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Gay-day planner in Brash pack

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    Gay-day planner in Brash pack - 8-Jul-2006
    National Party leader Don Brash has hired the former organiser of Auckland's Big Gay Out festival to plan his media events.

    Brash has appointed Garreth Spillane, the former head of promotions and fundraising for the Aids Foundation, as his director of "forward reconnaissance" to bolster his media operations after several public relations disasters in May.

    The Press can also reveal that Brash's recently appointed chief of staff, Wayne Eagleson, and a junior press secretary tendered their resignations after a disastrous photo opportunity in which Brash "walked the plank" to a boat moored in Wellington Harbour at a time when his leadership was in question. Brash declined to accept the two resignations.

    The previous day, his media minders had allowed him to walk unprepared into a press conference he had called to denounce an email purportedly linking him to secret United States influence on the party's election campaign. Brash had not read the email and had to borrow a copy from a reporter.

    In the wake of the errors, Brash asked Spillane, who had left the Aids Foundation in April to work for him, to visit all photo-opportunity locations before the event to avoid a repeat of the plank episode.

    Spillane, a highly regarded event organiser, is known for his role in Auckland's annual Big Gay Out festival, which this year included handbag throwing and a "campest and butchest dog" competition.

    Spillane is also an accomplished opera singer and played Don Basilio in Mozart's Marriage of Figaro at Auckland's Opera Factory in March.

    During last year's election campaign, Brash offended gays by saying they were "clearly not mainstream" New Zealanders. After criticism, he amended his view, saying he held liberal views on sexual orientation and that some gays were mainstream.

    Eagleson said Spillane had been hired because he was an excellent events organiser.

    "Garreth's role is to manage the leader's regional programme around New Zealand. They obviously take a fair bit of planning to get them right," he said.

    "Garreth's job is to make those arrangements and to travel with the leader when he does those things."

    Eagleson admitted the May episodes had caused heartache in the Brash camp, but declined to comment on the resignation offers.

    "I don't want to get into that stuff. Those are really staff-related matters that should remain within our office," he said.

    Spillane is in Japan on holiday and could not be reached for comment.
    Ref: - The Press

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