Claire Trevett

Claire Trevett is the New Zealand Herald’s deputy political editor.

TVNZ can't ask staff to declare politics

TVNZ has begun an inquiry into whether there was Labour bias at the unit under Mr Taurima. Photo / NZ Herald
TVNZ has begun an inquiry into whether there was Labour bias at the unit under Mr Taurima. Photo / NZ Herald

State Services Commission Iain Rennie says it would inappropriate under the rules for the state sector if TVNZ required its staff to disclose their political affiliations.

Mr Rennie has issued a statement saying he was concerned about a proposal by TVNZ's bosses to tighten its code of conduct so that staff had to disclose political affiliations, such as membership of a political party.

"It would not be appropriate for any organisation in the State Services to monitor or keep a register of their staff's political views or affiliations."

The proposal was made as a result of the recent resignation of Shane Taurima, the head of TVNZ's Maori and Pacific unit. That resignation followed revelations Mr Taurima was considering standing for Labour at the election and had attended Labour Party meetings, including one held at TVNZ.

TVNZ is now investigating that and at a select committee yesterday its CEO Kevin Kenrick raised the possibility of requiring staff to declare their allegiances to allow better management of potential conflicts of interest.

However, while state servants were obliged to be politically neutral at work they had the same rights to political opinions and affiliations as any other person.

"All state servants must balance their professional roles and responsibilities with their private views and keep their job out of their politics, and their politics out of their job."

All state servants, including those at TVNZ, were subject to the State Services Code of Conduct. The guidelines of that code acknowledged political involvement could, in some cases, be seen as a conflict of interest that needed to be managed.

However, the guidelines also stated it was not appropriate for organisations to keep any register of affiliations.

Mr Rennie said any state servant who felt they had a confict of interest should raise it with their managers as soon as possible.

- NZ Herald

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