Magazine article New Internationalist

Interview about the Roger Award

Magazine article New Internationalist

Interview about the Roger Award

Article excerpt

MAKE way Golden Globes. There's a new international trophy strutting the world stage. Step aside Oscar. Here comes The Roger.

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Each year four or five eminent judges - academics, community leaders, artists, even sportspeople - come together to confer The Roger on a transnational corporation operating in New Zealand/Aotearoa. And the worst must win. US agriculture giant Monsanto, British American Tobacco (which claims a whopping 80 per cent of New Zealand's tobacco market) and the Canadian power company TransAlta are amongst the prestigious list of previous award winners.

Murray Horton has helped to co-ordinate the award since it started in 1997. 'Transnational corporations usually only get attention when they've done something completely revolting. The rest of the time there's a whole industry out there - media, PR companies, politicians - telling transnationals how good they are. We operate a small-scale reality check.'

This year's winner - the Japanese company Juken Nissho, which operates three wood processing plants in New Zealand/Aotearoa - outshone the seven other finalists for 'its horrifying safety record in it plants [269 notifications of serious harm to its workers between 1995 and 2003] and its arrogant disregard for the welfare of the Kaitaia community' affected by its factory emissions.

Not that the winner stepped up to collect its award. The trophy - a globe of scrap metal replete with barbed wire and bullets - is just the right size to be driven to the award ceremony in the boot of a car. The privatized rail system operators, TranzRail - this year inducted into the Hall of Shame after winning The Roger three times - is the only winner to seek physical possession of the trophy. That was in 1998 when its first award was announced. Murray thinks that the company wanted it for PR purposes. 'They came out screaming about Sukhi Turner, an inaugural Roger Award judge: "How dare the Mayor of Dunedin judge us as the worst transnational in New Zealand when - in the same week - we are going to hand over to them a one-million-dollar helicopter with our name on it." In the true corporate spirit of the awards, Mayor Sukhi Turner took the opportunity to promote another poor performer: "I've got a right to an opinion. And in any event, I voted for INL".' INL (Independent Newspapers Ltd) - then controlled by Rupert Murdoch's News Ltd - published around 70 per cent of New Zealand's newspapers, magazines and sporting publications at the time, and received second-place honours that year. …

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