Easter is a feast of redemption and it probably cannot come fast enough for the new Government. Five months into its term, it has had a bad few weeks.

The Prime Minister has had to correct her Deputy and Foreign Minister over his comments on Russia's apparent attempt to kill another former agent on British soil. She has admonished the Economic Development Minister for going too far in his criticism of Air New Zealand.

The Defence Minister has been hitching rides to work on the Air Force and her Deputy has had to inform one of his MPs that any suggestion regional development funds could be used as leverage to silence an opposing MP is not on.

Those slips were all committed by the Coalition's junior partner, New Zealand First. Now a Labour Party minister has added to the embarrassment. Clare Curran, Minister of Broadcasting, has got herself into a difficult position over a cup of coffee with Radio NZ's head of content, Carol Hirschfeld, who has had to resign.


There seems nothing sinister or remarkable about a minister and a senior journalist meeting for coffee in a Wellington cafe, though a news medium financed entirely by the state has to be careful to keep its distance from those who control its rations.

The Labour Party went to last year's election with a plan to put an extra $38 million into local broadcast content through Radio NZ and NZ on Air.

Though the proposal is not in the Coalition's agreed programme it remains Labour policy and Curran has made no secret of her wish to bring it to fruition.

There seems no harm in her talking to whomever she wants to about a proposal such as this, though Radio NZ bosses would no doubt want underlings to leave any discussions to them on this or any subjects of concern to the company.

It is not clear precisely what Curran and Hirschfeld met to discuss that day. As so often happens, they are in trouble not so much for what they did as for their failure to properly account for it when asked.

Hirschfeld told her bosses she had run into the minister by chance and that is what they told a select committee of Parliament where they were questioned about it by National's broadcasting spokesperson, Melissa Lee.

When the minister realised the RNZ chairman and chief executive had unwittingly misled the committee she had her office inform them her coffee with Hirschfeld had been pre-arranged. That was the beginning of the end for Hirschfeld as RNZ's head of content but Curran had problems of accountability too.

When she had been asked in Parliament for a list of meetings with Radio NZ staff since December 1, Curran provided a list that did not include meeting Hirschfeld on December 5.


When question about the omission in February she said she had not mentioned it because she did not consider it an official meeting, but she amended her parliamentary written answer to include it.

The Prime Minister does not consider Curran's mistake a sacking offence but it makes the Government look amateurish and clumsy. Some of its ministers need to sharpen up and realise they are not in opposition now.