Broadcaster Ali Mau has spoken of her anger at being asked to take over hosting TVNZ's Breakfast show last decade for a fraction of the salary the previous male host had been getting.

Speaking on the Girls on Top podcast, Mau revealed that the then-Head of News, Bill Ralston, had called her to replace the show's previous host, broadcaster Mike Hosking.

"Back then, just for a couple of years, [Breakfast] was done just with one person, not two," she explained.

Mike Hosking hosted Breakfast from its launch in 1997 until 2004.
Mike Hosking hosted Breakfast from its launch in 1997 until 2004.

"I said 'Okay, I'll do your single-host Breakfast programme, all I want is the same as MH was earning' and he (the boss) laughed in my face."

Advertisement

Mau said the reaction particularly angered her because at the time she had been working in television for longer than Hosking and she was being asked to do exactly the same job.

Mau also revealed that for a long time, she earned more money than her former husband Simon Dallow, who now hosts 1 News alongside Wendy Petrie.

Ali Mau with her then-husband Simon Dallow in 2007. Photo / NZ Herald
Ali Mau with her then-husband Simon Dallow in 2007. Photo / NZ Herald

The comments were part of a wide-ranging discussion Mau had with hosts Brodie Kane and Caitlin Marett on subjects including pay equity, sexual harassment, Israel Folau, and Mau's relationship with her partner Karleen Edmonds.

Mau said she felt New Zealand was taking "baby steps" towards addressing the issue of pay inequality but it was proving difficult to close the roughly 12 per cent gap that still existed.

"I think it's everybody's responsibility (to challenge the status quo)," she said, adding that while women did need to stand up for themselves, the existing societal structure also needed to shift.

"Often men are seen as more promotion-worthy, despite the fact that their achievements ... might be the same as the women they work alongside."

Mau also touched on her own experiences of workplace sexual harassment, discussing a short period in the 1990s when she worked at Channel Nine in Australia.

"I had a terrible three months under the direction of this man and then he let me go and he refused to pay the salary that I was owed," she recalled.

Advertisement

Mau said she was hesitant to speak out and even her own parents told her not to complain because they worried she would never work in the industry again if she did.

"I remember sitting there crying and holding my parents' hands and saying 'I can't pay my rent if I don't get that 15 grand — that's what it was ... so I have no choice.'

"And I went in and I told the general manager that I would take a (sexual harassment) case if they didn't pay me out — which is kind of like blackmail, I guess — and he looked at me and said, 'Oh yes, we know we have a major problem there and one of your colleagues has already taken a lawsuit and your cheque will be ready for you on Friday.'"

Mau says her experience helps her understand the difficulty other victims of sexual assault have in coming forward to report inappropriate conduct.

"We are a small country and people are deathly afraid — rightly so ... of not being able to get another job."

Mau said the problem could be particularly acute in smaller towns and cities, where employees who had spoken out about workplace abuse could find themselves "blacklisted" by other employers.

"They're afraid of not being able to pay their rent or their mortgage or feed their children ... and that's why you haven't seen many people come forward using their real names."

Weighing in on the Israel Folau controversy, Mau said she absolutely believed in his right to free speech, but drew the line when that speech caused harm to other people.

"Setting aside the fact that he breached the social media contract of ... Rugby Australia ... [Folau] will have known, after the first kerfuffle, that he was potentially hurting young questioning or LGBTQI youth. He would have known that and then he did it again — and that for me was a step too far, I think."

She added that the situation surrounding his comments had now "got in an impenetrable tangle of reckons," but said she fundamentally believed that he was hurting people "and that goes against a lot of Christians' beliefs".

As an example, Mau said her partner's devoutly Catholic mother was "the most supportive person of her daughter's relationship with me".

"That's because she has real love in her heart and she's not willing to mark out sections of society and publicly condemn them to hell."