Russell Brown's HARD NEWS

8th March 1996

Copyright © 1996 Russell Brown

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And the plot thickens ... indeed, this week's Parliamentary plotting spread to entangle a member of quite surpassing thickness. Roger Maxwell, who is laughingly referred to as the Minister of Immigration, probably thought he was on to a good one this week. He announced to the House that he had ordered a full audit of all immigration from Bangladesh.

Why? There were suspicions that some Bangladeshi immigrants had not quite been honest about about their qualifications. Okay. But why make a song and dance in Parliament about it? Herein lay Maxwell's cunning plan. He implied to the House that this was something to do with Lyon Lucas, an Auckland law firm which does a bit of immigration consultancy - and features the name of Winston Peters on its letterhead.

This is funny because, as we all know, Winston would have us bar the gates to immigrants, especially from places like Bangladesh. But he doesn't appear to actually do anything for the firm and, as recently as last week, it all seemed no more than a chance for a few ironic jollies at his expense. But no, Maxwell decided to undertake what can only be viewed as a smear campaign. By the time the day was out, both the firm and Peters had initiated legal action, and Winston was gleefully lining up press for himself. The Prime Minister publicly dissociated himself and Maxwell, whose performance as a minister has scaled the heights of mediocrity, began to look like a prize plonker.

Of course, some people might see poetic justice in the ace conspiracist being smeared himself. But Winston's main conspiracy theory involves multi-million dollar tax fraud by our leading coporates. He had to bend the government over a barrel to get an inquiry. And that Winebox inquiry, day by day, shows he was right. He has, of course, had a few clunkers. Remember his claims of foul play when the Mikhail Lermontov sank in the Marlborough Sounds? Mmm ... best forgotten. Ah hell, he was probably trying to give up smoking or something.

I will await with interest Martin Hames' comments on it all. I will read his column in Saturday's Herald. Yes, dear listeners, I will read Hames so you don't have to. That's the kind of guy I am. It won't be easy, it won't be pleasant, but I'll do it for you. Is Hames the worst columnist in the country? Hard to say - but the field seems clearer now that Metro has decided it doesn't need Deborah Coddington's monthly dose of Randian gibberish. Still, there's always Alan Duff.

But I digress. What made this such a signally good week for Winston to play public victim was the arrival of his new shipmate Michael Laws on Team New Zealand First. Everybody knew Laws was going to jump overboard and leave the Great Helmsman to it, but some thought he might go for the new Mike Moore party. 'Cept Moore hasn't got a party. Or a plan. Or a clue. His two potential recruits are no longer available and about the only thing that could save him is explusion from the Labour Party. But Mike Moore is no John A. Lee, is he?

New Zealand First rounded off an excellent week by vaulting six per cent in the polls, largely at the expense of the Alliance. This is also tremendous news for Labour, which could, contradictions notwithstanding, cheerfully work with Winston after the next election. Is Winston stealing what political scientists call the Old Bugger vote from Jim? Watch this space.

Anyway, Wyatt Creech didn't manage to achieve much in talking to secondary teachers in his new role as Education Minister this week. Actually, I lie. The fact that he was able to talk to them is an achievement in context. The teachers want a 21 per cent pay rise. This sounds a lot. It wouldn't if you'd just come out of four years' tertiary study to a starting salary just over $25,000 - and you knew that short of going into administration, you'd never earn more than $41,000. Teachers are underpaid. Full stop.

Back in the feudal kingdom of Auckland, Les Mills and the CitRats have shown just how much integrity they have in announcing that the council will sell off most of its rental housing stock. But didn't we have a local body elections a few months ago? And was this declared as policy by either the mayor or the party? Nope. And this happens when demand for council housing in Central Auckland has never been greater. The council will cash in on the prety market - and families paying rent in this city will get screwed even further into the ground.

Oh well, at least there was a little diversion offered in the shape of revelations about High Octane Unleaded 96 - which, before long, we'll all be using. Seems it might be eroding rubber engine seals and causing leakage. But you can rest easy in the knowledge that even if your car does burst into flames on the Southern motorway, it'll be a clean, green inferno.

Well, I hate to come back to marijuana, but I will. I mean, you expect me to read Martin Hames straight? But seriously, all the self-appointed guardians of our youth seem to be coming out of the woodwork at the moment. Give us the money to stop our children descending into drug hell, they say.

A spokesperson for PRIDE, declared this week that drug education was failing in schools because it wasn't taking marijuana seriously enough. Well, no - these people are failing because they don't have any credibility and the kids know it. I read from a checklist actually given to parents by another of these charities, the Substance Abuse Education Trust. Watch for these symptoms of marijuana use, concerned parents:

  • Black and white spots in front of the eyes.
  • Visual peripheral hallucinations, causing twitches and head movements.
  • Auditory hallucinations - buzzing in head, machines talking.
  • Pain inside upper arms. Lower back pain. Chest pain. Headaches. Ow.
  • Tingling fingers and toes.
  • Dry retching, especially in the mornings. Good news, Mr and Mrs Smith - your daughter isn't a dope addict, she's pregnant!
  • Inability to count numbers backwards.
  • Inability to touch nose with index finger when standing with eyes closed and arms extended.
  • Cannot count to 10 standing on one leg. Pardon?
  • Lack of vocabulary.
  • Paranoia.
  • Depression at unpredictable times, and mood swings. Well, hello, but aren't these adolescents we're talking about here?
  • Irritation when more than one person is talking.
  • Panic attacks when having to leave room or environment.
  • Plays cricket for New Zealand.

    Okay, I made that last one up. Could you tell? Anyway kids, if you're at school today and some busybody asks you to stand on one leg and count to 10, just say no. Whatever you do, don't have a panic attack, vomit or get depressed. You never know what might happen next.


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