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One group chat message, several hundred frames to analysis. (Image Design: Tina Tiller)
One group chat message, several hundred frames to analysis. (Image Design: Tina Tiller)

PoliticsApril 6, 2023

A frame-by-frame analysis of the Greens group chat incident

One group chat message, several hundred frames to analysis. (Image Design: Tina Tiller)
One group chat message, several hundred frames to analysis. (Image Design: Tina Tiller)

Who among us hasn’t accidentally sent a shady message to the wrong group chat? And who hasn’t then had those messages read by colleagues sitting directly behind the person they’re about, live on Parliament TV?

RNZ has reported that Green Party MP Elizabeth Kerekere had been “chastised” by party leadership after allegedly calling colleague Chlöe Swarbrick a “crybaby” in a group chat message sent to other MPs in error. The text was sent to a group chat of Green staff and MPs while Swarbrick spoke in the House on her Sale and Supply of Alcohol (Harm Minimisation) Amendment Bill, which failed at the first reading.

A full internal investigation has been launched, and the party is “taking this matter very seriously”. Kerekere has since denied all allegations, and said that she is unable to comment on it.

In the standard videos of house business published online by Parliament TV, Green MPs Golriz Ghahraman and Julie Anne Genter can be seen receiving and reacting to the offending messages while Swarbrick speaks.

The Spinoff has launched its own full external investigation into this video, in the form of a frame-by-frame analysis.

0.01: “From a place of absolute dogma and partisanship,” begins Chloe Swarbrick as she speaks on the Sale and Support of Alcohol (Harm Minimisation) Amendment Bill. “If you care about this stuff then take it to Select Committee and have the opportunity to fulsomely unpack it.”

0.07: As we cut to a wide shot, Julie Anne Genter checks a message on her phone, and leans over to Golriz Ghahraman to show her something on said phone. Two rows in front of her, ACT MP Brooke Van Velden also checks her phone, though presumably she is not part of the same group chat.

0.11: Ghahraman leans forward for a better view of the message. Her expression sits somewhere between surprised, shocked and “what the fuck”.

0.16: The pair exchange looks of disbelief, as one might do when receiving a message not meant for them, about someone standing two metres in front of them, from a mutual colleague.

0.19: Ghahraman takes Genter’s phone from her. Fellow Green MP Teanau Tuiono, possibly the only person in the room not looking at a screen at this point, is living in the moment, blissfully unaware of the digital communications chaos that is unfolding.

0.21: “We’re not talking about removal of judicial appeals, we’re talking about something that is baked in as a power imbalance for commercial entities in this country,” says Swarbrick, re: alcohol.

0.26: Ghahraman clasps her hand to her mouth, shocked more, in this specific moment, by the content of the group chat message than by the country’s approach to the minimisation of alcohol harm.

0.29: Ghahraman looks at Genter.

0.30: Genter looks at her phone, then back at Ghahraman.

0.34: Ghahraman leans back in her chair.

0.38: Ghahraman looks at Genter. Although the top half of her face isn’t visible, the bottom half strongly conveys a sense of “Well, shit.”

0.40: “Here’s the chance to fix it”, says Swarbrick. “Then we have the issue of natural justice raised, which, again, we’re talking about additional rights that exist in this space of alcohol.”

0.44: Tuiono nods vigorously, presumably still blissfully unaware of what is going on.

0.48: Ghahraman once again puts her hand to her mouth. “Well, shit” is upgraded to “fuuuck”.

0.55: Both women sit in quiet contemplation, as Swarbrick rips into Van Velden for rehashing an ACT press release about hypocrisy.

1.02: Ghahraman looks down at what is presumably her phone, where presumably the same message exists, because that is the upside and in this case tremendous downside of group chats.

1.05-1.12: More looking at phones, more looks exchanged.

1.16: Genter, locked in silent contemplation, appears to grimace.

1.22: “I hope we get 49 votes from members of the Labour Party because we can do it! Let’s do this!” ends Swarbrick.

1.25: Genter puts down her phone and starts clapping, probably while thinking “there but for the grace of god go I” and making a mental note to always check that she’s sending the right message to the right person, as all of us should be after reading this cautionary tale.

Better group chatting, everyone.

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