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TVNZ board seat for ‘swipe-card’ lobbyist Barrie Saunders

Article – BusinessDesk

June 30 (BusinessDesk) – Headline-attracting Wellington PR shop Saunders Unsworth has scored again, with the appointment of principal Barrie Saunders to the board of state-owned Television New Zealand Ltd.

TVNZ board seat for ‘swipe-card’ lobbyist Barrie Saunders

By Pattrick Smellie

June 30 (BusinessDesk) – Headline-attracting Wellington PR shop Saunders Unsworth has scored again, with the appointment of principal Barrie Saunders to the board of state-owned Television New Zealand Ltd.

Broadcasting Minister Jonathan Coleman announced the three-year appointment today.

A former journalist and broadcaster who first turned to lobbying as press secretary for Labour’s Opposition leader Bill Rowling in 1976, Saunders more recently advised the New Zealand Business Roundtable for eight years and is deeply connected in business and political circles, and at the most senior levels of the bureaucracy.

The media spotlight has been on Saunders in recent weeks because, with his business partner, Mark Unsworth, he enjoys security swipe card access to the Parliament Buildings, a privilege otherwise reserved for MPs, parliamentary staff, and the Press Gallery.

Saunders told BusinessDesk the privilege was over-stated. “I don’t go swanning around in there lightly. For one thing, the swipe card gets you in the front door, but not to third, fourth or fifth floor”.

He had virtually no contact with political journalists in the past year, apart from their attendance at the firm’s wildly popular annual August drinks at the Backbencher pub, opposite the Parliament.

Both Unsworth and another principal consultant at the firm, Charles Finny, have recently made other headlines.

Unsworth was outed by opponents of the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade proposal for his advocacy on behalf of “big pharma” global drug companies in the debate on Pharmac’s future under a TPP.

Finny attracted attention because of a $54,135 uncontested contract for two months’ work at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, drawing on his experience as a former diplomat to advise on the relationship with Association of South East Asian Nations.

He said MFAT head John Allen asked him to do the work because of “staffing gaps” at the Ministry.

Coleman said ‘’Barrie’s knowledge of New Zealand’s economic landscape is extensive and his business experience and ability to deal with a wide range of issues are good attributes” for the TVNZ board.

Widely respected for a deep technical knowledge of key issues affecting a wide range of sectors and industries, Saunders was the first editor of the National Business Review before working for Rowling from 1976 to 1979, and at the Manufacturers Federation and Meat Board before forming the Saunders Unsworth government relations consultancy in 1994.

Asked whether he had been appointed to prepare TVNZ for partial privatisation, Saunders said: “Definitely not. There has never been any such discussion with anyone, Ministers or officials.”

(BusinessDesk)

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