Copyright © 1996 Russell Brown
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GOOD DAY MEDIAPHILES ...
And welcome to Election 96 . Yes, I know nothing has been officially declared, but if all the grunting, squeaking and moaning this past week hasn't been the sound of the campaign beginning, I don't know what is. Actually, if you have your diary handy, pencil in the last two weekends in August. Bolger will be back from what he no doubt hopes will be a triumphant All Black campaign in South Africa - and looking to bask in the reflected glory.
Messrs Colmar and Brunton, purveyors of political polls of dubious accuracy but maximum headline potential have been at it again. In the past it's been Labour which has suffered unusual clobberings in these polls - this time it's the Alliance. The Alliance has plummeted six points to 16 per cent support - and the lost voters have rushed to New Zealand First, which is now level with Labour on 17 per cent.
All this, apparently, flows from Winston Peters' carefully-worded epistles on immigration. He has found a raw nerve in the body politic and he's poking at it relentlessly. Is Winston making a virtue of racism? Explicitly, no - at least not on TV. He has assured the new Race Relations Concilliator that he recognises the rightful place of Asian New Zealanders in our society.
But if we judge Winston by those who now hitch to his wagon train, the picture gets really ugly. The xenophobia lobby gots its first real exposure on this week's Fraser programme - and what a sorry bunch of bitter, narrow, greedy old pricks they turned out to be.
[NB: The (female) Bevin Skelton mentioned here is not the same person as the Bevin Skelton currently teaching in China, although both are New Zealanders. Views ascribed to Bevin Skelton of the Government Accountability League are ABSOLUTELY NOT THOSE of the Bevin Skelton teaching in China. They are different people.]
We know Bevin Skelton from a string of nutty borderline racist groups, but the Government Accountability League is new. And it's hard to image a more mean-spirited person than their spokeswoman. As she wittered on about Egyptian, Syrian and "Irian" - whatever that means - immigrants cluttering up the welfare offices, it became clear she meant refugees. Is this how bloody low we've sunk? Begrudging the handful of unfortunates we harbour each year? And what was her real beef? The bloody super surtax. Good grief.
Against this gallery of twisted old freaks, the Asian members of the audience looked intelligent, articulate and tolerant. I felt sorry for them. One Pakeha who did come across as roughly human was Matt Robson of the Alliance - who attacked Peters directly. The Alliance is bound to try and deflate Winston, but Chairman Jim will find problems therein.
As if it wasn't dizzying enough to hear Anderton praising business migrants this week, he must also deal with the policy platforms of his constituent parties. Both the Greens and Mana Motuhake have been known to favour cuts in immigration, albeit for different reasons. And who knows what the Democrats think, given their past links to xenophobic, racist organisations? Immigration as an issue may yet rupture the Alliance.
All this currently suits Labour fairly well - it already has a working relationship with New Zealand First and it would love to see the Alliance disappear out the back door. But there will come a time when Labour has to draw the line. Annette King's call for more research is really only marking time.
For the government, this is all a major irritation. Peters has highlighted the dreadful performance of Roger Maxwell, one of its most hapless ministers. Bolger publicly attacked Winston - then had thrown back at him one of his own speeches, in which he promised to build Fortress New Zealand, to protect his "turangawaewae". And a big kia ora to you to, Jim ...
So what if we do build Fortress New Zealand - if we make it so hard for anyone else to live here that immigration falls to under 10,000 a year? What a bloody dull country that would be. And would we still expect the rest of the world to let Kiwis waltz in for work and play on their OE? Of course.
And am I personally losing out on work because of immigration? Are you joking? Are you, listeners? On the other hand, a friend of mine has just begun an excellent job in a new business founded by a new New Zealander and run from Howick.
It would, certainly, be advantageous if not all of our new arrivals were settling in Auckland. So encourage them to go other places! That's legitimate management of immigration. Even so, it ain't Asians who've driven up house prices beyond mortal reach in Grey Lynn, where I live. It's good old white, born-and-bred Kiwi speculators.
