Raspberry blown at govt's Hobbit deal

02:14, Apr 05 2011

A controversial high-level deal between the Government and US film studio Warner Bros to ensure The Hobbit movie is made in New Zealand has earned both parties this year's Roger Award.

Warner Bros executives entered into two-day tense negotiations with senior Government ministers last October after the company threatened to make The Hobbit in another country after contract workers began collective agreement discussions.

An agreement was reached that kept the $670 million production in New Zealand.

The Government agreed to give the studio an additional $20 million tax break and change the law so there would be no possibility that contract workers could go to court and claim employee rights.

Warner Bros, a first-time nominee for the inauspicious award, took out the top prize due to the "extraordinary example of transnational capital interfering in local politics, and overtly influencing the actions of the NZ Government", the judges said.

"It was an overt display of bullying that humiliated every New Zealander," they said, adding that such interference in New Zealand politics "sets a precedent for all future negotiations between the New Zealand Government and transnational corporations".

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The Government, and specifically Prime Minister John Key, were awarded the Accomplice Award for their "ignoble role in the whole Warner Brothers/Hobbit affair", the judges said.

The judges announced a special Quisling Award for Sir Peter Jackson, for his role in the affair as the individual who did the most to facilitate foreign control of New Zealand.

Second place was awarded to retirement home chain Bupa, "primarily because of its poor treatment of both its staff and its clients," the judges said.

Imperial Tobacco came third because of its role in setting up a fake citizens' organisation to lobby for its product, a tactic which the judges described as "despicable and deceitful".

The awards are named after former Finance Minister Sir Roger Douglas and are organised by activist organisations Cafca (Campaign Against Foreign Control of Aotearoa) and Gatt (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade) Watchdog.

This year's judges were Paul Corliss, a life member of the Rail and Maritime Transport Union, writer Christine Dann, former Green Party MP Sue Bradford, University of Auckland education senior lecturer Joce Jesson and Auckland University of Technology communications studies associate professor Wayne Hope.

NZPA