The endless wait for TVNZs report into Shane Taurima’s activities there is over. It was released at 2.30pm yesterday (copy attached here) and by the end of the evening had resulted in Mr Taurima’s political ambition being kicked for touch for another three years.
Unsurprisingly, it concludes that there was no bias in Mr Taurima’s interviewing or editorial decisions. The accusations of bias from various National Party Ministers were weak to begin with, designed more to embarrass Labour and damage Taurima’s chances of selection than to offer anything substantive.
The kicker for Mr Taurima was the issue of resource use – use of the TVNZ meeting room to host a Labour Party branch meeting, email, telephone, staff time, photocopying and dodgy expense claims – the steps he took while at TVNZ that were designed to help him win the Tamaki Makaurau nomination, and his attempts to keep his activities hidden from TVNZ.
Following the release of the report, Mr Taurima’s view was that it had vindicated him, and that he would be turning his attention solely to seeking the Tamaki Makaurau nomination. It seems that he was hoping against hope that the focus of Labour and his opponents would solely be on the political bias aspect of the report, for which he was indeed vindicated. However, he must have known it was all over once David Cunliffe appeared on the evening news to declare not once, not twice, but three times that the report had highlighted “serious issues”. Labour’s New Zealand Council then met last night and made the decision not to grant him a waiver to stand.
Labour have made the right decision. There were too many cumulative embarrassments in the report to risk allowing Taurima to become the candidate. There was the $333.43 he was asked to repay, after flying up a TVNZ staff member from Gisborne to Auckland to attend a Labour Party meeting – both Labour and National have learned the hard way that the public doesn’t like dodgy expense claims. There was the overt secrecy of his actions, using phrases like “Secret Squirrel” and asking, “Did you change the name of the scan? They may notice it’s come from TVNZ”. And there were the doubt expressed by the report over Mr Taurima’s explanations for various events, indicating the Panel members didn’t find his explanations altogether believable.
The big question now for Labour is whether they reopen nominations. At present, the only viable nomination received is that of Will Flavell – the head of Maori Studies at Rutherford College. However, rumours have been circulating for weeks about the intentions of Maori TV’s Julian Wilcox, who was expected to stand if Taurima was vetoed. Labour Party President, Moira Coatesworth, has said that because the situation had changed, she would expect there would now be others interested in putting their names forward, which seems a fairly clear indication that nominations will indeed be reopened.
Of course, this all prolongs the length of time that Labour is candidate-free in Tamaki Makaurau, giving the Maori Party candidate a continued head start. However, it might not make much difference. Most pundits are predicting that the seat is Labour’s to lose, and one would have to assume that (regardless of any delay) a candidate like Julian Wilcox would be well-placed to take the seat back for Labour.