The Unleaded 96 petrol scandal rolled on again this week - and, no, it's not your imagination; your fuel hose really is disintegrating. I know people this has happened to - and, being people with old cars, they're stretching to find the money for repairs. The oil companies should, in my opinion, be required to pay for damage shown to have been caused by their petrol.
Why? Because they took the cheap option of raising octane ratings by adding aromatics to the petrol. The expensive option would have been installing isomerisation units at the refineries. Even that might have been fine if they - or the government, which takes money for the purpose - had conducted reasonable tests.
You want an example? Take California, where the state government has been mandating new fuels for years. The latest official gasoline blend is RPG Phase 2, which produces very low exhaust emissions. It is being introduced now - and listen up to this. One oil company, Chevron, spent months testing Phase 2 in a real fleet of 115 cars of various ages and kinds. It also ran another fleet as a control. As a result, it was able to publish warnings of degradation of fuel hoses in older cars, possibly leading to engine fires. Drivers of such cars are able to use an alernative fuel. Does that not look a bit more sensible than the crap we've endured here?
Speaking of crap, wherefore democracy in the Auckland City Council? Having forgotten to include the wholesale disposal of council rental properties in their election platform, some of them on the parks committee now want to introduce a $5 charge for the use of regional parks! Apart from being laughably impractical, such a scheme would, once again, penalise the poor. Parks are a collective responsibility. Get used to it.
Loonier yet was this week's conference in Auckland on water privatisation. Why? The public, in the form of the Auckland Regional Services Trust, makes a healthy profit on water supply - is there any reason we should hand that profit to anybody else? Especially when interested parties include players in the utterly bloody disastrous British water industry. Post-privatisation water supply in Britain has been characterised by huge executive salaries, featherbedding, outrageous profits despite clear inefficiencies, a near-criminal lack of maintenance and price rises of up to 45 per cent. Do we want a slice of that? No thanks.
You can't tell that to the Business Roundtable, of course, which released its latest State of the Nation paper this week. This time, round, it's all for selling off the conservation estate to private business. Oh good - and why not just whack tollgates on the beaches while we're at it? Do we really want to emulate Scotland and have our finest land locked up by anonymous corporations from who knows where?
The same wild-eyed, dribbling spirit was eveidenced in the Herald's editorial on the return to partial school zoning. To you and me it might have felt like the cool breeze of practicality in education sector, given that popular schools such as Newton Central have begun to impose their own zones unilaterally. To the Herald's leader-writer, it was a step away from the 'education market' - that fantasyland where schools compete and poor children travel across town - assuming the family car hasn't gone up in a fireball of Unleaded 96 - to posh schools. Sad, really, isn't it?
As are the trials of Jonah Lomu. Boy, everyone wants a piece of the big guy, don't they? Amid all the fuss about the clandestine marriage to his South African sweetheart, I thought Rick Salizzo got it right. Who in the media scrummage, he asked, had said a simple word of congratulations to Jonah? And as for the flash unit he broke - well, I wouldn't like a flash that close to my face. Then of course, it was time to appear on Holmes and weep. And weep again as CNN and BBC World picked it up. I missed it and I'm kinda glad. I just want to see the guy tearing up the field and I don't want to know any more about a 20-year-old's private life.
So, not too many laughs in Hard News this week. But these may be stern times. Are these malevolent clouds gathering on the horizon? Is that an ill wind beginning to assert itself? Our current account deficit with the rest of the world is stretching, unemployment has just begun to edge back up. Exporters are being caned by the high dollar. An Auckland property boom is feeding inflation - and the government is locked into tax cuts which look like bad, bad timing.
Are we in for a little recessionette? Something is up - and the Reserve Bank Act will come under scrutiny as never before - as noth the solution and the problem. Perhaps imagination and bold thinking will be required to navigate the storm. I suspect the government is just wishing to hell it wasn't happening six months out from an election. It's going to be an interesting year.
G'bye!== == Russell Brown [ @ / @ ] firstname.lastname@example.org / ________________________________________ (_) "The views expressed on this programme ____) are bloody good ones." Fred Dagg, 197? _________________________________________ |||
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Last update: 22 March 1996
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