Russell Brown's HARD NEWS

3rd November 1995

Copyright © 1995 Russell Brown

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And what a week it's been for news junkies. Our head of state pays a visit, the warring parties in the former Yugoslavia sit down for their best crack yet at talking peace, Ron Don rises from the dead, Jonah Lomu is awesome all over again and the Canadians find out the hard way that they don't know what "sovereignty" means either. There was so much on we were in danger of not being able to keep up with Shortland Street. So who reckons James'll get Lulu up the duff, then?

We also pondered the life of Bill Rowling, who passed away this week. Everyone agreed that Rowling had been a tremendously decent man - if never a lucky one, given that he served his country in the era of oil crises and Robert Muldoon. But can Jim Anderton ever stop himself from embellishing the myth of Luke Anderwalker standing single-handed against the Evil Empire? Approached for comment on Tuesday morning, Anderton paid tribute - and then declared that Rowling would have become Prime Minister in 1981 but for, quote, "the antics of the Rogernomics brigade".

This is new history indeed - most people think that Muldoon got out of jail by the cynical expedient of allowing the Springbok Tour to go ahead. This pleased the rural electorates, which at the time benefited from such a ridiculous gerrymander that Muldoon won a working majority with fewer votes than Labour. Still feel nostalgic for First Past the Post, then?

Yes, Rowling was obliged to dump Roger Douglas from the shadow cabinet for releasing his "alternative budget". But Muldoon dumped Derek Quigley for precisely the same stunt. And yes, Rowling faced a strong challenge to his leadership in 1980 - but he had, after all, lost two elections and frankly was no match for Muldoon, the most appalling thug in our political history. The elevation of Lange, who had the verbal barbs to beat Muldoon at his own game, was a turning point.

Interviewed later in the day on National Radio, Anderton managed to cram five more revisionist digs at Labour into a six-minute interview. It was the same old story - honest Jim was there at Bill's side, single-handedly standing up for truth, justice and the Labour way. Everyone else was, presumably, at home boning up on their Milton Freidman.

But to give Anderton his due, he's right when he says it would have been better for all of us if Labour had made the Treasury benches in 1981. And - no one can say I'm not a fair man - I'm 100 per cent behind him in boycotting the state luncheon for British Prime Minister John Major this week. If the strongly-held feelings of the South Pacific nations are to be sacrificed to his European political expediency, then he can fuck off. Major declared this week that France, in testing nuclear weapons in South Pacific, was fulfilling its responsibilities as a nuclear power.

Now, Chirac is a Gaullist. That means that, like Mr Major's new friends on the evil right of the British Conservative Party, he wants all the benefits of being in Europe with none of the obligations. Mr Major seems happy to dispense also with any obligations to the Commonwealth. Once again, as it was in Thatcher's day, we're left to muse that the British Commonwealth would be quite a good idea if Britain wasn't in it.

Helen Clark's decision to attend the luncheon - and the later announcement that she would be using her speech there to tell major where to go - have the whiff of following where Jim has led. Dangerous business.

As for Labour's "controversial" party list, pardon me, but did I miss something? Am I supposed to be upset that they've taken the radical step of including a handful of people who are neither white or male? God, there was some lazy reporting of that story. The Herald declared that "activists" featured on the Labour list. Do they mean that wild-eyed Maori anarchist Dover Samuels, who is rather more conservative than your granny on most issues? Or perhaps Mark Gosche, who stands accused of being a union leader, a very hard worker for his party and part-Samoan to boot?

There is, I'm sure, widespread disappointment that Labour has been able to compile a list in a completely rational, democratic manner. But it's done and if Mike Moore and Jack Elder getting in a snit is the worst of it, it must be counted a raging success. And isn't Elder a sad, sad man? He's a bigger Mike Moore supporter than Mike Moore is - and let me tell you, that takes some doing. I'm told he's the only Labour MP that no one else wants to poach.

