sarah Ivey
Robyn Malcolm of Outrageous Fortune fame is at the forefront of the misguided anti-Warner Bros campaign. Photo / Sarah Ivey

New Zealand doesn't deserve the outrageous misfortune of having to put up with celebrity actress Robyn Malcolm and her ilk driving daggers into the heart of our collective economic future with their mindless campaigns.

I wasn't surprised to see Malcolm place herself at the forefront of the anti-Warner Bros campaign. Like Lucy Lawless and Keisha Castle-Hughes, Malcolm has a well-developed nose for the additional publicity she gets through fronting activist-led campaigns. The trio have even scored the odd success along the way.

Malcolm has a taste for the limelight. Playing Westie solo mum Cheryl West every week would do that to a girl. But beating up on the Prime Minister for his climate change policies or marching against big-time mining plans is one thing. Wrecking the existing livelihoods of fellow workers in the New Zealand film industry by trying to force Warner Bros and Sir Peter Jackson to stump up higher pay rates for The Hobbit is just plain stupid.

Surely Malcolm and the other New Zealand Actors' Equity leaders know the country's relatively cheap wages are a major selling point when it comes to hosting blockbuster movies?

Don't they know that nations such as China, which has enough space on its own movie lots to build one-for-one replicas of the Forbidden City, have already put the feelers out to Jackson to film a major blockbuster there? Why aren't the actors doing everything in their power to ensure New Zealand - which is a considerable distance from the United States - remains a viable destination for Hollywood's blockbuster makers? And why don't they realise they aren't the only Kiwis who will benefit if the $670 million movie is finally made here?

What really concerns me is that Actors' Equity - which appears to have been run sloppily in recent years - has suddenly gone all stroppy at the very time we are bumping along the bottom of a long economic recovery.

Frankly, this union wouldn't have found its straps unless it was egged along by Council of Trade Unions boss Helen Kelly, whose own motivations are these days driven more by wanting to "get John Key out" than doing the best by workers.

Kelly's strategy is to enrol other offshore unions to create "situations" in New Zealand.

She managed to persuade major US union boss Richard Trumka to spurn the Government's invitation to come to New Zealand in February to talk international trade as retribution for Key's decision to put more conditions on union access to the workplace. (New Zealand's Ambassador to the US, Mike Moore, will do the talk with Trumka in Washington.)

But, the Equity leaders and Kelly have overplayed their hands. And when it comes to the big issues of the day, the small cabal of Kiwi actresses have already chalked up their part in leading misguided campaigns against progress.

This time round, Lawless was far too smart to bite the hand of the Hollywood paymasters by joining the celebrity actress cabal. And Castle-Hughes has been noticeably missing in action. A sure sign that this pair (at least) puts self-interest at heart when it comes to staying in with the studio bosses. But there is a disturbing pattern, nevertheless.

Key - against his better judgment - dutifully trekked off to Copenhagen in December after the "Sign On" campaign masterminds successfully used Keisha Castle-Hughes and Lucy Lawless to whip up public opinion against National's approach to carbon emissions reduction.

Watching a Prime Minister being chastised by the Whale Rider and the Warrior Princess was not an edifying sight.

The pair clamoured for Key to ink a deal promising New Zealand would cut its emissions by 40 per cent by 2020 - a sure-fire recipe for economic disaster at a time when the economy was struggling to come out of recession.

Key didn't, and wouldn't go that far. It would have been economic lunacy and placed the livelihoods of thousands of farmers at risk and made our exports uncompetitive.

Where New Zealand did exert leadership was by setting up the Global Research Alliance on Agriculture Emissions. The upshot will be new scientific methods to reduce agriculture emissions on our farms and the creation of intellectual property which can sold elsewhere.

But such subtleties were lost on the celebrity cabal, which seems determined that we should all don sacrificial hair shirts rather than enjoy the fruits of a sophisticated economy.

The cabal then turned its attention to mining. Greenpeace pulled a masterstroke by getting Malcolm and Lawless to front its "Sexy Coal" video. I doubt either actress would have needed much persuading to roll about on a big heap of coal. They wouldn't have cared that there were no major coal reserves on the "commercial site" - it was just about getting a message across.

The Government rolled over. There will be no major mining industry providing lots of jobs for New Zealand workers anytime soon.

The stakes are high this time round.

Key will try to pull off a solution. It will inevitably be a commercial one that could result in New Zealand taxpayers giving Warner Bros an even better tax break to keep The Hobbit here.

The actors would get to stay in work and New Zealand would forgo some tax revenue. Not the brightest of results, really. But Key and co can't afford to keep on giving in to Malcolm and her fairweather friends.

- NZ Herald

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