I think we can say the Carol Hirschfeld resignation from Radio New Zealand over her meeting with the Minister of Broadcasting fairly safely sits in the category of scandal. And as scandals work, this has some legs left in it.

We do not know why Hirschfeld insisted the meeting with Clare Curran was coincidental. We do not know why Curran put the meeting in her book. And the trouble with not knowing this stuff is it leads to speculation, and speculation is dangerous and corrosive for a new government.

The Curran aspect of the story is the more serious aspect for most of us given she is the politician, but in this circumstance the actions of Hirschfeld too are important given (a) she is, or was, a public servant paid for by us and (b) about to receive millions of new dollars from this Government that has a passion for funding its favourite arm of the media.

The person who rumbled all this is Radio New Zealand chairman Richard Griffin, who in another life was the Radio New Zealand political editor and one of life's nicest people.


When I was imprisoned in the state broadcaster for a number of years one of the highlights was our weekly chats on air on a Friday about the week in politics. It was pre-recorded because I don't think I am being indiscreet in saying that Friday night was not a night Richard was stringing his words together all that brilliantly after a hard afternoon's investigative journalism at the pub.

In fact, when we recorded early afternoon, the investigations, a lot of the time, had already begun. But the point is, Richard knew everything and everyone. He was a legend of the industry and widely respected, and of course went on to be Jim Bolger's chief spin doctor.

Anyway, he got the tip, and to think he wouldn't have found out anyway is to not know Richard Griffin.

The other scandal here is he and the CEO of Radio New Zealand had been in front of the select committee reassuring all and sundry that the Curran/Hirschfeld meeting was pure coincidence; indeed, in probably one of the most embarrassing statements ever to have to now be retracted Griffin said: "I would put dollars to doughnuts that was just a meeting of two people, in the minister's case just an opportunity to have a quick word with someone she knew anyway."

Whoops, not quite as once-over-lightly as Dick might have hoped. So they'll be back in front of the committee to rectify and apologise for misleading them which, in parliamentary circles, is actually quite a serious offence. And the reason they make it all official and the reason this stinks to high heaven is because it's millions of our money. And it's millions into an organisation that's supposed to have journalistic rigour; in other words, they're supposed to be impartial.

Do they look that way this morning? No, I don't think so either.