May 31 2023

NZ comedy couple behind The Office Australia

Felicity Ward plays Hannah Howard in The Office Australia. (Photo: Supplied)

Local comedy veteran couple Jackie Van Beek and Jesse Griffin’s next TV project has been revealed – and it’s an Australian version of the British-turned-American comedy institution The Office. The series, confirmed for 2024, will see David Brent and Michael Scott replaced by a female lead for the first time.

Eight episodes of The Office Australia are set to land on Prime Video, which will be given a modern twist, focusing on the antics of the boss of a packaging company (not a paper company like Wernham Hogg or Dunder Mifflin) called Flinley Craddick. The boss, Hannah Howard, a “lovable, flawed, lady boss, ruling over her packaging empire,” will be played by Australian actor Felicity Ward.

A press release describes the show’s plot like this: “When she gets news from head office that they will be shutting down her branch and making everyone work from home, [Howard] goes into survival mode, making promises she can’t keep in order to keep her work family together. The staff of Flinley Craddick indulge her and must endure Hannah’s outlandish plots as they work toward the impossible targets that have been set for them.”

Hannah Howard, the new boss of The Office Australia.
Felicity Ward plays Hannah Howard in The Office Australia. (Photo: Supplied)

The Office co-creator Ricky Gervais said he was “very excited about Australia remaking my little show from the turn of the century. Office politics have changed a bit in 20 years, so can’t wait to see how they navigate a modern-day David Brent.”

Van Beek is named as lead set-up director, while Griffin will direct. The pair are known for many of their local comedy classic TV shows and films including Educators, Nude Tuesday and The Breaker Upperers. On Friday, Prime Video debuts another new Australian series called Deadloch, starring New Zealand comedy icon Madeleine Sami.

‘NoHomo’: Cabinet minister takes aim at Simon O’Connor comment on parents

National MP Simon O’Connor. (Photo: VNP / Phil Smith RNZ)

A senior cabinet minister has criticised National Party MP Simon O’Connor for saying it is the responsibility of a mother and a father to raise a child.

During a debate on a child support amendment bill in parliament yesterday, Tāmaki MP O’Connor, who is well known to hold socially conservative views, said: “This whole ‘community and village to raise a child’, it’s just such a trite phrase, and I’m not even going to try and elaborate on that in this little speech tonight. It is the responsibility of the mother and the father—and I’m being very deliberate with my language there: the mother and the father—to raise the child.”

Labour’s Marja Lubeck tweeted that National was going from “bad to worse”, while cabinet minister Kiri Allan shared a clip of the speech with the hashtag #NoHomo. “On child support, here’s Simon O’Connor giving National’s views on who parents can be,” Allan added.

But O’Connor told The Spinoff his comments were during a speech about child support and as such had been misinterpreted. “We were talking child support payments, where the overwhelming number of those paying are men or fathers.  My comments were clearly directed at them – they still are fathers and have a role in raising their children, notably in this case via support payments,” he said.

“Despite attempts by some, the short speech on child support payments was not a wider discussion of relationship types of which I am very relaxed around; I help all sorts, shapes, and sizes of families in my electorate work.  Again, the speech was about child support payments not the nature of relationships.”

Allan, meanwhile, found herself in a slightly embarrassing situation after giving the wrong speech in parliament last night. As the Herald explained, Allan gave a speech during the third reading of a bill that was almost word for word the same as one given during another bill’s second reading.

Former National MP switches allegiance to Act

Parmjeet Parmar with former PM John Key

Former National Party MP Parmjeet Parmar will stand for the Act Party in this year’s election.

Parmar was a list MP first elected in 2014, before missing out on a spot back in parliament after National’s 2020 election performance. She had also previously contested the Mount Roskill electorate.

“I expect Act’s board to give her a high list placing and select her to stand in the Pakuranga electorate,” said Act leader David Seymour. “Parmjeet will take on the Science and Innovation portfolio.”

Parmar said she had always taken an “evidence-based approach” as a scientist, and saw the same in Act.

“Act is often the only party asking the hard questions and thinking long-term about the changes that are needed in New Zealand to lift us up as a country,” she said. “Since I left parliament in 2020, government has got bigger and is spending more, but our problems – crime, cost of living, the crisis in the health system – just keep getting worse.”

Recently, it was also announced that former Federated Farmers president Andrew Hoggard would be joining Act as well.

Parmjeet Parmar with former PM John Key

Introducing… Sir Ashley Bloomfield

Photos: Getty Images; additional design by Archi Banal

The former director general of health Ashley Bloomfield has been knighted at a ceremony in Wellington today.

Bloomfield helped shepherd New Zealand through the Covid-19 pandemic, until deciding to step away from the high profile role last year. His appearances at dozens of press conferences alongside former PM Jacinda Ardern (and current PM, then Covid minister, Chris Hipkins) made him a household name during the ongoing lockdown periods.

1News has footage of the ceremony here.

