Russell Brown's HARD NEWS

12th April 1996

Copyright © 1996 Russell Brown

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and greetings from a home awash with spit and vomit. Yes, the touring gastro bug has come to visit our little corner of Auckland and it's only the strength of my own constitution which brings me here. Yet if my constitution is robust enough to survive foreign bodies, is the national constitution tough enough to survive without them?

The foreign body of which I speak is, of course, the Privy Council, our court of last resort - but not for much longer. The government is well advanced with plans to scrub the right of appeal to the Privy Council.

My feelings here are a trifle mixed. On one hand, the Council handed down a decision of dinosaurial daftness which greatly aided Telecom in keeping Clear out of the domestic phone market. On the other, its support for the legitimacy of Treaty claims this past decade has been extremely influential. And the old judge Barbara Ewing spoke to in this month's Metro seemed a really nice bloke. Nonethless, we are the largest former colony to still allow recourse to the council and it, is perhaps, time to stop.

Oddly enough, this news did not have a great deal of impact this week. We're too busy now obsessing about new New Zealanders to fret about a break with our own "old country". Yes, the issues are disappearing into the middle distance as Winston Peters' opponents scour the streets for intimidated immigrants who can be brandished before the media as examples of the folly of Winston's words.

ACT leader Richard Prebble released a letter from an Asian lawyer who listed abuses since the Peters campaign began. Among these were a little girl came home from school crying after being told by a classmate:

"Why don't you go home ching-chong?"
This is nasty and hurtful - but we're being disingenuous if we pretend that it wasn't happening six weeks ago, or six years ago. Can you remember the insults, the hurtful rhymes when you were at school?

Alliance leader Jim Anderton was, meanwhile, seeking a tete-a-tete with the Somali community - just Jim, the community leaders ... and as many cameras and reporters as could be drummed up. Just as Mr Anderton's former wife was obliged to do at their daughter's funeral, the Somali leaders refused to proceed until the cameras were cleared out.

Fortunately for the Alliance, its track record has a little more depth than the flying PR-batics of Hercules Anderton and his faithful sidekick McCartenis might suggest. The party's immigration spokesman Matt Robson has been pursuing the grievances of Somali immigrants for some time.

While the Prime Minister gets all statesmanlike in his rage against racism, it's worth considering that the biggest problem for Somali refugees isn't harassment in the streets but death by red tape. The government's policy dumps them down then makes it difficult and expensive for them to try and reunite their families, especially when they can't find jobs. Going by the media, you'd think the Somali community had been living in fear of attack these past few weeks, but Kamil, a spokesman for the community, said the opposite was the case. He had never personally encountered any racist attitudes and he and his people had been touched by the support shown by New Zealanders. Indeed, they were New Zealanders, which is the point.

If you want my opinion - and I can't imagine why you're listening if you don't - New Zealand First might be making quite a splash now, but its impact even in the medium term will be less spectacular. With the arrival of Michael Laws, Peter McCardle and Jack Elder, the party has five MPs.

That's a useful bloc in Opposition, but an essentially reactionary one. To be a significant player under MMP, you'll have to be able generate policy and Winston's band of merry men simply haven't got the brains to do that properly.

Take a look at them: Michael Laws' one recent effort at policy was the voluntary euthanasia bill, which was so muddled that even sympathetic MPs voted it down. McCardle has a pet "workfare" employment policy that could be debunked in under five minutes - this won't stop it becoming NZ First policy, I should add. And Jack Elder? Are you joking? All these men need pricks against which to kick if they're to look good.

They're not the only ones of course. Labour's Phil Goff has shocked himself and the nation with the discovery that there are drugs in our prisons. He wants drug dogs and searches and legislation and all sorts. He wants, essentially, to bring a few more invasive elements into the lives of men who barely have private lives anyway. Look, there have been drugs in our prisons for a long time now - mainly, but by no means exclusively, marijuana. Ask prison guards how things would be if dope was eradicated from our jails. Pretty nasty, is how. It is a good deal safer to allow our incarcerated criminals some small means of escape than to have them jumping the wall for real. Make Goff feel wanted, somebody, and he might do us all a favour and stop.

And to a bunch of people who are feeling not at all wanted - the United Party. Their public support still appears to be confined to the friends and immediate family of their MPs and things aren't going so very well. So is that why there are rumours abroad that Pauline Gardiner may jump ship and join up with Winston? Good God, imagine it. Her platform will just expand with the territory - keep out those Asians to stop them carting in heinous chemicals from the Golden Triangle to fry the brains of our schoolkids and beat them at exam time ...

Yet if there's anything we need to stop flinging at our kids it's those bloody advertisements for Richard Prebble's sodding book. We all know who's paying for it and we know that it's not exactly a book being advertised. Beware if Richard Prebble appears to extend you the hand of friendship - it just puts you in a better position to be kneed in the balls.


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

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