Is Clare Curran the first Minister to breach the Cabinet Manual?

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Has Clare Curran become the first Minister of the Sixth Labour-led government to breach the Cabinet Manual? Judging by the above tweet (which you can find here) it would seem so, with Minister Curran appearing to fall foul of section 2.99 of the Cabinet Manual which states "No Minister should endorse in any media any product or service."

At first glance Curran's tweet seems innocent enough. Who doesn't have a favourite TV show at a given time? Things are a bit different though when you're a Minister of the Crown, especially so when you're the Minister for Broadcasting, Communications, and Digital Media.

The problem for Curran here arises from the fact that not only has she effectively endorsed the show Better Things by declaring it to be her "favourite thing atm", but she's also singled out the only streaming service that carries Better Things in New Zealand in the tweet - Spark's Lightbox. A quick search this afternoon reveals that none of Neon, Netflix, TVNZ On Demand, or ThreeNow carry the show.

If this had been any other Minister (other than possibly the Commerce and Consumer Affairs Minister who also has some regulatory responsibility that touches on this industry), you'd be justified in just shrugging your shoulders and ignoring it. It still looks like an endorsement, but the if the Minister doesn't have any responsibility for that sector of the economy, it's not worth losing any sleep over.

Where Curran falls especially foul of the Cabinet Manual in this instance though is that through her ministerial portfolios, she's directly responsible for the industries which both Lightbox and its parent Spark operate in. In effect, Curran is endorsing a show that's exclusively on Lightbox, which could have the impact of causing potential customers of streaming services to choose Lightbox over one of its competitors.

Evidently Lightbox was pretty chuffed with having the Minister responsible for their industry endorsing a show that's exclusively on their streaming service. They ended both retweeting and liking Curran's endorsement. It's the digital equivalent of having Clare Curran holding their product and giving it a thumbs up.

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It's also worth noting that this was entirely proactive on Curran's part too. It's not like she's been invited to a Lightbox event, or a similar situation where Ministers might be photographed such as visiting or opening a business. Curran has seemingly on her own initiative, promoted her favouritism of a show that's found exclusively on Lightbox. Likewise, it's not as if she's declared her love for a specific varietal of something (e.g. saying her favourite wine is chardonnay, or that her favourite ice cream flavour is hokey pokey), she's singled out a specific product and the sole service provider of that product.

Now let's be clear: this isn't the Cabinet Manual breach of the century and I don't think Curran should resign over it. It is, however, a very bad look for a Minister who is already under significant pressure with regards to the government's commitment to being open and transparent, and who has been hidden by the government after two disastrous appearances in Question Time.

At the very least though, Curran should delete the tweet and publicly apologise.