Well, Queenie's here, doing the rounds. While she was in Rotorua, some people stood with placards singing "Free Ken Mair". Well, you'd hardly pay good money for him, would you? A "Free Nelson Mandela" for the 90s? Gimme a break. It was three decades ago that Mandela bided his time in his enemy's courtroom, before delivering some of the greatest speeches ever heard in any court, anywhere. Dig 'em out and read them if you doubt me.

Ken Mair on the other hand, was granted permission to stand with the defendant and say a karakia. But the district court judge said that while the prayer was being said, he himself would have to step down from the bench. Not good enough for our Ken, who insisted on chanting in the judge's presence. I'm in no position to comment on the appropriateness of a karakia in this situation, but some people aren't very pleased about it. Eventually he was declared in contempt of court. The fact that he shouted threats at the judge as he was led away probably had something to do with a pretty stiff 21-day sentence. If you choose to protest, you choose to bear the reasonable consequences of your actions. Stop whining.

Mair's comrade Niko Tangaroa, as ever, appears to have had a good deal more going on in his wise, grey head. He organised the canoe protest which held up an annual jetboat race on the Whanganui River. Fair enough. The Whanganui tribes are defined by that river, they were its custodians before Kupe sailed up it and their status will eventually be made official by the Waitangi Tribunal. They gave fair warning that they wished to be consulted over the race, which among other things, was going to mess up their fishing.

So, in the Aotearoa of the 1990s, how could the race organisers think it was enough to fire off a letter saying "we're having a race - get back to us if you have a problem with that"? You do not communicate with a proud iwi by mail - you go and talk to them. Oh, and nice to see all the protestors wore lifejackets, too.

But back to the royal coverage and - perhaps this should have been at the top of the bulletin - we had perhaps the most significant hint yet of a republican future. In a carefully-scripted double-act, Bolger and Queenie both referred to "change". I'm an incrementalist on this one. We need a constitution before we become a republic - and there's the matter of a certain Treaty that a former Queenie signed with the locals. In healing an historical wound by signing the Tainui settlement - and thereby apologising - the Queen has, ironically, hastened us to the day when we no longer need her. I pay tribute to Tainui's grace in their pursuit of justice.

How sad it is to see CTV, the best of the regional TV stations, pass into the hands of HPTV, the TVNZ company whose sole purpose seems to be as a trashcan for regional obligations TVNZ can't be bothered meeting. Look at ATV - no money, no ideas and no community spirit. CTV, on the other hand, was a riotously parochial little indie that people actually watched.

Speaking of TV, what about 'Forgotten Silver', then? I don't know about you, but the tale of that late, great Kiwi film-maker Colin McKenzie was so dazzling that I *wanted* to believe it, even as I realised it to be fiction. By the time it finished, I felt like *nothing* was real. Rarely has the television medium so messed with my head. And gee, it must have been fun to make.

And the outlook for Thursday? We face quite a week. CHOGM, the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, will see the crippling of central Auckland; access routes and huge stretches of public thoroughfare taken out of reach. As someone said to me this week, it'd be nice if there was a middle ground which allowed us to object to this without subscribing to the autopilot protests.

The protestors will be seeking to to embarrass our government before the world. A reasonable aim - but perhaps not easy, given that we'll be hosting the head of state of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe, the erstwhile freedom fighter who recently declared that homosexuals were perverts with no human rights. And General Sani Abacha of Nigeria, where nine green activists have been sentenced to death. Sort of puts Lockwood Smith into perspective, doesn't it?

The protestors will also be demanding the immediate "decolonisation" of Aotearoa. Even trickier word than sovereignty, that one, although I'd wager that's what Tainui think they're getting. Having spoken to Jacq Carter of Te Kawau Maro this week, however, I'm impressed with their strong committment to debate at the hui which will take place during CHOGM. More will come from that than from scrummages in Aotea Square.

I suspect the protestors and the police are like Christians and Satanists - each needs the other. The Bradford Bunch will run flying wedges into the police and the police will chip away at our civil rights. I'll be glad when it's over.


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

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