PM defends Hollywood studio tour

KATE CHAPMAN
Last updated 05:00 02/10/2012

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Prime Minister John Key insists his schmoozing trip to Hollywood is about jobs for New Zealanders.

He said did not expect to discuss Kim Dotcom, or offer further labour law changes in return for movies being made in this country.

Mr Key will attend a dinner party for film studio bosses hosted by director James Cameron, and visit Walt Disney, Sony Pictures and Warner Bros studios during his five-day visit to Hollywood.

He leaves tomorrow and will also meet senior representatives from Twentieth Century Fox, Paramount Pictures, Universal Pictures and the Motion Picture Association of America.

Critics suggested Mr Key's visit showed further cosying up to the United States after government agencies supported the case against Dotcom and a rewrite of employment law to suit moviemakers.

But Mr Key said New Zealand could do better without making further changes. "There'll always be conspiracy theorists out there but I'm interested in jobs, not people who live in Fantasyland and want to make things up."

The visit was important for the film industry, which contributed $3 billion to the economy last year.

Mr Key said it was unlikely there would be further concessions to film studios to entice them to produce movies in New Zealand, but he would not rule it out.

Labour laws were changed in 2010 to clarify the distinction between independent contractors and employees.

The change related only to the film industry and was spurred on by Warner Bros' threats to take filming of the Hobbit films elsewhere.

A 15 per cent rebate is also available to those making big-budget movies in New Zealand.

"We've got very good people, we have very good technical equipment in New Zealand and we obviously have magnificent scenery, so we're a good place to make movies, it's a competitive business and I think we've just got to reinforce that," Mr Key said.

Cameron has announced plans to make two Avatar sequels in New Zealand. Production of Emperor, starring Tommy Lee Jones and Matthew Fox, was recently completed in New Zealand.

Mr Key did not expect studio bosses to raise Dotcom with him despite their backing of a copyright case against the internet millionaire.

Council of Trade Unions president Helen Kelly welcomed Government attempts to create jobs but said the same attention should be paid to all industries, particularly manufacturing where a raft of job losses were announced recently.

"When we ask for intervention we get ‘Government's not going to pick winners' . . . so there's a double-sided response here, isn't it? I'll go off to the States and meet these film-makers but I won't intervene and discuss with manufacturers what we can do."

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Ms Kelly warned that further employment law changes were in the pipeline. The removal of workers' rights did not build a long-term industry, she said.

- Fairfax Media

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