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Warner Brothers Won 2010 Roger Award for “Hobbit” Affair

Warner Brothers Won 2010 Roger Award for “Hobbit” Affair

Amidst all the hype and hysteria of today’s world premiere of “The Hobbit”, let’s refresh our memories about its ugly beginnings a couple of years ago.

Warner Brothers won the 2010 Roger Award for the Worst Transnational Corporation Operating in Aotearoa/New Zealand despite being a first time nominee (in racing terms, it was “the bolter” of the field). The Judges’ Statement said: ''The ‘Hobbit’ affair was an extraordinary example of transnational capital interfering in local politics, and overtly influencing the actions of the NZ Government (which richly deserves its Accomplice Award). It was an overt display of bullying that humiliated every New Zealander, and deliberately set out to do that… such interference in New Zealand politics sets a precedent for all future negotiations between the New Zealand government and transnational corporations”. It won because of its interference in NZ politics and governance and treatment of employees and contractors.

John Key and his Government won the Accomplice Award for their ignoble role in the whole Warner Brothers/”Hobbit” affair. “It has apparently given rise to a whole new men’s fashion garment in Hollywood – Warners of Wellington trousers. They have an arrow printed on the seat, and the words ‘kiss here’”. The judges announced a special Quisling Award for Sir Peter Jackson (to be awarded to the individual New Zealander who does the most to facilitate foreign control of New Zealand), once again for his role in the Warner Brothers/”Hobbit” affair. “Sir Peter Jackson – you are fully worthy of joining that other blackened knight, that other exemplar in selling out your country to foreign corporations, the one for whom this award is named – Sir Roger Douglas”. So, a triple sweep for the movie industry – the Roger, the Accomplice and the Quisling. Says it all really, doesn’t it.

The full 2010 Roger Award Judges’ Report can be read online at http://canterbury.cyberplace.co.nz/community/CAFCA/publications/Roger/Roger2010.pdf

And, to quote from Foreign Control Watchdog 125, December 2010:

The sorry spectacle of the Prime Minister falling over himself to appease Warner Brothers to ensure that the giant American transnational corporation would condescend to continue to film “The Hobbit” in New Zealand was a perfect illustration of the global modus operandi of such corporations, aided and abetted by their local collaborators, and facilitated by craven and wilfully naïve politicians. How appropriate that a film about an imaginary feudal society should be made possible by such a textbook example of modern day corporate feudalism in action, complete with forelock tugging grovelling from the powers that be, mass hysteria from the media, and some Oscar-worthy prima donna behaviour by the knights of the shire, Sir Peter Jackson and Sir Richard Taylor. The American studio bosses must have been falling over themselves with laughter when they realised that all they had to do to get their own way was to threaten to take their bat and ball and go elsewhere (a standard threat from transnational corporations, sometimes enacted, but much more often used as a bargaining ploy to extract concessions. It has been a standard tactic for decades from the transnational owners of the Bluff aluminium smelter, to cite the most high profile example).

So John Key made himself personally available when the Hollywood moguls flew into Wellington and proceeded to give them even more tens of millions of taxpayers’ dollars (isn’t it interesting how politicians and the media never wax indignant about these subsidies to Big Business or demand that something be done about these beneficiaries of such massive corporate welfare, surely the biggest bludgers in the country?). And just for good measure Key got the labour laws changed so that anyone working in the film industry is now classified as a self-employed contractor, not an employee, which makes things a lot easier for the film industry employer, who now has no responsibility for things such as tax, annual leave, sick leave, ACC levies, etc, etc. All of that becomes the responsibility of the worker. The hysteria and political overkill was in reaction to one Supreme Court case where a film industry worker had been ruled to be an employee, not a contractor. In fact, so sweeping was the scope of the political gutlessness that even kneejerk backers of National and the bosses felt uneasy enough to express doubts about it in editorials and columns.

Divide And Rule

There was something extremely ugly about the anti-union and anti-worker hysteria which was very rapidly whipped up, including heaping personal abuse and threats on Helen Kelly, the head of the Council of Trade Unions (always disparagingly referred to by the media as “union boss”) and high profile Actors’ Equity spokespeople such as TV star Robyn Malcolm. Particular venom was reserved for the Australian representative of the union which was invited by Actors’ Equity to help them with their industrial campaign for better conditions and security of employment – how ironic that foreign-owned media crusading on behalf of a gigantic American film company should attack an Australian union and its staff for practising international workers’ solidarity. It’s easy to see how fascism can get going –“your problems are all the fault of those immigrants/gypsies/Jews/Australian unions”. Sir Peter Jackson, especially, revealed a very unattractive side of his carefully cultivated avuncular personality (watching him on TV reminded me of his old mate Gollum, fixated about “my precious”). Whenever high achievers such as Jackson are criticised, the standard response from their media apologists is that “this is the tall poppy syndrome”. Bullshit. In this case Jackson’s behaviour was reprehensible and he showed clearly whose side he is on in the faceoff between “his” workers and the studio bosses.

Divide and conquer has always been a standard, and well proven, tactic of colonisers and this nasty little exercise in corporate colonisation proved no exception. So there were “we want to work” rallies by film workers stampeded into being frightened about their jobs. All par for the course – local collaborators and their stooges have played a vital, if ignoble, role throughout history. They were in the slave trade; Aotearoa would not have been colonised by the British if not for the help of “loyal Maori”. Once again, how appropriate that a film about an imaginary feudal society should feature the loyal serfs being mobilised to fight the rebellious ones and being misled by their knightly lords and masters (with the help of the Government and media) into seeing those nasty Australian-backed “union bosses” as being their enemy, rather than the huge American film company which demanded that their pay, conditions, job security and union protections be reduced or eradicated before withdrawing its threat to find cheaper and more servile labour elsewhere. Obviously Warner Brothers is now satisfied that the NZ film industry can offer suitably cheap and docile workers. The whole ”Hobbit” fiasco shows very clearly that this is a Government that will go to any lengths to grovel to the transnationals and trample on NZ workers and unions in the process (not to mention blithely giving those transnationals tens of millions of taxpayers’ dollars as unabashed corporate welfare).

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