Russell Brown's HARD NEWS

27th October 1995

Copyright © 1995 Russell Brown

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God, I love this country. No, really, I do. I love the mountains, the sea, the fresh seafood, the fine wine, the most excellent herbs, the music and the books. The people are a pretty good bunch too, on the whole. And we make good movies, as Sam Neill was able to admit in Cinema of Unease, which TV3 gutlessly retitled A Century of Cinema thus making it sound like a run of scratch cards from a service station promotion.

Now, Neill's personal journey has been dumped on by many people, but it wasn't all bad. Yet, even as he traversed the cultural cringe, he replaced it with a new ethos - the geographical cringe. Did anyone else find it a tad hypocritical for Neill to sneer at the three-screen feast of nature porn that was 'This Is New Zealand' when he'd opened his own doco with a pocket orgy of scenery? And we're not some funny little colony still trying to get over the 50s - we're more interesting than that.

Further, it was all too glib for Neill to paint the social and economic changes since 1984 as some kind of national apocalypse. We have gained a vitality in the trashing of the old order, where films were made by the National Film Unit, radio was made by the NZBC and farmers were made wealthy by the taxpayer. Now, I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, Russ, cut to the chase. Well, okay we've lost a lot, too. Principally, a sense of security.

Once, we felt safe in the knowledge that anyone who went a bit mental could and would be packed off to a secure institution, possibly for good. Now, we do not hide such people we chuck 'em out on the streets and get on with things. I've always been a bit wary of tub-thumping about psych patients on the loose it often comes down to a fear of The Other. But, frankly, things are out of hand. A pregnant psychiatric patient is turned out of care and ends up giving birth on a cold, dark Porirua street. This is not good.

And I'm at a loss to imagine the nature of the mitigating circumstances the Minister of Health has been alluding to. Mrs Shipley indicates that she can't comment because she's restrained by the Privacy Act. Bollocks. She and Capital Coast Health could be talking policy and practice, and the minister should be telling us whether she thinks this is an acceptable thing to happen. Does anyone remember when ministers were accountable for what happened on their turf?

Jim Anderton does indeed, he declared this week that the government *and* the opposition should put their money where their mouths are over mental health funding. Nice to hear from you, Jim but there was actually some good stuff about this in Parliament recently. Jim and Sandra haven't seen too much of Parliament recently, on account of having been concentrating on trying to win Auckland's local body elections for the Alliance.

Honestly, every time I think I'm going to feel warmly about the Alliance, they go and leave me cold again. There I was, as the grisly poll results rolled in, thinking goodbye Greater Auckland Plan and all the good, solid policy ideas therein. And hello Citizens & Ratepayers, the party which makes a point of having no ideas at all. Damn. Then Mike Lee, the Alliance campaign director, turns up on the telly. What a plonker. The drubbing of the Alliance was, intoned Mike, part of the same worldwide torrent of right-wing mania as the mid-term congressional elections in America. Oh, get a grip!

Lee insisted on describing Les Mills and the CitRats as "National", clearly not twigging that this same attempt to run a local body election as some sort of mirror image of national politics actually cost the Alliance votes. He went on to declare class war on the Eastern suburbs, conveniently forgetting that his party leader was, in a former life, a millionaire industrialist from Remuera. And while the eastern skies were lighting up with the fires of the proletariat, forgive me, but weren't most of the Alliance candidates in my ward Herne Bay yuppies with more money and bigger houses than most of us?

Ah well, at least Pam Corkery signed off with grace and courage. She's done herself a lot of good with that campaign and I really only wish we didn't have to wait another three years for her to have another crack at Mr Blobby. Perhaps we won't, if she responds to the invitation to take up the Alliance cudgel in the general election. Well and good if she does.

But in the wake of the Auckland vote, when the muli-part, many-sided ballot form saw too many people fail to cast all their available votes, I find it silly that the minor parties are carping about the proposed MMP ballot paper. Perhaps there is some advantage for the smaller parties in having the party and electorate MP forms on separate pieces of paper. But should that outweigh the clarity of having everything on one side of one piece of paper? You could look at the new ballot as a National-Labour conspiracy or you could recall that this was what the Royal Commission originally recommended. And, of course, it's how the Germans do it.

It was the opportunity to see how we all do it that, presumably, bumped up the ratings for Desmond Morris's The Human Animal this week. Yes, it was the wild thing from inside. We switched over to fanny-cam for the replays and it was, indeed, all happening at the Gabba. I was bloody impressed with the sheer athleticism of the cervix under orgasm dipping into a fresh reservoir of daddy-juice like one of those nodding birds you stick next to a glass of water. Who said only boys could do tricks with their genitals?

Would that French President Chirac concerned himself more with making the beast with two backs than blowing up little Pacific Islands. Bolger got another day's worth of good headlines out of his informal summit with Chirac at the UN - and then it became clear that this was the signal that it was all over and, frankly, we'd just have to put up with four more nuclear tests. One presumes there was a diplomatic expediency in this, but it may come as rather a shock to him to become Prime Minister again, rather than St Jim of the South Pacific.

Bolger and his government may have to brace yourself get involved in politics again. As Marj Neilson could tell you, politics is a torrid and tricky business. Much as I'm perplexed at the actual point of the protests being lined up for the CHOGM conference more of that next week - I'll welcome anything that might wipe the smug look off that man's face. Till then


    ==  ==      Russell Brown
  [ @ / @  ]                      
     /        ________________________________________
    (_)         "The views expressed on this programme
    ____)       are bloody good ones." Fred Dagg, 197?

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