Patrick Gower: Obama ripped off Air New Zealand with $500,000 fee

It is time to be upfront here: Barack Obama ripped off Air New Zealand with his reported $500,000 appearance fee.

Hillary Clinton's visit allows us to compare, contrast and audit Obama's value for money - and there was no bang for all the bucks.

Obama hasn't sent one tweet yet.

No Facebook post, no Instagram.

Obama didn't do any interviews while here.

Obama hasn't mentioned New Zealand in any other international forum yet.

Obama refused to let his speech be reported - Air New Zealand agreed to that.  

He didn't record any adverts for Air New Zealand.

He played golf on two courses owned by Americans, reserved for rich people.

He only spoke to an invited group from corporate New Zealand, which to be honest was mainly pale stale males. And he was "low energy" during a moderated conversation with Sam Neill.

Don't get me wrong, it was an incredible achievement to get Obama here, he is a special human being and I am all for putting NZ Inc on the map anyway we can. I like Obama a lot, it was cool having him here and maybe he will come through for us yet.

But Obama reportedly gets US$400,000 for speeches (NZ$570,000) and given Air New Zealand actually booked him for a Sydney speech as well his overall fee could have been more than that (unless John Key got "mates rates"). Mastercard and Westpac helped fund his jaunt too.

I am amazed that Air New Zealand hasn't got more flak for dropping so much cash on Barack Obama at the same time as saying it doesn't have enough to keep Kapiti airport going.

And given Air New Zealand is 51 percent owned by the taxpayer, it is fair to ask the question: "Was Barack Obama really worth a $500,000 appearance fee?"

And the answer is "no" given Hillary Clinton's performance last night.

Clinton came on after a high-production value video then gave a prepared and polished speech.

She was alert and lucid during the moderated conversation with Dame Jenny Shipley.

Sure, she wasn't charging a fee, rather selling tickets and selling a book.

And yes, she is a machine politician and didn't answer any real questions but she still delivered key messages with energy.

The audience were there on their own dime: they were engaged, high energy and loving it - I am sure they will say it was value for money. There were only a few pale stale males about.

I know it is not a competition but Hillary Clinton had it all over Barack Obama in terms of their New Zealand appearances. 

And Air New Zealand will never admit it, but it got ripped off by Barack Obama - it should ask for some of its money back.

Patrick Gower is Newshub's national correspondent