National was blocked from asking Broadcasting Minister Clare Curran to appear at a select committee to clear up unanswered questions around her communications with former RNZ executive Carol Hirschfeld, a report says.
The Economic Development, Science and Innovation Committee released its report
today on a briefing in which the committee was inadvertently misled by RNZ chairman Richard Griffin and chief executive Paul Thompson about a meeting between Curran and Hirschfeld last December.
A minority report by the five National Party members of the select committee said questions remained unanswered regarding the appropriateness of communications initiated by Curran, with Hirschfeld and Griffin.
Curran arranged her meeting with Hirschfeld by text, and also left a message on Griffin's phone prior to his reappearance before the committee to correct the record over his previous submission on the nature of the meeting.
Curran's behaviour was potentially in breach of parliamentary standing orders covering "intimidating, preventing, or hindering a witness from giving evidence, or giving evidence in full, to the House or a committee", the National members said.
The National members also sought to invite Curran to the committee to give her the opportunity to clear up the unanswered questions.
"Regretfully, this resolution was not supported by other members of the committee, once again leaving the matter unresolved."
They also sought the committee to request the Speaker of the House summon Griffin to give the committee the voice message Curran left on his cellphone, which Griffin had refused to hand over.
This was also not supported by the rest of the committee.
"This leaves the matter unclear on the content and tone of the message, whether interference occurred or not," the report said.
Misinformation around the nature of the meeting has cost Hirschfeld her job after she repeatedly reassured Griffin and Thompson that it was a chance encounter. It later emerged that it had been pre-arranged.
The National members of the committee - chairman Jonathan Young, Andrew Falloon, Paul Goldsmith, Melissa Lee and Parmjeet Parmar – said they felt Parliament itself had been impugned by the inadvertent misleading of the committee by RNZ and actions of the minister.
"We believe trust in the role of the select committee process to ensure government entities fulfil their statutory purpose, and in this case, the RNZ Charter, has been impaired. The second hearing was intended to rectify that."
The other five members of the select committee are Labour MPs Paul Eagle, Tamati Coffey, Michael Wood and Deborah Russell, plus Green MP Gareth Hughes.
The voicemail is central to determining whose account, Curran's or Griffin's, is correct about advice she gave him.
The recording either reveals Curran tried to persuade Griffin not to reappear, as he has suggested, or that she was passing on advice that he need not appear in person if he was not able and a letter would suffice.
Curran said in a written response to the Herald that she did not believe she had breached Standing Orders, and referred to a letter from the Speaker to Melissa Lee on April 12.
"The Speaker has already found there is no question of privilege involved in answers I gave to an oral question on 20 February," she said.
She disagreed with the minority view that Parliament had been impugned and referred back to a Speaker's ruling on April 11.
Curran said the committee heard Griffin's interpretation of her phone message and she disagreed with his interpretation.
"I have already said that my intention in leaving the message was to have the record corrected as soon as possible. It was never my intent to stop or prevent RNZ from reappearing before the select committee."