Russell Brown's HARD NEWS

8th December 1995

Copyright © 1995 Russell Brown

The Web Version of The Hard News is made available
by NZ Now Net

HardNews Home

1995 Hard News


HARD NEWS is first broadcast in Auckland on 95bFM around 9.30am on Fridays and replayed around 5.15pm Friday and 10am Sunday on The Culture Bunker. You can listen to 95bFM live on the Internet. Point your web browser to You will need an MP3 player. Currently New Zealand is 12 hours ahead of GMT.

HARD NEWS is also available in MP3 form from and in text form at You can subscribe to the 95bFM Hard News mailing list at


Let me take you back ... way back ... all the way to ... Wednesday. The world is churning; the advance guard of the Nato peacekeeping force arrives in Bosnia, in advance of the peace they will keep. France is paralysed by huge public sector strikes, Iran reiterates the fatwa on Salman Rushdie, even as he visits these shimmering shores. And the lead item on both flavours of 6 o'clock news on TV, and on National Radio? Hold everything, there's a new All Black coach!

Yes, rugby union might be run by a bunch of old duffers, a yard or two short of pace in the promotional stakes, but it's still buried as deep in the national psyche as it was when all the pubs shut at six o'clock and the measure of a man lay in how fast he could shear a sheep or lay a concrete driveway.

John Hart, who is the new coach, is not, of course, of that era. That, presumably, is why he was chosen. You can never quite escape the feeling that Hart does not fart without there being an ulterior motive to it, but his business nous will serve rugby well as it stumbles towards professionalism. He's in no position to patch up the misbegotten IPC championship, of course - so that'll go ahead as - to stretch the phrase - planned.

In the same, signal week, Parliament cleared the way for sports betting, a whole other can of worms. We have provisions for the T.A.B., which will manage the betting, to exercise host resposibility, but we have no plans yet for the kind of watchdogs the Americans have at the level of the sports themselves. They have agencies which watch for the interplay of unusual betting patterns and odd game results. Couldn't happen? Well, who food-poisoned the All Blacks at the World Cup, then? I must confess, this is a sort of flutter I'll be inclined to have. If I can bring myself to enter a place as depressing as a T.A.B. agency.

Further on the sport and politics tip - who said they had nothing to do with each other? - the Eden Park Trust Board is pressing ahead with plans for lighting and night games of rugby and cricket. Now, this would suit me just fine - it'd be fantastic. But I do have sympathy for the local residents. They bought in in the knowledge that there would be local chaos on some days. But nights? That's new.

And that's why the Trust Board should be thinking of something better than a night-time repeat of the Saturday snarl-ups. Where are the plans for extra car parking? For public transport initiatives? Is it my imagination, or is that a railway line running within a few hundred metres of Eden Park? So why not use it? The trust's only innovation has been to announce that rock concerts will be held to raise money for the upgrade. That'll have pleased the residents.

But those residents are no mugs. They turned up in force at a recent meeting of the Mt Albert Community Board, with a spokesman appointed to voice their concerns. What happened was a lesson in local government silliness. Chairman Ray Cody opened the meeting and announced there would be a total 30 minutes for public submission - with a maximum of five minutes on each item. Can't let the public get *too* involved in things, now, can we?

After sitting through a proposal for a commercial bin service, it was the residents' rep's turn to speak. But - and listen closely to this - he was warned before he started that any board members who might later be on the committee for the Eden Park development would have to leave the room. Seeing as that committee hadn't yet been formed, every member was eligible, and thus the entire board filed out!

This delightful little tactic appears to have been a response to the previous week's Mt Eden Community Board meeting, in which board members - gadzooks! - had to listen to public submissions. In the event, a sub-committee was formed, thus avoiding the problem altogether. Like I said, I look forward to night sport at Eden Park - but this was abusive democracy.

Get set for more rotten stuff in local government, if proposed changes to the Local Government Law Reform Bill get through. Labour MP Judith Tizard blew the whistle on a change which would seem to force local councils to introduce "user-pays" for most of their services. The government has mumbled about fixing up the offending words - but why the hell were they introduced in the first place? And why in the quiet confines of a select committee?

Labour has been describing these provisions as a "Poll Tax" - not technically true, but a handy slogan. The Poll Tax - and I was in Britain for its introduction and the resulting riot in Trafalgar Square - was a tax on breathing. These new ideas represent a tax on actually doing anything- visiting a library or using a park, for example.

They're the thin end of a wedge being hammered by a greedy business lobby with a dysfunctional social conscience. Nothing will ever be quite as dark and malovolent as what Margaret Thatcher did to local democracy, but the signs are not good.

The thing is, most people won't understand this, bundled up as it is with a whole lot of boring stuff in a Bill. But if you unbundled it and put it to the public as a question: "Should the cost of community facilities such as libraries and parks continue to be largely shared by the whole community, in the form of rates - which are a reasonable measure of ability to pay - or not?" I don't think there'd be too much doubt about the verdict. That would make a better referendum question than how many firemen we have, wouldn't it?

Oh, while we're at it, other things the Auckland City Council isn't telling us: the projected time frame for selling off the Art Gallery, the Museum, Motat and the Maritime Museum is two years. They'll be umbrella-funded as a trust and the smart money is on the idiot museum director Rodney Wilson as overall manager. How nice.

Speaking of the democracy, Parliament is actually doing something again and, as was predicted in bulletins past, Labour is returning to form and, more slowly, favour. The Alliance has a problem in that its only voice in the house is presently Sandra Lee. I happened to hear a reasonable stretch of a speech by Lee this week and I quite honestly could not work out what it was about. Meanwhile, Labour's two scariest Parliamentarians - Phil Goff and Lianne Dalziel - have had their guns trained square on Jenny Shipley, who is really starting to wobble.

Shipley's response has been odd, but consistent. It's nothing to do with the government, or the Mental Health Act 1992, or the failure of care in the community. It's ... marijuana. Yep, once again this week, Shipley blamed everything on the evil weed. Care in the community wasn't failing because it was under-resourced and poorly conceived, but because we've all become far too tolerant of drinking and pot-smoking.

Oh, so the intellectually handicapped people who are losing their caregivers and ending up in court and then - because there's nowhere else for them to go - in prison, are all dopeheads? I don't think so. Shipley went way off the deep end also this week when she explained that the big rise in tax on rolling tobacco would cut back cannabis use because people mixed it with dope for smoking.

Eh? In this country? I believe that's actually a hanging offence in some circles. They do it overseas - but they don't use rolling tobacco, they break up cigarettes. It burns better. If even it were the case, is she seriously suggesting that the price of tobacco - at $11 an ounce - would affect the consumption of something that costs $350 an ounce? She could make ZigZags cost $10 a packet and it wouldn't make a blind bit of difference.

Shipley is losing it. Someone I spoke to this week suggested that Bill Birch would be back in that job within months. The problem is, Bill Birch still *is* in that job. The trail of destruction in health services is largely his - ditto for the shambles awaiting a fix in ACC. And as for the careworn Mrs Shipley, well, as they say in the provinces ... shotty, bro?


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

[ HardNews Home ] [ 1995 Hard News ] [ Subscribe ]

NZ Now Net Ltd NZ News Net
Search NZ News Net
Write to NZ News Net
Last update: 8 December 1995

Text Copyright © 1995 Russell Brown.
Formatting Copyright © 1995 NZ News Net