The Real Pod: Did you see Mike Puru’s media-themed musical number?

Jane Yee, Alex Casey and Duncan Greive give us all the juicy insider gossip from the Voyager Media Awards, reveal which celebrities they spotted this week and give their honest thoughts on the just-announced cast of Taskmaster NZ.

Listen to The Real Pod below or wherever you get your pods

‘Toxic smoke’: Emergency alert issued for those near Auckland fire

A fire truck (Image: Getty Images)

An emergency alert has been sent to people in the area surrounding a large scrap yard fire in south Auckland.

The alert warns people to keep their doors and windows closed due to the risk of “toxic smoke”.

The Herald reported that more than a dozen fire crews have been trying to get the fire, in Favona, under control. It was first reported to emergency services at midnight.

Bilingual sign ‘dog whistle’ dogs Luxon on morning media round

Christopher Luxon identifies another shortcoming in the budget. Photo: Hagen Hopkins/Getty

Christopher Luxon likes to say his party’s position on bilingual signs is clear – and yet he’s continuing to be asked a lot of questions on the topic. And even Mike Hosking said the party’s position on the topic remains unclear.

The issue, according to Luxon and some other National MPs, is that the priority should be fixing roads and improving safety rather than wasting time and money on new bilingual road signs. However, the signs are only being replaced when and if needed, which the prime minister has said means there’s no additional money being spent.

And Luxon’s Wednesday morning media round was largely dominated by the ongoing debate, with both Newstalk ZB and Newshub choosing to lead with it online (RNZ focused primarily on housing).

Speaking to Newshub’s AM, Luxon again said his focus was on road safety. “So rather than generating signs and putting them up everywhere, I’d actually sooner us actually fix the potholes and that’s what’s so frustrating about this conversation,” Luxon said. “It just says to us, again, this Labour government has its priorities completely, utterly wrong… I want 100% of people focused… on fixing and repairing our roading network.”

Over on Newstalk ZB, the opposition leader was asked whether it was confusing for voters when National appeared to flip flop on issues, whether it be a housing deal or support for bilingual road signs. “I think if you’ve got a better solution, like we do on housing, you should be striving to improve it,” said Luxon.

And on road signs, days after Chris Bishop said the party wasn’t against it on principle, Luxon added: “I can tell you real simple: we ain’t going to be doing it.”

The Bulletin: Jan Tinetti referred to Privileges Committee for possible contempt

Parliament’s Privileges Committee will consider whether the time it took for education minister Jan Tinetti to correct an inaccurate statement in the House amounts to contempt. On February 22, National’s education spokesperson Erica Stanford asked Tinetti if she “could categorically state that she played no part in delaying the release of Term 3 2022 attendance data.” In response, Tinetti said “I can categorically tell that member that the Ministry of Education is responsible for the data. I have no say over that.”

Newshub revealed later that month that Tinett’s office had instructed officials to delay the release of the information so it could timed with a government announcement on school attendance. Tinetti would be the first MP in 15 years to be found in contempt of parliament. The most recent was Winston Peters who was censured in 2008 after the Privileges Committee found he did have knowledge of a donation from Owen Glenn in 2005 and should have declared it as a gift.

Want to read The Bulletin in full? Click here to subscribe and join over 38,000 New Zealanders who start each weekday with the biggest stories in politics, business, media and culture.  

National nearly ready to sit down with government to talk bipartisan housing deal

Almost all MPs from every party own their own home. Image: Tina Tiller

The National Party will sit down with government ministers to try and save a cross-party deal on housing.

Over the weekend, National pulled its support for the medium density residential standards (MDRS) scheme that it helped develop back in 2021. The party wants a discretionary scheme, rather than a mandatory one, and to see further development in greenfields land.

Christopher Luxon, National leader, told RNZ his party’s new plan was better than what he previously endorsed. “We think we’ve got a plan that’s got to the underlying reasons of why we can’t build houses,” he said. “It [the former plan] was a big improvement on the status quo back then, no doubt about it… and we believe this is a big improvement over the MDRS plan.”

The housing minister has sent two letters to the opposition asking for a sit down meeting. Luxon said she would receive a response today.

Asked when his party changed its mind over the MDRS plan, Luxon said it had been in works since the end of last year. “Over the last two months in particular we then went out and talked to communities and councils, but also developers,” he said.

It wasn’t an appeal to “nimbyism”, Luxon said. “What we’ve said very clearly is we need to build houses in this country and we can expand our cities into greenfields developments but we can also intensify tremendously over our transport corridors.”

The ability for councils to opt out would likely mean places like Christchurch and Auckland, where Luxon claimed there had been “wholesale rejection of the idea”, chose to focus on expansion rather than intensification. “But in places like Wellington, for example, I think the MDRS there’s probably quite good support for it.”

a stylised image of a row of red townhouses mirrored horizontally by a row of blue townhouses
Image: Tina Tiller