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Kiwi political access among the best

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 19/06/2017 Karen Sweeney

Prime Minister Bill English speaks the media after the 2017 budget presentation. © Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images Prime Minister Bill English speaks the media after the 2017 budget presentation. Walking to the back of the Royal New Zealand Air Force 757 from his first class seat, Bill English looked prepared for a series of interviews with reporters accompanying him around the Pacific.

Since becoming prime minister a little over six months ago he's become increasingly comfortable in front of the media.

Early on he questioned the need for the weekly post-cabinet press conferences his predecessor John Key loved but if their increasing length is anything to go by he seems to have changed his tune.

He also still tries to sneak past cameras and microphones waiting outside his caucus meetings or the House, though so far without success.

The New Zealand media have almost unprecedented access to politicians compared to counterparts overseas.

On a week when parliament is sitting it's completely normal to have a minimum of four opportunities for face time with Mr English and cabinet ministers.

Opposition leader Andrew Little holds a weekly press conference and if anything happens in the meantime he and other party leaders and MPs are only a phone call away.

It's the type of access that some reporters around the world might dream of.

Russian President Vladimir Putin sits behind an enormous desk while journalists hold up signs and posters trying to attract his attention to their questions during his annual press conference.

Since becoming US President, Donald Trump has given just one solo press conference, spending 77 minutes on his 28th day in the job answering questions from reporters.

The president, who spends his days tweeting his dislike of the "fake news media", took just five questions from reporters on his recent nine-day trip through the Middle East and Europe.

He only answered two of the five, spending a total 29 seconds doing so, reporters on that trip revealed.

By contrast, on his trip to the Pacific last week Mr English held daily press conferences for the delegation of reporters who tailed him.

He also set aside time for one-on-one interviews at the airport in Nuku'alofa.

When Tongan Prime Minister Akilisi Pohiva foiled those plans by showing up for a morning send-off, it could have been a ready excuse to chop those from the schedule.

Instead Mr English managed a television interview on the tarmac with one reporter while everybody else was waiting on board the Air Force 757.

Once safely in the skies he headed back to economy and settled in for the rest of the interviews.

Sure it might be an election-year tactic, but it's also a signal that politicians in New Zealand see the value in the media as the fourth estate.

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