It looks like Australian union MEAA has been using the New Zealand actors union to shut down the competition of the New Zealand film industry, using The Hobbit as bait. And Helen Kelly and the local union were dumb enough to play along.
Australian Simon Whipp, head of the MEAA, seemed to reason that NZ rates were lower than Australian rates, which was pushing films and post-production that “should” have been done in Australia over the Tasman to NZ. Simon didn’t like that, so he chose this big budget movie to rattle the cage. (What better time to roll your flag up the pole than when the budget is there to pay for it.)
But why did Helen Kelly and the local Actors Equity Union go along with this plan to make us move the film industry back to Australia? Because they saw themselves as part of some international power play, presumably. They wanted to “feel the power.” Whatever reason you want to pick, all they showed the world however is how dumb and self-destructive they are, essentially munting what could have become a billion-dollar industry in this tiny country. As Russell Brown says in laying out the Anatomy of a Shambles,
If production of the Hobbit does indeed go to Ireland, there will be an extraordinary irony: the industrial relations environment around the film will be benign because Irish Equity did what New Zealand Actors' Equity would have done had it been even minimally competent.
this is a PR disaster for the union movement – whatever the reality, its going to look to the public as if they’ve bought about the destruction of a multi-billion dollar industry that was the source of great national pride, and although the instigator was an Australian union they were facilitated by the president of the CTU who went out of her way to insert herself into the dispute.
Thanks Helen, Robyn and Jennifer. I'm sure all the sound techs, prop builders, make-up people guys, and all the other thousands of people affected are real proud of you.
UPDATE 1: IMPERATOR FISH: “Thanks Sir Peter, and All The Best”:
UPDATE 2: MARK HUBBARD: “Hobbit: One ring from an Aussie union has stuffed them all.”
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