Gordon Campbell | Parliament TV | Parliament Today | Video | Questions Of the Day | Search 25 November 2005

25 November 2005 (#231)

A Weekly Report from the Keyboard of Murray McCully
MP for East Coast Bays

Branding Madness at GNS

They are touchy, touchy people over at GNS Science – the Crown Research Institute previously called the Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences Ltd. Asked by the worldwide headquarters most excellent analysts to supply the budgets and rationale for the recent re-branding, they were gracelessly forthcoming.

The "old brand and logo have had limited effectiveness in promulgating our recognition and role," they explained. Examples of this were their "personal experiences in interacting with a large number of people who have not heard of us." Further, they had suffered "a 13-year long history of complaints from staff about the challenges they receive about our name when working in the field".

Then there was the "unwillingness of television media to display our former name because of its length, and the print media often quote our name incorrectly." Also, they were concerned at "the low recognition by visitors to Te Papa that we are a major sponsor." And the final example….. wait for it…. serious offence had been taken over a recent offering from the worldwide headquarters of "which shows misunderstanding of our business model". So there.

A key consideration was the "18 syllables of the old Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences Limited" as opposed to the new "GNS Science (5 syllables)" we are told.

So far, GNS has chewed up over $75,000 on PR advisors, design consultants and "consultation with sub-brand champions" (probably code for some slap-up lunches). And they still don’t have new business cards or letterhead.

Ah, but they do have a new Maori name: Te Pu Ao, a modest little number which means "Source of the World" (determined after the obligatory meetings with "Maori mentors"). All of which is a little strange. Because elsewhere the papers explain that part of the rationale for the change is the need to "operate internationally", for which reason "there is little benefit in stressing our nationality or geographic location." So, go figure.

All of the above creative and branding genius is the product of two and a half years work by something called the Branding and Profile Strategic Sub-Issue Group which, at 12 syllables is probably the next candidate for a re-branding exercise.

The four page covering letter snakily tells us that "the time taken to prepare this response was five hours". Which is a bit rich. Because if they had just photocopied the papers and sent them, as they were asked to, it would have taken five minutes. But mercifully, they "elect to make no charge" to the elected representatives of their owners for supplying the information.

So that’s the story then. Oh, but there’s a catch. "May I request," the letter from Dr Desmond Darby, General Manager, Strategy concludes, "that any public or parliamentary use you make of the information contained in this response includes the sentence:

GNS Science is the Crown Research Institute which focuses on geological hazards (earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunami, landslides), geological resources (oil, gas, geothermal energy, groundwater, minerals), and isotope technologies (radioactive dating, stable isotope material analysis, non invasive scanning, nanotechnology)"

So we just can’t wait to get a Parliamentary question to the Minister of CRIs to watch him manage that mouthful.

The Taxpayer-Funded Money-go-Round

So just who are these commercial customers who are to be seduced by the new, re-branded GNS? The worldwide headquarters found the annual accounts very illuminating.

Total revenue for 2005 was $43 million. A fraction under $23 million comes directly from the Crown. Nearly $6 million comes from the Earthquake Commission – a Crown body. That’s two thirds of the annual revenues so far, from the taxpayer. A further $11.2 million is listed as commercial income. But the notes to the accounts make it clear that this includes “many transactions with state-owned enterprises, government departments, other Crown entities and other Crown Research Institutes.” Major contracts with government entities like NIWA and Quotable Value Ltd are also disclosed.

So here’s betting that taxpayers have just funded a major re-branding exercise so that a bunch of taxpayer employees can pretend to be real, live hairy-chested private sector executives, selling their services to other taxpayer-funded employees of other taxpayer-funded departments, who didn’t have alternative service providers to buy from anyway.

Under 60% of Ad Budget at MTS

The taxpayer-funded Maori Television Service ($55 million a year all up) persistently refuses to tell its owners how it is performing. Despite consuming huge dollops of taxpayers’ cash, the channel will not release to the public, or their elected representatives, the normal ratings information which is the currency of commercial broadcasters. But there was no hiding one key indicator when the annual report was tabled in Parliament this week.

MTS had budgeted for a meagre $832,000 in advertising income for the 2005 year. Without ratings, the advertising agencies are giving them a wide birth. But the great Sisterhood spend-up on taxpayer-funded promotions (like the $20 million Working for Families rort) gives Departments an opportunity to prop up MTS by buying advertising on the grounds that the target audience (Maori) is likely to be watching.

Even so, MTS grossly under-performed against budget, collecting a mere $496,000 of the budgeted $832,000 – less than 60%. Any commercial broadcaster would have embarked upon mass sackings in both the programme and sales departments on figures nowhere near as bad. But at MTS it won’t matter. Because the Sisterhood will keep pumping in cash, regardless of the performance.

The Trade Union Driven Sisterhood

Scratching your head, incredulous that the Sisterhood is holding firm against tax cuts? And that anyone could be stupid enough to imagine that borrowers will repay interest-free student loans? Or be incompetent enough to leave a loophole to allow those who have repaid $137 million of student loans in the past six months to borrow most of the money back? Interest free that is. Well that would be because we have a government dominated by people from a different planet – a government driven by former trade union officials.

In the last Parliament there were 28 former trade unionists in Labour’s caucus ranks. Three of those, Mark Peck, Lesley Soper and Helen Duncan have not returned. But of the four new MPs to join the Labour caucus, we have:
- Former CTU vice president Darien Fenton
- Former PPTA and CTU official Maryan Street
- Former Nurses’ Union organiser Sue Moroney.
Only former Maori Fisheries chair, Shane Jones has no union credentials.

So according to our sums Labour’s unionist representation in a caucus of 50, has stayed at 28, the same as in the last Parliament.

But here’s a question for you. How many teachers or university lecturers are in the Labour caucus?

Winston Catches Clark’s Disease
Noticed how our Prime Minister under pressure, reverts to referring to herself in the third person?

Well clearly our new Minister of Foreign Affairs, sentenced to travelling to Korea and then Malta with Clark, has started catching her bad habits.
Get a load of this from the NZPA:

“How about giving Winston Peters a second chance” he said.

Or this from Colin Espiner in the Christchurch Press:

“Every person here has a similar position on immigration to NZ First and Winston Peters,” Mr Peters said after yesterday’s foreign ministers’ meeting in Malta.


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