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Jenny Shipley Behind SOE's Political Lobbying

SECRETS AND LIES
The anatomy of an anti-environmental PR campaign

News release 17 August 1999

JENNY SHIPLEY: BEHIND STATE-OWNED COMPANY’S POLITICAL LOBBYING

Prime Minister Jenny Shipley needs to explain why she and staff in her office supported and assisted Timberlands’ politically-motivated multi-million dollar anti-environmental PR campaign but in response to a question in Parliament in July denied there had been any involvement.

Jenny Shipley and her office assisted Timberlands to lobby other MPs and bureaucrats to enable the logging of native forests to continue, say the authors of Secrets and Lies, Nicky Hager and Bob Burton. “Shipley was also aware of and supported the state-owned company's efforts to undermine public opinion against their logging of native forests.”

Secrets and Lies reveals details of confidential ministerial meetings in which Mrs Shipley argued that the government should not be seen to be giving in to the environmentalists. In 1997 as SOE Minister she successfully stalled former Prime Minister Jim Bolger’s private plans to stop the logging and conserve the West Coast forests.

“It seems that Jenny Shipley was determined to back Timberlands’ continued logging of native forests, no matter how much public relations money it cost, no who poor the company’s financial records were, and no matter how much public opinion was against it,” says Nicky Hager.

Chapter 12 of the book goes into the details of Shipley’s involvement in Timberlands’ lobbying efforts. Numerous petty incidents show that she knew the company was lobbying other politicians, and supported its efforts.

“Mrs Shipley was abusing her position as SOE minister and as prime minister, by actively supporting expenditure by a state-owned company of millions of dollars on lobbying politicians and on dirty public relations tactics aimed at discrediting genuine public interest groups concerned for the environment,” says Nicky Hager.

Leaked minutes of Timberlands PR meetings and other leaked correspondence show that Timberlands and its PR firms made a point of sending details of many of their activities to Mrs Shipley. Other documents record her approval for secret tactics in the anti-environmental campaign.

For example, a 15 September 1997 paper written by Timberlands’ PR company, Shandwick New Zealand Ltd stated that Mrs Shipley supported Timberlands’ “graffiti erasure” campaign. Shandwick was paying contractors to paint out all graffiti critical of native logging in the capital city (and at times to paint over posters too).

Mrs Shipley began co-operating in the PR campaign as SOE Minister in 1997. Under the SOE Act, she was required to avoid involvement in day-to-day operations on the state company. But Secrets and Lies shows she made an exception for Timberlands. The book quotes numerous references from the leaked papers of liaison between Timberlands and Mrs Shipley’s office over the day-to-day details of the Timberlands’ campaign, and partisan support from her office staff, who under state service rules, should be politically neutral. Mrs Shipley’s staff assisted Timberlands by sending copies of Native Forest Action’s latest posters to its Wellington PR firm, Shandwick, advising Timberlands what MPs were thinking, and which MPs and bureaucrats to lobby. They even provided feedback to Timberlands on its “communications” strategy.

Mrs Shipley’s involvement did not end when she became Prime Minister and ceased being SOE minister. Soon after becoming PM, Mrs Shipley noted graffiti on a wall in Wellington’s Balaena Bay on the way to the airport and her staff told Shandwick. The wall was painted over in a mural initiated by and covertly sponsored by Timberlands.

For more information, contact Nicky Hager and Bob Burton at 04 3845074

ENDS

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